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New NAAG Rules Ensure Bipartisanship

Blair Tinkle, General Counsel and Congressional Liaison

Blair Tinkle, General Counsel to the Association and Congressional Liaison

At its annual Summer Meeting 2011, the National Association of Attorneys General (NAAG) approved a re-write of both the NAAG Constitution and Bylaws. The overhaul of NAAG’s governing documents saw a merger of the Constitution and Bylaws into one document, 12 pages reduced to 8 and 26 Articles slimmed to 11, with the most notable addition of new procedures for NAAG sign-on letters made explicit for the first time.

The revised Article VIII of the new Constitution and Bylaws defines the process by which the Association makes policy positions through sign-on letters and resolutions. To begin a sign-on letter for circulation to the full NAAG membership, the new rules require that the letter be sponsored on a bipartisan basis with at least two Attorneys General of different political parties as co-sponsors. This new rule ensures that, at least at a letter’s genesis, NAAG policy will be formed on a bipartisan basis and encourages the collegiality that NAAG members have traditionally shared throughout the association’s history.

The new Constitution and Bylaws further proscribe that once a letter’s co-sponsors have been determined, that the draft letter should be circulated among NAAG members for at least 10 business days for consideration. The threshold of at least 36 Attorneys General signing on to a letter must be met in order for that letter to be designated as NAAG policy and carry the NAAG letterhead and Association logo. Letters garnering less than 36 signatures will be published as “A Communication from the Chief Legal Officers of the Following States,” with the signatory states listed as letterhead and such letters are not Association policy.

Article VIII of the new NAAG Constitution and Bylaws also details the process by which the Association makes policy by resolution at its three annual meetings, also requiring bipartisan co-sponsorship in order to proceed. Similar to sign-on letters, the affirmative vote of 36 NAAG members makes a resolution NAAG policy. The Article also includes a sunset and repeal policy.

The new NAAG governing document was initially drafted by a core group of Attorneys General: NAAG President and Washington State Attorney General Rob McKenna, Massachusetts Attorney General Martha Coakley, New Mexico Attorney General Gary King and NAAG Immediate Past President and North Carolina Attorney General Roy Cooper. Approved by the NAAG Executive Committee in May 2011, the new NAAG Constitution and Bylaws were presented to the full NAAG membership on June 22 and approved unanimously.

Sign-on letters and resolutions that become NAAG policy are posted to its website: http://www.naag.org/policy_perspectives.php.

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