Posts Tagged ‘texting’

Legislators Texting, Tweeting And Typing Has Some Crying Foul

By Andrew Doughman | 7:11 pm April 1st, 2011

RENO – Behind the laptop, beside the cell phone and next to the iPad tablet, somewhere, is a legislator.

“I ask you to please stop looking at your phones,” said Crystal Jackson, a UNR student. “Stop looking as if you’re bored.”

She made the remarks after legislators were more than two hours into listening to students and faculty testify about proposed higher-education cuts at the University of Nevada, Reno on Thursday.

Legislators often multi-task, perusing emails and e-documents while listening to testimony.

But Jackson raises important points: how much time do representatives of the public owe the public, and how acceptable is it to use technology when members of the public are testifying?

“It seems like our stories are falling on deaf ears,” said Charlie Jose, president of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, who testified earlier at UNR.

Often, legislators punch away at their keyboards as their committees listen to public testimony. Sometimes, only the chairperson of the committee speaks to members of the public.

Nevada Sens. Ruben Kihuen, left, and Mo Denis, both D-Las Vegas, look at an electronic device at the Legislature in Carson City, Nev., on April 1, 2011. Photo by Cathleen Allison

Still, nobody refutes the importance of public testimony, and some want to strengthen it.

Today, lobbyist George Flint testified about a bill from Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas. The bill would allow the public equal time to testify for and against a bill.

“The basic concept of our entire government is for everybody to be heard,” Flint said.

Legislators, however, do not have time to hear from everybody. The 120-day legislative session, a complex budget and a glut of bills means legislators are counting every second.

The dissatisfied students may also be bumping into what some have called the Carson City bubble, inside of which a brigade of lobbyists exert influence at the expense of those not physically in the Legislature.

“Probably the smartest thing the UNR students could do is hire a lobbyist,” said Flint, who has been a lobbyist for 49 years. “The way you get things done over here is to hire professionals who have the ear of these people [legislators].”

Flint is a lobbyist for a polarizing industry: Reno-area wedding chapels and some legal brothels. He knows as well as anyone that some lawmakers are set in their views. Three minutes or three hours of public testimony will not change their minds.

Still, it is important for the public to have a chance to have its say.

“If you’re going to walk out feeling like you’ve lost, you should walk out knowing you had enough time to make your case,” Ohrenschall said.

Nonetheless, technology has invaded committee rooms to the extent that people making their case cannot know if lawmakers are actually listening.

Assembly Minority leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said that this is the “price we pay” for integrating more technology into the legislative process.

For the first time this year, nearly all legislative documents are on a computer system. So when legislators are looking at their computers, they could be referencing relevant documents.

Orhenschall said that he gets text messages from his assistant, who tells him another committee is waiting for him to testify on a bill.

Some members of the Senate and Assembly also use Twitter and consistently Tweet colorful quotes as people testify.

So for better or worse, legislators seem to be connected to their laptops, iPads and cell phones.

“You know how Darth Vader had become more machine than man?” Ohrenschall said.

 

 

 

Bill Requests For 2011 Nevada Legislative Session Include Ban On Texting While Driving, Property Tax Protection, Castle Doctrine

By Sean Whaley | 2:17 pm July 1st, 2010

CARSON CITY – If a list of bills requested for drafting for the 2011 legislative session released today is any indication, a lot of lawmakers are concerned about people who use cell phones while driving.

Of the 152 bill draft requests submitted so far, mostly by lawmakers, three deal with cell phone use in vehicles: two to prohibit texting and a third to “restrict cell phone use” while driving.

The one-line descriptions of the bills being sought by lawmakers, interim legislative committees, state constitutional officers and others are made public on July 1 before each legislative session. The list will now be updated weekly through the session that begins in February.

The proposed bills to ban texting while driving were requested by Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, with three co-sponsors, and Sen. Shirley Breeden, D-Henderson. The bill to restrict cell phone use was requested by Assemblyman Harvey Munford, D-Las Vegas.

A bill to ban texting while driving was introduced in the 2009 session by Breeden. It passed the Senate but did not get a vote in the Assembly.

Assemblyman Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, has requested a measure to amend the state constitution to create a uniform and fair method of assessing property taxes. Gustavson, who is running for a seat in the state Senate, said the proposal is similar to previous measures he has supported to cap property tax increases at 2 percent per year or the consumer price index, whichever is lower.

Gustavson and Sharron Angle, a former state lawmaker now running for the U.S. Senate, have sought such a change for years, usually trying to get the proposal on the ballot through the initiative petition process rather than the Legislature. It is modeled on the Proposition 13 tax cap approved in California. Gustavson said his proposal may get more attention in the Legislature if Republicans pick up some seats in the November election.

Right now people can’t budget for their property taxes because they don’t know what the valuation will be from year to year, he said.

The measure would help property owners in the Incline Village area of Washoe County who have seen their properties valued improperly, Gustavson said. Despite winning court cases to get refunds of excess property taxes, Washoe County has so far failed to return the money, he said.

The current property tax cap approved by the Legislature in 2005 is not constitutional because it treats residential property differently than commercial property, Gustavson said.

Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, is seeking a bill to adopt the “Castle Doctrine” in Nevada to provide legal protections for homeowners who defend themselves against criminals.

A similar measure was introduced in 2009 by Assembly Democrat Harry Mortenson, D-Las Vegas, but did not even get a hearing in the Assembly Judiciary Committee, Hambrick said.

“It had bipartisan support; many people were in favor of it, but for whatever reason it never saw the light of day,” he said.

Hambrick said the principle is “your home is your castle” and you have the right in common law to protect your property. This would put the concept in state law as many other states have done to provide legal protections from either civil or criminal liability, he said.

Hambrick said he would like to see the measure get a hearing in the 2011 session.

Some bill draft requests are unlikely to see any consideration in the upcoming session because they have been requested by lawmakers who will not return in 2011. One example is a proposal by Sen. Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, to make the failure to wear a seatbelt a primary offense. Right now drivers cannot be pulled over in Nevada for failing to wear a seat belt.

Unless another lawmaker picks up the proposal and submits a bill in the session, the issue may not see any action next year. Nolan lost re-election in the June GOP primary.