Posts Tagged ‘equity’

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

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

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

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

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

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

In all, 18 measures were tracked for the report.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lawmakers leveled some criticisms at the report.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The full report is available at the PLAN website.