Posts Tagged ‘hansen’

Nevada Campaign Finance Reform Bills Get Senate Committee Hearing

By Sean Whaley | 6:36 pm May 5th, 2011

CARSON CITY – An ambitious effort to make major reforms to Nevada’s campaign finance laws moved to the state Senate today after three measures sought by Secretary of State Ross Miller passed the Assembly by a deadline last month.

The Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections took testimony on Assembly Bills 81, 82 and 452 but delayed action on the measures, which would make a number of reforms to Nevada campaign finance law.

A number of concerns were raised about elements of the measures by members of the public who testified. But witnesses also praised sections of the measures, which were amended extensively in the Assembly.

Opposition testimony did not for the most part take aim at what Secretary of State Ross Miller considers the most important elements of the measures, contained in AB452, requiring on-line filing of campaign contribution and expense reports by most candidates and earlier reporting of the information so voters could review the data before casting their ballots.

“A big part of the transparency we want to provide is letting voters know who is funding the campaigns,” Miller said. “The reasons of course are obvious, and the need is equally obvious, even to those outside of Nevada.”

Miller said Nevada received an “F” grade from the Campaign Disclosure Project by the UCLA School of Law in 2008 for the state’s campaign finance disclosure laws, the same grade received in the project’s four previous reports.

“In the real world there is a term for that, it’s called flunking out,” he said. “I’m not going to flunk out, I don’t think any of you here want to, and there is absolutely no reason Nevadans should tolerate any kind of excuses that lead to that type of performance.”

The measures cover other issues as well.

Assembly Bill 81 contains a provision restricting the creation of political action committees to circumvent limits on how much money can be contributed to a campaign as is now being reviewed in Rory Reid’s failed gubernatorial bid.

Miller’s office is investigating Reid’s use of 90 shell political action committees his campaign established to funnel $750,000 into his race for Nevada governor. Reid has said the use of the multiple PACs was legal.

Assembly Bill 82 contains a provision allowing for on-line voter registration, a proposal endorsed by Jan Gilbert, representing the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, who said it would increase the number of voters and lead to improved voter turnout.

AB452 also contains a controversial provision requiring a two-year cooling off period before a former lawmaker could be paid to work as a lobbyist in the Legislature, a section not sought by Miller and which was a concern for some members of the Assembly.

Some of those testifying on the bills expressed concerns about a section of AB81 that imposes reporting requirements on groups or individuals spending more than $100 for or against a candidate.

Janine Hansen, representing the Independent American Party, said the provision is an unwarranted effort to regulate free speech, including anonymous free speech.

“Anonymous free speech is part of American history and it is an important thing to protect,” she said.

Those seeking more transparency in the campaign and election process should be seeking more, not less, free speech, Hansen said.

Miller said the provision is intended to fix the most comment election complaint received by his office, that of the anonymous political mailer or television attack ad. The proposed language is not a First Amendment battle because it is taken from requirements used by other jurisdictions, he said.

It is a reasonable response to address the clear abuse of anonymous mailers sent out during campaign season, Miller said.

Audio clips:

Secretary of State Ross Miller says most important provisions are in AB452:

050511Miller1 :22 maintaining these filings.”

Miller says the measures would let voters know who is funding the campaigns:

050511Miller2 :09 outside of Nevada.”

Miller says Nevada’s current campaign finance disclosure laws are failing:

050511Miller3 :08 type of performance.”

 

 

Popular Vote Movement Gains Steam Nationally – Nevada Among States Targeted

By Sean Whaley | 1:24 pm February 22nd, 2011

A national movement to guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states combined gained steam today with the financial support of a billionaire businessman who has committed resources to enacting the concept across the country, including Nevada.

Tom Golisano, founder of Paychex, the nation’s second largest payroll and human resource company, is now the national spokesman for the National Popular Vote organization. Golisano’s support has allowed the group to put teams in all states that have yet to pass the bill.

In a telephone conference call with the media, Golisano said: “This effort is going to expand geometrically during the next 18 months. Our goal is to get this done by the end of 2012 which would make it effective for the 2016 election.”

Golisano said 75 percent of American voters believe the electoral process now used to pick the president is flawed and should be changed.

“My speculation is that if the other 25 percent totally understood it at the level we understand it, that number might go up to 90 or 95 percent,” he said. “The other most important fact is when we wake up on Wednesday morning, the presidential candidate that had the most wins should become the president of the United States, and this is what the national popular vote bill is all about.”

The proposal was debated in the Nevada Legislature in 2009.

Assembly Bill 413, which would have adopted the popular vote proposal, passed the Assembly on a party line 27-14 vote with Democrats in support. But it did not get a vote in the Senate by a legislative deadline. A bill has not been introduced yet in the 2011 session.

The proposal has been enacted in six states, including Hawaii and Washington, and the District of Columbia.

It would eliminate the current system in most states, including Nevada, where a presidential candidate wins all of a state’s electoral votes for winning the popular vote in that state. Electoral votes would still be counted, but states supporting the change would see their electoral votes go to the national popular vote winner.

The group says the winner-take-all rule has permitted a candidate to win the presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide in four of 56 elections. The group notes that a shift of 60,000 votes in Ohio in 2004 would have elected Democratic Presidential candidate John Kerry despite George Bush’s 3.5 million vote lead nationwide.

The group says another shortcoming of the winner-take-all rule is that presidential candidates have no reason to pay attention to the concerns of voters in states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind. In 2008, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their campaign visits and ad money in the November general election campaign in just six closely divided “battleground” states. Nevada was one of those states.

The National Popular Vote proposal would take effect only when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes — that is, enough electoral votes to elect a president, which is 270 of 538.

Supporters of the proposal in Nevada at a 2009 hearing cited fairness as the reason for their support.

But former Assemblyman Ty Cobb, R-Reno, explained his rationale for opposing the change: “Let us say there is a candidate who is vehemently against Nevada. This candidate proposes burying all nuclear waste in Nevada. Ninety percent of the state votes against this candidate, but that candidate wins the popular vote by 1 percent nationwide. You are suggesting that we should enact this law that would essentially disenfranchise our voters and elect someone who would go against our wishes?”

Larry Sokol, representing the National Popular Vote at the hearing, replied: “Your votes did matter, your votes were heard, but they just happened to be in the minority.”

Janine Hansen, president of the Nevada Eagle Forum, opposed the measure as well, saying Nevada’s battleground status brought then-presidential candidate Barack Obama to Elko.

“If we just relied on Nevada’s popular vote, we would probably never see another presidential candidate,” she said.

Audio clips:

Tom Golisano, founder of Paychex and a spokesman for the National Popular Vote bill, says the group wants to get the new system in place for the 2016 election:

022211Golisano1 :12 the 2016 election.”

Golisano says voters believe the electoral process is flawed:

022211Golisano2 :19 or 95 percent.”

Golisano says the presidential candidate with the most votes should win:

022211Golisano3 :12 is all about.”

Challengers To Nevada Attorney General Claim Politics In Her Term, Incumbent Says She Makes Decisions On Legal Merits

By Sean Whaley | 9:09 pm October 19th, 2010

A debate today among the three candidates for Nevada attorney general focused on a disputed ad discussing a decades old criminal conviction of the Republican seeking the post and allegations of political favoritism by the incumbent, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto.

An ad being run by Masto about Republican Travis Barrick citing his arrest and jail sentence for “harassing women” was the first topic of conversation for the three candidates appearing on Jon Ralston’s Face To Face television program.

Barrick said the criminal trespassing conviction, which happened two decades ago, was the result of his protesting a California clinic that was performing illegal late-term abortions.

Barrick said he would not back down from his actions, which he said came about because the “rule of law” was being ignored in California by the attorney general and other law enforcement officials.

“It’s a badge of honor for me,” he said.

Masto said Nevada voters deserve to know that Barrick, who is running for the top law enforcement position in the state, has a criminal record and served jail time.

Masto said she has principles and values she upholds every day without violating the law.

“You don’t get to make a decision on who you are going to protect and who you are not going to protect,” she said.

Joel Hansen, the Independent American Party candidate for the position, said Masto’s views on Barrick’s actions contradict her actions when she failed to follow Nevada law by filing a lawsuit against the federal health care reform law when asked to do so by Gov. Jim Gibbons.

“I think it is pretty hypocritical of General Masto to criticize Mr. Barrick when she committed a misdemeanor when she refused to sue on Obamacare after she’d been ordered to do so by the governor,” he said. “The Nevada statute says that she has to file suit if the governor tells her to and it is a misdemeanor if she doesn’t.”

Masto said that as attorney general, she has to evaluate whether to file legal actions, even if requested by the governor as her client. Masto said she evaluates whether to take action on a case based on merit, not politics.

“You have a professional responsibility based on the license as the attorney,” she said. “I’m the attorney in this particular instance. I was elected independently from the governor. You look at the legal merits, that’s what the attorney general does.”

Barrick said:  “The arrogance of her statement to say that that lawsuit has no merit is breathtaking.”

Hansen said he has filed a private class action lawsuit against the healthcare law that identifies numerous violations of the U.S. Constitution.

“It is not frivolous,” he said. “There is nothing frivolous about this. The only thing frivolous is her statement that it is frivolous.”

A federal judge in Florida ruled last week that the lawsuit against the healthcare law filed by 20 states, including Nevada, could proceed.

The debate also touched on Masto’s failed prosecution of Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki for allegedly misusing college savings funds while serving as state Treasurer.

Hansen said the prosecution had the appearance of being politically motivated.

Masto denied any political motivation for the prosecution, which was dismissed by a Clark County district judge late last year.

Audio clips:

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto says voters deserve to know about her opponent’s criminal record:

101910Masto :10 next attorney general.”

GOP Attorney General candidate Travis Barrick says he served his time for trespassing and moved on:

101910Barrick :05 with my life.”

IAP Attorney General candidate Joel Hansen says Masto’s ad against Barrick is hypocritical:

101910Hansen :24 if she doesn’t.”

State Attorney General Defends Record, Denies Playing Politics Under Fire from Opponents

By Sean Whaley | 3:55 pm September 27th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Catherine Cortez Masto points to a number of accomplishments in her first term as attorney general, from reducing methamphetamine production in Nevada to cracking down on mortgage fraud, all while having to live with major budget cuts and fewer staff.

Masto, a Democrat running for a second term, faces Republican attorney Travis Barrick and Las Vegas attorney Joel Hansen, who is running as the Independent American Party candidate, in the Nov. 2 general election.

Both Barrick and Hansen criticize Masto for two controversies in her first term: her misguided and unsuccessful effort to prosecute Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki , a Republican, for allegedly misusing college savings funds while state treasurer, and her decision not to follow Gov. Jim Gibbons’ directive to file a lawsuit challenging the federal health care law.

Both candidates question whether Masto has let politics play a role in her decisions as attorney general, a claim she denies.

Masto said people do try to play politics with such cases but that her office does not engage in such conduct.

“It never will be,” she said. “I will always look at it from a legal perspective, what’s the best interest for the state of Nevada; the people I represent.”

Barrick, who went to law school late in life, said many of Masto’s priorities are laudable but that she is failing to pursue other important initiatives as the top law enforcement officer of the state, such as improving the safety of the state prison system, which is dangerous for both correctional officers and inmates, and protecting mining and ranching interests from legal attacks by environmentalists.

Hansen, who says he has more experience than both of the other candidates combined, said as attorney general he would file a “friend of the court” brief in defense of Arizona’s new immigration law. Hansen said he would also push for a similar law in Nevada and if it was challenged, file a counterclaim against the federal government seeking compensation for Nevada for the costs of providing services to illegal immigrants.

Hansen has already filed a private class action lawsuit against the federal health care law, arguing it violates the individual constitutional rights of Nevada residents.

“It wouldn’t be business as usual with me in there,” he said.

Masto is leading in a poll done for the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week. It shows Masto with 37 percent to 27 percent for Barrick. “Another party” candidate gets 3 percent in the poll and 22 percent are undecided.

Masto said one of the top issues she pursued upon being elected was methamphetamine production.

“Methamphetamine was a number one issue for us because we led the nation in first time use, both for our kids and our adults,” she said. “From my perspective we’ve done a phenomenal to address it.”

Masto said she worked with the Legislature in 2007 to put the common medicines used in the drug production behind the counter of pharmacies, which led to a huge drop in the number of labs manufacturing the drug in Nevada.

Masto acknowledges that one result of that successful effort has been to see more of the drug smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico. But Masto said she is working with her counterparts in several Mexican states to address the drug importation issue, along with other important cross-border concerns including weapons trafficking, money laundering and human trafficking.

The efforts have produced results, as seen by the higher price and lower quality of meth found in Nevada, she said.

Now that meth use is under some control, a new threat is young people looking through the family medicine cabinets for drugs. As a result, Masto said the state and local governments are offering prescription drug roundups to collect and properly dispose of unneeded medications.

Masto said she is also working to address domestic violence, consumer fraud, especially for senior citizens, those who prey on families who face foreclosure, and Medicaid fraud, among many other issues.

With domestic violence, Nevada now leads the nation in the number of women murdered per capita as a result of domestic violence, she said. A gun is the weapon of choice in most of these cases, Masto said.

The state recently received a federal grant to perform a review of domestic violence fatalities with the goal of learning how to address the issue, Masto said. It will be a collaborative effort involving law enforcement, treatment providers, elected officials and others, she said.  As chairwoman of the Domestic Violence Prevention Council, Masto said the state workers with the batterers as well to try to stem the violence.

“We’re doing all this with less,” she said.

Her employees are taking unpaid furloughs, but they also come in after hours to get their work done without being paid overtime, Masto said.

Masto said she has reached out to work with law enforcement and other groups involved in the various issues pursued by her office as a way of stretching scare resources even further. As a result, every major law enforcement agency in the state has endorsed her campaign, she said.

Masto has faced a few controversies in her first term as the top law enforcement office in the state overseeing the state’s largest law firm. Masto and Gibbons, a Republican, faced off over whether the state should sue over the new federal health care reform law.

Masto declined to intervene, saying the challenges under way did not require Nevada’s involvement and her office’s scarce resources could be devoted to other pressing issues. Gibbons went ahead independently to sue over the health care law.

Masto also took some pointed criticisms for pursuing the case against Krolicki, which was thrown out by a Clark County judge last year. Krolicki had been facing criminal charges regarding the expenditure of funds for a college savings program. Krolicki denied any wrongdoing and said the failed prosecution was politically motivated. Krolicki is running for a second term as lieutenant governor.

Regarding the health care challenge, Masto said she is a firm believer in states’ rights and has defended them, but her office has to pick and choose where to spend scarce resources.

“We have the highest unemployment rate, highest bankruptcy, highest foreclosure, these people are concerned, rightfully so, about how they are going to survive and keep food on the table,” she said. “So from my perspective if I have the ability to assist them in some form or fashion that is where I’m going to focus.”

The health care and Krolicki issues, along with Masto’s decision not to investigate former state nuclear projects director Bob Loux over a salary controversy, are the reasons cited by Barrick for running against Masto.

Masto, citing a conflict of interest, turned the Loux investigation over to the Washoe County Sheriff for investigation in September 2008. No results have yet been reported.

Barrick, who worked as a contractor for many years before going back to school and eventually earning a law degree, said he filed for the race because he did not see a conservative seeking to challenge Masto.

Barrick said his campaign is about bringing integrity to the job.

“One of the knocks on my candidacy is that I am a relative newcomer to Nevada politics,” he said. “My response to that was, the other side of that is, I don’t owe anybody any favors at all. You can see that just in the campaign contributions I have not received.”

While contributions are limited, Barrick said he defeated a GOP opponent in the primary who outspent him four to one, suggesting money in itself doesn’t decide who will win an election.

While supporting those goals Masto is pursuing, Barrick said he is concerned about the issues that are not getting the attention they deserve.

“I think the prison system is a mess,” he said.

Since the attorney general is a member of the Board of Prison Commissioners, Barrick said he would work to create a safer environment in the state’s prisons.

“My conscience will not allow me as a Nevada citizen to stand by and allow our prisons system to be barbaric both to the correctional officers and to the inmates,” he said.

Barrick said he also has questions about a controversial labor commissioner ruling in support of a tip pooling policy instituted by Wynn Resorts to include supervisors.

“The rich and powerful in this state are being given a pass on bad acts,” he said.

Hansen said he believes Masto’s priorities as attorney general have been misguided. In particular, she was obligated to file a lawsuit challenging the health care law when asked to do so by Gov. Jim Gibbons.

“So she violated her duty,” he said. “She had no right to say no. I filed a private class action lawsuit because she failed to file one.”

Hansen said he would also seek to follow the lead of the Ohio attorney general, who sued several major Wall Street firms on behalf of the investors of the state and won a $1 billion settlement from American International Group, Inc. (AIG) and lesser amounts from other firms.

“What was our attorney general doing with her time while the Ohio attorney general was getting $1 billion for Ohio,” Hansen asked. “Well what she was doing is going after Brian Krolicki and getting thrown out of court because it was groundless. That’s what she did. That’s what she did for Nevada.”

Hansen said as attorney general he would also undertake a review of the various local gun laws in the state, particularly the requirement in Clark County that handgun owners register their weapons, to ensure their constitutionality. Hansen would then challenge any that violate the Second Amendment.

“I’m the most qualified and experienced candidate in this race,” he said. “And I don’t think anyone can deny that. That’s the truth.”

___

Audio clips:

Masto says she has worked to combat methamphetamine abuse in her first term:

092410Masto1 :19 a phenomenal job.”

Masto says she has worked directly with her Mexican counterparts to fight drug trafficking:

092410Masto2 :18 of our countries.”

Masto says she works collaboratively with law enforcement and others to make scarce resources go further:

092410Masto3 :27 find the solutions.”

Masto says she has focused on the issues that mean most to Nevadans:

092410Masto4 :17 going to focus.”

GOP AG candidate Travis Barrick says he has integrity and owes no one any favors:

092410Barrick1 :24 have not received.”

Barrick says Masto not working on important issues:

092410Barrick2 :13 of Prison Commissioners.”

Barrick says he would tackle prison problems as attorney general:

092410Barrick3 :17 other for it.”

Barrick says miners and ranchers aren’t being represented:

092410Barrick4 :09 are being represented.”

IAP AG candidate Joel Hansen says he has already challenged health care law on his own:

092410Hansen1 :47 way we want.”

Hansen says he would emulate Ohio AG and seek damages from Wall Street for Nevada investors:

092410Hansen2 :36 know about it.”

Hansen says Masto wasted time on Krolicki prosecution instead of recouping money lost by Nevada investors:

092410Hansen3 :17 did for Nevada.”

Hansen says he is the most qualified candidate:

092410Hansen4 :17 that’s the truth.”

Efforts By Citizens To Access November Ballot End In Failure

By Sean Whaley | 5:05 am June 16th, 2010

CARSON CITY – One proposal sought to increase mining taxes and another wanted to define life as beginning at conception. A third would have required secret ballots for employee votes on whether to join a union and yet another would have given Nevada residents the right to reject participation in government backed health care.

But none of these citizen-backed proposals to amend the Nevada state constitution will be on the ballot come November. Legal challenges, the cost and time required to circulate petitions and other factors have led to all such measures ending in failure this election cycle.

Yesterday was the deadline for groups to turn in the nearly 100,000 signatures needed to qualify constitutional amendments for the ballot.

The only group to come close, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, announced Monday it would fall short of the number of signatures needed to ask voters to consider increasing the mining tax.

Jan Gilbert, northern Nevada coordinator for PLAN, said a legal challenge by the well-financed Nevada mining industry did hurt the group’s efforts. The effort was also made more complex by the 2009 Legislature by requiring signatures to be collected in the state’s three congressional districts, she said.

In Clark County, where all three of Nevada’s representatives have constituents, signature gatherers had to determine which of three petitions to use for each registered voter, Gilbert said.

The process shouldn’t be so easy that voters have to consider 20 or 30 ballot questions every two years, but it should be fair, she said.

Las Vegas attorney Joel Hansen, who has in the past argued in court in support of several constitutional amendment efforts, said the process is intentionally designed by the Legislature to thwart the public’s will.

“They don’t want the people to have this input,” he said. “They have been hostile to the process.”

Hansen, who advocated for an initiative petition to impose a spending limitation on state government four years ago, said the process is set up to allow expensive legal challenges by opponents. Most citizen groups can’t afford to fight such legal challenges, and if they do and they win, any funds to collect signatures are then depleted, he said.

“The right of ordinary people to do this has essentially been destroyed by the Legislature’s burdensome requirements,” Hansen said.

The TASC measure to limit the growth of state government to inflation and population growth was kicked off the ballot by the Nevada Supreme Court after supporters had won in district court, he said. Hansen, who argued to put the measure on the ballot, said a typographical error was cited as the reason by the Supreme Court to not let it go to the voters.

The court in its ruling said the error was significant and not just a minor typo.

Hansen said such rulings frustrate the will of the voters who clearly want the measures qualified for the ballot.

Since the Legislature is unwilling to simplify the process, the only answer may be an initiative petition by the people to amend the state constitution to reform the process for placing such measures on the ballot, he said.

“It’s very discouraging,” he said. “I have not been involved in any of these this year because nobody has the heart for it anymore.”

Hansen, a candidate for attorney general with the Independent American Party, said he would work if elected to advocate for the public’s right to access the ballot.

“Whatever I can do from that position, I will do it,” he said.

Gilbert said another challenge for PLAN was the requirement for nearly 100,000 signatures, a significant number resulting from the strong turnout in the 2008 presidential election. The signature requirement in other years can be much lower depending on turnout at the prior general election.

A challenge to the mining tax proposal was just argued in front of the Nevada Supreme Court earlier this month. Gilbert said she does not know if a ruling will be forthcoming now that the group has not filed its signatures.

The legal challenge by the Nevada Mining Association could only be contested by PLAN with the help of attorneys who worked for free, she said.

Gilbert said PLAN believes the petition effort has laid the groundwork for the Legislature to consider mining tax increases in the 2011 session.

If a citizen-backed constitutional amendment does make it on the ballot, it must be approved twice before it can take effect. The Legislature can place such amendments on the ballot after approving them in two consecutive legislative sessions.

The process is equally complex for citizens who want to change an existing state law rather than amend the constitution, but the time frame to collect signatures is longer. Several such petitions are circulating, including one by Gov. Jim Gibbons to open up the public employee negotiating process to the open meeting law. The deadline for signatures for these measures is Nov. 9.

Audio files

Jan Gilbert of PLAN says there are obstacles to petition drives in Nevada:

061510Gilbert1 :14 get those signatures.”

Gilbert says initiative process shouldn’t be too easy but should be fair:

061510Gilbert2 :16 that is achievable.”

Las Vegas attorney Joel Hansen says Legislature has intentionally made petition process difficult:

061510Hansen1 :22 having this voice.”

Hansen says Nevada Supreme Court has frustrated will of people:

061510Hansen2 :20 think we will.”

Conservative Candidates Challenge Moderates in Key GOP State Senate Primary Races

By Sean Whaley | 3:55 pm May 21st, 2010

Part 2 of a Series on Key GOP State Senate Primary Races

CARSON CITY – While Republican voters have a rare chance to chart the course of the GOP Senate caucus in the upcoming primary, the candidates described by some political observers as the establishment choice say they too are true fiscal conservatives who believe in core party values.

Both Ben Kieckhefer, running against Ty Cobb in the Washoe 4 race, and Bob Larkin, running against Don Gustavson in the Washoe 2 race, reject any label to the contrary.

Both have been endorsed by the Senate Republican Caucus headed by Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno.

“I consider myself a pretty darn conservative guy,” said Kieckhefer, a former press secretary to Gov. Jim Gibbons. “Any notion of me as some pro-tax Republican is totally flawed. I’m not.”

Larkin said his work on the Washoe County Commission, which has involved cutting $100 million from the budget over the past three years and eliminating 500 positions, is evidence of his strong GOP philosophy.

“Government can’t live beyond its means,” he said. “There was too much fat. That is what a conservative does.”

Joe Hardy, running for the Clark Senate 12 seat against newcomer Patrick McNaught, could not be reached for this story.

Sen. Dennis Nolan, who is facing a challenge in his re-election bid in Clark Senate 9 from newcomer Elizabeth Halseth, also could not be reached for comment.

The June 8 primary offers an unusual opportunity for GOP voters. Five GOP Senate contests are on the ballot with four offering a choice between what some observers say is an establishment candidate and a more conservative opponent.

The Capital Senatorial District race will see conservative representation regardless of which GOP candidate wins in the November general election. Both James Settelmeyer and his primary opponent, Steve Yeater, say they will not be willing to compromise on tax issues in the 2011 session where lawmakers face a potential $3 billion funding shortfall.

Gustavson, Cobb, Settelmeyer and Hardy, all current members of the Assembly, voted against a package of tax increases in the 2009 session. Nolan voted with Raggio and three other GOP senators for the tax increase, giving the bill three more votes than needed to meet the two-thirds requirement for passage and enough to override a veto by Gibbons.

Republicans were in the minority in the Senate in the 2009 session for the first time since 1991. But Republican support was critical to reaching the two-thirds vote needed to raise sales and payroll taxes on Nevada’s largest businesses as part of the final budget.

A new position of unwavering opposition to general tax increases on the part of Senate Republicans could make the 2011 session one of the more contentious in state history.

In addition to Larkin, Kieckhefer and Hardy, Settelmeyer has also been endorsed and given financial support by the Senate Republican Caucus headed up by Raggio.

Janine Hansen, a long-time political activist as a member of the Independent American Party, said that support is an enormous hurdle for Republican challengers to overcome.

“More money and access to the establishment power base is a significant issue in any race,” she said. “For non-establishment Republican candidates it is incredibly difficult to overcome. It will be very significant if it happens.”

Gustavson said he is being outspent by Larkin, who he describes as his more moderate GOP opponent, but that a low turnout in the June 8 primary could benefit his campaign. Conservatives will turn out, and Gustavson said the conservative mood of GOP voters in Nevada should be a trend in his favor.

“I think it is a revival for the true Republican Party, the conservative wing that values true conservative principles,” he said. “This is the best opportunity we have had in years.”

Gustavson said there is no question but that the Senate Republican Caucus approach in the Legislature will change if he and his conservative colleagues win in the primary.

“We would have a much more conservative state Senate that we have had for years,” he said.

Raggio’s leadership position could also be jeopardized as a result, Gustavson said.

Larkin said that if he is elected to the Senate, he will work to balance the budget while maintaining the core Republican values of limited government, minimal taxes and fostering business growth and individual freedoms.

“I am the conservative candidate who gets things done,” he said.

Cobb said he is not a member of the Senate GOP caucus and so declined to comment on what the future might hold for the group following the November general election.

But Cobb said the caucus approach would likely change with the election of himself and his fellow conservatives.

“We would be getting rid of a lot of the old school way of handling things,” he said. “There would be more conservative, aggressive members of the caucus.

“There will be a new type of leadership focused on core values,” Cobb said. “We will use every bit of leverage we have when we enter into negotiations with the opposition.”

Kieckhefer disputed any characterization of him being the establishment candidate, noting that it is Cobb who is serving in the Legislature.

While he has not signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge, Kieckhefer said he won’t be supporting a budget in 2011 that is any larger than the current spending plan.

“Now is not the time to increase taxes,” he said. “We need to look at our spending.”

Kieckhefer said Cobb voted for the 2007 budget that saw spending go up by 17 percent over the 2005 budget.

“So let’s be clear who people claim to be as well,” he said.

Kieckhefer said the real choice for GOP voters is a candidate who is focused on solving problems or one who has a track record of failure. Cobb has only seen one of his 17 bills become law, he said.

“We don’t need people who just sit there and be conservative and accomplish nothing,” Kieckhefer said. “The question is who is going to be an effective legislator, an effective conservative voice.”

Kieckhefer said he has the endorsement of the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce, which he described as a fairly conservative business organization in Northern Nevada. He believes anti-incumbent sentiment among voters will also help his bid in the primary.

Settelmeyer said the Senate GOP caucus will see more focus on core conservative values next session, but to what degree will depend on the voters.

“If they choose to send more conservative representatives we will see less going along with the increases in taxes and spending” he said. “Efforts in the past to place surpluses towards the unfunded liability of the retirement and health programs have always taken a back seat to new program creation.”

While general tax increases have been a part of many budget compromises in the past, Settelmeyer said he won’t be on board with such proposals because they, “just kick the can down the road.”

Continuing the sales and payroll taxes approved in the 2009 session, for example, won’t be an option, he said.

“They are killing businesses in the state, and we need jobs, not more boarded up businesses,” he said.

“There will definitely be a roadmap for the future of Nevada after this primary,” Settelmeyer said. “But that roadmap will be dictated by voters, as it should.”

Yeater said a true conservative will be representing the Senate capital district regardless of which GOP primary candidate wins the general in November. Yeater said he has signed the taxpayer pledge and does not believe raising taxes is a good idea, especially in the current economy.

“I want to reduce existing taxes,” he said.

Yeater said GOP voters are energized and informed and as a result, the conservative candidates will win out on primary election day.

“I believe the Senate will look a lot more conservative in 2011 than it does in 2010,” he said.

Halseth said she will not be a vote for tax increases if elected to the Senate.

Negotiations in past sessions seem always to end up favoring the Democrats, she said.

“This election cycle will be different,” Halseth said. “I’ve been meeting with the people in my district for eight months. What they want is lower taxes. Raising taxes has never been the answer. We can’t afford that anymore.”

McNaught said he decided to run for the seat because of concerns Hardy has been too willing to compromise with Democrats in the past, sacrificing core GOP issues in the process. The Republican Party has lost its way by giving in to Democratic demands, he said.

McNaught said he won’t be the party of “no.”

“I will be the party of no taxes,” he said. “Any corporate or broad-based business tax will drive away jobs.”

McNaught said the state has lost tens of thousands of jobs and, “we need to get those jobs back.”

McNaught said he reached out to Raggio but that the minority leader failed to respond, instead opting to “anoint” Hardy for the open seat. He also noted that Hardy has passed up at least three different opportunities to debate him on the issues in recent weeks.

The voters in Clark Senate 12 have a clear choice, he said. A candidate who won’t raise taxes and who will seek fiscal reform, or a candidate who will consider tax increases to balance the state budget, McNaught said.

GOP Primary Voters Could Chart Course of State Senate, Nevada Legislature

By Sean Whaley | 1:29 pm May 20th, 2010

Part 1 of 2 on Five Key State Senate Races

CARSON CITY – Over the past several legislative sessions the state Senate Republican caucus has shown a willingness to work across the aisle with Democrats, with some GOP lawmakers voting more than once for tax increases as a way to balance the budget.

Led by Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, Senate Republicans have often gone along with programs and policies pushed by Democrats in a spirit of compromise to finish the Legislature’s business every other year.

But this long-held practice could soon change.

Three of Raggio’s long-time allies in the Senate are being termed out of office and a fourth has resigned. Former Sens. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, and Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, are already gone, having resigned to take other jobs. A third senator loyal to Raggio, Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, will be replaced in the 2010 general election. Sen. Warren Hardy, R-Las Vegas, also resigned from the Senate.

Another Raggio colleague, Sen. Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, is facing a primary challenge from Elizabeth Halseth in his Clark Senate 9 re-election bid. Halseth calls herself a “true conservative” for Nevada.

These primary races all have something in common. They include Republican candidates who are, if you believe their campaign promises, far less likely to seek compromise with Democrats if they win in the primary and then general elections.

In four of these five cases, more moderate Republican primary challengers are also on the ballot, giving Republican voters a choice.

Republicans are expected to easily take at least two of the seats in the general election, and three of the five have sizable GOP voter registration edges over Democrats.

If voters decide to back the more conservative GOP candidates in the June 8 primary, the 2011 legislative session could see a far more confrontational relationship with Senate and Assembly Democrats over a multitude of issues, not the least of which will be taxes.

A conservative turnout in the primary might also shift the balance of power away from Raggio, potentially putting his position as current Senate minority leader in jeopardy. Rumors have circulated that Raggio, who is in his final term in the Senate, might step down before the 2011 session. He has denied these rumors, saying he will serve in his final session.

Raggio has served in the Senate since 1973, most often as the leader of the GOP caucus, either as majority leader or minority leader.

Early voting for the primary begins Saturday.

Janine Hansen, a long-time political activist with the Independent American Party, said she believes Republican voters will show up on election day and cast their votes for the true conservative candidates.

Republican voters are fed up with establishment candidates who have voted for tax increases and an ever-expanding government, she said.

Hansen, who is running as the IAP candidate for an Assembly seat in the Elko area, said some Republicans have left the party because true conservative candidates don’t get support from the powers that be.

“There is a chance for significant culture change in the state Senate,” she said. “I think it would benefit the public.”

Many observers says turnout will be a key in the contests. Lower turnout is generally viewed as favoring the more conservative candidates.

Pete Ernaut, a political consultant with R&R Partners, said there are too many variables at play to make any predictions about who will win in the contested Senate and Assembly races. The ability for candidates to talk with voters one-on-one plays a big role in such contests, he said. But Ernaut said he does believe turnout will be higher than many observers are predicting.

Several candidates also cite the adage that “all politics is local,” meaning that voters in each district may vote for a candidate based on local issues and concerns rather than some overarching conservative versus moderate theme.

Running in Washoe Senate 2 are Assemblyman Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, and Washoe County Commissioner Bob Larkin, viewed as the more moderate of the two candidates. There are also two Democrats in the race. The district favors the GOP by 2,000 voters based on active registration numbers as of April.

Running in Washoe Senate 4 are Assemblyman Ty Cobb, R-Reno, and former Gov. Jim Gibbons press secretary Ben Kieckhefer, again considered to be the more moderate of the two candidates. Two other Republicans, Todd Bailey and Frank Wright, are also running, but no Democrats are on the ballot. An Independent American Party candidate will be on the November ballot. The GOP has a 6,000 vote edge over Democrats in the district.

Running in the Capital Senate District are Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, and Steve Yeater. A Democrat and IAP candidate are also running but the district has an 8,000 GOP edge. Both Settelmeyer and Yeater, of Dayton, describe themselves as traditional GOP conservatives.

Running in Clark Senate 9 are Nolan and Halseth, along with three Democrats and an Independent American. The district has a nearly 4,000 Democrat voter registration advantage, however.

Running in Clark Senate 12 are Assemblyman Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, and newcomer Patrick McNaught, viewed as the more conservative of the two candidates. The registration balance in the district is virtually tied with Democrats. There is a third Republican, Steve Sanson, as well as a Democrat and IAP candidate, in the race as well.

The conservative Keystone Corporation, which says its goal is to recruit, support and advocate for candidates for public office who support private sector job creation, low taxation, a responsible regulatory environment, and effective delivery of essential  state services, has endorsed Cobb, Settelmeyer, Halseth and McNaught. There was no endorsement in the Washoe Senate 2 race.

Keystone Treasurer Monte Miller said the Senate candidates endorsed by his organization were selected because they share the view that the public employee sector has not shared in the job losses, salary reductions, benefit reductions and other sacrifices made by the private sector in the current downturn.

“These candidates believe that public employees need to be part of the solution,” he said.

Essential government services can be preserved if public employee wages and benefits are put more in line with what is offered in the private sector, Miller said.

The endorsed candidates also agree that businesses cannot afford to pay more taxes. The “compromise” in the 2009 session led to a 97 percent tax increase on business, he said.

The trend seen nationally of voters rejecting candidates who don’t share these views will be in evidence in Nevada in the primary as well, Miller said.

“Compromise has to come from the other side of the aisle,” Miller said. “It’s our turn.”

Next: The Candidates Weigh In on Their Races

Some Nevada Lawmakers Say Now is Time to Allow Residents to Purchase Health Care Insurance Across State Lines

By Sean Whaley | 1:43 pm April 19th, 2010

CARSON CITY – With federally mandated health insurance now the law of the land barring a successful legal challenge, some state lawmakers say it is more urgent than ever to create competition among insurance providers by allowing Nevada residents to buy polices from out of state companies.

Assemblymen Ty Cobb, R-Reno, and Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, also say it is time to reduce the many mandated coverages required for an insurance company to offer a policy in Nevada to further lower the cost of premiums.

Other states, including Arizona and Georgia, have seen bills this year to allow for the purchase of policies from outside the state. The idea has been championed for years at the federal level by Rep. John Shadegg, R-AZ.

Nevadans now can only buy health insurance from companies licensed to do business in Nevada by the state Insurance Commissioner. While 723 companies are licensed to sell insurance in the state, suggesting that there is already competition, the Division of Insurance reports that many of the companies have limited offerings or may not currently be offering policies at all.

“In reality, only a handful (about 15) of insurers have a ‘health policy’ that you could purchase to cover doctor visits, hospital stays, surgeries, etc.,” said Maria Dal Pan Dias, public information officer for the agency.

“We should open up health care insurance to competition across state lines,” Gustavson said. “People have to be given choices that are affordable.”

Gustavson, who is running for an open state Senate seat, has also opposed adding mandated coverages that drive up the cost of a health insurance plan. People should be able to select policies based on their own health care needs, he said.

Cobb agrees, saying competition would lower the cost of buying health care insurance.

“We also need portability and tort reform,” he said. “Instead of true reform we got a government takeover that will result in a massive increase in the size of government. It is the opposite of what should have been done.”

Cobb, who is also running for an open state Senate seat, said his Assembly Bill 346 introduced in the 2009 session would have repealed a lot of insurance coverage mandates to allow for basic, less costly policies to be offered to residents.

Nevada requires all health insurance plans to provide coverage for medical services including alcoholism, cervical cancer/HPV screening, colorectal cancer screening, home health care, hospice care and several others.

“It would have allowed people, especially younger people just starting out, to buy basic health care coverage,” he said. “It would have allowed greater choice in what people wanted in their coverage.”

Cobb’s bill never received a hearing in the Democrat-controlled Assembly.

Las Vegas attorney Jim Wadhams, a lobbyist at the Legislature who represents several businesses, including the health insurer Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield, said he believes it is unlikely the Legislature will move to allow interstate competition.

The long-term policy of the state has been to mandate that certain coverages be included in any health insurance policy sold in Nevada, and Wadhams said he does not believe the Legislature would choose to move away from that policy by allowing residents to buy out-of-state policies with lesser coverage.

Wadhams said those mandates have made Nevada’s health insurance coverage among the richest, with the most generous benefits, of all the states.

Grace-Marie Turner, president of the Galen Institute, a non-profit research organization focused on health policy, said she would welcome efforts by the states to go out on their own to provide for increased competition by health insurance companies.

She cited a study by the American Enterprise Institute that found that if individuals were allowed to purchase health policies in nearby states, up to 12 million more people would have health insurance at no cost to the government.

“It would be a great idea if there was true competition,” Turner said. “It’s not easy, but you can make it work. You don’t have to go to the lowest common denominator.”

States could ensure there were protections for residents while still allowing them to make their own choices for coverage without a mandate from the federal government, she said.

“I would love to see states do this, to take the initiative,” Turner said. “If states can do an end run around ObamaCare, then more power to them.”

Not everyone agrees that providing for such competition would actually lower health care costs, however.

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners, in a document called, “Interstate Health Insurance Sales: Myth vs. Reality,” said the real result would be lower premiums only for the healthy. Everyone else “would face steep premium hikes if they can find coverage at all.”

The association also disputes the suggestion that mandated benefits are the cause of more expensive health insurance coverage.

“Mandated benefits add, at most, 5 percent to the cost of a policy,” the association said. “Interstate sales would allow some insurers to cherry-pick the best customers by avoiding consumer protections that require them to cover individuals with preexisting conditions and limit their ability to charge higher prices for older, sicker customers.”

In states with robust consumer protections, insurers could reap huge profits by skirting these rules, the association said.

UnitedHealthcare of Nevada, one of the largest health insurance providers in the state with approximately 691,000 members, including those covered under Medicaid and Medicare through state and federal government contracts, had no comment on the concept. The company is a licensed insurer at some level in every state, and is one of the largest health plans in the country.

The Georgia proposal, pushed by Gov. Sonny Perdue, has passed the House and is awaiting action in the Senate.

“This legislation will open up the individual insurance market and allows consumers to find the plan that best fits their needs,” Perdue said in a statement issued in February.

Janine Hansen, an Independent American Party candidate for Assembly District 33 in Elko, said the Nevada Legislature first needs to challenge the new federal health care law when it convenes next February as other state legislatures have already done.  Then lawmakers need to have a discussion about how to lower the cost of health insurance, she said.

One idea is to create tax-free health savings accounts that individuals can pay into and then use the money for their health care needs in combination with a catastrophic-type policy, she said.

As to interstate health insurance purchases, Hansen said competition is usually a driving force in lowering costs, although she said she would have to learn more about the concept.

“Exploring ideas like competition is exactly what we need to do,” she said.

More Calls for Ensign’s Resignation Trickle In

By Sean Whaley | 8:08 am April 11th, 2010

(Updated at 10:02 a.m. and again at 10:41 a.m. on April 11, 2010)

CARSON CITY – Despite being described as a “wounded” senator who has not been effective in representing Nevada in Washington, DC, state Republican officials and candidates surveyed by the Nevada News Bureau for the most part are still not calling on U.S. Senator John Ensign, R-Nev., to step down.

Ensign, under the cloud of an ethics investigation over whether he provided inappropriate and possibly illegal help to former administrative assistant Doug Hampton, was called upon to resign earlier this week by two former Clark County GOP officials. Ensign last year acknowledged having an affair with Hampton’s wife.

Among the few Republicans willing to call for Ensign’s resignation was Michael Roberson, candidate for Senate District 5.

“As a taxpayer and constituent, I have heard and read enough to join other Nevadans in calling for Senator Ensign to resign,” said Roberson. “His behavior shows a callous disregard for moral decency, the dignity of his office and for those of us who elected him.”

“I realize that some suggest that we should wait for the Senate Ethics Committee and U.S. Department of Justice investigations to conclude before making such a determination. However, through his own admitted actions, I do not believe Senator Ensign is worthy of the job he currently holds, and that he is in fact letting Nevadans down by continuing to fight for his job,” he said.

Roberson said that whether Senator Ensign is indicted or cleared is a legal matter and not his top concern.

“As an attorney and a member of the Nevada Bar, I certainly respect our legal system, and I believe Senator Ensign does deserve a full, fair and complete investigation,” he said. “However, the behavior he has shown and the decisions he has made make him an unsuitable representative for our state.”

“Our congressional delegation is weakened by this scandal – and therefore, so is our representation in Congress. Nevada taxpayers  deserve better. It is time for Senator Ensign to resign and allow a more suitable and effective Senator to replace him,” he said.

Ira Hansen, a Sparks resident running for Assembly District 32, also said he thinks Ensign should step down.

“I’ve been a big Ensign supporter from Day One,” he said. “I still think very highly of the guy. But I am extremely disappointed in his unfortunate personal behavior.”

“While it is true that Ensign is innocent until proven guilty,” Hansen said, “his violation of his family values positions by having an extramarital affair does justify asking him to step down.”

“Whether his resignation would be in the best interests of the state is a much bigger question,” he said. “It’s a tough call.”

Elizabeth Halseth, candidate for Senate District 9, also agrees it is time for Ensign to go.

“If you cannot lead effectively, there is limit to your success and the success of those you serve,” said Halseth.  “While I applaud Senator Ensign for the great things he has done for our state, I believe he has become ineffective and will ultimately harm our ability to grow.”

Halseth said she believes we need strong elected officials officials who can help Nevada get back on track.

“The people are our strength, and the people have lost faith in Senator Ensign’s ability to lead effectively,” said Halseth.  “For that reason, I believe it’s in the best interest of the people, the party and the state of Nevada that Senator Ensign resigns immediately.”

Calinit Atia, candidate for state Assembly District 22, said she believes elected officials must always put their constituents first and that it may be time for Ensign to consider stepping aside.

“I don’t know if what Dean Heller said is true, but if John Ensign has lost his effectiveness, then yes, I would say he should put the state’s interests before his own and step down,” said Atia.

“These are dark days for John Ensign and his family and the choices he needs to make are not easy, but they are choices that must be made,” she said.  “My heart goes out to his family.”

George Harris, a former chairman and former treasurer of the Clark County Republican party, re-iterated past statements calling for Ensign’s resignation.

“If Ensign continues to be a wasp in the GOP ointment, he will ultimately damage the prospects of those who come out of the primary election,” Harris said.  “The opposition will absolutely use this ethics scandal against all Republicans in the general election.”

“Ensign could save everyone a lot of embarrassment,” Harris said.  “The problem is, he has become the story.  The media and the Democrats are basically turning him into a clown, the longer this drags on and the more facts come to light.”

“From a strategic perspective, as the former head of the Republican Senatorial Committee, Ensign knows that if this was anyone else, he would be the first in line to tell them to resign,” said Harris. “We cannot have this kind of thing hanging over the party. Ensign should discontinue his selfish behavior and resign now.”

Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., agreed in television interviews this week that Ensign is a “wounded” junior senator and that Nevada needs a stronger voice in Washington. But he stopped short of calling for Ensign to resign.

In a written statement to the Las Vegas Review Journal, U.S. Senate candidate Danny Tarkanian said, “After consideration of the news reports and Congressman Heller’s recent statements — which I take very seriously — I think the issue is that the people of Nevada need to know that Senator Ensign can represent them effectively.”

“I must respectfully say that as the potential Republican nominee, I do not expect to be campaigning with Senator Ensign this fall,” said Tarkanian.

Interviews with a number of other Nevada Republicans do reveal a general reluctance to call for Ensign’s resignation.  The general consensus is that Ensign has not yet been found guilty of any wrongdoing and that he will make the right decision for Nevada when the time comes.

Still, there is acknowledgment that Ensign’s troubles are creating problems for the Republican Party in Nevada because he can’t raise money for candidates or campaign on their behalf.

U.S. Senate John Chachas said, “Senator Ensign has suffered a great deal of personal and professional grief for some self-acknowledged lapses in judgment and behavior. Nevadans should not make sport of tap-dancing on someone’s misery.

“That said, elected officials need to be held to a higher standard. They have to be,” he added.  “I have served on boards of directors in business, and if a senior director had such issues, I would give him or her a nudge and suggest that moving on would be good for the company and shareholders.”

“But this is politics. The only ‘board’ is the electorate every six years. So in the interim, the only thing that matters is the good judgment of the individual,” said Chachas.  “I am confident Sen. Ensign will exercise good judgment for Nevada. His career and reputation are not the issue. The issue is Nevada, and I am confident he will do the right thing in that regard.”

Mike Montandon, gubernatorial candidate and the former mayor of North Las Vegas, said Ensign appears to be a liability for Republican candidates because they are clearly not seeking his endorsement.

But the issue of his resignation is a decision only Ensign can make, he said.

“I’m not going to call for anyone’s resignation,” Montandon said. “If someone in public office can’t make that decision for himself, then something is wrong.”

Montandon also noted that an Ensign resignation, should it occur, raises myriad political issues that could ripple across the state. Whether it would be better before or after the primary and how it might affect the re-election chances of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., are just two of those issues, he said.

State Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, said Ensign’s troubles are damaging to the GOP brand, but he added that the inquiries into his actions are still in progress.

“In America we have a system where you are innocent until proven guilty,” he said. “So in the absence of any clear criminal wrongdoing, it would presumptuous of me to be the judge, jury and executioner.”

Democrats are using Ensign’s troubles to their advantage, but ethics issues aren’t unknown to Democrats, Goedhart said. He pointed to New York Rep. Charles Rangel, who is facing an ethics probe of his own.

“Is it reducing Ensign’s effectiveness? Yes,” he said. “Am I calling on him to step down? No. Not unless he has been found guilty of criminal wrongdoing.”

Assemblyman Ty Cobb, R-Reno, a candidate for state Senate, said he believes Ensign will do what is best for the state.

“He has not been charged or convicted, so it is very premature for people to be calling his resignation,” he said.

Assemblyman Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, who is also running for an open state senate seat, said he has stayed out of the controversy but said a resignation could, “throw a monkey wrench into the elections.”

A resignation now would be poor timing, he said.

“We should wait and see what the investigations turn up,” Gustavson said. “Let it take its course. Until then I’m not suggesting we do anything different.”

U.S. Senate candidate Garn Mabey, a former member of the state Assembly, said he would agree with the description of Ensign as a “wounded” senator. But Mabey said he considers Ensign a friend who helped him win his first race for elective office.

“I’m not going to throw him under the bus,” he said.

Mabey said he does not believe Ensign’s troubles will affect other Nevada Republican candidates.

“I think he is a good man,” Mabey said. “It is a decision he has to make.”

U.S. Senate candidate and Assemblyman Chad Christensen said: “This has been an unfortunate situation all the way around. There are two basic issues here. If John Ensign did anything illegal he should resign, if not then voters should decide in 2012 if he should stay.”

Rob Lauer, a candidate for secretary of state, said he believes in loyalty and called Ensign “a great Republican.” It is up to Ensign to decide whether he can continue to be effective in Congress, he said.

“I like him personally,” Lauer said. “He has done a lot of good things for the state. But on a political level as a senator he has an obligation to the people of the state. If he can’t get bills through, if he is not effective for the state, he needs to do what is best for the state.”

Ensign’s troubles are an issue for Nevada Republicans because without them, he could raise money and help GOP candidates, Lauer said. Until the issues facing him are resolved, he can’t be an effective leader for Nevada Republicans, he said.

Craig Lake, candidate for Congressional District 1, declined to comment on the matter. Brian Sandoval, a former federal judge running for governor, also had no comment.

Patrick McNaught, candidate for Senate District 12, and Michelle Fiore, candidate for CD-1, could not be reached for comment. U.S. Senate candidates Sharron Angle also could not be reached.

IAP AG Candidate Joel Hansen to Speak at Searchlight Tea Party, Calls Out Masto on Health Care Lawsuit Delay

By Elizabeth Crum | 12:13 pm March 26th, 2010

Independent American Party (IAP) candidate for Attorney General Joel Hansen will be speaking at the Tea Party rally in Searchlight tomorrow.  We have presumably received a preview of his remarks via today’s IAP press release in which he asks why Nevada’s attorney general has not yet filed suit over the health care bill, as follows:

“Top legal officials from 14 states across the country on Tuesday filed lawsuits challenging an overhaul of the U.S.’ $2.5 trillion healthcare system, minutes after President Barack Obama signed the landmark legislation. Why didn’t Nevada’s Attorney General join? Why is Nevada’s Attorney General Mastos dragging her feet?” asked Joel Hansen, Independent American Candidate for Nevada Attorney General.

(Note:  The IAP press release incorrectly spells the Attorney General’s last name “Mastos” instead of “Masto.” I will be spelling it correctly from here forward, even when quoting the release.)

Hansen praised Governor Gibbons for directing Masto to file suit against “Obamacare” which he said is “an unconstitutional obamanation.”

(Note:  One assumes “obamanation” is an intentional misspelling of “abomination”…)

Also from the release:

“The federal government was not given the power under the Constitution to tell people that they must buy health insurance. Obamacare also violates the Tenth Amendment, in that health care is not a power delegated to Congress and thus must remain with the States or with the people. This law destroys America’s economic and personal freedoms as no other federal law has ever done before. It must be stopped, and as Attorney General, I will lead Nevada’s legal fight against this wholesale destruction of our cherished liberties,” vowed Hansen.

You can read the whole press release here and read more about Hansen here.

Candidate Filings: Week Two, Day Three

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:47 pm March 10th, 2010

11 AM:

John Wagner (IAP) – Secretary of State

Mike Hawkins (IAP) – State Treasurer

M. K. Yochum (IAP) – Washoe Senate District 4

Cody J. Quirk (IAP) – State Senate Capital District

Janine Hansen (IAP) – Assembly District #33

Michael L. Haines (Non-Partisan) – U.S. Senate

11:50 AM:

Joetta Brown (D) – Assembly District #39

2:50 PM:

David VanderBeek (IAP) – Assembly District #36 (filed in LV)

Alex Miller (D) – U.S. Senate

U.S. Supreme Court Opens Up 2010 Elections in Major Free Speech Ruling

By Sean Whaley | 3:41 pm January 21st, 2010

CARSON CITY – Like it or not, the 2010 campaign season is likely to dominate the airwaves more than ever nationally and in Nevada following a decision today by the U.S. Supreme Court repealing a limitation on political spending by corporations.

In what is being hailed by supporters as a major First Amendment free speech ruling, the 5-4 decision will allow corporations and labor unions to spend freely on behalf of political candidates and on political issues. The ruling overturned a key section of the McCain-Feingold Act.

Janine Hansen, executive director of the Independent American Party of Nevada and a lobbyist in Carson City for the party and the Nevada Eagle Forum, welcomed the ruling as a victory for free speech and challengers to the political establishment.

“The more campaign finance laws we have had enacted, the fewer successes challengers and non-incumbents have had,” she said. “Anything we can do to restore free speech is very important.

“These laws are why we have a government that is unresponsive to the will of the people,” Hansen said.

Lee Rowland, northern coordinator for the ACLU of Nevada, also welcomed the ruling, saying the ACLU had filed a “friend of the court” brief with the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the section of the law repealed in today’s decision.

The case involved a type of speech, called an “electioneering communication” as opposed to limits on the expenditure of money in political races, and was clearly a violation of the First Amendment, she said.

“We are dealing with core political speech,” Rowland said. “It was a very black and white issue to us.”

Rowland said it is too early to know what effect the ruling may have on Nevada’s state campaign finance laws. But the ACLU of Nevada spoke out against a bill in the 2009 session of the Legislature that would have established similar restrictions that Rowland said were also unconstitutional. The changes did not win approval.

“This is precisely the type of core political speech the First Amendment is designed to protect,” she said.

The case arose when a Washington, DC-based conservative nonprofit group called Citizens United, sought to run advertisements for a film called Hillary: The Movie, right before the Democratic presidential primaries in 2008. The ads were rejected by the Federal Election Commission citing limitations on campaign spending under the McCain-Feingold Act.

A lower court found the film’s purpose was political speech, while Citizens United argued the film was nonpartisan and not an electioneering communication.

Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision overturned the lower court ruling in favor of Citizens United.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the majority opinion, said: “Some members of the public might consider Hillary to be insightful and instructive; some might find it to be neither high art nor a fair discussion on how to set the Nation’s course; still others simply might suspend judgment on these points but decide to think more about issues and candidates. Those choices and assessments, however, are not for the Government to make.”

David Bossie, president of Citizens United, called the decision a “complete victory” for the group.

“This is a monumental day for Citizens United,” he said. “So we have been waiting a long time for this day.”

Critics of the decision who are saying it will “shake the core” of our Democracy are guilty of “tremendous hyperbole,” Bossie said. Corporations aren’t all the size of the Exxon Mobile Corp. Some corporations are run by lone individuals, he said.

Not everyone welcomed the ruling. Nationally, two leading national campaign finance reform organizations, Common Cause and Public Campaign, criticized the decision, saying it will “enhance the ability of the deepest-pocketed special interests to influence elections and the U.S. Congress.”

“This decision means more business as usual in Washington, stomping on voters’ hope for change,” said Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Public Campaign. “Congress must take on the insider Washington money culture if it wants to make the changes voters are demanding.”

Washington, DC, based attorney Tom Josefiak, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission that was the target in the Citizens United case, called the decision a landmark day for the First Amendment and free speech.

“In issuing its sweeping Citizens United opinion today, the Supreme Court reversed decades of its own precedent prohibiting corporate independent expenditures and recognized once and for all that the First Amendment right of free speech applies to everyone, including corporations,” he said.

Josefiak, who also formerly served as chief counsel for the Republican National Committee, said the ruling allows corporations to spend their funds on political issues as long as they do so independently.

Term Limits to Change Nevada Political Landscape in 2010 Election

By Sean Whaley | 3:44 pm October 12th, 2009
CARSON CITY – The November 2010 general election is more than a year away, but a political shift is already in motion as term limits take effect and 17 veteran lawmakers must either leave the Legislature or set their sights on other elective office.

The potential departure of more than a quarter of the state’s 63 lawmakers, some with dozens of years of political experience, could have significant ramifications for the citizens of Nevada.

But the reaction to term limits taking effect in Nevada – more than a decade after they were approved by voters – is mixed.

Supporters suggest that forcing out long-serving lawmakers will bring in fresh blood and new ideas. Term limits will also provide opportunity for newcomers seeking legislative office as a large number of seats will have no incumbents to challenge.

Critics are concerned that the loss of institutional knowledge when veteran lawmakers leave office may weaken the legislative branch of government. The fear is that lobbyists and bureaucrats will become more powerful as newly elected lawmakers  try to grasp the intricacies of the budget process and master complex policy issues.

Janine Hansen, a citizen lobbyist at the Legislature since 1971, said she did not support term limits at the ballot box but is excited about the possibilities now that so many lawmakers will be leaving office next year.

“Our Founding Fathers did not believe in serving endless years in a legislative body,” she said. “Lawmakers are in power too long and the power goes to their heads. They think it is their Legislature and their state rather than responding to the people.”

Hansen, a member of Nevada’s Independent American Party, said term limits may also create opportunities for third-party candidates.

“It is going to be a wonderful year for non-incumbents,” she said. “It will be unprecedented.”

With seven state senate seats being vacated in 2010, a number of opportunities will be available for members of the Assembly to move into the upper house. But it is also possible that members of the Senate may eye an Assembly seat or some other elective office.

Jan Gilbert, a citizen lobbyist for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, said she is concerned about the loss of veteran lawmakers because of their knowledge of the issues.

“I do believe it will give lobbyists and staff more power,” she said. “New people can be easily misled. They have to trust that what they hear is true.”

The impending loss of veteran lawmakers such as state Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, who has extensive knowledge about commerce issues and renewable energy policies, will leave a large void that will be difficult to fill, Gilbert said.

One potential effect of term limits may be a move by groups to use the initiative petition process to get their issues to the voters, she said. If gridlock ensues because there are so many new legislators, it may become a more attractive option for  interest groups, Gilbert said.

Nevada’s longest-serving lawmaker, Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, does believe the loss of institutional knowledge of veteran lawmakers will be a negative consequence of term limits. First elected to the Senate in 1972, Raggio is in the middle of what will be his final term.

“The weaker the institutional knowledge of legislators, obviously the more influence lobbyists have,” he said. “The more influence bureaucrats have.”

Raggio said he knows the reasons why various policy decisions were made by the Legislature in the 1970s and 1980s, reasons that will soon be forgotten as long-serving lawmakers are forced to leave office. Many of them will be hard to replace, he said.

Voters put their final stamp of approval on term limits in 1996, amending the state constitution to limit lawmakers to no more than 12 consecutive years in any one political office. But the 12-year clock only started ticking with lawmakers elected in 1998, making 2010 the first year for term limits to kick in. Term limits are also in effect for many local elected officials, the governor and other state constitutional officers.

Jim Wadhams, a lobbyist for more than three decades with a long list of clients, said getting outstanding candidates who can learn the issues quickly will be critical if the Legislature is to handle all of its challenges under term limits.

Term limits are taking effect just as the important processes of redistricting and reapportionment, where new boundaries are drawn for legislators and members of Congress, must be addressed, he said. Add to this complex issue the budget deficit facing the state in 2011, and there is no question but that this will be one of the most challenging sessions in decades, Wadhams said.

Leadership in both the Senate and Assembly will face enormous pressure to get the work done in the 120-day time limit set by the voters for legislative sessions, he said.

Wadhams said that while it may be true that lobbyists will have more power because of their knowledge of the legislative process, new lawmakers are more likely to rely on their own legislative staff for guidance rather than the capitol lobbying corps. Wadhams also noted that most of the Legislative staff live in Northern Nevada, far from the challenges and issues facing Las Vegas.

“It’s too soon to say whether term limits are good or bad,” he said. “There are probably elements that mix both ways. But new lawmakers will have to pay attention. They won’t have two or three sessions to settle in.”

Lawmakers Termed Out in 2010

Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City

Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas

Sen. Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas

Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas

Sen. Bernice Mathews, D-Reno

Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno

Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks

Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks

Assemblyman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas

Assemblywoman Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas

Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko

Assemblyman Jerry Claborn, D-Las Vegas

Assemblywoman Ellen Koivisto, D-Las Vegas

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno

Assemblyman Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas

Assemblywoman Kathy McClain, D-Las Vegas

Assemblyman Harry Mortenson, D-Las Vegas