Posts Tagged ‘George Flint’

Legislators Texting, Tweeting And Typing Has Some Crying Foul

By Andrew Doughman | 7:11 pm April 1st, 2011

RENO – Behind the laptop, beside the cell phone and next to the iPad tablet, somewhere, is a legislator.

“I ask you to please stop looking at your phones,” said Crystal Jackson, a UNR student. “Stop looking as if you’re bored.”

She made the remarks after legislators were more than two hours into listening to students and faculty testify about proposed higher-education cuts at the University of Nevada, Reno on Thursday.

Legislators often multi-task, perusing emails and e-documents while listening to testimony.

But Jackson raises important points: how much time do representatives of the public owe the public, and how acceptable is it to use technology when members of the public are testifying?

“It seems like our stories are falling on deaf ears,” said Charlie Jose, president of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada, who testified earlier at UNR.

Often, legislators punch away at their keyboards as their committees listen to public testimony. Sometimes, only the chairperson of the committee speaks to members of the public.

Nevada Sens. Ruben Kihuen, left, and Mo Denis, both D-Las Vegas, look at an electronic device at the Legislature in Carson City, Nev., on April 1, 2011. Photo by Cathleen Allison

Still, nobody refutes the importance of public testimony, and some want to strengthen it.

Today, lobbyist George Flint testified about a bill from Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas. The bill would allow the public equal time to testify for and against a bill.

“The basic concept of our entire government is for everybody to be heard,” Flint said.

Legislators, however, do not have time to hear from everybody. The 120-day legislative session, a complex budget and a glut of bills means legislators are counting every second.

The dissatisfied students may also be bumping into what some have called the Carson City bubble, inside of which a brigade of lobbyists exert influence at the expense of those not physically in the Legislature.

“Probably the smartest thing the UNR students could do is hire a lobbyist,” said Flint, who has been a lobbyist for 49 years. “The way you get things done over here is to hire professionals who have the ear of these people [legislators].”

Flint is a lobbyist for a polarizing industry: Reno-area wedding chapels and some legal brothels. He knows as well as anyone that some lawmakers are set in their views. Three minutes or three hours of public testimony will not change their minds.

Still, it is important for the public to have a chance to have its say.

“If you’re going to walk out feeling like you’ve lost, you should walk out knowing you had enough time to make your case,” Ohrenschall said.

Nonetheless, technology has invaded committee rooms to the extent that people making their case cannot know if lawmakers are actually listening.

Assembly Minority leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said that this is the “price we pay” for integrating more technology into the legislative process.

For the first time this year, nearly all legislative documents are on a computer system. So when legislators are looking at their computers, they could be referencing relevant documents.

Orhenschall said that he gets text messages from his assistant, who tells him another committee is waiting for him to testify on a bill.

Some members of the Senate and Assembly also use Twitter and consistently Tweet colorful quotes as people testify.

So for better or worse, legislators seem to be connected to their laptops, iPads and cell phones.

“You know how Darth Vader had become more machine than man?” Ohrenschall said.




Legislators Working At “Breakneck” Speed

By Andrew Doughman | 5:31 pm February 11th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Legislators have done this week what the cynical among us would never have expected: they got right to work.

The chatter in the hallways at 401 S Carson Street has revolved around the fast pace legislators seem to be setting during their first week in session. Legislators are already listening to testimony about bills. Legislative leaders are already rolling out big jobs bills.

“They’re moving at breakneck speed,” said Chris Ferrari, a lobbyist with Ferrari Public Affairs.

The quick pace could help later because legislators have plenty to attend to this session. Chief among their tasks is balancing the state’s budget, a challenge made more difficult because of the recession and the past two years of budget reductions.

Legislators also need to redraw the state’s electoral districts based on data from the 2010 U.S. Census. Nevada’s population grew enough between 2000 and 2010 to win it a fourth Congressional district. Penciling in the lines on the map will require legislators to balance politics and fairness.

Putting themselves through the paces early frees up time for the big fights later.

For the taxpayer, making sure the legislative session finishes on-time also saves money. Legislators have already appropriated $15 million for the cost of this year’s session. Depending on the duration and scope of work required for a special session, each extra day could cost between $50,000 and $100,000.

George Flint, a lobbyist for Reno area wedding chapels and some of Nevada’s legal brothels, said he appreciates the hustle.

“They are jumping into some of these important bills early,” Flint said. “I think there is a mentality I like and appreciate, let’s get this show on the road because we have some really huge fights and really huge issues to address and if we wait too long we’re going to be really on a short time frame as the 120 days creeps up.”

Longtime lobbyist Scott Craigie, who also served as chief of staff to former Gov. Bob Miller, said lawmakers are moving quickly in the first week of the session, particularly in the Senate. Craigie is representing the Nevada State Medical Society, among other clients.

“I think the Legislature is really moving forward, as much as they can,” he said. “It is interesting because the Assembly side has a lot of new people in it, so those folks are trying to find their way and get their bearings, whereas the Senate is really moving very aggressively.”

Craigie said Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, who announced on the first day of the session on Monday he wants job creation legislation passed within 30 days, has been aggressive in pursuing his agenda, even before the session began.

“And a lot of the people on the Senate side have kind of gone along with that and in fact have added to it,” he said.

Horsford and his counterparts in the Assembly on Thursday announced two major jobs initiatives they will pursue over the next few weeks. It is not clear yet if Gov. Brian Sandoval will support the measures. Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, said he too has observed that the session is moving quickly. Senate committees including Judiciary, Transportation and Revenue have all had lengthy hearings this first week, he said.

“You’ve got to hit the ground running and get into third gear pretty quick,” he said.

Recent changes encourage faster legislative process

Workers at the legislative building attribute some of the fast start to structural changes made within the past dozen years.

The first change came in 1999, when the Legislature first convened for a 120-day legislative session. Prior to that, the 1997 session had last from late January into early July.

The state never had had limits on its sessions, perhaps because legislators of yesteryear never would have dreamed of still being in Carson City in July.

“In the old days people would come in when it was too cold to plant crops, stay here for a few months and go home,” said Lorne Malkiewich, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau.

But since the imposition of session deadlines, the Legislature hasn’t kept to its deadlines very well. Sessions ran over the allotted 120-days in 2001, 2003, 2005 and 2007.

That changed, though, in 2007. Legislators passed a law that required the pre-filing of bills, meaning that staff drafted more bills before the session ever started. With the language of the bills in front of them, legislators have an easier time getting to work.

“In the past, there have been been times when the first week has been almost completely lost,” Malkiewich said.

But he isn’t ready to call off a special session.

As legislators are so fond of saying, everything is on the table.

Capital Bureau Chief Sean Whaley contributed to this report.

Longtime lobbyist Scott Craigie says the Nevada’s Senate is moving quickly during the first week of session:

021111 Craigie: Senate moving very agressively”

Longtime lobbyist Scott Craigie says the Nevada Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, has been aggressive in pursuing his agenda:

021111 Craigie: have added to it.”