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County ponders analysis law

by Christy Chalmers

Back in April, when state lawmakers first considered a plan to require economic analysis of government actions on businesses, a proponent cited the public’s “basic need to know.”

Eight months later and two weeks before that law is set to take effect, Douglas County leaders aren’t sure what it means.

“We’re going to have to learn what the meaning of this law is by working with it,” says District Attorney Scott Doyle. “I think you’ll probably see some variance in the law’s interpretation.”

The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, was intended to inform business owners of new regulations and proposals and the impacts they could have. Some exemptions exist, but in many cases, counties and cities will be required to evaluate those impacts and inform business groups.

But, as memos from Doyle and the county’s bond counsel show, the law has raised many questions because nearly anything the county does, from setting an annual budget to requiring dog licenses, can have an impact on businesses.

County Manager Dan Holler has proposed a pair of forms to satisfy the requirement. A single-page short form asks if a proposed action would impose a direct and significant impact on a business or directly restrict the formation, operation or expansion of any business.

If the answer to either question is yes, four pages’ worth of explanations and details on the potential impacts would have to be completed.

If business owners object to a county proposal or action, they would be able to file an objection within 30 days.

Doyle said the analysis will probably mean another step in the county bond issue process, because bond counselors will likely do a comprehensive analysis. For more common county actions, he predicted cooperation with the Chamber of Commerce, the Business Council of Douglas County and the Douglas County Building Industry Association could result in a simpler process.

“I think if the county is able to establish a good working relationship with the various business associations that are active locally, hopefully, we won’t have too much of a delay,” said Doyle. “It would be recommended to try and do that so we don’t elongate the decision-making process and make it slower than it already is.”

County Commissioners are scheduled to tackle the issue Thursday with a hearing on the proposed economic analysis forms. Final approval of the process is scheduled Jan. 6, the first meeting of the new year.

The commission meets at 1 p.m. Thursday at the administration building in Stateline, 175 Highway 50.