Improved "Fiscal Transparency" Bill Passes Committee

On April 11, the House Committee on Appropriations approved a committee substitute for H.B. 14, by Representative Jim Pitts, the fiscal transparency bill supported by the Texas comptroller. In its original form, H.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).

As of this writing, the League has not seen an official printed version of the committee substitute. However, discussions with the author’s staff indicate that it will contain some beneficial modifications (other aspects of the bill may still be troubling to some cities). Here are the highlights. The bill:

  1. eliminates the requirement that various types of debt information be included on the ballot proposition itself in a city bond election, but still requires a city to prepare and hold a hearing on a voter information document containing numerous categories of city debt statistics prior to a bond election;
  2. requires all cities to produce an annual financial report containing city debt statistics and to publish the report on the cities’ Internet website or send the information to the comptroller’s office for publication on the comptroller’s website (cities 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 an Internet website);
  3. 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; and
  4. requires more debt information to be provided in the notice of issuance of a CO, and requires the notice to be published 45 days in advance of the approval (current law provides for 30 days’ notice).

H.B. 14 may now go to the floor of the House of Representatives, where the bill could be susceptible to detrimental amendments. League staff will continue to closely monitor the bill as it moves through the process.

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