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Tax roll publishing questioned

CARSON CITY — Nearly every local government lobbyist in the state called for legislators Tuesday to repeal a law requiring them to publish the annual property tax rolls and public notices in newspapers.

North Las Vegas lobbyist Dan Musgrove quipped it only was a “money issue for the Nevada Press Association and especially the Review-Journal.”

Assemblyman Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, asked the Assembly Government Affairs Committee to add an amendment to make it optional for local governments to place any government notices and advertising in newspapers. Instead the governments would post such information on their websites.

Aizley said the bill would have saved local governments a combined $800,000 last December because they would not have to publish the tax rolls in their local newspapers.

“In these economic times, it is important to help government to become more cost efficient,” Aizley said.

He contended that more people have access to the Internet and that it is easier for them to find tax information online.

Bills to lift the requirement that the tax rolls be published in newspapers have been debated in the Legislature for years. Two years ago Gov. Jim Gibbons vetoed a similar bill.

Government Affairs Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, took no vote on the bill, which must pass out of her committee by Friday or is dead for the remainder of the session. But Kirkpatrick expressed opposition to the bill.

“I just worrying about losing sight that everything can’t be on the Internet,” she said. “The assessor rolls are something I look through to see what may neighbors are paying.”

Mike Murphy, a Clark County lobbyist, said his employer would save $600,000 by not publishing the tax rolls and $500,000 more if it did not have to publish other information. He added the people who want tax roll information can “call us on the telephone and we will talk to them.”

But Barry Smith, director of the Nevada Press Association, said a survey conducted for his association in 2008 found 56 percent of respondents prefer to read notices in newspapers, compared with 18 percent on the Internet.

In addition, 87 percent said local and state governments should be required to publish tax rolls and other notices in newspapers.

He added the law provides “third-party accountability” because newspapers, not the governments, make sure the notices are properly printed.

With the Internet, items can be changed easily by a government or even hacked, Smith said, noting even Sony’s website was hacked last week. He added government might be inclined to change a meeting notice time to 6 p.m. without telling anyone if someone found the time mistakenly had been put as 6 a.m. on the Internet.

Smith added that there are 350 government agencies in Nevada, almost all with websites. He questioned whether people would know where to look for information they now find in the back of their newspapers.

But other than Kirkpatrick and Assembly members Pete Livermore, R-Carson City, and John Ellison, R-Elko, there was no support expressed by committee members for keeping the current law.

“I have voted for this bill four times, and I am going to vote for it again,” said Assemblyman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas.

“It is a good bill,” added Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley. “It is good for the environment. It is good for our budget. The only one it is bad for is the newspapers. I’m all for that.”

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