CARSON CITY -- When legislators determine state government spending priorities at their special session later this month, the decision-making process will be an open one if Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford has his way.
Unlike what occurred at several recent special sessions, Nevadans will be allowed to testify and decisions on what budgets and programs will be cut to make up for an $881 million revenue shortfall won't be made behind closed doors, his spokesman said Thursday.
"He wants open and transparent government," said Dave Berns, Horsford's spokesman. "He doesn't want to be accused of making the decisions behind closed doors."
As part of his open government theme, the Las Vegas Democrat encourages Southern Nevadans to speak up on the reductions Saturday during a town hall meeting in Las Vegas, Berns said.
Since the town hall meeting is on a weekend, it might be the only opportunity that some working people will have to tell lawmakers what they want done to resolve the state's budget crisis.
The majority leader also will permit Nevadans to speak during the special session before legislators act on the cuts, according to Burns.
The session is expected to last at least a couple of days, and could linger on for weeks if Gov. Jim Gibbons and legislators disagree on where to make the cuts.
The open process being advocated by Horsford is a departure from recent actions by the Legislature and Gibbons.
The public was given little time to speak during two, one-day special sessions in 2008 when legislators quickly approved spending cuts they agreed on in advance during closed-door meetings with Gibbons.
Although Gibbons refused to allow the media to attend those meetings, he criticized legislative leaders last year when they met behind closed doors before announcing which taxes they intended to raise.
Gibbons also has rejected requests by the news media to attend a series of closed-door meetings he has recently conducted with local government officials and legislators on proposed budget cuts.
Unlike all other governments in Nevada, the Legislature does not have to follow the state's open meeting law, which requires discussions and decision-making to occur in the open, with just a few exceptions.
Assemblymen Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, and Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, and Horsford will listen Saturday when residents talk about the cuts during the town hall meeting in Las Vegas. A similar town all meeting will be conducted in Reno.
Horsford will stay longer if there is not enough time for all residents to speak during the scheduled three-hour meeting, Berns said.
There is no agenda for the town hall meetings, other than having people give their views on where spending should or should not be reduced, he said.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901.