“Not only the public, but politicians as well, know that we are spending too much time, raising too much money and expending too little human capital dealing with problems Nevadans elected us to solve,” Hickey, R-Reno, said during a news conference in Carson City, where he was joined by Assemblyman Randy Kirner, R-Reno, and GOP Assembly candidate David Espinosa of Sparks.
During the 2010 election cycle, Hickey said more than $100 million was spent on political campaigns in Nevada and that it amounted to roughly $37,000 per resident, given a population of 2.7 million, though the actual amount would be a more modest $37 per resident.
Still, a conservative think tank said the kinds of reforms Hickey proposes are overdue and Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, now a Senate candidate, said he welcomes any discussion on improving Nevada’s campaign finance laws.
“I think anything we can do to make the laws more transparent so the people can see who is contributing and when they’re contributing the better,” he said. Segerblom was chairman of the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee last year.
The 2011 Legislature approved major campaign finance reforms pushed by Secretary of State Ross Miller, a Democrat. Beginning this year, all candidates must file their reports electronically with the secretary of state’s office, a move that allows voters to search contributions by donor, candidate and other data.
The law also added a new reporting deadline so voters can research contributions before early voting begins. Another report is due just before election day.
Hickey, leader of the Republican caucus in the lower chamber, proposed enhanced “real time” contribution reporting before primary and general elections and that incumbents report how much cash they have left after an election.
He also proposed tighter reporting of lobbyist spending. Currently lobbyists are only required to report dollar amounts for things they spend on lawmakers while in session.
The issue was an embarrassment for some Democratic lawmakers last year who accepted overseas trips paid for by online gambling site PokerStars in advance of the 2011 session. The legislators were advised beforehand by the legislative counsel that the junkets did not have to be reported because they were fact-finding trips.
A bill sponsored by Sen. Sheila Leslie in 2011 would have required lobbyists to report gifts to lawmakers between legislative sessions. The bill passed the Senate but died in the Assembly committee chaired by Segerblom.
“Here’s hoping Hickey has better luck in convincing his colleagues to go along with such reforms in 2013,” wrote Geoffrey Lawrence with the conservative Nevada Policy Research Institute.
Hickey also called for a cooling off period before former legislators can return as lobbyists, and said Nevada should consider limiting contribution amounts to campaigns, political action committees and political parties. Current law restricts contributions to candidates to $10,000 per election. There are no limits on contributions to PACs.
He also suggested moving Nevada’s primary back to the fall instead of June.
“In shortening the length of the campaign season, we might actually crate an electorate that is actively engaged, rather than being turned off and tuned out, by the time November rolls around,” he said.
Hickey said he had not yet requested a bill draft, and added Republicans would not “unilaterally disarm” their fundraising activities during this election period.