Western State Lawmakers, Including Nevadans, Traveling To Hawaii For Annual Conference

CARSON CITY – Lawmakers from 13 western states, including some from Nevada, will converge on Hawaii at the end of the month.

But lawmakers won’t be in the tropical paradise to relax or play golf. It’s all about policy and regional issues confronting the states at the 64th annual meeting of the Council of State Governments-WEST. CSG-WEST is a nonpartisan organization that brings Western legislators of both parties together to share best policy practices, cooperate on regional issues and participate in legislative effectiveness training.

Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, is one Nevada lawmaker who will be attending the event. Atkinson is vice chairman of the organization this year, and will serve as chairman in 2013, when the conference that attracts between 1,000 and 1,500 people will be held in Las Vegas.

Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson will bring the CSG-West conference to Las Vegas in 2013. / Nevada News Bureau file photo

Atkinson said he will be too busy to take in much of Hawaii’s beauty during the event, which will be held in Honolulu from July 30 to Aug. 2.

“I’m vice chair so I probably touch every aspect of the conference,” he said. “Right now on my calendar I probably have 12 or 13 things already I’m going to be doing over there. So I definitely will be going for business.”

The conference is in Hawaii this year because the chairman of CSG-WEST is Hawaii Representative Marcus Oshiro.

CSG-West seems to be popular with Nevada lawmakers because the states that are members share common issues and concerns, Atkinson said. Nevada and other states participate in other organizations as well, including the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the American Legislative exchange Council (ALEC).

“So we’re able to talk to each other and get through some of these things,” Atkinson said. “It’s a great networking opportunity for that.”

Nevada lawmakers who decide to attend the conference will either be paying their own way or as representatives of  CSG-West, however. The Nevada Legislature has no funding to pay lawmaker expenses for attending such conferences.

Lorne Malkiewich, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said the Legislature this year did pass a bill to pay the cost of the dues for being members of the three organizations and several others. Assembly Bill 492 allocated $711,000 for Nevada’s dues to the groups for the next two years.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, will be attending as well, although it is not clear how many of Nevada’s 63 legislators will make the trip.

Smith is serving as chairwoman of the Fiscal Affairs Committee, and is also a member of the Executive Committee as well as serving on two other panels.

“I really like the organization,” she said. “They do a lot of good training. On the fiscal side there is a lot of good information about what is going on in other states. They bring in national speakers. I am going to be working very hard.”

Audio clips:

Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson says he has a full agenda at the upcoming conference:

072211Atkinson1 :17 committee as well.”

Atkinson says Hawaii just happens to be hosting the conference this year:

072211Atkinson2 :22 it just happens.”

Atkinson says CSG-West is popular with Nevada lawmakers because it focuses on Western issues:

072211Atkinson3 :28 opportunity for that.”