Inside the Capitol: Researchers making legislators’ jobs easier

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Tucked away under five floors of legislators proposing, debating, and amending bills is a room of researchers constantly working to help them.

When a lawmaker proposes a new bill, one of the first places he or she goes is the non-partisan legislative research department. 

“We provide policy answers but we don’t provide legal advice,” said researcher Jordan Milholland. “We can spell out sort of what the law’s text says and we can also tell you what other states are doing in different areas of law.”

42 people work in the department. Researchers are assigned to various House and Senate committees. 

Milholland works with both the House and Senate Federal and State Affairs Committee as well as the House Corrections and Juvenile Justice Committee.

He and the other researchers work to make sure lawmakers have as much information about the proposal as possible. 

“We scour the internet, we find as many credible sources as we can, we use legal databases,” said Milholland.

The amount of time spent researching varies on the bill.

“Some are fairly simple, but some can be quite lengthy and involved,” said legislative research director Raney Gilliland.

Many lawmakers have been away since last Thursday, but the researchers were still hard at work on Tuesday. 

“There have been legislators in here today making requests, and there are also phone calls and emails coming in, in terms of what’s coming up in the future and giving us direction as to what to prepare for,” said Gilliland.

Researchers also write summaries of the law explaining it so the average person can understand.

Gilliland said even when the legislature isn’t in session, researchers are still hard at work throughout the year.

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