Nevada Legislature hopes to reinforce the openness of open meetings

Nevada state legislature image
Nevada state legislature image
Published: Apr. 12, 2023 at 2:40 PM PDT
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LAS VEGAS, Nev. (FOX5) - A bill in the Nevada Legislature would reorganize the state’s open meeting law, including providing more time for public comments to be heard if passed.

AB219 mandates any public body, with some exceptions, must hold a public hearing to take comments. The public must be allowed to comment on any matter that is not specifically included on the agenda.

The bill says that if a meeting is continued or delayed, more than one period of public comment may be devoted so that everyone is heard - and it must be within the next business day.

According to the bill, if public comment is continued to a day other than the next business day, perhaps because of a holiday, no item on the agenda can be considered that wasn’t on the previous agenda set for public hearing.

The bill passed the Committee on Government Affairs Wednesday unanimously.

A letter of opposition has been filed by the District Attorney of Douglas County Mark Jackson objected to some provisions of the bill that “wastes the time of the public body and the staff attending the meeting to conduct the public’s business,” regarding some agenda items and that the chairperson read verbatim the instructions in the agenda, plus other issues.

Another letter in opposition was filed by Reno City Councilmember Jenny Brekhus, who said the bill does not address the flaw of public meetings using remote technology.

“With awareness of the 2021 Open Meeting Law changes, you can imagine my surprise on July 22, 2022, when I was told to leave a Reno City Council meeting and go home to my office bedroom to participate in the meeting that was being held on Zoom. This was an important regional meeting held jointly with the Washoe County Board of Commissioners and the Sparks Reno City Council. While in transit, I also missed a key vote on public safety issues that were of focus.”

Brekhus suggested a clarification in the bill that a member of a governing body shall not be denied the opportunity to participate in person at a meeting.

If passed, the bill would go into effect July 1.