HD43 - Report of the Virginia Commissioners to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws
In 1889, the New York Bar Association appointed a special committee on uniformity of laws. The following year the New York legislature authorized the appointment of commissioners "... to examine certain subjects of national importance that seem to show conflict among the laws of the several commonwealths to ascertain the best means to effect an assimilation or uniformity of the laws of the states, especially whether it would be advisable for the State of New York to invite the other states of the Union to send representatives to a convention to draft uniform laws to be submitted for approval and adoption by the several states."
The National Conference convenes as a body once a year. The annual meeting lasts eight to 12 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 read, line by line, and thoroughly debated at the annual meeting. Each act must be considered over a number of years; most are read 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 put to a vote of the states. Each state caucuses and votes as a unit.
The conference is a state service organization which depends upon state appropriations for its continued operation. All states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands are asked to contribute a specific amount, based on population, for the maintenance of the conference. In addition, each state delegation requests an amount to cover its commissioners' travel expenses for the conference annual meeting. For Virginia, the amount requested for the 1996-97 fiscal year for conference maintenance was $26,500.
The procedures for drafting an act are the result of long experience with the creation of legislation. The Scope and Program Committee considers new subject areas of state law as potentials for uniform or model acts. The Committee, consisting solely of commissioners, studies suggestions from many sources, including organized bar groups, state governments, and private persons. If a subject area cannot be adequately studied, it is likely to be given to a special study committee. The recommendations that come from this study mechanism go to the Executive Committee, and then to the entire conference for approval.
The Governor is authorized to appoint three members, each to serve a two-year term (§ 9-49, Code of Virginia). Governor Allen, in June of 1994, appointed three new commissioners: John Goode of Richmond, J. Rodney Johnson of Richmond and Pamela Meade Sargent of Abingdon. Each was reappointed in 1996. In addition to the Governor's appointments, the Constitution of the conference authorizes the appointment of life members upon recommendation of the Executive Committee. To be eligible for life membership, a commissioner must have served as president of the conference or as a commissioner for at least 20 years. Virginia's life members are Brockenbrough Lamb, Jr., a member since 1953, and Carlyle C. Ring, Jr., a member since 1970 and president of the conference from 1983 to 1985.