Lawmakers aren't the only ones that draft bills and laws—every year, countless of think tanks, industry organizations, and corporations submit thousands of bills to state lawmakers who seriously consider them. These "model" bills are not the work of lawmakers yet spread from one state Capitol to the next. They silently but surely turn their political agendas into a reality.
But as a two-year project by USA TODAY, The Arizona Republic, and the Center for Public Integrity revealed on Thursday, model legislation has allowed private interests to infiltrate state governments at an alarming rate. The study by USA TODAY and The Arizona Republic found that at least 10,000 bills copied almost entirely from model legislation were introduced around the country in the past eight years alone, of which roughly a fifth were passed into law.
Examining almost one million bills at both the state and federal level, the researchers used a computer algorithm to find similarities in language. Their methodology compared known pieces of model legislation with bills that lawmakers introduced.
In a separate study, researchers at the Center for Public Integrity found that tens of thousands of bills contained identical phrases and traced the origins to dozens of model bills around the country. The investigations uncover the disturbing extent to which states have supplemented the traditional method of writing bills from scratch. USA TODAY reports that "the nation’s top sponsor of copycat legislation, a member of the Pennsylvania General Assembly, claimed to have signed on to 72 such bills without knowing or questioning their origin."
The types of model laws implemented have ranged from limiting access to abortions to preventing the right to protest.