The 80th Session of the Nevada State Legislature is in its final days…and after sitting in his office since May 28, Governor Steve Sisolak has approved Senate Bill 224, the privacy bill sponsored by RPEN and carried forward again by Sparks Senator Julia Ratti with assistance from Lead Lobbyist Marlene Lockard. The hard won bill becomes effective July 1, 2019 and solves the dilemma faced by the Nevada Public Employees’ Retirement System as to what is and is not public information. When originally introduced this session the bill listed only an “identification number” and not a name, along with a few other items such as pension amount, last public employer, number of years of service credit in PERS, retirement date and whether the person was receiving a disability or service retirement allowance. The bill was later amended at the request of the Governor’s office to ONLY include name and pension amount…removing everything else, including the “identification number” and replacing it with a person’s name. This issue has been a dilemma for NV PERS following two lawsuits filed against the agency in the last 10 years, both leading to decisions against PERS in the Nevada Supreme Court. PERS always said the only way to stop the release of information would be a legislative fix…and such a fix was approved by both houses of the 2017 Legislature, only to be vetoed by then Governor Sandoval. RPEN and PERS had higher hopes for the 2019 session due to the make-up of the Assembly and Senate as well as the Governor following the last election. But it was still a hard fought battle due to relentless attacks on the agency by the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) who continually waged war against SB 224 in the press, as well as a social media campaign urging the Governor to veto the measure. Thankfully, he did not, and signed the bill late Thursday night May 30. There may be members of RPEN who aren’t happy with what SB 224 does, since name and pension amount are included in the release of information, but it was the best of a worst case scenario…because had the Governor not signed SB 224, then every bit of a retiree’s personal information kept by PERS would be fair game for agencies like NPRI who seek, in the name of transparency, to expose retirees’ confidential information on the worldwide web, for everyone to see. And so, we hope those who may not be happy, will still see the good that comes with passage of this bill, once and for all…because in the end game, it is still a good thing.
In other legislative news as the 80th Session winds down with only 4 days left (if it ends on time Monday, June 3) a couple of other bills RPEN has been following this session roared into view again this week after laying dormant since mid-April. SB 135, the collective bargaining measure for state workers, was heard again by the Senate Finance Committee where it was re-referred. The Governor’s office also weighed in on SB 135 seeking amendments that would allow the governor the final say on wages, and wouldn’t bind the state to union demands on retirement contributions and health insurance. Governor Sisolak mentioned collective bargaining for state workers in his January State of the State address and it’s been the priority issue for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) this session…as well as on RPEN’s own Legislative Agenda. The bill was considered in Senate Finance May 29 when the amendments were discussed, but no action was taken, and the bill hasn’t resurfaced since although there is still plenty of “legislative time” left before Monday at midnight.
Another somewhat controversial bill, SB 287, that seeks tougher penalties for local governments regarding public records not being released in a timely and cost effective manner, was also heard in Senate Finance May 29, though amendments that were considered in April for SB 287 were nowhere to be found…and so no action was taken on that bill either. NPRI has come out in full opposition to SB 135 and is also pushing for adoption of SB 287 as is the Nevada Press Association.
So, we shall see what happens. RPEN will be watching on a daily basis now through Monday at midnight.
Terri Laird, RPEN Executive Director