The Origin of New York Legislative Service, Inc.
New York Legislative Service, Inc. was founded by Elizabeth
McKinney Scott (1898 - 1976) in 1932 with the goal of making the
legislative process more accessible. She guided the Service for
44 years until the time of her death.
This organization is a not-for-profit, non-partisan, membership corporation, providing reports, research, and publications on New York State and New York City legislative activity. It is the only source for complete legislative histories.
New York Legislative Service, Inc.,
is the only research group exclusively devoted to New York
State and New York City law and legislation. In this
"information age", there are many on-line databases
which let you do the work (and oft times a lot of guessing), but
to find live researchers who specialize in legislative history
and current legislation is rather astonishing. Finding an
information provider which is not a profit-making
business, nor subsidized by tax money is even more astonishing.
You could spend hours on the phone and days searching and still
not get half the information that NY Legislative Service can
provide. So how did this organization come about?
Back in the 1930's there was a grass-roots movement which sought to involve the common man in the governmental process, which involved loosely tied groups of like-minded people and organizations. An early member of the Board of Directors, Julius Manson, said "I guess you could call them do-gooders; they were fine people."
Elizabeth McKinney Scott, the founder of New York Legislative Service, is remembered as a very dynamic woman, who believed that the citizenry should be more knowledgeable and concerned with what their legislators were doing in Albany. She used her own money along with modest membership fees to support the Service and relied upon the support of friends and volunteers to help run the organization.
From it's founding, the Legislative Service had alliances
with many organizations such as the Citizens Union, the Rand
School of Social Sciences, Central Trades and Labor Council, The
League for Industrial Democracy, the Women's Trade Union League,
and various Labor Unions. With the rise and decline of Union
power, the establishment of professional lobbyists, and broader
communications, the nature of New York Legislative Service has
changed as well. 25 years ago the offices contained a mere two
electric typewriters, whereas today the office is 4 times larger and filled with computers, copiers, cable modems
and all the other essential equipment. Yet just as important is
it's library of rare documents, which includes a huge collection
of Legislative Histories, rare Legislative Documents and all
Chapter Laws going back to 1777!
In 1946, NY Legislative Service began publishing the New
York State Legislative
Annual, a research/reference book which
contains the sponsor's explanatory memo for each new law enacted
in the most recent year. The Legislative Annual is still
being published 55 years later and the entire set can be found in
many public and private libraries in New York and in law
libraries all over the country. It is still the only
book published on legislative intent for New York State law.
More recently, a similar book on New York City Local Laws has
been published annually, the New York City Legislative
Annual. It not only contains the Committee Report for
each new Local Law, but also the actual text of the Law. Because
it is the only reference book published on Local Laws,
it has become very popular with libraries and government offices.
For decades the Service has been publishing the New York State Report, and the New York City Report. Each semi-monthly report is filled with news and information on the "hot topics" pending and passed in the State Legislature and City Council respectively. The State Report also gives a one line synopsis of every bill introduced in the Senate and Assembly. These synopses are categorized by topic, allowing people with specific interests to ignore all other bills. In 1999 publication of City Regs Newsletter began. It is a reporting via fax or email (text of pdf file) of new and proposed changes to the Rules of the City of New York.
While the largest law firms in the country have utilized New York Legislative Service for years, the Service is not nearly as well known as they should be, largely due to a limited budget for advertising, according to Laird Ehlert, the Executive Director. "We like to spend our discretionary income by building up the organizations collections and equipment. But we do get excellent word of mouth, which, I think is the best form of advertising!"