by Richard Sweetman
Duplicate bill requests occur every session, and the Office of Legislative Legal Services (OLLS) must handle each such scenario with diplomacy, tact, and confidentiality. Beginning with the 2019 session, the OLLS is taking a new approach to handle instances in which more than one legislator requests the same bill.
If an OLLS staff member determines that two bill requests are identical, nearly identical, or partial duplicates, the assigned drafter will do the following:
- First, determine whether the requests are identical, nearly identical, or partial duplicates or merely similar.
- If the drafter determines the two bill requests are merely similar, the drafter will continue drafting both requests without divulging any information to the requesting legislators regarding the existence of the two bill requests.
- If the bills are identical, nearly identical, or partial duplicates, the drafter will contact each requesting legislator and inform him or her that the OLLS believes his or her request may be a duplicate of another bill request that has been filed with the OLLS. In this conversation, the drafter may disclose whether the other requestor is from the Senate or the House of Representatives and whether the requestor is a member of the same party.
- The drafter will ask each requesting legislator for permission to disclose his or her identity to the other legislator who requested the bill. Note that the drafter is seeking the same permission from both legislators, and one legislator might give permission for such disclosure while the other legislator might not. If neither legislator gives permission to contact the other legislator, and both legislators indicate that they wish to continue with their bill requests, the drafter will continue to work on both requests without divulging any more information to either legislator about the other legislator’s request.
- If either legislator directs the drafter to disclose his or her identity to the other legislator, the drafter will do so. Once the disclosure is made, the drafter will leave it up to the legislators to determine how to resolve the duplicate bill situation. The drafter’s goal is to let the two legislators decide what they want to do without assuming the role of an intermediary.
In resolving a duplicate-bill-request situation, legislators may want to join efforts as prime sponsors in each house, or they may want to become joint prime sponsors in the same house, or one may become a prime sponsor and the other a sponsor, or one of them may kill his or her request. In some cases, both legislators will proceed with their bills and let the issue work itself out through the process.
Note that a drafter may need to modify the process in the case of a partial duplicate bill request. A partial duplicate occurs when one requested bill contains a duplicate portion of another requested bill. In this case, the drafter must not disclose the other contents of a bill that is only a partial duplicate. The bill sponsors may choose to work out which bill will contain the duplicate provision or choose to include it in both bills.
Sometimes it is difficult to determine whether two bill requests are truly duplicates. When in doubt, the OLLS will err on the side of caution by identifying a potential duplicate situation to the legislators who requested the bills.
If legislators have any questions about the new OLLS policy, they should contact the office and ask to speak to an attorney.