Jan. 2013

Bill Drafting Systems in State Legislatures

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NCSL Contact

  • Contact Pam Greenberg, NCSL liaison to NALIT, at 303-856-1413, with questions about the survey or survey results, or if you would like to respond to the survey for your state.


Bill drafting is one of the most important functions of legislative offices and may be the service most often used by legislators each session. Technology has streamlined the process of creating bills drafts, tracking bill status, and making bills available on internal and public websites. The rapid pace of change and the complex nature of the legislative process also create challenges in developing and maintaining bill drafting systems.

In November and December 2012, NCSL surveyed state legislatures about features of bill drafting systems and the technology tools each state uses. Members of the National Association of Legislative Information Technology (NALIT) and the Legal Services Staff Section (LSSS) responded to the survey. Aggregated results of the survey follow.

If you have questions about the survey or survey results, or if you would like to respond to the survey for your state, please contact Pam Greenberg, NCSL Liaison to NALIT at (303) 856-1413.

Age of System, Plans for Changes, Who Developed

1. When was your current bill drafting system (or your current method and tools
for drafting bills) implemented?

Response Total

  Between 0 and 5 years ago 8
  Between 6 and 10 years ago 9
  More than 10 years ago 16
Total Respondents=33

2. Are you currently developing or planning to implement a new bill drafting system?
  Response Total
  Yes 10
  No 23
Total Respondents=33

3. Was your bill drafting system developed:
  Response Total
  In-house 18
  By outside vendor(s)/ consultants 1
  Both in-house and with outside vendor(s)/consultants 14
Total Respondents=33

Features of Systems

4. Is your drafting system integrated with your legislative bill tracking/status
system, sharing data elements between the two?
  Response Total
  Yes 29
  No 4
Total Respondents=33

5. Does the system have workflow capabilities (e.g., the ability to track the
status of a bill draft/bill drafters assigned to bill drafts, etc., throughout the process)?
  Response Total
  Yes 27
  No 6
Total Respondents=33
6. Does the system use line and/or page numbers on amendments?
  Response Total
  Yes 28
  No 5
Total Respondents=33

7. Do you protect text imported into the editing tool (such as the statute
being amended) to prevent accidental changes?
  Response Total
  Yes 9
  No 23
Total Respondents=32
(skipped this question)=1
8. Does your system integrate with code/statute revision?
  Response Total
  Yes 20
  No 11
Total Respondents=31
(skipped this question)=2

9. Does the system allow bill drafters access to multiple versions of a bill?
  Response Total
  Yes 25
  No 7
Total Respondents=32
(skipped this question)=1

10. Does the system allow for special formats to be integrated in the bill draft
(e.g., Excel for budget bills, images—inserted and/or linked)?
  Response Total
  Yes 11
  No 21
Total Respondents=32
(skipped this question)=1

11. Does the system handle different effective dates for different portions of a single bill?
  Response Total
  Yes 17
  No 15
Total Respondents=32
(skipped this question)=1

12. Does the system show the changes in the bill that the proposed amendments would
make (i.e., displayed in context to show how the amendment would appear in the bill)?
  Response Total
  Yes 9
  No 23
Total Respondents=32
(skipped this question: 1)

13. Does the system provide for any type of automatic indexing of bills?
  Response Total
  Yes 11
  Yes, but via a separate system 4
  No 17
Total Respondents=31
(skipped this question: 2)

14. Which of the following features are currently implemented in your drafting system:
  Response Total
  Automated enroll/engross 10
  Automated proofing/verification 12
  Automatic section numbering 22
  Automatic hyphenation 11
  Images inserted and/or linked 6
  Page and line number references 25
  Revision tracking 18
  Spell check 30
  Strikethrough/underline or other convention for denoting new or deleted language 29
  Structured document (using styles, components,   attributes, etc., for structure and metadata) 27
  Vetoing 5
  WYSIWYG (what you see is what you get) 18
Total Respondents=32
(skipped this question: 1)

15. Please indicate any database or document management software used for bill drafting.
  Oracle 5
  SharePoint 4
  SQL Server 17
  1.   Microsoft Visual FoxPro
  2.   Documentum
  3.   OpenText
  4.   DM 5.3 document management
  5.   SVN
  6.   DB2
Total Respondents=28
(skipped this question: 5)

16. Do you authenticate your bills (e.g., use https:, digital signatures or other technical methods
to ensure authenticity)?
  Response Total
  Yes 6
  No 26
Total Respondents=31
(skipped this question: 2)

17. Do you archive your bills?
  Response Total
  Yes 28
  No 4
Total Respondents=32
(skipped this question: 1)

Major Software Tools Used

18. Please briefly name or describe the major software tools used in your state for bill drafting (e.g., for drafting, editing, storage, publishing).
  1. XMetaL, 3B2, SQL Server
  2. Microsoft Word 2007, Adobe Acrobat.
  3. Planned for our new system: oXygen XML editor for the authoring environment for the drafting agency and software wrapped around Word for committee and caucus drafters. In-house built document management system based on SQL Server. In-house built system called LawMaker to select code sections and process them to create a bill or amendment. AntennaHouse to take FO and render it as PDF. Other components of LawMaker support codification activities. FrameMaker to create hard-copy publication.
  4. WordPerfect for document editing, Oracle for the database, and custom software developed by PSA.
  5. MS SQL Server 2008, WordPerfect X5, MS Access 2010, .NET 2008, WP2Html
  6. Microsoft Word, Microsoft Word (VBA), Microsoft Visual FoxPro
  7. WordPerfect X4.
  8. All documents are drafted and edited in SGML using Arbortext Editor. Upon check-in, documents are parsed and stored in an Oracle database. Open Jade is an open source product that takes an SGML document and applies a DSSSL (Document Style Semantics and Specification Language)to apply the output formatting. WordPerfect is used as the print engine for bill drafts because it can line number table cells the way we require. Journal publication is automated service that also uses Open Jade to produce a document in MIF format where we then use Adobe FrameMaker if we need to edit the journals.
  9. Microsoft Word, Software Developed In-House, Adobe Acrobat
  10. Microsoft word application for drafters, Documentum for content storage, Microsoft SQL Server for work flow and attribute storage
  11. Wordperfect/macros, print to pdf formats
  12. Hybrid version of Microsoft Word, Microsoft Sharepoint Server for document management.
  13. PTC Arbortext Editor and Publishing Engine v.6.0, JBoss Application Server running on Windows Server 2008 R2 and Linux, Oracle Database, Altova XMLSpy, Java programming language, FOSI and XSL stylesheets
  14. MS Word, VBA, SQL
  15. XMetal is the editor. A home-grown content manager is used.
  16. Microsoft Word Macros
  17. Oracle Database, Oracle Application Server (converting to Oracle Weblogic), Arbortext XML Editor and Arbortext Publishing Engine
  18. RenderX for publishing, XMetal for authoring, Oracle for storage of XML documents and workflow, Teamconnect for workflow - currently being replaced with custom solution, XMLDiff - Differencing, Midtier is standard J2EE
  19. WYSIWYG editor is QuickSilver, document repository is an in-house application (VB.Net) with a MS SQL Server database, Folio is a searchable infobase, custom software is used to publish documents to web.
  20. VB.NET, SQLServer, MS Word, Adobe Acrobat (.PDF documents)
  21. Microsoft Word and Epic Editor (XML) for drafting and editing, SQL Server for data storage, and 3B2 for publishing
  22. Wordperfect, Visual Basic, SQL Server
  23. MS word for editing and Lotus domino.doc for document management--in-house publishing software
  24. VM, ProcessMaster, DW/370, REXX, DCF, STAIRS
  25. Netbeans client using Open Office with backend SVN repository
  26. MS SQL Server, MS VB.NET, MS C#.NET, MS Word 2007
  27. MS Word, DB2, SQL Server, ASP.net, Cobol, CICS
  28. We are currently using Word 2007 with numerous added on tools to create drafts that are then stored in SharePoint (I'm not sure which version). We currently use the XML supported by Word 2007, but in Nov. 2012 will switch to Word 2010 with content controls in lieu of XML.
  29. Microsoft ASP .net, SQL, and SharePoint are the foundation components to support our proprietary internal platform.
  30. Custom developed templates in Microsoft Word 2010 and various applications developed using Microsoft.NET development tools.
  31. WordPerfect and SQL Server
  32. Word 2010, Access 2010, SQL Server 2010 and VBA
Total Respondents                  32
(skipped this question)              1

XML-Based Bill Drafting Systems

19. Does your bill drafting system use XML for the data standard?
  Response Total
  Yes 12
  No 21
Total Respondents=33

20. If no, are you planning or considering an XML-based system?
  Response Total
  Yes 8
  No 12
Total Respondents=20
(skipped this question: 13)

21. Which XML editor does your bill drafting system use?
  Arbortext Epic 3
  oXygen 1
  XMetaL 3
  1.   WordPerfect
  2.   Visual Studio
  3.   Open Office Documents
  4.   Word document is converted to XML for storage in database, then converted to RTF
Total Respondents =11
 (Of the 12 respondents using XML, 1 skipped this question)

22. Please indicate the software used for processing XML.
  1.   Java and XPath, XQuery, DOM, XSL
  2.   JAVA, Arbortext
  3.   Java and XSLT
  4.   3B2, XSLT, Word Automation
  5.   Open Office
  6.   In-house programs written MS .NET
  7.   XSLT & custom code
  8.   In new system will replace Omnimark with in-house built tool to process XML
  9.   Software developed by vendor
Total Respondents=9
 (Of the 12 respondents using XML, 3 skipped this question)

23. Please indicate the software used for printing/publishing from XML.
  AntennaHouse 1
  XSL-FO 3
  Arbortext PE 2
  RenderX 1
  1.   3B2, which is now part of Arbortext PE
  2.   XML is only used to identify some data items within the bill (e.g., author, title, summary, keyword)--not used for publishing
  3.   FOP
  4.   3B2
  5.   Open Office
  6.   In house programs written MS .NET XSLT & custom code
Total Respondents=12
 (Of the 12 respondents using XML, 0 skipped this question)

24. Is there a mandatory or common schema that each chamber is required to adhere to for drafting?
  Response Total
  Yes 11
  No 1
Total Respondents=12
 (Of the 12 respondents using XML, 0 skipped this question)

States or Chambers Responding (Total = 30 states and 3 chambers):

  Alabama X     Montana  
  Alaska X     Nebraska  
  Arizona X     Nevada  
  Arkansas       New Hampshire  
  California X     New Jersey  
  Colorado       New Mexico X
  Connecticut X     New York  
  Delaware       North Carolina X
  Florida House X     North Dakota X
  Georgia       Ohio X
  Hawaii Senate X     Oklahoma  
  Idaho X     Oregon X
  Illinois X     Pennsylvania  
  Indiana       Rhode Island  
  Iowa       South Carolina X
  Kansas       South Dakota X
  Kentucky X     Tennessee X
  Louisiana X     Texas X
  Maine       Utah X
  Maryland X     Vermont X
  Massachusetts X     Virginia X
  Michigan X     Washington X
  Minnesota X     West Virginia X
  Mississippi X     Wisconsin X
  Missouri House X     Wyoming X

  If you have questions about the survey or survey results, or if you would like to respond to the survey for your state, please contact Pam Greenberg, NCSL Liaison to NALIT at (303) 856-1413