By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service
A bill to require more uniform reporting of financial information by special taxing districts sailed through the House 96-1.
House Bill 1 was sponsored by Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, after a review of the 1,260 or so special districts by state Auditor Adam Edelen indicated many do not comply with administrative and financial reporting systems.
Edelen began his review in the wake of several publicized reports of widespread abuse and questionable spending at some larger taxing districts such as the Lexington Airport and Louisville Metropolitan Sewer District, both of which were investigated by Edelen’s predecessor Crit Luallen.
Edelen’s review indicated the 1,260 or so districts spent a total of about $2.7 billion — although most of that is accounted for by larger districts.
The bill will require taxing districts to file reports with a central registry housed in the Department of Local Government and submit annual financial reports and audits.
The legislation provides for annual fees to be paid by the taxing districts — $500 for the largest, $25 for the smallest — to pay for the registry and the tracking of information. It also allows Edelen to audit any taxing district found to be out of compliance by DLG.
That, Edelen said this week, puts “teeth in the law to compel compliance.”
Governing boards of such districts (libraries, conservation districts, water and sewer districts, some health districts) will be required to follow the local county’s code of ethics. An online database will allow taxpayers to see the districts’ financial reports and compliance status.
When Edelen released his report in November, he described a “ghost government” system over which there was not public accountability and he detailed numerous abuses by various districts.
But when Stumbo took to the floor Friday to urge passage of the bill, he said it “is not a bill in response to bad conduct,” but one which is “really a tribute to the honesty and dedication of all those . . . who have done their jobs efficiently and in a trustworthy manner.”
Stumbo said the legislation will “simplify, streamline and clarify reporting requirements while at the same time giving every Kentucky taxpayer the power to track the use of their tax dollars.”
Nearly everyone on the House floor Friday agreed – nearly.
Freshman Lynn Bechler, R-Marion, said he voted no because of the fees and reporting requirements may burden some of the smaller districts and he fears the bill will add additional costs to taxpayers to monitor the districts.
He said an analysis by the Legislative Research Commission “talks about the possibility of additional costs” to the state.
“I’m just not comfortable with that,” Bechler said.
The bill now goes to the state Senate.
RONNIE ELLIS writes for CNHI News Service and is based in Frankfort. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow CNHI News Service stories on Twitter at www.twitter.com/cnhifrankfort.
By Ronnie Ellis / CNHI News Service
- State News
Healthcare signup in state extended
While the national health exchange established by the Affordable Care Act — known to some as Obamacare — suffered glitches, crashes and delays, the Kentucky-run exchange, Kynect, was often used as a national model.
Kentucky budget passed with little debate
The Kentucky General Assembly, divided between chambers along party lines, overwhelmingly passed a $20-billion, new two-year budget not only on time but with almost no debate.
Lawmakers agree on snow bill
Kentucky school officials, parents and students finally have what they’ve been asking for: A bill to allow them to get out of school before the summer fully sets in, even if they don’t make up some of the days they missed during the severe winter.
Tensions rise during budget negotiations
Tensions increased Friday between the Republican Senate and Democratic House over continuing negotiations on a new, two-year budget. It even got personal at times.
Kentucky Power plan a potential landscape-changer
Electrical ratepayers, local governments and those employed in the coal industry might have a hard time understanding the complicated transaction through which Kentucky Power Company is purchasing half the generating capacity of a coal-fired West Virginia plant.
Senate passes budget with no locked-in gas tax hikes
The state Senate on Tuesday passed its version of a two-year revenue measure, and unlike the House version, it does not lock in gas tax increases.
House passes bill aimed at saving Big Sandy Plant
Backers of a bill to require the Kentucky Public Service Commission to “reconsider” its previous order approving Kentucky Power’s purchase of a West Virginia generator say all they are asking “is for them to take a second look and look at all the facts.”
Judge: Companies can’t use eminent domain for pipeline project
Franklin Circuit Judge Phillip Shepherd on Tuesday ruled that companies building a natural gas liquids pipeline across parts of Kentucky cannot invoke eminent domain to force private property owners to provide easements.
Still no snow day solution from lawmakers
Senate and House negotiators, working on a bill to give school districts flexibility in making up snow days, each accused the other of moving the goal posts – but it’s the local school districts who may be penalized.
Senate sets budget with ‘wiggle room’
It was no surprise the Republican-controlled Kentucky state Senate altered the $20 billion, two-year state budget approved by the Democratic-controlled House, but there may have been a few who were surprised by how little it was changed.
- More State News Headlines
- Healthcare signup in state extended