Congress Moves Toward Evidence-Based Policymaking

Published by Michael Novogradac on Tuesday, March 22, 2016 - 12:00am

On March 17, the House of Representatives passed the Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act (H.R. 1831), following Senate passage by unanimous consent the previous day.

House Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady, R-Texas, praised the move, saying the measure would help Congress “better understand which federal programs help lift people out of poverty–and which ones continue to fail the American people.” He said, “With better data and information, we can hold programs accountable and support the programs that truly change lives.”

As noted here when the bill was introduced, the provisions of this legislation could have a significant effect on the tax credit community, because it establishes data sources, types and protocols against which tax expenditures such as the low-income housing tax credit (LIHTC), new markets tax credit (NMTC), historic tax credit (HTC) and renewable energy tax credits (RETCs) could be evaluated.

Specifically, the commission’s mandate would not be to evaluate specific programs, but to

  1. perform a study of the federal government’s data inventory, data infrastructure and statistical protocols in order to facilitate program evaluation and policy-relevant research; and
  2. explore how to create a clearinghouse of program and survey data to increase the use of evidence-based policymaking .

About the Commission

The bill creates a commission whose members must be appointed within 45 days of enactment. Under the bill, the president selects the chair and the House speaker selects the co-chair. The commission would have a budget of $3 million and would end no later than 18 months from the bill’s enactment date. The commission would be required to generate a report within 15 months of those appointments. However, the bill requires three-fourths agreement between the members to submit its report to Congress and president.

The commission would have 15 members, appointed as follows.

Three appointed by the president, of whom:

  • one must be the director of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) (or the director’s designee);
  • one must be an academic researcher, data expert or have experience in administering programs; and
  • one must be an expert in protecting personally identifiable information and data minimization.

(OMB Director and former HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan will be especially influential in this process, as he will likely advise the president on his appointees, as well as likely being the chairman.)

The speaker and minority leader of the House and the majority and minority leaders of the Senate would also appoint three members, of whom:

  • two to be academic researchers, data experts or have experience in administering programs; and
  • one to be an expert in protecting personally identifiable information and data minimization.

What’s Next

It’s expected that the bill will be sent to the president shortly. As described above, upon enactment the clock starts ticking for members to be appointed to the commission and its work to begin. And while the commission itself will not evaluate specific programs, it’s clear that the membership of the committee will meaningfully influence how specific programs are evaluated in the future.

Addendum

H.R. 1831, the Evidence-Based Policymaking Commission Act of 2016, was signed into law by President Obama on March 30, 2016.