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Legislation

Sources Of Legislation

Ideas for legislation come from many sources. Legislators who have experience and knowledge in a particular field introduce bills that they think will improve or correct that field. They often copy existing legislation because an idea that works well in one jurisdiction can be useful in another. For example, in the 1970s, legislation that created "no-fault" divorces was copied from state to state.

Legislators receive proposals from the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, a coalition of over three hundred lawyers, judges, and law professors, who are appointed by the states. Conference members draft proposals of uniform and MODEL ACTS. Such acts attempt to establish uniformity in a single legislative area. For example, the UNIFORM PROBATE CODE is an attempt to standardize U.S. probate law, and has been widely enacted.

The Council of State Governments, the American Law Institute, the AMERICAN BAR ASSOCIATION, and numerous other organizations all produce model acts for legislatures. Even if a uniform or model act or a law used in a neighboring state is not totally applicable, it is easier to edit and revise it than to draft a new one.

Legislation is not motivated solely by existing ideas. Modern legislation is often concerned with changing or protecting social and economic interests. Interest groups usually become involved in the legislative process through lobbyists, who are persons they hire to act for them. Often lobbyists work to protect the status quo by defensive LOBBYING, that is arguing against a piece of legislation. Other times lobbyists propose a bill. Whether opposing or proposing change, lobbyists typically inform legislators about the expected effect that legislation will have on their particular interest group. Lobbyists also influence legislation through financial contributions to the political campaign committees of legislators.

Modern legislatures have a large staff that helps prepare legislation. On occasion, studies are authorized when a problem is recognized and no solution is readily available. Major legislation often starts with a blue-ribbon legislative commission, which might include citizen members and an independent staff from the academic community. A handful of states have created permanent law revision commissions, which operate independently of the legislature.

In addition, most states have independent offices that act as editors, putting legislative ideas into formal, statutory language that conforms to current usage in the jurisdiction. Modern legislation has become increasingly lengthy and complex, making it difficult for a single legislator to craft a bill alone.

Additional topics

Law Library - American Law and Legal InformationFree Legal Encyclopedia: Labor Department - Employment And Training Administration to Legislative PowerLegislation - Legislative Bills, Sources Of Legislation, Legislative Procedure, The Enactment Of A Bill, Executive Veto Power