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County Authority Upheld in Missouri

Municipalities are creations of your state government. If you search your states governing documents (state constitution, statutes, acts, compiled laws) you’ll find sections dealing with the establishment of local governments. Each state is different and most have multiple types of cities and counties.

Recently in Missouri a circuit judge upheld a county-wide voter approved county charter amendment proposed by initiative to restrict the use of red light cameras. The initiative was popular, it passed with over 72% support. Several cities and a couple taxpayers (who also happen to be elected officials in some of the cities) challenged the ability of the county to stop cities from using red light cameras. The court sided with citizens, you can read the judgment at the link below.

mo-countycharter

 

Red Light Cameras Survey

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Municipal Spending Caps

How to structure a municipal spending cap.

What are tax and expenditure caps?

Tax and expenditure limits (TELs) restrict the level or growth of government revenues or spending to a fixed numerical target or to increases in an index such as population, inflation, personal income, or some combination of these measures.

These limits are common on state governments. They are less common in city government.
Here are two examples:

Nashua, NH

  • 56-c. Limitation on budget increases

Recognizing that final tax rates for the City of Nashua are set by the New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration pursuant to RSA 21-J:35(1), the mayor, the board of aldermen, and all departments in the City of Nashua including the mayor’s office, aldermanic office, legal department, administrative services division, community services division, community development division, school department, public works division, fire department, police department, public libraries, parking garages and cemeteries shall prepare their annual budget proposals and the Board of Aldermen shall act upon such proposals in accordance with the mandates in this paragraph.

In establishing a combined annual municipal budget for the next fiscal year, the mayor and the board of aldermen shall consider total expenditures not to exceed an amount equal to the combined annual budget of the current fiscal year, increased by a factor equal to the average of the changes in the Consumer Price Index-Urban (CPI-U) of the three (3) calendar years immediately preceding budget adoption as published by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

This provision shall not prevent the mayor and the board of aldermen from establishing a combined annual municipal budget below this limit.

This provision shall not prevent the mayor and the board of aldermen from appropriately funding any programs or accounts mandated to be paid from municipal funds by state and federal law.

 

  • 56-d. Exception to budget limitation

The total or any part of principal and interest payments of any municipal bond, whether established for school or municipal purposes, may be exempted from the limitation defined in paragraph 56-c upon an affirmative vote of at least ten (10) aldermen. This decision shall be made annually.

In addition, capital expenditures deemed necessary by the mayor and the board of aldermen, subject to recommendation by the capital improvements committee (ref. Paragraph 77-a of the City Charter) may similarly be exempted from this limitation upon an affirmative vote of at least ten (10) aldermen.

 

  • 56-e. Reserve fund

In the event actual property tax collections and/or revenues exceed the budget allocation prescribed in paragraph 56-c, plus additional expenditure authorized pursuant to paragraph 56-d, such excess funds shall be deposited in a reserve account specifically established for the purpose.

These funds shall be drawn upon as a contingent revenue source n succeeding fiscal years, to offset a part of the budget estimated otherwise having to be funded by property taxes, or for any other municipal budget purposes, or to meet federal and state mandates, or for unanticipated emergency expenses, or as a property tax credit, upon an affirmative vote of two-thirds of the members of the board of aldermen.

 

  • 56-f. Deficit budget control

The actual annual municipal budget shall not incur a deficit, wherein total spending excess total income during the fiscal year. If the total actual and projected income from all sources, including property taxes, municipal, county, state, and federal revenues, and funds transferred from the reserve fund established pursuant to paragraph 56-e during a fiscal year fails to meet actual and projected expenditures for the remaining part of that fiscal year, an automatic, equal and immediate across-the-board percentile cut shall be instituted in the annual budget of every city department cited in paragraph 56-c. The city comptroller (ref. Paragraph 50-b of the City Charter) shall determine the status of actual and projected income vs. expenditures for this purpose, in coordination with the city treasurer (ref. Paragraph 42 of the City Charter) and determine the requisite numeric percentile cut. The board of aldermen, upon notification by the city comptroller and the city treasurer, shall then order the cut.

This cut may be exempted or adjusted upon an affirmative vote of three-fourths of the members of the Board of Aldermen.

This provision shall not prevent the mayor and the board of aldermen from appropriately funding any programs or accounts mandated to be paid from municipal funds by state and federal law.

Marco Island, FL

Section 1.04. – Expenditure Limitations.

Notwithstanding Section 1.03 above, operating expenditures shall be limited to an increase from the prior year’s expenditures of three percent (3%) plus the then-current Federal C.O.L.A. (Department of Labor, Bureau of Statistics, Consumer Price Index) per annum; except that this shall not apply to: emergencies; capital expenditures as provided in Section 6.01; expenditures relating to projects or programs funded by grants, gifts, or impact fees; and expenditures, including debt service payments, relating to utility or other enterprise funds which are intended to be self-supporting for governmental accounting purposes; expenditures related to extension of the City’s wastewater utility system to serve unsewered areas provided such expenditures are funded by general obligation bonds or other obligations, including loans, approved by referendum of the electors of the City; and debt service payments related to such obligations.

(Ord. No. 09-15, § 2, 11-9-2009, referendum 1-26-2010)

Section 6.01. – Initiative and Referendum.

(1)        Ten percent (10%) of the qualified electors of the City shall have the power to petition the Council to propose an ordinance or to require reconsideration of an adopted ordinance, provided that such power shall not extend to the budget or capital program or to any ordinances relating to appropriations of money, levy of taxes, or salaries of City officers or employees, but shall extend to an ordinance providing any single capital expenditure in excess of $250,000. If the Council fails to adopt such ordinance so proposed, or to repeal such adopted ordinance, without any change in substance, the Council shall place the proposed ordinance, or the repeal of the adopted ordinance, on the ballot at the next general election, or, in Council’s discretion, at a special election.

(2)        A minimum of five (5) electors may commence initiative or referendum proceedings by filing with the City Manager or other designated official, an affidavit stating they will constitute the petitioners’ committee and be responsible for circulating the petition and filing it in proper form, stating their names and addresses and specifying the address to which all notices to the committee are to be sent, and setting out in full the proposed initiative ordinance or citing the ordinance sought to be reconsidered. Promptly after the affidavit of the petitioner’s committee is filed, the City Manager or other official designated by the Council shall, at the committee’s request, issue appropriate blank petitions to the petitioner’s committee at the committee’s expense.

(Ord. No. 09-15, § 2, 11-9-2009, referendum 1-26-2010)

 

Municipal Spending Cap Survey

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Arkansas Term Limits

ARTL

Arkansas voters love term limits, but Arkansas legislators hate term limits. And the legislators worked to trick voters last year into gutting the term limits law.

Let me sum up the issue: Legislators put a bunch of feel good anti-lobbyist and limiting pay raise fluff into a 20+ page constitutional amendment package and included a provision to weaken voter approved term limits at the very end. Voters got a sweet sounding ballot title (read more here) and narrowly  approved the measure 53-47. After the measure passed the lobbyist rules quickly become irrelevant and the legislators get a huge pay raise.

Tim Jacobs explains in this video.

 

Now term limits supporters have organized and are getting ready to circulate petitions to bring back voter supported term limits.

Dr. Patricia Mays explains in this video:

 

 

Please support this campaign.
Donate here.

Like their facebook page.

 

 

 

 

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Michigan Forfeiture Reporting 2015

From Michigan Capitol Confidential:

A package of bills designed to give the public access to information on property seized by, or forfeited to, government entities is under consideration by a state House committee. The legislation would require government entities across the state to submit annual reports to the Michigan State Police (MSP) on property they’ve seized or received through forfeiture. The information would be compiled, issued in an annual report to the Legislature and posted on the MSP website.

AssetForfeitureBillsSummary

HB 4500 Introduced by Representative Jim Runestad

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT:
SEC. 79D. (1) BEGINNING FEBRUARY 1, 2016, EACH REPORTING AGENCY SHALL REPORT ALL SEIZURE AND FORFEITURE ACTIVITIES UNDER THIS ACT TO THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE POLICE AS REQUIRED UNDER THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.
(2) BEGINNING FEBRUARY 1, 2016, EACH REPORTING AGENCY IS SUBJECT TO AUDIT AS REQUIRED UNDER THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.
(3) AS USED IN THIS SECTION, “REPORTING AGENCY” MEANS THAT TERM AS DEFINED IN SECTION 7 OF THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING  ACT.

HB 4503 Introduced by Representative Triston Cole

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT:
SEC. 4710. (1) BEGINNING FEBRUARY 1, 2016, EACH REPORTING AGENCY SHALL REPORT ALL SEIZURE AND FORFEITURE ACTIVITIES UNDER THIS CHAPTER TO THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE POLICE AS REQUIRED UNDER THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.
(2) BEGINNING FEBRUARY 1, 2016, EACH REPORTING AGENCY IS SUBJECT TO AUDIT AS REQUIRED UNDER THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.
(3) AS USED IN THIS SECTION, “REPORTING AGENCY” MEANS THAT TERM AS DEFINED IN SECTION 7 OF THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.

HB 4504 Introduced by Representative Klint Kesto

A bill to create the uniform forfeiture reporting act; to require certain reports by reporting agencies regarding seized and forfeited property; to prescribe the powers and duties of certain local and state officials; to provide for certain fees and the expenditure of those fees; to require certain audits; to require certain reports by the department of state police; to provide for the withholding of law enforcement funds under certain circumstances; and to repeal acts and parts of acts.
THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT:
Sec. 1. This act shall be known and may be cited as the “uniform forfeiture reporting act”.
Sec. 2. (1) Subject to subsections (2) and (3), before February 1 of each year, each reporting agency shall submit a report to the department of state police summarizing the reporting agency’s activities for the preceding calendar year regarding the forfeiture of property under sections 7521 to 7533 of the public health code, 1978 PA 368, MCL 333.7521 to 333.7533, chapter 38 of the revised judicature act of 1961, 1961 PA 236, MCL 600.3801 to 600.3840, and chapter 47 of the revised judicature act of 1961, 1961 PA 236, MCL 600.4701 to 600.4709. The annual report shall contain the following information, as applicable:
(a) The number of forfeiture proceedings that were instituted in the circuit court by the reporting agency.
(b) The number of forfeiture proceedings instituted by the reporting agency that were concluded in the circuit court.
(c) The number of all forfeiture proceedings instituted by the reporting agency that were pending in the circuit court at the end of the year.
(d) The number of forfeitures effectuated by the reporting agency without a forfeiture proceeding in the circuit court.
(e) The number of forfeiture proceedings subject to a plea or any other similar agreement involving the property owner and reporting agency.
(f) An inventory of property received by the reporting agency. Property shall be reported in accordance with each of the following categories:
(i) Residential real property.
(ii) Industrial or commercial real property.
(iii) Agricultural real property.
(iv) Money, negotiable instruments, and securities.
(v) Weapons.
(vi) Motor vehicles and other conveyances.
(vii) Other personal property of value.
(g) Each property inventoried under subdivision (f) shall include a description that contains the following information, as applicable:
(i) The date the property was seized.
(ii) The final disposition of the property, including the date the property was ordered forfeited or disposed of.
(iii) The estimated value of the property.
(iv) The violation or nuisance alleged to have been committed for which forfeiture is authorized.
(v) Whether any person was charged with the violation for which forfeiture is authorized and whether that person was ultimately convicted of that violation.
(vi) The number of claimants to the property.
(vii) Whether the forfeiture resulted from an adoptive seizure. As used in this subdivision, “adoptive seizure” means that all of the following apply:
(A) The seizure resulted from a violation of state law and there is a federal basis for the forfeiture action.
(B) All of the preseizure activity and related investigations were performed by this state or the local reporting agency before a request was made to the federal government for adoption.
(C) The seizure did not result from a joint investigation or task force case.
(h) The net total proceeds of all property forfeited through actions instituted by the reporting agency that the reporting agency is required to account for and report to the state treasurer under either of the following, as applicable:
(i) 1919 PA 71, MCL 21.41 to 21.55.
(ii) The uniform budgeting and accounting act, 1968 PA 2, MCL  141.421 to 141.440a.
(i) For forfeiture proceedings instituted under the public
health code, 1978 PA 368, MCL 333.1101 to 333.25211:
(i) A statement explaining how any money received by the reporting agency under section 7524(1)(b)(ii) of the public health code, 1978 PA 368, MCL 333.7524, has been used or is being used for law enforcement purposes.
(ii) A statement of the number of lights for plant growth or scales donated under section 7524(2) of the public health code, 1978 PA 368, MCL 333.7524, the total value of those lights or scales, and the elementary or secondary schools or institutions of higher education to which they were donated.
(j) For nuisance proceedings instituted under chapter 38 of the revised judicature act of 1961, 1961 PA 236, MCL 600.3801 to 600.3840, a statement explaining how net proceeds were directed under section 3835 of the revised judicature act of 1961, 1961 PA 236, MCL 600.3835.
(k) For forfeiture proceedings instituted under chapter 47 of the revised judicature act of 1961, 1961 PA 236, MCL 600.4701 to 600.4709, the amount of money received under section 4708(1)(f) of the revised judicature act of 1961, 1961 PA 235, MCL 600.4708, that was used to enhance enforcement of criminal laws and the amount of money that was used to implement the William Van Regenmorter crime victim’s rights act, 1985 PA 87, MCL 780.751 to 780.834.
(2) Subsection (1) applies only to proceedings commenced on or after the effective date of this act.
(3) Subsection (1)(g) through (k) applies only to proceedings that have been finalized for purposes of appeal.
Sec. 3. A null report shall be filed under this act by a reporting agency that did not engage in any forfeitures during the reporting period.
Sec. 4. A reporting agency may use forfeiture proceeds to pay the reasonable costs associated with compiling, analyzing, and reporting data under this act.
Sec. 5. (1) The records of a reporting agency regarding the forfeiture of any property that is required to be reported under this act shall be audited in accordance with 1 of the following, as applicable:
(a) 1919 PA 71, MCL 21.41 to 21.55.
(b) The uniform budgeting and accounting act, 1968 PA 2, MCL 141.421 to 141.440a.
(2) The records of a reporting agency regarding the forfeiture of any property required to be reported under this act may be audited by an auditor of the local unit of government.
Sec. 6. The department of state police shall compile the information reported to the department under sections 2 and 3. Beginning January 1, 2016, the department shall file an annual report of its findings under this section with the secretary of the senate and with the clerk of the house of representatives and shall place a copy of the report on its departmental website. The report shall be filed not later than July 1 of each year. The report shall identify any state departments or agencies or local units of government that have failed to properly report the information required under sections 2 and 3 with the department of state police.
Sec. 7. As used in this act:
(a) “Local unit of government” means a village, city, township, or county.
(b) “Reporting agency” means 1 of the following:
(i) If property is seized by or forfeited to a local unit of government, that local unit of government.
(ii) If property is seized by or forfeited to this state, the state department or agency effectuating the seizure or forfeiture.

HB 4506 Introduced by Representative Jason Sheppard

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT:
SEC. 7524B. (1) BEGINNING FEBRUARY 1, 2016, EACH REPORTING AGENCY SHALL REPORT ALL SEIZURE AND FORFEITURE ACTIVITIES UNDER THIS ARTICLE TO THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE POLICE AS REQUIRED UNDER THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.
(2) BEGINNING FEBRUARY 1, 2016, EACH REPORTING AGENCY IS SUBJECT TO AUDIT OR REQUIRED UNDER THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.
(3) AS USED IN THIS SECTION, “REPORTING AGENCY” MEANS THAT TERM AS DEFINED IN SECTION 7 OF THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.

HB 4507 Introduced by Representative Brandt Iden 

 THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF MICHIGAN ENACT:
SEC. 3841. (1) BEGINNING FEBRUARY 1, 2016, EACH REPORTING AGENCY SHALL REPORT ALL SEIZURE AND FORFEITURE ACTIVITIES UNDER THIS CHAPTER TO THE DEPARTMENT OF STATE POLICE AS REQUIRED UNDER THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.
(2) BEGINNING FEBRUARY 1, 2016, EACH REPORTING AGENCY IS SUBJECT TO AUDIT AS REQUIRED UNDER THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.
(3) AS USED IN THIS SECTION, “REPORTING AGENCY” MEANS THAT TERM AS DEFINED IN SECTION 7 OF THE UNIFORM FORFEITURE REPORTING ACT.

 

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Decline To Sign Campaigns

Every petition drive cycle we see campaigns organized encouraging people not to sign petitions.

The Michigan Chamber of Commerce recently launched a decline to sign campaign in opposition to a petition to ban fracking.

Decline to sign is most effective when you have a large organization or money to spend on paid media.

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Annette Bosworth Report

Report on Bosworth Prosecution

 

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Three Reasons Prop 1 Failed In Michigan

Yesterday May 5, 2015 Michigan voters rejected a statewide ballot proposal to increase taxes for road and infrastructure repair by a 4-1 margin. That’s 80% against, 19% for. It’s the biggest loss for a statewide constitutional amendment ballot proposal since the Michigan constitution was written in 1963. How does a ballot question fail 4-1 at the ballot box?


 

The Facts:
Michigan’s roads are in horrible shape. Everyone acknowledges this.

Voters are demanding action on roads. This has been a legislative issue for well over a year.


Why Prop 1 Failed, Reason One: Prop 1 was a textbook example of everything voters hate about politics, politicians, and the political process.

The proposal was presented as a tax increase to repair Michigan’s crumbling roads and bridges. In reality it was  $2 billion tax hike containing a slew of special interest giveaways. When sausage, Er, I mean legislation is made, lots of back door and under the table deals occur. Horse trading, vote trading, and earmarks; huge bills are written where individual legislators get their pet projects funded and their friends get state contracts and family members get state jobs. The wheeling and dealing results in omnibus bills and hundreds or thousands of pages in a single piece of legislation that politicians haven’t read and nobody understands completely. A fancy feel good title is slapped on and the politicians shake hands all around. Sometimes it’s republicans, sometimes democrats, and when it’s really bad, it’s bipartisan. Voters know this, and voters hate this. Voters want a simple choice, they are not legislators. Legislators will horse trade to pass legislation because they can collect later. Voters don’t wheel and deal on legislation, they vote yes or no, they have nothing to gain later.

Why Prop 1 Failed, Reason Two: The more issues you add to a ballot question, the fewer people will support the ballot question. Voters look for reasons to oppose a ballot question.

There are a few people around the country who work with ballot questions on a regular basis.  It’s a specialized field in which I happen to have some experience. People working in this field full time will tell you, there is an inverse relationship between number of popular subjects you can include in a ballot question and the amount of support you’ll see at the ballot box. Take an issue like term limits, 75% support, all day long, across party lines. Take an issue like redistricting reform, very popular, 60%+ support across the board. If you put those issues together, support for both will go down, not up. Why? Voters like to vote against things. They default to voting against measures when they are uncertain, even if it looks good. If Prop 1 had been about gas taxes for the roads, or sales tax increase for the roads, or sales tax increase for the schools, or sales tax increase for earned income tax credit, or any single issue it would have been much closer. Legislators like this method, include a little something for everyone. Voters saw it differently, voters went to the polls with a half dozen specific reasons to vote against this measure.

Why Prop 1 Failed, Reason Three: The campaign for Prop 1 was insulting to taxpayers.

Proponents of Prop 1 spent big money, over $9 million dollars, while opponents spent about $300,000. Anyone who doesn’t live in a cave has heard the arguments about big money buying elections i.e. Citizens United and the Koch brothers, yet it’s glaringly obvious big money hurt rather than helped this ballot question. Parading a crushed school bus around the state and running commercials about kids dying because of the roads didn’t help. Voters were insulted. Give us money or children will die in the streets, was clearly over the top.


Prop 1 should have never made it out of the legislature. It was a perfect storm created by lame ducks who have no business in office after an election, lobbyists who took an opportunity to grab for everything knowing voters would drive to the polls on potholes and cold patch, and a republican governor who is trying to show how centrist he can be by giving money to schools rather and raising the earned income tax credit.

The real solution is for Governor Snyder to lead by being a tough nerd. Sharpen the pencil and find room in the budget for the needed road repairs. Budgets are tight nationwide. Families are required to live within their means, they’ll support leaders who find ways to provide services without higher taxes.

prop1

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Canada’s New E-Petition

E-Petitioning is coming. In the near future we can expect politicians to enact some creative laws to allow for citizens to sign petitions electronically. A few trial versions have been talked about, but no game changing legislation has yet been proposed. Plenty of non-binding online petition websites are currently offering people the opportunity to sign and show their support for an issue. However these are not legally binding.
In Canada a new e-petition initiative process has been proposed. Formal have been adopted a recent article in the International Business Times said this:

Under the e-petition system, new rules allow citizens to propose an initiative on anything– federal funding, new demands, even views on controversial issues according to its proponent Stewart.

In e-petition, the stipulation is that it must be sponsored by an MP and must be backed by 500 signatures, if it is an online submission, in 120 days before it can be read in Parliament. Also, the minister in charge of the matter should respond to a successful initiative within 45 days.

The law makers are hoping that e-petitions would help reverse many troubling political trends. It may also help in arresting the sagging political participation. The voter turnout dipped to 61 percent since 2000 from the 73 percent in the 1980s. Many burning issues of people get ignored in the heat of party politics by MPs under the pressure of excessive partisanship. They have little freedom to vote on their own convictions or honour the wishes of their constituents. The e-petition may anull that predicament.

Another non-binding petition process in the EU is often used but the politicians rarely obey the will of petitioners.

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Whatcom, Washington Charter Amendments To Restrict Non-Profits

Whatcom County, WA has some interesting charter amendments being talked about by their charter review commission.

The Bellingham Herald has been covering the charter review process. From a recent article:

A conservative member of the Whatcom County Charter Review Commission seeks to restrict the county government’s funding of nonprofits. This would be the second such proposal put forward by the commission.

A county charter amendment by commissioner Wes Kentch that is scheduled to be introduced at tonight’s commission meeting in Ferndale would require nonprofit nongovernmental organizations seeking money from the county to complete an application. The county could not commit to funding a nonprofit longer than two years, and the organization must meet certain requirements to qualify for funding.

Text of the amendment:

AMENDMENT:
Section: 6.91 – Non Profit NGO Request for Proposal Transparency
6.92 – Non Profit NGO Financial Statements Transparency
6.93 – Non Profit NGO Donor Disclosure Transparency
6.94 – Non Profit NGO Ineligibility When Legislating Through the Courts
Section 6.91 Non Profit NGO Request for Proposal Transparency
Any project involving any disbursement or receipt of monies, by Whatcom County, to or from any nonprofit NGO shall be initiated with a Request for Proposals (RFP) drafted by Whatcom County.
All agreements involving transmittal of funds between Whatcom County and any nonprofit NGO shall have a sunset clause based on the biennial budget. No sunset clause shall be extended without a new RFP process.
Any Local Integrating Organization funding passing through Whatcom County accounts to any
nonprofit NGO, excluded by law or custom from a Whatcom County RFP process, shall require full financial
disclosure by the nonprofit NGO to Whatcom County, as outlined In Section 6.92.
Section 6.92 Nonprofit NGO Financial Statements Transparency
Any nonp rofit NGO transmitting funds to or from Whatcom County shall provide full financial statements to Whatcom County, externally audited by a certified accountant, including statements of assets and balances, income and expenses, fund reserve allocations, and donors, from the two fiscal years prior to the date of RFP submittal, and for any interim year(s) while the submittal is processed, and for a period of two years following any transmittal of funds.
The penalty for falsified financial statements shall be return of 100% of funds qualified by the falsified information, and ineligibility to partner financially with Whatcom County for ten years from the date that such financial information is ruled falsified.
Section 6.93 Non Profit NGO Donor Disclosure Transparency
Any nonprofit NGO who may legally receive donations from non-disclosed donors shall be ineligible to transmit funds between themselves and Whatcom County.
Any nonprofit NGO who may legally transmit funds between themselves and another nonprofit NGO whose donors are legally non-disclosed shall be ineligible to transmit funds between themselves and Whatcom County.
Section 6.94 Non Profit NGO Ineligibility When Legislating Through the Courts
Any nonp rofit NGO initiating or supporting, with funding, legal briefs or official sanctions, litigation or citizen voter initiatives, impacting the Whatcom County Code or Charter in any way, or any other legislative codes binding on Whatcom County land and water planning processes, shall be ineligible for funding or project relationships with Whatcom County for a period of ten years after the date of final court settlement of such litigation.
Contractual agreements and projects in effect between Whatcom County and such a nonprofit NGO when such litigation or citizen voters initiatives are initiated or supported may be immediately terminated.

A previously proposed amendment would have banned outright county funding of nonprofits.

That amendment:

Title:   Shall the County Charter prohibit grants and expenditures to non-profit organizations unless the County is reimbursed by another organization or jurisdiction?
Section:   (new)
Section 6.74 Charitable AppropriationsAmendment:
Section 6.74 Charitable Appropriations The Whatcom County Executive and the Whatcom County councilmembers shall not distribute county funds via grants or expenditures, whether budgeted or non-budgeted, to charitable, educational, civic, homeowners, neighborhood, arts, trade, business, religious or scientific non-profit organizations or any other similar types of community organizations/groups not mentioned herein, unless the grant or expenditure is directly reimbursed by community, private, state, or federal grant agencies for the identical purposes for which the agency/government grant is provided.

There is opposition to this form of transparency. From Philanthropy Northwest:

The new proposal asks “shall the charter be amended to increase transparency in funding between Whatcom County and nonprofit non-government organizations (NGOs)?” It’s a seemingly benign question. After all, who isn’t for more transparency in the public sector? However, this proposal is clearly not about transparency. It is also not about best practice for all entities with which a county may conduct business. It’s about erecting barriers to the provision of “those types of services” by “that type of organization.” It also contradicts federal regulation.

First, in defining “financial statement transparency,” the proposal requires any nonprofit desiring to do business with the county to undergo an external audit. While an external audit is good business practice, it is widely understood to be both unnecessary and prohibitively expensive for the vast majority of nonprofit organizations.

 

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Requiring A Streetcar Vote

San Antonio, Texas will be voting on a city charter amendment on 5/9/2014 to decide if any future streetcar or lightrail projects constructed with tax dollars must be approved by voters.

Sample Ballot: SanAntonio5_9_15citysample

Ballot Title:

CHARTER AMENDMENT NO. 1
SHALL THE CITY CHARTER BE AMENDED TO PROVIDE THAT NO GRANT OF PERMISSION TO ALTER OR DAMAGE ANY PUBLIC WAY OF THE CITY FOR THE LAYING OF STREETCAR OR LIGHT RAIL TRACKS SHALL EVER BE VALID,AND NO FUNDS SHALL BE APPROPRIATED AND NO BONDS OR NOTES SHALL BE ISSUED OR SOLD FOR THE PURPOSE OF STREETCAR OR LIGHT RAIL SYSTEMS, UNLESS FIRST APPROVED BY A MAJORITY OF THE QUALIFIED ELECTORS OF THE CITY VOTING AT AN ELECTION CONTAINING A PROPOSITION SPECIFICALLY IDENTIFIED FOR AND LIMITED TO SUCH PURPOSE?

From www.mysanantonio.com:

In the upcoming San Antonio city elections, voters should give themselves the right to vote on any future light rail project by voting “yes” on the city charter amendment.

When Mayor Ivy Taylor pulled the city’s funding for the streetcar last summer, County Judge Nelson Wolff said at the time, “VIA has done a horrible job of articulating why they’re doing streetcar. It’s been a tremendous failure on their part to explain it.” But without a vote before rail is built, there is little incentive for any public agency to provide adequate public information.

Indeed, VIA has gone to great lengths to avoid a public vote on rail. VIA obviously had the streetcar in mind when in 2011 its cadre of paid lobbyists asked the Texas Legislature to pass a bill allowing VIA to issue bonds without going to the voters, as the law would otherwise have required. The charter amendment will simply reverse this ill-advised legislation.

City Published Voter Guide:

SanantonioVoterGuide_5_9_15

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