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Compiling a New Hampshire Legislative History

Updated 05/01/2021

About the NH RSAs

The New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated, 1955 is New Hampshire's current statutory code. A statutory code contains general and permanent statutes organized by topic. Statutory codes do not contain private or temporary laws. (A private statute is a law that applies only to specific individuals, entities, or places.) 

Where to Find the RSAs

Free Online

There is a free online version of the statutory code on the General Court's website called the Revised Statutes Online. This is not a digitized version of the print statutes. The Revised Statutes Online contains the text of the statutory code but does not have all the research aids that are in the print version. For example, the Revised Statutes Online do not have amendment notes that are used to explain the amendments to statutes. If you need a copy of a statute with amendment notes, email the Law Library. 


Print

There are two versions of the Revised Statutes Annotated in print. The official version is published by Thompson/Reuters and is titled New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated, 1955.  The unofficial version is published by LexisNexis and is titled Lexis New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated, 1955. "Official" means that Thomson/Reuters prepares the RSAs under the oversight of the New Hampshire Office of Legislative Services.  Both of these versions have amendment notes. 


Subscription Databases

These databases are available for free at the New Hampshire Law Library and include amendment notes. 

Source Notes

Source notes are located at the end of a section of the statutory code. They contain citations to chapter laws that enacted or amended a law and are used to trace the history of the law. If the law is old enough, there will also be references to the earlier statutory compilations that existed before the New Hampshire Revised Statutes Annotated. The Source notes in the NH RSAs go back only as far as 1842 even though there are earlier New Hampshire statutory codes. 

This is an example of a Source note:

Source. 1915, 162:2. PL 42:21. RL 51:22. 1943, 70:1. 1945, 68:1. 1953, 21:1. RSA 31:22. 1979, 141:1, eff. June 5, 1979. 2014, 70:1, eff. July 26, 2014.

The numeric citations in source notes are to chapter laws and the alpha-numeric citations are to statutory codes or compilations. 

Translation:

  • 1915, 162:2 = Laws of the State of New Hampshire, 1915 session, chapter 162, section 2
  • PL 42:21 = Public Laws of the State of New Hampshire, 1925, chapter 42, section 21 (See Historical Statutory Codes for more information)
  • RL 51:22 = Revised Laws,1842, chapter 51, section 22 (See Historical Statutory Codes for more information)
  • 1943, 70:1 = Laws of the State of New Hampshire, 1943 session, chapter 70, section 1
  • 1945, 68:1 = Laws of the State of New Hampshire, 1945 session, chapter 69, section 1
  • 1953, 21:1 = Laws of the State of New Hampshire, 1953, chapter 21, section 1
  • RSA 31:22 = Revised Statutes Annotated, chapter 31, section 22 (this refers to the original, six-volume version of the RSAs) (See Historical Statutory Codes for more information)
  • 1979, 141:1, eff. June 5, 1979 = Laws of the State of New Hampshire, 1979 session, chapter 141, section 1 
  • 2014, 70:1, eff. July 26, 2014 = Laws of the State of New Hampshire, 2014 session, chapter 70, section 1

Warning

Be careful with Source notes. When a law is repealed and reenacted, the research trail in the Source note may be cut off and the earliest source note may be the date of the repeal and reenactment or codification even though the law is older than that. A good example of this is New Hampshire's Criminal Code (Title 62). Many of the Source notes in the Criminal Code start with 1971, 518:1 but, of course, New Hampshire had criminal laws before 1971. 1971 was the year that most of the criminal laws in New Hampshire were combined into a Criminal Code. To pick up the research trail, you need to see the version of the RSA as it was just before it was repealed. For copies of older versions of statutes, email the Law Library.

Amendment Notes

Amendment notes describe the changes the legislature made to a statute. They are very useful for narrowing down legislative history research. Amendment notes are not in the Revised Statutes Online; you need to use an annotated version of the RSAs either in print or on Westlaw or Lexis — two legal research databases that are available at the New Hampshire Law Libraries. 

To illustrate, if you were compiling a legislative history of paragraph III of RSA 186-C:24, you would look first at the source note: 

Source. 1990, 162:1. 1996, 195:3. 2008, 302:28, eff. Jan. 1, 2009

You can see from the source note that something has happened to this statute at least three times, in 1990, 1996, and 2008, but you can't tell what happened or whether or not paragraph III was affected. Without that information, you would need to look at each year to determine whether or not paragraph III was affected.

But, looking at the amendment notes

--2008.  Paragraph I(b):  Substituted “the needs of children with disabilities” for “educationally disabled pupil needs” in the first sentence.

--1996.  Paragraph II(e):  Substituted “the mediator” for “he” following “specific case that” in the fourth sentence.

you can see that no changes were made to paragraph III in 1996 and 2008. That means that paragraph III has been there since 1990 and you should focus your research on 1990, 162:1. You may eventually want to look at those other years, but you'd start with 1990.