Law Reform Process
Sources of Law Reform Projects
The first step in law reform is identifying laws and legal processes that need revision and improvement. Law reform projects come to the attention of the Oregon Law Commission through various sources. Judges, lawyers, sections of the Oregon State Bar, members of the legislature, professors of law at the Oregon law schools, Commission members and members of the general public alert the commission to difficulties they have experienced in applying Oregon law or in seeking legal remedies. To submit issues for consideration by the Oregon Law Commission, please review this proposal outline form, complete something similar and contact the Office of the Executive Director.
The Program Committee
The Oregon Law Commission's Program Committee reviews the laws that have been identified as needing reform, and then makes recommendations to the Commission regarding those laws that should be studied and developed by the Commission. The Commission considers several factors when choosing a law reform project. Priority is given to private law issues that affect large numbers of Oregonians and public law issues that are within the scope of an existing state agency. The Commission also considers:
- The resource demands of a particular issue
- The length of time required for study and development of proposed legislation
- And the probability of approval of the proposed legislation by the legislature and the governor.
Formation of a Work Group
Once an issue has been selected by the Commission for study and development, a Work Group is generally formed. Work groups are made up of commissioners, volunteer members appointed by the Commission, interested participants and staff from the Judiciary Committee, the Legislative Counsel Committee, the Oregon State Bar Offices and the Executive Director's office of the Oregon Law Commission. The Commission appoints the volunteers members based on areas of expertise that relate to the issues the Work Group with address. The members often come from a variety of organizations and professions.
The Work Group - Approaching the Issue
After a Work Group is formed, the group meets independently to discuss the law in question and attempts to identify its defects. Work groups are comprised of people representing community interests particularly affected by the law in question. The Work Group then attempts to come up with the best possible reform solution by drawing on the members' wide range of experience and interests. Often, other states' laws are examined to see how they deal with similar problems. After thorough research and the exchange of viewpoints, the Work Group agrees in principle on an approach for revising the area of law in question.
The Work Group - Drafting Proposed Legislation
After an approach for revision is agreed to in principle by the Work Group, the drafting phase of the process begins. A reporter is chosen from the Work Group to ser as the conceptual drafter of the proposed legislation. Often, the reporter is one of the attorneys from the Office of Legislative Counsel. A draft bill is prepared by the reporter as a place for the Work Group to begin carefully developing proposed legislation. The group considers each section of the proposed bill, members often present alternative language for specific sections of the bill, agreements are made on the best format and language for the proposed bill, and finally a proposed bill is completed. In addition to proposed legislation, the Work Group prepares a report to the Commission summarizing the issue being addressed and how the proposed legislation attempts to improve the area of law in question.
Communication and EducationThe next step in the Commission's reform process is communication and education. After the Work Group has prepared proposed legislation on a particular area of laws the Work Group attempts to communicate with people and groups that will be affected by the new legislation. The goal is to educate interested citizens on the proposed legislation and reach consensus on the value of the legislation by answering questions, alleviating any misconceptions that exist and identifying issues and resolving those issues with needed drafting changes before the proposed legislation is sent to the full Commission for approval. In order to keep interested parties Informed, the Commission's Work Groups are in close communication with representatives from the Oregon State Bar, invite sections of the Bar to participate and give input into the drafting process and identify interested stakeholders and hold informational meetings for those stakeholders.
Consideration by the Commission
The next step in the Commission's law reform process is consideration of the proposed legislation by the full Commission. Prior to a Commission meeting, each Commissioner is provided with a copy of the proposed bill and the summary report. At the Commission meeting a Work Group representative presents the proposed legislation to the Commissioners. Commissioners are given an opportunity to ask representatives of the Work Group, as well as other interested parties, questions about the bill. The Commission then decides whether or not to recommend the legislation to the Legislature.
All Commission and Work Group meetings are open to the public. For a schedule of the Commission meetings, see the master calendar.
The final step of the law revision process is to help the bill become a law. After the Commission has given the bill its "stamp of approval" it recommends it to the legislature. The Office of the Executive Director is charged with shepherding the bill through the legislative process. The bill is introduced to the legislature through the Judiciary Committee or other legislative committee, or by a member of the legislature. The Office of the Executive Director works to inform legislators of the importance of the bill and of the Commission's support of the bill. Because the Commission's law reform process includes thoughtfully choosing law reform projects, carefully drafting proposed legislation and communicating with and educating stakeholders, the expectation is that bills recommended by the Commission will be viewed favorably by legislators and ultimately passed into law.