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Office of the Legislative Counsel

U.S. House of Representatives

Statement of M. Pope Barrow, Legislative Counsel

Mr. Chairman and members of the subcommittee, thank you for the opportunity to appear before you to present the fiscal year 2001 appropriation request for the Office of the Legislative Counsel.

For fiscal year 2001 I am requesting $5,140,000. This is an increase of $55,000, or 1.08 percent, over our fiscal year 2000 appropriation of $5,085,000. This increase is attributable to $55,000 in personnel funding to annualize the FY00 cost-of-living increases.

Functions of the Office

Under our statutory charter, the purpose of the Office of the Legislative Counsel is to advise and assist the House, its committees, and Members in the achievement of a "clear, faithful, and coherent expression of legislative policies". Our goal is to prepare drafts that accurately reflect the legislative objectives of the Member or committee concerned, that are legally sufficient to carry out that policy, and that are as clear and well organized as possible

under the circumstances.

The office is neutral as to issues of legislative policy. Since our inception, we have assisted proponents of all political viewpoints while maintaining confidentiality with each client.

The office is career-oriented with a low turnover among the staff. We strive to retain a staff of attorneys with extensive experience in virtually every area of Federal law, so that we are able to provide drafting assistance, often on short notice, in the most complex subject areas. During the past year, the Office of the Legislative Counsel provided drafting assistance in connection with most of the major legislation under consideration by the House and its various

committees.

Assembling and Retaining a Highly Qualified Staff

Poorly drafted legislation can be costly to private parties and to the government. It can result in unnecessary confusion and delays, allocation of funds in ways not intended by the Congress, and litigation. Many millions of dollars can be wasted or misallocated by reason of poorly written legislative language. Properly drafted legislation is of incalculable value to the

House and to the Nation.

At the same time, the issues before Congress are becoming increasingly complex as time passes, and more often than not drafting is required under tight time lines.

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To respond to the demands of this situation, we assemble our staff by selecting the most highly qualified young lawyers we can find, usually directly out of law school, giving them an extensive apprenticeship in the basics of drafting, and teaching them several substantive areas of Federal law. We then do our best to retain these valuable people for as long as possible so that we do not lose the benefit of their training and knowledge. We have been successful in retaining many of our experienced attorneys. 40 percent of our attorneys have been with the office for 20 years or more, 55 percent have been with the office for at least 15 years, and 73 percent have been with the office for at least 10 years. The knowledge and experience that these people bring to the process of drafting legislation is invaluable to the House and to the Nation.

Despite out past track record, it is becoming increasingly difficult to recruit and retain attorneys of the high caliber that we are accustomed to. Salaries in law firms and in other areas of private legal practice have recently risen to almost astonishing levels. If this trend continues, as I expect it will, we will find it even more difficult to hire and retain the best people. We appreciate the committee's longstanding willingness to provide us with the financial resources to address this problem.

Management of the Office Workload

The complexity and volume of legislation in many areas of Federal law such as tax, immigration, health care, pensions, welfare, housing, and environmental law means that attorneys in our office must specialize. However, if we had only a single expert in a particular area, our ability to handle the legislative workload would deteriorate if that attorney were to retire or resign.

Our solution to this problem has been to have attorneys strive to develop as high a level of competence as possible in several areas of law, and to work in each of those areas with one or more partners. Under this system, attorneys can share the burden when a particular legislative area is extremely active. An additional benefit is that we do not suffer a debilitating loss of expertise if we temporarily or permanently lose the services of the attorney who is most experienced in a given area.

Improvements in Office Infrastructure

In order to provide a quick and efficient response to drafting requests, our office relies heavily on modern and sophisticated equipment and computer hardware and software. We have an excellent Information Systems Analyst to help us manage this complex and constantly changing system. We continue to have instant access to electronic versions of bills, amendments, conference reports, committee reports, and compilations of existing law from the current session and from earlier sessions of Congress. Our computer files are compatible with those of the Clerk of the House and the Senate Legislative Counsel, and with legislative documents prepared by GPO. This greatly enhances the efficiency of our operations and allows us to meet very tight deadlines without having to retype drafts or parts of drafts of legislation from earlier sessions of Congress or from Senate bills.

We are moving forward with improvements in our equipment in order to better serve the House. To maintain currency of hardware, we have begun a systematic hardware replacement program for our computers and related equipment so that some equipment will be replaced in fiscal year 2001 and some each year thereafter. Each year developments in software enable us to achieve additional efficiencies in the delivery of drafts to our clients. Attorneys can now fax drafts directly from their PC to the client's fax machine or send documents completely formatted for printing through the House e-mail system to their clients who are then able to print those documents at their desk or publish those documents immediately, if they so desire, on the World Wide Web. This has eliminated two intermediate and very time-consuming steps: the printing of the document in our office and the subsequent delivery of that document to the client. In addition, we have made a number of improvements in our network which allow us to remotely control personal computers, track PC hardware problems, and monitor network traffic for bottlenecks. We are now working on methods to automate delivery of new software to individual work stations.

We have purchased a number of laptops for use by attorneys which will allow legislative drafting to be done off-site. The laptops are equipped with software that automatically mirrors files on our network file server to their local drives, thus improving file availability in the event of a power outage or other event.

Electronic Retrieval and Distribution of Legislative Documents

Our office is continuing to play an active role in the work now being done by the Clerk of the House in cooperation with the Secretary of the Senate to develop a new system of composing and managing legislative documents, the searching of those documents, and their publication in electronic form on the Internet. The task force is comprised of representatives from the Offices of the Clerk and the Secretary, our office, the GPO, the Library of Congress, and others. Such a system should allow the exchange of documents between word processors without complex conversion programs and without the loss of formatting. This process may provide for more rapid electronic distribution of legislative documents (bills, reports, conference reports, etc.). It should also allow us to maintain our ability to have an instantaneous exchange of documents with the Government Printing Office and the Senate Legislative Counsel.

Conclusion

Finally, I would like to express my appreciation for the support this subcommittee has given our office. This support has enabled us to develop and maintain the ability to provide quick, efficient, and expert drafting assistance to the Members and committees of the House. We are continuing our efforts to improve our services wherever possible.

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CORRECTIONS CALENDAR OFFICE

(See Page 84 Subcommittee Print)

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For salaries and expenses for the Corrections Calendar Office, $851,000. This office, created and approved at the beginning of the 105th Congress, has the responsibility of assisting the Speaker in the management of the Corrections Calendar under the Rules of the House.

Mr. Chairman, the funding requirement for this office is in support of statutory positions and a lump sum allowance to pay for salaries and expenses for the office.

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OTHER AUTHORIZED EMPLOYEES
(See Pages 85-88 Subcommittee Print)

For salaries of Other Authorized Employees, $213,000. This request is to fund the salaries for the two technical assistants in the Office of the Attending Physician.

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Note: The Fiscal Year 1999 enacted amount was adjusted by a reprogram approved by the Subcommittee.

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