December 21, 2009

Rory Reid calls for a more transparent Nevada

Last week, gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid released his plan for increasing government transparency. One of his suggestions caught my attention, because it's a great idea for increasing government transparency.
Establish an open meeting law for the Legislature. I’ll work to establish an open meeting law for the Nevada Legislature that allows the body to conduct its business expeditiously, given the limits of a 120-day legislative session, but places a premium on openness and transparency. All legislative committee hearings, subcommittee hearings and work sessions should be open to the public as a matter of law rather than just standard practice. I’ll work with the legislature to define the parameters of such a law so citizens and the press have consistent, predictable, and open access to the public’s business.
During the last legislative session, Nevada's legislative leaders determined the budget and the record-setting, job-killing, billion-dollar tax increase through a series of secret, closed-door meetings.

These secret meetings were only possible because the legislature included this enormous contradiction when it passed the open-meeting law:
In enacting this chapter, the Legislature finds and declares that all public bodies exist to aid in the conduct of the people’s business. It is the intent of the law that their actions be taken openly and that their deliberations be conducted openly…

The Legislature is specifically excluded from the Open Meeting Law. NRS 241.015(3).

Since the Legislature, as a whole, is not governed, none of its various committees or subcommittees are governed by the law while the full Legislature is in session.
If Reid really wants to establish an open-meeting law for the legislature, all he would need to do is delete the line that says "'Public body' does not include the Legislature of the State of Nevada." I also hope he's not the only candidate to reject this legislative double standard.

I haven't had time to evaluate the other parts of Reid's report, but I was disappointed that it didn't include a mention of improving the state's searchable budget database. From the Nevada News Bureau:
Reid said he is not familiar with what would be involved in making state government budgets, expenditures and contracts totally transparent on a searchable database. Nor is he proposing any changes right now to the way candidate campaign contribution and expense reports are available for public review.
Maybe leaving out the searchable budget database was an oversight, because it's an idea with deep bi-partisan support. If Rory Reid wants any information on the searchable budget database, here's a great place to start. And if that's not enough, we're only a phone call or e-mail away.

Cross posted on Write on Nevada.