Bill to broaden state entity financial disclosure advanced

A bill that would broaden the scope of a financial transparency law aimed at state government was given first-round approval April 4.

LB851, sponsored by Omaha Sen. John McCollister, would modify the Taxpayer Transparency Act to include quasi-public entities such as boards and commissions created by the Legislature.

“Currently, financial records from all state agencies and the University of Nebraska are included on the state spending website, but financial information for a variety of quasi-public entities is not,” McCollister said.

The bill defines a state entity as any agency, board, commission or department of the state and any other body created by state statute that includes a person appointed by the governor, the head of any state agency or department, an employee of the state of Nebraska or any combination of such persons that is empowered to collect and disburse state receipts.

Under the bill, entities would be required to submit all expenditures of state receipts to the state treasurer for inclusion on the state’s spending transparency website.

Transfer of funds between two state entities and expenditure of pass-through funds would not be subject to the bill’s provisions. Data collected would be available on the state spending website beginning in fiscal year 2016-17.

A Government, Military and Veterans Affairs Committee amendment, adopted 30-0, would expressly include expenditures authorized by the governing bodies of state higher education entities and exclude federal or other assistance to an individual from the bill’s provisions.

The amendment also would limit the definition of state receipts to revenue or income received by a state entity used to pay the expenses necessary to perform the state entity’s functions and reported to the state treasurer in total amounts by category of income.

Contracts entered into by the Nebraska Investment Finance Authority for the purpose of providing a specific service or financial assistance to a specifically name individual or his or her family would be exempt from the bill’s disclosure requirements.

Bellevue Sen. Sue Crawford supported the bill and the amendment. Including quasi-public entities on the website would be an improvement in existing transparency efforts, she said.

“It’s important for people to know that you can get on the website and see Nebraska [state] expenditures and also see the contracts,” she said.

The bill advanced to select file 33-0.

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