Have you heard the term “proviso” in describing a provision of a bill or statute? Basically, a proviso is language used to exempt something from a general statutory declaration and to provide for it specially. Some legal commentators believe that provisos are too frequently used in bill drafting.
A reader of a bill or statute can readily find a proviso because it usually begins with a phrase such as “provided that,” or “provided, however, that.” Some provisos are ambiguous because they may add an additional declaration, or even a new idea not necessarily connected with the preceding clause. This case obviously could be problematic.
As a result, some states advocate for not using provisos in statutes. Instead, these states believe that a proviso should be used with language that begins, “except that,” or even “however.” In addition, some states advocate that, if there are several conditions or exceptions, then the provisos should be placed in a list at the end of the sentence.
What is the difference between a proviso and an exception? In general, a proviso is a clause added to a statute to except something from the main clause or to limit its applicability. A proviso operates as a condition or qualification. An exception, on the other hand, is used to exclude something from the operation of the enactment of a particular subject matter.
One state’s legislative drafting manual specifies that provisos give bill drafters a tool for sticking afterthoughts on the end of a sentence. Again, some states advocate for avoiding provisos in bill drafting. Instead, some of the states believe that a sentence should be split with the proviso into two separate sentences.