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Zimmerman's Research Guide


Maryland - Legislative Branch

This entry is divided into the following sections:

A. General Information

The main legislative body in Maryland is the Maryland General Assembly, and the main information source for Maryland Legislation is the Maryland Department of Legislative Services (410-946-5400 or 800-492-7122). Contact information and Internet links for other Maryland legislative bodies and related offices are posted in the Maryland Manual. For information on the Maryland legislative process, see The Legislative Process and/or Chapter 3: "Legislation" of the Maryland Legislator's Handbook.

B. Bills

Bills are proposed laws that have been introduced for consideration by the legislature. Bills from the current session and prior sessions back to 1996 are posted free under the Legislation by Session tab of the General Assembly Web site.

For better searching, Maryland bills from the current session are available on Lexis (MD;MDTEXT) and Westlaw (MD-BILLTXT). Maryland bills back to the early 1990s are available on Westlaw in the multi-state BILLS-OLD database.

Archived versions of vetoed bills back to 2000 are available as Bills Signed and Vetoed in the Prior Session Information section of the General Assembly Web site.

For older bills, you can order copies from the Maryland State Law Library (410-260-1430) or the library at one of the Maryland law schools.

C. Bill Status

You can look up the status of pending bills by pulling up the bill under the Legislation by Session tab of the General Assembly Web site and then clicking on the "History" tab.

For better searching, use the Maryland bill status database on Westlaw (MD-BILLTRK or, to also get full text, MD-BILLS). For questions, call the Maryland Department of Legislative Services (410-945-5400 or 800-492-7122).

D. Laws

Maryland laws are called "Chapters." They are officially published in the Laws of Maryland series. The legend explaining the printers marks (capitals, italics, brackets, etc.) is at the bottom of the first page of Chapter 1 for each year.

In addition, Chapters from prior sessions back to 1996 are posted free under the Legislation by Session tab of the General Assembly Web site. First select the year you're interested in and then select "Chapters" under the drop-down for "Legislation List."

Maryland session laws from the current session are searchable on Lexis (MD;MDALS) and Westlaw (MD-LEGIS).

For historical Maryland laws, the Archives of Maryland posts Laws of Maryland in PDF format from the 17th through 21st centuries. The HeinOnline session law collection has Maryland laws back to 1777. Alternatively, you can get copies by calling the Maryland State Law Library (410-260-1430), or another library with a collection of older Maryland legal materials.

You can search session laws back to 1999 on the General Assembly website using the Advanced Search (select "Advanced Search" and then select "Chapters" under "Document Type"). You can also search session laws back to 1990 on Westlaw (MD-LEGIS-OLD; to search for laws from a particular year add, for example, "& CI("2001 Maryland Laws"). Subscribers can search Maryland laws back to 1777 on HeinOnline.

General / Local Laws: Most Maryland laws are "General Public Laws" that affect the entire state and are codified in the Maryland Code, discussed below. However, "Public Local Laws" that affect only one county are not codified in the Maryland Code but may be codified in the relevant county code (see the "Local Laws" section of the Maryland - Other Useful Information entry). Baltimore City has a separate Code of Public Local Laws of Baltimore City. The Montgomery County Code has a table showing where Public Local Laws have been placed in the County Code.

E. Maryland State Code

Print: The multi-volume Annotated Code of the General Public Laws of Maryland, published by LexisNexis (formerly Michie), is the traditional print edition of the Maryland State Code. The Code is being recodified, so it currently exists in two parts. The older "black books" are cited by an article and section number (e.g., Art. 25, Section 181), while the new "red books" are cited by article name and number (e.g. "Insurance 8-514"). Both sets are searched with the same master index. If you go to a section in the old back books that has already been recodified, you will find a cross-reference to the citation in the new red book.

Westlaw began publishing a rival annotated Code in 2002. The West version is not as common, but it does have two advantages: (1) it cross-references to the Code of Administrative Regulations (COMAR) and (2) the annotations provide Key Numbers that can be useful for further research using Westlaw or the West Digest set.

Online: Annotated editions of the Maryland Annotated Code are available on Lexis (MD;CODE) and Westlaw (MD-STM-ANN for the official Michie/Lexis version; MD-ST-ANN for the West version).

Lexis posts a free, unannotated online edition of the Code. Or you can use the General Assembly website to pull articles or sections or to search the Code. For better searching, use the unannotated edition on Westlaw (MD-STM for the official Michie/Lexis version; MD-ST for the West version) or LOIS.

Historical annotated editions of the Maryland Code are available on Lexis back to 1991 (MD;MDARCH) and on Westlaw back to 1986 (e.g., MD-ST-ANN86 or MD-ST-93).

Maryland Codes prior to 1940 are posted by the Maryland State Archives.

Copies of older editions are available from Maryland State Law Library and other government and academic law libraries.

For more information about the various compilations of Maryland laws, see Blame It All On Nero: Code Creation and Revision in Maryland by The Honorable Alan M. Wilner. For a complete list of the many historical compilations and codifications of Maryland laws, see the Maryland section of Legal Research in The District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, Chapter Three, "Statutes, Codes and Compilations."

Note: The Maryland Constitution and its attendant Declaration of Rights are discussed in Part IV of this entry, "Other Useful Information."

Relation to Regulations: The annotations after each section in the West version of the Maryland Code lists related sections of the Code or Maryland Administrative Regulations (COMAR).

F. Legislative History

For recent bills, much of the available legislative history materials are posted on the General Assembly Web site.

For a discussion of how to compile Maryland legislative history materials, see the Checklist For Maryland Legislative History Research and the older Ghosthunting: Searching for Maryland Legislative History. More information is available in the "Legislative History" chapter of the Maryland section of Legal Research in The District of Columbia, Maryland and Virginia, published by William S. Hein & Sons.

Practical Note: The main item likely to contain legislative intent is the "bill file." Bill files are available in microfilm at the Maryland State Law Library (410-260-1430) and most other Maryland academic and government law libraries from 1975, when they were first compiled, to about 10 years back from the present year.

Bill files from more recent years are available by contacting the Department of Legislative Services Library. The Library's phone number is: 1-410-946-5400 from Baltimore; 1-301-970-5400 from Washington; 1-800-492-7122 from anywhere else. The Legislative Services Library will copy a small file; for bigger files, hire a document retrieval service. Bill files from the current year, however, are generally available only from the relevant committee.

A few bill files were created between 1969 and 1974. Call the Department of Legislative Services to see if a file is available for your bill.

Between 1969 and 1975 a group of key legislators called the Legislative Council compiled studies between sessions, usually relating to bills with low numbers. Call the Department of Legislative Services to see if any Legislative Council material is available for your bill.

In addition to the bill file you may also want to:

  1. Get anything relevant from the General Assembly website. The Fiscal and Policy note is often useful. Starting in 2012, video recordings of hearing are available on the page for the bill on the General Assembly website.
  2. Look for relevant Task Force Reports (select the drop down option for "Commission, Task force, & Workgroup");
  3. Search the Maryland State Law Library's online catalog for reports and additional materials. If you have reason to believe a bill was considered between sessions, call the Maryland State Law Library (410-260-1430) and ask them to check the reports of the Legislative Policy Council (1977 to present), since these are not cataloged individually;
  4. Search the Department of Legislative Service's online catalog for reports and related materials;
  5. Search for news articles the news -- I generally search databases available through my local public library's web site (General Proquest, National Newspapers, Historical Newspapers) or the Jenkins Law Library (Newsbank's America's Newspapers) or Lexis (REGNWS;MDNWS). To go even farther, you can call the Legislative Services Library and ask them to check their clipping file, which starts in the late 1960s (410-946-5400 from the Baltimore area and 800-492-7122 from everywhere else).
  6. House and Senate Proceedings. These are available back to 1996 from the Legislation By Session tab of the Maryland General Assembly website (select your year from the drop-down list and then select either "Proceedings - Senate" or "Proceedings - House" from the drop down list under "Legislation List"). Audio files of House and Senate Proceedings are available from 2000 forward. You can order Senate Hearings and Senate Floor Debates back to 1992 from the Legislative Services Library (410-946-5400 from Baltimore, 301-970-5400 from Washington, or 800-492-7122 from everywhere else).

G. Senators and Delegates

Contact information and basic bios of current and former Maryland legislators is published in the Maryland Manual; click for Senators and Delegates. For more information about a legislator, search a good database of Maryland news articles.

To find the name of the Senator and Delegates for a particular address, visit Who Are Your Elected Officials? or call the House (410-841-3800) or Senate (410-841-3700) and ask.

See Also
Maryland - Other Useful Information
State Bills and Bill Tracking
State Legislative History
State Statutes and Codes

For comments, questions and suggestions, email the author
Copyright 2015 Andrew Zimmerman