Monday, January 13, 2014

Is Bipartisan Fiscal Discipline Breaking Out?

It looks like the Mississippi Legislature may be on track to adjust its rules to allow for greater transparency on financial bills that are presented to the chambers.

A resolution introduced by Sen. David Blount (D-Jackson) amends the joint rules of the legislature to enhance the rights of individual members of the legislature to request a fiscal note, a determination of how much money will be gained or lost in the state treasury, should a piece of legislation be enacted.
Any member may request a fiscal note and no measure may be considered without such fiscal note unless two-thirds (2/3) members present and voting in the house of which he is a member vote to dispense with said requirement.
The intent of the bill is sound. By the time revenue bills hit their respective floors without a fiscal note, it is practically too late for members who do not serve on Senate Finance Committee or House Ways and Means Committee to get any substantive answers. This means that only a fraction of the 174 members of the legislature get an opportunity to request information at the very important committee level.

If you take a look at who has co-sponsored the resolution so far, the signs of it being implemented are positive. Senators Buck Clarke (R-Hollandale), Hob Bryan (D-Amory), and Terry Brown (R-Columbus) have signed on to support it. Senator Brown's endorsement is particularly encouraging since he is a committee chairman of jurisdiction on this matter.

In recent years, the legislature has become rather gung ho when it comes to giving handouts to anyone looking for a tax credit or other financial incentive. This rule change provides more accountability to the taxpayers so we know how much revenue bills will cost the state, whether positively or negatively, especially at a time when Mississippi's education and transportation continue to be underfunded.

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