On December 14, 2017, in its final session of the year, City Council unanimously passed Bill No. 170719 which makes it easier for a City Council member to request a Fiscal Impact Statement on any pending ordinance (other than bills making an appropriation). The bill also now makes the Department of Finance or the Controller responsible for providing a full explanation of their inability to produce a Fiscal Impact Statement in the event they are unable to fulfill this request within the requisite time period.
Councilman Allan Domb (At Large) introduced this legislation in September to lower the threshold for requesting Fiscal Impact Statements. Previously a Fiscal Impact Statement was only produced at the request of three councilmembers or at the request of the main sponsor of the bill. Fiscal Impact Statements are necessary because they detail the costs and financial implications of proposed legislation.
Domb’s bill also holds the designated entity (either the Finance Department or the Controller) responsible for explaining in writing why a Fiscal Impact Statement could not be prepared prior to its due date. The Fiscal Impact Statements are also to be revised after any amendment to a bill.
“As a Council body, we are often tasked with making challenging but certainly important financial decisions on behalf of our City,” Councilman Domb said during a hearing for the bill. “In order to make these informative decisions, I believe I can speak for all of us [in] that we want as much information as possible.”
This legislation mirrors similar legislation in other municipalities. “I always say, ‘Take one idea, it’s plagiarism. Take many ideas, it’s research,’” Councilman Domb said.
In written testimony supporting the bill, the Committee of Seventy illustrated that in addition to being required in the Pennsylvania State Legislature, “fiscal analyses are also a prerequisite for approval of bills in numerous other cities including Boston, Los Angeles, San Francisco, New York City, Pittsburgh, and Washington D.C.”
The Chamber of Commerce for Greater Philadelphia also supported the Fiscal Impact Statement legislation.
“The Chamber applauds Councilman Allan Domb’s efforts to encourage more transparency in the legislative process and we are supportive of efforts that take into account the costs of enacting various policy proposals,” Darrell Davis, the Chamber’s Manager of Local Government and Civic Affairs, testified in Council.
Councilman Domb thanks his Council colleagues for passing the Fiscal Impact Statements bill.
“While this legislation will not require the fiscal analyses, it will encourage the practice and increase the access to these analyses more regularly when warranted,” Councilman Domb said.
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