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What Is a Model Act?

Model acts are drafted to provide an example for potential future legislation.
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  • Written By: Bethney Foster
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 24 October 2014
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A model act is a draft that is written with the intention of providing an example for legislation. A special interest group, a lawyers' conference, or a government agency may draft a model act. The goal is that the model act will be passed into law by local, state, or federal governments.

The National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws (NCCUSL) works to propose model act legislation in the United States. The NCCUSL is a group of attorneys appointed by states who write model legislation for states, focusing on areas of statutory law. The model legislation provided by this organization strives to be non-partisan.

The American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) is another organization known for writing model legislation. ALEC is conservative and has both private members and state legislators as members. At its three annual meetings, ALEC’s members vote on proposed model legislation. From there, the model legislation goes to the organization's board of directors. If the board approves it, the draft becomes an official model bill.

Once the bill is official, ALEC’s legislative members can introduce the bill in their states’ legislatures. Estimates are that nearly 1,000 pieces of legislation are introduced in American statehouses each year that are either completely or in part from models passed by ALEC. ALEC has been the subject of some criticism. The criticism usually focuses on the organization’s private membership, which includes many large corporations, with the accusation being that ALEC advances legislation that benefits its private members.

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Lawyers' conferences tend to focus on model legislation that is specific to the area of law in which they specialize. For example, the American Immigration Lawyers Association would likely focus on immigration law, while the Connecticut Employment Lawyers Association, for example, would focus on a model act addressing a specific area of the state’s employment law. As with a model act passed by any other organization or group, those passed by lawyers’ conferences must still go through the legislative process to become law.

Proposed model legislation by special interest groups tends to focus on laws written in the way in which that particular organization would like to see them passed. From proposed legislation that addresses specific breeds of dogs to that addressing prison reform, examples of this type of model act are readily available. These organizations must find a legislator who is willing to sponsor their draft in order to have any hopes of seeing it passed into law.

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