Kentucky Legislative History

It is not possible to do the sort of legislative history of a Kentucky statute that one traditionally does for a federal law because the Kentucky legislature does not publish its legislative debates or the reports of mark-up committees--the basic materials of a true legislative history. However, in order to satisfy due diligence requirements and, in some cases, actually determine the intent of the General Assembly, there are a few steps a researcher should take to insure that he or she has exhausted all possible resources.
  1. Check the annotations to the KRS section in question in both the Lexis (formerly Michie) and Thompson-West (formerly Banks-Baldwin) compilations. Note the date that the section was enacted and examine the superseded volumes of the KRS found in the Attic to see if the section replaced or modified a prior law. (Most of the older Kentucky materials have been moved to the attic. The Attic is a restricted area and can only be accessed by asking the library staff for access.) This can sometimes provide at least circumstantial evidence of legislative intent.

  3. Find the citation to the Kentucky Acts for the KRS section you are researching. Check the relevant volume of the Acts to see how the section appeared in the original legislation. Kentucky Acts from 1904 to the present can be found on Range 133. Kentucky Acts prior to 1904 are stored in the Attic. Please ask a staff member for assistance if you need an Acts volume older than 1904. Sometimes the compilers of the KRS omit extraneous material useful to interpretation of a statute. In addition, looking at the original law may place the section you are researching into a context not apparent from its place in the code. (Often the official compilers of the KRS will cut an Act into parts and place individual sections in several widely dispersed chapters). Finally, in rare cases, the Act may have a preamble that explains its legislative purpose.

  5. Check the publications of the Legislative Research Commission (LRC). The LRC, an organ of the Kentucky General Assembly, issues a number of regular and occasional publications that may be of use to researchers. However, one must be aware that the LRC is tightly reined in by the General Assembly and, as such, its publications are written in neutral language designed to avoid the appearance of bias to any party. Thus, even if an LRC publication deals with the topic you are researching, it may not be helpful in elucidating legislative intent.

    There are two continuing numbered series published by the LRC, the Informational Bulletin and the Research Reports series. (A third series, Research Publications, expired in the 1960s). The Informational Bulletin can be found in the basement at KFK 1227 .A154 (The library has a second set in the attic) and the Research Reports can be found in the basement at JK 5374.

    Two particular biannual publications may be useful: Issues Confronting the 19XX General Assembly (Info. Bull. 1974- ) and Mid-interim Reports of the Joint, Special and Statutory Committees... (Info. Bull. 1973- ). In addition, there are a number of publications on special topics. For example, in recent years the LRC has published regular reports on county and municipal law, zoning laws, impeachment procedures and the constitution. The best way to find out if there is an LRC publication on your topic is to search Minerva using your subject of interest as a keyword and legislative research commission as the publisher.


  6. Many laws begin with suggestions from the academic community. Therefore, check the two law journals with a state focus, the Kentucky Law Journal and the Northern Kentucky Law Review. In addition, the KBA's Kentucky Bench & Bar also frequently discusses proposed and recently enacted legislation. All three periodicals publish occasional indexes and are also indexed to some degree by the Index to Legal Periodicals. Bound periodicals are found on the second floor; current issues are behind the circulation desk.

  8. Finally, depending on the amount of energy one wishes to invest in research, he or she can get surprising insights into the enactment of a law from reading the newspaper coverage of the General Assembly. Ekstrom Library has a full run of the Louisville Courier-Journal on microfilm, along with a (very) crude index created by the Louisville Free Public Library. In addition, some major Kentucky papers are available on electronic databases (Courier-Journal (WESTLAW -since March 1988, LEXIS, since 1989), Lexington Herald-Leader (WESTLAW, since 1990). Major Kentucky papers also have their back issues available through the web. Please see our Kentucky links page for access to the websites of Major Kentucky Newspapers.