CARSON CITY, NV — Senate Bill 384 is designed to make secret the names of every retiree collecting a taxpayer-funded pension from the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Nevada (PERS). If passed as written, however, it would place virtually every level of Nevada government in a continual state of law breaking.
Although the intent of SB384 is already a tremendous blow to transparency in government — while raising serious concerns over whether it is appropriate for lawmakers receiving six-figure PERS pensions to vote to make that information private — poor language has created a much larger problem.
“In the final, amended version of the bill that was passed out of committee yesterday and is now set to go to the Senate Floor, the bill inadvertently makes confidential the name of every single public employee in the State of Nevada,” explained Nevada Policy Research Institute Transparency Director Robert Fellner.
This inadvertent error is the result of language that appears to not recognize that active public employees are all PERS members, regardless of whether or not they are currently retired.
Consequently, when delineating the few pieces of information that are public, but making “all other information” about a PERS member confidential, SB384 makes confidential the name of all retired and active public employees.
As damaging as SB384’s original intent is to transparency, the actual result of the current language would place every Nevada government in a position to continually violate state law. The unintended consequence of SB384 would make it impossible for most government entities to even function.
“Imagine a school district being legally required to keep the names of teachers secret,” said Fellner. “This law would do just that. As worded, even the names of judges and other elected officials would have to, somehow, be made confidential.”
“It isn’t hard to see that, beyond the transparency issues, this bill would make it impossible for government to function in a lawful manner.”