Located in Montgomery, the Alabama Legislative Services Agency is the state governmental agency that provides the state’s lawmakers with financial information as well as legal and code revision guidance. Created in 1975 as the Alabama Legislative Fiscal Office, the agency is a nonpartisan and apolitical unit serving both the Alabama House of Representatives and the Alabama State Senate.
The chief purpose of the agency is to provide the legislature with information regarding the state’s finances. In order to better inform legislators about legislation under consideration, state law requires the agency to draft a “fiscal note” for each bill. This document is the agency’s evaluation or estimate of the bill’s probable effects on a state or local program, service, function, and revenue source. The agency prepares cost estimates using information from its own library, other state agencies, governmental publications, and online resources. During a typical legislative session, the agency drafts more than 500 fiscal notes, each of which may go through several revisions throughout the legislative process.
Also, the agency assists the legislature in drafting appropriation legislation. Before each regular legislative session, agency staff works with the Permanent Joint Legislative Committee on Finance and Budgets to hold annual budget hearings. During the legislative session, the agency provides budgetary information and analysis to legislators or legislative committees upon request. This budgetary information includes such data as analyses of the operating budgets of state departments, agencies, and institutions, as well as the current and projected condition of the several state operating funds.
In addition, the agency performs research at the request of individual legislators. Although these information requests are quite varied, the majority relates to the services that the state provides and the resources that are used to pay for these services. Additionally, the agency is often asked to conduct research into the taxation or operating policies of other states for comparison with Alabama‘s policies. Since 1979, the agency has issued for the legislature a guide to Alabama’s taxes that details all the state’s revenue streams, ranging from ad valorum taxes to vital statistics fees. The agency also produces a budget fact book that provides a broad overview of income and expenditures, characteristics, performance indicators, and outcomes relating to the state’s various programs, departments, commissions, councils, and school systems.
The agency is supervised by the Joint Fiscal Committee, a 10-member panel composed of the lieutenant governor, the speaker of the House of Representatives, four members of the Senate, and four members of the House. This committee also selects, appoints, and sets the annual salary of the agency’s director, who serves as the state’s Legislative Fiscal Officer. The director is also responsible for hiring the employees: an assistant director, a House fiscal officer, a Senate fiscal officer, various legislative analysts, and other clerical and administrative support staff. The assistant director oversees all accounting, legal, or personnel-related matters and serves as the agency’s chief contact to many national, regional, or intrastate organizations. The House and Senate fiscal officers approve fiscal notes and serve as committee analysts for the House and Senate appropriations committees. Each legislative analyst is responsible for research in specific areas of state government. For example, one analyst is responsible for any work concerning education, while another analyst is responsible for any work concerning transportation. Finally, the clerical personnel and House and Senate administrative assistants provide assistance to the director, House and Senate fiscal officers, and the legislative analysts. The agency has an annual operating budget of approximately $2.2 million.
Information about the agency, including its establishment and duties, is codified in Sections 29-5-1 through 29-5-13 of the Code of Alabama, 1975. The Alabama Legislative Services Agency is located directly behind the Alabama State Capitol in the Alabama State House.