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New Report Gives Nevada 'F' For Integrity In State Government

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Nevada scored poorly in a new report on integrity in state government.

Nevada is proud of its Wild West roots, and much of it can still be seen around the state - in rural areas and vast amounts of undisturbed land.

But that Wild West ideology, combined with the anything-goes mentality existing in Las Vegas, might spill over into the way the state does its business – primarily, it’s legislative business.

A new report from the Center for Public Integrity, a nonprofit investigative news organization, says that Nevada ranks among the worst states for integrity in its state government.

The report ranked Nevada 46th out of 50 states, with in overall grade of “F.”

Felicia Mello, a reporter for the Center for Public Integrity, told KNPR's State of Nevada that other states in the country also ranked poorly. 

However, one of the things that was a problem specific to Nevada was the number of days the State Legislature meet. 

"The fact that our legislature meets for only about four months every two years impacted a lot of those scores and that was something that we saw in Nevada specifically and other states that have similar small, part-time legislatures," Mello said.

She also said the problem with a part-time Legislature is the lack of lobbyist oversight when the Legislature is not in session. 

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"That means how much do we know about what lobbyists are doing in our state governments," Mello said. Lobbyists are supposed to file reports about what they're doing during the session, but that is only required with the Legislature is in session. 

Mello also pointed out that there is no independent auditing of those lobbyist records anyway, so no one knows if the records they send in are accurate.

Sondra Cosgrove is the president of the League of Women Voters. She agrees that there is a problem with integrity in this state; however, she doesn't believe it is because of the bad people, but instead, a bad system.

"I think what this report shows is that our systems lack integrity so they're not producing appropriate outcomes," Cosgrove observed. "They're not assessing the things they need to be assessing."

Cosgrove thinks the short amount of time the Legislature meets along with the state's explosive growth has contributed to the lack of integrity in that system.

Cosgrove thinks that many people are not engaged in the government in Nevada because they just moved here and don't know much about it or the players.

She also thinks that many of those who are engaged have this idea that government is bad and more government is worse, which she disagrees with.

"The way we do government now is bad. It's not doing what we need it to do," Cosgrove said, "And if the solution is its got to meet annual sessions, then that's something we need to discuss and understand."

State Sen. Patricia Farley, (R) - Las Vegas agrees that it is a system problem not a problem with the people working in government.

“In general, I genuinely see, on both sides, really good people trying to make a difference in a process that just isn’t working for the state,” Farley said.

She also thinks that the Legislature meeting only every other year hurts Nevada, especially as the state tries to attract a more diverse economic base, improve its education system and deal with the aftermath of a housing crisis. 

One of the people tasked with keeping an eye on the ethics of our political leaders, Yvonne Nevarez-Goodson said her department Nevada Commission on Ethics often has just enough resources to investigate the issues that are brought to it, let alone do its own investigation. 

"We're not in the game of being prosecutors," she said, "We're not staffed or funded for that purpose. We barely have the sufficient staff to respond to the complaints that are sent our way."

Cosgrove believes it is the voters' reasonability as well as the lawmakers to keep an eye on what is going on in state government, register to vote and vote for the people they believe can make a difference. 

Guests

Felicia Mello, reporter, Center for Public Integrity; Sondra Cosgrove, president, League of Women Voters; Yvonne Nevarez- Goodson, executive director, Nevada Commission on Ethics; St. Sen. Patricia Farley-R (Las Vegas)

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