Kentucky lawmakers reached a deal Monday in a conference committee on legislation addressing issues with special taxing districts.
The committee adopted a new proposal that would require special districts to present their annual budgets or any new fee increases to their local fiscal court. But the compromise on House Bill 1 does not allow the fiscal court veto or approval powers of the special district's actions, as Senate Republicans had recently suggested.
Special taxing districts are usually sewer districts, library boards or other quasi-governmental public service entities. In November, the auditor's office released a report that said half of Kentucky's special taxing districts aren't following rules on filing budgets or submitting audits. But those districts, the report said, spend more money than Kentucky spends on Medicaid or infrastructure.
The compromise is supported by Republican state Sen. Damon Thayer and Auditor Adam Edelen, as well as many Democratic lawmakers. Edelen says the change will help transparency of the districts.
As the 2013 legislative session winds down, the top priorities for each chamber are still stuck in the process and not yet law.
House Bill 1 would reform special districts in Kentucky and centralize financing reporting aspects for the districts. The legislation is supported by Auditor Adam Edelen, a Democrat. But the legislation is likely to undergo changes that Edelen has yet to support, including giving more oversight of the districts to local governments.
House Speaker Greg Stumbo, the bill sponsor, said his chamber also won't support such changes.
Meanwhile, Senate Bill 1 would allow more flexibility in electronic voting for military deployed overseas. But Stumbo said his chamber is likely to include a provision to send ballots back electronically—a part the Senate removed from the bill before passing it.
A bill reforming how the state's special districts are categorized and making them more transparent easily passed the state House this morning, 96-1.
State Rep. Lynn Belcher, a Republican from Crittenden County, was the lone "no" vote.
Many local library boards, sewer districts and fire districts are considered special taxing districts separate from other types of government.
House Bill 1 is a partnership between Auditor Adam Edelen and House Speaker Greg Stumbo. It helps create a central registry of special districts as well as reforms how they file their financial information and sets penalties when they fail to do so.
Efforts to reform the laws concerning more than 1,000 special taxing districts are quickly moving in Frankfort this week.
The reforms were filed as House Bill 1 Tuesday and are a partnership between Auditor Adam Edelen and House Speaker Greg Stumbo. It would create an online registry to list the special districts and their required financial paperwork.
It would also re-designate them as special purpose governmental entities. The registry will be paid for initially with a special appropriation through the governor's office, then supplemented by fees on the special districts.
Edelen says the quick path the bill is expected to take shows that Frankfort can work to together on meaningful reforms.
The No. 1 priority for the Kentucky House in 2013 is set: Tackling recommendations from a recent report that found that special tax districts have big budgets and little oversight. Auditor Adam Edelen recently finished a report on the districts, detailing billions of dollars in spending with little or no oversight.
Kentucky Auditor Adam Edelen is encouraging local officials to help him find out about the state’s hundreds of special taxing districts. A special taxing district is a quasi-governmental agency—such as a local sewer system or public library—that gets its funds from a separate tax.