Posts Tagged ‘checkbook’

Nevada Assembly Majority Leader Says Public Transparency Issues Will Be Major Focus Of 2011 Session

By Sean Whaley | 6:21 am September 10th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera said yesterday he will pursue a number of transparency measures in the 2011 legislative session with an eye towards providing the public with accountability and confidence in how the state spends taxpayer dollars.

Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said Assembly Democrats have been working on a number of ideas since last session, including a two-year “cooling off” period before former state lawmakers and other officials could work as lobbyists.

Oceguera, who is expected to be elected speaker for the 2011 session, said Assembly Democrats want to go even further than some other proposals for a cooling off law to include state regulators and local government officials as well.

“Some of these ideas were part of a bill last session that didn’t make it out of the Senate but made it out of the Assembly,” he said. “So it has been on our radar since at least last session and we’ve tried to refine it and look at what we think we can get passed. But some of the issues we’re going to pass out of the Assembly one way or the other.”

The cooling off proposal predates the recent controversy over former Assemblyman Morse Arberry, who resigned to accept a lobbying contract with the Clark County District Court. The contract was rejected earlier this week by the Clark County Commission.

In announcing the proposals earlier in the week, Oceguera said: “We’re serious about reforming the way Nevada government does its business. Today, we are putting a series of reforms before the public. They are common sense and timely measures, and I will work for bipartisan support in both the Assembly and Senate.”

Among the reforms Assembly Democrats will pursue include:

- Establishing a two-year cooling off period before an elected official can be hired to lobby the government body where the individual served;

- Creating a two-year cooling off period before an elected official or regulator can be hired to work for any agency they regulated or oversaw;

- Putting the state’s checkbook online where taxpayers can see how tax dollars are spent;

- Putting the entire state budget on the web so taxpayers can see spending priorities;

- Requiring all candidates for public office to report every financial contribution, the amount and donor, online within 72 hours of receipt.

Gov. Jim Gibbons has created a transparency page on state government spending on his website, so at least some of the state budget and spending information is already available to the public.

Oceguera said the Assembly Democrat proposal for reporting campaign contributions goes even further than what is being sought by Secretary of State Ross Miller, who wants earlier reporting of contributions and expenditures as well. Miller also wants reports filed electronically so the public can search the information more easily.

Oceguera said he and Miller worked closely on other measures in 2009 and will likely do so on the campaign reports transparency issue in the upcoming session as well.

Efforts to improve the reporting and usefulness of campaign reports have ended in failure in the past. A proposal to require online reporting for most officials passed the Assembly in 2009 but the provision was deleted in a Senate Committee by Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno.

Transparency has become an issue for many lawmakers on many different fronts. Many of those running for seats in the state Senate and Assembly have responded to a transparency questionnaire sent out by the Nevada Policy Research Institute. It asks candidates for their views on the posting of state spending information online as well as the need for a searchable database for campaign contributions, among other issues.

Other lawmakers have previously weighed in with their own proposals, including Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, who has proposed a four-year cooling off period for lawmakers and statewide elected officials who want to become lobbyists.

Goedhart also wants a three-day wait before bills are voted on by the Legislature, another transparency proposal included on the NPRI candidate questionnaire.

Assemblyman Joe Hogan, D-Las Vegas, has weighed in with his own plan to change the campaign report filing deadlines to make the reports more useful to voters. He introduced similar legislation in 2009 that did not get a hearing.

Democrat candidate for governor Rory Reid in December released an ethics reform plan that includes a call for a two-year cooling off period before former lawmakers or state employees can represent private interests at the Legislature.

Twenty-six states have such laws. Nevada does not.

___

Audio clips:

Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera says the Assembly will work to get transparency measures passed next session:

090910Oceguera1 :22 or the other.”

Oceguera says Assembly cooling off law would go further than what others are suggesting:

090910Oceguera2 :23 are talking about.”

Nevada Transparency Website Still Missing Contract Information, Searchable Functions

By Sean Whaley | 9:42 am July 15th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s transparency website, where taxpayers can go to examine details of spending by state agencies, still does not include a critical component that would make the information more useful.

Budget limitations have put a plan to put contract information on the site in a searchable format on hold, said state Budget Director Andrew Clinger.

In the meantime, contracts approved by the Board of Examiners at each meeting are being posted on the Department of Administration’s website, he said. Because the information is in a PDF format however, it is not searchable, Clinger said.

But the information, which now includes descriptions of the contracts, the source of funding for the contract, and whether it is a sole source contract, is available for review, he said.

“Without additional funding at this point I’m not sure when we will be able to have the contracts posted in a fashion that is searchable and those types of things that make it even more transparent,” Clinger said. “It is still on our list of priorities. It just depends on the funding in the next session.”

The contracts approved by the Board of Examiners are also posted by the Nevada Policy Research Institute at its TransparentNevada website. The contracts are searchable by contractor, state agency or description going back to January of this year.

Gibbons issued a proclamation in March of 2008 requiring the creation of a transparency website “as soon as practicable.”

Called the Nevada Open Government Initiative, the proclamation specified the need for an “easily searchable database of financial transactions related to government budgets and expenditures . . .”

The site is up and operating and includes a searchable database where taxpayers can delve into detail showing actual payments to vendors.  Searches can be performed by vendor name or by agency.

It has been criticized in the past by some for not being complete.

In a study grading the states on their transparency efforts on government spending released by the U.S. Public Interest Research Group in April, Nevada received a C and is listed as one of 25 “emerging states” with transparency websites that provide less comprehensive information.

Seven states: Kentucky, Ohio, Illinois, Minnesota, Texas, Missouri and Pennsylvania, received As and Bs.

But Nevada was not far behind, earning a 78 score out of 100 and coming in at 10th in the rankings.

Nevada is identified in the report as being one of 25 states with “checkbook-level transparency allowing viewing of individual government transactions, akin to viewing the government’s checkbook.”

Two areas where Nevada failed to score well were related to contracts. Nevada received five of 10 points for the posting of contract information, and zero of five points for the posting of past contracts. Nevada’s site was penalized because the actual contracts cannot be viewed.

Contract information is a failing for most state websites, according to the study.

“Most transparency websites do not provide enough detailed information on government contracts. Even some of the leading websites provide only a short description (two to three words) of the purpose of the contracts.”

Nevada’s contract information is inconsistent, with some descriptions lengthier than a few words and others briefer. But the information has not yet been posted or linked to the governor’s transparency website. Instead it is found on the Department of Administration’s website.

The difficulty in finding information was another failing of many sites according to the study.

“Transparency websites should be one-click searchable,” the study said. “Residents should be able to search data with a single query or browse common-sense categories. Websites should also let residents sort data on government spending by recipient, amount, legislative district, granting agency, purpose, or keyword.”

“The good news is that state governments have become far more transparent about where the money goes,” said Phineas Baxandall, senior analyst for tax and budget policy at U.S. PIRG and co-author of the report. “But even the leading states have a lot of room for improvement.”

___

audio clips:

Nevada Budget Director Andrew Clinger says some contract information is now available:

071410Clinger1 :26 on our website.”

Clinger says the Legislature will have to provide funding for a searchable contracts database:

071410Clinger2 :21 data they want.”