One lawmaker called it the bill "that will bring down the chandeliers at the state Capitol."
Rep. Glen Brown, R-Coalville, wants to eliminate every special service district in the state on July 1, 1991, unless the cities and counties that created those districts - or in which those districts operate - authorize them to keep operating.If a town or county fails to reauthorize a district by July 1991, it is automatically out of business in that town or county. Reauthorization of each district will last for 10 years, then must be reviewed.
Understandably, lawmakers expect fierce and widespread opposition from special service districts. But Brown is quick to say he is not out to get those districts. Instead, he is trying to make the shadowy government of special service districts more accountable to taxpayers.
"We're concerned about a level of government that doesn't account to the people the way it ought to," he said. Districts have taken on a life of their own. Under current law, the public has no way to rein them in, he said.
Brown's sweeping legislation applies to every conceivable district. Some of those specified in the bill are cemetery maintenance, municipal improvement, water, sewer, fire protection, mosquito abatement, drainage, irrigation, parking and business improvement, public transit and water conservancy districts and redevelopment agencies.
"These districts have direct taxing authority without any accountability to elected officials," said Rep. Richard Bradford, R-Sandy. He noted that many of the districts can raise service rates or property taxes. Some special improvement districts do elect their boards of directors, but often those elections don't coincide with municipal or general elections and few citizens bother to vote.
Sandy City has four separate sewer districts, Bradford said. "Each can impose fees the elected officials have no control over. Yet those fees impact the tax burden of the Sandy citizen."
The bill asks cities and counties to analyze why the district was created; decide if those reasons still exist; determine if the district is serving the public good; review budget, fees and personnel matters to see if the district could better serve the public; and decide if the district's services duplicate other government services.
The bill is popular in the House. "I have over 20 co-sponsors right now," Brown said. "I could have gotten more, but I stopped looking."
But opposition is equally vast. More than 200 affected districts have been invited to a strategy meeting to plan the defeat of the bill. A high-powered law firm has been hired to lobby against the bill.
The bill gives communities a chance to pull out of districts they no longer want to be part of. For example, it would give Sandy Mayor Steve Newton the authority he's seeking to pull Sandy out of the Salt Lake County Water Conservancy District.
But it could also cripple districts so badly they can't serve the towns that still want them, critics say.