Bipartisan group joins Edelen and Stumbo to endorse taxing district reforms
02/05/2013 04:41 PM
The regulation and oversight of more than 1,200 special taxing districts — like sewer districts and some volunteer fire departments — will be the first task tackled by the State House in the 2013 session.
Upon their return to Frankfort, a bipartisan group of lawmakers including House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, made good on Stumbo’s promise that the measure providing oversight to special taxing districts would be designated as House Bill 1.
The bill appears to be on a fast track and is slated for its first hearing in the House Local Government Committee on Wednesday.
The bill was developed with the help of State Auditor Adam Edelen who has been focusing on the layer of ‘ghost government’ for months.
Edelen said the bill will create a centralized registry that the special districts will report to, modernize and simplify the statutes and structure for the districts, and add ‘teeth’ to compel compliance from special districts.
“If we can come together around a belief that those who fee and tax us and those who serve us ought to be governed by at least the same level of oversight as those in the profit and non-profit sector. That’s what we are going to do with the centralized registry,” Edelen said.
Edelen also said that people with the ability to spend in the name of the taxpayer need to comply with an ethics code as well.
Stumbo said the bill is not to punish those who volunteer in the special districts, but rather to make their job easier while also allowing for transparency for the public.
State Sen. Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, also joined Stumbo and Edelen at the press conference.
Thayer has sponsored similar legislation to crack down on those special districts and has been working on the idea since it became apparent in a 2005 local taxation task force.
Thayer said special taxing district reform finally reached its time in the General Assembly and that it would pass both chambers if it passes the test of disclosure, transparency, accountability and oversight.
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