Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Cutting 40% Of Legislative Research Office

Today's Alaska Dispatch News had a headline story about how the Alaska Legislature had cut its own research office by 40%.  There are a lot of questions to ask here.  Like, "WHY?!"

The obvious scapegoat is the budget shortfall.  But some things, in theory anyway, ought to have a higher priority.  And the ability to research before you make legislation would seem like one.  Just one stupid mistake because the legislature didn't have good research on a new bill, could wipe out whatever savings this makes. [I have to note that, yes, the price of oil dropped, cutting a big chunk of state revenues.  But we also have $50 billion in the Permanent Fund and monies in other reserve funds.  And our legislative majority have no interest in raising new revenue.  Their only interest seems to be cutting.]

But there are also questions about the efficiency of the agency and of the efficiency of how it is used by the legislature.  How many legislators use the office?  Are a few taxing its limits while others never use it?  How much does the average report cost?  How have the reports been used to help the legislature make good decisions?

I couldn't find any good tables that listed any of that information.  The best I could find was a list of reports with short summaries for the 2015 Fiscal Year.  (July 1, 2014 - June 30, 2015.)  To find out who requested the report, you have to click on each report.  Didn't have time for that today.  I did have time to post a copy of the list of summaries at SCRBD and below.

The overview divides the reports into 15 categories.
  • Commerce
  • Criminal & Civil Justice
  • Demographics
  • Education
  • Employment and Labor
  • Energy Production and Consumption
  • Environment
  • Government
  • Health Care
  • Natural Resources<
  • Property
  • Public Finance
  • Social Services
  • Transportation
  • Miscellaneous 
A lot of the reports are just one page, but good short reports take longer than longer reports.

Here are the research summaries themselves.

When I blogged the legislature in 2010, I spent a fair amount of time over at Legislative Affairs, getting reports. These folks are good and impartial. As much as some might think that in this fact-free political era, that legislators might not want a lot of facts interfering with their ideology. I doubt that's true of most legislators.

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