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How will that bill affect seniors? Minorities ... ? Democrats aim to find out

March 14, 2017 Updated: March 14, 2017 at 5:14 pm
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House Majority Leader KC Becker speaks Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2017, during the opening day of the 2017 Colorado State Legislature at the State Capitol in Denver. (The Gazette, Christian Murdock)

The almighty "fiscal note" is a legislative fixture known to just about everybody under the dome. It's sometimes dreaded, as well. Prepared by the legislature's nonpartisan policy staff, it is an assessment of the impact every bill has on the state's budget, and a hefty fiscal note can doom legislation deemed too expensive.

Now, ruling Democrats in the House are proposing to attach a new kind of impact statement to legislation: a "demographic" note. A news release from the House Democratic press office explains:

"Demographic notes would be prepared by Legislative Council staff, much as fiscal notes now are. But instead of assessing the financial impact of a bill, a demographic note would show how a bill would impact certain specific populations in Colorado."

House Bill 1191, sponsored by House Majority Leader KC Becker, D-Boulder, and Rep. Leslie Herod, D-Denver, would allow leadership in each of the four legislative caucuses to request demographic notes on up to five bills in a session, for a total of up to 20 bills each session for the whole General Assembly.

The bill passed its first legislative test, the House Finance Committee, on Monday and now heads to the Appropriations Committee.

Becker, quoted in the news release, told Finance Committee members in presenting the legislation that it will provide lawmakers new insights if implemented:

"This legislation is focused on how we can make more informed decisions.If what you really want to see is how a piece of legislation would impact rural Colorado, or seniors, or minorities, you can get that with this bill."

It's an interesting idea though they might want to come up with a more embraceable name for it. Maybe "human impact statement"?

So, will it run into a closed door when it reaches the Senate? There, the ruling Republicans are more likely to be interested in a bill's impact on small business and the overall economy than on specific population groups. Indeed, a GOP bill now pending in the upper chamber, Senate Bill 186, would in a roundabout way require the state government to assess and offset the impact on business before proceeding with new regulations. You might say it's the Republican counterpart to HB 1191.

"Demographic note"? Meet the GOP's "regulatory flexibility analysis." (That buzz phrase could stand some tweaking, too.)

It should be noted the Democrats' proposal only made it through House Finance on a party-line vote; with the party alignment reversed in the Senate, it may not last long there. Meanwhile, the Republican concern for impact on business may have about the same shelf life once it gets to the Democratic House.

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