by Dan Cartin
Legislative Legal Services is often referred to as “the drafting office.” But we are actually the General Assembly’s nonpartisan legal counsel and 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 explaining current Colorado law and other state and federal law that can assist them in explaining their bills. We 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 and federal statutes;
- Summaries of case law relevant to a bill;
- Summaries of case law interpreting a particular statute or issue;
- Legislative histories of issues and bills;
- Legislative histories of constitutional and 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.
This list is not exhaustive. If a legislator needs or would like other materials or assistance not listed, he or she should please ask us. If it’s something we can provide, we will.
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 legal opinion 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.
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 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. We are here to provide the services and support that help all of the members of the 70th General Assembly achieve a successful legislative session in 2016.