Looking for Answers? There is a Wealth of Policy Resources at Your Disposal

by Julie Pelegrin

If you’re starting work on legislation for next year or you just have some questions and are interested in information on specific policy areas, there are several resources available to you during the legislative interim.

First, the OLLS is available year-round to research any constitutional, statutory, or other legal questions that legislators may have.  Whether the question is specific to legislation or whether a legislator is building his or her subject-matter knowledge, the staff at the OLLS is available to speak with legislators, research issues, meet with legislators to discuss legal questions, and provide written materials to assist legislators in their legislative duties.  If a legislator’s questions are more policy related or if the legislator is interested in learning how state agencies are implementing legislation, we will work with our colleagues in the Legislative Council Staff (LCS) office to provide the answers you need.

The OLLS and the LCS also have a virtual library of memos and briefs on many legal and policy topics that are available on their websites.  The OLLS website also includes summaries of recent judicial opinions and the Digest of Bills for the 2012 legislative session, as well as archived digests going back to 1933.  The Digest of Bills provides a short summary of each bill enacted during the applicable legislative session.  The LCS website has a wide variety of helpful information, including calendars and agenda for interim committees and access to Blue Books from the current and past elections, which provide summaries and arguments in favor of and against statewide initiatives and referred measures.

In addition to legislative staff agencies, a legislator may also request research from the Council of State Governments (CSG), the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), and the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).  All of these entities are, by statute, joint governmental agencies of Colorado and of other states that cooperate through them. Each member of the Colorado General Assembly is automatically a member of CSG and NCSL and eligible to join ALEC.

CSG, ALEC, and NCSL all have staff who are experts in various subject areas and are available by telephone and by email to answer questions and assist legislators with research.  In addition, each organization has a large variety of research materials, articles, surveys, and comparative information available through their websites.  CSG and NCSL also have several archived webinars on a wide variety of topics that are available for view at no cost.

Finally, if a legislator is interested in legislation on a particular topic, each of these organizations may be able to provide examples.  The NCSL website provides access to a 50-state bill tracker that you can use to find legislation introduced in recent legislative sessions in each of the 50 states. To access this information, you will need to log-in as a legislator or as legislative staff.

Both the CSG and ALEC websites also provide access to examples of legislation. CSG publishes compilations of draft legislation through its Suggested State Legislation program. A committee of legislators and legislative staff from each states select draft legislation to include in the publication with the goal of assisting each state in learning from the experiences in other states. Members of ALEC can access model legislation that is drafted and recommended by standing task forces on various subject areas.  Each task force includes legislators from around the country and representatives of private sector partners who are members of ALEC.

In addition to having very helpful websites, CSG, ALEC, and NCSL each host several meetings throughout the year.  At these meetings, legislators and legislative staff from around the country meet to discuss policy areas and get information and presentations from experts in a variety of subject areas.  These meetings also provide an excellent opportunity to network with legislators from other states and discuss the diverse approaches the states take in addressing similar issues.

CSG-West, the region that includes Colorado, will host its 2012 meeting in Edmonton, Alberta, July 20-23, 2012.  CSG will hold its 2012 National Conference in Austin, Texas, November 30-December 3, 2012.

ALEC will hold its Annual Meeting in Salt Lake City, Utah, July 25-28, 2012.

NCSL will hold its Legislative Summit in Chicago, Illinois, August 6-9, 2012.

If you are interested in attending any of these meetings, see each organization’s website for more details.