Predicting the future with policy – what are the long term impacts of this bill?

Photo by WV Legislature Photography.


If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably spent some time grappling with one of the central questions about policymaking: what are the long term impacts of this bill?

This week, as more of the bills we’ve been tracking are put on committee agendas for discussion (check out this article for more on how that process works), our legislators are asking the same question.

It can be daunting to try to think through all of the potential outcomes of a bill that you care about, especially since it involves parsing through some pretty dense and off-putting language. Even so, it’s incredibly important for us and for our lawmakers to answer this question well.   

As I’ve watched legislators consider bills this week, they have done two things that help them to answer this question effectively:

  • They break the bill down into its primary policy question or questions. For example, HB 2654 would allow County Commissions to sell county property to nonprofits for less than market value. The real question here is: do we think that allowing counties to have this power will decrease the challenges they face, or increase them?
  • They ask, “What are other components of the bill that might cause challenges for my constituents?” For example, HB 2654 was amended in committee to account for potential confusion relating to how sale of property would work between counties and volunteer fire departments.


Lawmakers aren’t the only ones who can use these strategies to think through the possible outcomes of policies in WV. Our role as citizens in the policymaking process is to help our representatives understand how the bills they are considering might impact us, so that potential challenges don’t become real ones experienced by community members across our state.

When a policy doesn’t function as it’s intended to, there are still ways to go back and correct any problems that it may be causing. In fact, a number of the bills that we’re tracking right now add or clarify language to the WV Code to do just that.

It can take some work to craft policies that are responsive to the needs of folks in WV while avoiding as many negative impacts as possible.

Each question we ask – and encourage our Legislators to ask – that helps us consider these bills more carefully gets us closer.  

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