FRANKFORT — A bill sponsored by House Speaker Greg Stumbo, of Prestonsburg, joined state Auditor Adam Edelen in announcing a bill Tuesday that would add transparency to spending decisions made by a layer of government that is almost invisible.
The proposal, dubbed House Bill 1 in this year’s General Assembly, would require public accountability and openness in public spending by over 1,200 small special districts across the state, including fire departments, water and sewer districts, and libraries. The bill would also create a website where all of that financial data would be available to the public.
“This is an important piece of legislation, one that will go a long way in ensuring that Kentucky taxpayers know how their hard earned money is being spent,” Speaker Stumbo said. “After working with Auditor Adam Edelen’s office, legislators from both sides of the aisle and organizations across the commonwealth, I’m proud we have a come up with a bill that takes a huge step toward transparency and taxpayer protection while making sure these organizations can continue to provide vital services to Kentuckians.”
Edelen has made an issue about the lack of transparency by many special districts since taking office a year ago. In November, his office released a report, “Ghost Government,” which found numerous challenges in guaranteeing public access to information about special district spending. In some instances, the report found, such information as contact numbers and addresses was sometimes difficult or impossible to find.
“My effort to answer basic questions about special districts was a significant first step toward shining light on a $2.7 billion layer of ghost government in the commonwealth,” Auditor Edelen said. “House Bill 1 will bring permanent reform and transparency to entities that provide important services in our communities.”
The bill also appears to have some bipartisan and bicameral support, as Senate Majority Floor Leader Damon Thayer joined Stumbo and Edelen for the announcement.
“After discussing special district transparency for eight years in the Senate, I thank Auditor Edelen for using the bully pulpit of his office to advocate for this issue,” Thayer said. “I look forward to seeing HB 1 and being involved in the process to bring needed oversight to these entities.”
The bill will be heard Wednesday, before the House State Government Committee.