Restricting scope of prison and jail impact statements

One of the transparency steps taken by the Legislature in the past few years was requiring official estimates of the effects that additional criminal penalties could have on prison and jail populations. The Legislative Research Council’s director, Jason Hancock, now has backing from the Legislature’s Executive Board to try to reduce some of that workload. He proposed legislation that would require the impact statements only for felonies; legislators wanted the work to continue for Class 1 misdemeanors too.

If the full Legislature agrees, the estimates wouldn’t be required any longer for Class 2 misdemeanors ┬áThe law, which was originally passed in 2013 and modified in 2015, currently requires the impact to be estimated for any legislation “that increases the period of imprisonment authorized for an existing crime, that adds a new crime for which imprisonment is authorized, that imposes a minimum or mandatory minimum term of imprisonment, or that modifies any law governing release of a prisoner from imprisonment or supervision.”

The proposed legislation also would eliminate the state Bureau of Finance and Management as one of the two agencies that could perform the estimates. The Legislative Research Council would be solely responsible under the proposal. The estimates are required to be completed before legislators can consider the bill or an amendment.