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Nevada Senate passes amended PERS secrecy bill

CARSON CITY — The Senate and Assembly worked late into the evening Monday ahead of a Tuesday deadline for bill passage, with senators narrowly approving new confidentiality requirements around public employee retirement records among two dozen Senate bills passed.

The closest vote of the day came on Senate Bill 224, which would shield the names of retired public employees, though it would still allow other pension information to be released. The bill passed 11-10 with two Democrats joining all eight Republicans to oppose it.

Advocates say public employees, amid concerns regarding potential identity theft and privacy, should not be required to have their full retirement record open to the public. Opponents maintain that the level of transparency does not put retirees at risk and is necessary to guard against excessive or improper pension awards.

The bill was amended on the Senate floor late Friday to limit its scope to retirement records only, not all public employee records. Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said he opposed the measure on grounds that the benefits are taxpayer funded.

“The people who are paying those funds have the right to know the name and the amount,” he said. “I believe the public does have the right to know who it is and how much they are benefiting.”

Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro and Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop, both Las Vegas Democrats, joined Republicans in voting no.

“I didn’t vote for it last session and I didn’t vote for it this session,” Cannizzaro said. “Obviously I think that information is important.”

The Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 185, sponsored by Sen. Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, which aims to fix a 2017 law that required fingerprinting and background checks for school volunteers. The earlier bill had the unintended effect of discouraging school volunteerism. The changes exempts certain groups from the requirements.

Senators voted 15-6 on Senate Bill 354, which would make changes to the state Higher Education Board of Regents if a pending constitutional amendment passes the Legislature this year and voters approve the change next year. Republican Sens. Scott Hammond of Las Vegas and Ben Kieckhefer of Reno voted with Senate Democrats.

The bill would reduce the number of regents from the current 13 down to nine, and would shorten regents’ terms from six years to four. It also calls for five of the nine members to be elected, and four appointed by the governor. (An amendment to eliminate the appointment of some members was not adopted before the bill passed the Senate.)

Contact Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-0661. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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