Researchers often wish to locate multi-jurisdictional surveys of enacted state laws on a specific topic. There are several resources available to help you do this, including licensed databases such as WestlawNext (WLN), Lexis Advance, Bloomberg Law, and HeinOnline, as well as a number of free Web sites. Using these surveys will still require the researcher to do some independent research and updating, but they can give the project a jump start. (This post will mainly address surveys of enacted laws as opposed to sources for tracking pending legislation/bills.)
On WLN, type the words “50 State Surveys” into the default search box and you will be presented with links to a list of topics for which surveys are available. These can be browsed, or you can choose to search all the surveys available by keyword. Also available is a list of 50 State Regulatory Surveys.
Lexis Advance has “50 State Surveys, Legislation & Regulations” that can be browsed by Table of Contents. Retrieve the list by typing in the default search box as shown for WestlawNext above. The available surveys consist of tables with links to state and administrative code sections.
TMLL users now have access to HeinOnline’s “Subject Compilations of State Laws” database, which covers 1960-2013. To access it, select Hein from the TMLL database list and then select the Subject Compilations from the list of Hein databases.
From the landing page, you can search the various fields including keywords, titles, cases, courts, etc., or you can browse the surveys by subject as shown below.
Also, some entries in Hein’s Subject Compilations of State Laws include citations to law review articles, many of which are available full-text in Hein and are linked directly from search results. This Hein database also provides useful links to some external sources of state law surveys.
Other licensed TMLL databases also include topical surveys of state laws. For example, the Bloomberg/BNA Health Law Resource Center includes State Law Topical Surveys on a number of health related topics.
Among the free sites available to find surveys is that of the National Conference of State Legislatures. The NCSL provides reports as well as legislation and bill tracking on many current issues.
Many other nongovernmental organization Web sites compile state laws and legislation on specified topics; for example, the Guttmacher Institute's State Policies in Brief provide information on sexual and reproductive health and rights, reflecting recent legislative, administrative, and judicial actions. These subject compilations can be located by Googling the topic or issue. Naturally these compilations should be used with caution, taking into account possible organizational bias; also, their content must be verified and updated. For help, ask a librarian!