Public scrutiny

The state's burdensome initiative petition requirements have killed an effort to place before Nevada voters a ballot question subjecting public-sector union negotiations to the open meeting law.

"We collected signatures, but not enough," said Danny Tarkanian, who was leading the petition effort at the urging of Gov. Jim Gibbons. Mr. Tarkanian said it was difficult to find volunteers to gather the necessary 97,002 signatures.

But the setback in this critical effort may be temporary.

On Monday, state Senate Republicans -- led by Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon -- agreed to introduce similar legislation when they convene in Carson City early next year. If the bill passes, collective bargaining talks for local governments and school districts -- currently conducted behind closed doors -- would take place in public.

The change would be immediate and breathtaking. The runaway salaries and benefits now enjoyed by many members of the public sector are a direct result of the taxpayers who foot the bill being shut out of the process. Shine some light on this arena and watch the dynamics transform dramatically.

"We must stop the secret backroom deals between public employee unions and state and local governments," the lame-duck governor said this week. "Collective bargaining involving public funds should be open to the public."

We'll wager most taxpayers agree.

We also understand that the political reality in Carson City -- Democrats control both legislative houses -- ensures this proposal will be on life support the moment the ink dries on the draft request. But that shouldn't stop Republicans from doing everything they can to force votes on this measure. Make Democrats stand up and be counted as representing government union bosses over the citizens responsible for covering the unsustainable tab.