House Bill 217 — Public vote on urban renewal

Lindsay Atkinson 2019 House bill ratings

Bill description: HB 217 would increase the opportunity for voter input on the use of urban renewal dollars.

Rating: +2

Does it in any way restrict public access to information related to government activity or otherwise compromise government transparency or accountability? Conversely, does it increase public access to information related to government activity or increase government transparency or accountability?

House Bill 217 greatly increases government accountability by giving voters more input on the use of urban renewal dollars to fund public projects. Under current law, a public vote on public buildings is only triggered if the contribution from the urban renewal agency exceeds 51 percent of the project costs.

This bill would require a public vote on any contribution of urban renewal funds that, when combined with other public funds for the same building, would make up more than 51 percent of the cost.

This bill would also require a public vote on any contribution of urban renewal funds to a sports stadium with a project cost over one million dollars.

(+1)

This bill also lays out many various exceptions to the public vote requirement, specifically for “infrastructure or belowground improvements.” These exceptions include sewer lines, electrical lines, natural gas lines, sidewalks, parking and more. These exceptions reduce the accountability of cities. If the urban renewal money is specified to go toward one or more of these exceptions, like a parking garage, then the public may not receive the opportunity to vote.

(-1)

House Bill 217 also makes changes to the types of projects that would fall under this section of code, by specifically mentioning sports stadiums as structures that would require a vote. This increases accountability of government units as more and more cities move into recreational public ventures, ensuring that residents receive the opportunity to vote on ventures that, in the past, have been kept from significant public input.

(+1)

In addition, HB 217 clarifies the definition of municipal buildings by noting that these buildings are facilities “that are not subject to property taxation whether they are, or are intended to be, owned or operated by or leased to a public body for the public’s benefit.” This clarifies how urban renewal money used for public buildings is going towards the creation or improvement of facilities that are not a part of the city’s property tax base.

(+1)

This analysis was updated on 03/27 to reflect the Senate amendments made to the bill.