The Teamsters Union has written to the Internal Revenue Service taking issue with proposed regulations that would change the public approval requirements for tax-exempt private activity bonds and potentially undermine the public approval process.

The Teamsters argued that the proposed IRS regulations conflict with the public interest. Changes would include decreasing the amount of notice given to the public prior to a hearing from 14 days to seven, allowing government agencies to cancel hearings if the public does not submit "timely requests" to participate, and permitting public notices to contain only a general description of a project instead of specific project details.

"These changes would diminish transparency and erode public oversight of private development projects," said Teamsters general secretary-treasurer C. Thomas Keegel. "In today's economic crisis, the public must be given every opportunity to question their elected officials and the private developers seeking tax-exempt bonds."

Currently, all state and local government entities must follow a public approval process before issuing bonds to private entities. This includes holding public hearings in which citizens may speak for or against a proposed project. Public notices of hearings must also provide the public with project details. The existing regulations ensure some transparency and accountability on the part of public officials in the area of public-private financing.

The Teamsters said they strongly believe that the public must have sufficient time to analyze and understand proposals, and to respond to hearing notices. "Reducing both notification time and request time would significantly inhibit public participation," said the group. "And if the public is not provided with sufficient information concerning the details of a project, it cannot form an educated opinion."

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