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Karcher Bill To Increase Public Review Of Budget Documents Approved

TRENTON – A bill sponsored by Senator Ellen Karcher which make fiscal information on legislation available to lawmakers and the public in a more timely manner was unanimously approved by the Senate State Government Committee today.

“As we saw during last year’s budget crisis, the Legislature is sometimes called upon to vote on bills with minimal review and public scrutiny,” said Senator Karcher, D-Monmouth and Mercer. “While we need to have the flexibility to respond in extreme situations, that sort of legislating is contrary to the concept of open, accountable government. By ensuring that budget documents get in the hands of policymakers and public watchdogs quickly, we can act quickly on expenditures without sacrificing necessary review.”

The bill, S-2676, would make various budgetary reforms, including changing the review time for a sponsor of a fiscal note from 10 days to three, making it available to the public quicker. The bill would update the law to ensure that fiscal notes are available to the members of the Legislature and for general review before a bill is considered by a committee or in either Legislative House. The bill also allows the Legislative Budget and Finance Officer to independently call for a fiscal note on legislation, and to receive such fiscal review documents “by a date consistent with legislative consideration,” rather than imposed deadlines which draw out the fiscal certification process.

“In today’s electronic age, there is no reason we can’t quickly disseminate information to interested parties regarding the economic impact of legislation,” said Senator Karcher. “It allows the public to hold legislators accountable for their votes, and gives lawmakers the information they need to make informed decisions about proposed bills. These reforms would draw back the curtain on expensive legislative initiatives, and expose budget decisions to the light of day.”

The bill now heads to the full Senate for consideration.

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