The bulk of the lawmaking process takes place in legislative committees. Committees study the issues, listen to testimony, and form policy on proposed bills. As a result, committee records are frequently the best source for understanding the legislative intent or reasoning behind a law.
Standing, Joint, and Conference Committee Records
The State Archives has extensive committee information available for research. Most of the records were created by standing committees, although a few records of joint committees and conference committees are available. The records described below are available for research through our Reference Room. Records from the current biennium are available from the Legislative Council.
- Series A-116: Legislative Committee records, 1917–Present. Consists of the committees’ paper records and typically includes agenda, the record of actions taken on bills, minutes, bill drafts, and material submitted as part of testimony. The records can be voluminous or scarce depending on the committee and/or bill. This is the only committee information that exists for legislation enacted prior to 1966.
- Series PRA-102: Legislative Committee hearings records, 1966–2007. Consists of select transcripts of legislative committee hearings. Most hearings were transcribed until 1985 when the Legislative Council discontinued regular transcription services and provided them only by request. Transcription services were discontinued entirely in 2011. A card index to the transcripts dating dating from 1966 to 1994 is available in our Reference Room. It can be searched by bill number, witnesses, subjects, and committee.
- Series LEG-006: Committee hearing recordings, 1985–2015. Consists of audio recordings of committee hearings. A card index to the recordings from 1985 to 1994 is available in our Reference Room. The index can be searched by subject, bill number, committee, or witness name. A similar index for the recordings since 1994 is available online through the Vermont State Legislature’s Committee Research page. Researchers can use the legislative website to research committee meetings by bill to identify the relevant box and CD information for specific hearings.
The transcripts and audio recordings frequently reference material in the committee’s paper records and researchers often need to research both series of records to develop a complete understanding of the discussions surrounding a bill. Starting in 2016, the Vermont General Assembly began recording hearings in a digital format and retaining some related records in digital format. These digital records are available and searchable through VT Re·tain.
Study and Interim Committee Records
The work of study and interim committees can often influence legislation years after these special committees have ceased to exist. The legislative intent of particular laws can sometimes be found in the findings and deliberations of these committees established to examine specific issues.
Study committee records in the State Archives can be identified by searching for study committees in the Archival Records Database. Additional study committee records can be found in series A-200: Legislative Council Studies, 1976-2010.