A Nevada Senate panel was asked Tuesday to back a watered-down plan, already approved by the Assembly, that would require government agencies that employee lobbyists to submit reports explaining terms of their contracts.
Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said her AB442 started out as a proposal to bar government agencies from hiring paid lobbyists, but it was amended after she became convinced that such lobbyists "do serve their purpose."
"I think a little bit of accountability doesn't hurt anybody," Kirkpatrick told the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee in pushing for approval of AB442, which requires the reports on at least a quarterly basis from both local and state government agencies.
"The most important part is this is the people's money and we should be able to determine how the money is spent," Kirkpatrick said. "We should make sure we get our bang for our buck."
Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, a co-sponsor of the plan, said she was glad to see the bill win Assembly approval but was "dismayed" with the amendment that took out the prohibition on hiring paid lobbyists.
While Kirkpatrick wants more information on lobbying activities, a UNLV political science instructor said Tuesday he will ask for the legislator's support to get the lobbyists to provide basic information that they're already required to disclose but in many cases have not.
Dean Dupalo said in a telephone interview that his research shows there have been about 1,000 cases in the 2005, 2007 and 2009 sessions of lobbyists not providing proper addresses and phone numbers, using acronyms that effectively mask the interests they represent, and making other omissions and errors.
Dupalo said he wrote Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto in late February to express concern about what he termed law violations that "absolutely" warrant fines, and got a response April 3 from Masto's chief of staff, Keith Munro, saying his letter had been turned over to the Legislative Counsel Bureau.
That was followed by an April 6 LCB letter stating that changes are being made to get the basic information from the lobbyists, but Dupalo said that's not enough.
The basic disclosures are required by law, Dupalo said, adding, "That's what they're mandated to do. Those are part of their requirements. They're pretty minimal. I can't think of any more minimalist requirement than giving an address."
"Where's the accountability?" Dupalo said. "They don't hold anybody accountable at any point."