Nevada panel considers bill outlining terrorism protections | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada panel considers bill outlining terrorism protections

BEN KIECKHEFER

CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — An anti-terrorism measure debated Tuesday would create a Nevada panel to study security plans — and bar public scrutiny of documents deemed sensitive because of public safety concerns.

AB441 would create the Nevada Commission on Homeland Security, a 12-member panel appointed by legislators and the governor.

The commission would evaluate safety procedures for critical state buildings, facilities and infrastructures, and propose goals and programs to protect the public and examine terrorism response procedures.

The panel could hold closed-door meetings, and the governor could make any information the commission obtains confidential in the name of public safety.

Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, D-Henderson, the bill’s sponsor, told the Assembly Judiciary Committee on Tuesday that some groups have concerns with the bill, including the scope and power of the commission. He tried to calm those fears.

“It doesn’t dictate anything truly to anyone,” Perkins said. “It’s just a repository of information.”

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But Kent Lauer, head of the Nevada Press Association, said that while some confidentiality is necessary, the bill seems to go too far.

Some of the protected records include documents that “evaluate or reveal the susceptibility of buildings … to acts of terrorism.” But architectural drawings also are included.

Lauer said the governor could prohibit media and public scrutiny of such things as school construction or the design of new public buildings.

Some utilities expressed concern about providing information like vulnerability studies. They also said a provision in the bill mandating such studies was unnecessary because they already do them.

Mark Foree, director of operations for the Truckee Meadows Water Authority, said forcing his utility to provide such sensitive studies to the commission would be counterproductive.

Foree said the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency already reviews vulnerability studies, and 100 more people would have access to those records under the bill.

“The more people that have access to this data, the less secure the data becomes,” Foree said.

AB441 also includes procedures for maintaining continuity of government in case a terrorist attack killed a large number of elected officials.

Also included is a provision mandating the placement of automated external defibrillators at public buildings and facilities across the state, a provision that drew concerns from counties about an unfunded mandate.

Judiciary Chairman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, assigned AB441 to Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, asking him to work on the bill and bring it back to the committee for a vote within a week.

Horne said he’ll listen to all concerns and try and assemble a reasonable bill. He said the most important task is to ensure it’ll pass constitutional scrutiny.

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