Local Government Accountability
By Tim Ravndal
Senator Patrick Webb from Billings Montana introduced SB19 that seeks local government accountability.
The Legislation was heard this last week before the Senate Judiciary Committee where some amendments were offered and debate was held on the bill. The committee closed the hearing and will now take executive action on the bill in the coming days.
The legislation deals with Montana statutes under Title II Chapter 7 where fiscal accountability has been left off the table for the people of Montana.
Several local government bodies have historically failed to accurately meet accountability standards as required by law. This brings in accountability requirements under Title VII where Local Government is regulated under the State of Montana.
The bill will revise laws related to budgeting and accounting by local government. It is designed to require the Montana Attorney General to perform an investigation and bring action against local government.
The law will also push forward for notification of the city or county attorney if a shortage is found by and independent auditor. Accountability to the people is the foundation that brings forward the change in law.
The legislation will essentially provide for enforcement provisions in existing law by providing the taxpayers with accountability. The law will impose mandatory duties on local government officials that include penalty provisions to enforce the law.
In visiting with Senator Webb we asked if the bill would move forward to the full Senate. Mr. Webb advised us that the bill was misunderstood in a couple areas by Montana Association of Counties and Montana League of Cities and Towns. The fiscal note that was prepared does not reflect the actual impact of the bill according to Senator Webb.
The Senate Judiciary Committee that is chaired by Keith Regier will take executive action on the bill in the coming days. The accountability of local government to the people is on the table.
Many other areas in Montana law are in need of similar amendments. Under many of the Title II laws, there are no enforcement provisions to hold elected and appointed officials accountable to the people.
It has been an ongoing battle to seek accountability as the Constitution of Montana demands. Many elected officials are reluctant to expand on existing laws as the ability to perform the duties become more restrictive.
In the end, the citizens of Montana are looking to make sure that the actions that take place are putting the rights of the citizens as the highest priority.
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