Posts Tagged ‘Miller’

Major Campaign Finance Reform Bill Clears Senate Committee Hurdle

By Sean Whaley | 8:28 pm May 19th, 2011

CARSON CITY – CARSON CITY – A bill seeking major reforms to Nevada’s campaign finance laws won approval from a Senate panel today after controversial provisions requiring a two-year cooling off period from lobbying by former public officials were stripped from the measure.

Assembly Bill 452 was approved by the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee with Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, voting no.

The bill will now go to the full Senate for a vote. The bill has already been passed by the Assembly. If approved by the full Senate, the different versions of the bill will have to be reconciled between the two houses before it could go to Gov. Brian Sandoval for his review.

Sandoval has said he supports the idea of electronic filing of campaign reports.

The vote by the committee came one day before a deadline for action on most bills.

The bill sought by Secretary of State Ross Miller would require on-line filing of campaign contribution and expense reports by most candidates and require earlier reporting of the information so voters could review the data before casting their ballots.

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.

The information would be maintained in a searchable database so the public could review the reports in a simple and comprehensive way.

In testimony before the panel earlier this session, Miller said: “A big part of the transparency we want to provide is letting voters know who is funding the campaigns. The reasons of course are obvious, and the need is equally obvious, even to those outside of Nevada.”

Miller said Nevada consistently receives an “F” grade from the Campaign Disclosure Project by the UCLA School of Law for the state’s campaign finance disclosure laws because of the lack of transparency.

Miller tried to get similar legislation through the 2009 session but a final version of the bill was not approved as time ran out.

The cooling off provisions in the bill, which would have prohibited a former lawmaker from lobbying the Legislature for pay for two years, were removed after concerns were expressed by Crystal Jackson, executive director of the Public Utilities Commission. The proposed cooling off provisions applied to PUC commissioners and others public officers as well.

Jackson said extending the current one-year cooling off period for the PUC to two years could make it difficult to recruit key staff.

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee, told the Senate panel that his committee could accept the removal of the cooling off provisions. There are so many other important provisions in the bill that the cooling off sections should not hold the measure up, he said.

The provisions, which were not sought by Miller, had already proved an issue for some lawmakers, including Assemblyman Horne, D-Las Vegas, an attorney, who objected to them in Assembly hearings, saying he would be prohibited from representing a client in the Legislature if he left office.

“I have a fundamental disagreement with some of my colleagues that you should prohibit someone from doing what they’re gainfully employed to do,” Horne said.

Campaign Finance And Election Reform Bills Win Approval In Assembly By Deadline

By Sean Whaley | 8:06 pm April 26th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Two bills that would close loopholes and increase transparency in Nevada’s election and campaign finance laws won approval in the Assembly today with no time to spare.

Secretary of State Ross Miller is seeking the bills restricting the use of multiple political action committees to bypass campaign contribution limits and requiring electronic filing of campaign contribution and expense reports by most candidates.

Today was the deadline for the bills to win Assembly approval or see no further consideration in the 2011 legislative session. They will now be considered by the Senate.

Assembly Bill 452 contains the provisions requiring most candidates for public office to file their campaign reports electronically so the data can be entered into a searchable database. The bill also requires the reports to be filed before early voting so voters can see who gave money to candidates and where they spent their funds.

Assembly Bill 81 contains a provision restricting the creation of political action committees to circumvent limits on how much money can be contributed to a campaign as is now being reviewed in Rory Reid’s failed gubernatorial bid.

Miller’s office is investigating Reid’s use of 90 shell political action committees his campaign established to funnel $750,000 into his race for Nevada governor. Reid has said the use of the multiple PACs was legal. The use of the PACs was first reported by political commentator Jon Ralston.

The section of the bill had been deleted by the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee after some lawmakers expressed concern that the language in the bill could be improperly applied to their caucus and leadership PACs as well.

New language that was acceptable to a majority of the Assembly membership was amended into the bill on the Assembly floor before the final vote sending the measure to the Senate.

Another section of the bill would allow for bigger financial penalties if a third-party group spends money in a Nevada campaign without filing the required disclosure information.

The proposed language is intended to clarify state law and allow Miller to count each activity, such as multiple ad buys, as separate violations that could bring civil penalties. The clarification would help ensure compliance with the reporting requirements.

“It’s always been our position that every TV buy was an actionable violation of the statute,” Miller said after the committee vote earlier this month. “We recognize that it could certainly be argued that, in the aggregate, all of those violations only constituted one violation.

“Obviously it is a poor policy because it would allow a significant out-of-state buy and somebody to say, ‘here is your $5,000 fine and that’s an acceptable cost of doing business for us,’ ” he said.

The bill passed on a 32-10 vote with the “no” votes from Republicans. Six Republicans voted for the measure.

AB452, which also contains a controversial provision requiring a two-year cooling off period before a former lawmaker could be paid to work as a lobbyist in the Legislature, passed on a 27-15 vote with a mix of Democrats and Republicans in support.

Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, an attorney, objected to the provision, saying it would prohibit him from representing a client in the Legislature if he left office.

Assemblyman William Horne confers with colleagues on the Assembly floor today/Photo: Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau

“I have a fundamental disagreement with some of my colleagues that you should prohibit someone from doing what they’re gainfully employed to do,” Horne said after the vote.

He said “it’s a fiction” to imagine that two years spent away from the Legislature would erase the relationships he has built as an Assemblyman.

But Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, said that the cooling-off period is all about public perception.

“We want to promote good governance and a process that is free from influence, even if it’s sometimes not,” she said.

Assemblyman Skip Daly, D-Sparks, was a lobbyist before he became a legislator. He also voted against the bill because he said it would restrict a citizen from doing part of a job if that job required lobbying at the Legislature.

He said it would have been better to establish a two-year cooling-off period for a “hired gun” who lobbies at the Legislature as a contract lobbyist.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, commented on the unusual votes: “I think people are just voting their conscience. … I really don’t think there’s a problem, but the public perceives a problem … For me, it was a matter of principle and earning the public’s trust.”

AB452 would require campaign contribution and expense reports to 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.

The provisions for electronic filing and earlier filing dates for the reports are being sought  by Miller who has said Nevada’s current reporting laws result in the state getting a failing grade on campaign transparency.

Nevada has consistently received poor grades for its transparency on election reform efforts, including an “F” in 2008 from the Campaign Disclosure Project.

Nevada News Bureau intern Andrew Doughman contributed to this report.

Campaign Reform Bill, Minus Key Section, Wins Approval From Assembly Committee

By Sean Whaley | 5:03 pm April 14th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The third of three campaign finance reform bills being pushed by Secretary of State Ross Miller this session passed out of an Assembly committee today, but an important provision regulating political action committees was removed.

Lawmakers say the deletion of a key provision of Assembly Bill 81 is only temporary.

The section, which is aimed at restricting the ability of a candidate to create multiple PACs to fund a campaign and circumvent contribution limits – as is now being reviewed in Rory Reid’s failed gubernatorial bid – will be restored when suitable language is finalized.

Assembly Bill 81 had to pass out of the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee by Friday or it would not be eligible for further consideration this legislative session.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said the provision is important and he is committed to continue working on the language in Section 59.5 (c) that says “affiliated” political action committees would be collectively restricted on the amounts they could contribute to a campaign.

Another section of the bill sought by Miller, which would allow for bigger financial penalties if a third-party group spent money in a Nevada campaign without filing the required disclosure information, was approved by the committee.

The proposed language in Section 49.5 is intended to give the Secretary of State the ability to seek larger fines from third party groups that fail to follow the reporting requirements in Nevada law, Miller said. The proposal would allow each activity, such as an ad buy, to count as a separate violation that could bring a civil penalty. The clarification would help ensure compliance with the reporting requirements.

“It’s always been our position that every TV buy was an actionable violation of the statute,” Miller said. “We recognize that it could certainly be argued that, in the aggregate, all of those violations only constituted one violation.

“Obviously it is a poor policy because it would allow a significant out-of-state buy and somebody to say, ‘here is your $5,000 fine and that’s an acceptable cost of doing business for us,’ ” he said.

Two other campaign finance reform bills, Assembly Bills 82 and 452, have already been passed out of the committee. AB452 would require candidates to file their campaign contribution and expense reports online and allow the public to search the reports for donor information.

Miller’s office is investigating Reid’s use of 90 shell political action committees his campaign established to funnel $750,000 into his failed race for Nevada governor. Reid has said the use of the multiple PACs was legal.

The use of the PACs by Reid was first reported by political analyst and columnist Jon Ralston.

The language in AB81 is meant to clarify that such PACs are collectively subject to campaign contribution limits.

But some lawmakers have expressed concern that the language in the bill could be improperly applied to their caucus and leadership PACs as well.

Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, vice chairwoman of the panel, said an effort to clarify the intent has not yet been successful.

“We were concerned that it was perhaps too broad and that there could be some instances where there (are) caucuses or related PACs in the future that are affiliated and would inadvertently be caught up in this provision,” she said.

But new language developed to address the concern, “actually made it worse,” Flores said.

Miller said the concerns of legislative leaders on the applicability of the section are legitimate.

“So we’re committed to working with them on language that would be acceptable,” he said.

Panel Chairman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said: “I think it is pretty clear on the record everybody is committed to making this happen, so I think if we struck it, it wouldn’t be like we’re actually getting rid of the language.”

Oceguera pledged to keep working on the issue.

“It’s my pledge Mr. Chairman to you to get this done,” he said. “We think it’s an important piece of legislation, an important part of this legislation, and if we have to do a floor amendment to make it right we will.”

Audio clips:

Assemblywoman Lucy Flores says concerns remain with the current language:

041411Flores 33 made it worse.”

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera says lawmakers are committed to fixing the problem:

041411Oceguera :13 it right yet.”

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom says the deletion is only temporary:

041411Segerblom :06 of the language.”

Secretary of State Ross Miller says the third-party language needs to be clarified:

041411Miller1 :13 constituted one violation.”

Miller says current law is not enough of a deterrent:

041411Miller2 :11 business for us.’ “

 

Major Campaign Finance Bill Wins Favorable Vote In Assembly Committee

By Sean Whaley | 4:16 pm April 7th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A major campaign finance reform bill that would require most candidates to file their contribution and expense reports electronically narrowly passed out of an Assembly panel today on an 8-7 vote.

The bill would also move filing deadlines up to give voters more time to review the political donation and expense information before casting their ballots.

Assembly Bill 452 was approved by the Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections and will now go to the full Assembly for a vote. It must then be considered by the Senate.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera and Assemblyman Marcus Conklin consider campaign reform bills today. Photo: Nevada News Bureau

The close vote appeared to be related more to opposition to a separate section of the bill imposing a two-year cooling off period before former lawmakers could lobby the Legislature rather than the campaign reporting provisions. The vote was not along party-lines.

The provisions for electronic filing and earlier filing dates for the reports are being sought by Secretary of State Ross Miller, who has said Nevada’s current reporting laws result in the state getting a failing grade on campaign transparency.

Electronic filing of the reports will allow Miller’s office to create a searchable database of the information, making it much easier for the public to use.

Nevada has consistently received poor grades for its transparency on election reform efforts, including an “F” in 2008 from the Campaign Disclosure Project.

The reforms were originally in two other bills sought by Miller, Assembly Bills 81 and 82, which also contained numerous other changes to campaign and elections law. Because there was some concern about several sections of these two bills, the key reporting provisions were incorporated into the separate bill by Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, as a way to move the reforms forward.

AB81 and 82 have now been heavily amended, with many sections that caused concerns among members of the public removed. The panel delayed action on AB81, but also passed AB82 in the work session. AB81 will come up for further review on Tuesday.

Proposed to be removed from AB81 was a provision to increase filing fees for candidates, and another prohibiting a person from running for office if the individual had an unpaid civil or criminal penalty. A provision providing for time off from work for an employee to participate in a presidential caucus is proposed to be removed as well.

A provision imposing disclosure requirements on third-party groups that spend money on behalf of or against a candidate remain in AB81.

AB82 also had several sections deleted by the panel, although a provision allowing a county to establish an electronic voter registration system remains intact.

AB452 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.

The 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, continued to see opposition from some members of the committee. 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.

Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, an attorney and member of the committee, opposed the provision because of a concern it could affect his ability to represent a client in his professional capacity.

His concerns were supported by some other panel members, including Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, who said it is another disincentive for people to run for public office.

“We hear so often about how it is so difficult to get people to want to run for office, how there are so many obstacles, whether it is being away from your family or giving up time from your career,” he said. “And I see section 22 as one more obstacle that we put up in front of people who might want to serve and I don’t think it is good policy.”

But Oceguera said the cooling off proposal in section 22 is one that is being adopted by several states, and that appearances are important to ensure public confidence in elected officials.

“It’s not a matter of whether people are doing anything wrong, I can’t point to anything specifically, I think it is a matter of perception,” he said. “And this goes in line with what many other states are doing and what the federal law does as well and I think we need to be accountable to the public.”

Audio clips:

Assemblyman James Ohrenschall questions whether a cooling off provision is a disincentive to run for office:

040711Ohrenschall :23 it’s good policy.”

Speaker John Oceguera says the provision is necessary to address public perception of legislative process:

040711Oceguera :27 nothing going on.”

 

 

Assembly Panel Hears Simplified Campaign Finance Reform Bill

By Sean Whaley | 4:29 pm March 29th, 2011

CARSON CITY – 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.”

 

Hearing Canceled On Measure To Fine Companies For Failing To Obtain State Business Licenses

By Sean Whaley | 10:38 am February 15th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A bill that would impose fines of $1,000 to $10,000 on businesses that failed to obtain a state business license after being notified by the secretary of state’s office has been pulled from a scheduled committee hearing.

Assembly Bill 78, sought by Secretary of State Ross Miller, had been set for a hearing on Wednesday in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.

Pam duPré, public information officer for the secretary of state’s office, said today Miller wants to clarify some of the language in the bill, and expects it to be rescheduled for a hearing before the Judiciary committee next week.

Freshman GOP Assemblyman Mark Sherwood last week criticized the bill, saying it would hurt Nevada’s business climate. Sherwood sent an email to Miller on Wednesday raising concerns about the bill but did not get a response. He then issued a press release saying the bill as written “would kill jobs and destroy businesses.”

Current law allows for fines for willful failure to obtain a state business license. AB 78 as currently written would remove the requirement for willfulness before such fines could be imposed.

Sherwood’s concerns were reported Friday by the Nevada News Bureau.

GOP Lawmaker Opposes Bill to Impose Big Fines on Unlicensed Businesses

By Sean Whaley | 4:26 pm February 11th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Freshman GOP Assemblyman Mark Sherwood is taking Secretary of State Ross Miller to task for proposing legislation that he says will hurt Nevada’s business climate.

Sherwood, R-Henderson, said Assembly Bill 78, set for a hearing Thursday in the Judiciary Committee, “would kill jobs and destroy businesses.”

The bill would impose fines of at least $1,000 for businesses that fail to obtain or renew a state business license within 30 days of receiving notice of such failure from the secretary of state’s office.

Sherwood called the fines, which could rise to $10,000, unfair, noting they could be imposed even on businesses that accidentally failed to obtain a license within the specified time frame.

Current law allows for fines for willful failure to obtain a state business license. AB 78 would remove the requirement for willfulness before such fines could be imposed.

“The word willfully has been stricken from the new revision so no matter what, in 30 days, if you don’t pay this bill, you are on the hook for no less than $1,000,” Sherwood said.

Sherwood said an agent often obtains the license for the business, and the business owner may not see the documentation for 30 days.

“At a time when we should be doing all we can to assist small businesses and remove government obstacles to their success, it is simply outrageous to create new bureaucratic burdens on small business owners,” he said. “This is one of the most egregious anti-business proposals I have ever seen.”

Sherwood said he emailed his concerns to Miller but has not yet received a response.

Asked for a response to Sherwood’s criticisms of the measure, Miller said in an email: “It is unfortunate that, during a time when this state should be focused on coming together to find solutions, Mr. Sherwood has instead chosen to resort to partisan motivated publicity stunts before understanding or perhaps even reading the bill.”

As a member of the Board of Examiners, Miller has sought to ensure that businesses awarded contracts by the state have a state business license.

Sherwood said he has read the bill and is concerned about what such fines might mean to Nevada’s troubled economy and business climate.

“Times are hard enough on Nevada’s entrepreneurs,” he said. “As legislators, we should be working to remove Draconian government roadblocks, not create more of them.”

Audio clip:

Assemblyman Mark Sherwood says AB78 would fine businesses even for accidentally failing to obtain a business license within the specified time frame:

021111Sherwood :10 less than $1,000.”

Bipartisan Support Offers Good Chance For Campaign Finance Reform In 2011 Session

By Sean Whaley | 1:40 pm February 10th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Secretary of State Ross Miller says the time is ripe to get a substantial campaign finance reform package through the Legislature, and with Gov. Brian Sandoval and lawmakers of both parties in agreement on the need for change, he may be right.

“I believe we probably have the best chance to pass meaningful campaign finance reform this session than in any other cycle we’ve had,” Miller said.

“Every time an outside group comes in and gives Nevada an ‘F’ and ranks us dead last in terms of campaign finance transparency, the single biggest complaint that they have is that we allow for handwritten, paper-based reports that can be sent in often times a day or so before the election,” he said. “In a state where well over half the people will vote early, that’s not helpful to anybody.”

Miller’s reform measures, Assembly Bills 81 and 82, were introduced on the first day of the session on Monday. AB82 would require candidates in most cases to file their campaign contribution and expense reports electronically so the public could easily review the information in a searchable database.

Assembly Bill 81 would require the reports to be filed four days ahead of early voting, with an update due the Friday prior to the primary and general election days. Currently the reports are filed just seven days before the primary and general elections, well after many Nevadans have already cast their ballots. The reports can also be mailed in, making the information even less useful to voters.

Miller said the idea is to get the information out to the public at the appropriate time, and in a format that would allow voters to examine the reports in a convenient way.

“The current structure is a disaster and we deserve the ‘F’ we get every cycle,” he said. “This legislation I don’t think will move us to an ‘A’ but I would be happy with a ‘C’ at this point. I would be happy with a passing grade.”

Efforts to require electronic filing of the reports have failed in past sessions due to opposition by some lawmakers.

Sandoval supports electronic filing as well.

In a statement from his office in response to a query about the measures, spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner said: “We’re still reviewing the full bills as they cover many election issues, but we do support the electronic filing because it has the potential to put the information in the hands of voters earlier in the campaign. We’ll continue to monitor these bills and other campaign measures.”

Sandoval said he has been in conversation with Miller on the need for campaign and election reform.

“I know there are some items that I’m going to be supportive of within his package,” he said.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, who had initially indicated he might pursue his own measure, said instead he will likely use Miller’s bills as a starting point for implementing needed reforms. Oceguera said he is optimistic the Legislature will adopt needed changes to the reporting process.

Oceguera said he has not yet read Miller’s proposals, but does conceptually support reforms.

“We should be as transparent as possible,” he said.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, said she is optimistic as well that reforms will succeed this session.

“We do everything online now,” she said of her campaign reports. “So I’m there. I’m up with technology and so I have no problems with it. I support Ross Miller and the changes that he wants and I think it is going to be fine.

“There is no reason not to do it,” said Cegavske, a member of the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee that will hear the bills later in the session.

In addition to the bipartisan support, some opponents of the reforms are no longer serving in the Legislature, which could also improve chances for passage.

Former Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, made the motion to delete the electronic filing requirement in Miller’s campaign bill in the last days of the 2009 session. The Assembly had already weakened the requirement by postponing its effective date to 2011 so it would not affect the 2010 campaign season.

In this session, the two bills have now been referred to the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee. A hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Miller said a proposal requiring the reporting of large contributions within 72 hours within 21 days of an election is not part of his reform package this session.

There was some opposition to the idea from some elected officials who said it was too burdensome, he said.

Oceguera said in September he would seek such a change to state law this session, but in comments earlier this week he appeared to back off the idea.

The Nevada Legislature is made up of citizens who have regular jobs, families and other commitments, he said.

“You should report those as quickly as you possibly can, but I don’t know if 72 hours is the appropriate number,” Oceguera said. “Maybe we give people 10 days or two weeks.”

Miller said he is making the reform proposals a priority for his office, and is engaged in public outreach to drum up support for the changes, including a Facebook page. Past efforts at reform may have failed in part because lawmakers did not get any sense that the public was concerned about the need for the changes, he said.

“It is a modest step forward to mandate that these reports be filed electronically,” he said. “It does not create any additional burden on elected officials or candidates, and while at the same time would be a giant leap forward in putting more transparency in place.”

Audio clips:

Secretary of State Ross Miller says 2011 session is best chance to pass campaign reforms in long time:

021011Miller1 :10 cycle we’ve had.”

Miller says electronic filing of campaign reports is absolutely necessary:

021011Miller2 :24 before the election.”

Miller says failure to use electronic filing is why the state gets bad grades for campaign finance reform:

021011Miller3 :22 before the election.”

Miller says current process is not helpful to anyone:

021011Miller4 :22 before the election.”

Miller says his proposals are modest but would be giant leap forward for transparency:

021011Miller5 :25 transparency in place.”

Miller says the current reporting process is a disaster:

021011Miller6 :05 get every cycle.”

Miller says his reforms will at least give the state a passing grade for campaign reform:

021011Miller7 :09 a passing grade.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval says there are proposals in Miller’s bills that he will support:

021011Sandoval :04 within his package.”

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera says a 72-hour reporting requirement for some contributions may be too burdensome:

021011Oceguera :12 go to work.”

Sen. Barbara Cegavske says she supports Miller’s electronic filing requirement:

021011Cegavske :08 to be fine.”

$177 Million Medicaid Contract Approved By Gov. Sandoval, Board Of Examiners

By Sean Whaley | 4:08 pm January 11th, 2011

CARSON CITY – It didn’t take long for Gov. Brian Sandoval to encounter controversy in his new job.

At his first Board of Examiners meeting as governor today, Sandoval had to deal with a vendor dispute over a massive $177 million Medicaid contract.

The board, which also includes Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller, approved the contract with HP Enterprise Services after hearing that the second place bidder, ACS State Healthcare, failed to file a timely protest.

Gov. Brian Sandoval presides over his first Board of Examiners meeting as governor

The five-year contract is for the fiscal agent for the state’s Medicaid program run by the Department of Health and Human Services. The company will manage the state’s Medicaid information system including the processing of payments to medical providers.

“It’s the monster contract we have,” said Mike Willden, director of the Department of Health and Human Services.

Attorney Josh Hicks, who had previously served as general counsel to Gov. Jim Gibbons, represented ACS at the meeting. He said the size of the contract made posting the bond to file a formal challenge cost-prohibitive. It would have required $245,000 to post the bond, he told the board. The money would not be refundable to the company.

Willden said he believed the contract was properly awarded and that any lengthy delay in approving the agreement could cost the state several million dollars.

Sandoval raised numerous questions about the contract along with Miller, who initially asked for more details on the agreement. Sandoval has previously served on the board as attorney general.

Miller and others had received a four-page letter from ACS detailing the company’s concerns about the award of the contract. The concerns included a belief that there was a scope of work change in the negotiations with HP, and that the final cost was “materially different.”

In the ACS letter, Hicks said in part: “Even more shocking than the protracted negotiation was the revelation that during the negotiation period, approximately $30 million in cost was added to the contract. This was done confidentially, without participation from other vendors and therefore in a noncompetitive fashion, and without any re-scoring of the original proposal.”

Willden said he and other state staff, including representatives from the attorney general’s office, spent the past four days reviewing the award process and found no issues. There were negotiated changes to the contract after HP was selected, but Willden said there were no changes significant enough to warrant restarting the bidding process.

Four firms bid on the contract, he said. HP’s base bid was about $140 million, while ACS’s bid was $179 million. The contract negotiation process with HP resulted in the final $177 million contact.

“Yes there was an increase, in obviously the basic bid price by about $30 million,” Willden said. “I don’t think it is a significant, in my opinion, a change in the scope of work. These are types of things that when we pick a vendor, a contractor, there will be negotiated items.

“I believe due diligence is done and we have a lawfully bid contract,” Willden said.

After the vote, Miller said: “The contractor appears to be bringing much needed value to the state in an essential area of state service. Although some concerns were raised prior to the contract being approved, Director Willden testified today that he is confident that he fully vetted those issues with the Department of Administration and the Attorney General’s office prior to recommending that the contract be approved.”

Nevada’s current contractor, Magellan First Health, is providing Medicaid services in only two states, while HP is working in 22 states, he said.

“So we’re now in the majority club rather than a very minority state,” Willden said.

The conversion to HP is expected to occur by mid-summer, he said.

“This is a very more well planned, thoughtful process, and we hope don’t have the hiccups we had when First Health came on board,” Willden said.

Audio clips:

HHS Director Mike Willden says he believes the contract with HP is proper:

011111Willden3 :17 be negotiated items.”

Willden says HP runs similar systems in 22 states:

011111Willden1 :10 very minority state.”

Willden says this transition should be smoother than the last:

011111Willden2 :09 Health came onboard.”

Nevada Gains 4th Congressional Seat In 2010 Census Count

By Sean Whaley | 2:01 pm December 21st, 2010

CARSON CITY – Despite a dramatic slowdown in Nevada’s population growth, and even some net out-migration for the first time in recent memory, the U.S. Census Bureau report today shows the state will gain a fourth congressional seat in 2013.


Nevada led the nation in the percentage increase in its population since the 2000 census at 35.1 percent to 2,700,551, even with some population loss during the current economic slowdown.


It will be the third new seat added in the past four census counts. Nevada added its second seat in 1983 and its third in 2003.


Now the Nevada Legislature will have to redraw the district boundaries to generate four congressional seats instead of three. This effort, and the redrawing of the legislative boundaries, will be a major issue for lawmakers in the 2011 session.


Gov.-elect Brian Sandoval said the gain of a seat in congress will be critically important to addressing the issues facing Nevada, particularly those at the federal level, and he asked for a fair redistricting process in the 2011 session.


“As the Legislature looks to take up reapportionment during the upcoming session, it is my hope the process will proceed in an orderly manner on behalf of the voters and not politics,” he said. “I plan to work with both the Assembly and the Senate to ensure the process is fair and balanced.”


Rep. Dean Heller, R-NV, who represents the state’s 2nd Congressional District, welcomed the news from the Census Bureau.


“After much speculation, I am pleased Nevada will be receiving an additional congressional seat,” he said. “The Nevada delegation works closely together on issues important to our state and adding another voice to the congressional delegation will greatly benefit the state of Nevada.”


Secretary of State Ross Miller today said it was the strong response by Nevada residents that helped ensure the creation of Nevada’s fourth seat.


According to the census data, Nevada’s total 2010 population is 2,700,551, up 35.1 percent from 2000. The rate of growth in the last decade was just more than half of the 66.3 percent rate of population growth in Nevada from 1990 to 2000.


“The 2010 Census turned out to be a great civics lesson in Nevada,” said Miller, who served as chairman of the Nevada Complete Count Committee. “The outcome could have been very different had just a few more Nevadans neglected to fill out their census forms.”


For many years following the 2000 Census, as the population grew faster in Nevada than in any other state, most observers assumed that Nevada would gain another seat in Congress in 2010. But the demographics changed in 2007 as Nevada suffered some of the worst fallout of the economic recession. The state lost thousands of jobs and, as a result, actually lost population for the first time in decades. The state demographer estimates the state lost nearly 100,000 residents in the last two years, about a 5 percent decline since 2000.


“This turned out to be a closer call than we thought just a couple of years ago,” Miller said. “The thousands of people across the state who took a few minutes to send in their forms made the 2010 Census a success story in Nevada.”


Beginning in 2012, the population of Nevada’s four congressional districts will be 677,358, up 10,000 from 2000. Nationwide, the average congressional district will have a population of 710,767.


The census count is also used to determine how federal funding for a number of projects and services is apportioned to the states. Gov. Jim Gibbons’ SAGE Commission estimates that for every person counted, the state will receive $917 in federal funds for school lunch programs, family support programs, senior centers, job training, and new construction for projects from highways to hospitals.


The U.S. Census Bureau said this year’s count showed the national population as of April 1 was 308,745,538, an increase of 9.7 percent over the 2000 U.S. resident population of 281,421,906.


U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke, Acting Commerce Deputy Secretary Rebecca Blank and Census Bureau Director Robert Groves unveiled the official counts at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.


“A big thanks to the American public for its overwhelming response to the 2010 Census,” Locke said. “The result was a successful count that came in on time and well under budget, with a final 2010 Census savings of $1.87 billion.”


The most populous state was California (37,253,956); the least populous, Wyoming (563,626). The state that gained the most numerically since the 2000 Census was Texas (up 4,293,741 to 25,145,561) and the state that gained the most as a percentage of its 2000 Census count was Nevada (up 35.1% to 2,700,551).


Beginning in February and wrapping up by March 31, 2011, the Census Bureau will release demographic data to the states on a rolling basis so state governments can start the redistricting process.


Article I, Section 2 of the U.S. Constitution calls for a census of the nation’s population every 10 years to apportion the House seats among the states. The 2010 Census is the 23rd census in U.S. history.

Nevada Officials Moving Quickly To Address Concerns With State Employee Contracting

By Sean Whaley | 5:39 pm December 14th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Secretary of State Ross Miller said today an audit released last week examining current and former state employees winning contracts with state agencies contained “alarming findings.”

Miller asked for a response from Department of Administration Director Andrew Clinger on how the findings are going to be addressed. He made his comments at the Board of Examiners meeting, which is the panel that approves contracts entered into by the state. The board is made up of the governor, attorney general and secretary of state.

Miller said he wants to make sure the issues raised in the audit, including some contracts with current and former state employees that appear to involve excessively high rates of pay, are adequately addressed.

Clinger said a working group is being assembled to review current policies and procedures and will meet for the first time tomorrow. Representatives from the Attorney General’s office, the state Purchasing Division, the executive branch Internal Audit Division and others, will meet to develop recommendations to curb any further abuses, he said.

Clinger said he would like to bring some changes to the Board of Examiners by February for its approval, “to help prevent these sorts of violations from happening in the future.”

After the meeting, Clinger said the contracts are reviewed either by his agency or other state agencies that contract directly for the work, but there are no rules in place to deal with the issues raised in the Legislative Counsel Bureau audit reviewed by lawmakers.

A lot of the employees are hired under employment contracts approved by the Board of Examiners, he said. Once these “master service” agreements are approved by the board, the agencies can then contract with people individually and so the details of the employment agreements with current or former state employees do not come back to the board for review, Clinger said.

Clinger said he believes that the issue of excessive hours and pay identified in the audit involves a very small number of current and former state employees, but said he was disappointed by the findings.

“I was disappointed from the standpoint of given where we’re at with the budget crisis, and given where we’re at with public perception, I think it hurts our credibility going into session,” he said.

There may be justification for some of the rates of pay identified in the audit, but Clinger said at first look, the $350 an hour being paid to one former employee seems excessive.

The audit of Nevada state agencies using current and former employees as contractors identified numerous potential concerns, including a case of one worker seeking payment for 25 hours of work in one 24-hour day and another where a former state worker is now earning $350 an hour as a contractor versus $65 an hour in his state job.

The audit also found an example of a current state employee earning $62,590 as a contractor in fiscal years 2008 and 2009 while earning a state salary as well.

At least eight examples were identified where state employees working as contractors either did the contract work during regular state work hours or could not provide documentation to show they did the work on their own time.

The Legislative Commission’s Audit Subcommittee voted to turn the audit over to Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto for a review of possible criminal violations.

The audit identified 250 current and former employees providing services to the state. These employees were paid a total of $11.6 million during fiscal years 2008 and 2009, the years covered by the review.

Audio clips:

Secretary of State Ross Miller says state agencies must correct issues found in audit:

121410Miller :12 the cracks again.”

Administration Director Andrew Clinger says he is working to put safeguards in place:

121410Clinger1 :15 deal with those.”

Clinger says the audit has hurt the state’s credibility going into the 2011 legislative session:

121410Clinger2 :13 going into session.”

Secretary Of State Wants Private Employers That Win State Contracts To Check Status Of Employees

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 3:12 pm December 14th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Secretary of State Ross Miller today asked the state Board of Examiners to adopt a new rule requiring private employers who are awarded state contracts to use the federal E-Verify® program to ensure that only eligible workers are hired at their companies.

Miller asked that the board take up the issue at its next meeting in January.

Miller is also urging all employers in the state to voluntarily use E-Verify®, an electronic program that verifies the eligibility of their employees once they’re hired.

The program, authorized by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996, compares information from a new hire’s Form I-9 to other federal records to determine if the employee is eligible to work in the United States. Federal officials say the system is fast and accurate, matching data to millions of records kept by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and providing results within seconds.

“This is a quick and easy way for employers to gain some peace of mind, knowing that their new hires are in fact eligible to work in this country,” Miller said. “Not only is it the law, and therefore good business, but with so many Nevadans out of work, we must also make sure that the available jobs we do have are filled by qualified, eligible workers.”

E-Verify® is administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, USCIS, and the SSA. About 1,400 Nevada employers are already signed up to use the system, which provides 24-hour secure access, instant results, interactive training to get set up, and full customer service. Nearly a quarter million employers are signed up nationwide, ranging from small mom-and-pop stores to multinational corporations.

Nevada Secretary Of State Says No Evidence Of Vote Fraud

By Sean Whaley | 11:06 am October 27th, 2010

RENO – Secretary of State Ross Miller said today there have been no complaints filed with his office about suspicious voter activity despite email rumors and media accounts that at least some electronic voting machines are pre-programmed to support U.S. Senate candidate Harry Reid, D-NV.

Miller, holding the first of two media briefings on the allegations, urged anyone seeing a violation of election or voting law to file a formal complaint with his office so it can be investigated.

“I know that tensions are running high this election and that emotions are running very strong, but I want to set the record straight,” he said. “This is the entire reason that we have formed the Election Integrity Task Force in 2008. I’m not going to stand for any fraud or intimidation at the polling place, but nor will I stand idly by and listen to rumors and innuendos undermine the integrity of our electoral process.”

Miller said several allegations have been raised as early voting is set to conclude ahead of Election Day on Nov. 2, none of which have been substantiated.

The most shocking allegation came Tuesday from Boulder City resident Joyce Ferrara, who complained to Fox news in Las Vegas that when she went to vote for GOP U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle, Reid’s name was already checked on the electronic voting machine.

Miller said he first heard of the allegation via a Google alert from Fox news, and subsequently on the Drudge Report. Miller said the voter did not contact his office but went directly to Fox5 News.

Miller said it is “technically impossible” for someone to pre-program software in Nevada’s voting machines because it is not a centralized process. The election is carried out by the 17 county election officials, he said.

While it possible for a voter to inadvertently select a candidate, it is not possible for the machine to automatically select a candidate, Miller said. The electronic voting machine has a verification screen at the end of the process so the voter can see who was selected. Only then is the vote cast, he said.

It is irresponsible and unfortunate that such claims are being made because it undermines the public’s confidence in the electoral process, Miller said.

Other claims in the run-up to Nevada’s election include that voters are being compensated to cast their ballots. The task force has not received any complaint of that occurring and neither has the FBI, Miller said.

The basis of these claims is rumor and innuendo, he said.

“We want the public to come forward,” Miller said. “If someone is compensating somebody by giving a Starbucks card in order to vote for Harry Reid, we want to know about it because that is a violation of state law and a violation of federal law.”

Voters can be given something of value to generally encourage them to vote under Nevada law, he said.

Miller said his office is investigating one formal 44-page complaint filed Tuesday by the Nevada Republican Party regarding differences in the number of votes cast on the machines and the paper voting logs. A secretary of state attorney outside the elections division is doing the investigation.

These differences occur every election cycle and are usually due to common elections procedures, he said. The numbers are always reconciled and all votes that are actually cast are counted, Miller said.

“That said, we’re taking these issues very seriously,” he said.

A final report of the investigation into the issue will be made available to the public.

Washoe County Registrar of Voters Dan Burk said voters have a role in the process as well. If they have a question or concern in the middle of the voting process they need to tell the poll workers right away.

“If they don’t let us know and they go ahead and cast their ballot, there is no way we can assist them,” he said.

Miller said election complaints can be filed on the secretary of state’s website main page in the lower left-hand corner by clicking on the Election Integrity Task Force Badge.

Audio clips:

Secretary of State Ross Miller says despite rumors and news reports, there is no evidence of vote fraud in the Nevada election:

101710Miller1 :28 our electoral process.”

Miller urges the public to come forward if they have evidence of attempts to buy votes:

102710Miller2 :12 of federal law.”

Fiery Nevada Secretary Of State Debate Focuses On Past Allegations

By Sean Whaley | 9:08 pm October 13th, 2010

Update (Nov. 3, 2011): The battery charges against Rob Lauer were dismissed this week.

Update (Jan. 22, 2011): Former Nevada secretary of state candidate Rob Lauer has filed a libel and defamation lawsuit against the woman who accused him of battery. At issue are some of her statements made to the media and to our editor (and that were subsequently included in blog posts on this website).

*

Original story

A debate today between Democrat Secretary of State Ross Miller and his Republican opponent Rob Lauer spent most of the time on past controversies, including Lauer’s alleged assault of a woman in a bar and Miller’s track record of prosecution as a Clark County deputy district attorney.

In one of the more fiery debates on the Face To Face television program hosted by Jon Ralston, the discussion started with an ad being run by Miller on Lauer’s alleged attack of a woman in a Las Vegas bar in June of this year. It also touched on an arrest of Lauer involving a business deal.

Lauer complained that the bar incident is being pushed for political reasons, while Miller countered that Lauer is facing misdemeanor charges in the case where he allegedly assaulted longtime Clark County GOP activist Jennifer von Tobel. Von Tobel filed a police report in the matter.

Lauer said he was contacted by an attorney representing Von Tobel seeking money to “make it go away” and that he would not cut a deal. Lauer declined to name the attorney.

Lauer’s arrest in California on a charge of grand theft involving the sale of an aircraft was also discussed.

Lauer said his accuser lied to the police and the charges have been dismissed. Lauer said he now has a case against his accuser for perjury.

“So at what point am I determined to be innocent,” he asked.

Miller acknowledged Lauer has not been convicted of a crime but said the ad is intended to show the differences between himself and his opponent.

“There is a sharp contrast in this race,” he said. “This is a very important position. And we’re treating this as if it was a job interview. And I as a former criminal prosecutor have a background that I’m very proud of. I’m proud of what we’ve accomplished in this office. And obviously one of the things that I think needs to be highlighted is my opponent’s background.”

For his part, Lauer criticized Miller’s performance in a Clark County criminal case, where he let an “axe murder” out of jail with a plea bargain that was questioned by a judge.

“So his record as a prosecutor, frankly is troubling,” Lauer said.

Miller said the case involved a man named Billy Merritt who had a troubled criminal history. Miller said he inherited a case involving Merritt that was years old and the witnesses to the crime could not be produced. Miller said a plea deal was agreed to by the entire district attorney’s office.

Merritt was the shooter in the infamous “show and tell” case where a man was lured to the desert and killed. After his release from prison Merritt was charged with attempting to kill a man with a hatchet.

It was this case that Miller prosecuted.

“I have an outstanding record as a criminal prosecutor,” Miller said.

Lauer said also he has evidence of voter fraud that has not investigated by Miller.

Miller said he has cracked down on voter fraud against ACORN, a Democratic organization charged with crimes from the 2008 general election. A trial in the case is still pending, which Lauer said is intentional to get the matter postponed until after the Nov. 2 general election.

Lauer said he has evidence of, “a lot of people who are voting who don’t exist and I have a record of that.”

Miller said he will investigate any voter fraud allegations if there is evidence to support such claims but that he won’t chase unfounded claims.

“But we’ll absolutely look into the allegations and if they have merit we’ll go after them,” he said.

Audio clips:

Secretary of State Ross Miller says Lauer’s background is an issue in the race:

101310Miller1 :15 my opponent’s background.”

Lauer says the assault allegation is politically motivated:

101310Lauer1 :21 I do not.”

Lauer says he has evidence of voter fraud that Miller has not investigated:

101310Lauer2 :04 that possibly be.”

Miller says he will investigate voter fraud if the allegations have merit:

101310Miller2 :07 go after them.”

State Lawmaker To File Campaign Report Before Early Voting, Challenges Other Candidates To Do The Same

By Sean Whaley | 3:40 pm September 28th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada state Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, said today he will voluntarily file his campaign contribution and expense report before early voting begins to give the public adequate time to review the information.

Goedhart, who is running for re-election, said he is joining with Secretary of State Ross Miller in filing his report well ahead of the deadline now in state law.

Miller announced earlier this month he would voluntarily file early and electronically in support of legislation he will seek next session to improve public access to the information contained in the reports. Miller said he will also file a report four days before the general election detailing any contributions received by his campaign in excess of $1,000 after the initial report filing.

Campaign reports from candidates are not due now until Oct. 26, 10 days after early voting begins and only a few days before the Nov. 2 general election.

“There are legitimate concerns surrounding the disclosure of the identities of donors to political campaigns, especially when incumbent legislators are in a position to threaten, either subtly or overtly, retaliation against citizens who contribute to an opposing candidate,” Goedhart said.

“However, if the law requires disclosure, then such disclosure should be done in a timely fashion that provides voters the information they need to make an informed decision at the ballot box before they vote,” he said. “If we’re going to have early voting, then we need to have early disclosure.”

In addition to filing his report before early voting begins Oct. 16, Goedhart said he will also report contributions of $100 or more on his campaign website within 48 hours of receipt through election day.

He challenged other candidates to file early as well.

“We’re never going to get government to be fiscally responsible if we are not transparent and accountable,” Goedhart said.

Audio clips:

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart says he will report his contributions ahead of early voting and update the information through election day:

092810Goedhart1 :17 $100 or more.”

Goedhart says transparency will lead to fiscal responsibility:

092810Goedhart2 :05 transparent and accountable.”

Goedhart says reporting law must reflect popularity of early voting:

092810Goedhart3 :12 reality of voting.”