April 1, 2019
Today marks the 59th day of the 80th Session of the Nevada State Legislature, and last week saw a familiar face take a seat in the Nevada Assembly, along with a work session on the Privacy Bill SB 224 and a vote originally set today on that bill in the Senate that clarifies legislatively what is and is not public information as it relates to Nevada PERS. Unfortunately the bill was moved to the Secretary’s Desk while consideration is given for a possible amendment. There is no additional information on the amendment, however there was yet another story in the Las Vegas Review-Journal finding fault with the bill. The commentary appeared Sunday March 31, titled “PERS secrecy bill loaded with issues”. The commentary said removing a public employee’s name, and replacing it with an ID number, “makes the information much harder to track, abuse much harder to notice and public oversight of government workers much harder to accomplish” and called the bill “the most sweeping assault on the public’s right to know in memory”. This does sound a little too familiar with the process taken by Senate Bill 384 during the 2017 legislative session. That bill was amended to suit then Governor Brian Sandoval, and after passing in both houses, the Governor vetoed the bill.
During the Work Session March 27 before the Senate Government Affairs Committee, the vote to pass the bill out of Committee was unanimous although Senator Pete Goicoechea (District 19) cited some issues with the bill, and said he reserved his right to change his vote on the Senate Floor when a full vote is eventually taken before the bill is sent to the Assembly. NV PERS Executive Officer Tina Leiss says the agency needs clarity because they’ve had 5 different court determinations on what is public information and what is not. Speaking recently to the PERS Board she said SB 224 will make it very clear and will make their public records requests much easier to determine what is to be released and what is not. During their March 21 Board Meeting the PERS board voted to support SB 224. Meanwhile, SB 224 has fallen to 35th place out of the Top 50 Most Commented Bills on the “Share Your Opinion” page at the legislative website. There are 147 comments on SB 224 and around 75% of them are supportive. Senate Bill 165, the “End of Life” bill remains in the #1 position with over 33-hundred comments, with more than 27 hundred of them opposed.
In other legislative news, following the March resignation of Sparks State Assemblyman Mike Sprinkle, the Washoe County Commission was tasked with finding his replacement. Greg Smith, the husband of the late Nevada State Senator Debbie Smith, was chosen among several applicants last week to assume the remainder of Sprinkle’s term in Assembly District 30.
Another bill on RPEN’s 2019 Legislative Agenda, Senate Bill 135 provides for collective bargaining by state employees and is slated for a hearing Thursday evening, April 4, at 6:30pm in Room 1214 before the Senate Government Affairs Committee, and video-conferenced to Room 4412 of the Grant Sawyer State Building.
And finally, another item of interest this session is Senate Joint Resolution 5 which seeks a state constitutional amendment to hold legislative sessions every year. The last time this concept was considered was 1970 when it was supported through two successive sessions only to be rejected by voters at the polls 2-1. As recently as 2013 a similar effort won initial passage that year but died during the 2015 session and was also rejected during the 2017 session. One co-sponsor of the measure has said a lot has changed since those defeats.
If approved the Legislature would convene for 90 legislative days in odd-numbered years and 60 legislative days in even years. A fiscal note that accompanies the resolution estimates an additional outlay of $13.3 million based on current pay rates and practices. The 2019 session cost is budgeted at $20 million.
Terri Laird, Executive Director