Legislative Councils

August 12, 1937

Report Outline
Spread of Council Device in the States
Possible Uses of Legislative Councils
Development of the Legislative Council
Other Devices to Aid Legislative Process

Spread of Council Device in the States

Since 1931, eight states have attempted to modernize inefficient legislative methods by creating “legislative councils.” Usually composed of a small number of experienced legislators, and aided by expert advisors, these councils meet between sessions to prepare comprehensive legislative programs for submission to the legislatures. The councils are designed primarily to provide responsible and informed legislative leadership, to promote continuity in the legislative process, and to afford greater opportunity for the expert drafting of legislation.

First established in Wisconsin, in 1931, legislative councils were set up in Kansas and Michigan in 1933, in Virginia and Kentucky in 1936, and in Connecticut, Nebraska, and Illinois this year. Bills providing for the creation of similar councils were brought forward in a number of other states at 1937's legislative sessions, but none received final approval.

With current interest in state legislative reorganization centering on Nebraska's experiment with a single-chamber legislature, the rapid growth of the legislative council movement has received little attention. Yet, as Hubert R. Gallagher points out, the council device “aims at the improvement of legislation in a far more fundamental way than any merely structural change could effect.” Gallagher believes that the legislative council has “enormous future possibilities” for expediting law-making processes and improving the quality of legislation. Since relatively little expense is involved, and since councils may be created by legislative enactment, without the necessity for constitutional amendment, Gallagher predicts that by 1940 every state will have set up such a council.

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