Most of the House’s “transparency” and “accountability” bills related to local government died in the Senate during the last week of session. This includes bills requiring significant additional reporting for fiscal and administrative functions, limitations on travel expenditures and salaries, and restrictions on economic and tourist development operations.
Notably, HB 7/SB 1426 (Local Government Fiscal Transparency) would have created significant additional requirements for fiscal analysis and public meetings and notices when counties considered tax increases or creating new tax-backed debt. These provisions would have creating significant costs to counties and, after being heard in all Senate committees, were ultimately not taken up on the Senate floor.
HB 11/SB 354 (Government Accountability) would have created a state-wide travel reporting system, requiring detailed monthly reporting of all county official and employee travel to the Department of Management Services. Among other provisions related to county audits, it would have required that charter county audit committees include constitutional officers. During its last committee stop, SB 354 was amended to require all counties (other than those whose charters designate an official other than the clerk of court as the county comptroller), cities, special districts, school districts, and water management districts to provide digital copies of their budgets and other financial information to the clerk of the court. Failure to do so would have mandated that the clerk require the salary of the head of the local government be withheld.
Below are summaries other bills that attempted to micromanage the affairs of local governments, all of which
failed this Session:
HB 3/SB 1714 (Grant/Perry): Economic Development and Tourism Promotion Accountability – These bills would have placed significant additional requirements on county economic development and tourist development functions and as well as those entities that contract with counties to provide services related to tourism development and economic development. HB 3 passed the House early in Session. SB 1714 was
significantly amended at its first committee stop in the Senate to address some local concerns, but was not heard in subsequent Senate committees of reference.
HB 7/SB 1426 (Burton/Lee): Local Government Fiscal Transparency – These bills would have created additional voting and notice requirements when counties issue debt. The bill would require the creation of a “debt affordability analysis” to be published in a newspaper prior to the consideration of the issuance of new debt, would require that two public hearings be held prior to issuance of debt or increases in local option sales taxes, would require that vote counts be maintained for tax increases or issuance of tax supported debt for five years on the county’s website, and would require additional auditing and remedial measures. HB 7 passed the full House early in Session. SB 1426 passed all of its Senate committees, but was not taken up by the full Senate and died.
HB 11/SB 354 (Metz/Stargel): Government Accountability – The bill placed additional requirements on local governments, including participation in a state-wide travel reporting system to be acquired by the Department of Management Services. Passed favorably off the House floor but died in Senate Appropriations. HB 815 (Avila): County and Municipal Officer Transparency – This bill would have required additional
authorization for county or municipal public officers to travel outside of the state:
- Requires such travel to be on the official business of the county or municipality and must be approved by the governing body at a regularly scheduled meeting prior to the officer’s travel, unless ratified for good cause at the next regularly scheduled meeting.
- Requires all travel approved in accordance with the bill to be posted to the county or municipality’s website until the end of the next calendar quarter.
As filed, would have prohibited travel expenses of county or municipal public officers for foreign travel under any circumstances. Exempted county constitutional officers from the aforementioned requirements. The bill passed off the House floor but was not considered by the Senate.
HB 7003 (Public Integrity & Ethics Committee): Local Government Ethics Reform – This bill would have created a local government lobbyist registration system which all local government lobbyists would be required to use to register to lobby any local government and created additional requirements for public officers when reporting potential conflicts of interest. HB 7003 passed the House floor but was not heard in the Senate.
HB 1019 (La Rosa): Financial Reporting – This bill would have required local governments to post annual budgets to the website for five years; provide an electronic copy of their budgets to EDR on specified forms, provide a copy of their budget and a certification of timely filing to the clerk of the court, and file annual financial reports and audit reports within six months of the end of the fiscal year. HB 1019 passed off the House floor
but stalled and died in the Senate.