The OLLS: We Are Here To Help With More Than Bill and Amendment Drafting

by Dan Cartin

You may recall from your New Member Orientation experience the presentation by the OLLS on the variety of services we can provide for you in addition to your bill and amendment drafting needs. Hopefully, you have used the OLLS attorneys and legislative assistants during your time in the General Assembly to access these ancillary services. As the 2012 session begins, we want to remind you of the availability of these materials and services and of some limitations on what we can provide you due to the OLLS’ nonpartisan role.

Keep in mind that the OLLS is the General Assembly’s nonpartisan legal staff agency with a statutory and ethical duty to represent the General Assembly as a whole. We are obligated to serve the best interests of our institutional client, the General Assembly, as distinguished from the individual interests of any specific legislator. We balance that obligation with our statutory direction to prepare bills, amendments, and other documents for you on an individual basis and to maintain strict confidentiality on your behalf when doing so.

In addition to our primary function of drafting bills, resolutions, and amendments, the OLLS staff, upon request, can provide you with written materials to assist you in understanding the current state of the law and in explaining your bills. Preparation of these materials must take a lower priority than bill and amendment drafting. Practically, our drafters may not always be able to respond to every member’s request due to time constraints. But, we will do our best to provide the requested materials to you, time permitting and on a first-come, first-served basis. Examples of ancillary materials available upon special request, time permitting, include:
●    Tables comparing bill provisions;
●    Explanations of state or federal statutes;
●    More detailed, written explanations of bills;
●    Summary of case law relevant to a bill;
●    Summary of case law interpreting a particular statute or issue;
●    Legislative history of an issue or a bill;
●    Legislative history of a constitutional or statutory provision;
●    Summary of changes made to a bill in committee, in the first house, in the second house;
●    Comparison of Colorado law on an issue with the law of another state;
●    List of all Colorado statutes addressing an issue; and
●    Legal opinions regarding legislation.

With regard to legal opinions, occasionally, a legislator will ask the OLLS to render a legal opinion on an issue that relates to pending legislation. Although the request will be held in strictest confidence, and any written memorandum will not be released to other persons without the permission of the member who requested it, we will give the same answer if we are asked the same question by another member.

There are some limitations on the materials and services we can provide to you due to our role as nonpartisan legislative staff. Examples of the documents and tasks the OLLS is not allowed to provide include:
●    Voting records on an issue or bill;
●    Talking points advocating or opposing a policy position;
●    Carrying messages that encourage a member to vote for a bill or discourage a member from voting on a bill;
●    Soliciting members as cosponsors or second house sponsors;
●    Violating confidentiality, e.g., telling a member about amendments prepared for other members to his or her bill; telling a member what another member said or told others about the member’s bill; telling a member what legal advice the Office gave another member;
●    Assisting a member in counting votes; and
●    Advocating for passage or defeat of legislation on policy or any other grounds.

Neither the list of materials we can provide nor the list of materials and services we cannot provide is exhaustive; we provide these lists only for purposes of illustration.

We encourage you to visit the OLLS web site to give you a fuller idea of the types of services and products we can help you with. The link for “Legal Topics” is an especially good resource for information concerning recurring legislative legal topics and issues. Our homepage is located at http://www.state.co.us/gov_dir/leg_dir/olls/index.htm.

We hope you have a successful and enjoyable legislative session in 2012. Hopefully, this refresher will enable you to fully utilize the OLLS staff to help you with your legislative needs during the session beyond our primary function of drafting bills and amendments for you.