By Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau: A bill from Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, would put a cap on fees that state or local governments can charge for public documents.
Assembly Bill 159 would reduce the fee for public records from $1 per page to 10 cents per page.
In a hearing today, Colleen McCarty from the investigative team at KLAS-TV Channel 8 in Las Vegas said that some agencies can charge “exorbitant” amounts for records.
“More and more this is the way that public agencies work to delay us or discourage us to get the records that we believe an open society should have access to,” she said.
Representatives from some of Nevada’s various city and county governments, school districts and court systems, testified in opposition to the bill.
“Many times people are looking for a needle in a haystack and while the needle is not expensive, they want us to pay for the haystack,” said Joyce Haldeman, who represents the Clark County School District.
She joined others in citing concerns about labor costs in complying with records requests.
While advances in technology have made more records available online and at less cost to the taxpayer, not all records are created equal.
For example, the minutes and agendas of meetings can be posted online for free at relatively no cost to the government.
Other requests can take hours to fill. Only charging 10 cents per page for these more complicated requests would mean government agencies would lose money, said many of those who testified against the bill.
Karen Gray at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a free-market think tank, testified that she has encountered discrepancies regarding the cost of public records.
NPRI often makes large requests of government agencies. It hosts the oft-cited database of public employee salaries on one of its websites.
Other lawmakers noted that even if the 10 cent fee was too low, Segerblom’s bill would at least provide consistency.
“To the public, so any of these policies on public records look capricious when we have different costs and different fees,” said Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson, D-Reno. ” …I think it’s worth a conversation so how we get a more consistent policy in place.”
The Assembly Government Affairs committee that heard the bill has not yet taken a vote on it.