The OLLS staff can conduct legal research for legislators. These services range from an "off the cuff" verbal response to a fully researched, written legal opinion reviewed by OLLS senior staff. Pursuant to section 2-3-505, C.R.S., a written legal opinion is considered work product, and the OLLS will maintain its confidentiality. However, the OLLS can release a legal opinion to the public if the legislator who requested the opinion waives the work-product privilege.
Under the confidentiality statutes, the final versions of documents that are not prepared in response to a bill or amendment request and documents that do not contain legal analysis or express a legal opinion are considered public records, and the OLLS staff may release them to the public. However, a legislator who requests one of these documents may request that the document remain work product pursuant to section 2-3-505 (2)(e), C.R.S., in which case the OLLS staff will not release the document.
Legislators often ask the OLLS for the following materials:
• A list of the legislator’s bill requests;
• A legislative history of an issue or the history of bills that were introduced in previous legislative sessions on subjects similar to the legislator's bill request;
• Summaries or explanations of Colorado statutes on a particular subject;
• Summaries of other states' statutes or federal statutes on a particular topic;
• Comparisons of introduced bills on the same topic or of different versions of a bill;
• Court opinions;
• A legal memo written for the requesting legislator or a legal memo that was written for another legislator who has authorized its release or waived its confidentiality;
• Computer word searches of statutes;
• Memos of a general nature concerning the legislative process;
• Written or verbal explanations of the legislative rules;
• Written or verbal explanations of ethics requirements;
• Suggested State Legislation (a publication of the Council of State Governments);
• Legis Briefs (short research briefs on topics prepared by the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) with an emphasis on how different states approach public policy).
The drafter of the bill is available to help you explain a bill after it is introduced. Upon request, the drafter can provide written materials, such as a brief, objective explanation of the bill or of any amendments to the bill, a side-by-side comparison of bills on the same topic or a comparison of the bill to current law, or an unofficial version of the bill that merges amendments into the original bill.
Sometimes legislators ask a drafter to help explain their bills in committee. Drafters are available to give objective explanations of a bill or answer technical questions; however, the drafter cannot reveal confidential conversations with a bill or amendment sponsor and cannot advocate for passage or defeat of a bill or amendment.
The Legislative Council staff has a unit that answers constituent questions, and most requests can be referred to them.
The OLLS staff may be able to answer constituent questions of a general nature about Colorado law. However, the OLLS staff cannot provide legal advice to a constituent. When appropriate, the OLLS will refer questions from the public to the appropriate agency in state government or to legal agencies or bar associations that provide legal advice, such as Legal Aid, Thursday Night Bar, etc.
Legal advice consists of applying the law to a specific set of facts. Legal advice includes telling a person how a statute applies to him or her directly; how to file a lawsuit and whether a particular situation involving the person would constitute grounds to file a lawsuit; or explaining what steps the person should take to resolve a legal matter. As mentioned above, the OLLS staff cannot give legal advice to a constituent. If it appears that a person may have a matter requiring legal advice, the OLLS will suggest that he or she consult with an attorney.
The OLLS performs a legal review of every new or amended rule adopted by a state agency, board, or commission to determine whether the entity has exceeded its statutory authority or if the rule is in conflict with a state law. However, the review does not address whether the rule is good or bad policy. The OLLS works with the rule-making entities to resolve rule issues and takes any rules found to have problems to the Committee on Legal Services for its review. The Committee sponsors a bill each year with its recommendations of which rules should expire because they are not authorized by or they conflict with state law.
In addition to this process, you may request the OLLS to review a particular state agency rule to see if it is authorized by or conflicts with state law.
You should notify the OLLS immediately. If appropriate, the OLLS staff will consult with the Committee on Legal Services about whether legal counsel should be retained to represent you or the entity on behalf of which you have been served. Generally, legislators are protected from testifying in court on matters relating to their legislative duties. Due to the short time frame for response, in some instances the legal staff of the OLLS may enter an appearance on behalf of the legislator to attempt to get the action dismissed on grounds of legislative immunity.
The OLLS participates with the Legislative Council staff in the review-and-comment process for proposed ballot initiatives. However, the OLLS cannot draft measures for the proponents of initiatives and cannot edit, approve, or reject an initiated measure. Sometimes legislators participate in the initiative process as proponents or as consultants to proponents, but the OLLS staff cannot assist or support a legislator acting in this role.
The Director of the OLLS, or his or her designee, serves as a member of the title board. This board, which also includes the Secretary of State and the Attorney General, or their designees, sets the ballot title for each initiative that is submitted to the Secretary of State's office.
Recognizing the conflict of interest issues involved in having drafters prepare initiative language for legislators, the Committee on Legal Services has adopted a policy that a member of the General Assembly should not ask the OLLS staff to provide drafting assistance for an initiated measure. The OLLS does draft measures that the General Assembly, through the legislative process, refers to the voters.