Oversight of special taxing districts wins approval in House, 96-1

02/08/2013 11:26 AM

The bill to apply a new level of oversight of special taxing districts — such as water and sewer boards, libraries and volunteer fire departments — breezed through the House on Friday and heads to the Senate where it has broad support as well.

The measure passed 96-1 with Rep. Lynn Bechler, a freshman Republican from Crittenden County as the lone nay vote.

House Speaker Greg Stumbo carried the measure, H.B. 1, and came down from the speaker’s dais to introduce it. The measure passed after Stumbo’s brief overview without discussion or questions.

Stumbo also credited state Auditor Adam Edelen for heightening awareness of the lack of consistency in rules and general oversight of these special districts, which can impose taxes and fees.

The bill, which was presented in detail in committee Tuesday, defines what a special district is and sets up a database that would be run by the Department of Local Government and paid for through fees to the districts.

Some of the 1,268 special districts — which Edelen dubbed ““a ghost government” “:http://mycn2.com/politics/ghost-government-of-special-districts-amasses-billions-of-taxpayer-dollars-with-little-oversight-auditor-finds in his review that was released in November. It was the first effort in Kentucky to track the number of special districts, and Edelen’s auditors found they collectively bring in $2.7 billion in revenue per year.

Stumbo said on the House floor that only a few of the districts have been out of compliance, which is a testament, he said, to the Kentuckians who serve on the district’s boards. But he said without a better established set of rules to govern them, Kentucky will be at risk of being fleeced by a few rogue actors.

Still, Bechler, who represents the 4th House District, said he was concerned about passing legislation if there wasn’t a big problem to solve. And he said he’s worried there would somehow be a cost to local governments. Here’s what he told the Courier-Journal, CNHI News Service and Pure Politics after the vote:

Stumbo and Edelen testified in the House Local Government Committee that they didn’t expect any additional costs to fall on local governments as a result of the bill.


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