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Assembly panel hears simplified campaign finance reform bill

By ThisIsReno

By Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau: A simplified campaign finance reform bill that would require most candidates to file their contribution and expense reports electronically was given a generally favorable reception today during an Assembly Committee hearing.

The Committee on Legislative Affairs and Operations introduced Assembly Bill 452. The bill contains three key provisions from Secretary of State Ross Miller’s campaign finance bills, which the panel reviewed earlier this session.

But some provisions of the other legislation – Assembly Bills 81 and 82 – were criticized at the hearing earlier this month, including a proposal to increase filing fees for candidates for public office.

“And so the idea here was to strip out the three most important provisions that would really advance Nevada’s campaign finance measures and allow them to proceed as a single bill so that if people are hung up on certain provisions of AB81 or 82 these provisions would be allowed to go forward,” Miller said.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said the new bill was drafted to include those important reform provisions that appear to have the support of lawmakers and the public.

No one spoke in opposition to the campaign reform elements of the bill, although several amendments were offered by lawmakers and lobbyists. The bill will be reviewed later in a committee work session.

Miller testified in support of the bill, saying the current system of filing campaign reports by mail, and in a format that does not allow the public to search the information, is inadequate. Electronic filing would allow Miller’s office to create an online searchable database of the information.

AB452 also proposes to move up the filing dates of the campaign contribution and expense reports so the information is available prior to early voting. Reports would be filed four days before early voting and would be updated to reflect any additional contributions and expenses four days prior to the primary and general elections.

It would also make the Secretary of State’s office the central repository for the campaign reports for all elections, as well as for financial disclosure statements required of candidates and elected officials. These reports would also be filed electronically.

Gov. Brian Sandoval is in favor of the electronic filing requirement for campaign reports as well.

Miller said he is optimistic the bill will move forward, given that leadership in both the Assembly and Senate also support the reforms.

The bill also proposes to impose a two-year “cooling off” period before public officers, such as members of the Legislature, could be paid to lobby the body where they had served. For members of the Legislature, it would prohibit a former lawmaker from being paid to lobby at the Legislature in the next session following their leaving office.

Miller said this section of the bill is not within the purview of his office, but was sought by lawmakers.

Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, an attorney and member of the committee, expressed concern that the cooling off period could affect his ability to represent a client and indicated he may have to oppose the bill unless the provision can be amended.

Miller said he will continue to seek passage of AB81 and 82 because they contain important reforms needed for transparency in Nevada’s elections.

“These are the three major provisions that could dramatically improve transparency in the process, but AB81 and 82 have major provisions that put disclosure requirements on third-party groups and additional reporting requirements, and that is a significant area of concern every election, is who is financing these campaigns, these shadowy third-party groups,” he said. “We’ve got to get that under control.”

Audio clips:

Secretary of State Ross Miller says the idea was to take the three key campaign finance reform provisions and put them in one bill:

032911Miller2 :23 to go forward.”

Miller said he will still pursue the other measures because they contain important election reforms:

032911Miller2 :24 that under control.”

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