Model Code of Conduct for Legislative Staff

Foreword

The Model Code of Conduct for Legislative Staff is intended to guide the conduct of legislative staff as they serve state legislatures, state legislators and the public. It was developed by legislative staff working under the auspices of the National Conference of State Legislatures and reflects the views of legislative staff from across the United States.

This code is offered as a model for consideration by each state legislature, recognizing that modifications may be required by the circumstances of each state. Professional codes governing the work of lawyers, accountants and public administrators, as well as general analyses of professional ethics, served as a starting point in developing this code. Initial drafts were circulated among state legislative staff, and the final code is the result of more than two year discussion of the proper role and conduct of legislative staff.

The Code states fundamental principles and then sets forth the obligations that follow from these principles. It lays out general statements of obligations, not managerial and procedural details. Comment sections provide brief explanations and clarifications of the general principles.

Article I describes the four fundamental principles that serve as the starting point for determining proper conduct:

  • First, the legislative staff member is a public servant (section 1).
  • Second, the legislative staff member is a servant of the legislative branch of government in that branch's accomplishment of its mission (section 2).
  • Third, the legislative staff member stands in a relationship of trust to the legislature (section 3).
  • Fourth, the legislative staff member behaves in a civil fashion toward legislators and other staff (section 4). [This section was added in January 2012.]

At the heart of the Code is a set of obligations that detail how staff must conduct themselves to be worthy of the trust placed in them:

  • Article II describes the obligations of legislative staff members to legislators.
  • Article III describes the obligations of legislative staff members to each other.
  • Article IV describes the obligations of legislative staff members to the public.

Finally, legislatures have obligations to staff that, if met, will assist staff members in serving the legislature well. Article V describes the expectations legislative staff members have of the legislatures that employ them.

The development of the code began in 1994 and concluded with its adoption at the 1995 Annual Meeting of the National Conference of State Legislatures. John Turcotte, NCSL staff chair (1993-94), appointed the Professional Development Task Force with Alfred W. Speer as its chair and directed it to draft a code to govern the conduct of legislative staff. Ted Ferris, NCSL staff chair (1994-95), continued the work of the Professional Development Task Force with Anne Walker as its chair. In 1995 the Model Code of Conduct for Legislative Staff was adopted by the Legislative Staff Coordinating Committee of the National Conference of State Legislatures and the NCSL Executive Committee.

It is with a great sense of honor and responsibility to state legislatures that we submit the Model Code of Conduct for Legislative Staff. The advice contained in the code provides guidance for legislative staff as they go about the day-to-day business of serving state legislatures. Through their dedication to the principles contained in the code and their overall professionalism, legislative staff have a significant impact on promoting strong, independent state legislatures. We urge all staff to thoughtfully consider the advice contained in the code and use it as a guide to their actions.

Alfred W. Speer, Louisiana
American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries
Chair, Professional Development Task Force, 1993-94

Anne Walker, Missouri
Research and Committee Staff Section
Vice Chair, Professional Development Task Force, 1993-94
Chair, Professional Development Task Force, 1994-95

Read the Model Code of Conduct for Legislative Staff

Acknowledgements

For two years, a dedicated, talented and enthusiastic group of legislative staff served as members of the Professional Development Task Force:

Max Arinder, Mississippi
National Legislative Program Evaluation Society

Joyce Bigbee, Alabama
National Association of Legislative Fiscal Offices

Charlene Byers, Colorado
National Legislative Program Evaluation Society

Alan Briggs, North Carolina
Leadership Staff Section

Bruce Feustel, Wisconsin
Legal Services Staff Section
Vice Chair of Professional Development Task Force, 1994-95

Darrell Jackson, Missouri
Research and Committee Staff Section

Bob Keaton, Louisiana
National Association of Legislative Fiscal Offices

Rebecca Lennahan, Colorado
Legal Services Staff Section

Jim Oliver, Texas
National Association of Legislative Fiscal Offices

John Olsrud, North Dakota
Research and Committee Staff Section

Alfred W. Speer, Louisiana
American Society of Legislative Clerks and Secretaries
Chair, Professional Development Task Force, 1993-94

Tom Tedcastle, Florida
Leadership Staff Section

John Turcotte, Florida
National Legislative Program Evaluation Society

Carlton Turner, Texas
National Legislative Services and Security Association

Pamela Varni, Alaska
National Legislative Services and Security Association

Anne Walker, Missouri
Research and Committee Staff Section
Vice Chair, Professional Development Task Force, 1993-94
Chair, Professional Development Task Force, 1994-95

David Wilkins, Delaware
Leadership Staff Section