But that’s not bad news. Rep. Jody Richards, D-Bowling Green, who is former Speaker of the House, filed House Bill 116 on the first day of the short 2017 session.
Here’s a pdf of House Bill 116 — house-bill-116
The announcement of the bill from the clerk was “House Bill 116, An act related to Publication Requirements, Rep. Richards.” (Actually the clerk said Rep. Richardson but with no House member by that name, we knew who it was).
The bill doesn’t do anything about publication requirements but it does try to correct one of the problems created by former Auditor Adam Edelen. The bill concerns Special Districts and you might remember Edelen went after the 1,400 to 1,500 special districts a few sessions ago. No one knew how many there were, what they did, how much money they generated, how they spent whatever (millions) they had in their account.
The one thing Edelen’s minions wouldn’t allow was forcing special districts to abide by the publication law, KRS 424, which requires them to publish their financial statements in newspapers. Instead, the auditor put in language that the districts would file their information with the state and would make the reports available for public inspection. That did require a public notice to be published.
I put in On Second Thought earlier this summer some tactics of those special districts. Three or four newspapers reported that one if its districts complied but stated that the financial material would only be available for two hours, on a Saturday morning and anyone inline by the end of the two-hour period could see the information. Most of these public inspections were held at local restaurants during the morning.
Rep. Richards proposed legislation attempts to rectify limited access. Many of the special districts do not have an official office and that’s why viewing off premises, at a restaurant albeit, became the norm. With House Bill 116, those districts would have to make the information available at a local government office that has regular business hours, open regularly and is available to the public. The information must also be available for at least one year.
Of course, as we preached to Edelen when his legislation went before the committees, just make them publish the information according to KPS 424 and there won’t be any question. He bought it but his minions didn’t and now perhaps they see what they didn’t want to do was the right thing to do.
When the clerk read the bill number and title, the knee jerk reaction was, “Here comes the first bill attacking public notices in newspapers.” That wasn’t the case, special districts still have to advertise like they did this year — where and when the documents can be seen — but they don’t have to advertise what they should: full financial information in newspapers.
The former Speaker is respected by the new House majority party but if it’s business as usual, legislation sponsored by a member of the minority will have to wait a while before it’s considered by any committee.
As the House ended Friday’s session, it was announced tat House Bill 116 has been assigned to the House State Government Committee. So perhaps during the interim (they’re gonna be away from Frankfort for about three weeks following a surprise Saturday convening), the committee will meet to consider HB 116 or just wait until the legislature comes back into full session February 7.