National Conference of State Legislatures

2007 LSSS, RACSS & LRL Joint Seminar

Introductory Bill Drafting Track


1.       After the Supreme Court handed down several decisions concerning the death penalty, Tammy has been assigned to draft a bill for Senator Lyons that will result in increasing the frequency of death sentences.  Tammy's personal views are adamantly opposed to the death penalty.  Should Tammy refuse the assignment? Should Tammy discuss her personal views with the director of the office?  Should she make full disclosure to Senator Lyons?

          Assume Tammy proceeds to draft the bill.  Senator Lyons insists on including a provision that Tammy informs him is probably contrary to the recent decisions.  At a committee hearing, Senator Lyons is asked about this point.  Senator Lyons replies, "Tammy and I discussed this very issue, and she tells me I'm on solid legal ground."  What is Tammy's duty?  How and when should Tammy raise the point?  Should it be raised at all?

2.       Tony has been working with an interim committee that is studying ways of controlling the cost of the Medicaid program.  The committee will propose a number of bills for the next legislative session, most of which Tony has drafted.  Tony has come to know many of the people who work for the Department of Human Services, and they respect his work.  Shortly before the General Assembly convenes, the Executive Director of the Department hints that a job opportunity might be available soon at the Department and asks if Tony might be interested.  What are Tony's ethical obligations?

          Does it matter whether the new job would involve working with the legislature?  Are the considerations different in accepting employment in the private sector?

3.       John drafted a very long and complicated workers' compensation bill for Senator Jensen this year, involving multiple drafts, countless amendments, and several late nights.  Senator Jensen is aware of the dedication John demonstrated, and he has expressed his gratitude on several occasions.  On the last day of the session, much to John's surprise, Senator Jensen appears in John's office and hands him a $50 bill, saying, "Here's something tangible to thank you for all your work.  Take your wife out for a really nice dinner tonight."  After recovering from the shock, John goes to see the director of his office.   If you were the director, what would you advise John to do?

          John's co-worker, Mary, made a similar effort for Senator Walters on a school finance bill.  Late in the session, a beautiful arrangement of flowers is delivered to Mary at the office.  The card reads, "Thanks for all your good work!  Senator Walters".  Mary estimates the arrangement must have cost about $50.  Are John's and Mary's situations different?

4.       Sam has drafted bills in the area of tort reform for a number of years, and he has become acquainted with all of the major players in the game: Insurance counsel, trial lawyers, Chamber of Commerce lobbyists, and so forth.  The Trial Lawyers Association is planning to present a three-day continuing legal education (CLE) seminar on tort reform issues, which is available to the general legal community at a cost of $500.  Phil Sidney, head lobbyist for the trial lawyers, has invited Sam to attend the seminar free of charge.  Sam's CLE compliance period is one month away from expiration.  Should Sam accept Phil's invitation?

5.       It is April 14, and the legislative session is at its peak of frenzied activity.  Don, a drafter, walks into the copy room to make copies of a draft amendment.  He sees Edith making copies of her income tax returns on the office copier.  Their state has a criminal statute that provides it is a felony for a public employee to convert public property to his or her own use.  Edith realizes that her behavior has been observed and says to Don, "Maybe I shouldn't be doing this, but my only alternative is to ask for time off to go to a commercial copying service.  Isn't it better for me to be here in the office at this busy time of year?"  What advice should Don give?

6.       Amy, a drafter in a nonpartisan office, continues to have close social ties with Sarah, her college roommate.  Sarah is running for the city council in her state's capital city.  According to the city charter, local elections are required to be nonpartisan.  Sarah has asked Amy for a financial contribution to her campaign.  Should Amy oblige?

          Should Amy refuse to contribute money but agree to volunteer her time?  Should she put a sign in her front yard?  What if Sarah were seeking support for a clean air initiative, rather than elective office?

7.       Representative Adams is sponsoring a motorcycle helmet bill that the Speaker opposes, but Adams has a plan for a procedural maneuver that may advance his bill.  Adams whispers to Joe, an employee of the House majority party, that he is going to make a certain motion during final reading that day.  Joe realizes that the motion could cause a problem, since it is unprecedented and will probably require a ruling from the chair.  Joe is worried that the Speaker will be blind-sided by the motion.  Should Joe tell the Speaker what is about to happen?  If he does, will Joe betray a confidence?

          What if Representative Adams had told Ann, an employee of the nonpartisan legal office, the same story in connection with his request to draft an amendment?

8.       Representative Meyers asks Bob to do some legal research on hate crimes legislation.  He has heard that there will be a bill to add "sexual orientation" to the list of the racial, ethnic, and religious categories included in the state's current law, and he wants to fight the bill in committee.  He intends to argue that gay victims of crimes are adequately protected by other criminal laws.

          Bob's conclusion, which he states in a memo, is that the proposed bill will provide substantial new protections.  Upon receiving Bob's memo, Representative Meyers tells Bob that the memo appears to be biased.  He asks Bob to review his findings.  After reconsidering, Bob is convinced that his original conclusion was correct.  How should Bob respond?

9.       Herb, a legislative staffer, serves on the board of directors of his local parks and recreation district.  The district occasionally applies for state grants.  Senator MacKinnon has introduced a bill that would severely limit the ability of local governments other than counties and municipalities to receive this kind of grant.

          Ellen, another staffer, overhears Herb talking with a legislator about his belief that Senator MacKinnon's bill is a bad idea.  She speaks briefly with Herb about the legislature's rule that prohibits lobbying by the staff, but Herb says he has only furnished information, not lobbied.

Has Herb violated the lobbying rule?  Should Herb be serving on the district board?  Does Ellen have an obligation to do anything further?