The Department of Taxation required attendees of a Thursday meeting about marijuana distribution to sign in and show identification.
It is illegal to require members of the public to show ID for entry into meetings in other states, including California and Florida. Nevada law simply states that “all meetings of public bodies must be open and public, and all persons must be permitted to attend any meeting of these public bodies.”
No one was turned away from the meeting or prohibited from speaking. But Tod Story, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union, said requiring ID for attendees could limit people from exercising their rights and possibly violates the state’s open meeting laws.
“It would seem to me that if the agency is going to hold a meeting for public comment, then they would be subject to the open meeting law,” Story said. “Public access is not contingent upon you being able to show identification or provide it.”
Tax Department director Deonne Contine argued that the meeting itself was not subject to Nevada’s open meeting laws because the department is not “a public body.”
The attorney general’s website states that Nevada’s open meeting laws only apply to meetings when a quorum, or simple majority of voting members, is present. The Tax Department does not have a voting body.
The attorney general’s office could not be reached for comment.
“Demanding identification from members of the public who wish to attend a public meeting clearly violates the spirit of the open meeting law, if not the letter,” said Review-Journal Managing Editor Glenn Cook. “Nowhere in state law does it declare that citizens must prove their identity to simply witness the functions of a government body. Such practices could have a chilling effect on participation in government and limit public scrutiny of public business.”
Stephanie Klapstein, spokeswoman for the Tax Department, said the ID requirement was not for the meeting itself, but because it was held inside the department’s buildings in Henderson and Carson City. The two offices were linked via teleconference and people were able to call into the meeting and fully participate.
Klapstein said the department requires IDs for anyone admitted beyond the buildings’ lobbies because of the sensitive personal and financial information and the amount money that is handled in the building.
“It’s primarily for safety,” Klapstein said.
Contact Colton Lochhead at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-4638. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.