Assemblyman, ACLU want new rule on public-records access changed

Assemblyman Ira Hansen on Wednesday joined with the American Civil Liberties Union in questioning a provision requiring those seeking public records from the Legislature to say what they want them for.

The Sparks Republican said that regulation, approved in August, gives the state Legislative Counsel Bureau way too much discretion to conceal public records.

"Why should they have the right to ask why you want public records?" he asked after Wednesday's Legislative Commission meeting. "It's none of their damned business what you're going to do with it."

Rebecca Gasca, legislative policy director for the ACLU of Nevada, asked that the regulation be changed. And Hansen asked that the issue be put on the commission's next agenda. Commission Vice Chairman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, agreed to do so.

Lorne Malkiewich, director of the legislative bureau, has said repeatedly that the goal is not to restrict public access. He said it follows rulings by the Nevada Supreme Court.

"The Nevada Supreme Court has made it clear that the interests to be considered are privacy and law enforcement policy," he wrote to ACLU legal counsel Allen Lichtenstein, defending the letter.

Gasca told the commission that the high court ruling applied to criminal investigation materials, not legislative records.

She said the requirement "is essentially placing the burden on the requester to show their reason for releasing outweighs the argument for confidentiality."

She also objected to Malkiewich's statement in his letter that he has no intention of denying the release of a document because no reason was given, saying it makes no sense to create a regulation with no intent to follow it.

And she objected to his statement that the balancing test, determining whether to release a document or not, was deliberately written very generally because "a more specific of the test would likely conflict with Nevada Supreme Court precedent as soon as another case modifies or refines the test."

She told the commissioners lawmakers shouldn't be creating policies with the idea in mind that the Supreme Court might change the rules.

The Nevada Press Association has also objected to the regulation.


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