CARSON CITY — A bill that would expand the categories of public officials and government employees who can ask a court to make confidential public records identifying their addresses and other personal identifying information now includes lawmakers.
Senate Bill 79 was amended by the Assembly Government Affairs Committee last week to include state legislators in the list of groups who can request such confidentiality for safety reasons.
The amendment from Assemblywoman Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, won unanimous support from the committee, although Assemblyman Al Kramer, R-Carson City, said he may oppose the measure when it comes to the full Assembly for a vote.
Barry Smith, executive director of the Nevada Press Association, said in a statement knowing the addresses of elected officials is important and adding lawmakers to the bill is problematic.
“For them to qualify to hold office, we have to know where they live,” he said. “There have been plenty of instances in recent years when candidates have been challenged over their residency. They live one place but pretend to live at another address in a district where they want to run.”
The bill sought by the Nevada Supreme Court expanded the confidentiality to various categories of court personnel. It was expanded in the Senate to include prosecutors and public defenders.
While the list of those groups of employees who could request confidentiality would grow under the bill, the standard for getting court approval for such a request has been raised as well.
The bill requires evidence of actual risk of harm before the employee groups included in the measure could get a court OK to make records of the county clerk, county recorder, secretary of state and other government entities off limits.
“I have no doubt that the threats are real, but lots of people face angry responses and potentially hostile situations,” Smith said. “It seems like the list could go on forever, whether for government employees or private businesspeople.”
Threat is real
In testimony at the committee hearing on May 18, Neal acknowledged that those in public service choose to sign up for the potential of anger and criticism from constituents when they decide to run for office.
But Neal said that is why her amendment includes the requirement of a legitimate threat to lawmakers or their families. She said one lawmaker faced real threats this session, although Neal did not name the individual getting the threats.
Kramer said despite his yes vote in committee, he is not sold on the bill.
“I have a concern that what we’re doing is creating a special class of citizens,” he said. “But I really don’t like it and I may vote no on the floor.”
If approved by the Assembly as amended, the measure would go back to the Senate for a vote on whether to accept the changes.
Contact Sean Whaley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-461-3820. Follow @seanw801 on Twitter.