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Senate Majority Leader Cannizzaro Must Ensure Records Bill Receives a Vote (Opinion)


Nevada Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro

Submitted by the Right to Know Nevada Coalition

The Right to Know Nevada coalition is calling on Nevada Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro and Assistant Majority Leader Julia Ratti to allow a vote on SB287, which would increase transparency in government by strengthening Nevada’s Public Records Act.

The coalition is among the most ideologically diverse in Nevada history, and includes groups like the ACLU of Nevada, the League of Women Voters of Nevada, the Society of Professional Journalists, as well as the Nevada Press Association, the Nevada Policy Research Institute, Power2Parent, and media organizations across the state.

SB287 also enjoys broad bipartisan support among lawmakers and is sponsored by Sens. David Parks (D-7), Pat Spearman (D-1) and Ira Hansen (R-14).

The bill was introduced because too many Nevada agencies ignore or violate the clear language of the Nevada Public Records Act, which states that the “public books and records” of state and local governments are open for inspection in order “to foster democratic principles.”

“I am immensely proud of the work my colleagues David Parks and Ben Kieckhefer have put in to get SB287 to where it is today,” Sen. Hansen said, “and I look forward to voting to advance the bill out of the Senate as soon as possible.”

Unfortunately, SB287 still hasn’t received a vote in the Senate Finance Committee, even though committee Chairwoman Joyce Woodhouse, Vice Chair David Parks and committee member Mo Denis are all either primary sponsors or co-sponsors of the bill. Additionally, committee member Ben Kieckhefer is a strong supporter of the bill and has worked extensively to produce amended, compromise language that addressed the concerns of all stakeholders.

Such broad, bipartisan support suggests that SB287 would almost certainly pass out of the committee and the Senate as a whole — if only a vote were held.

“Senator Parks has worked tirelessly with legislators from both parties to advance this important legislation,” ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Tod Story said. “The public deserves to know where their representatives stand on the issue of transparency in government, and we call on Senator Cannizzaro and Chair Woodhouse to act immediately to ensure the bill receives a vote.”

The inaction on SB287 by Democratic leadership is even more perplexing because increasing government transparency has long been a priority for Gov. Steve Sisolak as well.

In a recent interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, the governor again expressed his support for strengthening Nevada’s Public Records Act, and he specifically highlighted three areas in need of reform, all of which are addressed by SB287: excessive production fees charged to requesters, the lack of penalties for non-compliance, and extended delays in providing access to public records.

“It is my understanding that Republican leadership also supports SB287,” NPRI Policy Director Robert Fellner said. “The governor effectively endorsed every aspect of the bill last month, so it is unclear why Democratic leadership is apparently trying to prevent the bill from ever receiving a vote.”

Sondra Cosgrove, president of the League of Women Voters of Nevada, said that ensuring prompt access to public records, as SB287 would do, could “mean the difference between access to food and shelter or a life on the streets” for those with disabilities.

Nevadans deserve a transparent and accountable government. They also deserve to know where their elected officials stand on this issue. The Right to Know Nevada coalition calls on Senators Cannizzaro and Woodhouse to work together to ensure SB287 receives a vote immediately.

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