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Gibbons seeks to make union negotiations public

CARSON CITY — Gov. Jim Gibbons launched an initiative petition Monday that would force union negotiations with state and local governments to be conducted in public.

“Taxpayers have a right to know how tax money is being spent and why,” Gibbons said at a news conference.

The Open Government Initiative Petition would remove exemptions, such as collective bargaining, from the state’s open meeting law.

Gibbons said he will lead a steering committee that includes state Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, former state Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, and Cory Adair, executive director of the Nevada Republican Party.

The committee will seek volunteers to gather 97,002 signatures needed by Nov. 9 to send the petition to the 2011 Legislature. If lawmakers reject it or fail to act, it would be placed on the 2012 general election ballot.

Gibbons, a first-term Republican facing an uphill re-election bid, said the initiative is a response to the economic turmoil that has hit state and local governments hard.

“It’s today’s problems that are driving this issue,” he said, adding that 70 percent to 80 percent of local government and school district costs are related to personnel.

Existing law requires only that final approval of a bargaining pact be conducted in open meeting.

State legislators in February cut $805 million from Nevada’s budget, and local governments have been seeking concessions from labor groups to cut costs in the face of falling tax revenues.

Barry Smith, executive director of the Nevada Press Association, said, “This is a lot of taxpayers’ money that’s being discussed, and I think it ought to be done in front of the people paying the bills.”

 

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