May vs. Shall

In our laws that establish agencies, we generally have at least two of the following sections: authority (of the director or of the agency), functions, powers, and duties. Apparently there is a legitimate argument that a law that says “the Director shall do X-thing-that-follows-up-on-Y” is pretty meaningless unless there is another section somewhere else says that “the Director may do Y.”

Now imagine that agency B was merged into agency A without corresponding amendments to agency B’s establishing law. And then imagine that you are trying to “clean up” agency A’s establishment law without making any substantive changes. And then finally imagine you come across this:

Powers, duties, and functions.

The Office is authorized to:

Require … that [entities] file reports as the Office may require.

Okay. So… we’re just being redundant here with the two “require”s, yes?


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