ND Lawmakers Rip Department of Transportation for “Ridiculous” $50 Million Fiscal Note on Speed Limit Bill

Yesterday the state House failed to pass HB1264 which would have North Dakota’s speed limit on multi-lane highways to 75 mph for state highways and 80 mph for the interstates.

I wrote “failed to pass” instead of “voted down” because the vote was actually a tie. It was 46 to 46, with 2 lawmakers not voting.

The bill may come to the floor again – they often do after close votes – but perhaps more interesting than the issue itself is the criticism some of the lawmakers had for the fiscal note attached to the bill by the Department of Transportation.

Fiscal notes, for those of you who might not follow this stuff close, are a report on the expected costs or revenues resulting from a particular piece of legislation. They’re usually put together by the state agency with oversight of the policy area the bill is dealing with. With speed limits, it’s the Department of Transportation.

Problem is, state agencies often use fiscal notes to try and manipulate policy outcomes. Instead of providing unbiased facts and analysis, the state agencies game these fiscal notes to achieve a particular political outcome. I’ve written about this phenomena before, and lawmakers have long made jokes about the “death by fiscal note” tactic, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen as forceful a push back against manipulative fiscal notes as during yesterday’s floor debate on HB1264.