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Drafting Initiatives

 

 

Drafting the Initiative Proposal

Overview

Presently, some states offer no assistance or advice to initiative proponents on the draft of their proposed law. The states that do offer assistance generally have one of two basic levels of review, which may be provided either prior to filing the initiative or upon filing. In some states, the review is purely technical; the proposal is reviewed to ensure it meets the legal requirements for format and style and adheres to drafting conventions. However, 10 states go further and offer some sort of drafting assistance in order to improve the quality and consistency of initiative proposals. In these states, sponsors may take a draft or even just an idea to a legislative office for assistance with the form and content of the initiative before submitting the proposal to the appropriate state official. Sponsors' acceptance of any recommendations made is optional.

Of the 10 states that offer some sort of drafting assistance, a wide range of services is offered. In at least four states-California, Massachusetts, Montana, and Oregon-initiative sponsors may take a draft or just an idea to drafters in their state for assistance. California serves as an example of a state that offers extensive assistance to proponents during the drafting process. There, an initiative sponsor may take an idea to the Legislative Counsel, and a staff member will draft the language of the initiative for the sponsor.

State Agency Review of Proposed Initiatives

 

Technical

Content

Who Reviews

Alaska

No

Optional

Department of Law

Arizona

Mandatory*

No

Secretary of State

Arkansas

Mandatory

No

Secretary of State

California

Optional

Optional

Legislative Counsel

Colorado

Mandatory

Mandatory

Legislative Council and Legal Services

Florida

Mandatory

No

Division of Elections

Idaho

Mandatory

Mandatory

Attorney General

Illinois

No

No

N/A

Maine

Mandatory

No

Secretary of State

Massachusetts

Mandatory

Mandatory

Attorney General

Michigan

Optional

No

Bureau of Elections

Mississippi

Mandatory

Mandatory

Revisor of Statutes

Missouri

Mandatory

No

Secretary of State and Attorney General

Montana

Mandatory

Mandatory

Legislative Services Division and Attorney General

Nebraska

Mandatory

No

Revisor of Statutes

Nevada

Mandatory

No

Secretary of State

N. Dakota

Mandatory

No

Secretary of State and Attorney General

Ohio

No

No

N/A

Oklahoma

Mandatory

No

Attorney General and Secretary of State

Oregon

Optional

Optional

Legislative Counsel and State Treasurer

S. Dakota

Mandatory

No

Director of Legislative Research Council

Utah

Mandatory

Mandatory

Lieutenant Governor

Washington

Optional

Optional

Assistant Code Revisor

Wyoming

Mandatory

Mandatory

Secretary of State; Legislative Service Office and executive agencies may render assistance

* The designation "Mandatory" indicates that the review process is mandatory, not that adherence to the recommendations made as a result of the review process is mandatory.
Source: National Conference of State Legislatures, April 2002.

Pros & Cons

Often, initiatives are drafted by citizens who have little or no legal background or expertise. Making the legislature's professional bill drafting staff available to proponents may help to prevent errors in drafting and may help to ensure that a proposal's language is in the proper form and harmonizes with other constitutional or statutory language. Advice from the legislature's legal experts also may help initiative proponents recognize constitutional flaws and unintended consequences of their proposal. Correcting such problems early in the process can help proponents avoid costly court battles later in the process. In short, assistance and advice from legislative bill drafting staff may help improve the quality and consistency of initiative measures. Making public the comments and recommendations of such a review process is important because it can draw attention to issues that otherwise might escape public notice.

For More Information

For more information on Initiative and Referendum - please contact Wendy Underhill in NCSL's Denver office.

 

 

 

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