Senate Passes Fiscal Transparency Bill
On Thursday, May 9, the Senate passed S.B. 14 by Senator Tommy Williams by a vote of 29 to 1. S.B. 14 is the “fiscal transparency” bill that is supported by the Texas comptroller. The Senate took action on the bill after a procedural point of order derailed its companion bill (H.B. 14) in the House. S.B. 14 now goes to the House of Representatives for approval.
In its original form, S.B. 14 would have required a ballot in a city bond approval election to include various types of city debt information and would have placed serious limitations on a city’s ability to issue certificates of obligation (COs). The bill has been revised many times, and the current version is significantly better for Texas cities than the original version. The current version of the bill:
- Eliminates the requirement that various types of debt information be included on the ballot in a city bond election. Instead, the bill now requires a city to prepare a voter information document containing different categories of debt information and to hold a hearing on the document prior to a bond election.
- Allows a city with a population of 5,000 or less to satisfy Internet posting requirements pertaining to the voter information document or notice of the bond election hearing by electronically submitting information to be posted on the comptroller’s website.
- Requires cities to produce an annual financial report containing different categories of debt information and to publish the report on the cities’ websites or to send the information to the comptroller’s office for publication on the comptroller’s website (Note: a city under 2,000 population would have the option of posting the annual financial report on the city’s Facebook page if it does not maintain a website). A city with fewer than 250 registered voters would not be required to post the report on a website or on the city’s Facebook page. The original version of the bill required cities to maintain a website for the purpose of posting the annual financial report and did not provide the alternative of being able to send the report to the comptroller.)
- Leaves the petition requirement to force an election on a CO at the current-law level of five percent of the qualified voters in the city, rather than lowering that number to five percent of the voters who voted in the most recent gubernatorial election, as the original version of the bill would have done.
- Leaves the current-law requirement of 30 days advance notice of intent to issue a CO. (Note: the original version of the bill required 45 days’ notice.)
League staff will continue to closely monitor S.B. 14 as it moves through the process and will oppose any attempts to add detrimental amendments to the bill.