The lawmaking process is laid out in our Constitution and the rules adopted by the General Court. The resulting laws—both Session Laws and General Laws—together make up the statutory law of the Commonwealth.SESSION LAWS are chronological. GENERAL LAWS are arranged by topic.General Laws
are Session Laws or sections of Session Laws that are permanent in nature and of general application. General Laws are codified according to subject matter in a multi-volume publication entitled the General Laws of Massachusetts
. The official version of the General Laws is now published every two years, with cumulative pamphlets released periodically. This site provides an unofficial version of the General Laws
Each bill that becomes law is given a chapter number based on the chronological order in which it was adopted. These chapters are called Session Laws
and are compiled on an annual basis. This site provides an unofficial version of the Session Laws from 1997 to the present
and is updated regularly. Earlier Session Laws--from 1692 to 1959
and from 1960 to 1996
--are available on the State Library's website. The official publication of the Session Laws for a given year is entitled the Acts and Resolves of Massachusetts
, and is published annually by the Secretary of the Commonwealth.
The vast majority of Session Laws are Acts. Acts include everything from our annual state budget (the General Appropriation Act) and major legislative initiatives to reorganization of government agencies. Session Laws that are not codified into the General Laws are called Special Acts and include matters affecting an individual or a particular city or town. A Resolve is most often used when the legislation's only purpose is to establish a special commission to investigate a certain issue.