Ask a government agency for access to public documents and you never know what response you’ll get. Some will provide the information immediately. Others may take a few days to comply. And a handful may ignore or stonewall your request altogether.
Obtaining public documents shouldn’t be a crapshoot. So state Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, sponsored Senate Bill 123, which would mandate timely responses to public record requests.
His proposal initially included a provision giving agencies two days to comply with such requests. It was later amended to five days.
The bill was also watered down to exempt the state Gaming Control Board.
In its current state, SB123 shouldn’t be remotely controversial. It simply mandates that agencies do what they’re supposed to be doing under the law in the first place.
But never underestimate how far government bureaucracies will go to avoid taxpayer scrutiny — or to pad their budgets.
On Friday, an official with the state Department of Transportation told the Senate Finance Committee that if SB123 is approved, his agency will need to hire two new bureaucrats to deal with records requests.
If the Nevada Department of Transportation will need two new employees — complete with generous benefits and pensions — just to address records requests in a timely fashion, does that mean it currently doesn’t comply with the spirit of the law?
“I don’t understand why they would need two additional people,” said Sen. Care. “There shouldn’t be a price tag on open records.”
NDOT’s protestations are either a thinly veiled effort to slow the progress of a measure that should be a no-brainer or a brazen effort to wring more money out of the taxpayers. Either way, lawmakers should ignore such nonsense and approve SB123.