Posts Tagged ‘Segerblom’

Conservative Nevada Think Tank Grades Lawmakers On Taxes, Education Reform

By Sean Whaley | 2:00 am June 28th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A conservative Nevada think tank gave passing scores to 22 Republicans in the just-concluded 2011 legislative session, handing out failing scores to four other GOP lawmakers and all 37 Democrats in a report card released today.

The report card produced by Geoffrey Lawrence of the Nevada Policy Research Institute formulated the grades based on each lawmaker’s voting record on legislation related to economic freedom and education reform. The 78 specific bills used in the analysis are available for review at the group’s website.

Tops in the analysis was Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, with a score of 89.1 percent out of a possible 100. He was followed by Sens. Greg Brower, R-Reno, and Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, with scores of 88.63 percent. Sens. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, with a score of 88.15 percent, and James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, at 87.68 percent, rounded out the top five.

Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, won top honors in the NPRI report card./Nevada News Bureau file photo

The 12 lawmakers with the highest scores were all Republicans who voted against a measure to extend a package of taxes for two more years, six in the Senate and six in the Assembly.

“I think that will make my constituents very happy,” Gustavson said of his grade. “The business community as well.”

The state was not in a position to raise taxes this past session, although a majority of lawmakers ended up supporting such a policy, he said.

“We need to keep business going by not raising their taxes,” Gustavson said.

At the other end of the scale, Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, received the lowest score of 26.52 percent. Pierce authored a number of tax measures in the 2011 session, including a proposed tax on services and tax hikes on cigarettes and alcohol.

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, another one of the low scoring Democrats, called the grade a badge of honor.

“If they don’t like me it means I’m doing something right,” he said.

Segerblom said he campaigned on increasing taxes and is a strong supporter of education and unions, positions supported by his constituents.

“They can read the score and if they don’t like my grade and don’t like the way I voted they can obviously vote me out,” he said. “But I think I voted just like my constituencies wanted me to.”

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom said the low grade from NPRI is a badge of honor./Nevada News Bureau file photo

Segerblom said based on his grade with the NPRI he intends to run for the state Senate in Clark District 3 being vacated by Sen. Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas, who must step down due to term limits.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, scored the highest among Democrats at 35.55 percent, and Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, scored the lowest among Republicans at 43.98 percent.

Lawrence said the group’s 2009 report card reflected higher scores for some Democrats over Republicans. This session party affiliation and ideology went more hand-in-hand, with Republicans as a group acting in a more fiscally conservative way, he said.

Settelmeyer said he appreciates the types of pro-business measures included in the NPRI analysis.

“They tend to reflect the business friendly community that we’re trying to promote in the state of Nevada,” he said.

Roberson said he is pleased with the high grade from a group that supports free market approaches to education and fiscal policy. But he is disappointed at the level of reform finally approved by the Legislature to end the session.

“I don’t think the reforms were nearly as far reaching as I would like to see,” he said. “The governor proposed some really great education reforms that didn’t even get a vote taken.”

With Democrats in control of both houses, Republicans will focus on winning majorities in the next election cycle, Roberson said. The freshman lawmaker will head GOP efforts to win the Senate majority in 2012.

In addition to votes on several education reform measures and the budget, including a tax package that extended 2009 revenue hikes set to sunset June 30, other examples of bills used in the evaluation included a proposal to charge a fee on auto insurance policies to create a subsidized program for low-income residents of Clark County, and a measure to subsidize the development of wind and solar power.

The auto insurance measure passed the Assembly but never saw a vote in the Senate. The subsidy bill was vetoed by GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The grading system is adapted from one used by the National Taxpayers Union to grade Congress. The NTU methodology allows bills of greater significance to be weighted accordingly. Lawrence said NPRI adapted the grading system to include such elements as education reform.

The 2011 session was one where Sandoval and many Republicans were adamantly opposed to new taxes, with many Democrats pushing for new or increased revenues to further fund public education and other programs.

This paradigm shifted after the Nevada Supreme Court rejected the Legislature’s taking of $62 million from a Clark County water quality fund in the 2010 special session. Sandoval and some lawmakers expressed concern about the legality of using other local funds proposed as part of the new 2011-13 general fund budget that takes effect this Friday.

The ruling led to an agreement to extend the taxes set to sunset, but a number of reforms, including several to public education, were made part of the agreement. Payroll taxes for the states’ small businesses were also eliminated.

Lawrence said some of the reforms passed in the session on their own merits are more significant than those included as part of the budget and tax deal.

He cited the performance-based budgeting bill sought by Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, another measure expanding empowerment schools and a third strengthening the charter school process as examples of legislation that could have far reaching consequences.

Of the reforms included in the budget deal, Lawrence said: “It is arguable that Sandoval and legislative Republicans would not have been able to secure the education and labor reforms they received had they not reversed their position and embraced taxes. However, each of the reforms had merit on its own and should not have required an 11.5 percent increase in the overall state tax burden for lawmakers to consider its passage. Time will tell if the deal was worth its price.”

Audio clips:

Geoffrey Lawrence of NPRI says the most important reforms are unrelated to the budget deal:

062811Lawrence1 :06 the budget deal.”

Lawrence says the reforms that are part of the budget deal will have to be evaluated long term:

062711Lawrence2 :10 they actually materialize.”

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom says he voted the way his constituents wanted him to vote:

062711Segerblom1 :10 wanted me to.”

Sen. Michael Roberson says he is disappointed with the level of reforms approved in the 2011 session:

062711Roberson1 :16 a vote taken.”

Roberson says the GOP goal is to win majorities in both houses of the Legislature:

062711Roberson2 :19 in the Legislature.”

Sen. James Settelmeyer says he appreciates NPRI’s bill priorities:

062711Settelmeyer1 :21 get more jobs.”

Settelmeyer says some of the measures approved this session will likely have to be re-evaluated next session:

062711Settelmeyer2 : 14 of an idea.’”



Last-Minute Bill To Change Legislative Process In-Between Sessions Concerns Some GOP Lawmakers

By Sean Whaley | 6:19 am June 10th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Some GOP lawmakers say a bill introduced late in the just-ended 2011 session appears to be an attempt to move the Nevada Legislature more toward a full-time operation in the period in-between the biennial sessions.

Republican lawmakers critical of Assembly Bill 578 also say it would limit participation on interim policy panels by many of the 63 state lawmakers.

A Democrat who processed the bill disagrees however, saying all lawmakers will be able to participate under the new process, which is only intended to make the interim more efficient, not create a full-time Legislature.

“It is very concerning to me,” said Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas. “It seems as if someone is trying to make us a full-time Legislature, and we’re supposed to be a part-time Legislature.”

Cegavske said the major change to how the Legislature operates in the interim didn’t get full hearings either.

“It wasn’t really vetted out,” she said. “Normally something of that magnitude, the majority party would talk to the minority leadership and talk to them about doing something that dramatic. And that didn’t occur, so it is just very troubling and very concerning.”

Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said he has several issues with the change from the current interim legislative panels to Joint Interim Standing Committees that would mirror the committees used during session.

Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea has serious questions about a bill changing the interim legislative process./File Photo: Nevada News Bureau

“I didn’t want to see that change,” he said. “The standing committees would become the interim committees, with reduced membership, and I’m very concerned about that.

“Everyone has their own expertise and that’s why we are a citizen Legislature,” Goicoechea said. “I think we’re better off engaging a few more people and doing true interim committees as pertaining to issues rather than just the standing committees.”

But Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, the chairman of the committee that processed the bill, said there is no intent to create a full-time Legislature in the interim, only to make the meetings in-between sessions more efficient. The intent is to have all lawmakers serve on at least one of the new committees as well so full representation from all members is anticipated, he said.

The first step in the process was to create the same committees in both the Assembly and Senate for the 2011 session, Segerblom said. Past sessions have seen different panels in the two houses.

“The thought was then if we could take those same committees and continue them in the interim it would make for a much more efficient process,” he said.

The new system would actually see fewer days of work by lawmakers than the current process, Segerblom said.

“Most committees would probably meet five times so it’s not a full-time Legislature by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.

AB578, introduced May 31, passed both the Assembly and Senate on mostly party-line votes. It passed out of the Assembly on June 5, and was amended and passed by the Senate on June 6, the last day of session. It is now in the hands of Gov. Brian Sandoval for his review.

Rather than a number of interim committees now in existence to consider a wide range of policy issues in-between sessions, the measure would replace the panels with new Joint Interim Standing Committees.

The committees would mirror those established for the 2011 session: Commerce, Labor and Energy; Education; Government Affairs; Health and Human Services; Judiciary; Legislative Operations and Elections; Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining; Revenue and Taxation; and Transportation.

The joint committees would have smaller memberships, however, another element of the proposed change that concerns Republican lawmakers.

The committees would have three members from the Senate and five from the Assembly with no more than five from one party.

Cegavske said the proposed change also comes at a time when other state legislatures are reducing or eliminating their interim activities as a way to save money in lean budget times. This proposal would do the opposite, she said.

“It’s just not the time to add more,” Cegavske said.

Segerblom said the change is expected to be pretty close to cost-neutral compared to the current system.

There was no ulterior motive in making the change, just a desire to make the interim process more streamlined and more effective, he said. If Sandoval has concerns, “we’d love to talk to him beforehand,” Segerblom said.

Audio clips:

Sen. Barbara Cegavske says the bill will move Nevada to a full-time Legislature:

060911Cegavske1 :08 a part-time Legislature.”

Cegavske says the last-minute measure did not get full hearings:

060911Cegavske2 :18 and very concerning.”

Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea says the change would limit membership by lawmakers:

060911Goicoechea1 :21 concerned about that.”

Goicoechea says the current interim committee process works well:

060911Goicoechea2 :18 the standing committees.”

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom says the new plan would make the interim process more efficient:

060911Segerblom1 :16 other year too.”

Segerblom says keeping the same lawmakers involved on issues in the interim will help get each new legislative session off to a faster start:

060911Segerblom2 :24 it will do.”

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 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.’ “


State Lawmaker Proposes Taxing Bottled Water As Way To Increase Revenues

By Sean Whaley | 3:48 pm October 13th, 2010

CARSON CITY – A Nevada lawmaker has asked for a bill to be drafted to require bottled water to be subjected to the state sales tax.

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said bottled water is included under the sales tax exemption for food in Nevada even though it has no nutritional value.

Segerblom said taxing the beverage would bring in much needed revenue for the upcoming two-year budget. It is time for the Legislature to review all tax exemptions as a way to generate revenue for programs without raising taxes, he said.

Segerblom says he does not support taxing food.

“The purpose as I understand to exempt food is you don’t want to make it any more expensive than possible for people to survive, and obviously again, bottled water is not necessary to survive,” he said.

The only exception in Nevada now is prepared food intended for immediate consumption, which is subject to the sales tax.

The bill draft request was actually made by Assemblyman Harry Mortenson, D-Las Vegas, on behalf of Segerblom. Mortenson, who is termed out of office and won’t be serving in the 2011 legislative session, said he gave Segerblom one of his bill draft requests as a courtesy, even though he does not support the idea.

Segerblom said he has been unable to get information on how much revenue might come from taxing bottled water, which has become a ubiquitous item provided at meetings and carried by many people on a routine basis.

Tom Lauria, vice president of communications for the International Bottled Water Association, called a move to tax bottled water shortsighted.

“The FDA is very clear in classifying bottled water as a food, and for some people it is a necessity,” he said. “They don’t have up-to-standard tap water or they have personal immunity problems from cancer or HIV and they require purified water as part of their regular diet.”

Bottled water is very popular, seeing a slight decline last year but still hitting sales of more than $8 billion in the U.S., Lauria said.

Most states that do not tax food do not tax bottled water either, he said. Three states that do not tax food, Washington, New York, and Maryland, have chosen to tax bottled water, Lauria said.

The temporary tax on bottled water in Washington is now on the November ballot for potential repeal by voters.

Audio clips:

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom says bottled water has no nutritional value and could bring in much needed state revenue:

101310Segerblom1 :28 from eating properly.”

Segerblom says a sales tax exemption on food does not need to include bottled water:

101310Segerblom2 :14 necessary to survive.”

Tom Lauria of the International Bottled Water Association says imposing a tax on bottled water is shortsighted:

101310Lauria :27 their regular diet.”

New Bill Draft Requests Focus On Wide Range of Issues

By Sean Whaley | 7:00 am September 8th, 2010

CARSON CITY – More than 250 new bill requests were filed for drafting last week by lawmakers and others on issues ranging from requiring health insurance plans to cover acupuncture treatments to implementing a four-year cooling off period before former lawmakers could work as lobbyists.

Other measures would require the precise language of pending legislation to be posted on the Legislature’s website at least three business days before a vote, change the posting dates of campaign contribution and expense reports to make the information more readily available to voters and make changes to the modified business tax to encourage more hiring.

Assemblyman Joe Hogan, D-Las Vegas, said he requested a bill to change the dates of when campaign reports must be filed by candidates so voters would have more time to analyze the information. The current filing deadlines are right before the primary and general elections and give little or no time for voters to review the contribution and expense reports, he said.

The information isn’t available at all to the majority of people who choose to vote early, Hogan said.

Careful voters will try to have a look at the reports to see if a candidate is “wholly owned” by some special interest, he said.

The bill would also require a candidate to list a specific beginning and ending balance each year, he said.

“It would bring completeness to the reporting system that has been needed for a long time,” Hogan said.

The new bill drafts also include a number of proposals from outgoing Gov. Jim Gibbons, including measures to create a voucher program for students and eliminate mandatory collective bargaining for local governments and their employees.

The proposals, which now total 520, will be drafted into legislation for consideration by the 2011 Legislature. Sept. 1 was the deadline for state and local agencies to submit bill drafts. Lawmakers were also required to have some of their requests submitted by the same date.

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, requested the cooling off and bill posting measures.

“We always talk about how we are going to reform government – it has to start with transparency,” he said. “With transparency you will have increased accountability.”

Goedhart said he requested the cooling off measure for lawmakers and statewide office holders even before the controversy arose recently regarding Morse Arberry, who resigned as a long-time Assemblyman to accept a lobbying contract with the Clark County District Court system. That contract was rejected today by the Clark County Commission.

Goedhart said he has seen examples of lawmakers positioning themselves to take advantage of their connections when they leave office. A future payday should not be a reason for someone to run for public office, he said.

Requiring a four- or two-year cooling off period should eliminate that as a reason to run for elective office, Goedhart said.

The bill posting request is to ensure lawmakers and the public have a chance to read a measure before it is voted on, he said.

Goedhart mentioned two specific incidents, one in 2009 and the other in the February special session, where measures were rushed through without time for review. One was dubbed the “absolution resolution” which he said was intended to give lawmakers cover to vote for tax increases. The other was the last-minute vote in the special session on a bill to create construction jobs in Nevada. The bill in part eliminated the sunset of a tax levy in Clark County to fund the projects.

“It was the biggest tax increase that was never mentioned in the last (special) session,” Goedhart said. “These are the types of abuses that my bill hopefully will, if not make downright impossible, will at least make them a lot more difficult.”

Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, requested the modified business tax (MBT) measure as a way to encourage hiring by Nevada businesses.

The proposal would be to exempt new employees from the MBT to provide an incentive to employers to hire more workers, he said.

“We have to look at ways to get new jobs,” Settelmeyer said.

The bill requiring acupuncture treatments to be covered by health plans offered in Nevada was requested by Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who sought a similar measure without success in the 2009 session.

In testimony in 2009, Segerblom said the coverage is not costly and results in health care savings. The state health plan offers acupuncture treatments and the benefit has not cost the plan a significant amount of money, he said.

Insurance company officials and small business representatives expressed concern, however, about the cost of adding mandated coverage because of the increased cost to consumers.

“Frankly this is a noninvasive medical procedure that in fact saves money,” Segerblom said today. “If it cures people, or deals with their pain problems, then it is better for everybody.”


Audio clips:

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom says requiring acupuncture coverage will reduce medical costs:

090710Segerblom :14 better for everybody.”

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart says a cooling off period would ensure people run for public office for the right reasons:

090710Goedhart1 :21 payday for themselves.”

Goedhart says giving lawmakers and public time to read bills before vote would reduce the number of questionable measures:

090710Goedhart2 :20 a lot more difficult.”

Goedhart says transparency will bring about accountability, fiscal responsibility:

090710Goedhart3 :18 fiscally responsible government.”

Voters to Remain in Dark About Campaign Contributions

By Sean Whaley | 6:05 am April 30th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevadans who intend to vote early in the primary and general elections this year will likely find themselves in the dark on the question of who has contributed to the campaigns of the candidates.

Despite efforts in past legislative sessions to improve the transparency of campaign contributions received by candidates, lawmakers have failed to make meaningful reforms to the reporting process.

The 2009 Legislature failed to approve efforts by Secretary of State Ross Miller to improve the reporting process by requiring electronic filing of the campaign reports. Electronic reporting would allow the creation of a searchable database to analyze who is contributing and in what amounts to the candidates.

Mandating electronic reporting for most candidates was supported in the Assembly but was amended out of Assembly Bill 82 by the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee in the final days of the session.

A look through reports now on file with the secretary of state’s office show that many are hand-written and difficult to read.

Another proposal to make the information more voter-friendly by requiring earlier reporting also failed.

Miller had proposed last session that candidates report individual contributions in excess of $1,000 to his office within a few days of receipt starting 40 days before the primary and general elections. The information would then have been posted on the SOS website and available for voters to review before casting their ballots, especially those voting early, as nearly 60 percent did in the 2008 election.

For the primary, early voting begins May 22, but the campaign contribution and expense reports are not due until June 1. And because candidates can send in their reports by certified mail on the June 1 due date, the release of the information to the public can be delayed even further.

The same scenario will occur with the Nov. 2 general election, with the second round of reports due Oct. 26. Early voting begins Oct. 16.

The proposal – which also covered expenditures and multiple contributions from a single individual exceeding $1,000 – was discussed in committee but never actually made it into any version of AB82.

Miller said the campaign contribution and expense information available on his agency’s website consistently gets an F grade because of this lack of transparency.

The F grade was awarded in 2008 by the Campaign Disclosure Project in large part because the reports are not searchable.

“We need to put it into some type of format the public can use,” Miller said. “A 100-page handwritten report is not useful.”

Miller said he will try again to push for more transparency in 2011 if he is re-elected to another term as secretary of state.

In the meantime many voters will not have the information available this election year unless candidates take it upon themselves to voluntarily report their contributions on their own websites.

The 40th day before the June 8 primary is today.

Reactions from a handful of candidates on the idea of voluntary reporting vary; some say a voluntary posting of information is unworkable because it could give opponents an advantage if they did not participate as well. One lawmaker, however, suggested it could work to a candidate’s advantage.

Several other candidates contacted for the story did not return phone calls.

Miller, acknowledging that he has taken the lead on seeking reforms to the reporting process, said he will make his contributions public ahead of the general election on his website. Miller does not have a primary.

Miller said he will do so even though it may put him at a disadvantage by giving his opponents information about his campaign than he will not have from them. So starting 40 days before the general election, he will post all contributions in excess of $1,000 within 72 hours of receipt to his website for voters to view if they choose to do so.

“If it puts me at a disadvantage, we’ll see,” he said.

Republican governor candidate Mike Montandon said if elected to the job, he will push for reforms to make campaign reports more transparent for the public. Ironically, Montandon said he files his reports electronically in a format that would allow for searches. But the data is then converted into an unsearchable file for posting on the secretary of state’s website.

“This one is a slam dunk,” he said. “It’s common sense. I’m a freedom of speech person. I don’t believe there should be restrictions on who spends what on a campaign, but the information should be totally transparent.”

But Montandon said he would not post such data on his campaign website unless every candidate did the same, citing a disadvantage if his opponents could review his donor list without him having access to their information as well.

Gov. Jim Gibbons, one of three major GOP candidates seeking the governor’s seat, said he has no problems reporting his contributions, but questioned whether he would have the staff available to make such updates.

“We do not have individuals who are directed to work 100 percent of the time on the website or be data input people,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with openness.”

Democratic governor candidate Rory Reid would support more openness and transparency in the campaign contribution and expense reporting process, but he has no plans for early reporting in this election, said his spokesman Mike Trask. Reid has already put out a plan for changes he would make to ensure state government is more ethical and open, changes which he has already implemented as Clark County Commission chairman, he said.

“Reporting early would be problematic for a variety of reasons, the most obvious being the issue of fairness,” Trask said. “We’re going to file the report when we are legally required to do so as we are certain other candidates will do as well.”

Rob Lauer, the Republican candidate for secretary of state, said he supports reporting contribution information so voters can have access to it, but suggested the process needs to be ongoing so that the information does not generate undue momentum for those who receive a lot of financial support.

“I’m not sure I want to see campaign contribution reports affect the way people vote,” he said.

Rather than require reporting of large contributions beginning 40 days before an election, Lauer said transparency concerns could be addressed by requiring the information to be reported within 72 hours, regardless of when the money was received in an election cycle.

Ongoing contribution reporting would help get away from the “horse race” mentality, he said.

Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, said he has no problem with reporting his donations, but said for many legislative races the financial support is relatively modest.

“Most of my contributions are $100, $500 or $1,000,” he said. “You can look at my past reports to see who is contributing to my campaign.”

Stewart said Democrats get a lot of their money from labor unions, Republicans get a lot from the business community and the gaming industry supports candidates of both parties.

“There are no surprises, really,” he said.

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, said he would like to see the secretary of state’s office set up a process where candidates could voluntarily report their contributions using the guidelines and have them posted on the SOS website.

Candidates who choose to voluntarily post their contribution information might get a favorable response from voters for making the information public, he said

“I don’t think it would put a candidate at a disadvantage,” Goedhart said. “Voters are tired of business as usual.”

Passing legislation to require the reporting of such information would be fine as well, he said. But in the meantime, there is no reason why candidates could not do so on their own.

“Anything that adds transparency would be fine with me,” he said.

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said he supports the earlier reporting language proposed by Miller in the 2009 session, but suggested a voluntary process whereby candidates would post the information on their own websites would not be practical. One candidate might post the information prominently while another would bury it on the website. It would also require voters to seek out each candidate’s website, he said.

An alternative would be to have the secretary of state’s office set up a system that would be uniform for candidates who wanted to provide the information. But it is unlikely that many candidates would voluntarily report because of a concern their opponents would not do the same, he said.

Transparency is critical but not likely to occur without legislation, Segerblom said.

The electronic filing requirement would not have been in place for this election cycle anyway. AB 82 was amended by the Assembly Elections, Procedures, Ethics and Constitutional Amendments Committee to have the requirement take effect in January of 2011.

AB82 passed the Assembly 23-18 on May 21 with the electronic filing requirement in place. It provided an exemption for a candidate who did not have access to a computer and limited the requirement to candidates who collected more than $10,000.

Stewart said he voted no on the bill because of other sections dealing with voter registration changes, not because of the electronic contribution reporting requirement.

But the bill, which contained numerous other provisions relating to election law, was then amended May 30 by the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee to delete the electronic reporting requirement. Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, made the motion to delete the provision. Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, voted no. Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, abstained, according to the committee minutes.

The bill then passed the Senate on a 16-5 vote.

Ultimately none of the provisions of AB82 survived because the Legislature ran out of time before taking final action on the measure.

Numerous state assembly and senate candidates contacted for their comments on the issue did not return calls.