Posts Tagged ‘Cegavske’

Tarkanian Wins 4th Congressional GOP Race, Lee Upset By Democrat Challenger In State Senate 1 In Nevada Primary

By Sean Whaley | 11:02 pm June 12th, 2012

CARSON CITYDanny Tarkanian narrowly beat out state Sen. Barbara Cegavske in the 4th Congressional District GOP primary today, surviving a tough challenge in the contest to see who will face Democrat state Sen. Steven Horsford in the November general election.

4th Congressional GOP candidate Danny Tarkanian.

The son of former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, Tarkanian overcame bad publicity surrounding news that he and his family face a $17 million judgment in a civil real estate case out of California.

The race was close, with Tarkanian ending up with 32 percent of the vote to 28 percent for Cegavske. Cegavske won the more populous Clark County in the district which also stretches across much of rural Nevada. Tarkanian made up the difference with strong showings in the rurals, including Esmeralda, Lyon, Mineral and White Pine counties.

But Tarkanian faces an uphill battle in the new congressional district created in Nevada as a result of the 2010 census. The district, composed of parts of Clark County and several rural counties, has a 113,000 to 90,000 Democratic voter edge as of the close of the primary.

The big surprise of the night may have been the overwhelming defeat of state Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, in the Democratic primary against newcomer Patricia Spearman. Spearman had 63 percent of the vote to 37 percent for Lee.

The contest is expected to be decided with Spearman’s primary victory because of the strong Democratic voter edge in the district.

Progressive activists targeted Lee because of his conservative stand on some social issues. Spearman’s victory, however, won’t alter the political landscape as Republicans and Democrats face off in several other Senate districts in the effort to take control of the 21-member house in 2013.

The Nevada Priorities PAC, which supported Spearman in her underdog challenge, said Lee was their initial target because of his weak voting record on issues relating to education, civil rights, the environment and women’s choice.

“Voting records have consequences,” said Priorities PAC spokesperson Annette Magnus. “When we have a so-called friend abandon us on issue after issue, we were left with little recourse but to launch an independent campaign to educate primary voters.”

Lee raised more than $208,000 for his re-election bid, while the Nevada Priorities Political Action Committee raised $86,000. Spearman raised less than $14,000.

The statewide primary featured very low turnout by registered voters statewide. Fewer than 20 percent of active voters cast ballots in the primary.

There were no surprises in the other state Senate primary battles, with the toughest challenge in the GOP Senate District 9 contest, where Mari Nakashima St. Martin fended off Brent Jones. The race featured allegations of “partying” by St. Martin, while Jones was questioned about whether he took advantage of a mentally disabled man more than a decade ago by selling him two ostrich eggs for $30,000 to establish an ostrich farm.

The race pitted GOP Senate Caucus favorite St. Martin against Jones, an avowed opponent of new taxes. St. Martin had 54 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Jones.

A similar GOP primary battle occurred in Senate District 18, where Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, defeated Assemblyman Richard McArthur, R-Las Vegas, and Conrad Vergara. Hammond was the GOP Senate Caucus choice who voted to continue a package of expiring tax hikes in 2011, while McArthur ran as a no taxes candidate who opposed the package.

Hammond had 56 percent of the vote to 41 percent for McArthur.

For Democrats, Kelli Ross defeated Donna Schlemmer in state Senate 18 and will face Hammond in a district that has a Republican voter registration edge.

The Senate races are critical to both Republicans and Democrats to determine who controls the Senate in the 2013 legislative session. Democrats currently have an 11-10 edge.

The other three state Senate races in play between the parties are Senate 5, 6 and 15. The party primaries in Senate 5 and 6 had no surprises. Senate 15 in Reno had no primary. Republicans need to win four of the five races to take an 11-10 edge in 2013.

In some of the other races and issues facing voters around Nevada, the Laughlin incorporation vote went down to defeat. Residents of the community 90 miles south of Las Vegas rejected the idea of forming their own city by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.

There were no surprises in the other congressional races. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., both won their primaries in the Senate contest.

Former Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., had no opponent in the 1st Congressional District. She will face Republican Chris Edwards in November.

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., won his primary in the 2nd Congressional District and will face Democrat Samuel Koepnick.

Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., was easily winning his primary in the 3rd District and will face Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, in November.

In the two State Board of Education races, Allison Serafin and Ed Klapproth, were leading among five candidates in District 3 in Clark County, with 31 percent and 21 percent of the vote, respectively. Both will appear on the November ballot.

In the District 2 race in Northern Nevada among five candidates, current board member Dave Cook had 31 percent of the vote and Donna Clontz had 25 percent. Both will be on the November ballot.

Former Lt. Gov. and Regent Lonnie Hammargren had just over 50 percent of the vote in the race for the Board of Regents in District 12. Andrea Anderson was second in the four person race with 28 percent of the vote.

The only other upset in the legislative races occurred in Douglas County in a three-way Republican primary, where incumbent Kelly Kite lost to challenger Jim Wheeler. Kite was targeted for his vote in 2011 to continue a package of expiring taxes.


GOP Congressional Candidate Danny Tarkanian Says $17 Million Judgment The Result Of Fraud

By Sean Whaley | 9:02 pm May 31st, 2012

CARSON CITY – A leading candidate for the Republican nomination for the 4th Congressional District seat said today a $17 million court judgment again him and his family is the result of fraud and not bad judgment.

Danny Tarkanian, one of several Republicans vying in the June 12 primary to face state Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, in the November general election, said the developer in the transaction took his money and used it for purposes other than developing a project in Anza, Calif.

4th Congressional GOP candidate Danny Tarkanian.

Tarkanian discussed the case on Jon Ralston’s Face To Face television program today. The son of basketball legend Jerry Tarkanian, he is viewed as a favorite in the primary, which includes state Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas.

Tarkanian said his family was misled in the real estate deal, and that it bears no correlation to how he would perform as a member of the House of Representatives. The judgment is the result of a dispute that bankrupted both the original developer, Robert Dyson, and La Jolla Bank, which financed most of the deal.

“He was to use that money to develop the property in Southern California,” Tarkanian said. “He didn’t do that. Instead he used the money for other purposes, including repaying a loan he had with a bank that loaned us the money. We believe there was clear evidence of fraud there.

“We’re just like thousands of other Nevadans around here that are losing their life savings because of unscrupulous acts by banks and others that are involved in that stuff,” he said. “Yes, I feel horrible for my family and I wish we could have done something differently.”

The judgment, entered by a federal judge, comes at a bad time for Tarkanian as voting is underway in the primary.

As reported first by Ralston, the federal judge has ruled that Tarkanian, his parents and siblings owe the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. $17 million for a loan they took from the now-defunct bank that is under federal receivership.

Tarkanian has said he will appeal the judgment, and that it in no way is a reflection of his suitability to serve in the 4th Congressional district.

“I think it is a big stretch to say that because I guy defrauded our family, that that gives me poor judgment,” he said.


Audio clips:

Danny Tarkanian says he and his family were victims of fraud:

053112Tarkian1 :13 of fraud there.”

Tarkanian says his family has been victimized like many Nevada families:

053112Tarkanian2 :11 done something differently.”


Major Fund-raiser Planned For GOP Congressional Candidate Barbara Cegavske

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 12:39 pm February 27th, 2012

A   major campaign fund-raiser for state Sen. Barbara Cegavske’s run for the 4th Congressional District seat is being hosted by Reps. Joe Heck and Mark Amodei, both R-Nev., on March 9 at the Stirling Club in Las Vegas.

More than 150 influential Nevadans are listed as members of the Host Committee for the event.

Cegavske is one of several Republicans seeking the new congressional seat, including Danny Tarkanian. State Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, is also running for the job.

Thirteen Nevada GOP State Lawmakers Get High Ratings In First Report Card From Conservative Group

By Sean Whaley | 10:38 am November 3rd, 2011

CARSON CITY – The national conservative organization American Conservative Union ranked Nevada lawmakers for the first time in a report card released today, handing out top scores to five GOP state Senators.

Sens. Greg Brower, R-Reno; Don Gustavson, R-Sparks; Elizabeth Halseth and Michael Roberson, both R-Las Vegas; and James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville; all were named as “Conservative All-Stars of the Nevada Legislature” for scoring 100 percent in the ratings.

Another eight Republican lawmakers, two in the Senate and six in the Assembly, were identified as ACU Conservatives for scoring 80 percent or higher in the ratings.

State Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

They are Sens. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas; Mike McGinness, R-Fallon; and Assembly members John Ellison, R-Elko; Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley; John Hambrick and Richard McArthur, both R-Las Vegas; Ira Hansen, R-Sparks; and Mark Sherwood, R-Henderson.

One lawmaker, Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, scored a zero on the report card and was identified as “A True Liberal of the Silver State.”

ACU Chairman Al Cardenas announced the rankings at a press event in Las Vegas.

“Just as we hold every member of Congress accountable for his or her voting record on the most important issues facing our nation, the ACU will ensure voters in Nevada have access to the latest information on their state representatives’ conservative credentials,” he said.

The ACU, which describes itself as the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots conservative organization, recently announced a new initiative to expand the ACU Congressional Ratings program to state legislatures for the first time ever, grading members on their votes on key conservative issues.

State Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks. / Nevada News Bureau file photo

The ACU said in its report that it tracks a wide range of issues before state legislatures to determine which issues and votes, “serve as a clear litmus test separating those representatives who defend liberty and liberal members who have turned their backs on our founding principles – constitutionally limited government, individual liberty, free markets, a strong national defense and traditional values.”

The votes selected for the inaugural State Legislative Ratings in each of five targeted states – Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and the Commonwealth of Virginia – are not always considered the “most important” votes as defined by others, the ACU said in its report. Instead, the votes selected are chosen to create a clear ideological distinction among those casting them.

The group selected 31 legislative measures to score the 63 Nevada lawmakers, including Assembly Bill 299, which would have imposed a 50-cent surcharge on auto insurance policies to subsidize car insurance for low income residents, which the ACU opposed. The bill did not pass.

Another measure was Assembly Bill 321, which implemented the “Castle Doctrine” in Nevada, giving citizens the right to defend themselves in their own homes. The ACU supported the bill, which was approved by both houses of the Legislature.

The ACU also used the vote on extending a collection of taxes set to expire on June 30 in its report card. Assembly Bill 561 passed the Legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval as part of a budget deal between Democrats and Republicans.

“As pleased as we are to recognize a total of 13 members of the Legislature as true conservative patriots, we are disappointed there were not more members who adhered to conservative principles,” Cardenas said. “Thankfully, Gov, Brian Sandoval, a rising star of the conservative movement, has championed limited government and pro-growth policies by vetoing several ill-conceived pieces of legislation passed by the Nevada Legislature.”

“I am honored to be named the most conservative legislator in the Nevada Assembly,” McArthur said. “This rating will reinforce the ratings I have previously received from the Nevada Policy Research Institute and Citizen Outreach.”

McArthur scored 94 percent in the ACU ratings, ranking him as the most conservative member of the Nevada Assembly.

Gustavson said he was pleased to rank so highly in the survey.

“It doesn’t come as a surprise because I have been living up to my conservative values that got me elected and keep getting me elected,” he said. “So I’m very honored to have received the award.”


Audio clips:

Sen. Don Gustavson said he has been living up to his conservative values:

110311Gustavson :09 received the award.”


Carson District Judge Signs Off On New Political Boundaries, Making Only Minor Changes To Special Master Maps

By Sean Whaley | 2:58 pm October 27th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Carson City District Judge James Todd Russell approved a set of maps outlining Nevada’s new political boundaries today, making only modest changes to the lines drawn by a panel of three court-appointed special masters.

Russell, who ended up in charge of the redistricting process after legislative Democrats and Republicans could not come to an agreement in the 2011 session, signed off on the four congressional districts as proposed and made minor changes to several state Senate seats to correct what he said was an irregularly shaped state Senate 8 seat now held by Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas.

The changes to Senate 8 also resulted in modest changes in the percentage of Democrats and Republicans in Senate District 9 held by Sen. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, Senate District 6 held by Sen. Allison Copening, D-Las Vegas, and a new Senate 18 district created in Clark County with the population shift from northern and rural Nevada to the south.

Democrat attorney Marc Elias, left, and Republican attorney Mark Hutchison look over the new maps in Carson City District Court today. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau

Russell also changed the proposed boundaries of Assembly Districts 34 and 37 in Clark County to return Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, to his District 34. Horne had moved and was unintentionally drawn out of his district.

Russell made the changes after consulting this week with the special masters in advance of today’s hearing.

Attorneys for Democrats and Republicans reserved judgment on whether they will appeal the new political boundaries, required as a result of the 2010 Census, after reviewing the changes. The new political boundaries could potentially be challenged both to the Nevada Supreme Court and the federal courts.

Republican Party attorney Mark Hutchison had argued for changes to Senate seats 6, 8 and 9 to make them more competitive for Republicans, but Russell made only minor changes to the districts.

Democrat Party Attorney Marc Elias had asked for no changes to the maps drawn by Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover, Las Vegas attorney Thomas Sheets and former legislative Research Director Bob Erickson.

Elias said he could propose a laundry list of changes to the maps to improve Democrat political changes in the 2012 election, but that absent any serious errors that needed fixing, the political demands of the two parties should not be accommodated by Russell.

Russell said he tried to address the concerns of rural Nevada, which saw a Senate district drawn all the way into Clark County to reflect the population shift, but could find no way to do so. He noted that both the redistricting plans proposed by Republicans and Democrats moved the district into Clark County as well. The map as drawn by the special masters encompasses less of Clark County than the plans proposed by the parties, Russell said.

“We tried to accommodate these people . . . but there’s no way to work it out,” he said.

The rural district could have been kept whole only if the Legislature had voted to expand its size from the current 21 Senate and 42 Assembly seats, but it did not do so. The state constitution allows the Legislature to be expanded to as many as 75 seats in total.

The congressional maps, which include a new fourth seat due to Nevada’s population growth over the past decade compared to other states, has a central urban Las Vegas District 1 that is 42.8 percent Hispanic.

“I think overall we can live with the congressional maps, particularly based on the court’s decision to accept the special masters’ finding that there was no white block voting that precluded minorities from being elected or choosing candidates of their choice,” Hutchison said.

Elias said he does not believe the new congressional districts violate the federal Voting Rights Act and so no federal court challenge looks likely.

“It doesn’t seem to me that there is any basis at this point for a federal court action,” he said. “We’ve said, literally from the first day here, that the Voting Rights Act does not compel the creation of a majority-minority congressional district.”

Russell said he also considered the idea of returning the redistricting process to the Legislature in a special session, but rejected the idea. A two-week special session would have cost about $550,000, he said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval is the only one with the authority to call a special session of the Legislature, and he had previously rejected the idea, saying he had confidence in the court process to resolve the impasse.

Russell also found that the districts as drawn do not violate the federal Voting Rights Act.

The Nevada Supreme Court still has a hearing scheduled for next month on the issue of whether the Legislature has the responsibility to draw the state’s new political boundaries, not the courts.


Audio clips:

GOP attorney Mark Hutchison says Republicans can lives with the new congressional districts:

102711Hutchison :15 of their choice.”

Democrat attorney Marc Elias says he does not believe there are federal issues with the new districts:

102711Elias :16 majority-minority congressional district.”

Nevada Think Tank Says Complicated Public Education Funding Plan Masks Real Per Pupil Spending

By Sean Whaley | 6:01 pm September 12th, 2011

CARSON CITY – So how much are Nevada taxpayers shelling out to educate children attending the state’s 17 public school districts this year?

And if the answer is not easy to ascertain, is it time to consider revising the 44-year old Nevada Plan, the admittedly complex formula used by the Legislature every two years to fund public education?

The Nevada Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank, recently weighed in on this issue, noting that many people, including policy makers, are either confused or deliberately misleading on the issue of per pupil funding in the public schools.

“To make informed public-policy decisions, taxpayers and policymakers should be aware of what they are really spending to educate children in the Silver State,” said Geoffrey Lawrence, author of the NPRI article called “Confusion is the Plan.”

This chart showing how the Nevada Plan works makes the complexity of the plan clear.

Nevada lawmakers are about to embark on a comprehensive study of public education funding as a result of the passage of Senate Bill 11 from the 2011 session, so there may be the opportunity to bring some clarity to the issue.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, agrees that Nevada officials should come to agreement on how to calculate per pupil spending. But of greater concern is how the money is spent, she said.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas.

“To even talk about money, to me, is irrelevant,” Cegavske said. “You need to talk about how are we going to better educate kids so they are successful. You can give them a diploma, but if they can’t do the work or they don’t have the strategic intellect that employers look for, what good is spending the money.”

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said while complex, the Nevada Plan has served the state and its students well.

“It’s one of the few areas in the education world where we are acknowledged nationally for our equitable funding plan,” she said.

But the upcoming study will provide an opportunity to review it to see if it needs adjustment, Smith said.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks.

The biggest concern in the NPRI article was a suggestion that maybe public schools don’t require the level of funding they now receive based on the per pupil analysis, she said.

“I think public schools in this country are the great equalizer,” Smith said. “I think it is perfectly acceptable for us to look at our funding formula periodically and also to make sure we’re able to talk similarly about the way we explain numbers.”

Crunching the numbers

Lawrence suggests that when all sources of funding are included in per pupil expenditures, the dollars spent are much higher than some would have you believe.

His analysis shows that for the 2011-12 school year, the Clark County School District plans to spend a total of $12,369 per pupil ($9,152 on current expenditures), while the Washoe County School District plans to spend $11,390 per pupil ($10,441 on current expenditures).

This is far more than the average of $5,263 for 2012 and $5,374 for 2013 approved by the 2011 Legislature. This is because the state funding is only one piece of the Nevada Plan funding puzzle. Locally generated property and sales taxes, along with other revenues, add to this total.

The funding process starts with a determination of what level of basic support is needed for each pupil. Then local reviews are estimated to determine how much they will contribute. The state provides the remainder.

But there are also funds that are “outside” the Nevada Plan, including federal funds and school construction spending.

Lawrence says that with a graduation rate of less than 50 percent, taxpayers need to know how much they are spending, and what they are receiving in return. He questioned whether private schools could achieve better results with less funding.

Washoe County Schools Superintendent Heath Morrison, while questioning some of the numbers used in the NPRI article, agrees that Nevada would be better served if everyone could agree on a uniform set of numbers for public education spending.

“Everybody’s got different numbers and everybody is using different numbers,” he said. “And so it really gets complicated in terms of trying to make some baseline comparisons, which I think is really necessary.

Washoe County schools Superintendent Heath Morrison.

“So I applaud NPRI’s article in terms of trying to say, there are a lot of numbers out there and we really ought to use accurate numbers,” Morrison said.

Morrison said it was fair of NPRI to comment on Nevada’s woeful 50 percent graduation rate, but the Washoe district has worked hard on improving that number, which now stands at 63 percent, well above the state as a whole. That number will jump again and get close to the national average of 71 percent when the latest rate is announced Wednesday, he said.

The Nevada Plan has achieved its goals

While admittedly complex, Ray Bacon, executive director of the Nevada Manufacturers Association and a long-time education reform advocate, says the Nevada Plan has worked to equalize funding among the state’s 17 school districts and headed off potential lawsuits that have plagued dozens of other states.

“Is it a perfect formula? The answer is no,” he said. “But it works and it has kept us out of the lawsuit hell since 1967 or whenever it started, and we’re one of the few.

“Does it need to be adjusted? The answer is absolutely,” Bacon said. “Because what the economic situation was in 1967 is not what it is today.”

Where inequities do exist is with the schools within the districts themselves, although the federal No Child Left Behind Act has remedied some of that, he said.

Morrison agrees that the plan has worked as intended to send additional funding to Nevada’s rural school districts, which have expenses despite smaller student populations, from transportation costs to offering comprehensive programs.

But it does not address the more recent reality faced primarily by the two larger urban districts, which is educating children with poverty and mobility issues or who are not English proficient, he said.

“I think the old Nevada Plan probably benefits the rural districts, and I would hate to see that impacted negatively, but it also doesn’t address the huge increase in percentage of kids who come with those additional learning needs and clearly they have resource issues,” Morrison said. “And so as we look at that plan I think that is something that has to be revisited.”

Craig Stevens, director of government relations for the Nevada State Education Association, agreed that the demands for educating Nevada’s urban student population is not adequately addressed by the Nevada Plan.

The upcoming legislative study is the result of a bill sought by the Clark County School District to consider a weighted enrollment formula to take into account the different educational needs of children in the larger districts, he said.

“Not every student is the same and some cost more to educate,” Stevens said.

But the biggest concern the association has with the Nevada Plan is that the funding is like a see-saw – when local funding increases, state funding is correspondingly reduced, he said.

“In the good times and local revenues are up, really and truly unless that overall number – the basic per pupil – goes up, it’s a zero sum game,” Stevens said. “It’s really not taking into account what the economy is doing.”

One point of contention among Nevada officials is whether to count money spent on school construction, or on the repayment of school construction bonds, in the per pupil total.

NPRI included these expenditures as part of the total.

Cegavske said there is no question that these expenditures should be part of the total.

“To take any part of it away, I think, is disingenuous,” she said. “It all comes out of taxpayer dollars and they need to know how that money is being spent.”

Smith agrees the construction money needs to be accounted for, but separately from per pupil spending to evaluate student achievement. Counting construction costs in Nevada, which led the country in growth for 20 years, would not provide a fair comparison to a state that had slow or no growth, she said.

But Lawrence says the cost of buildings and related expenses are factored into the cost of private school tuition, and so should be counted for a fair comparison on the cost of providing an education.

“The costs of constructing a facility, and heating and cooling and everything, they are necessary expenditures for delivering public instruction, unless you’re going to do it outside in the heat, which I don’t think anybody’s advocating for,” he said.


Audio clips:

Sen. Barbara Cegavske says the more important issue is what taxpayers are getting for their money:

091211Cegavske1 :27 spending the money.”

Cegavske says school construction should be counted in per pupil costs:

091211Cegavske2 :17 is being spent.”

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith says Nevada’s public education funding plan has served the state well:

091211Smith :20 one school district.”

Washoe County schools chief Heath Morrison says the NPRI article raises an important issue about finding common ground on reporting per pupil spending:

091211Morrison1 :18 use accurate numbers.”

Morrison says the Nevada Plan does not take into account the cost of educating some students with special learning needs in the larger districts:

091211Morrison2 :20 to be revisited.”

Ray Bacon of the Nevada Manufacturers Association says the Nevada Plan has helped the state avoid education equity lawsuits unlike many other states:

091211Bacon :33 it is today.”

Craig Stevens of the NSEA says the association does not like the Nevada Plan because funding levels do not increase in times of economic growth:

091211Stevens :21 and vice versa.”

NPRI author Geoffrey Lawrence says school construction costs must be included in per pupil funding to provide for a fair comparison with private schools:

091211Lawrence :18 is advocating for.”



Last-Minute Bill To Change Legislative Process In-Between Sessions Concerns Some GOP Lawmakers

By Sean Whaley | 6:19 am June 10th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Some GOP lawmakers say a bill introduced late in the just-ended 2011 session appears to be an attempt to move the Nevada Legislature more toward a full-time operation in the period in-between the biennial sessions.

Republican lawmakers critical of Assembly Bill 578 also say it would limit participation on interim policy panels by many of the 63 state lawmakers.

A Democrat who processed the bill disagrees however, saying all lawmakers will be able to participate under the new process, which is only intended to make the interim more efficient, not create a full-time Legislature.

“It is very concerning to me,” said Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas. “It seems as if someone is trying to make us a full-time Legislature, and we’re supposed to be a part-time Legislature.”

Cegavske said the major change to how the Legislature operates in the interim didn’t get full hearings either.

“It wasn’t really vetted out,” she said. “Normally something of that magnitude, the majority party would talk to the minority leadership and talk to them about doing something that dramatic. And that didn’t occur, so it is just very troubling and very concerning.”

Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said he has several issues with the change from the current interim legislative panels to Joint Interim Standing Committees that would mirror the committees used during session.

Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea has serious questions about a bill changing the interim legislative process./File Photo: Nevada News Bureau

“I didn’t want to see that change,” he said. “The standing committees would become the interim committees, with reduced membership, and I’m very concerned about that.

“Everyone has their own expertise and that’s why we are a citizen Legislature,” Goicoechea said. “I think we’re better off engaging a few more people and doing true interim committees as pertaining to issues rather than just the standing committees.”

But Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, the chairman of the committee that processed the bill, said there is no intent to create a full-time Legislature in the interim, only to make the meetings in-between sessions more efficient. The intent is to have all lawmakers serve on at least one of the new committees as well so full representation from all members is anticipated, he said.

The first step in the process was to create the same committees in both the Assembly and Senate for the 2011 session, Segerblom said. Past sessions have seen different panels in the two houses.

“The thought was then if we could take those same committees and continue them in the interim it would make for a much more efficient process,” he said.

The new system would actually see fewer days of work by lawmakers than the current process, Segerblom said.

“Most committees would probably meet five times so it’s not a full-time Legislature by any stretch of the imagination,” he said.

AB578, introduced May 31, passed both the Assembly and Senate on mostly party-line votes. It passed out of the Assembly on June 5, and was amended and passed by the Senate on June 6, the last day of session. It is now in the hands of Gov. Brian Sandoval for his review.

Rather than a number of interim committees now in existence to consider a wide range of policy issues in-between sessions, the measure would replace the panels with new Joint Interim Standing Committees.

The committees would mirror those established for the 2011 session: Commerce, Labor and Energy; Education; Government Affairs; Health and Human Services; Judiciary; Legislative Operations and Elections; Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining; Revenue and Taxation; and Transportation.

The joint committees would have smaller memberships, however, another element of the proposed change that concerns Republican lawmakers.

The committees would have three members from the Senate and five from the Assembly with no more than five from one party.

Cegavske said the proposed change also comes at a time when other state legislatures are reducing or eliminating their interim activities as a way to save money in lean budget times. This proposal would do the opposite, she said.

“It’s just not the time to add more,” Cegavske said.

Segerblom said the change is expected to be pretty close to cost-neutral compared to the current system.

There was no ulterior motive in making the change, just a desire to make the interim process more streamlined and more effective, he said. If Sandoval has concerns, “we’d love to talk to him beforehand,” Segerblom said.

Audio clips:

Sen. Barbara Cegavske says the bill will move Nevada to a full-time Legislature:

060911Cegavske1 :08 a part-time Legislature.”

Cegavske says the last-minute measure did not get full hearings:

060911Cegavske2 :18 and very concerning.”

Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea says the change would limit membership by lawmakers:

060911Goicoechea1 :21 concerned about that.”

Goicoechea says the current interim committee process works well:

060911Goicoechea2 :18 the standing committees.”

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom says the new plan would make the interim process more efficient:

060911Segerblom1 :16 other year too.”

Segerblom says keeping the same lawmakers involved on issues in the interim will help get each new legislative session off to a faster start:

060911Segerblom2 :24 it will do.”

Reaction Mixed To Education, Policy Reforms Achieved As Part Of Deal To End Legislative Session

By Sean Whaley | 7:21 pm June 7th, 2011

CARSON CITY – While some critics may never be convinced that Gov. Brian Sandoval should have agreed to support new tax revenue to balance the budget, the collection of reforms approved as part of the deal finalized this morning cannot be ignored.

From changes to Nevada’s collective bargain law allowing the reopening of labor agreements in emergencies to limiting teacher tenure to eliminating health insurance for newly hired state employees upon retirement – the changes approved in the 120-day legislative session by Democrats and Republicans could have far reaching impacts.

Ray Bacon, executive director of the Nevada Manufacturers Association and a long-time advocate for reform to Nevada’s public education system, said it will take time to see the effects of the changes, which also include making the state superintendent of public instruction answerable to the governor rather than an elected board.

“It’s going to take a while to see real change in this thing but I believe we’re going to see real change in K-12 performance,” he said. “Could we have done more on improving the education reform and improving the public employee benefit changes, sure. But given the makeup of the two houses, quite frankly I’m pretty well stunned with what we did get.”

Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, made note of the reforms in announcing his support of the tax extension bill on the Senate floor on Monday: “We’ll pass performance-based budgeting, collective bargaining and employee benefit reforms that will put our state on a path to fiscal sustainability.

“We also stressed this session the need for education system reforms that really does put our children first, education reforms that represent a shift in the right direction,” he said. “I’m not saying these reforms are the end all. They are a good start and I’m confident in the next session I leave behind some capable colleagues that will continue in these efforts.”

Not everybody is convinced that the reforms will result in real change.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, said on the Senate floor during the tax bill debate: “I don’t believe the concessions my colleagues made on the other side of the aisle will improve public education.”

Victor Joecks, communications director of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank, called the education reforms minor and said they will have minimal impact on increasing student achievement in Nevada.

“This differs from the governor’s original reform package, which included one-year contracts for teachers, vouchers and ending social promotion,” he said in a commentary.

There are those who wish more could have been done. Sandoval wanted to make a fundamental change to the public employees’ retirement system, but instead won only a study of the issue. While strongly supporting a change to the state constitution to allow a school voucher program, no progress was made on the issue in the 2011 session.

An effort to make some reforms to the state’s home construction defect laws failed when a bill failed to win passage in the Senate in the waning hours of the session. Supporters of reform in this area hailed the failure as a victory, however, calling Assembly Bill 401 no reform at all.

And in what could be called tax reform, the extension of business taxes and other levies that will bring in over $600 million in the next two years included the complete elimination of payroll taxes on Nevada’s 115,281 small businesses. Small businesses pay a 0.5 percent tax rate on their payrolls currently.

The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and other groups had sought reforms to education and public employee benefits this session in exchange for consideration of any additional revenues to fund the budget.

Democrats also sought reforms. Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, sponsored the bill seeking to restrict attorneys’ fees and reduce filing times for lawsuits in residential construction defects law. The construction industry dismissed the measure as inadequate, however, and argued for its defeat.

Oceguera took issue with the characterization of his bill, saying at a committee hearing that he worked with the construction industry to draft his bill.

“I asked for a list of the five most important things,” Oceguera said. “The three that are in this bill are the top three that you gave to me. So to say these aren’t important issues is disingenuous at least. These are the issues you told me you wanted to work on, and we worked on.”

But the Senate on Monday, sent the measure to defeat on a 12-9 vote.

The performance based budgeting bill, which has been signed into law by Sandoval, was sought by Oceguera and Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks.

The decision to support extending taxes came after a Nevada Supreme Court decision put into question a number of funding mechanisms proposed by Sandoval to balance the two-year budget that will begin July 1. While the ramifications of the decision were not entirely clear, Sandoval reluctantly opted to replace some local revenues proposed for his budget with the business and sales tax extensions.

The reforms were a requirement for his and Republican lawmaker support of the added revenues.

The reforms passed by the Nevada Legislature will:

  • End the seniority system in school district lay-offs. Other factors, including performance and effectiveness, must now be included.
  • Change collective bargaining for local government employees. Agreements will be re-opened during times of fiscal emergency and supervisory employees will not be allowed to collectively bargain.
  • Allow the governor to appoint the state superintendent of public instruction. A new state board will also have members appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, as well as four members elected by the people of Nevada.
  • Save an estimated $275 million over the next 30 years by removing eligibility of newly hired state employees for health insurance benefits during retirement under the Public Employee Benefit Plan, effective January 1, 2012.
  • Conduct a complete analysis of PERS in order to give the 2013 Legislature and the governor information they need to address unfunded liability. The study must include recommendations with actuarially-sound alternatives.

Audio clips:

Manufacturers Association Executive Director Ray Bacon says it will take time to assess the effects of the education reforms:

060711Bacon1 :09 “in K-12 performance.”

Bacon says he is surprised at the number of reforms approved in the session:

060711Bacon2 :18 we did get.”

Sen. Mike McGinness says the reforms are significant:

060711McGinness1 :26 the right direction.”

McGinness says more gains can be made in 2013:

060711McGinness2 :11 continue these efforts.”

Sen. Barbara Cegavske says the education reforms approved by lawmakers aren’t sufficient:

060711Cegavske :07 improve public education.”


Bills Sought By GOP Senators ‘Returned’ To Assembly As Tax Discussions Continue

By Sean Whaley | 12:00 pm May 26th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Republican state senators who are refusing to go along with a call by Democrats to increase funding for the state budget say bills they have sponsored are being held hostage as a result.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, said Assembly Democrats, who have a 26-16 majority, “called back” seven Senate bills that had already been voted on and sent to the Senate for final action.

Senate Bills 89, 96, 111, 134, 225, 322 and 337 were requested to be returned to the Assembly, said David Byerman, secretary of the Senate. He said such requests are routine and are accommodated without requesting an explanation. Various reasons can prompt such a request, such as a reconsideration of a measure, he said.

All seven bills passed the Assembly unanimously on Monday. On Tuesday, Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee, including Cegavske, Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, and Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, refused to support a proposed budget relying on the extension of sun-setting taxes to add more than $700 million in funding.

The Assembly Ways and Means Committee today passed out a bill extending the sun-setting taxes on a party-line vote. But a two-thirds vote will be required in the full Assembly and then in the Senate to approve the measure.

Democrats in the Legislature need three GOP members of the Senate of 10 to vote to extend the sun-setting taxes. So far the Senate GOP caucus has remained firm in its opposition, holding with Gov. Brian Sandoval against any tax extensions or increases to fund areas of the budget.

On Wednesday, the seven GOP Senate bills were recalled by the Assembly leadership.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, who said he is working to win support from Senate Republicans for additional revenue for the state budget, acknowledged the bills were called back by the Assembly.

“I think the issue is the budget is the most important thing we have going right now,” he said. “Any policy bill is not that important right now. So we’re absolutely looking at holding all the policy bills until we have a budget.

“Call it what you will, I think what we’re doing is, there is nothing more important than getting this budget done so no policy bills are moving right now,” Oceguera said.

If the bills remain in the possession of the Assembly, they won’t see final approval or be signed into law by the governor, he said.

Oceguera said a lot of reform bills are caught up in the discussion over new tax revenue.

“Obviously if there is not reform on the tax side of things there’s not going to be reform on anything else either,” he said.

Cegavske said Republican senators are being punished for their opposition to tax increases but the bills are good legislation that don’t deserve such action.

Cegavske said failing to act on her Senate Bill 225 won’t hurt her personally, but it will harm the efforts of the American Heart Association.

“Yes my name is on it and if you want to punish me, punish me, don’t punish the American Heart Association,” she said. “Because it is truly a bill that will help them and there is nothing wrong with sending policy bills through while you are still debating budgets. There is nothing wrong with that.

“It saddens me that you would act in a manner that is unprofessional,” Cegavske said.

“It’s an angry attempt to say we didn’t like the fact that you voted against the sunset bills so we’re going to do something that affects you,” she said. “Well, it doesn’t affect me personally but it does affect the American Heart Association and what they’re trying to accomplish for the good of the citizens of Nevada.”

“One would hope we don’t need to go down such a partisan road,” said Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville.

SB89 imposing reforms on homeowners’ associations is sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon. SB96 making changes to the Guinn Millennium Scholarship is sponsored by Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City.

SB111, sponsored by Settelmeyer, would make changes to help children who are kept in protective custody. SB134 is sponsored by Rhoads and would make changes to the Elko City municipal elections.

SB225 sought by Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, would designate certain hospitals as stroke centers. SB322, relating to weight limits on vehicles, is being sought by Settelmeyer, Hardy and Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas. SB337 is being sought by Kieckhefer and Sen. Allison Copening, D-Las Vegas, and would make changes to the donation of anatomical gifts.

None of the measures have anything to do with policy reforms sought by some Republicans in exchange for consideration of taxes, such as collective bargaining.

Audio clips:

Sen. Barbara Cegavske said Senate GOP bills are being held up as punishment for opposition to tax increases:

052611Cegavske1 :17 wrong with that.”

Cegavske said there is no reason the bills should not be passed while the budget is being debated:

052611Cegavske2 :24 all that way.”

Sen. James Settelmeyer said the Legislature should not have to go down such a partisan road:

052611Settelmeyer :04 a partisan road.”

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera says the budget is the most pressing issue right now:

052611Oceguera1 :05 going right now.”

Oceguera says policy bills are not that important right now:

052611Oceguera2 :09 have a budget.”

Oceguera says the budget is the top priority:

052611Oceguera3 :09 moving right now.”

Oceguera says if there is not reform on taxes, there won’t be reform on anything else:

052611Oceguera4 :14 anything else either.”





Bill To Generate Money For Public Education, Create Jobs, Raises Legal Concerns

By Sean Whaley | 5:20 pm May 18th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A bill authorizing the state Treasurer to use up to $50 million in education funds to support economic diversification efforts and generate more money for public schools passed the Senate today despite questions about the constitutionality of the measure.

Senate Bill 75, amended twice before the vote, passed 12-9 with 10 Democrats and two Republicans in support. It will now be considered by the Assembly.

The bill is being sought by state Treasurer Kate Marshall.

It would create a first-for-the-state private equity fund to allow for investment in both existing Nevada companies and companies seeking to locate to the state that are in such industries as cyber security, alternative energy and health care.

The intent is to assist in diversifying Nevada’s economy while generating a better return on the invested monies from the state’s Permanent School Fund.

A big hurdle for the measure is the state constitutional prohibition on loaning state money to any company except a corporation formed for educational or charitable purposes. Supporters of the bill have a judicial determination that the proposed investments would be constitutional. Some Republican lawmakers say the determination is insufficient to satisfy their concerns.

The bill also has some political overtones. Marshall is a Democrat who has announced her intention to run for the open Congressional District 2 seat in the September special election. State Sen. Greg Brower, who voted against the measure today, is a Republican who has also announced his intention to seek the seat.

The constitutional question proved troubling for some lawmakers during a debate before today’s vote.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said he wanted to see either an attorney general’s opinion or one from the legal counsel of the Legislature answering the constitutional question before he could support the measure.

“It’s one thing to ask a judge to sign an order,” said Roberson, an attorney. “It’s another thing to have the imprimatur of the attorney general’s office saying yes, we believe as a matter of law, this is our opinion, that it is constitutional.”

Brower, R-Reno, also an attorney, had similar concerns.

“I sat on the committee that heard this bill and was impressed by some of the ideas brought forward that were behind this bill, and considered it with great interest in terms of it being, as you might call it, an outside-the-box approach to this issue,” he said.

But, Brower said: “We haven’t been able to get a good, clean bill of health on this bill in terms of its constitutionality.”

Until the issue is clarified, the Legislature should not pass a bill that may not be constitutional, he said.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said waiting for the Nevada Supreme Court to rule on whether each bill passed by the Legislature is constitutional would unduly hamper the legislative process. He said he would rely on the district court determination.

Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, said the bill has the potential to help create desperately needed jobs in Nevada. There is time while the bill is being considered in the Assembly to resolve the constitutional question, he said.

The bill had already been amended by Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, who successfully put the authority of the investment process in the hands of the Commission on Economic Development. Even so, Cegavske said her concerns with the overall bill, including the constitutionality question, caused her to vote against the measure.

Kieckhefer and Hardy voted for the bill. Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, was the only Democrat opposing the measure.

The bill as originally introduced would create a nonprofit public entity, the Nevada Capital Investment Corporation, to be headed by a board that includes members appointed by the governor and legislative leadership based on their investment expertise. The state treasurer, whose duties include the investment of state money, would also be a member.

The NCIC would hire professional private equity fund managers that would seek to partner with capital investment firms to invest in select companies and innovative start-up businesses that would assist in the state’s efforts to grow and diversify its economic base, leading to increased employment.

Steve George, chief of staff to Marshall, said the office remains supportive of the intent of the bill. But he suggested the Cegavske amendment, by changing the focus of the bill from improving the investment return for public school funds to one solely looking at economic development, could actually make it unconstitutional.

The primary focus originally was to get a better rate of return on the Permanent School Fund, a trust fund made up of federal funds provided to the state for decades from such sources as the sale of federal lands and court fees, George said. It is a trust fund that can’t be spent, only invested.

Eleven other states, excluding Nevada and Colorado, can invest their funds in more diverse ways, George said. Nevada has earned 4 percent on its investments over the past five years with the current limitation, while three other states have earned in excess of 5 percent, according to information provided by the Treasurer’s Office to Gov. Brian Sandoval. Oklahoma has earned 6.22 percent over the past five years.

“With no focus on return, we don’t think it will pass the constitutional requirement,” George said.

Audio clips:

Sen. Michael Roberson says his constitutional concerns with the bill remain unanswered:

051811Roberson :12 that it’s constitutional.”

Sen. Greg Brower says he has the same concerns despite the outside-the-box thinking in the bill:

051811Brower :17 to this issue.”

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer says he will rely on the opinion of the district court:

051811Kieckhefer :23 on his opinion.”




Nevada Group Seeking To Create Yucca Mountain Energy Park Seeks Amendment To Legislation

By Sean Whaley | 4:15 pm March 31st, 2011

CARSON CITY – An organization that wants to see Yucca Mountain used as a temporary nuclear waste storage site with a research center to explore reprocessing has proposed an amendment to a bill in the Legislature to move its Energy Park idea forward.

In a hearing Wednesday on Senate Bill 375 to create renewable energy corridors, John Dunn, one of the directors of Nevadans for Carbon Free Energy, proposed an amendment to the legislation to include nuclear energy as an option, and to change the term “renewable” energy, to “carbon-free” or “clean” energy.

The bill as written specifically excludes nuclear energy.

The Senate Government Affairs Committee, which heard the bill by Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, took no immediate action on the proposed amendment or the bill itself.

Cegavske said today the committee indicated at the hearing it wants to keep the legislation as written. While putting Yucca Mountain to use as an energy related research facility is worthy of discussion, SB375 is not the vehicle for that debate, she said.

The organization presented similar testimony at a meeting of the Nevada Commission on Nuclear Projects.

The group says Yucca Mountain is an ideal location to temporarily store spent fuel and host a research center to study reprocessing technologies for commercial application. When such technology becomes available, the fuel could be sold to re-processors or a facility could be built to do the reprocessing.

The $13 billion spent on Yucca Mountain infrastructure when it was being prepared to be a long-term disposal site for nuclear waste makes the site a good candidate for such a park, the group says.

Bipartisan Support Offers Good Chance For Campaign Finance Reform In 2011 Session

By Sean Whaley | 1:40 pm February 10th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Secretary of State Ross Miller says the time is ripe to get a substantial campaign finance reform package through the Legislature, and with Gov. Brian Sandoval and lawmakers of both parties in agreement on the need for change, he may be right.

“I believe we probably have the best chance to pass meaningful campaign finance reform this session than in any other cycle we’ve had,” Miller said.

“Every time an outside group comes in and gives Nevada an ‘F’ and ranks us dead last in terms of campaign finance transparency, the single biggest complaint that they have is that we allow for handwritten, paper-based reports that can be sent in often times a day or so before the election,” he said. “In a state where well over half the people will vote early, that’s not helpful to anybody.”

Miller’s reform measures, Assembly Bills 81 and 82, were introduced on the first day of the session on Monday. AB82 would require candidates in most cases to file their campaign contribution and expense reports electronically so the public could easily review the information in a searchable database.

Assembly Bill 81 would require the reports to be filed four days ahead of early voting, with an update due the Friday prior to the primary and general election days. Currently the reports are filed just seven days before the primary and general elections, well after many Nevadans have already cast their ballots. The reports can also be mailed in, making the information even less useful to voters.

Miller said the idea is to get the information out to the public at the appropriate time, and in a format that would allow voters to examine the reports in a convenient way.

“The current structure is a disaster and we deserve the ‘F’ we get every cycle,” he said. “This legislation I don’t think will move us to an ‘A’ but I would be happy with a ‘C’ at this point. I would be happy with a passing grade.”

Efforts to require electronic filing of the reports have failed in past sessions due to opposition by some lawmakers.

Sandoval supports electronic filing as well.

In a statement from his office in response to a query about the measures, spokeswoman Mary-Sarah Kinner said: “We’re still reviewing the full bills as they cover many election issues, but we do support the electronic filing because it has the potential to put the information in the hands of voters earlier in the campaign. We’ll continue to monitor these bills and other campaign measures.”

Sandoval said he has been in conversation with Miller on the need for campaign and election reform.

“I know there are some items that I’m going to be supportive of within his package,” he said.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, who had initially indicated he might pursue his own measure, said instead he will likely use Miller’s bills as a starting point for implementing needed reforms. Oceguera said he is optimistic the Legislature will adopt needed changes to the reporting process.

Oceguera said he has not yet read Miller’s proposals, but does conceptually support reforms.

“We should be as transparent as possible,” he said.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, said she is optimistic as well that reforms will succeed this session.

“We do everything online now,” she said of her campaign reports. “So I’m there. I’m up with technology and so I have no problems with it. I support Ross Miller and the changes that he wants and I think it is going to be fine.

“There is no reason not to do it,” said Cegavske, a member of the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee that will hear the bills later in the session.

In addition to the bipartisan support, some opponents of the reforms are no longer serving in the Legislature, which could also improve chances for passage.

Former Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, made the motion to delete the electronic filing requirement in Miller’s campaign bill in the last days of the 2009 session. The Assembly had already weakened the requirement by postponing its effective date to 2011 so it would not affect the 2010 campaign season.

In this session, the two bills have now been referred to the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee. A hearing has not yet been scheduled.

Miller said a proposal requiring the reporting of large contributions within 72 hours within 21 days of an election is not part of his reform package this session.

There was some opposition to the idea from some elected officials who said it was too burdensome, he said.

Oceguera said in September he would seek such a change to state law this session, but in comments earlier this week he appeared to back off the idea.

The Nevada Legislature is made up of citizens who have regular jobs, families and other commitments, he said.

“You should report those as quickly as you possibly can, but I don’t know if 72 hours is the appropriate number,” Oceguera said. “Maybe we give people 10 days or two weeks.”

Miller said he is making the reform proposals a priority for his office, and is engaged in public outreach to drum up support for the changes, including a Facebook page. Past efforts at reform may have failed in part because lawmakers did not get any sense that the public was concerned about the need for the changes, he said.

“It is a modest step forward to mandate that these reports be filed electronically,” he said. “It does not create any additional burden on elected officials or candidates, and while at the same time would be a giant leap forward in putting more transparency in place.”

Audio clips:

Secretary of State Ross Miller says 2011 session is best chance to pass campaign reforms in long time:

021011Miller1 :10 cycle we’ve had.”

Miller says electronic filing of campaign reports is absolutely necessary:

021011Miller2 :24 before the election.”

Miller says failure to use electronic filing is why the state gets bad grades for campaign finance reform:

021011Miller3 :22 before the election.”

Miller says current process is not helpful to anyone:

021011Miller4 :22 before the election.”

Miller says his proposals are modest but would be giant leap forward for transparency:

021011Miller5 :25 transparency in place.”

Miller says the current reporting process is a disaster:

021011Miller6 :05 get every cycle.”

Miller says his reforms will at least give the state a passing grade for campaign reform:

021011Miller7 :09 a passing grade.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval says there are proposals in Miller’s bills that he will support:

021011Sandoval :04 within his package.”

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera says a 72-hour reporting requirement for some contributions may be too burdensome:

021011Oceguera :12 go to work.”

Sen. Barbara Cegavske says she supports Miller’s electronic filing requirement:

021011Cegavske :08 to be fine.”

Veteran GOP Leader Raggio Out In State Senate Leadership Shakeup

By Sean Whaley | 3:23 pm November 4th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Veteran Republican state Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, won’t be minority leader in the upcoming 2011 session, withdrawing his name from consideration for the leadership post today after getting GOP criticism for backing Sen. Harry Reid in the Tuesday general election.

The 10-member GOP Senate caucus instead unanimously supported Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, as minority leader. A member of the Senate since 1992, McGinness is in his last legislative session because of term limits.

No other caucus member sought the leadership post.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, who on Tuesday won a hard fought re-election campaign, was named assistant minority leader.

“I withdrew my name,” Raggio said. “If it unifies the party and pacifies some folks who are still agitated, that’s fine. My goal is to unify the party instead of splinter it.”

The Washoe County Republican Party put out a statement congratulating McGinness and thanking the GOP caucus for, “making the leadership change the caucus badly needed.”

“Senator McGinness truly represents the small government, low tax views of Washoe County Republicans and would be a strong unifying leader the party needs at this juncture,” the statement said. “The WCRP looks forward to working with Senator McGinness and the rest of the Republican caucus during the next legislative session and beyond.”

Reid said in a statement: “In this election Nevadans, Republicans, Democrats and independents voted to reject extremism. That some of Senator Raggio’s Republican colleagues even considered punishing him for being on the side of a majority of Nevadans shows that they clearly missed that message and are not listening to their constituents.

“Senator Raggio has served in the state Senate longer than any of his colleagues and he has been long respected by Republicans and Democrats alike,” Reid said. “He has been a true champion of the people of Nevada in his work to represent them in Carson City. I appreciate his support and look forward to working with him to do what is best for Nevadans.”

Raggio, who will also be serving in his last session because of term limits, won’t be in the top Republican leadership post for the first time since 1983. He has served in the Senate since 1973 and is Nevada’s longest serving state legislator.

Some state Republicans sought a replacement for Raggio because of his endorsement of Reid over GOP challenger Sharron Angle. Reid won re-election on Tuesday. Raggio also faced a contentious primary race against Angle in 2008 that created animosity between the two Northern Nevada Republicans.

This is not the first time Raggio has been at odds with the more conservative and libertarian factions of the party. In 2003, he joined Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn in support of a tax increase. Then, in 2009, Raggio and four other GOP senators joined Democrats to override Gov. Jim Gibbons’ veto of a state budget that included tax increases.

Raggio said today he will also voluntarily step down as a member of the powerful Senate Finance Committee. The newly elected GOP senators are seeking fundamental changes to the way state government is funded and Raggio said he did not want to be an impediment to the process.

“They are all good people,” he said. “They’ve got their job ahead of them. There is no question this is the toughest session we’ll ever face.”

Six of the 10 members of the caucus were newly elected on Tuesday.

The caucus meeting came just two days after Republicans picked up a seat in the 21-member Senate, closing the gap with Democrats to just one. Sen.-elect Michael Roberson defeated Democratic incumbent Joyce Woodhouse in Clark District 5 to reduce the margin from 12-9 in the 2009 session. Republicans also held on to an open Las Vegas seat and Cegavske fended off a challenge from a well-financed Democratic opponent.

Despite the increase in numbers, Raggio said he and his colleagues are concerned that Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, re-elected by his caucus yesterday, has devised a plan for committee assignments that will have 5-2 Democratic majorities on two committees in the 2011 session: Commerce and Labor and Health and Education.

“It is completely inequitable when you have an 11-10 split,” Raggio said. “It is hardly fair representation on a committee.”

Raggio said that when he questioned Horsford about the plan he was told there is precedent for such a move.

“I think this will cause concern and it is not the best way to start a session,” Raggio said.

Horsford could not be reached for comment.

In Surprise Move, State Senate Majority Leader Replaces Long-Time Top Staffer

By Sean Whaley | 10:45 pm May 25th, 2010

CARSON CITY – In what took many members of the Nevada state Senate by surprise today, Majority Leader Steven Horsford accepted the resignation of the body’s top staff member, Secretary of the Senate Claire Clift.

Word of Clift’s departure, which occurred today while Horsford was in the capital attending a meeting of the Interim Finance Committee’s Subcommittee for Federal Stimulus Oversight, circulated quickly among members of the Senate.

Clift was appointed as secretary of the Senate in 2000 by Sen. William Raggio, R-Reno, who was majority leader at the time.

Horsford, D-Las Vegas, became majority leader in 2009 after Democrats gained the majority in the upper house for the first time since 1991.

Clift, reached at home, said she was surprised but accepting of Horsford’s decision. The decision came today without any advance notice. Clift left today and said she will seek other, hopefully less stressful, work opportunities.

“The secretary of the Senate works at the prerogative of the majority leader,” she said. “Sen. Horsford felt he needed someone else in the position. I respect that.”

Clift said the 2011 legislative session will be challenging for lawmakers, but she expects the Senate to find a qualified person to serve as secretary.

As to an explanation for her departure, Clift said she believes Horsford wants to take the Senate in a new direction.

“I’m OK with that,” she said. “It is just an opportunity for the majority leader to change things up.”

Clift said the Senate was a wonderful place to work, and the 21 senators of the upper house were great people to work for.

“It will remain a wonderful place to work,” she said.

Horsford could not immediately be reached for comment on his decision.

Clift worked for the Senate in 1987 and 1989, taking a full-time position in 1997. She took over as secretary of the Senate in 2000 after Jan Thomas retired after many years of service.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, said she was perplexed by the decision, especially since the 2011 legislative session will be one of the most difficult ever, with a major budget shortfall, several new members due to term limits and many pressing issues for lawmakers to deal with.

“You can’t get better than Claire,” she said. “Bringing in someone new with no experience makes no sense. Claire is absolutely excellent at what she does. I’m in shock, actually.”

2010 Election Season Crucial with Redistricting on the Agenda in the Next Legislative Session

By Sean Whaley | 3:18 pm March 26th, 2010

CARSON CITY – As millions of Americans fill out their census forms over the next several weeks in the nation’s once-a-decade head count, they no doubt will see the process as a minor inconvenience at most.

But the 2010 census count isn’t just about adding up the population in each state. It is also the starting point for what most observers agree is the most political and contentious issue state lawmakers ever face: The redrawing of political boundaries for members of Congress and especially themselves.

The census count triggers the redistricting and reapportionment process every 10 years, which is designed to make political boundaries approximately equal in population in each state. The census can also lead to Congressional seats being relocated to states where populations have increased since the prior count.

In Nevada the process can pit party against party, national party interests versus local interests, north versus south and Assembly versus Senate. Add to the mix the desires of lawmakers who wish to protect their seats and ensure continued re-election, a major statewide budget crisis, a dozen or more freshman lawmakers and 120 days to get job done, and the 2011 Nevada legislative session will likely be both grueling and interesting to watch.

“It’s huge,” said Ryan Erwin, a political consultant who worked on reapportionment in Nevada in the 2001 session on behalf of Assembly and Senate Republicans. “Ultimately what happens will have a huge impact on Nevada politics over the next decade. Redistricting will have a longer term impact on the finances of this state than any two-year budget ever will.”

In one sign of how serious the issue is for the parties, the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee, in a memo put out March 15, identified Nevada’s state Senate as one of 10 legislative chambers having tight contests where Democrats need to work to maintain control this election year.

“The DLCC is determined to run the largest Democratic redistricting mobilization in history this year to ensure that our state legislative candidates have the resources needed to win against well-heeled Republican special interests,” the memo says.

The DLCC has established a fund to put $20 million into races that will have the greatest impact on reapportionment, the memo says.

Erwin, who was the executive director of the state Republican Party at the time of the 2001 redistricting, said the issues for lawmakers can be very personal. In the 2001 process, for example, there was a lawmaker who demanded that the hospital she was born in be included in her district, he said.

Others want double-digit voter registration advantages, Erwin said.

“It’s a very personal process,” he said. “You see the selfish side of people with redistricting more than with any other piece of legislation.”

But much of the process is bound by constitutional requirements for fair and reasonable district boundaries, and so only a portion of the process could be called discretionary, Erwin said.

In the 2001 process, which included the creation of a new Congressional 3 District in Southern Nevada, no one was really happy with the final result, which Erwin said is probably a sign that the process was fair.

“First and foremost you have a responsibility to create fair lines,” he said. “Second is to get what you want.”

In the 2011 process, lawmakers will likely have the chance to create a fourth Congressional seat given Nevada’s population growth over the past decade. Another issue on the table will be whether to expand the size of the Legislature, which now stands at 63 members.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, who is running for the Washoe 1 Senate seat being vacated by Sen. Bernice Mathews, D-Reno, due to term limits, said the process is critically important for both parties but the results are not always easy to predict.

“Republicans designed a lot of seats last time, and see what happened in 10 years,” she said. “It’s hard to predict what will happen in 10 years.”

The Senate in 2001 had a 12-9 GOP edge, and Republicans held on to the majority in the upper house until the 2008 election, when Democrats took the majority for the first time since 1991.

In the Assembly, Democrats ruled with 27 members compared to 15 GOP lawmakers. Democrats have held on to the majority ever since.

The importance of the redistricting process can be gauged in a variety of ways. For Leslie, winning her race is important because it is now the only Democratic state Senate seat outside of Clark County.

“From that point of view it could not be more critical to maintain at least one seat and hope to expand Democratic representation in northern Nevada,” she said.

But Leslie said she also favors an effort to create some more competitive seats in the process so that voters have a choice.

“It really serves Democracy better by creating a more even playing field,” she said.

Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said enlarging the Legislature is an issue of particular concern to rural lawmakers, who have seen their districts grow large geographically because of the population growth in Southern Nevada.

Also on the Assembly GOP agenda is taking away the Democrat’s current veto-proof 28-seat advantage by winning as many new seats as possible.

“Otherwise it is pretty tough to play,” he said.

The process will be interesting because so many veteran lawmakers will not be participating due to term limits and other reasons, Goicoechea said.

Only two members of the Assembly, Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, and Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, will have gone through the redistricting process, assuming they are both re-elected this year.

“It’s almost a different generation,” Goicoechea said. “There aren’t as many scars. I do feel we will get along.”

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, who was involved in the 2001 redistricting process as a member of the Assembly GOP leadership, said the impending 2011 redistricting is why she and other Republicans are working so hard to regain the majority in the Senate.

“It is so essential that we have control for this redistricting,” she said. “Without it this will be very detrimental, not for two years, but 10.”

The last go-round was grossly unfair to Republicans in the Assembly, Cegavske said.

“We should have sued,” she said. “It was so out of whack and unfair.”

Cegavske, who herself is up for re-election to her Clark 8 seat, has two Democratic challengers who will fight it out in a primary. An Independent American candidate withdrew from the race.

Cegavske said she is taking nothing for granted in her race. She expects to be targeted because the Democrats would like to pick up two seats to get 14 members, a veto-proof majority.

“Redistricting should be about the representation of the people of Nevada,” she said.  “I believe in that. The side deals have to stop. It should all be out in the public and not behind closed doors.”

While Cegavske believes the GOP got a bad deal with the Assembly districts created in 2001, they were finalized without any representation from the Assembly GOP in a final late night meeting.

Then-Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick, now a deputy chief of staff for Gov. Jim Gibbons, said there was no representation in the final meeting because there was nothing to negotiate.

Hettrick said he worked all session to try to come up with a compromise plan only to be told in the final days that Assembly Democrats had decided to draw the districts on their own. There was nothing to negotiate at any final meeting on redistricting because the bill had already been drafted, he said.

Hettrick said he offered to participate if there was a real chance of compromise with Democrats, but never got a call.

“I was asked to come in so it appeared I was agreeing with the plan,” Hettrick said. “There is no way I would have agreed to it.”

“It was a done deal,” he said. “There was no negotiating I was going to be able to do or not do.”

Former Gov. Kenny Guinn, who was involved in the 2001 redistricting process, said he recalls there was a strong interest on the part of Republicans to get as favorable a registration balance in the newly created Congressional 3 seat as possible, and so the Assembly districts ended up more favorable to Democrats as part of the give-and-take of the negotiations.

The new Congressional seat was won by then-state Sen. Jon Porter, R-Henderson, in the 2002 election, a seat he retained until losing in 2008 to former state Sen. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas.

But the strong Democrat majority in the Assembly had a lot to do with how the districts ended up being redrawn as well, Guinn said.

Another major issue in 2001 was a desire to create some districts that would give minority candidates, including Hispanics, an opportunity to run and win office in the state Legislature, he said.

Guinn said he believes Hispanic representation did improve as a result of the redistricting, although it occurred over time, not immediately. The issue of minority representation will likely come up again in 2011, and it has to be given serious consideration, he said.

Guinn said the 2011 redistricting process will be the most important in Nevada’s history. But he said the governor does not have a lot of power, other than that of persuasion, over the process.

The governor does have the power to veto any redistricting plan passed by the Legislature, however, which would require a two-thirds vote in both houses to override.

Erwin said the Assembly Republicans probably did as good a job as possible given their minority status in the Assembly.

“The reality is the minority party in redistricting rarely has the opportunity to make substantial gains,” he said.

In the 2010 election, a mid-term contest where voters frequently favor the minority party, Republicans have a chance to pick up a state Senate seat and possibly as many as four Assembly seats, he said.

Reducing the Democrat edge in the Senate and taking away a veto-proof majority in the Assembly will have a substantial impact on the redistricting process, Erwin said. Having a Republican in the governor’s office, which appears likely, will also help, he said.

For Democrats, “It will no longer be a home run,” Erwin said.