Nevadans would pay less for public record copies under bill

CARSON CITY — When it comes to asking government for something, there always is a cost. But under a bill moving its way through the Legislature, the cost of copies of records would be capped at 50 cents per page.

Members of the Assembly Committee on Government Affairs discussed, but did not act, Friday on Senate Bill 74.

The only opposition to the bill came from the District Court in Carson City, and the bill already has won Senate approval 14-7, with seven of the 10 Republicans voting no.

Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said the goal of the bill is to induce local governments and courts to put all their records on the Internet so that citizens can copy them for free. But until that happens, they should not be charging a dollar or more a page for copies and trying to make a profit off citizens who want copies, he added.

“The reality is a lot of entities are making money from making copies,” said Segerblom, nothing some investigative reporters have been charged thousands of dollars.

In a letter to the committee, District Judges James T. Russell and James Wilson, both of Carson City, complained that passage of the bill would cost their court about $36,000 a year and could affect their staffing levels.

Under the bill, governments also would be required to make available for free copies of minutes and audio broadcasts.

Mike Murphy, the Clark County lobbyist, and Barry Smith, the Nevada Press Association executive director, both testified for the bill. They said it was a compromise from Segerblom’s original request for a 10 cent per page copying cost and the $1 fee charged by many local governments and courts.

“A 50 percent reduction is certainly a concern, but it is far less than 90 percent,” Murphy said. “We shouldn’t be making money through copying costs.”

The court in Carson City not only charges $1 a page, but it also charges $1 a year for looking for records sought by people who want to copy them. The latter charge would be prohibited by the bill.

Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, D-Las Vegas, repeatedly expressed concern about the bill “taking money away from the courts.”

Assemblyman Pete Livermore, R-Carson City, noted the bill did not include any mention of people obtaining videos of public meetings. He said a maximum cost should be set for videos, noting he has been charged $20.

Segerblom called the omission of video a “major oversight” that should be corrected through an amendment. The Legislature itself charges $10 for videos of hearings and $5 for audio broadcast.

But Smith said after the meeting that many small governments do not videotape their meetings and only have audios available.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.