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Model legislation is the practice of legislation being drafted by outside advocacy and pressure groups, who then lobby U.S. state and federal legislators, or sometimes local jurisdictions, to sponsor and pass the bills. Many pressure groups approach state governments with model legislation seeking to pass it in all 50 states, rather than trying to pass it at the federal level. There is some truth to the old adage that legislation is "written by lawyers" and not written, nor read, by the legislators who pass it.
- The most common sources of model legislation are the Uniform Law Commission (ULC), a panel of legal eggheads sponsored by the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL, created by the agreement of the country's state legislatures), or from the American Law Institute (ALI), a group of legal eggheads who mostly try to influence the judiciary but occasionally get into the statute-writing game. Their products tend to be attempts to make highly consequential but rather pedestrian areas of law (sales law, commercial paper, secured transactions, partnerships, corporate law, run-of-the-mill criminal law, that sort of thing) that can get quite heated but don't actually make sense to anyone without at least a year of law school under their belts. Contrary to what you might have heard, the American Bar Association doesn't actually get that involved in model legislation (although it does advocate for many uniform state laws, since it makes lawyers' work less of a pain to do), except for promulgating the Model Rules of Professional Conduct, the standard rules for legal ethics.
- The American Legislative Exchange Council has come under fire for its prolific use of this practice to pass anti-trade union, prison privatization, "tough on crime" laws, voter ID laws, and Arizona's anti-immigration law.
- The Anti-Defamation League's model legislation for enhanced sentencing for bias-motivated crimes (or so-called "hate crimes")
- The Coalition for Fire-Safe Cigarettes' model legislation mandating "fire-safe" cigarettes.
- The Innocence Project has drafted model legislation seeking to use DNA testing and other methods to free those who have been wrongly convicted such as prisoners on death row.
- PETA has drafted model legislation for local spay and neuter ordinances. Other animal rights groups have proposed model legislation to create state registries of "animal abusers," ban puppy mills and make bestiality a crime.
Intelligent Design and other creationist nuttery
Wikipedia has an extensive list of similar bills mandating the teaching of ID and/or creationism that have been considered in state legislatures. The Discovery Institute's current model legislation was drafted in 2007 and the push to get it before state legislatures began in earnest after the 2008 release of the film Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed. Walt Ruloff, one of the film's producers appeared together with Ben Stein at a press conference on April 15, 2008 at the Heritage Foundation stating that the intention was to piggyback on the publicity from the film to promote passage of their
"academic freedom" IDiocy bill.
- Read the complete text of the model legislation here
- Ronald Bailey, "Flunk This Movie", Reason April 16, 2008