Analysis of SB384

Update: A proposed amendment makes Section 2 much worse by making PERS names private as well, leaving only payout amounts to unknown recipients! 

As written, section 1 of SB384 makes all information about public employees, with the exception of their name, job title and salary, confidential under state law. Existing law already provides robust protections that make sensitive information about public employees — such as social security numbers and home addresses — confidential. By declaring that, absent their name, job title and salary, “all other informationabout public employees is confidential, SB384 would represent a dramatic reversal of existing law by enshrouding the activities of government in a veil of secrecy.

Section 2 addresses retirees who are currently receiving a benefit from the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Nevada (PERS). By declaring that the name, benefit amount and last employer of those receiving a benefit from PERS is public and making everything else confidential, SB384 would significantly narrow existing law. Furthermore, it would make confidential the very information necessary to provide context to benefit amounts — such as years of service, year of retirement and retirement type.

Without those contextual fields of data, the public value in disclosing name and benefit amount is greatly reduced. Just as salary information is intertwined with the number of hours worked — the value of a $25,000 salary changes drastically if it comes with a 1-hour workweek instead of the standard 40 hours — a similar relationship exists between years of service and pension benefit amount.

This is why this information is currently public in Nevada and 35 other states nationwide. The State of New Jersey even publishes these supplemental fields, and several more, on the official state government website:

As written, SB384 would overturn existing Nevada law and make these fields of data — which are necessary to lend perspective to the payout amounts and identify cases of disability fraud — confidential. Moreover, it is not clear what benefit, if any, this would provide. In fact, making the contextual data private would only undermine the public interest that SB384 seeks to provide in making retirees’ name and benefit amount public.

Or, to put it another way, why would years of service be considered more sensitive than a retiree’s name and benefit amount?

Existing law already makes truly sensitive information — such as social security number, home address, etc. — private. If SB384 seeks to reaffirm this, it can do so by specifying that the entirety of the necessary contextual elements of a retiree’s benefit are public, while then reaffirming the unrelated, sensitive pieces of information remain exempt from disclosure. 

SB384 will be heard March 31, 2017 at 1:00PM by the Senate Committee on Government Affairs. Click here to share your opinion with your legislator on SB384 or any other bill currently before the Legislature.

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