The Nevada Legislature has a storied, infamous history of deliberately delaying the introduction of tax-increase legislation, then debating the plan behind closed doors. Lobbyists get their say. Unwashed taxpayers do not.
The cynical maneuvering denies opposition the opportunity to organize. And the result is predictable: poor tax policy, rushed to passage at the close of each session, forcing lawmakers to revisit said policy every two years.
On Monday, three weeks before the start of the 2015 Legislature, new Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson promised a different approach to taxation. During the first NewsFeed breakfast panel discussion — a new partnership between the Las Vegas Review-Journal and the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce — Sen. Roberson said the Revenue Committee, which he will chair, would meet three times per week instead of two.
“We are going to pass tax reform out of the Senate, I hope, by the month of March,” Sen. Roberson said. “We are going to get on this right away in February.
“This is going to require bipartisanship. I want every legislator to be involved.”
Of course, similar promises of transparent deliberation have been made before legislative sessions, only to be broken with cruel haste. But the urgency of Nevada’s budget problems — booming school enrollments and a set of tax increases that expire June 30 — and the leadership of Gov. Brian Sandoval have created a different set of expectations this year. Nevadans don’t want a repeat of past sessions. Gov. Sandoval unveils his budget and his policy agenda in Thursday’s State of the State address.
The Legislature, unlike local government bodies, is not subject to the state’s open meeting law. That means lawmakers do not have to provide the public with notice about their business, and they can meet and deliberate in secret before voting in the open.
We hope Sen. Roberson can make good on his promises. They would provide the public with plenty of opportunities to comment on tax plans. And they would start to reverse a sorry legacy of secrecy in Carson City.