Legislative Legal Services: The Variety of “Services” We Provide Beyond Bill and Amendment Drafting

by Dan Cartin

Legislative Legal Services provides a variety of written materials and services to legislators in addition to their bill and amendment drafting needs. We hope each legislator will learn about and make full use of these ancillary services available from our staff during the 2015 session. Our homepage is located at http://leg.colorado.gov/agencies/office-of-legislative-legal-services.

Legislative Legal Services is the General Assembly’s nonpartisan legal staff agency. We have a statutory and ethical duty to represent the General Assembly as a whole. And 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 individual legislators and to maintain strict confidentiality when doing so.

In addition to our primary function of drafting bills, resolutions, and amendments, the Legislative Legal Services staff, upon request, can provide legislators with written materials to help them understand the current state of the law and what other states are doing and to help them explain their bills. Our attorneys may not always be able to respond quickly to every legislator’s request due to the time constraints created by bill and amendment drafting demands. But we will do our best to provide the requested materials as soon as practicable, time permitting and on a first-come, first-served basis. Examples of ancillary materials available upon request, time permitting, include:

  • More detailed, written explanations of bills;
  • Summaries of changes made to a bill in committee, in the first house, or in the second house;
  • Tables comparing bill provisions;
  • Explanations of state or federal statutes;
  • Summaries of case law relevant to a bill;
  • Summaries of case law interpreting a particular statute or issue;
  • Legislative histories of issues or bills;
  • Legislative histories of constitutional or statutory provisions;
  • Comparisons of Colorado law with the law of other states on particular issues;
  • Lists of all Colorado statutes addressing an issue; and
  • Legal opinions regarding legislation.

With regard to legal opinions, occasionally a legislator will ask us for a legal opinion on an issue that relates to pending legislation. We hold these requests in strictest confidence. We will not release a written memorandum to other persons without the permission of the legislator who requested it. And we will give the same answer if another legislator asks us the same question, which will result in identical legal opinions for different legislators.

There are some limitations on the materials and services we can provide to legislators due to our role as nonpartisan legislative staff. Examples of the documents and tasks that Legislative Legal Services 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 legislator to vote for a bill or discourage a legislator from voting on a bill;
  • Soliciting legislators as joint prime sponsors, cosponsors, or second house sponsors;
  • Violating confidentiality, e.g., telling a legislator about amendments prepared for other legislators to his or her bill; telling a legislator what another legislator said or told others about the legislator’s bill; telling a legislator what legal advice our office gave another legislator;
  • Assisting a legislator in counting votes; and
  • Advocating for passage or defeat of legislation on policy or any other grounds.These lists illustrate the materials or services we can and cannot provide, but they are not exhaustive. If a legislator has a request for materials or assistance, please ask us. If it’s something we can provide, we will.

Please visit the Legislative Legal Services website for a better idea of the types of services and products we can help with. The link for “Legal Topics”, among others, is an especially good resource for information concerning recurring legislative legal topics and issues.

We are here to help all of the members of the 70th General Assembly achieve a successful legislative session in 2015. We encourage legislators to fully utilize the Legislative Legal Services staff for all of their legislative needs during the session, including those described here that go beyond bill and amendment drafting.