By Esther van Mourik
Did you know that the General Assembly is now SMARTer? It is! Last session the General Assembly passed House Bill 13-1299, which repealed and reenacted the “State Measurement for Accountable, Responsive, and Transparent (SMART) Government Act”.
Remember those SMART Act hearings that legislators and the public diligently sat through at the beginning of last session? Well, those hearings will now be held before session starts. Each joint committee of reference must conduct hearings between November 1 and the start of the next legislative session. Each joint committee of reference must meet at least twice this year and once next year. Legislative Council Staff is already actively reminding committee chairs and members about this new requirement and trying to schedule the hearings.
So, what do the joint committees of reference need to talk about at these hearings? This year each joint committee will hear a presentation from each department assigned to the committee regarding each department’s regulatory agenda, budget request, and any associated legislative agenda. Next year the committee will also hear the department present its performance plan. Under the statute, departments aren’t required to complete the performance plans until July 1, 2014, and no later than July 1 of each year thereafter.
Another change is that the Colorado Commission on Criminal and Juvenile Justice must present a progress report during the Joint Judiciary Committee’s hearing. The commission must present any recommendations it expects to make for the upcoming legislative session and any finalized recommendations for the upcoming legislative session.
The provisions for assigning liaisons to a department from each joint committee of reference and the Joint Budget Committee haven’t changed, so if a committee hasn’t yet assigned those liaisons, the committee chairs will likely be looking for willing legislators to participate.
What benefit does the General Assembly get from all of this?
The performance plans are important because the new statute allows the Joint Budget Committee to use these plans to prioritize any of the departments’ new funding requests that are expressly intended to enhance productivity, improve efficiency, reduce costs, and eliminate waste in the processes and operations that deliver goods and services to taxpayers and customers of state government.
The goal of these hearings is for members of the General Assembly to get a sense of what’s going on in the executive branch. The idea is that legislators can take this time to ask questions, make sure that the laws the General Assembly passed are being implemented as expected, find out before the session starts about each department’s legislative agenda, and hear about any new rules or revisions to existing rules that a department expects to propose in the next calendar year.
Finally, HB13-1299 changed the process for members of the General Assembly to request interim studies. This change is of particular importance because the process is now completely different. A member of the General Assembly may no longer request a legislative interim committee by bill or resolution. Instead, a member of the General Assembly who thinks that legislators should study an issue during the interim must submit a request in writing to the Legislative Council. The deadlines for this new process are specified in statute by legislative day. This year the request must be made no later than April 11, 2014. The request must include:
- The scope of the policy issues to be studied;
- The number of meetings required to study the issues;
- The suggested number of legislative members and the composition of the interim committee;
- Whether other nonlegislative members should have a role in the interim committee;
- Whether a task force is necessary to assist the interim committee in studying the scope of issues and, if so, the members and composition of the task force; and
- An estimate of the maximum number of bills the interim committee will need to address the issues studied by the interim committee.
No later than April 17, 2014, the director of Legislative Council Staff must notify the Executive Committee of the Legislative Council of the number of interim committee meetings that are funded within the legislative budget.
No later than April 25, 2014, the Legislative Council must meet to review and prioritize the requests for legislative interim studies. The President of the Senate, the Speaker of the House of Representatives, and the minority and majority leaders of both houses must appoint the legislative members to any prioritized interim committees or approved task forces.