HD13 - Uniform State Laws

Executive Summary:
The National Conference concerns as a body once a year. The annual meeting lasts eight to twelve days and is usually held in late July or early August. Throughout the year, drafting committees composed of Commissioners work over several weekends on drafts of legislation to be considered at the annual meeting. The work of the drafting committees is ready, line by line, and thoroughly debated at the annual meeting. Each act must be considered over a number of years; most are ready and debated by the Conference two or more times. Those acts deemed by the Conference to be ready for consideration in the state legislatures are pub to a vote of the states. Each state caucuses and votes as a unit.

The governing body of the Conference, the Executive Committee, is composed of the officers elected by vote of the Commissioners, and five members who are appointed annually by the President of the Conference. Certain activities are conducted by standing committees. For example, the Committee on Scope and Program considers all new subject areas for possible Uniform Acts. The Legislative Committee superintends the relationships of the Conference to the state legislatures.

The Conference maintains relations with several sister organizations. Official liaison is maintained with the American Bar Association, which annually contributes to the operation of the Conference. In fiscal year 1994-95, the ABA contributed $10,000 to the Conference. The Conference also seeks grants from the federal government and from foundations for specific drafting efforts. The drafting effort on the Uniform Victims of Crime Act (1992) was aided by a federal grant. The Conference will not take money from any source except on the understanding that its drafting work is autonomous. No source may dictate the contents of any act because of a financial contribution. Additionally, liaison is continually maintained with the American Law Institute, the Council of State Governments, and the National Conference of State Legislatures. Other associations are frequently contacted and advised of Conference activities as interests and activities necessitate.

At the Conference's national office in Chicago, a small staff provides administrative and clerical assistance to the Conference and the individual members as well advice and coordinating assistance in securing the passage of uniform acts. The Conference has consciously limited its staff to prevent accrual of needless administrative costs. The seven-person, full-time staff in Chicago includes the legal counsel, executive secretary and legislative assistant. The position of executive director is part time and is traditionally occupied by a law school faculty member. In addition, the Conference contracts with "reporters" for professional services to aid in drafting. These professional reporters are engaged at very modest honorariums (base rate $150 per day) to work with drafting committees on specific acts. The Conference also employs professional independent contractors for part of its public information and educational materials. In-house staff costs amount to 27 percent of the budget. The Conference has annual budgets and audit reports, which are available on request.

All members of the Conference contribute a minimum of 200 hours a year to drafting acts for Conference consideration. Although the members volunteer their time and effort, they are reimbursed for expenses. The cumulative value of the time donated by the Commissioners for the development of Uniform and Model Acts conservatively averages $6 million annually.

The work of the Conference strengthens the state and federal system of government. In many areas of the law, the states must solve the problem through cooperative action, or the issues are likely to be preempted by Congress. The Conference is one of the few institutions that pursue solutions to problems on a cooperative basis by the states. Without the Conference, more legislative activities would undoubtedly shift from the state capitals to Washington.