October 8, 2013
Thomson Reuters’ attorney editors lead the publication of annotated codes for all 50 states, the District of Columbia, and the United States. In fact, our annotated code is official in eight jurisdictions: Alabama, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Oklahoma, South Carolina, and South Dakota. Our code is certified in four jurisdictions: Arizona, Kentucky, New York, and Ohio; and our code is recognized by statute as evidence of the law in Maryland.
As Beth Anderson explained in an earlier post, the USCA team’s relationship with the Office of the Law Revision Counsel is critical to publishing accurate and timely federal law updates for our customers. Similarly, our state attorney editors (whether working on an official code or not) foster relationships with state contacts in Revisor, Legislative Counsel, and other similar offices throughout the country to help ensure that we include the most accurate and up-to-date statutes for researchers looking into state laws. So, for example, this year, when South Carolina rewrote all but one Article of Title 62, their Probate Code, we were able to work closely with our contacts at the Legislative Counsel’s office to ensure that we got each new section in the right place with the right commentary, cross references, and other annotative features.
In addition to maintaining great relationships, each attorney editor needs to know the intricacies of their jurisdiction’s legislative process. Each state has its own system of managing the business of government. These differences range from inconsequential to how a bill becomes law to critical to getting the statutes correct. For example:
- While most states have two legislative bodies, a Senate and another body, such as a House of Representatives or an Assembly, Nebraska is unicameral, with only one legislative body.
- In general, most bills become law when they are passed by the legislature and signed by the governor. However, each state has rules on when a bill may become law without a governor’s signature. For example, Article IV, § 23 of the Minnesota Constitution provides specific timelines for when a bill may become law, with or without the governor’s signature, which depend on when in the session or after the session the bill was presented to the governor.
- Veto power also varies by jurisdiction. Most states allow their governors some partial veto, or line-item veto, power. For example Article V, § 7 of the Arizona Constitution allows the governor to exercise partial veto power over appropriations. A number of states, however, do not allow partial vetoes.
- Most states have very specific convening and adjournment dates, and other states, such as Ohio and Massachusetts, can pass laws year-round.
In addition to understanding their jurisdiction’s framework for passing laws, attorney editors also need to be aware of whether their state has a revisor of laws and the power that revisor has. Many states have active revisors who are responsible for codifying and classifying laws, as well as to correct spelling, phrasing, and numbering issues. For an example of such powers, see Ala.Code. 1975 § 29-7-8. Other states delegate those powers to their house or senate counsel, and still other states, such as California, require even minor changes to be made by legislation.
Regardless of a jurisdiction’s rules regarding corrections to the code, however, making sure that our attorney editors are aware of these changes is critical to ensuring accuracy of our statutes. Thus, keeping track of legislative and revisor process, and maintaining good relationships with our legislative and revisor contacts, is a key way in which Thomson Reuters’ attorney editors ensure timely and accurate statutory publications.