Fiscal Implications–Impact of Committees on the General Assembly

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The 223rdGeneral Assembly meeting in St. Louis has concluded and I have begun to reflect on it. I will blog about some of these reflections in the future and will start with one about financial implications.

Each and every overture made to General Assembly must be analyzed for financial implications. Most have little to no implications and do not pose an issue. Others, however, can have significant financial implications which in turn impacts the budget of the entire PC(U.S.A.).

If a committee chooses to form a committee, commission, or task force to further study an item, there may be financial implications. The group will have to meet which will involve travel costs. If they meet via teleconference or videoconference, there are costs. There may be staff time involved in carrying out the group’s work. If a publication is to be prepared, then there are writing and publishing costs associated with that endeavor. While I was not involved with estimating financial implications, the speed at which they were developed indicates to me that there are some rules of thumb, or standard costs, that are used. For example, travel for one person is $X therefore two meetings of a committee of 12 would be 2 * 12 * $X.

The problem with GA is that the sum of these financial implications is not known until the committee work is done and the GA is meeting in plenary. And in actuality, the true financial implications are not known until the end of the GA when all committee recommendations have been acted on. During plenary, we were provided with daily updates of the financial implications and even how much per capitawould need to be increased in order to cover those expenses. This beats nothing but it is really not a satisfactory process.

The entire assembly is not able to give as much consideration to an item as is the committee. So, when a committee recommends the establishment of a task force, we must realize that the committee is in the best position to determine its size, composition, and frequency and method of meeting. Plenary is not the place to discuss those topics and make the group smaller. However, plenary is exactly where the financial implications are reviewed and discussed.

GA business is tracked on PC-BIZ and, for the most part, it is a useful tool. I think financial implications should be added to PC-BIZ so that each committee can see, near real-time, how the entire the GA is shaping up. Committees are isolated and it is not easy to know what the others are doing. By creating a graphic within PC-BIZ, each committee can see how the financial situation is shaping up and some committees may even be able to go back and make adjustments to groups they want to establish to keep costs down. At the very least, they can be aware of what future actions may cost. Overtures also have financial implications determined prior to the meeting of GA so the future implications could also be shown (assuming all overtures are approved as submitted).

Money is important, but it should not be the sole determinant in action taken by the GA. I was very proud of the 223rdGA when they refused to adjourn without adjusting per capita. As one commissioner so aptly stated, we should not create this financial burden and then leave it to the Office of the General Assembly to figure out how to balance the budget. That would result in reducing personnel or not doing some things enacted by previous General Assemblies.



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