Authored Articles & Publications Sep 20, 2017

The Little Hoover Commission Issues Report on Special Districts

By Whitney Blackhurst

The Little Hoover Commission released its highly anticipated report entitled “Special Districts: Improving Oversight & Transparency” last week. This was the Commission’s first look at special districts since it last studied them 17 years ago. The Report followed a 12-month review of the approximately 2,071 independent special districts in California, and California’s role and responsibility in overseeing them. It focused on:

  • oversight of special districts, including opportunities to bolster the effectiveness of Local Agency Formation Commissions,
  • improving transparency of, and public engagement in, special districts,
  • the frequently-controversial evolution of California’s health care special districts, and
  • the urgency of climate change adaptation in California and the front-line roles that special districts play in preparing their communities and defending them from harm.
The Report includes 20 recommendations, some echoing those made in the Commission’s May 2000 report, with others addressing new issues facing the special districts of today. The recommendations include urging the Legislature and Governor to curtail the practice of enacting bills to override the LAFCO deliberative processes to improve local control. They also include urging the California Special Districts Association and special districts to lead efforts to seek and form regional partnerships to maximize climate adaptation resources and benefits to help their communities adapt to climate change. The Commission paid particular attention to whether special districts remain best served by local decision-making — ultimately concluding they do.

Though the Commission’s May 2000 report and recommendations did lead to multiple smaller changes in California, the Commission’s hope is that its new report and recommendations will spur large-scale structural changes to California’s most prevalent form of local government. Only time will tell whether such changes occur.
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