The bill passed unanimously by the State House Wednesday establishes an independent consumer advocate and protects taxpayers if a town defaults on its payments.
Thanks to House Bill 6008, Metropolitan District Commission consumers and local taxpayers are one step closer to securing important protections.
On Wednesday, the Connecticut House of Representatives voted unanimously to protect consumers, taxpayers, and municipalities with an independent consumer advocate who will have full access to MDC matters. The advocate will be appointed by, and be accountable to, the Office of Consumer Counsel.
The legislation also establishes protections for towns and taxpayers in the event any member town fails to pay its portion of the ad valorem tax. The bill is co-sponsored by Representatives Derek Slap (D-West Hartford, Avon, Farmington) and David Baram (D-Bloomfield), and Senator Beth Bye (D-West Hartford).
“Consumers deserve to have an independent advocate who will look out for their interests and increase accountability and transparency at the MDC,” said Slap. “In addition, we will help protect taxpayers from being stuck with the bill if a town or city cannot pay its share. West Hartford and other communities were forced to set aside millions of dollars in reserve payments last year because of this – and it simply cannot happen again.”
“This bill contains the essential provisions that protect West Hartford taxpayers, as well as the taxpayers from all member towns, from paying the sewer bills of other member towns in case of a default or non-payment by any of the member municipalities,” said West Hartford Mayor Shari Cantor. “It also provides MDC some flexibility in financing to respond to sudden financial challenges and manage its cash flow so it does not have to impose an immediate additional tax on member towns.”
The legislation also does the following:
- Allows the MDC to adopt a supplemental budget for emergency revenue shortfalls
- Expands the MDC’s ability to borrow – using tax anticipation notices (TAN) – from six months to three years to offset delinquent payments from a member town
- Requires OPM to withhold state grants to the delinquent member town in the amount it owes to the MDC and send those funds to the MDC
- Requires the advocate to provide quarterly reports to all MDC member towns and hold an annual public hearing
“This is an important bill that will ensure full transparency to all consumers who live within the MDC district towns,” said Baram. “I believe the consumer advocate will be a source of information and advocacy who will keep our residents fully apprised of matters coming for the MDC so that they will have an opportunity to participate in discussions on any major policy issues.”
“Today’s passage in the House was a very important step for several reasons, one of the most important of which is to show the power that grassroots, citizen groups can have to affect major public policies like the management of our very limited natural water resources,” said Bye.
“Until now, MDC member towns have been inadequately informed and inadequately consulted on MDC matters that concern them,” said Lori Brown, executive director, Connecticut League of Conservation Voters. “MDC’s failure to be open can be addressed by having a dedicated, and independent, consumer advocate to ensure accurate and responsive two-way communication between the MDC and the public. I applaud Rep. Slap for his leadership on this issue.”
The bill now heads to the Senate.