Friday, April 25, 2014

A few recent articles on model laws and legislative advocacy

At ALICE, we’re constantly scanning for exemplary progressive bills that can serve as the basis for model law.  But we also try to keep an eye out for academics and advocates who are writing articles about model laws and the drafting process.

One recent article, which could be helpful for law professors and clinicians teaching drafting, provides a scan of the many organizations that draft model laws.  In “There Oughta Be a Law – A Model Law,” Mary Whisner, a reference librarian at the University of Washington School of Law, reviews the acronym soup of organizations doing this work: NCCUSL, ALI, ABA, CSG, and ALEC. (There is one notable omission, but we’ll let it go… ALICE is, after all, the new kid on the block, and research always catches up to practice step by step.) The article provides a quick cheat-sheet for students who might have a hard time keeping straight how the organizations differ from one another.

Alexander Hertel-Fernandez, a graduate student in government and social policy at Harvard, has a paper forthcoming in Perspectives on Politics that asks “Who Passes Business’s ‘Model Bills’?” Using a dataset of leaked ALEC documents from 1995, Hertel-Fernandez finds that “ALEC model legislation was more likely to become law when legislators spent relatively more time on non-policy activities (like campaigning) and less time working on legislation, and had access to fewer legislative resources.” He also concludes that junior legislators who were not in policy leadership positions were much more likely to propose ALEC bills.  Although these results are not all that surprising, they help confirm the common impression that business interests have advanced their agenda by using ALEC to exploit the weak policy capacity of state legislatures.

Finally, in case you missed it last year, Kevin Barry (an editor of this blog, Quinnipiac University) and Marcy Karin (Arizona State) have published an important and useful article on law clinics and lobbying restrictions. Their article walks readers through answers to three important questions: 1) whether advocacy work triggers charitable lobbying reporting requirements; 2) whether it violates lobbying prohibitions on recipients of government funds; and 3) whether it requires registration under federal or state lobbying disclosure laws. Whatever set of values motivates a law clinic’s advocacy work – progressive, conservative, or otherwise – these are important questions to answer before undertaking legislative advocacy projects, and the article’s appendices provide concise and helpful guides for clinicians.

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