Located in Montgomery, the Alabama Legislative Fiscal Office is the state governmental agency that provides the state's lawmakers with financial information. Created in 1975, the Legislative Fiscal Office is a nonpartisan and apolitical agency serving both the Alabama House of Representatives and the Alabama State Senate.
The chief purpose of the office 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 office to draft a "fiscal note" for each bill. This document is the office's evaluation or estimate of the bill's probable effects on a state or local program, service, function, and revenue source. The office prepares cost estimates using information from its own library, other state agencies, governmental publications, and online resources. During a typical legislative session, the office drafts more than 500 fiscal notes, each of which may go through several revisions throughout the legislative process.
Also, the office assists the legislature in drafting appropriation legislation. Before each regular legislative session, the office staff works with the Permanent Joint Legislative Committee on Finance and Budgets to hold annual budget hearings. During the legislative session, the office 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 office 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 office is often asked to conduct research into the taxation or operating policies of other states for comparison with Alabama's policies. Since 1979, the office 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 office 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 operation of the office 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 director of the Legislative Fiscal Office.
As head of the office, the director serves as the state's Legislative Fiscal Officer. The director is also responsible for hiring the employees of the office: 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 office'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 office-related work concerning education, while another analyst is responsible for any office-related 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 office has an annual operating budget of approximately $2.2 million.
Information about the office, including its establishment and duties, is codified in Sections 29-5-1 through 29-5-13 of the Code of Alabama, 1975. The office is located directly behind the Alabama State Capitol in the Alabama State House.