Posts Tagged ‘James Ohrenschall’

As Deadline Looms, Some Legislators Chose To Sponsor No Bills

By Andrew Doughman | 11:44 am April 13th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The days are lengthening, but lawmakers are still finding good reason to be inside the Legislature from dawn till dusk.

This Friday is a deadline for bills to pass out of committee, leaving many legislators scurrying from committee room to committee room to keep their bills alive.

A few, though, can avoid that stress. The Legislature has more than 1,000 bills to consider this session, but several legislators did not sponsor any bills.

Assemblyman Joseph Hogan, D-Las Vegas, requested one bill last year, but it was never drafted.

He has signed on to one bill from Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, that relates to landlords and tenants in manufactured home parks.

Senator Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, requested legal staff to draft eight bills before the legislative session, but none were ever drafted.

Instead, he said, he wanted to work with colleagues to incorporate his ideas into their bills.

“I think the number of bills introduced, it’s too much,” he said. “…Our sole focus should be on job creation, diversifying the economy, education, broadening the tax base and redistricting.”

Both Hogan and Kihuen said they want to hone in on their committee work. Hogan, who has been a legislator since 2004, said this might be his “last shot” to throw his weight into staving off budget cuts he opposes.

“I’m happy with what I’m doing, and I think it’s going to do my constituents quite a bit of good,” he said.

On the other hand, Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, has introduced more bills than any other legislator.

He has 31 bills to his name.

That exceeds the statutory limit of bills he is allowed to introduce, but Segerblom has also picked up legislation first proposed by outgoing Democratic legislators: Sen. Terry Care, Assemblyman Harry Mortenson and Assemblyman Jerry Claborn.

He disagrees that a Legislature should restrict itself to the subjects it tackles.

“You can only talk taxes for so long,” Segerblom said. “At the end of the day, the other state’s issues have not gone away.”

Members of Nevada’s Assembly are allowed in statute to request up to 13 measures – bills, joint resolutions, concurrent resolutions, memorials and acts – and Senators are allowed up to 26 measures.

Legislative committees, constitutional officers and legislative leadership, among others, can request more measures.

The bill count for this 120-day legislative sessions is above 1,060, about on par with the past several legislative sessions.

Since the Legislature does not work most weekend days, the 120-day session is more like 90 days. Even given a grueling schedule of 14-hour workdays, that would leave little more than an hour to hear each bill equally.

Knowing that discussions of the governor’s proposed budget and the drawing of political districts will consume whole days, legislators will have to slough off some bills.

Legislators may even have to watch their pet bills die.

But at least some legislators won’t have to worry about that.



Proposal Would Create Bottle-Deposit Program In Nevada

By Andrew Doughman | 3:41 pm April 5th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Nevada could go the way of California in paying people to recycle bottles in a proposal being considered at the Legislature.

Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, has a bill that would establish a bottle-deposit program whereby people could recycle bottles and cans in exchange for one nickel per container.

He said the bill creates an incentive for people to recycle, citing high rates of recycling in states with similar programs.

Ohrenschall said the price of soda and other beverages will not increase with the proposed program because people who recycle will recoup 5 cents per bottle.

Since Nevada would most likely not achieve a 100 percent recycling rate, the state would keep the extra money.

“I don’t consider it a tax because it’s a choice,” he said.

Nevada Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, presents a bill that would require deposits and refunds on certain beverage containers. Photo by Cathleen Allison/

Nevada’s Department of Environmental Protection estimates that the recycling rate in Nevada is less than 25 percent. In states where people can exchange bottles for cash, that rate is double or triple the rate in Nevada.

Ohrenschall said he is sponsoring the bill in order to reduce littering through an incentive for people to recycle. Right now, he said, there’s too much littering in Nevada’s deserts.

“I think the desert is beautiful,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a wasteland.”

The bill does have a start-up cost for the state, the cost of which can vary with amendments to the bill.

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, said he has seen a similar program in Michigan, where he used to live.

“If the consumer pays an extra dime per can, he or she is then incentivized to return the can and be redeemed for that value,” Goedhart said. “I believe it is a pass-through. It is put on consumers’ backs and they get their money back at that point of time.”

Representatives from the Retail Association of Nevada and beverage companies testified against the bill before the Assembly Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining Committee.

Some committee members seemed upset with the opposition because large beverage companies like MillerCoors continue to operate in states with bottle-deposit laws.

“I’m always sort of amazed, we have a bill here that’s modeled on another state,” said Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas. “…and yet you come here and tell us we’ll all get boils and die a horrible death if this bill is passed.”

Environmental groups and the Nevada Farm Bureau testified in support of the bill.

Several Assembly members had questions about the bill, including many about whether it was best to let recycling centers or retail stores collect the bottles and pay people for their bottles.

The bill will mostly likely return to the Assembly committee with amendments for further consideration.





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.