Nevada secretary of state pushes online campaign reports

(AP) - A leaner election reform bill would preserve the essential elements to make Nevada's political campaigns more transparent, Secretary of State Ross Miller told an Assembly committee Tuesday.

AB452 is a slimmed down version of sweeping election reforms that Miller introduced earlier in the session. The bill requires online reporting of campaign contributions and expenses, and imposes new reporting deadlines before early voting begins and four days before a primary or general election.

It also makes the secretary of state's office the custodian of all campaign reports statewide.

Under existing law, reports can be handwritten and must be filed - or mailed - seven days before an election, well after early voting begins. And because they can be mailed from anywhere, there's no guarantee they are available for public scrutiny before voters go to the polls.

Requiring electronic filing would allow for searchable databases to track campaign reports and donors.

"Voters deserve better of us," Miller told the Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections.

Another provision backed by Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, extends from one year to two the period certain regulators or public officials must wait before lobbying former colleagues.

Oceguera said the intent is to create a reasonable time between when regulators or lawmakers leave their posts before they can accept payment to lobby their former bodies on behalf of clients.

It would not prohibit someone from lobbying in an unpaid capacity.

He said he hoped that adding the "cooling off" language wouldn't "complicate" the bill or doom its passage.

But Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said he wouldn't support it. A lawyer, Horne said it could restrict attorneys who serve in Nevada's citizen Legislature or other public bodies from their livelihood.

"You're telling me I can't represent my client?" he asked.

The committee also heard testimony on Assembly Joint Resolution 2, a proposed constitutional amendment to allow for annual legislative sessions. Sessions in odd-numbered years would be 90 days; those in even-numbered years 60 days.

Nevada lawmakers currently meet every two years, and sessions are limited to 120 days.

But since that law was passed in 1999, there have been 10 special sessions convened, most to address budget problems or finalize bills not completed in regular session.

Assemblyman Richard "Tick" Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, a backer of the measure, said convening every two years makes it impossible for lawmakers to respond to financial or other emergencies that crop up between sessions.

"There's way too much to do in 120 days," he said. "It's almost impossible this day and age to budget and plan for two years ahead of time," he said.

"Realistically, it's time for Nevada to enter the 21st Century," he said.

The resolution also would allow lawmakers to receive pay for the full length of the session. Right now, they only receive salary for the first 60 days of session. Another provision would establish a commission to recommend how much lawmakers should be paid.

Legislators currently receive $146.29 per day for the first 60 days, though they passed a resolution at the beginning of this year's session to voluntarily give up 4.6 percent to match the lost wages of state workers who have been required to take a monthly furlough day since July 2009. The give back dropped lawmakers' pay to $139.56 per day.

In addition, they also receive a per diem of $154 for every day of the session.

A similar bill to implement annual sessions passed the Assembly in 2009 but died in the Senate.

But some committee members worried annual sessions would put Nevada on course to establishing a full-time Legislature.

Assemblyman Tom Grady, R-Yerington, said he's not heard any support from constituents on the idea.

"I don't think people are ready to accept this," he said.

No action was taken by the committee Tuesday.


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