Issue: October, 2007
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The Legislative Service Office and Its Attorneys
The Legislative Service Office (LSO) was created by statute in 1971 to provide services to the Legislature on a non-partisan basis. Before the LSO was created, the Legislature was staffed on a part-time basis for its sessions, which are Constitutionally limited to sixty days each biennium. Currently the LSO is comprised of 32 full-time employees who, together with staff retained by each House for the session, provide services for Wyoming's Legislature, its committees and individual State Representatives and Senators.
The LSO is responsible for revision and recompilation of the laws of Wyoming; preparation of copy and contracting for the printing and publication of all revisions, compilations, session laws, journals and digests; and accounting for all legislative expenditures, supplies, and properties. In addition, members of the LSO prepare administrative rule reviews, conduct evaluations of state programs, conduct fiscal studies and budget analyses, coordinate legislative activities related to school finance, and provide general research and information services to the Legislature. While the LSO provides services to the public, its primary mission is to serve the Wyoming Legislature.
Legislators in Wyoming do not have individual staff. Staffing is available to individual legislators through the LSO. We help legislators identify and articulate legislative issues, research and provide information related to those issues, identify possible solutions, and provide information about the pros and cons of those solutions.
LSO provides services during the sessions and the interims. Legal services generally are provided by seven attorneys who form the legal division. Directed by Dan J. Pauli who is assisted by D. Mark Quiner, those seven attorneys are Lynda G. Cook, David K. Gruver, Gerald W. Laska, Matthew D. Obrecht, John H. Rivera, Ian D. Shaw and Maxine R. Weaver. Their work falls into one of the following categories:
1. Bill and Amendment Drafting
2. Committee Staffing
3. State Agency Rule Reviews
Bill and Amendment Drafting
The LSO is responsible for drafting all legislation. While lobbyists and others may initially draft proposed bills, no legislation may be introduced in either House unless drafted by the LSO. We draft at the request of individual legislators and interim, select or standing committees. We do not draft legislation at the request of state agencies, other elected officials, lobbyists or members of the public.
During the session, staff attorneys spend the bulk of their time drafting remaining bills and amendments to legislation. Amendment drafting is done only at the request of legislators and committees. During session, staff divide into Senate attorneys and House attorneys and work on the bills in their assigned House. If a bill is extremely complicated, the initial drafter might be assigned to draft, or at least review, all amendments to the bill.
Each attorney staffs one or two standing committees and the respective subcommittees during the interim. They may also staff an additional select committee. Administrative and professional services are provided for committees. Administrative responsibilities include arranging the meeting place and time, providing a meeting notice to the committee and the public, drafting an agenda, and drafting minutes of meetings. While LSO attorneys discuss meeting issues with committee chairmen, the attorneys do not determine which items will be on the agenda, meeting places or times; these issues are decided by the chairmen.
Professional services include conducting research, providing legal advice and drafting bills and amendments. Staff will gather information, research approved interim topics and work with state agencies and lobbyists to bring information before the committee. LSO attorneys provide legal advice at the request of the committee and draft legislation for the committee meetings, as approved by the committee. We also work with individual legislators on proposed amendments to legislation before the committee.
State Agency Rule Reviews
The LSO attorneys review all rules adopted by state agencies. After a rule is adopted, we review it to determine whether:
a. It was adopted in accordance with required procedures;
b. There is statutory authority for the rule; and
c. The rule appears to be within legislative intent.
If the rule appears to meet these requirements, a report summarizing the rule is provided to the Management Council and the rule is placed on a “consent list” for a Council vote.
If the LSO identifies a problem with a rule, the issue is discussed with the state agency and the agency's attorney general representative. Often the agency will withdraw and repromulgate the proposed rule to address the issue.
If, after these informal discussions, there is disagreement between the LSO and the agency, the LSO identifies the issue for the Management Council. The LSO provides a report to the Council, specifying the reason for the objection. If a majority of the Council agrees with the LSO report, the Council asks the Governor to require the agency to amend or rescind the rule. If the Governor agrees, the agency can resolve the issue by amending the rules; if the Governor does not agree, the rules become effective as promulgated. The Legislature’s recourse is to pass a Legislative Order prohibiting the implementation of the rule or to change the law in the future.
Legal Research and Information Requests
The LSO attorneys provide legal research for individual legislators, as well as committees. Staff attorneys also respond to information requests from legislators, citizens and other entities. While we are not staffed to research issues for the general public or to provide constituent services for legislators, we provide information to the public concerning legislative functions, such as information regarding bills that are introduced, amendments to bills, current Wyoming statutes, or about state government generally.
We do not provide legal opinions to private citizens, but can direct them to appropriate resources. We will tell a citizen where the domestic relations laws are located in the statutes, but will not provide a legal interpretation of those laws. In these circumstances we refer citizens to the Wyoming State Bar for a private attorney reference, or to the appropriate government agency.
Other Functions of LSO
In addition to the duties stated above, the following LSO activities might be useful to Bar members:
1. A legislative website is maintained at http://legisweb.state.wy.us/. The site contains Wyoming statutes, introduced bills, amendments proposed to bills, other legislative history and a summary of each bill passed by the Legislature. Much of this information is available on the website for bills dating back to the 2001 session. Schedules for the session and interim are available, as are committee study topics, meeting notices, agendas and draft legislation for committee review. The site also contains state fiscal profile information, school finance information and information on legislators.
2. All Committee bills prepared for introduction are summarized by LSO attorneys. The summaries are available on the legislative website.
3. All bills passed by the Legislature are summarized, compiled and mailed to all legislators, the Supreme Court and the Bar. Each summary is available on the website.
4. Material presented to Committees during the interim (and more recently during the session) is retained by the LSO and available for public inspection.
5. LSO attorneys can help identify legislative history that may be available. We will not conduct legal research for the general public or Bar members, but can identify information generally available and request archived information for review by Bar members and the public.
This article was provided as a group effort by the attorneys and staff members in the Wyoming Legislative Service Office.
Copyright © 2007 – Wyoming State Bar