HB 12-1115 Business Impact Statements
House Bill 12-1115
Rich Jones, Director of Policy and Research
Testimony to the Senate State Veterans and Military Affairs Committee
March 19, 2012
Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.
I am Rich Jones, the director of policy and research with the Bell Policy Center. The Bell is a non-partisan, non-profit research and advocacy organization dedicated to making Colorado a state of opportunity for all.
The Bell Policy Center opposes HB12-1115 to create a formal process through which Colorado businesses would be able to submit comments on proposed legislation and to direct the Legislative Council Staff to compile the comments and make copies available to lawmakers in conjunction with the fiscal note. The Bell Policy Center supports efforts to increase public engagement and public comment on proposed legislation as well as efforts to provide lawmakers with more information about the potential effects of pending legislation. However, we feel that the process set out in HB12-1115 unfairly provides one group in Colorado – businesses – with a means of formally commenting on proposed legislation while not providing similar means for organizations from other important sectors in Colorado.
HB12-1115 would allow businesses to submit comments on proposed legislation that (1) would create a new or increase an existing mandate on Colorado businesses or (2) significantly increase the costs to Colorado businesses. Comments from the first 50 businesses to respond during a 10-day comment period would be compiled by the Legislative Council Staff and made available in conjunction with the fiscal note.
It has been our experience that legislators propose bills to solve public policy issues facing Coloradans. In some cases, their proposed solutions to these policy issues would mandate businesses to take certain actions or would require actions that significantly increase costs to Colorado businesses. Generally, there are multiple sides to these policy debates. As bills go through the legislative process, people from many different perspectives, communities and affiliations, including businesses, have the opportunity to comment, point out the effects of the proposed legislation and urge lawmakers to either pass or defeat the legislation.
However, under the procedures set out in HB12-1115, businesses would receive special treatment and be given a means to formally comment on proposed legislation and to have their comments made "available in conjunction with the fiscal note." Non-businesses that represent different perspectives on these issues would not have a similar means of formally communicating their views on the proposed legislation, and neither would they have a similar means for making their comments available in conjunction with the fiscal note. This is not a balanced process and would provide an unfair advantage to businesses.
Making business comments available in conjunction with the fiscal note could potentially lead some observers to conclude that the comments are part of the analysis conducted by the non-partisan Legislative Council Staff. Lawmakers and legislative advocates rely on the analysis conducted by the staff when considering proposed legislation. Although the staff would only be compiling and distributing the comments, there is great potential for the comments to be seen as having been developed, assessed or approved by the Legislative Council Staff. We think this would unfairly tilt the debate in favor of the business position on pending legislation.
In our Blueprint for Opportunity released in 2006 and in other reports, we have supported efforts to provide lawmakers with more and better information on the effects of proposed legislation. We also have supported efforts to expand the public's engagement on public policy issues. Finally, we support efforts to ensure that government agencies and programs are working as effectively and efficiently as possible. We agree with business representatives when they advocate revising or repealing ineffective, outmoded and excessive regulations. Wade Buchanan, president of the Bell, participated in Gov. John Hickenlooper's "Pits and Peeves" initiative to identify ineffective regulations.
We are willing and happy to participate with the sponsors and others to develop means and procedures for encouraging greater public engagement in the legislative process, obtaining public comments on proposed legislation and providing lawmakers with more and better information describing the effects of proposed legislation. The process used to gather public comments on proposed rules under Colorado's Administrative Procedures Act could be used as a starting point for developing a process for the legislature. In addition, there are a number of efforts currently under way to provide a means for people to review and comment on pending congressional legislation. One of these efforts has been developed by POPVOX, a private company that provides a platform for people to identify bills pending in Congress, comment on them and forward these comments to members of Congress. We could draw on these efforts to create something that could work for Colorado.
We thank you for the opportunity to share our comments with you today and for Senator Jahn for bringing this legislation. If you would like more information or if I could answer any question please contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or via telephone at 303.297.0456, ext. 244.