Proposal lets legislators challenge fiscal notes; adds 10 staffers to analyze state budget

House Majority Leader Glen Casada and Sen. Ken Yager, who chairs the Fiscal Review Committee and the Senate State and Local Government Committee, have proposed to set up a process allowing legislators to challenge estimates of how much a bill would cost taxpayers if enacted.

Their bill (HB2096) requires Fiscal Review Committee staff to list all sources of information used in a cost estimate, known as  fiscal note, and establishes a formal procedure for a lawmaker to challenge an estimate – including calling state officials involved to testify. It also calls for hiring ten new legislative staffers to help analyze the governor’s budget proposal and prepare amendments for legislators.

From WKRN-TV’s report:

Casada calls his proposal one of the most important legislative bills this session. He said what happened with the bathroom bill a few years “a prime example” of the problem.

“And that is just one,” Casada told News 2. “I and every member at some point — Republican and Democrat — have seen a number and saying, ‘How did this come about?’”

The fiscal note on the bathroom bill was estimated at a billion dollars because of a loss of federal school funds it was declared discriminatory. The cost calculated by legislative fiscal lawyers was one of the reasons the bathroom bill eventually died in committee.

… He said… the bill proposes to find out “who contributed to the idea of how much it’s going to cost and then the fiscal review committee will take this information back to the members and to the public.”

Casada said the calculations of a bill’s cost are spot-on at times from a “great staff,” but there are enough examples of raised eyebrows where he says process needs transparency of who had input–and who did not.

(In a letter sent to House members, Casada said the legislation as follows.)

It requires fiscal review staff and anyone submitting information to fiscal review to cite their sources and provide fiscal review staff with any information they deem necessary to accurately complete a fiscal note.

 It requires the Fiscal Review Committee to set up an appeals process for members.

 It requires, by joint agreement of the Fiscal Review Chairs, any Commissioner, CFO, or liaison from a state government agency to come and testify before the Fiscal Review Committee about any fiscal information provided by the agency.

 It allows for more legislative input into the budget process by adding dedicated budget staff members and empowers the legislature to create their own budget. It also gives the legislature more tools to analyze the budget proposed by the governor.

The bill is scheduled for a hearing in the House State Government subcommittee next week.

7 Responses to Proposal lets legislators challenge fiscal notes; adds 10 staffers to analyze state budget

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    Susan E Gingrich says:

    I like this bill. Accountability is greatly missing in all levels of state government. Thorough fiscal analysis is needed for every piece of TN legislation and federal legislation potentially impacting TN. Expanding Medicaid eligibility will end up costing TN & federal taxpayers more and the new drug and opioid initiative proposed by the governor at $30 million will end up costing taxpayers more than the projected amount. There are limited federal dollars available for states right now. CMS will not approve state waivers increasing the federal debt. Government alone is not the solution to TN’s problems. The TN legislature and administration need to find ways to do things smarter with private-public partnerships and be less dependent on federal and state taxpayer paying for everything. It can be done by learning to think outside the box. Accurate fiscal analysis, accessing ROI, and proper oversight are key to successful, well-run initiatives.

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    James White says:

    Sounds like someone is mad that their bills are shot down by the very fact that it ‘will’ cut federal funding. The states all rely too much on federal funds. This bill will only increase the TN Legislature’s power and thus is not needed. Quit spending money!

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    Lance Persson says:

    Makes sense to me.

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    Betty Anderson says:

    While we all like the idea of more transparency, is the current process so problematic to require what could be an extremely time-consuming and costly new process? It makes sense to require Fiscal Review staff to provide their sources, so why not stick with that one change and see if it takes care of the problem before adding an appeals process, which will surely add to lawmakers’ hours and delay the consideration of legislation. I don’t know of anything currently that prohibits legislators from picking up the phone and calling fiscal review for more details or calling the agency or organization that provided the information to staff.

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    Norma Shirk says:

    This bill isn’t about accountability. This is about political intimidation. A group of legislators identified a non-issue (the “bathroom bill”) and were stymied in their efforts to get it enacted because they were presented with the true cost (millions in lost federal funds plus litigation costs defending indefensible discrimination). So now they’ve come up with a way to intimidate anyone who presents a cost analysis on the consequences of intolerance that contradicts their viewpoint. If this law is actually enacted, everyone will be intimidated into telling legislators only what they want to hear. There’s an old children’s story about what this bill will mean: The Emperor’s New Clothes.

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    James White says:

    No fiscal note for this bill.

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    Jay Polk says:

    Wait, so the legislators aren’t working to get a good cost estimate on their own bills? We need to hire 10 more people because legislators are so un-trustworthy?!?

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