April 7, 2011

Transparency Review (4/4 - 4/8)

Michael Roberson
One of two
Senators in Clark 5
• Clark County's two "dual" state Senate districts are likely to disappear following this year's redistricting process, the Nevada News Bureau reports. The districts -- Clark 5 and Clark 7 -- are represented by two Senators apiece in the Nevada legislature. Every other district is represented by one Senator. The anomaly arose after a Supreme Court decision held state legislative boundaries had to be roughly equal in population. Instead of adding more districts to account for the change, the Nevada Legislature created multimember districts.

With the legislative session rounding the halfway mark, here are some transparency-related bills making their way through the Legislature:

• Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, has introduced a bill that would would make state contracts more transparent and increase government efficiency. Highlights include "[requiring] government contracts to be put out to bid rather than rolled over year after year to the same contractor," "[requiring] all fees charged to the public in government contracts to be disclosed by the contractor" and "[requiring] an annual report to the state on sole source contracting by agencies, which would then be provided to the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee."

Marcus Conklin
• Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, wants the state Controller's office to post "tables, graphs and explanatory descriptions" along with the raw numbers of the state's revenues and expenditures.

• Finally, Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, is trying to limit the amount state and local governments can charge for public records. NPRI's Karen Gray testified during a hearing for the bill about how she has often encountered cost discrepancies for public records.

• The heads of two large journalism organizations have penned a Washington Post op-ed accusing the Obama administration of failing to meet its own transparency standards. They focus on the administration's underreporting the extent of the Gulf Coast oil spill last year; the FDA forbidding reporters from seeking outside experts regarding changes to the medical device approval process; and how upwards of a third of FOIA requests go unanswered.

• NPRI's Kyle Gillis writes about the creation of a state Senate Ethics Committee after nearly half the session has expired. The committee was created following inquires by the Las Vegas Sun.

• Former U.S. Sen. John Ensign aide Doug Hampton has pled not guilty to seven counts of violating conflict-of-interest laws, The Hill reports.

• Recognizing the role the internet plays in government transparency, Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., and Rep. Steve Israel, D-N.Y., introduced this week the Public Online Information Act. POIA, as it is called, would ensure public records already held by the government also be made available online. The Sunlight Foundation put together a short video explaining the law: