SILVER SPRING – An economic impact statement would be required for all proposed legislation by the county council if a bill introduced May 7, is adopted.
District 1 Councilman Andrew Friedson introduced legislation to make sure councilmembers understand the economic impact of every action they adopt – not just on the county’s budget, but also on business owners, nonprofit organizations, homeowners and taxpayers, he said.
There will be a public hearing on his attempt to strengthen economic analysis of all county legislation on June 11 at 1:30 p.m.
The legislation appears headed for adoption, as every council member signed on to co-sponsor it.
If the bill is adopted, an economist in the independent Office of Legislative Oversight would be in charge of the review rather than a county employee from the Department of Finance being asked to conduct the impact statement.
The economist would be required to evaluate all proposed legislation and how it would affect taxation, property values, incomes and operating costs to business owners and nonprofit organizations, as well as the county’s competitiveness, among other factors.
It is important to look at the economic impact of a bill on more than just the county’s budget, Friedson said.
“The bill is focusing on making sure we understand the impact” in many areas so there will not be “unintended consequences,” he explained.
Before councilmembers vote on any legislation, the Office of Legislative Oversight would issue a report of its findings without recommending whether the bill in question should be adopted.
It will be up to individual council members to weigh the information and decide how to vote, Friedson said.
“We should be considering the full fiscal and economic impact of everything we do at the county council — not only on the county’s budget, but also on the budgets of residents and small businesses,” he explained in a press release.
“Supporting our local businesses has been a primary focus from the moment I took office. Including private sector impacts more comprehensively in our legislative process is an important part of that commitment,” according to Friedson.
The Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce stated that it supports this bill and plans to attend the public hearing next month.
“This has been a long-standing priority for the chamber,” said Tricia Swanson, vice president of government relations.
While the county council does consider business owners when acting on major legislation, this legislation will make them consider economic consequences to business owners for every piece of legislation, she said.
“To have that consistency across all legislation that is introduced” is a great step, she noted.
If the council has as much information as possible before making decisions, there will be less of a chance for unforeseen or unintended consequences, Swanson said.
“It’s kind of a perfect time for this,” she said. Newly elected county officials “are focusing on how Montgomery County can be competitive, not just with neighboring counties, but across the nation.”
If the economic impact on taxpayers and business owners is always considered, it will help the county become more competitive, she said.
Gigi Godwin, the chamber’s president and CEO, agreed, noting in a statement, “In order to help our members accelerate their success, we need the support of Montgomery County government.”
If adopted, this legislation “will ensure policies are created with the economic competitiveness of the county in mind,” Godwin said.
Also supporting the bill is Greater Bethesda-Chevy Chase Chamber President & CEO Ginanne Italiano.
In a statement, Italiano wrote, “This is a great bill that will provide a professional analysis of the economic effects of legislation before the council acts, ensuring impacts on all stakeholders are considered.”
“This will also help the public better understand all the intended and unintended consequences of legislation,” Italiano added.