by Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: More than 250 new bill requests were filed for drafting last week by lawmakers and others on issues ranging from requiring health insurance plans to cover acupuncture treatments to implementing a four-year cooling off period before former lawmakers could work as lobbyists.
Other measures would require the precise language of pending legislation to be posted on the Legislature’s website at least three business days before a vote, change the posting dates of campaign contribution and expense reports to make the information more readily available to voters and make changes to the modified business tax to encourage more hiring.
Assemblyman Joe Hogan, D-Las Vegas, said he requested a bill to change the dates of when campaign reports must be filed by candidates so voters would have more time to analyze the information. The current filing deadlines are right before the primary and general elections and give little or no time for voters to review the contribution and expense reports, he said.
The information isn’t available at all to the majority of people who choose to vote early, Hogan said.
Careful voters will try to have a look at the reports to see if a candidate is “wholly owned” by some special interest, he said.
The bill would also require a candidate to list a specific beginning and ending balance each year, he said.
“It would bring completeness to the reporting system that has been needed for a long time,” Hogan said.
The new bill drafts also include a number of proposals from outgoing Gov. Jim Gibbons, including measures to create a voucher program for students and eliminate mandatory collective bargaining for local governments and their employees.
The proposals, which now total 520, will be drafted into legislation for consideration by the 2011 Legislature. Sept. 1 was the deadline for state and local agencies to submit bill drafts. Lawmakers were also required to have some of their requests submitted by the same date.
Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, requested the cooling off and bill posting measures.
“We always talk about how we are going to reform government – it has to start with transparency,” he said. “With transparency you will have increased accountability.”
Goedhart said he requested the cooling off measure for lawmakers and statewide office holders even before the controversy arose recently regarding Morse Arberry, who resigned as a long-time Assemblyman to accept a lobbying contract with the Clark County District Court system. That contract was rejected today by the Clark County Commission.
Goedhart said he has seen examples of lawmakers positioning themselves to take advantage of their connections when they leave office. A future payday should not be a reason for someone to run for public office, he said.
Requiring a four- or two-year cooling off period should eliminate that as a reason to run for elective office, Goedhart said.
The bill posting request is to ensure lawmakers and the public have a chance to read a measure before it is voted on, he said.
Goedhart mentioned two specific incidents, one in 2009 and the other in the February special session, where measures were rushed through without time for review. One was dubbed the “absolution resolution” which he said was intended to give lawmakers cover to vote for tax increases. The other was the last-minute vote in the special session on a bill to create construction jobs in Nevada. The bill in part eliminated the sunset of a tax levy in Clark County to fund the projects.
“It was the biggest tax increase that was never mentioned in the last (special) session,” Goedhart said. “These are the types of abuses that my bill hopefully will, if not make downright impossible, will at least make them a lot more difficult.”
Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, requested the modified business tax (MBT) measure as a way to encourage hiring by Nevada businesses.
The proposal would be to exempt new employees from the MBT to provide an incentive to employers to hire more workers, he said.
“We have to look at ways to get new jobs,” Settelmeyer said.
The bill requiring acupuncture treatments to be covered by health plans offered in Nevada was requested by Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who sought a similar measure without success in the 2009 session.
In testimony in 2009, Segerblom said the coverage is not costly and results in health care savings. The state health plan offers acupuncture treatments and the benefit has not cost the plan a significant amount of money, he said.
Insurance company officials and small business representatives expressed concern, however, about the cost of adding mandated coverage because of the increased cost to consumers.
“Frankly this is a noninvasive medical procedure that in fact saves money,” Segerblom said today. “If it cures people, or deals with their pain problems, then it is better for everybody.”
Assemblyman Tick Segerblom says requiring acupuncture coverage will reduce medical costs:
Assemblyman Ed Goedhart says a cooling off period would ensure people run for public office for the right reasons:
Goedhart says giving lawmakers and public time to read bills before vote would reduce the number of questionable measures:
Goedhart says transparency will bring about accountability, fiscal responsibility: