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Public records reform bill still waiting in Nevada Senate

Updated May 28, 2019 - 4:48 pm

CARSON CITY – A major public records access reform bill, teetering on failure in the Legislature’s final days, might still see action to move it forward, the chair of the hearing committee said Tuesday morning.

“It’s just getting it into the flow of what we’re doing right now,” said Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, who chairs the Senate Finance committee. The committee, currently working through appropriations bills, also serves as a home of last resort for bills that still have a chance to pass. “We’ll have a decision on that, probably today.”

Senate Bill 287 was parked in the Finance committee after it failed to move out of its original hearing committee to the Senate floor. The bill ran into opposition from governments and other public agencies that see its stronger access provisions as burdensome and potentially punitive.

The bill is backed by a coalition that includes civil rights and good-government watchdogs, media organizations and elected officials. Drafted as a response to agency foot-dragging and stonewalling, it aims to improve records access in several ways, limiting fees agencies may charge for producing records, providing for faster electronic delivery in most cases, and requiring agencies to help requesters find the records they want instead of denying overly broad or misdirected requests.

As originally written, the bill included stiff penalties for non-compliance that drew strong opposition from public agencies, which also protested potentially higher workloads and processing costs. The bill got a three-hour hearing in early April and was expected to see amendments to answer some the agency concerns. But those changes were not sufficient to win support to advance the bill to the Senate and it was referred to a second committee to keep it alive.

Sponsoring Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, said Tuesday he had not yet been told the bill is dead and was “still in the process of meeting with local governments on it.”

“As time allows, I’m going to take another look at it and see what else we can do,” Parks said. “I’m not throwing the towel in yet.”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal is among the advocates comprising Right to Know Nevada, an umbrella group pushing for the bill’s passage. In a statement from the group, the ACLU of Nevada, another advocate, pressed Senate leadership to allow a hearing on the bill.

“The public deserves to know where their representatives stand on the issue of transparency in government,” Executive Director Tod Story said.

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

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