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Finding Rhode Island Legislative Information Online

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The Rhode Island legislature is officially the General Assembly. It consists of the Rhode Island House of Representatives and the Rhode Island Senate. The General Assembly website is a treasure trove of information about the legislature and about our state.

Sometimes when doing research on a state or federal law you are asked to complete a legislative history. One version of completing a legislative history is compiling all the documents related to a specific law that preceded its enactment. For information about creating a legislative history of federal laws, there are two great websites that can guide you through the process. One is the Law Librarians’ Society of Washington, DC’s Federal Legislative History Research: A Practitioner's Guide to Compiling the Documents and Sifting for Legislative Intent. Another is the Law Library of Congress’ website.

The process of compiling the legislative history of a Rhode Island law is both harder and easier in some ways than for Federal legislation. The process is easier because there are far fewer pieces of information available to compile. Unfortunately, as a researcher it is sometimes harder to glean intent with fewer available sources of information. For basic information about compiling a legislative history in Rhode Island, our Rhode Island Research Lawguide is a great place to start.

In Rhode Island, the text of proposed bills can be found online starting in 1997. The text of Public Laws, Acts and Resolves can also be found online going back to 1994. To locate this material before the 1990’s contact us at Ask a Librarian and we can help you determine what might be available and where it might be found. For example, HeinOnline and the Rhode Island state law libraries can be sources for locating some useful historical material!

Another helpful resource online is this glossary of legislative terms. It is a great research companion to this webpage on how a bill becomes a law in Rhode Island.

The most exciting place to learn about the legislative process and what legislators considered when enacting (or not enacting as the case may be) a new law, is Capitol TVCapitol TV is the “television production department of the Rhode Island General Assembly. All sessions of the House of Representatives and the Senate are televised using the Rhode Island Cable Television Statewide Interconnect System. Also televised are all hearings of the House Finance Committee, selected hearings held by other legislative committees, as well as various press conferences and other special events held in the State House.” At least some of the videos remain online and able to be reviewed using the Capitol TV On Demand feature. They can be somber, humorous, fascinating, and insightful!

More information about legislative (or executive or judicial) information in Rhode Island, contact the librarians at Ask a Librarian.

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