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Ohio Primary Law Legal Research Guide

Guide based on Cleveland-Marshall's Ohio Primary Law Research Guide.Covers Ohio cases, statutes, legislative history, regulations, and administrative decisions.

Debates and Hearings

The Ohio Channel contains video recordings of floor debates going back to 1997. Hearings and debates are not officially recorded.

"The courts in the case of a constitutional provision, as well as an act of congress, will refer to the debates for the purpose of determining what the meaning of the enactment is where there is doubt, but the expression of opinion of the individual members of congress, or of the individual members of the constitutional convention, is not conclusive." Dayton & U.R. Co. v. Dayton & Muncie Traction Co.  14 Ohio Dec. 17; 1 Ohio N.P.N.S. 218  (Ohio Com.Pl. 1903) (Case deals with an Ohio statute)

House and Senate Journals

Journals contain procedural accounts of legislative activity, not a transcript of proceedings. Contains voting records, and the text of floor amendments.

"...every statute should speak for itself, and be construed by itself; but if there be doubt as to its construction, resort may be had to extraneous matters, and nothing of this kind is more satisfactory than the journals of the body by which it was enacted." State ex rel. Peters v. McCollister (1841), 11 Ohio 46, 56. 

Conference Committee Synopsis

(photo:  Senator Troy Balderson speaks to fifth graders in a Senate hearing room.) The Conference Committee Synopsis is a summary of a conference committee report. The synopsis is prepared by the Legislative Service Commission.


Session Laws

Session laws indicate what changes were made to prior statutes. The session law may contain language indicating legislative intent, such as the intent to refute the holding of a court case. These statements are usually in "uncodified" sections of the bill. For an explanation of uncodified bill sections, see Tools for Understanding a Bill, Chapter Six of A Guidebook for Ohio Legislators, Ohio Legislative Service Commission, 2007. Also see A Guide to Legislative History in Ohio, Ohio Legislative Service Commission's Members Only Brief, January 26, 2010, at page 7.

Legislative Service Commission Analysis

When a bill is assigned to a committee, the Legislative Service Commission (LSC) prepares an analysis of the bill "as introduced". The LSC updates the analysis as changes are made to the bill. It issues analysis "as reported by ______ committee" and eventually issues a "final analysis". For earlier years, Ohio Capitol Connection only contains final analysis, not all the versions of the LSC Analysis. The microfilm generally has all available versions of the bill analysis.

The LSC Analysis provides a summary of the bill, and how that bill would change current law. The analysis may identify problems with the bill, such as constitutionality or internal inconsistencies. It may or may not shed light on legislative intent.

"As to the value of Legislative Service Commission analyses, we have observed: '* * * Although this court is not bound by such analyses, we may refer to them when we find them helpful and objective.'" State, Industrial Com. v. American Dynamic Agency, Inc., 70 Ohio St. 2d 41, 44 (Ohio 1982), quoting Meeks v. Papadopulus (1980), 62 Ohio St.2d 187, 191.

Fact sheets prepared by the Legislative Service Commission, which explain changes proposed by legislature, may not be used to give meaning to legislative enactment other than that which is clearly expressed by General Assembly. Cuyahoga Metro. Housing Auth. v. Cleveland  63 Ohio App.3d 353, 578 N.E.2d 871 (Ohio App. 8 Dist.,1989)

Bulletin of the General Assembly - Bill History Information

A Bulletin is issued for each General Assembly Session. It contains bill history information, similar to the Status Report of Legislation found on each bill's page on the Ohio General Assembly's Search for Legislative Information. Example: status report for 2006 SB 185. Bulletins include tables of affected Ohio Revised Code sections and a subject index to legislation.

Bill history information can also be found on Hannah (Ohio) Capitol Connection, starting with bills introduced in 1989. The bill history information can be used to identify dates of legislative action, and find articles from those dates in Gongwer or Ohio Capital Connection.

Synopsis of a Committee Amendment

A "Synopsis of Committee Amendment" is prepared by the Legislative Service Commission. This document summarizes amendments made by a committee of the second house to review the legislation. The legislators in the first house (house where the bill orginated) may review the synopsis when the bill returns for a concurrence vote. Floor amendments are not included, as these are contained in the House and Senate Journals.

(photo:  Senator Troy Balderson speaks to fifth graders in a Senate hearing room.)

Treatises and Law Reviews

Look at treatises and law reviews, especially from around the time the legislation was passed. You may find an article or treatise section saying why the legislation was passed. 

Judicial Impact Statements


Prior versions of the bill and amendments made to the bill during the legislative process may shed light on legislative intent. For bill sources, go to: the Bills and Bill Tracking page of this guide.

Cases holding that the legislature's later insertion or deletion of language in later versions of the bill may show legislative intent: Caldwell v. State,(1926), 115 Ohio St. 458 ; Katz v. Department of Liquor Control of Ohio,(1957) 166 Ohio St. 229 ; Connole v. Norfolk & W. Ry. Co., (S.D. Ohio 1914), 216 F. 823.


Digest of Enactments (fka Summary of Enactments)

Synopsis of passed legislation, prepared by the Legislative Service Commission and based on the Legislative Service Commission's Final Analysis. The Supreme Court of Ohio has cited several Digest of Enactment entries as evidence of legislative intent, for example: Meeks v. Papadopulus (1980), 62 Ohio St.2d 187;State ex rel. Cincinnati Bell, Inc. v. Industrial Com. (1978), 55 Ohio St. 2d 89, 92

Fiscal Notes

Fiscal notes state the monetary impact of the legislation on state and local government. Found in: Hannah (Ohio) Capitol Connection, 1989-current; LexisAdvance Ohio Legislative Bill History, 2005- , WestlawNext Ohio Legislative History or at the LSC's web site, since 1997. May be contained in Analyses [of bills of the Ohio General Assembly].   Reminder that we do offer Westlaw to our subscribers physically at Law Library.

Committee Testimony and Reports

May not be easy to come by, but here are some possibilities:

(1) Hannah (Ohio) Capitol Connection (1989 forward) includes reporters' notes of Committee activity. Click on "Bill History".

(2) Some testimony is filmed for inclusion with the LSC bill analyses.

(3) Notes of hearings taken by Legislative Service Commission staff may include some testimony. These notes are available at the Legislative Service Commission Library, 614-466-2241.

(4) Committee notebooks are available at the House and Senate clerk's office for the past 2 sessions. Older committee notebooks are at the Ohio Historical Society.

(5)The Ohio Historical Society has General Assembly Committee Files, which may contain committee reports

(6) Contact the committee chairperson. Contact information.

The Court of Common Pleas could resort to committee reports and statements made in legislative debate as an aid in construing a statute, and such rule extended to written statements of members of legislative and bar committees. Neff v. Cleveland Trust Co., 21 Ohio Op. 461, 35 Ohio L. Abs. 1, Ohio Com.Pl.,1941.

Governor's Messages

When the governor signs or vetoes a bill, he may comment upon the legislation. Sources:

Ohio Revised Code Annotated

Find prior versions of the code section via the "History" or "Credits" section underneath the text of the code section. See Finding Prior Versions of a Code SectionAdditionally, the Revised Code may have reprints of committee comments, uncodified session law language or other language indicating intent underneath each code section.

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