Death study vetoed

Gov. Brian Sandoval has vetoed a bill providing for an audit of the financial costs of the death penalty in Nevada. His veto message said the bill does not explain how the study will be conducted.

“This bill lacks the specificity necessary to persuade me that the outcome of the audit performed will be fair,” it read. “The bill, for example, lists the costs to be assessed in determining the overall fiscal impact of the imposition of the death penalty, but it does not specify how it is these costs will be assessed.”

These studies are conducted for the legislators themselves to use in deciding how to legislate on various issues. They are conducted during the interim between legislative sessions. Between the 2009 and 2011 legislatures, for instance, interim studies were conducted on group homes, energy production, home rule in Nevada, and several other topics. Governors have generally not interfered with the studies.

Studies can be done in different ways—by the legislative staff, by Nevada legislative committees, or by an outside group commissioned by the legislature. For instance, for the last major study completed on the Nevada tax system—done in 1987-88—Price Waterhouse and the Urban Institute were hired for the job. In the case of the death penalty study, it would have been done by the Nevada Legislature’s own audit division, the same agency that audits all agencies.

Nevada Coalition on the Death Penalty lobbyist Nancy Hart said, “His [Sandoval’s] concerns were raised in hearings in both houses, and the bills were completely unopposed.”

She said the study is nonpartisan because it would be done by the Legislative Council Bureau’s audit division. “Legislators of both parties look to the LCB audit division as a completely unbiased source,” Hart said, noting that the audit was not to be done by a university or a think tank.

But the vote was hardly nonpartisan. It was straight party line in the Senate, and only Democrat John Ellison and Republican Pat Hickey broke from the party line in the Assembly.