A group of the state's most influential water lawyers met Friday to plan their attack on a House bill that would sunset all of the special service and improvement districts in the state.
Attacking HB213, sponsored by Rep. Glen Brown, R-Coalville, lawyers at the meeting said the bill would threaten special improvement districts' ability to bond and would place districts in "double jeopardy" by placing them under the review of both cities and counties.The bill would eliminate all of the state's special service districts July 1, 1991, unless the cities and counties whose boundaries include or overlap the district re-authorize them.
Attorneys Michael J. Mazuran and Mark H. Anderson sent information about the bill to more than 200 districts in the state and met with about 70 district representatives and attorneys to outline the consequences they believe the bill would have.
The bill already has 22 co-sponsors in the House. "This bill will pass the House of Representatives barring some miracle," Anderson said before closing the meeting to the public to discuss lobbying strategy to fight the bill. "We do think this bill can be stopped in the Senate," he said.
"Wait until Wall Street hears about this, " said D. Kent Michie, a financial consultant for the Intermountain Power Agency, who said economic development in the state could suffer if the transportation, roads, water and sewer entities had their ability to bond threatened.
The leadership of the Senate and House were unimpressed by opponent's references to Wall Street or statewide ruin. Brown said his discussion with several senators suggests strong support for the bill in the Senate. Senate President Arnold Christensen, R-Salt Lake, has not tried to gauge support yet in a Senate caucus.
"I'm in support of it. I can tell you that much," he said.
Without mentioning its name or location, Mazuran said he represents a recreation district that operates in the black, leases the swimming pool and other facilities to the high school across the street, has undeveloped land and $3 million in the bank to pay for future development.
Mazuran's interpretation of the bill is that the municipality surrounding the district could sunset the district, absorb control of the recreation facility, turn it over to the school district, sell off the undeveloped land and pocket the $3 million in reserves.
Several lawyers at the strategy meeting said the bill, if passed, would force them into litigation because of provisions of existing bond contracts that requires them to fight any annexation of district territory or threat to the solvency of the district.
House Majority Leader Nolan Karras, R-Roy, said legislative analysts who reviewed the bill did not come to that conclusion.
Opponents of the bill also believe it challenges the bonding ability and solvency of the smallest cemetery maintenance district to multi-county entities like the 12-county Central Utah Water Conservancy District, local sponsor of the $2.2 billion Central Utah Project, and the Intermountain Power Agency, composed of 22 Utah cities and co-ops.