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Role of Legislative Counsel in Initiatives

Founded in 1913, the Office of Legislative Counsel is a nonpartisan public agency

By Chris Micheli, November 8, 2020 11:45 am

Many do not realize that the highly trained attorneys in the California Office of Legislative Counsel will draft an initiative for the statewide ballot. Under existing law, attorneys in the Legislative Counsel Bureau will assist in the preparation of an initiative measure when requested to do so by 25 or more electors.

In California’s Government Code, Title 2, Division 2, Part 2, Chapter 1 deals with the Legislative Counsel. In Article 2 of Chapter 1, which was added in 1945, there are specified duties of the Legislative Counsel. Government Code Section 10243 provides:

The Legislative Counsel shall cooperate with the proponents of an initiative measure in its preparation when:

(a) Requested in writing so to do by 25 or more electors proposing the measure; and

(b) In the judgment of the Legislative Counsel there is reasonable probability that the measure will be submitted to the voters of the State under the laws relating to the submission of initiatives.

While the statute requires the Legislative Counsel to “cooperate” with initiative proponents, there is also discretion granted to the Legislative Counsel if she judges there is no a reasonable probability that the measure will be submitted to the statewide electorate.

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