We’ve written earlier (here and here) about legislation entitled “bond referendum transparency” that was working its way through the General Assembly this past session. Although Senate Bill 99 did not pass, key components of the legislation – regarding changes to the actual question on the ballot – were enacted as part of the budget bill – see section 36.3 on page 563.

We won’t repeat all of our concerns about ambiguity and imprecision in the legislation, although those concerns remain. But we’ll emphasize two points —

  • This legislation, unlike other recent legislation enacted in the name of transparency, does not say that a bond issue or authorization can’t be challenged just because the local government’s estimates are wrong. So presumably, a bond referendum could be challenged – even after the referendum – just because the estimates are wrong.
  •  It used to be the Treasurer’s office, or some other public finance or local government stakeholders, could have a conversation with proponents of legislation affecting the bond process at least to make requirements clear and workable, even if we didn’t like the policy objectives. It appears we are not in those days anymore, and that’s too bad.

We understand the Treasurer’s office is working on guidance for local governments on how to comply with this legislation, and we’ve offered some input on how that process should proceed. We’ll have to wait and see if the other proposals in Senate Bill 99 resurface when the General Assembly comes back next year.

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