Legislative Commission protests delays in audit corrections

The head of the Legislative Commission, which handles political and policy issues for lawmakers between sessions, said Monday the response to audit recommendations by state agencies is unacceptable.

Sen. Ann O'Connell, R-Las Vegas, made the comments after Legislative Auditor Gary Crews reported that eight agencies audited recently have implemented only 18 of 71 recommendations and partially implemented another 48.

He said that's only 25 percent compliance, compared with the 60 percent agencies implemented in 1997-98.

"I think it's important they get the impression the commission is breathing down your neck and will be breathing down their neck," O'Connell told Crews.

Legislative auditors review and make recommendations to state agencies in the executive branch. Amid suggestions from lawmakers on the commission that he do something to get agencies to implement the recommendations, Crews pointed out that those agencies are insulated by the separation of powers which divides the legislative and executive branches of government.

But he said that doesn't mean the Legislature has no power to force some change, in effect pointing out that lawmakers can use the budget process as a lever.

"What can the Legislature do in this process? I think that's left up to your money committees," he told the commission.

He specifically mentioned the Ways and Means and Senate Finance control over budgets and the pay bill, which sets salaries for department heads.

For some 20 years since the division's creation, legislative auditors have been the watchdogs charged with monitoring and analyzing fiscal operations of state agencies. That may change, however, now that Gov. Kenny Guinn has won funding to create an executive branch audit division reporting to Guinn and his director of administration, Perry Comeaux.

To continue its role in watching over state agency spending, the commission also approved reestablishing a legislative committee for "fundamental review of base budgets" headed by Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora.

That panel will consist of three senators - two Republican and one Democrat (including Rhoads), and three Assembly members - two Democrats and one Republican.

At the same meeting, the commission approved the appointments of four Senate and four Assembly members to begin the reapportionment and redrawing of legislative district lines in Nevada.

O'Connell will chair that group joined by fellow Republicans Rhoads and Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio of Reno as well as Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas.

The Assembly membership consists of Speaker Joe Dini, D-Yerington, and fellow Democrats Barbara Buckley and Chris Giunchigliani, both Las Vegas, plus Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville.


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