Nevada Chancellor To Keep An Eye On Lobbyists

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Regents overseeing Nevada's state colleges and universities have tightened the rules that govern the schools' legislative lobbying.

Under the new rules, the system's chancellor, Jane Nichols, will have the power to decide who can lobby the Legislature, whether they're employees of individual schools or outside lobbyists hired by the system.

"It gives me power, and it also gives me more responsibility," Nichols said after the unanimous vote Thursday to change the policy. She added the old policy was weak and unclear.

The new rules follow a scandal last year at the Community College of Southern Nevada that cost the school's president and its chief lobbyist their jobs.

Regents asked for clarification on lobbyists after learning that in the 2003 legislative session, Topazia "Briget" Jones, a friend of Assemblyman Wendell Williams, made unauthorized trips to the Legislature to lobby lawmakers.

Regent Bret Whipple characterized the changes as a "good start" but said he was unsure whether school workers should be lobbyists at all given the possible conflicts of interest.

Nichols countered that the employees have the expertise needed to lobby legislators.

While she hasn't decided on changes in lobbying for the state's eight colleges and universities, Nichols said possibilities include having one lobbyist for the universities and one for the community colleges, or one for northern institutions and another for southern schools.

In other action, regents voted 11-1 to approve new tuition increases at all of the state's institutions. The increases, which range from 3.6 percent at the community college level to 10.1 percent at the graduate level for residents, created little debate among regents. They'll go into effect in 2005 and 2006.

The increase averages out to $1.75 more per credit at the community college level, $4.50 at the state college level, $7 more per credit at the university level and $12.50 at the graduate level.

Only Regent Mark Alden voted against the tuition increases, arguing that tuition should be raised only when needed.

Regents also voted 8-5 to change the authority over the University and Community College System of Nevada attorney. The system attorney will continue to report to and undergo personnel evaluations through the chancellor, but if a conflict of interest arises the system attorney will report to the chairman or chairwoman of the regents board.