Cooling-off period again sought for Nevada legislators

CARSON CITY — Assemblyman Pat Hickey is making another effort this session to establish a cooling-off period for state lawmakers who want to become contract lobbyists at the Legislature.

Assembly Bill 273 would prohibit a lawmaker who left office in November of an election year from working as a lobbyist, with some exceptions, until the date of adjournment of the next regular session of the Legislature.

Hickey, R-Reno, testified for his bill in a hearing before the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee.

Chairman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, took no immediate action on the measure. If approved, it would not take effect until November 2016.

Hickey said no specific incident prompted his bill.

“There is no scandal to speak of now in Nevada,” he said. “However, I am here to argue before you that it is still the right thing to do.”

Hickey said the “revolving door” situation raises ethical questions, such as whether a lawmaker who was planning to become a lobbyist at a following legislative session might be influenced to vote a particular way on a bill that was favored or opposed by a potential future client.

Hickey said 33 other states have similar cooling-off provisions to stop the scenario in which a lawmaker who retires from office or who fails to win re-election immediately goes to work in the Legislature as a lobbyist.

There would be exceptions in cases where a lawmaker went to work for an entity, say a county, and acted as a lobbyist for that local government, Hickey said. But professional contract lobbyists, who frequently serve a long list of clients, would be covered by the one-session prohibition, he said.

Former lawmakers who work as lobbyists are a common sight in the hallways of the Legislative Building.

Hickey said he is not criticizing the lobbying profession, and characterized his measure as good “open government” policy.

Hickey proposed a similar measure in 2013. It passed the Assembly on a 40-1 vote but did not see action in the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections. Previous efforts to establish a cooling-off period have all failed.

There was virtually no testimony on the measure either for or against.

John Wagner, representing the Independent American Party, said he supported the bill but not the penalties. The bill would make it a misdemeanor to violate the prohibition.

Contact Sean Whaley at or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.

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