In the California Legislature all types of legislative measures – bills, resolutions, constitutional amendments, and amendments to all those kinds of measures – can only be introduced or processed at the Assembly and Senate desks if they are in what’s called Legislative Counsel Form. The purpose of this is to ensure greater consistency in California statutes. The nonpartisan Office of Legislative Counsel – which serves as legal counsel and principal bill drafter to California legislators and the Governor – is tasked with ensuring that measures are in Legislative Counsel Form.
The attorneys in the Office of Legislative Counsel staff lawmakers, legislative staff, committee staff, the governor’s office, executive branch agency staff, and also some people who do not work for the state but who have been authorized by a legislator to speak with a deputy legislative counsel. So how do these attorneys fit into the bill drafting process?
The short answer is that once a bill or amendment is submitted to the Office of Legislative Counsel, they start drafting it, and fundamentally, the bill drafter’s job is to determine the objectives of the proposed legislation and the goals of the legislator who is authoring the measure. But it is worth looking at how they draft legislation as well. The process generally begins with a legislator contacting the Office of Legislative Counsel and presenting their policy idea. The attorney then starts researching the issue and works with the legislator or their staff to develop a draft of the measure.
The bill drafter has to be familiar with the area of law that’s being targeted by the legislation and understand the most effective way to meet the legislator’s intent. The bill drafter does not consult on the politics of the measure. They focus on explaining existing law and possible changes to the law to accomplish the legislator’s goal, ultimately, incorporating the lawmaker’s ideas into the proper legislative format.
You can find the transcript of today’s audio here.