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ACLU’s open-records bill fails

Here’s a statement from the ACLU of Nevada last week on the death of its open-records bill. It did not get a vote before Friday’s deadline. The Nevada Press Association supported the bill and was working with the sponsors to try to make it work.

The ACLU of Nevada was informed today that SB 170, the Silver State Sunshine Act will likely not be voted on in the Senate Government Affairs Committee. The Act would have allowed requesters working in the public interest to obtain records at no cost and place limitations on how long agencies can take to respond to requests. SB  170 would have given the public a more responsive, transparent government through an updated public records law.

A majority of state and local agencies that submitted fiscal notes (113), agreed that updating the public records act in Nevada would have no fiscal impact. Only nine agencies (about 8%)  claimed the bill would require them to expend additional funds to comply (https://www.leg.state.nv.us/App/NELIS/REL/79th2017/Bill/5021/FiscalNotes). After the bill’s introduction, stakeholders were encouraged by the Government Affairs Committee to work with the ACLU to address concerns and reach consensus, and after doing so, all but two of the stakeholders agreed to amend the bill and support it. Despite the ACLU of Nevada working diligently with stakeholders to amend SB 170 and accommodate their concerns, two entities: the City of Henderson, and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department continue to oppose the bill—even in its amended form.

Upon learning of the agencies unwilling to compromise, Executive Director, Tod Story stated, “We cannot agree to let government entities charge whatever fee they want when the public requests to see the records paid for by their tax dollars. We don’t think the fiscal notes were warranted, but even with them, less than half a million dollars is a small price to pay for transparency in government. SB 170 would have given Nevadans a modernized, more efficient, more accountable government through an expanded public records law and cost even less than was projected initially.”

Despite overwhelming agreement by a majority of stakeholders and a majority of senators on the Government Affairs Committee, the Silver State Sunshine Act (SB 170) may not survive the first committee passage deadline of April 14.

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