Politics & Government

Republicans working on new version of bill to oversee special taxing districts

Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, is the Senate majority floor leader.
Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, is the Senate majority floor leader.

FRANKFORT — Senate Republicans are preparing a new version of the bill that House Democrats made their top priority of the 2013 legislative session.

Senate Majority Leader Damon Thayer, R-Georgetown, said he is working on a committee substitute for House Bill 1, which is state Auditor Adam Edelen's proposal to strengthen oversight of more than 1,200 special taxing districts in the state.

The Senate State and Local Government Committee discussed the original version of the bill Wednesday but did not vote on it.

Thayer said he is concerned that the measure doesn't provide enough oversight of special taxing districts, which can levy taxes even though their leaders are typically not elected. Examples include water districts and library districts.

He said one suggestion has been for county fiscal courts to approve the budgets of special taxing districts.

Edelen said he doesn't think that is necessary.

Under the bill, special taxing districts would have to file their annual financial reports with an online state registry. The public database would allow people to keep tabs on how, where and why special taxing districts spend $2.7 billion each year.

Edelen issued a report in November that showed numerous examples of special districts wasting taxpayers' money. He found that even basic information on special districts, such as contact numbers and addresses, was sometimes difficult or impossible to identify.