Posts Tagged ‘Bob Fulkerson’

Senators Sit On Floor In Impromptu Debate With Camping Activists

By Andrew Doughman | 5:18 pm May 17th, 2011

CARSON CITY — Senate Republicans gave new meaning to the legislative jargon “floor debate” today.

Several lawmakers sat on the floor outside their offices today as they talked to activists who have been camping on the Capitol lawn since yesterday night in support of new revenue.

The impromptu, hour-long debate featured a variety of popular budget topics including teacher pay, textbooks in schools, higher education tuition and taxes.

It all started when about two dozen campers requested an audience with Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, who did not have room for them in her office. So she stepped outside, and they sat on the floor together.

Several other Republican senators joined her soon after, and Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, offered shortbread Girl Scout cookies all around.

“I’ve never seen this before,” said Warren Hardy, a former legislator and current lobbyist who watched the debate. “It’s a great dialog. If I were still a senator, I would be right in the middle of it because I think that’s the respect these people deserve.”

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, speaks with Michael Flores, a ProgressNOW organizer, outside her office in the halls of the Legislature. //PHOTO: Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau

Republicans fielded a variety of questions from tough critics, some of whom are from organizations like Progress NOW Nevada and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. Those groups have supported Democratic plans for new taxes and have opposed Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget.

One girl asked about a shortage of textbooks in her Clark County School District high school.

Responding, Roberson said that many Clark County School District employees earn six-figure salaries and he wants more money going into the classroom.

Bob Fulkerson of PLAN called the response a “good sound byte,” but not a solution for poor rural school districts.

Roberson, in a familiar line, said that collective bargaining is “bankrupting the state,” after which several people shouted: “no.”

“If every teacher makes concessions, you will not have one teacher laid off,” Roberson said.

Republicans touted reforms to collective bargaining and advocated for the governor’s recommendation to cut teacher and state employee salaries by 5 percent, saying that it is the same suffering that private sector employees have had to bear during this recession.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, listens to a young girl ask him a question about the K-12 system as he sits outside legislative offices with a group camping outside the Legislature to show support for taxes. //PHOTO: Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau.

The conversation was mostly an exercise in disagreement: over taxes, over the influence of public sector unions, over teacher pay, over tuition.

“If you want taxes to happen immediately, why can’t reforms happen immediately?” asked Sen. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, as Roberson, Cegavske, Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, and Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, looked on.

McGinness had met with the group of campers earlier.

“They talked to me about taxes and I talked to them about the governor’s budget,” he said. “We agreed to disagree.”

Similar disagreements are happening behind closed doors as McGinness and other legislative leaders from both parties are talking about taxes and the governor’s budget. McGinness said he thinks it is likely legislators will meet almost every night to reach a budget compromise.

Seated on the floor, no Republican had a sudden revelation that taxes will save Nevada and none of the campers disavowed taxes, but both groups seemed pleased with the debate.

“I’m so proud of you for sitting on the floor with us,” Cegavske said. “This is awesome.”

Michael Flores, a Progress NOW organizer, said it was “amazing” to talk to legislators for that long in an open-forum debate.

“This is what Democracy looks like,” he said.

Assemblyman Asks Lawmakers To Put “Cards On The Table” In Forum Today

By Andrew Doughman | 12:47 pm April 18th, 2011

CARSON CITY — Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Sparks, is asking other legislators to “lay your cards on the table.”

As the budget debate in Carson City roils to no discernible conclusion, Hickey is bringing 21 lawmakers, business leadersa and academics to the Legislature to talk taxes and government reform.

“This forum will help get out into the open things that have only been talked about behind closed doors,” Hickey said. “As moderator, I plan to press participants to speak openly about the ‘end game’ here this session.”

That end game has traditionally involved closed door meetings between legislative leadership.

Hickey will moderate the “Recession, Revenues and Nevada’s Recovery” panel today between 3 – 5 p.m. at the Legislature. Viewers online can watch here.

Hickey said he would like to have a serious discussion in public that could evolve into legislative negotiations about the budget.

At the very least, the diversity of voices at the forum should provide an interesting sideshow to the day-in, day-out legislative hearings and committees.

Speaking at the forum span nearly every position on the tax debate. Politically, Hickey’s guests span the spectrum from left to right and include representatives from unions and contractors, free-market libertarians and progressive groups, chambers of commerce and school districts.

Hickey’s forum is not the only change in the legislative end game.

This year, Democratic leaders in the Assembly and Senate have said they will conduct budget hearings in the Assembly and Senate chambers. They say the move will lead to more transparency and include more legislators in budget discussions.

As first reported in the Las Vegas Sun, the change could prompt legislators toward a budget battle over education.

The Legislature has 49 days remaining to conclude its session, pass a budget and finish the drawing of political districts as required every 10 years by the U.S. Census.

 

Panelists for the “Recession, Revenues and Nevada’s Recovery” include:

Heidi Gansert, the governor’s chief of staff

Speaker Pro Tempore Debbie Smith, D-Sparks

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas

Tray Abney, Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce

Carole Vilardo – Nevada Taxpayers Association

Dr. Elliott Parker – UNR economist

Clara Andriola – Associated Builders and Contractors

Geoffrey Lawrence – Nevada Policy Research Institute economist

Dr. Heath Morrison – Washoe County School District superintendent

Mary Lau – Retail Association of Nevada

Dr. Tyrus Cobb – former assistant to President Ronald Reagan

Neil Medina – Northern Nevada Contractor

Jim Pfrommer – Education Alliance of Washoe County

Former Sen. Randolph Townsend

Assemblyman Crescent Hardy, R-Mesquite

Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks

Bob Fulkerson, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada

Chuck Muth – Citizen Outreach

Dave Humke – Washoe County Commissioner

Danny Thompson – AFL-CIO union representative

Norm Dianda – Q&D Construction

Legislators Comment on New Report Giving Governor, State Senate Low Grades on Racial Equity Legislation

By Sean Whaley | 8:00 pm December 17th, 2009
CARSON CITY – A first-ever report that says it tracked bills in the 2009 session of the Nevada Legislature having to do with racial equity issues gives the state Assembly high marks and Gov. Jim Gibbons an “F”.

The state Senate didn’t fare much better than Gibbons, getting a D+ for its racial equity votes, according to the report released earlier this week by the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, or PLAN.

The Assembly, because it passed 10 of 10 racial equity bills, received an A+ in the analysis, which also gives a grade to every individual lawmaker and shows their votes on the Legislation.

The Senate passed six of nine such measures, earning it the low grade.

Gibbons received his F grade for signing only three of the seven racial equity measures that passed both houses of the Legislature. Three of the vetoes were overridden by the Legislature, so six measures actually became law from the 2009 session.

In all, 18 measures were tracked for the report.

Following the release of the report, PLAN members delivered the document to Gibbons’ office.  Gibbons had not been given a copy of the report in advance, although all lawmakers were both mailed and emailed a copy in advance of its release to the public.

Dan Burns, a spokesman for Gibbons, said only: “The governor believes PLAN should take five seconds to tell him everything they know about good, responsive government.”

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, the first black Senate majority leader in Nevada history, received a C- for his voting record on the measures. He could not be reached for comment.

The best grade in the Senate was given to David Parks, D-Las Vegas, who received a B.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, received an A-.

“Race matters in Nevada,” said Bob Fulkerson, executive director of PLAN. “But as demographics shift, the unprecedented growth in communities of color is not being echoed in the policy decisions of the Governor and state Legislature.

“Disparities in opportunity, access and outcomes between white Nevadans and Nevadans of color are stark – in some cases, among the worst in the nation,” he said.

Lawmakers leveled some criticisms at the report.

Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, who received a D- in the report card, said the PLAN analysis uses a flawed methodology because lawmakers do not know in advance which specific measures will be evaluated after the session is over.

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, said he had different reasons for voting against some of the bills cited in the report card rather than any disagreement over the need for racial and social equality.

Goedhart received an F- in the report despite having voted for the domestic partners legislation. He questioned why the domestic partners bill, which doesn’t deal specifically with racial equity, was included in the report in the first place.

“I appreciate PLAN’s dedication to the mission of racial equality,” he said. “I voted against some of the measures not because I disagree, but because I came at the bills with a different perspective.”

Goedhart said he opposed the bill to reopen F Street in Las Vegas because of the cost, not the access issue cited by PLAN. He said he voted against a bill requiring the licensing of off road vehicles because he viewed it as a new tax and government mandate.

“We had to face the reality of our budget limitations,” he said. “We have to be good stewards of public monies.”

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, who received an A-, said she believes the PLAN report has value because it focuses on a single area of concern that is important to the organization, lawmakers and the public at large. Many different groups issue similar report cards on different sets of specific issues, she said.

“On the Assembly side I’m very pleased with the overall grade,” Leslie said. “We take issues of racial equity very seriously.”

The report is just one more tool for lawmakers and the public to use and serves to bring attention to an important issue, she said.

“It is fair to hold us accountable,” Leslie said. “Although I would say they were very tough graders.”

The Nevada Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity evaluated and graded lawmakers and Gibbons on legislation that they claim, if passed, would have a positive impact on communities of color. Only bills that received votes in the full Assembly and Senate were used to compile the grades. Bills that died in committee and did not get a full vote in that house of the Legislature were not counted.

Among the measures becoming law this year were Assembly Bill 243, which requires employers to grant leave to parents to participate in certain school activities, and Assembly Bill 149, which revises provisions on home foreclosures.

Those that failed included Assembly Bill 443, which would have given minority voters more power to elect candidates in their wards in Reno and Sparks. The measure passed the Assembly but did not come out of the Senate Government Affairs Committee. Another was Assembly Bill 190, which would have required a study of issues concerning the death penalty. It passed the Assembly but did not come out of the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee.

Among those that became law despite a veto by Gibbons was Senate Bill 283, which revised provisions regarding the rights of domestic partners, and Assembly Bill 304, relating to the preservation of existing neighborhoods. This measure is related to the closure of F Street in Las Vegas, cutting off a historically black neighborhood from downtown businesses.

To back up their conclusions of growing racial inequality in Nevada, PLAN cited statistics that show 50 percent of minority groups received high interest loans compared to only 30 percent of white borrowers, and that nearly 60 percent of white residents receive employer-sponsored health care, compared to 22 percent for Latinos and 7 percent for black residents.

“They are sincere,” Sen. Coffin said of PLAN. “But we don’t always look at bills in terms of race. Their goal is to make you see things in racial terms, and frankly, I don’t vote that way.”

Coffin, who is half Mexican, did say the report can be of some use because lawmakers can now look back at the bills in the PLAN report and evaluate them on racial equity grounds.

The full report is available at the PLAN website.