Performance Evaluation and Research Division
Building 1, Room W-314
State Capitol Complex
(304) 347-4890

ISSUE AREA 1: The Commission on Uniform State Laws Performs an Essential Function for the State but Should Become More Visible and Increase Public Input.

Each year West Virginia's three commissioners attend an annual meeting of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws where commissioners from all 50 states, the District of Columbia, the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands meet to draft uniform laws for proposal to their respective legislatures. During the legislative interim the Commission reports to West Virginia's Commission on Interstate Cooperation (COIC). Recommendations are made to the COIC which votes on what uniform acts will be reported as bills during the legislative session. According to meeting minutes from the Commission on Uniform State Laws annual meeting, in 1996 West Virginia's Commission was "second only to the state of Delaware in the largest number of uniform acts passed during the Legislative session". It should be noted that all acts recommended by the Commission on Uniform State Laws to the COIC must first be passed by the Legislature, and are subject to amendments which may affect the uniformity.

National Commission

The National Conference is composed of the Commissioners on Uniform State Laws from all states and jurisdictions mentioned above. A small staff is maintained at the Conference headquarters in Chicago to serve the organization's administrative needs.
According to the Conference's 1996-97 Reference Book it is "one of the oldest of state organizations designed to encourage interstate cooperation, was organized in 1892 to promote uniformity by voluntary action of each state government. Since its organization, the Conference has drafted more than two hundred uniform and model acts on numerous subjects and in various fields of law, many of which have been widely enacted." West Virginia's Commission endorses only the enactment of uniform acts and not model acts.

The Conference summarizes its underlying basis as it relates to interstate economic and social activities:

€States are more interdependent socially and economically, e.g. tourism and other commerce.
€One commercial transaction may cross state lines many times and involve numerous citizens.
€Reduce the deterrent to the free flow of goods, credit, services, and persons among the States.

"The Conference seeks to alleviate these problems in areas of law traditionally left to the states, thus preserving the federal system."

Below is a listing of the 44 uniform acts drafted by the National Conference and passed by the West Virginia Legislature. Of these, 15 have been passed or amended within the last 7 years. (See Appendix B for a complete listing of acts drafted by the Conference)

Table One
Uniform Laws Passed by West Virginia Legislature

Alcoholism and Intoxication Treatment (1971)Interstate Compromise of Death Taxes (1943)
Attendance of Out of State Witnesses (1931) (1936)Limited Liability Company (1995)
Certification of Questions of Law (1995)Limited Partnership (1976) (1983) (1985)
Child Custody Jurisdiction (1968)Management of Institutional Funds (1972)
Commercial Code (1951) (1957) (1962) (1966)Partnership (1992) (1993) (1994) (1996)
Commercial Code -Article 2A (1987) (1990)Photographic Copies as Evidence (1949)
Commercial Code -Article 3 (1990) (1991)Principal and Income (1931) (1962)
Commercial Code - Article 4 (1990)Intestacy, Wills and Donative Transfers (1991) (1993) UPC, Article I I (1990) (1993)
Commercial Code -Article 4A (1989)Testamentary Additions to Trusts (1960) (1961) UPC, Article I I, 2-511 (1969) (1991)
Commercial Code - Article 5 (1995)Simultaneous Death (1940) (1953) (1991) (1993) UPC Article I I , 2-702 (1969) (1991) (1993)
Commercial Code - Article 6 (1989) Disclaimer of Property Interests (1973) (1978) UPC , Article I I , 2-801 (1990)
Commercial Code -Article 8 (1977) (1994)Statutory Rule Against Perpetuities (1986) (1990) UPC , Article I I , Part 9 (1990)
Commercial Code - Article 9 (1972)Durable Power of Attorney (1979) (1987) UPC, Article V , Part 5 (1979) (1987)
Common Interest Ownership (1982) (1994)TOD Security Registration (1989) UPC , Article V I, Part 3 (1989)
Common Trust Fund (1938) (1952)Prudent Investor (1994)
Controlled Substances (1970) (1973)Reciprocal Enforcement of Support (1950) (1958) (1968)
Declaratory Judgements (1922)Simplification of Fiduciary Security Transfers (1958)
Determination of Death (1978) (1980)Trade Secrets (1979) (1985)
Enforcement of Foreign Judgements (1948) (1964)Unincorporated Nonprofit Association (1992)
Federal Lien Registration (1978) (1982)Facsimile Signatures of Public Officials (1958)
Fraudulent Transfer (1984)Veterans ' Guardianship (1928) (1942)
Interstate Arbitration of Death Taxes (1943)
*source: National Conference on Uniform State Laws 1996-97 Reference Book

Benefits of the Commission on Uniform State Laws

By participating in the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, West Virginia has an opportunity to influence the development of laws in other states. According to the Reference Book, the Conference members and staff "study and review the law of the states to determine which areas of law should be uniform."
Funding for the Commission is minimal and divided into two categories, the first being the dues the state pays to the National Conference; second are expenses incurred by the Commissioners during their travel for the Commission. As detailed in Table Two, funding the Commission during the review period has not exceeded $20,000 per year. Commissioners receive no compensation other than the reimbursement for expenses and the uncompensated contribution of the Commissioners would far exceed the expenses provided.

Table Two
Cost of the Commission

YearConference DuesExpensesTotal
FY 92$9,600$7,310$16,910
FY 93$10,100$8,497$18,597
FY 94$10,700$6,173$16,873
FY 95$11,300$6,478$17,778
FY 96$11,900$7,075$18,975
FY 97$11,794$8,205$20,000

In summary, a prime example of the need for uniform laws is interstate commerce. The National Conference began drafting the Uniform Commercial Code in the 1940's. It took 10 years to complete and another 14 years to pass throughout the country. The Uniform Commercial Code is continuously under revision and has a standing committee of the National Conference devoted solely to its revision. In addition, uniform laws such as the Uniform Interstate Family Support Act, complement many federal laws and are sometimes required by the federal government for states to receive certain federal funds.

The Commission Process and Public Input

During the annual meeting of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, consideration is given to what uniform laws are needed by the states. The Conference votes to decide what uniform acts to develop and then assigns individual committees the task of drafting the acts. When brought before the Conference as a whole, the acts are debated line by line. Completing this drafting and debating process takes at least two years. After completing the drafting process, the Conference votes whether to "promulgate the draft as a Uniform Act." If passed, individual Commissions may take the uniform act to their home states and recommend passage as a Uniform Law. West Virginia's Commission reports to the Commission on Interstate Cooperation and recommends uniform acts for passage by the Legislature. The Interstate Cooperation Commission then votes on whether to send the recommended acts to the Legislature as bills. If a uniform act is written as a bill, the intent is to have as few amendments as possible in order to preserve the original intent of the legislation.
The Legislative Auditor has noted that the West Virginia Code does not contain a process whereby the Legislature and West Virginia's public are 1) informed by the Commission of what draft acts the National Conference intends to consider for passage as uniform acts, and 2) afforded the opportunity for input prior to the drafting of the uniform acts.
According to the State's Commission and the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws, many opportunities are given for public and legislative input into the process of drafting uniform acts. Both indicate that legislators and interested parties are contacted, all national meetings are open to the public and draft acts are accessible on the INTERNET. The State's Commission stated in a letter to the Legislative Auditor that:

"Regular pre and post-annual meeting releases are forwarded to the press, other media and the West Virginia State Bar. These releases include information about final and ongoing projects. From time to time, press releases on uniform and model acts are distributed to various state agencies and members of the Legislature......We also report annually on uniform law activities to the American Bar Association which disseminates the information to all of its substantive sections and committees, and that information is disseminated widely in the legal community.(Emphasis added)

The Commission also stated that members of the Commission met with representatives of the American Association of Retired Persons in West Virginia about probate recommendations. In addition, a Charleston lawyer with Mountain State Justice has been working with the Commission and attending meetings of the National Conference as an official observer. Meeting minutes also indicate that arrangements were made during previous years for staff of the National Conference to meet with management of state agencies such as the Department of Health and Human Resources in 1994.
Despite these efforts, a Legislative Auditor's survey of five major attorney organizations in the state indicates that only two have been contacted by the Commission regarding draft acts the National Conference was considering. (See appendix D) Two presidents of these organizations are familiar with the State Commission and National Conference, one only generally familiar and two were totally unfamiliar with the West Virginia Commission or the National Conference. Some of the comments from these organizations may be paraphrased as follows:

Our organization has been asked to respond to rules proposed by the Supreme Court, Federal Court rules, and WV State Bar policies and positions, but has never been asked for input or comment from the Commission on Uniform State Laws.

An attempt should be made to educate and enlighten the public as to what this Commission has been empowered to do as well as the parameters of its authority and mission.

The uniform laws proposed by the Commission are debated by the Commission on Interstate Cooperation, the Judiciary Committees, and the Legislature as a whole. However, due to the importance of the Commission to public policy in West Virginia it should increase public input prior to its National meeting. The Commission has obtained input on specific proposals in many instances (e.g. input regarding revisions to Articles 1, 2A and 9 of the Uniform Commercial Code from a Representative of Mountain State Justice). However, the visibility of the Commission and subsequent input from affected parties of proposed laws, would enhance its work, particularly the "desirability and practicability" of uniform laws as set forth in its charge (§29-1A-4). This may be done by public notices, continued utilization of the Internet, increased input from the State Bar, formal contacts with such organizations as the West Virginia Trial Lawyers Association, The Mountain State Bar, the Defense Trial Counsel of West Virginia, The
West Virginia Bar Association and by expanding the annual report to include information on acts under consideration. In addition, changes such as publishing a phone number and address in the state directory, press releases in the Legislative newsletter and even Commission stationary for communication with interested parties and other official business, would help to increase the visibility and perhaps public input.


The Commission on Uniform State Laws should be continued but efforts increased to become more visible to the general public and solicit input from the various affected entities in the state and the general public.

ISSUE AREA 2: The Commission did not Issue an Annual Report for 1996 But has Since Filed the Report.

In order for the Commission to meet the requirements of §29-1A-4, an annual report must be filed each year. Upon submission to the Legislature, this report is printed in both the House and Senate Journals and stands as a record of the bills proposed by the Commission for that legislative year. (See appendix C for copies of annual reports for 1993-1995). However, the Legislative Auditor found no record of this report being submitted for 1996. Upon discovering the report was not filed, the Commission's Legislative Chairman worked with Legislative Services staff and filed a report during the 1997 Legislative Session detailing what occurred in the 1996 Session thus ensuring that a record exists in the Journal. The current Commission has a record of filing these reports for more than seventeen years; this oversight has been corrected.

Recommendation: That the Commission comply with the code and file an annual report as required.