Legislative Council

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Legislative Council

Research and support arm of state legislatures and assemblies. Council members research legislative issues, draft legislative proposals, prepare legal opinions, and provide general support services. Also called legislative counsel.

State legislatures depend on research staff to investigate and craft legislative proposals. These staff members are generally grouped into one body called a legislative council, but the terminology varies from state to state. They usually are nonpartisan bodies composed of lawyers and other professionals who work year-round with legislators. Staff members are expected to be politically neutral and impartial on all issues. Individuals may be assigned to general topical research areas or to specific legislative committees.

Legislative council staff members serve on standing committees, create research documents, prepare implementing legislation, draft amendments, prepare reports on proposed administrative rules, and respond to research requests from legislators and legislative staff as well as other governmental agencies and the public. When the legislature is not in session the legislative council focuses on research projects that are of interest to legislators. Councils often publish reports on major issues that are of topical concern. Because federal laws mandate state compliance on a host of topics, legislative councils also must continually review federal regulations to determine their effect on current state laws and pending legislation.

In addition, legislative councils serve as the institutional memories of state legislatures. Long-time staff members with particular expertise in a field are valuable as turnover occurs in legislative bodies. The often arcane procedures involved in drafting bills are usually left to legislative council members, who take legislative ideas and directions and craft them into statutory language. In many states the legislative council is responsible for the publication of the legislative session laws as well as the codified statutes and administrative regulations.

During legislative sessions, council members sit with legislators in committee meetings and give both private and public advice. As legislation is proposed, these staff members provide analysis as to the policy and budgetary effects these proposals would have on state government. The production of fiscal notes is a major task for council staff, as legislators need to know what impact a new program would have on the state budget in terms of both spending and revenue.

In some states the legislative council is a two-tiered organization. The first tier is composed of a group of legislative leaders (e.g., senators); the second tier consists of the staff. The legislative members of the council set policy and research directions for the staff to follow. The form and function of a legislative council is mandated by individual state statutes.

Further readings

Dye, Thomas R. 2000. Politics in States and Communities. 10th ed. New York: Prentice Hall.

Moncrief, Gary F., Peverill Squire, and Malcolm E. Jewell. 2000. Who Runs for the Legislature? New York: Prentice Hall.

Rosenthal, Alan. 1998. The Decline of Representative Democracy: Process, Participation, and Power in State Legislatures. Washington, D.C.: CQ Press.

References in periodicals archive ?
The votes of one-third of legco members are sufficient to push through a veto.
In December 2005 the LegCo rejected a Hong Kong Government-proposed package of incremental reforms to the mechanisms for choosing the CE in 2007 and forming the LegCo in 2008.
That the government failed to secure enough votes in the LegCo despite its abandonment by the LP was a reflection of the weakness of the Tung regime.
Many politicians fear that Hong Kong's government could be paralyzed by friction and hostility between the administration of Chief Executive Tung Chee-hwa and the LegCo.
More than half the current Legco, as well as dozens of other hopefuls are applying for seats on the provisional legislature.
The arrival of Chris Patten as the last governor in 1992 and his initiatives to open up the government saw those top civil servants occupying policy portfolios as "secretaries" increasingly behaving in much the same way as ministers in other governments: defending government policies and positions, lobbying legislators, and answering questions before Legco and its panels.
I think the impact (of a sweeping victory by the pro-democracy camp) is not going to be too big since whoever is voted into the Legco (the Legislative Council) will work for the best interest of an economy with a strong growth,'' Bolland said.
TDC's executive director, Michael Sze, assured LEGCO members that "the TDC has not taken on any advisory role to Canton Fair, to Shenzhen or to Beijing.
We protest against the government for high-handedly, and without consultation, forcing the whole resolution through Legco in a very short notice period,'' directly elected lawmaker and unionist Lee Cheuk-yan told reporters.
To narrow the scope of such serious charges, the LegCo considered an amendment in 1996;(71) however, any part of the existing laws associated with colonialism will be eliminated after the handover.
The awards were presented to the winners by honorable guests including Mr Alex Fong Chi-wai, CEO, The Hong Kong General Chamber of Commerce, Hon Jeffrey LAM Kin-fung SBS, JP, LegCo Functional Constituency - Commercial (First), and Dr Kelvin Wong DBA FHKIoD, Chairman, TheHong Kong Institute of Directors.
We in Europe have been impressed by the efficient handling of elections to the LegCo (Legislative Council) last May.