Government Accountability (H.702) - March 22, 2024

Representative Boyden presented H.702 on the House floor on Friday. She told members of the House that, as policy makers, they need to routinely evaluate how well our system is working and ensure that Vermonters are receiving the results they expect and deserve. H.702 is the first step in strengthening this type of government accountability.

In addition to creating some requirements for follow-up on legislative initiatives, the bill creates the Division of Public Performance Accountability, which provides non-partisan services and produces performance notes regarding certain proposed or enacted legislation.

The goal of this division and an oversight council is to review issues of “significant public concern” in order to look for serious failure of state government oversight or accountability. Annual reports to this effect are called for in the bill.

The bill stemmed from work last year where the Government Operations Committee had sought a way to determine accountability for how tax dollars are spent but struggled to settle on an effective way to do it.

Representative Brumsted spoke next as one of the sponsors of the bill. She reminded members that Act 53 was passed in 2023, which established a Joint Committee on Government Accountability. The Committee made recommendations to the Legislature on how we might move forward on this front. Recommendations included putting forth a series of Common Sense recommendations that would allow legislators and the public to “keep track of what happens after a law is passed.” She pointed out that legislators want to know when things are going well, but also, they need to know when things are not going well.

She closed with a quote from Franklin Roosevelt - “government's value is proven through its accountability to its people.” This bill will help us achieve that value, she stated.

Anne Donahue shared that she had read the report and she thinks it was excellent. She described the lack of follow-up on legislation as a long-standing problem. However, she pointed out that “accountability is a two-way street.” There are a number of reports that the Legislature ask for that are never read or follow up on. She reminded legislators that the report had recommended accountability on both the legislative and executive branch. This bill does not accomplish this, but rather focuses only on administrative accountability (it does not hold the Legislature accountable for outcomes), she argued.

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