Posts Tagged ‘collective bargaining’

GOP Political Consultant Sig Rogich Says Legislature Needs To Take Serious Look At Collective Bargaining Reform

By Sean Whaley | 2:08 pm May 24th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Long-time Republican political consultant Sig Rogich said today the 2013 Nevada Legislature has to take a serious look at collective bargaining reforms so that situations like the impending layoff of hundreds of Clark County teachers can be avoided in the future.

“I think we’ve got to look at collective bargaining in a real way in this legislative session,” he said. “We’ve got to stop some of these nonsensical things that are going on. You can’t tell me that it’s good government or good policy to lay off 1,200 teachers down here when you’ve got to stop a pay increase to do so.

Sig Rogich.

“And I don’t think their fellow teachers agree that that’s the right thing to do as well,” Rogich said. “But this teachers union has dug its heels in to the detriment of those they represent.”

Rogich, interviewed on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, was referring to the layoffs anticipated in the Clark County School District as a result of a binding arbitration decision requiring the district to provide pay raises to teachers.

The school district lost an arbitration battle worth $63 million over teacher salary increases for education level and longevity. The district says the decision will force as many as 1,000 teacher layoffs  unless money can be found to reduce the number.

Rogich said he believes there is a disconnect between the teachers union and teachers themselves.

Rogich, who was involved in the campaigns of Ronald Reagan and both Bush presidents, also weighed in on the national and Nevada political scenes.

Of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Rogich said his campaign needs to do more to tell voters how he would run the presidency differently from President Obama in order to attract independent voters in November.

The average voter might describe Romney as a Mormon, a successful businessman, governor of Massachusetts or mention his work on the Salt Lake City Olympics, he said.

“To get independent voters to look at him seriously they are going to have to offer reasonable alternatives and differences between the way he would run the presidency as president and what President Obama is doing,” Rogich said.

Romney will do well in Nevada with a strong turnout expected from the Mormon community on his behalf, he said.

“I think that it’s going to be very competitive in Nevada,” Rogich said.

He also expressed no objections to the amount of third party money in the presidential campaign.

“Why shouldn’t people be overwhelmed by TV commercials that have messages that are important for them to know about,” Rogich asked. “What does it harm as long as you disclose it fully and you play by the rules?”

On the race between U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., for the Senate seat, Rogich said it is a tight race but that it is Heller’s to lose because Romney should run strong in Nevada.

Rogich was also asked about the state Senate race between Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, and former state Sen. Sheila Leslie, a Democrat, in Washoe County. The Senate 15 race is one of five in Nevada expected to determine which party controls the Senate in 2013.

Rogich said Leslie has to be the favorite, given her long track record of successful campaigns.

But Brower is extremely capable and cannot be counted out, he said.

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Audio clips:

GOP political consultant Sig Rogich says the Nevada Legislature needs to take up collective bargaining reform:

052412Rogich11 :09 to do so.”

Rogich says the Romney campaign needs to differentiate his positions with President Obama:

052412Rogich2 :11 Obama is doing.”

Rogich says he has no problem with the influence of third party political advertising:

052412Rogich3 :11 by the rules.”

 

 

 

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.

Collective Bargaining Fight Again Shaping Up At Legislature

By Andrew Doughman | 1:20 pm May 13th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce is pushing for major changes to the state’s collective bargaining law for public sector employees.

In an amendment to another bill that already passed the Senate, the  chamber said the changes will alleviate budget concerns for local governments and save taxpayers money.

The chamber’s plan includes eliminating binding arbitration, allowing elected officials to create the final contract. Binding arbitration is the last step labor and management use when they cannot agree on a contract. A third-party group looks at both proposals and chooses one.

Sam McMullen, lobbyist for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, said that these provisions make local governments more accountable to the contracts they choose.

The amendment would also allow local governments to renegotiate contracts automatically if revenues fall 5 percent or more for two consecutive years.

George Ross, also a lobbyist for the chamber, said that this provision would give government a tool to address economic downturns. Otherwise, he said, they could be contractually obligated to give their employees pay raises as the economy droops toward recession.

The amendment would also remove the eligibility of public sector managers and supervisors to negotiate their contracts and require newly negotiated contracts apply to the beginning of the prior contract expiration.

All of these changes, the chamber argued, would save taxpayers money.

The original Senate Bill 98, sponsored by Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, would require mediation prior to arbitration and free a third-party arbitrator from having to choose one of the final offers presented. It sparked no controversy and received a unanimous vote during a Senate vote.

The amendment came as a surprise to legislators. Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson, D-Reno, called it a “kamikaze amendment.”

The chamber lobbyists acknowledged the short notice, but said they wanted to resurrect the issue after other similar bills died.

Ross called the Legislature’s session a “Where’s Waldo” hunt for money. He said state employees and teachers earn at or below the national average while local government employees – through advantageously bargained contracts – earn more.

“We know we can’t attack that totally and instantly in one or two years, but we’d like to attack the conditions that made that happen,” Ross said.

Others, however, said that the proposals would not be fair.

“If you have two people talking and one of them gets to make the final decision every time, that’s not a negotiation, that’s a conversation,” said Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, of the section of the amendment eliminating binding arbitration.

Rusty McAllister, a lobbyist for firefighters, said that ending binding arbitration “boils down to collective begging” for workers.

The issue of collective bargaining has been important this session as Democrats work against the clock to pass a $1.2 billion tax package by June 6, when the Legislature is scheduled to end.

Assembly Republicans issued a set of policy reform demands including collective bargaining that they say would need to be met before they consider taxes.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has also said repeatedly that he will veto a tax increase. Therefore Democrats need to stay unified and find two Assembly Republicans and three Senate Republicans to join them in voting to override the governor’s veto.

The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce has also called for changes to the state’s collective bargaining laws as a precursor for their own endorsement of tax increases.

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said she would hold a second hearing for the bill since legislators were given no advance notice of the amendment.

That hearing seems certain to bring out the troops for what could be a testy hearing between public sector labor unions and local governments.

“I’m telling any local government official who is listening, you better get your representatives up here,” she said, calling for local governments to provide information to the committee. “For those local governments who do not get that to me by Monday, I will call you out so that the press knows who is not willing to give out that information.”

 

 

 

Collective Bargaining Bill Dies In Committee

By Andrew Doughman | 7:23 pm April 14th, 2011

CARSON CITY — Senate Operations Committee Chairman David Parks has put the brakes on a collective bargaining bill that the sponsor said could save $2.3 billion for the state.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, who sponsored Senate Bill 343, said it would save local governments as much as $2.3 billion by amending the state’s collective bargaining law and ratcheting wages down to national averages.

Parks called a hearing on the bill earlier this week, but he said today that the testimony was so negative that he did not believe the bill would have the votes to pass.

“It came down to the overwhelming testimony we received in opposition,” Parks said. “My determination was that there wasn’t strong enough support for it to get a vote.”

The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and the City of Reno testified in support of the bill. Firefighters and police unions, joined by the AFL-CIO, testified against it.

The bill would eliminate a third-party, binding arbitration process in management and labor contract disputes and instead impose the local government’s contract offer for up to one year.

The Legislature faces a Friday deadline to vote bills out of committee. In a more symbolic move, Parks may have brought the bill for a vote only to vote it down. By not bringing it up, he let it die quietly.

“It troubles me that the discussion of real reform is not proceeding,” said Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, who co-sponsored the bill.

He serves on the Legislative Operations committee that heard the bill. He would have voted for the bill as would have Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas. The three Democrats on the committee would have been likely ‘no’ votes.

Public sector unions have traditionally been a strong ally to Democratic candidates, making a bill like Roberson’s potentially unpalatable to his colleagues across the aisle.

The hearing earlier this week had raised the ire of both the sponsor and the opposition.

Lobbyists for public sector unions called the bill “insulting,” and at the end of the hearing Cegavske asked people to apologize to each other for “derogatory comments.”

Roberson at one point during the testimony of the opposition interjected that supporters of the bill were given short shrift.

The Legislative Operations committee did hear another bill, Senate Bill 98, that would also make changes to collective bargaining by requiring mediation prior to arbitration and freeing a third-party arbitrator from having to choose one of the final offers presented. This bill, however, sparked little contention and both public sector unions and local governments endorsed it.

Roberson’s bill, however, appears dead with the caveat that it could be resurrected as an amendment onto a similar bill such as SB 98.

SB 98 was voted out of the Legislative Operations committee today.

 

Public Sector Unions And Local Governments Spar Over Collective Bargaining Bill

By Andrew Doughman | 8:28 pm April 12th, 2011

CARSON CITY – In the end, only acrimony prevailed.

Legislators did not immediately vote on a bill from Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, but a hearing on Senate Bill 343 provoked heated testimony over how local governments and public sector unions bargain their contracts.

Lobbyists for public sector unions called the bill “insulting,” and by the end of the hearing, Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, asked people to apologize to each other for “derogatory comments.”

The bill that caused all the fuss would do this: It would eliminate a third-party, binding arbitration process in management and labor contract disputes and instead impose the local government’s contract offer for up to one year.

Roberson said this would allow a system that would save taxpayers up to $2.3 billion as well as provide a clearer chain of accountability to local governments bargaining these contracts.

Despite national scenes like the Wisconsin protests over collective bargaining, the Roberson’s bill sparked the first debate about local government contracts have in the Nevada Legislature this year.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has not emphasized changes to the collective bargaining law.

Assembly Republicans have been more brazen in endorsing a stronger position for management in the bargaining debate. Such a bill could be a bargaining chip at the end of the legislative session, as Democrats try to convince a few key Republicans to vote for a tax increase to offset cuts in Sandoval’s proposed $5.8 billion budget.

Public sector unions have traditionally been a strong ally to Democratic candidates, making a bill like Roberson’s potentially unpalatable to his colleagues across the aisle.

Union groups opposed Roberson’s bill.

Danny Thompson, representing the AFL-CIO, raised his voice when testifying against the bill. He said union workers have taken pay cuts during this economic recession.

“The reality is this: to blame collective bargaining for the problems that local governments are having or that we are having is insulting to me, I have to tell you,” he said.

The Nevada Legislature established collective bargaining in Nevada during 1969. Since then, local governments and unions have bargained contracts through a process of fact finding and arbitration.

The two sides – labor and management – present evidence and a fact-finder issues a report. If both sides do not accept the report, they can turn to an arbiter to make a final decision of whose offer will take effect.

Lobbyists for police and fire fighters unions testified that most of the time the unions lose if arbitration is used, which they said was proof collective bargaining is not a broken system that cheats taxpayers out of money.

“If you were to implement this bill, you will not have collective bargaining anymore,” said Rusty McAllister, representing the Professional Firefighters of Nevada. “You will have collective begging.”

But Roberson said earlier that ending the final arbitration process and defaulting to the employer’s offer for one year would save local governments money.

Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, said this might upset the balance between unions and management.

“Putting this subsection into the bill would cause a local government, an employer, to consider the fact that they have this to fall back on, hence bargaining in good faith might not be something they would do,” he said.

Roberson, after listening to prolonged testimony in opposition to his bill, interjected that Parks had not given supporters equal time to testify.

Parks tried to close the hearing, sparking a hushed conversation that ended with several other supporters of the bill testifying.

Cegavske had the final word when she decried “derogatory comments” that she said lobbyists had made during the hearing.

The Senate Legislative Operations and Elections committee that heard the bill took no immediate action on it.

 

Think Tank Analysis Says Collective Bargaining Law Needs Reforms To Improve Student Achievement

By Sean Whaley | 2:00 am March 23rd, 2011

CARSON CITY – The author of a new analysis of Nevada’s collective bargaining law says the complex rules have worked to the benefit of teachers’ unions rather than students, making reforms essential to improve the state’s public education system.

In the analysis of Nevada’s collective bargaining law for the Nevada Policy Research Institute released today, author Greg Moo says it is time to revise the rules so real progress can be made on student achievement.

Titled “NRS288 – A Law Against Student Learning,” the analysis says the state statute that requires school districts to bargain with unions over a multitude of issues works against efforts to replace bad teachers.

“Why is it so hard to remove a teacher who’s not teaching and replace that teacher with one who is?” Moo asks in the executive summary of his analysis. “In Nevada, it’s because Chapter 288 of the Nevada Revised Statutes compels school districts to negotiate long, difficult and costly step-by-step procedures that district administrators must follow to terminate a teacher.

“Moreover, NRS 288 requires that school districts must collectively bargain with teacher unions on a whole shopping list of ‘subjects’ – making contract agreements between school districts and teacher unions into cumbersome obstacles to any school district effort to improve students,” he says.

Lynn Warne, president of the Nevada State Education Association, disagrees with the notion that collective bargaining laws negatively affect student achievement. Eight of the10 states that won federal grants to improve student performance in round two of the Race To The Top competition are collective bargaining states, she said.

States with high student achievement rates as demonstrated by graduation rates and  National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) scores are strong union states with collective bargaining laws, Warne said.

“Collective bargaining does not stand as an impediment to innovation, to reform or student achievement,” she said.

In his analysis, Moo also points to the salary schedules used to provide pay raises to teachers – schedules that rely on years of service and increased educational attainment rather than performance in the classroom – as a problem area created by collective bargaining.

Eliminating teacher tenure and binding arbitration, where teachers and school district officials submit their differences to a panel of attorneys for a final decision on a contract dispute, would help Nevada move forward on student achievement, he said. The binding arbitration process has a history of favoring labor unions, Moo said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed some reforms to Nevada’s public education system in the 2011 legislative session, including eliminating teacher tenure. He has not proposed changes to the collective bargaining law himself, but has said he would welcome such a discussion in the Legislature.

Sandoval is also seeking a constitutional amendment to allow for a voucher program so parents could use tax dollars to send their children to private schools, including religious schools. But any such change is several years in the making.

Sandoval also wants a pay for performance plan for teachers, and has proposed ending pay increases to teachers who attain master’s degrees, as part of his budget.

Teachers have said Sandoval’s performance pay effort is inadequate at $20 million statewide.

As the NPRI study notes, a few bills have been introduced in the Legislature to make reforms to the collective bargaining process, although there has been no call yet for an outright repeal of the law as happened recently in Wisconsin.

Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, has introduced Senate Bill 162, which would revise the mandatory topics of collective bargaining for public employees. Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, has introduced Senate Bill 342, which calls for changes concerning collective bargaining between governments and public employees. The city of Reno is also seeking changes to the law in Senate Bill 78.

Moo’s analysis looks at collective bargaining only as it relates to public education.

The state’s school superintendents, facing the potential of reduced funding for teacher salaries in Sandoval’s budget, have also asked lawmakers for the ability to open up collective bargaining laws so such cuts can be implemented if they become reality.

Assembly Democrats have proposed some reforms of their own, including pay for performance for teachers. Democrats have also proposed a change to the probationary status of teachers in Assembly Bill 225. It would place post-probationary teachers back on probationary status if they receive negative evaluations two years in a row.

Warne said the NSEA is supportive of many reforms under discussion this session, including making pay for performance an element of compensation for teachers. The association also supports extending the teacher probationary period to three years and expediting the process to remove bad teachers, she said.

“Getting rid of a bad teacher, and getting rid of a bad teacher faster, we’re on board with that,” Warne said. “We’ve always said we don’t protect bad teachers, we protect the process.”

It remains to be seen which, if any reforms to collective bargaining or teacher performance, win approval in the 2011 legislative session.

Moo, who has a doctorate in educational policy and management from the University of Oregon, concludes: “It’s time for the makers of the rules to change the rules – so the game can be played as much to the benefit of student learners as to the benefit of teacher unions. As Michelle Rhee, former chancellor of the beleaguered public schools of the District of Columbia, put it, the problem isn’t students, ‘It’s the adults.’ ”

Audio clips:

Greg Moo, author of critique of Nevada’s collective bargaining law for teachers, says teacher tenure is a stumbling block to student achievement:

032311Moo1 :18 is really bizarre.”

Moo says the collectively bargained salary schedule for teachers rewards longevity over performance:

032311Moo2 :24 to do that.”

Teachers’ Union President Lynn Warne says states with high student achievement are collective bargaining states:

032311Warne1 :22 or NAEP scores.”

Warne says collective bargaining is not an impediment to student achievement or educational innovation:

032311Warne2 :06 or student achievement.”

Warne says the NSEA supports reforms, including improving the process to remove bad teachers:

032311Warne3 :10 protect the process.”

 

School Superintendents Ask Legislature to Address Collective Bargaining

By Andrew Doughman | 6:30 am March 10th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Superintendents have asked legislators to open up collective bargaining laws.

They asked for more flexibility with the money the state gives them. Currently, school districts bargain with teachers and teachers’ unions for funds.

That means that the governor’s proposal to cut teacher pay 5 percent is not a foregone conclusion.

Districts still have to negotiate with teachers to ensure a 5 percent cut happens.

“We can ask but that doesn’t mean that you can get all of those concessions,” said Heath Morrison, superintendent of the Washoe County School District, at a legislative hearing Wednesday.

Morrison called the pay cuts “unfunded mandates” because they give districts less money with an expectation that the districts will bargain for those pay cuts.

Rob Roberts, superintendent of Nye County School District and president of the Nevada Association of School Superintendents, addressed legislators in an education committee today.

He said the superintendent’s would ideally like no cuts to the K-12 budget at all.

“We want you to hold the line on budget cuts,” he said. “We’ve cut to the bone … Many of the rural districts are barely surviving.”

The governor’s budget, however, cuts the districts’ budget by more than a half billion dollars.

Legislators would need to raise taxes to make up that shortfall.

If Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget passes with cuts to K-12 education, that’s when the superintendents would support opening up collective bargaining.

Sandoval has not personally pushed for changes to collectively bargaining, but he said he would welcome a discussion in the Legislature.

Legislators have yet to discuss opening up the Nevada’s collective bargaining statutes.

Freshman State Senator Shakes Up Mining Industry As Legislative Session Begins

By Sean Whaley | 9:21 am February 21st, 2011

CARSON CITY – Freshman Republican state Sen. Michael Roberson got a lot of people’s attention last week when he engaged in a brief but spirited line of questioning at a Judiciary Committee hearing with mining industry lobbyists.

On the job just one week, Roberson, R-Las Vegas, was trying to get information from the mining industry about their profits in Nevada. He was not satisfied with the answers, and said afterward the mining industry might be able to pay more in taxes, firing a shot across the bow of one the state’s most powerful industries.

Sen. Michael Roberson

Roberson, the only attorney on the Judiciary Committee and one of only two in the 21-member Senate, did not mince words with the industry lobbyists during a discussion of a measure to take away mining’s right to use eminent domain.

In an interview in his legislative office last week, Roberson said it is his job to get the answers, and he won’t stop until he does.

“What I wanted to know from mining, and I didn’t get a straight answer – how much money are the mining companies making here in Nevada,” Roberson said. “What’s their profit? I think that’s important for the people to know. And it was clear to me, the lobbyists for mining didn’t want to give me those numbers.”

Roberson says he is in complete agreement with GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval on the need to balance the next two-year state budget without a tax increase. But restructuring Nevada’s tax system to generate more income from mining while reducing the burden on small businesses, for example, is worth considering if taxes don’t increase overall, he said.

Watching Roberson take on one of the biggest players in the Nevada Legislature was an eye-opener for some observers, but should not come as a surprise. Roberson ran a tough campaign to unseat the better funded Democrat incumbent Joyce Woodhouse in the November election in District 5, paring the Democratic majority in the Senate to a single vote.

Bob Fulkerson, director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), which has been pushing for a tax increase on the mining industry, said Roberson’s comments at the hearing, “broke the sense of entitlement the mining lobbyists swagger around with.”

“It was very refreshing to see a legislator from Nevada have the guts to expose mining’s sweetheart tax loopholes in such a forceful way,” he said. “It shows we make mistakes – me and PLAN, or anybody – it shows we can’t pigeon-hole lawmakers based on party and ideology.”

Roberson knows a bit about the mining industry, or at least its sometimes less appealing aftermath. Raised in Galena, Kansas, a small mining town with a population of 3,300, he saw the effects of mining on the community in the 1960s after the minerals had been extracted and the companies had left.

“It can’t help but color how I see things because in my formative years that’s what I grew up with,” he said. “And again, I’m not against mining. I’m not anti-mining. I think it is an important industry to our state, especially to the rurals, and I want mining to thrive here in Nevada.

“But it took many years before the EPA came in and finally cleaned up Galena. In fact I had already moved away by the 1990s.”

Galena is the name of a lead-based mineral that was also found here in Northern Nevada. Galena Creek in south Reno and nearby Galena High School share the same name.

Roberson said Galena itself was the poorest area of the state. On his campaign website Roberson describes himself as coming from “modest beginnings.”

After graduating from high school, Roberson attended the University of Kansas where he graduated in 1993 with a political science degree. He then attended the University of Kansas School of Law on an academic scholarship, earning his degree in 1996.

Roberson said he was inspired to get involved in politics with by the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. He worked on the U.S. Senate campaign for Sam Brownback in 1996 and moved to Washington, D.C. in 1997, where he worked on Capitol Hill for then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay. He then worked for a political fund-raising company named CAPTEL.

Roberson moved to Nevada in 2000 and is currently an attorney with the law firm of Kolesar & Leatham, Chtd.

Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, said he first met Roberson at the GOP caucus meeting after the election and was impressed with his demeanor.

“He was not overly gabby but when he did talk, he was very thoughtful,” he said.

McGinness said Roberson’s line of questioning at the Judiciary hearing was appropriate, given the state’s budget situation.

“He went into the deep end of the pool right away,” he said. “He’ll do OK.”

Roberson, 40, said he enjoys serving in the Judiciary Committee and that the legislative process thus far is about what was expected. Roberson is also serving on the Natural Resources and Commerce, Labor and Energy committees.

“You never really know what it is going to be like but I guess this is generally how people described it to me before I got into this,” he said. “But I’m enjoying it. I really am.”

Being away from his wife, Liberty Leavitt-Roberson, a Clark County school teacher, and their two dogs, is one of the more difficult aspects of the job so far, but time away from family is part of the job description for a Southern Nevadan to serve in the Legislature in Carson City, he said.

“That’s the toughest part about this, I miss my wife, I miss my two little dogs, it’s tough being away from my family,” Roberson said. “It was tough not being with my wife on Valentine’s Day. But those are the sacrifices we make. We’ll be fine.”

While his comments on mining profits have garnered the most attention early in the session, Roberson said his legislative agenda includes reforms to public education and the collective bargaining process to try to drive down public employee salaries to make them comparable to the private sector.

Roberson said he wants a school choice program where parents can get a rebate for half the per pupil support to pick a private or public school or use the money for home schooling. It would require testing to show student achievement, he said. Roberson also wants a study of Florida’s school reforms to see which might work for Nevada.

Changes to collective bargaining are needed because the pay differential is 30 percent higher for public sector workers, he said.

“We’re never going to get control of this beast until we do something about narrowing that gap,” Roberson said.

His bills have not yet been introduced.

He would also support a change sought by Sandoval to change the public employee retirement system to a defined contribution plan for future hires.

But for now, mining is the hot topic for Roberson.

Richard Perkins, a lobbyist for the Newmont Mining Corp. and former speaker of the Assembly, said Roberson is thoughtful and asks good questions.

“But like any freshman legislator, Senate or Assembly, (he) is still trying to find his sea legs,” he said. “And the questions he asked this last week were a part of that process.”

The mining industry now needs to educate Roberson about the business and satisfy his concerns, Perkins said.

“His profile will more fully develop itself to all of us after that education occurs and we look at how he handles this specific issue,” he said.

Roberson said he does not yet know if the mining industry can afford to pay more, although he is inclined to believe the companies are doing OK.

“My general sense is mining is doing exceptionally well right now,” he said. “And I know for a fact small business in this state is on life-support.”

If that proves not to be the case, Roberson said he would not pursue a tax increase on the industry. But he wants the answers to the mining industry’s profitability in Nevada first and said he will get them.

Based on the exchange at the Feb. 14 judiciary hearing, the mining industry probably believes he won’t take no for an answer either.

Audio clips:

Sen. Michael Roberson says toughest part of job is being away from family:

022111Roberson1 :07 from my family.”

Roberson says it took long time for EPA to clean up his home town:

022111Roberson2 :17 by the 1990s.”

Roberson says he is not opposed to mining industry:

022111Roberson3 :16 here in Nevada.”

Roberson says he did not get a straight answer from mining on profits in Nevada:

022111Roberson4 :10 people to know.”

Roberson says mining lobbyists did not want to provide information:

022111Roberson5 :17 become more suspicious.”

Roberson says if restructuring of Nevada’s tax system makes sense and is revenue neutral, that is OK:

022111Roberson6 :08 open to discussing.”

Mining lobbyist Richard Perkins says Roberson’s questioning was part of his learning process as a freshman:

022111Perkins1 :10 of that process.”

Perkins says Roberson’s profile will become more clear after seeing how he handles the mining issue:

022111Perkins2 :08 this specific issue.”

Budget Director Says Major Changes Needed To Fund Government Services

By Sean Whaley | 4:12 am August 10th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada could find a way out of its $3 billion revenue shortfall next year without raising taxes, but only if the Legislature looks at restructuring the way the state and local governments provide and pay for services, the state’s top fiscal officer said yesterday.

State Budget Director Andrew Clinger, interviewed Monday on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, said the Legislature would also have to consider changes to the state’s collective bargaining law to get a handle on local government salaries, which he called “unsustainable.”

“I think there is a way to do it without raising taxes but you’re talking about some radical changes,” he said. “And I think the only way . . . to do it without raising taxes is you need to look at not only state government but you have to look at local government.”

Clinger said Nevada state government spends less money on its programs than other states. But when local government is added into the mix, the state falls into the middle of states on spending on government programs per capita.

The budget discussion in the upcoming legislative session would have to involve the potential shift of services between the government entities along with the revenues that would pay for them, he said.

In Nevada, property taxes pay for public education and local government but not state services. Sales and gaming taxes, along with the modified business tax and several other levies, are the revenues that fund state general fund government operations.

Clinger did not offer any specifics about what types of programs might be shifted as part of any realignment.

But Clinger said he does not see how the state’s potential $3 billion shortfall, which would approach 50 percent of what Nevada government needs to operate, from education to prisons, could be addressed solely with cuts at the state level.

The only program he mentioned during the interview was Nevada Check Up, a program funded by the state and federal government that provides health insurance to just under 22,000 low-income children who are not eligible for Medicaid. The program is costing the state general fund about $10.8 million this year. Another $25.4 million is coming from the federal government, funding that would be lost if the program was eliminated.

Clinger said the state’s collective bargaining statutes would also have to be part of any discussion by the governor and Legislature with local governments.

Clinger said the last surveys he reviewed showed state salaries about 7 percent ahead of the private sector, while local government salaries were running about 30 percent ahead of the private sector.

“You would have to open up the collective bargain statutes and make some changes there that could help sustain government moving forward because at those salary levels it is not sustainable,” he said.

State employees do not have collective bargaining rights in Nevada, although local government employees and teachers do.

Clinger said the $3 billion shortfall out of a two-year, $6.5 billion general fund budget can be partially addressed by actions the governor and Legislature can take on their own. State employee furloughs and benefit reductions, for example, could be continued for two more years at a savings of about $500 million, he said.

Much of the state budget shortfall is due to tax increases approved by lawmakers in 2009 that will expire unless extended, and the loss of future federal stimulus funds.

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said she has heard concerns expressed by local government officials that there might be an effort to transfer state services to the local level.

“I have talked to several county commissioners who are quite concerned,” she said. “I think those discussions should be happening now if they are going to happen. I haven’t seen anyone organize a formal discussion.”

Leslie, who is running for an open seat in the state Senate, said she has heard there might be a list of programs that could be eliminated entirely or that could be potentially transferred to local government. But the counties do not have any surplus funds they could infuse into state programs if a transfer occurred, she said.

With a new governor coming in January and the two leading candidates for the job rejecting any call for new taxes as a solution to the state’s budget problems, not to mention a major turnover in the Legislature with the departure of long-time leaders, “we’re in a very tenuous spot,” Leslie said.

Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani, a former state lawmaker, said a discussion of which level of government should provide what services is worth having, but she questioned whether it would deliver enough savings to make a significant difference in the state’s budget shortfall.

“I don’t think you can cost shift your way out of the budget problems,” she said.

Giunchigliani said the Legislature should take a look at the study on broadening the state’s sales tax base by the Nevada Policy Research Institute as a starting point for a conversation on the state’s revenue structure.

While not in support of taxing food or medical devices, the study looks at spreading the sales tax over a wider base while at the same time reducing the overall rate, she said.

“It gives the Legislature something to take a look at, and local governments should weigh in,” Giunchigliani said.

Ben Kieckhefer, public information officer for the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, which operates the Check Up program, said the trend his agency has seen is counties transferring programs to the state when possible due to funding concerns.

One recent example is the state having to pick up elder protective services from Clark County, which occurred on July 31, he said.

___

Audio clips:

State Budget Director Andrew Clinger says local governments would have to be involved in plan to balance state budget without new taxes:

080910Clinger1 :31 to other states.”

Clinger said a shift of services and funding between state and local government would be needed:

080910Clinger2 :24 sorts of things.”

Clinger says the state’s collective bargaining law would have to be part of the discussion:

080910Clinger3 :30 it’s not sustainable.”

Gibbons OPEN Government Initiative Passes Challenge Period, Signature Gathering Begins

By Sean Whaley | 11:03 am June 3rd, 2010

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons has announced his initiative petition to amend state law to subject public employee union negotiations to Nevada’s open meeting law has passed a legal challenge period, allowing the signature gathering process to begin.

“All around Nevada hundreds of hard working public servants are losing their jobs because their union leaders will not re-open their contracts and accept salary reductions and benefits adjustments,” Gibbons said. “We are losing talented government workers to the unemployment rolls. Unions have a stranglehold on local government, and it’s time for that to stop. Collective bargaining involving public funds must be open to the public. Secret backroom deals between public employee unions and state and local governments must stop. The people of Nevada should expect no less from their government.”

The Steering Committee for the OPEN Government Initiative has until Nov. 9 to gather the 97,002 necessary valid signatures from Nevada’s three Congressional districts to place the petition initiative before the 2011 Nevada Legislature. Should the initiative petition not be approved by the Legislature, it will go forward to a vote of the people in the 2012 general election.

“My office has been flooded with calls from people who want to help circulate petitions and enact this initiative into law. Please contact us now as we move quickly forward to gather signatures,” Gibbons said.

Gibbons has set up a special e-mail address to contact the OPEN Government Initiative at NVOPENGovernment@att.net . A web site will follow in the next few weeks. Those without e-mail access can call 775-684-5670 or send a letter to P.O. Box 4807, Carson City, NV 89702.

Gibbons said he twice tried during the 26th Special Session of the Nevada Legislature to amend laws relating to government collective bargaining without success, prompting him to use the initiative process to get the issue before the Legislature and voters.

Assembly Republicans were successful in getting a resolution passed urging the 2011 Legislature to consider ways to make the collective bargaining process more transparent.

“It’s time for the people of Nevada to step up and do what their elected Democrat legislators will not, and that is provide for accountability in public spending,” Gibbons said.

Legislators React to Governor’s Petition Drive to Create Transparency in Government Labor Negotiations

By Sean Whaley | 3:39 pm May 11th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons announced yesterday he is pursuing an initiative petition to subject labor negotiations between unions and local government entities to the open meeting law to give taxpayers access to the discussions.

Some Republican lawmakers welcomed the idea, saying the Democrat-controlled Legislature has been unwilling to consider such a proposal.

But a state Senate Democrat who will be serving in the 2011 session questioned from a practical standpoint whether the labor negotiation process would work if it had to be in the open and follow the very specific legal dictates of Nevada’s open meeting law.

Gibbons, in announcing his third effort to take an issue to the voters of Nevada, said he is going to the public because the Legislature refused to consider the idea at a special session held earlier this year.

“The objective of this initiative and this process is to open up those negotiations to public scrutiny,” he said.

“We’re taking nothing away from their negotiating abilities,” Gibbons said. “What we’re doing is saying if they are going to deal with taxpayer funds that those negotiations need to be open to the public so people can see, and watch, and understand exactly how those dollars are being spent and why.”

The proposal would repeal an exemption in state law allowing labor negotiations to be conducted behind closed doors. It would require collective bargaining proceedings to be subject to Nevada’s open meeting law, “just like any other meeting where public funds are discussed or spent.”

If Gibbons and his supporters can collect 97,002 valid signatures by a Nov. 9 deadline, the proposed change to state law would go to the 2011 Legislature. If the Legislature failed to enact the proposal, it would go to the voters in 2012.

The initiative effort will be operated independently of the governor’s office. A steering committee for the Gibbons OPEN Government Initiative has already been established that includes Gibbons and former state Sens. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, and Mark Amodei, R-Carson City.

Gibbons said he will work with mayors and other elected officials to ensure the measure has a fair hearing in the Legislature in 2012.

Gibbons said mayors have told him that closed-door negotiations affects their ability to negotiate.

State workers do not have collective bargaining.

When he discussed the initiative with Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman yesterday, Gibbons said the mayor was positive about the concept but said it would have to be reviewed by his staff first.

A spokesman for Goodman acknowledged he did discuss the idea with Gibbons but added that he has to see the proposal first, and run it by the city manager, before offering any comment.

Assemblyman Ty Cobb, R-Reno, said using the initiative process is the only way conservative lawmakers will get the issue heard.

“We’re not going to get any conservative issues of great substance through this liberal Legislature,” he said. “So going directly to the voters is a good idea.”

“I think it is a great idea in terms of public policy,” said Cobb, who is running for an open state Senate seat in Reno. “There needs to be a lot more transparency to that whole process.”

The Assembly Republican caucus in the special session that ended March 1 wanted such a law as part of a deal on solving the state’s budget crisis, but ultimately saw only a weak and nonbinding resolution on the issue win approval, he said.

Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, said he too favors transparency in local government labor negotiations. By the time the public finds out what deals have been struck between labor and government management officials, it is weeks after the fact, he said.

“It would require both sides to discuss issues in a more rational way,” Settelmeyer said.

The lawmaker, who is running for an open state Senate seat in the capital region, said he has seen questionable examples locally of school teachers getting small raises while administrators end up with double-digit gains in the closed-door negotiation process.

Since the Legislature would not consider the idea, the initiative petition process may be the only way to go, although Settelmeyer said he would be concerned if too many issues ended up as ballot questions for voters who may not have time to read all the information.

State Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, said labor negotiations go on for months and applying the open meeting law requirements to the process, including meeting notices posted in advance, would not work.

He suggested the move by Gibbons was aimed more at his tough primary election race, a claim Gibbons denied when he announced his proposal.

“People at the negotiating table get mad at each other,” Schneider said. “They yell and scream at each other. Now you have them meeting in the open and having discussions on film. They would be all goody two shoes and nothing would ever get done.”

Schneider said local elected officials have the final say over such agreements and they are the ones who should be held accountable by the voters if the pay and benefit packages being negotiated are too generous.

Gibbons, who is trailing in the polls in the Republican primary to former federal judge Brian Sandoval, said he has been working on the transparency issue for months. But legislative leaders even rejected his request to draft a bill on the subject for the special session, he said.

Lynn Warne, president of the Nevada State Education Association, said there is nothing in the law now that would preclude a local government agency and collective bargaining unit to bargain in public if the two sides agreed to do so. She also noted that the Legislature in 2009 added an extra step to the collective bargaining process to give the public more opportunity to be informed about labor negotiations.

“Let’s allow the existing law to work,” Warne said.

She also questioned the timing of the Gibbons proposal.

“We believe it is a diversionary tactic on his part,” Warne said. “The real issue is the lack of funding for the public schools in Nevada.”

Brian Johnson, executive director of the Washington DC-based Alliance for Worker Freedom, said the organization always supports transparency, especially when it involves public sector unions where large amounts of taxpayer dollars are at stake.

But Johnson said an even better move would be to eliminate the requirement for collective bargaining altogether.

“Ideally we would not have mandated forced bargaining sessions,” he said. “When you have mandated bargaining, the unions always have the upper hand.”

Even so, Johnson said his group would support Gibbons’ proposal.

“Anytime we can get more transparency, it is at least a step in the right direction,” he said.

The Alliance for Worker Freedom (AWF) was founded in 2003 as a non-partisan organization dedicated to combating anti-worker legislation and to promote free and open markets.

Gibbons has had a track record of success in getting measures qualified for the ballot. He qualified a measure requiring a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to raise taxes and voters approved it. He then got a proposal on the ballot requiring the Legislature to fund the public education budget before considering other spending requirements during a session. That too won voter approval.

Audio files (broadcasters may re-use these files at will):

Gibbons on his collective bargaining proposal 1

Gibbons on his collective bargaining proposal 2

Gibbons on his collective bargaining proposal 1
Gibbons on his collective bargaining proposal 2

Rory and Oscar Are BFFs

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:16 am April 28th, 2010

Teaming up to curb firefighter overtime (and other) costs to both city and county are a rather unlikely pair:  Clark County Commission chair Rory Reid and Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman.

Other suggested cuts filed under the tab “shared services” are animal control, business licensing, information technology, parks, television production and purchasing.

According the LV Sun (which covered yesterday’s joint press conference at City Hall), Rory got real specific-like:

“It would be a disservice to those who made sacrifices not to point out those who have not,” Reid said…

“I’m talking about firefighters.”

Bam!

Wonder how many hate-grams and I-hope-your-house-doesn’t-catch-on-fire emails Rory got yesterday?  And did he forward them to Steve Sisolak so they could commiserate about the joys of public office?

Rory and Oscar want county and city staff to offer suggestions for service join-ups by June.

Commissioner Sisolak told the Sun he thought the changes would save each government entity in the ballpark of $1.1 million.  If so, that’s a lotta bank, and good for them (both).

Also of interest, Sisolak said he thinks the county ought to push for “zero-based” budgeting on collective bargaining agreements.  In a nutshell, this means Talks would start at “0″ rather than status-quo (which includes all kinds of perks, bonuses and benefits).

Doubt that’ll happen, but a guy (or gal) can dream.

Bonus Materials:

As reported by an insider with close ties to both municipal chiefs, here are a few texts exchanged between new pals Rory and Oscar while that City Hall press conference was going on:

Oscar:  U gonna name names and call out firefighters like u promised?

Rory:  Having second thoughts. U do it.

Oscar:  No way! City employees already mad for layoffs threat. This one all u.

Rory:  I’m scared. Plus everyone hates u already, what’s BFD?

Oscar:  Look if u wanna be BMOC, u gotta do this stuff!!

Rory:  But I want everyone to like me.

Oscar:  WTF?! You are such a wimp!! Do it!!!!!!!!!

Rory:  Calm down! Jeez!! Did you skip martini this morning?

Oscar:  Spilled on drive here, forgot flask at home. Don’t change subject.  Say it!!

Rory:  All right! Will do. Sorry. Still BFFs?

Oscar:  4ever. Or at least ’til budget BS over.

Rory:  ok

Top GOP Adviser Rogich Says Now is Not the Time to Replace Harry Reid, Talks Revenue and Budget Issues

By Sean Whaley | 1:07 pm March 16th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Republican presidential adviser Sig Rogich said in an interview televised today that he is supporting the re-election of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid because replacing the most powerful member of Congress while the state is in the worst recession in memory is a bad idea.

Rogich, who made his comments during an interview in Las Vegas on the Nevada NewsMakers program, said having Reid serving the state as majority leader in the Senate rather than some new junior senator is the right approach for Nevada.

Rogich, a long-time Republican operative and George H.W. Bush adviser, is co-chairman of the “Republicans for Reid” campaign.

Replacing Reid, “is just wrong, it’s just not the smart thing to do,” he said.

“We’re in protracted water negotiations with Arizona, with (Sen.) John McCain at the table, Utah, with (Sen.) Orrin Hatch, (Sen.) Dianne Feinstein representing California, and Colorado,” Rogich said. “Who would you like to have at the table? A junior senator or a newly elected senator to argue about and protect the rights of our water for Nevada for the rest of our lifetime? That’s how important this thing is.”

Reid has not done a good job selling himself, but he has done extraordinary things for the state, Rogich said.

“I think you probably give him as much credit for building McCarran International Airport as anybody,” he said.

“To lose him, I think it’s just like a crap shoot,” Rogich said.

What Reid needs to do is remind Nevada residents what he has done for the state, he said. Reid also needs to find alternative uses for Yucca Mountain now that a nuclear waste repository is no longer on the table, Rogich said.

“I think what he has done to keep Yucca out of here is extraordinary,” he said.

Rogich criticized GOP Senate hopeful Sue Lowden for her stand on the repository.

“Sue Lowden thinks we ought to have Yucca here,” he said. “That’s how misinformed she is.”

One spill of nuclear waste would destroy Southern Nevada’s tourism economy, Rogich said.

“So why would you ever elect a senator, someone who wants to go to Washington and bring Yucca back,” he said. “Why would that possibly be a good thing for our state?”

Yucca Mountain should be used for economic development, just not for nuclear waste, Rogich said.

When asked how the Nevada Legislature should deal with its estimated $3 billion-plus funding gap next year, Rogich said it is time to change the state’s collective bargaining laws.

“There is something inherently wrong in this county, for example, where firefighters are making the kind of money they are making.”

While praising the work they do, Rogich said firefighters should work eight-hour shifts like other workers and not roll up enough overtime to earn nearly $200,000 a year on average with benefits.

Governments can’t afford to pay those benefits and taxes can’t be raised to maintain them, he said.

“They’ve got to change the method of doing business in Carson City,” Rogich said.

Nevada does need some new form of  “revenue sourcing,” he said.

“I don’t know what the best one is yet,” Rogich said. “I don’t think a gross receipts tax works.”

Rogich said he likes the concept of sale-lease back of state buildings.

“Government is here to provide services for us; it’s not here to build monuments to itself,” he said. “Why should they be in the bricks and mortar business? If I had my way, I’d farm the airport out. I would let it be run by a concessionaire who pays the county “x” amount of dollars, and I would eliminate a lot of jobs and things that are not necessary there by consolidation and streamlining.”

Rogich also said mining is not paying its fair share in Nevada.

“For years and years and years they build, they dig, they make big holes and when it’s over, they will be gone,” he said. “And I think if they don’t change the tax structure for mining, I think the people of this state will change it.”

Legislative Leadership Rejects Request by Governor Gibbons to Draft Bills for Possible Special Session

By Sean Whaley | 12:12 pm January 8th, 2010

(Updated at 12:58 p.m. on Jan. 8)

CARSON CITY – If Governor Jim Gibbons wants to bring his entire education reform agenda to a special session of the Legislature, from eliminating mandates for class-size reduction to repealing Nevada’s collective bargaining law, he will have to draft the bills himself.

The leadership of the Legislature has rejected a request by Gibbons to draft the several bills implementing his education proposals he released earlier this week in advance of a possible special session.

Instead, his own legal counsel, Adriana Fralick, will draft the bills Gibbons wants the Legislature to consider in a special session, if one is called. But there is no guarantee they will get introduced, let alone get a hearing.

Legislative leadership has indicated that the only bills that will be considered in a special session will come from the Committee of the Whole in each house, not from the governor or individual lawmakers.

Even a request by Gibbons for a bill draft to remove a few words in a state law making Nevada ineligible for federal “Race to the Top” school improvement funds has been rejected by legislative leadership.

Robin Reedy, chief of staff, to Gibbons, said she was shocked to hear of the decision by legislative leadership. The governor’s proposals only seek the repeal of mandates for class-size reduction, all-day kindergarten and collective bargaining, not their elimination, she said.

“I’m tired of their partisanship in not releasing ideas and not giving us ideas,” Reedy said. “They criticize us in the newspapers, but they don’t sit at this table and tell us how they want to tweak it to make it better.”

Reedy said sending over the bill draft requests is an attempt to be transparent and tell lawmakers the issues Gibbons wants to be discussed if a special session is called.

Gibbons, in a letter sent today to Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, and Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, has threatened legal action over the failure to draft his proposals.

As first reported by RalstonFlash, Gibbons said in the letter he does not believe it is “legally permissible” for the legislative counsel to decline to draft legislation for the governor.

“A prompt reply to this quandary is appreciated, as the necessity for a definitive answer vis-a-vis the court system is imminently ripe should the Legislative Counsel not perform her Constitutional and statutory duties to draft legislation for the Governor.”

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said a special session is no time to take up complex policy issues.

“Special sessions are called for special reasons,” she said. “They are costly. We need to stay focused on the issue at hand, which is solving our imminent budget crisis.”

Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, said the dispute is all about politics as Gibbons and Democratic lawmakers gear up for a session in the midst of an election year.

“I don’t take it too seriously,” he said. “It is gamesmanship, going back and forth preparing for the match.”

Coffin said he would not be opposed to having legislative staff prepare Gibbons’ bill drafts as a courtesy, but it is unlikely his proposals will get a hearing. If a special session is called, the emphasis will be to get any pressing issues resolved and the budget balanced quickly, he said.

There won’t be time for a lengthy debate on the policy issues raised this week by Gibbons, Coffin said.

Gibbons raised the bill drafting issue in a meeting this week with lawmakers. According to one source, Gibbons said at the meeting that if he is limited to a single bill draft for a special session, then he will call a separate special session for each of his proposals.

There is a prohibition on raising money for political campaigns for a limited time around any special session.

There is no bill draft allotment specified for a governor for a special session, unlike regular sessions where a governor gets to submit a specified number of proposals for drafting.

Lorne Malkiewich, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said the direction on the bill drafting policy came from leadership. Democrats control both the state Senate and Assembly.

In the past it has not been an issue, because the governor and lawmakers have agreed before hand on the agenda and the bills necessary to be considered at a special session, he said.

There is a concern about whether legislative staff time should be spent drafting a bill repealing the state’s collective bargaining law if there is no appetite to take up such an issue, Malkiewich said.

Only Gibbons can call the Legislature to special session, and only he can dictate the agenda for the Legislature to consider. But what bills are drafted and introduced are in the purview of the Legislature.

Gibbons on Wednesday unveiled his plan to reform education and help balance the budget.

Included is the repeal of class size mandates in lower elementary grades and repeal of a requirement for all-day kindergarten, along with the collective bargaining repeal.

Reedy said: “We’re not drawing lines in the sand and saying we’re getting rid of collective bargaining. We’re saying this is an option that we can look at – and lets work on these ideas from now until a special session, if one is called.”

Reedy said Gibbons wants to have a discussion on important public policy issues, not just measures to bring the state budget into balance. It is currently $67 million short of anticipated tax revenues.

The idea is not to repeal class size reduction and take all that funding for use in balancing the budget, she said. The plan is to eliminate the mandate and let schools, parents and teachers decide how best to spend the money.

“I’m tired of the partisan scare tactics that they throw up in order to have a smoke screen to not analyze the real problems,” Reedy said. “The real problem is for 20 years we’ve been doing the same thing the same way and getting the same result.”

Governor Gibbons Unveils Education Reform Plan – Political Rivals Raise Questions

By Sean Whaley | 5:49 pm January 6th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons today released a plan to make sweeping changes to the state’s public education system with what he said is an eye towards giving parents and local government more control over how state tax dollars are spent educating Nevada’s children.

“This is all about choice and efficiency,” Gibbons said. “We must give more control over our children’s education to their parents and take back power from bureaucrats, unions and other officials.

“We must start asking the question, if this dollar is not spent helping a child learn, then why is it being spent,” he said.

The plan calls for eliminating a mandate for class size reduction in the lower elementary grades and for the repeal of collective bargaining for teachers and local government workers.

Gibbons is running for reelection this year but faces a strong challenge from fellow Republican candidates in the June primary. He made his announcement in Las Vegas.

The plan provoked an immediate comment from Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid, who is running for governor as a Democrat.

He said: “This is not a serious effort at education reform. It is a fundamentally flawed effort to solve a fiscal problem.”

Both Republican primary challengers, former U.S. District Judge Brian Sandoval, and former North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon, also raised questions about the plan.

“While I’m an advocate of school choice, expanding empowerment schools and increased parental involvement, I believe it is an extremely bad idea to be laying off hundreds of teachers in a time of record unemployment in Nevada,” Sandoval said in a statement.

The layoffs would occur if the class size reduction program was eliminated in the state’s public schools.

Montandon said the ideas are worthwhile, but he questioned the timing.

“I don’t see a problem with the content,” Montandon said. “But the timing is strange. He had a marvelous opportunity to do these things for the past several years.

“I’ve been pushing the ideas of school vouchers and merit pay for over a year,” he said. “These are not new ideas. Empowerment schools work. Vouchers work. These programs should have been put in place a long time ago.”

Gibbons’ proposals include:

- Cut multi-level administrative bureaucracies at larger school districts.

- Allow smaller districts to consolidate.

- Give local school districts the ability to use their basic student support funding at their own discretion rather than have the money earmarked for specific programs.

- Eliminate laws requiring local governments and school districts to enter into collective bargaining agreements with employees.

“Unions do nothing to help educate our children,” Gibbons said. “The unnecessary tax money expended for union negotiations and special benefits can be used in classrooms to help our children learn, not pay for union officials or promote costly and often hostile negotiations.”

- Adopt a statewide school voucher program for all parents and students to have school choice.

- Eliminate the elected state Board of Education and instead establish an advisory panel with members appointed by the governor and Legislature.

- Eliminate the requirement in Nevada law for class size reduction at the lower elementary grade levels. This alone would save $127 million in fiscal year 2011, Gibbons said.

- Eliminate a statutory requirement for full-day kindergarten. This would save another $28 million in fiscal year 2011.

“These and other proposals will save money and will pry our children’s education out of the hands of government bureaucrats and put it in the hands of parents and teachers,” Gibbons said. “These proposals will also help us through this unprecedented economic crisis.”

Gibbons is facing another year as governor with lower than expected tax revenues, the potential for severe budget cuts and an economy that includes a double-digit unemployment rate.

A special session of the Legislature to deal with these issues could come as soon as February.

Reid also questioned why Gibbons has proposed an education plan now, noting that two sessions of the Legislature have passed while he has been governor.

The plan, which Reid described as being from the “right wing playbook,” has come only now that his “back is against the wall and his political future is at risk.”

“I’m running for governor, but I’m also a parent,” he said. “I’d much rather have my child in a classroom with 19 other kids than 50 other kids. I think it is common sense that dictates that we want our classes to be as small as they can be.”

Education is critically important to diversifying the state’s workforce and creating an educated workforce for the future, Reid said.

As to the call for eliminating collective bargaining, Reid said Gibbons should work with involved parties to come to an agreement on how to solve the state’s pressing budget problems rather than calling people names.

“What we need is leadership,” he said.