Gibbons seeks to make union negotiations public |

Gibbons seeks to make union negotiations public

Associated Press Writer

Gov. Jim Gibbons launched an initiative petition Monday that would force union negotiations with state or local governments to be conducted in public.

“Taxpayers have a right to know how tax money is being spent and why,” Gibbons said.

The “Open Government Initiative Petition” removes exemptions, such as collective bargaining, from the state’s Open Meeting Law.

Gibbons said he will lead a steering committee that includes state Sen. Mark Amodei, former Sen. Bob Beers and Cory Adair, executive director of the Nevada Republican Party. The committee will seek volunteers to gather 97,002 signatures needed by Nov. 9 to send the petition to the 2011 Legislature. If lawmakers reject it or fail to act, it would be placed on the 2012 general election ballot.

Existing law requires only that final approval of a bargaining pact be conducted in open meeting.

State lawmakers in February cut $805 million from Nevada’s current budget, and local governments have been seeking concessions from various labor groups to cut costs in the face of falling tax revenues. Gibbons initially proposed temporarily suspending collective bargaining for teachers to help close that budget gap, but it was not part of a final compromise.

Amber Lopez Lasater, spokeswoman for the Service Employees International Union that represents about 18,000 public sector employees in Nevada, called the governor’s proposal a “cheap shot.”

” … Gov. Gibbons has expressed nothing but disdain for public employees,” she said. “A few months ago he wanted to do away with collective bargaining all together.

The initiative “will not help solve the problems facing public schools and kids in Nevada, and that’s a lack of a stable funding source for public education,” said Lynn Warne, president of the Nevada State Education Association.

Barry Smith, executive director of the Nevada Press Association, called the proposal a “good idea.”

“This is a lot of taxpayers’ money that’s being discussed and I think it ought to be done in front of the people paying the bills,” he said.