Beyond Bill and Amendment Drafting: Legal Services Available to You from the Nonpartisan OLLS Staff

by Sharon Eubanks

With the 2023 legislative session now underway, it is a good time to mention the various written materials and services that the Office of Legislative Legal Services (OLLS) can provide to you in addition to handling your bill and amendment requests. While you have already been interacting with the OLLS staff for your bill and amendment requests, please know that we can do so much more for you.

As the General Assembly’s nonpartisan legal staff agency, the OLLS maintains an attorney-client relationship with the General Assembly, as an institution, and not with each legislator. Therefore, we are obligated to serve the best interests of the institutional client, the General Assembly, as distinguished from the individual interest of any legislator. When working individually with legislators, however, the OLLS staff, both attorneys and other professional staff, are statutorily bound to maintain the confidentiality of all bill and amendment requests before introduction, and we are ethically bound to maintain the confidentiality of the communications we have with each legislator, as a constituent of the institution.

Being nonpartisan legislative staff also means that the OLLS aims to serve all legislators fairly and impartially, regardless of party or rank, and to ensure our work is objective, balanced, and accessible. Nonpartisanship provides the foundation for how the OLLS serves the General Assembly through our interactions with legislators, partisan staff, agency officials, lobbyists, and the public.

In addition to our primary function of drafting bills, resolutions, and amendments, the OLLS staff, upon request, can provide legislators with written materials to help them understand Colorado law and what other states are doing to address various issues and to help them explain their bills. Due to time constraints created by bill and amendment drafting demands, which are our first priority during the legislative session, our staff may not always be able to respond immediately to every legislator’s request. But we do our best to provide the requested materials as quickly as possible and on a first-come, first-served basis. Examples of materials the OLLS can provide to you upon request 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; and
  • Lists of all Colorado statutes addressing an issue.

The OLLS also provides written legal opinions, including legal opinions on issues relating to pending legislation. We hold legal opinion requests in strictest confidence. We will not release a legal opinion to other persons without the permission of the legislator who requested it. But 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 staff. Examples of the documents and tasks that the OLLS staff cannot provide include:

  • Voting records on an issue or bill;
  • Talking points advocating for or opposing a policy position;
  • Conveying messages that encourage a legislator to vote for a bill or discourage a legislator from voting for 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 the legislator’s bill, telling a legislator what another legislator said or told others about the legislator’s bill, or 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 is something we can provide, we will. You can learn more about and make full use of the materials and services we can provide by visiting our web page.

We are here to help legislators have a successful legislative session in 2023. Whether by phone, email, or an in-person visit to our main office in Room 091 on the ground floor of the Capitol, we encourage you to fully utilize the OLLS staff for all of your needs during the session, not just for bill and amendment drafting.