Regulatory notes and fiscal note reform
Fiscal notes are a mundane part of the state budget process but I have begun wondering if they could be reformed.
When a bill gets filed in a state legislature, an office within the legislature will score the bill, providing detailed information about the financial effects of proposed legislation. Fiscal notes enable lawmakers and the public to understand the potential implications on state budgets.
But they are limited in scope and typically include only staff and personal. For a project on state privacy bills, I collected all of the fiscal notes for those states which have passed legislation. The enforcement costs are detailed below.
Fiscal notes are often a big deal in state legislatures. They can be influential in a state. They are versioned, allowing for everyone to see if a bill has been ratcheted down or up in cost.
Utah’s fiscal note goes a little further than most. Mandated by Utah Code Section 36-12-13 every fiscal note also has “to indicate whether each proposed bill will impact the regulatory burden for Utah residents or businesses, and if so:
(i) whether the impact increases or decreases the regulatory burden; and
(ii) whether the change in burden is high, medium, or low”
We can go further and here is how I would write the legisation.
Indicate whether each proposed bill will impact the regulatory burden for residents or businesses, and if so:
(i) whether the impact increases or decreases the regulatory burden;
(ii) whether the change in burden is high, medium, or low;
(iii) confidence of the burden change, whether certain or uncertain;
(iv) whether the regulation itself will face low, medium, or high risk of legal challenge; and
(v) when possible, though not mandatory, indicate which industries will be affected by the bill, if the industry is emerging or established, the estimated firm cost to understand liability, the yearly operational firm cost to comply, and how it might affect the viability and competitiveness of the industry.
EDIT: Michael Melendez of Libertas had this to say about the idea: “It’s a question of costs and time. Fiscal analysts are required to produce a fiscal note within 72 hours. If we wanted something more comprehensive then it would take additional time and staff. The session is only 45 days and would the legislature want to spend additional millions of dollars to staff up temporarily for two months. Because in the end the answer is, of course they want more comprehensive info on fiscal notes, but that comes at a cost.”
First published May 18, 2023