In the last blog we learned that some of the most valuable documents in determining legislative intent are the committee hearing notes. The methods of accessing these hearing notes depend on the legislative year in question. Here is a breakdown of access methods for various legislative sessions:
Prior to 1987 – Contact the State Law Library or the Montana State Historical Society – no materials are available at the Jameson Law Library.
1987 to 1995 – Microfiche available at the Jameson Law Library (and at the Montana State Law Library).
1997 – Electronic access at the Jameson Law Library (and at the Montana State Law Library).
1999 to the present – Online.
We have already covered 1999 to the present. 1997 represents a special case where the documents are available at the law library – the best thing to do if you need committee hearing notes from 1997 is to contact a Jameson law library staff member.
Because we will no longer be dealing with documents that are available online, the following discussion will be limited to the holdings of the Jameson Law Library on the UM Campus. Other documents and other means of access are available from the State Law Library of Montana as outlined in The Montana Legislative History Research Guide.
Accessing committee hearings through microfiche uses many of the tools that we learned about in the last blog: committee names, hearing dates, and bill numbers. The difference is in how these items are located and how the documents are accessed. Here is an example of a law that was amended in 1987, 1995, 1997. Let’s look into the 1995 amendment.
16-2-301. Retail selling price on table wine — tax on certain table wine. (1) The retail selling price at which table wine is sold at an agency liquor store is as determined by the agent.
(2) In addition to the tax on wine assessed under 16-1-411, there is a tax of 1 cent a liter on table wine sold by a table wine distributor to an agent as described in subsection (1). This additional tax must be paid to the department by the distributor in the same manner as the tax under 16-1-411 is paid. The department shall deposit the tax paid under this section in the general fund.
(3) For the purposes of this section, “table wine” does not include hard cider.
History: En. Sec. 9, Ch. 699, L. 1979; amd. Sec. 1, Ch. 629, L. 1987; amd. Sec. 27, Ch. 530, L. 1995; amd. Sec. 3, Ch. 399, L. 1997.
The first step is to determine the bill that amended this law. To locate the bill information we consult the Legislative Review 1995 (REF KFM9015 L43 1995) and look at the “Summary of Provisions by Chapter” section. Chapters are listed in numeric order so looking at chapter 530 tells us that HB574 was the bill that amended this law in 1995.
The next step is to look at the history of HB 574 located in the “House Bills and Resolutions” section of 1995 History and Final Status (REF KFM9015 A24 1995). The History and Final Status will provide us with the committee names, and hearing dates that we need to navigate the microfiche.
From the History and Final Status of HB 574, we learn that the bill was referred to the House Business and Labor Committee and that a hearing was held on 3/2/95. HB 574 was then referred to the Senate Committee on Business and Labor and a hearing was held on 3/21/95. A complete search for indications of legislative intent would include looking at all available testimony, exhibits, discussions, committee reports and executive actions. In practice many people limit their search to the committee hearings and executive actions (often contained in the committee report).
We now have what we need to begin navigating the microfiche. The microfiche is organized by year, then by House or Senate, then by committee name. On any given piece of microfiche, documents are arranged in chronological order and roughly grouped by bill number. The microfiche and reader at the Jameson Law Library are located on the north wall.
For example, looking at the House Business and Labor Committee fiche that covers 3/2/95, we find the following hearing notes (plus six more pages of discussion and testimony not reproduced here).
Looking at the Senate Committee on Business and Industry fiche that covers 3/21/95 we find the following hearing notes (plus nine additional pages of discussion and testimony not reproduced here).
To see the executive actions on this bill from these committees, we would simply move through the microfiche to the Committee Report dates provided in the History and Final Status entry: March 7 for the House committee, and March 21 for the Senate committee.
In conclusion, although some people shy away from microfiche based legislative intent questions, it’s really not that bad. It takes a little longer and you have to come to the library to do a fiche based search for legislative intent but the procedure is essentially the same as a web based search.
In the Jameson Law Library the microfiche is located on the north wall. The Montana Legislative Committee Reports are in the light blue cabinet. The microfiche reader instructions are on top of the microfiche reader.