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Panel targets dropping 35 state boards, commissions

CARSON CITY — A new legislative subcommittee took aim Thursday at the possible elimination of 35 state boards and commissions, including the state Wildlife and Ethics commissions.

During the first meeting of Legislature’s Sunset Subcommittee, members identified the boards and commissions they want to call in and ask to provide justification for their continued existence.

Some such as the Commission on Sports have not met in decades and clearly will be abolished. But others, including the Wildlife and Ethics commissions, were placed on the subcommittee’s bull’s-eye largely because they are controversial or failed to respond to legislative requests for information.

"We aren’t saying these boards are good or bad," said Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, chairwoman of the nine-member subcommittee. "Every board and commission eventually will be looked at."

The Sunset Subcommittee was created through a bill sponsored by Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno. Approved unanimously and signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, the law allows the subcommittee to determine whether boards or commissions "should be terminated, modified, consolidated with another agency or continued."

Kieckhefer said during hearings that his goal was to ensure "taxpayers were getting the biggest bang for their buck" by reviewing boards to make sure they are operating efficiently and effectively.

He also said the committee’s creation was recommended by the Spending and Government Efficiency Commission, which reviewed state government when Jim Gibbons was governor and identified ways to save money.

The subcommittee’s recommendations are due June 30 and on the same day every other year.

Any recommendations made next year must be approved by the Legislature in 2013 before a board can be eliminated.

Starting in February, Sunset Subcommittee members will look at a few boards each month. Members of the boards will be asked to attend and answer questions.

Leslie wants to look at the Wildlife Commission because it has been mired in controversy and is dominated by pro-hunting members.

Gibbons was accused of packing the commission with pro hunters. Commissioners last year established the state’s first bear hunting season, enraging animal support groups and others.

Assemblywoman Irene Bustamante Adams, D-Las Vegas, recommended the subcommittee look at eliminating or modifying the Wildlife Commission.

Bustamante Adams said she had "no particular reason" for the Wildlife Commission’s inclusion other than the fact it did not respond to calls from legislative staff members inquiring about when it most recently met.

Contacted in Reno, Ken Mayer, state Wildlife Department director and secretary to the Wildlife Commission, said he never received any phone calls from the Legislature. He said the Wildlife Commission last met on Sept. 23-24.

All calls for the Wildlife Commission go to the Department of Wildlife. Mayer said a call might not have been forwarded to him.

Leslie said several other boards that did not respond to legislative staff members also will asked to appear before the commission, including the Ethics Commission and the Executive Branch Audit Committee.

Caren Jenkins, executive director of the Ethics Commission, said she didn’t recall getting any calls seeking information on the panel’s meetings.

At one point during the hearing, former Assemblyman David Goldwater, D-Las Vegas, noted he had been a member of the Nevada Commission on Sports for eight or nine years, and the committee did not meet once.

Goldwater, one of three nonlegislators on the subcommittee, said it made sense to include nonfunctioning boards on the potential cut list.

Assemblyman Richard McArthur, R-Las Vegas, said the subcommittee might look at combining operations of the state Athletic Commission, the Commission on Sports and the Board of Athletic Trainers.

Legislative staff members now will contact the boards and commissions on the potential cut list and ask them to furnish minutes of their meetings, contact information on their board members, their financial records, websites and other information.

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

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