Posts Tagged ‘john ellison’

Proposed Legislative Discussion On Assault Weapons Derailed By Committee Vote

By Sean Whaley | 10:52 am August 28th, 2012

CARSON CITY – If there was any question about whether the gun debate is a controversial topic in Nevada as well as nationally, a clear answer was provided today at a meeting of the Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice.

A proposed discussion on assault weapons was removed from the agenda by a vote of the panel before it could even begin.

Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the 17-member panel, which includes judicial representatives, police and others in the law enforcement and legal communities as well as lawmakers, had placed an item on the agenda titled “Presentation on Assault Weapons Laws.”

Assemblyman William Horne, center. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

Horne said he did so after a number of violent incidents occurred around the country involving the use of assault weapons. The item was informational only and was not intended to be an avenue to propose a ban on assault weapons, he said.

The presentation was to be made by Robert Roshak, executive director of the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association; Laura Cutilletta, senior staff attorney with the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence; and Steve Helsley, a consultant with the National Rifle Association.

“The commission does not enact, nor does it have statutory authority, to request bill drafts,” Horne said in preliminary comments. “Rather the purpose of the commission is to look at pertinent issues of the criminal justice system. In light of several recent high profile assaults on the public, including one less than a mile from this very building, the commission thought it was important to at least have an informational discussion on the issue of assault weapons.”

But the agenda item was pulled before the discussion could begin, with Clark County District Judge David Barker, a member of the commission, questioning whether the panel had the authority to hold such a discussion.

“It is not a criminal offense to possess an assault weapon,” he said. “And I think it is outside the four corners of this commission’s responsibility to have this on our agenda. So frankly, I would move to strike it from the agenda.”

The motion was seconded by Clark County Public Defender Phil Kohn, who said a discussion on assault weapons, a Constitutional issue involving the 2nd Amendment, was too complex for a brief overview by the panel. The Legislature is the place for such a discussion, he said.

Horne said Legislative Counsel advised him that the discussion was within the purview of the panel, but Barker made a motion to remove the item from the agenda. The vote was 8 to 5 to remove the item.

Some of the dozens of members of the public attending in Elko, Carson City and Las Vegas clapped after the vote and then left the meeting.

The discussion got off to a tense start when Horne called Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko, “extremely unprofessional” for suggesting in a newspaper opinion piece that Horne intended to seek a ban on assault weapons.

Ellison said later in public testimony that he meant no disrespect to Horne or his position as chairman.

Horne said he was also upset with the misinformation presented on the agenda item, and that the members of the commission would not be bullied.

Horne is chairman of the Assembly Judiciary Committee, which in 2011 took no vote on the controversial “campus carry bill” that would have allowed those with concealed weapons permits to carry guns on the campuses of the Nevada System of Higher Education. The bill had passed the Senate.

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Audio Clips:

Assemblyman William Horne says the purpose of the assault weapons discussion was informational only:

082812Horne1 :24 of assault weapons.”

Horne says colleague John Ellison was unprofessional:

082812Horne2 :17 at the least.”

Clark County District Judge David Barker says the issue is outside the jurisdiction of the panel:

082812Barker :13 from the agenda.”

Thirteen Nevada GOP State Lawmakers Get High Ratings In First Report Card From Conservative Group

By Sean Whaley | 10:38 am November 3rd, 2011

CARSON CITY – The national conservative organization American Conservative Union ranked Nevada lawmakers for the first time in a report card released today, handing out top scores to five GOP state Senators.

Sens. Greg Brower, R-Reno; Don Gustavson, R-Sparks; Elizabeth Halseth and Michael Roberson, both R-Las Vegas; and James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville; all were named as “Conservative All-Stars of the Nevada Legislature” for scoring 100 percent in the ratings.

Another eight Republican lawmakers, two in the Senate and six in the Assembly, were identified as ACU Conservatives for scoring 80 percent or higher in the ratings.

State Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

They are Sens. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas; Mike McGinness, R-Fallon; and Assembly members John Ellison, R-Elko; Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley; John Hambrick and Richard McArthur, both R-Las Vegas; Ira Hansen, R-Sparks; and Mark Sherwood, R-Henderson.

One lawmaker, Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, scored a zero on the report card and was identified as “A True Liberal of the Silver State.”

ACU Chairman Al Cardenas announced the rankings at a press event in Las Vegas.

“Just as we hold every member of Congress accountable for his or her voting record on the most important issues facing our nation, the ACU will ensure voters in Nevada have access to the latest information on their state representatives’ conservative credentials,” he said.

The ACU, which describes itself as the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots conservative organization, recently announced a new initiative to expand the ACU Congressional Ratings program to state legislatures for the first time ever, grading members on their votes on key conservative issues.

State Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks. / Nevada News Bureau file photo

The ACU said in its report that it tracks a wide range of issues before state legislatures to determine which issues and votes, “serve as a clear litmus test separating those representatives who defend liberty and liberal members who have turned their backs on our founding principles – constitutionally limited government, individual liberty, free markets, a strong national defense and traditional values.”

The votes selected for the inaugural State Legislative Ratings in each of five targeted states – Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and the Commonwealth of Virginia – are not always considered the “most important” votes as defined by others, the ACU said in its report. Instead, the votes selected are chosen to create a clear ideological distinction among those casting them.

The group selected 31 legislative measures to score the 63 Nevada lawmakers, including Assembly Bill 299, which would have imposed a 50-cent surcharge on auto insurance policies to subsidize car insurance for low income residents, which the ACU opposed. The bill did not pass.

Another measure was Assembly Bill 321, which implemented the “Castle Doctrine” in Nevada, giving citizens the right to defend themselves in their own homes. The ACU supported the bill, which was approved by both houses of the Legislature.

The ACU also used the vote on extending a collection of taxes set to expire on June 30 in its report card. Assembly Bill 561 passed the Legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval as part of a budget deal between Democrats and Republicans.

“As pleased as we are to recognize a total of 13 members of the Legislature as true conservative patriots, we are disappointed there were not more members who adhered to conservative principles,” Cardenas said. “Thankfully, Gov, Brian Sandoval, a rising star of the conservative movement, has championed limited government and pro-growth policies by vetoing several ill-conceived pieces of legislation passed by the Nevada Legislature.”

“I am honored to be named the most conservative legislator in the Nevada Assembly,” McArthur said. “This rating will reinforce the ratings I have previously received from the Nevada Policy Research Institute and Citizen Outreach.”

McArthur scored 94 percent in the ACU ratings, ranking him as the most conservative member of the Nevada Assembly.

Gustavson said he was pleased to rank so highly in the survey.

“It doesn’t come as a surprise because I have been living up to my conservative values that got me elected and keep getting me elected,” he said. “So I’m very honored to have received the award.”

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Audio clips:

Sen. Don Gustavson said he has been living up to his conservative values:

110311Gustavson :09 received the award.”

 

Alliances, Politics And Honor Trump Policy In Legislative Vote

By Andrew Doughman | 9:15 am May 6th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Assemblyman John Ellison had a choice.

He wanted to push the red button, but he was supposed to push the green button.

The seconds ticked by on the floor of Nevada’s Assembly. In the wide angle shot, the other 41 members eagerly cast their votes. In the close-up shot, Ellison’s hand hovered over the green and red buttons. He hated it, but he punched the green one.

He had made a promise to vote ‘yes,’ and he voted ‘yes’ this time after voting ‘no’ the day before.

“The honor, that ate on me for two days,” he said after the vote. “If you’re word in here is no good, you’re no good.”

Politics and policy are never fully divorced at the Nevada Legislature. Bills are the bargaining chips in shifting, cross-party alliances that hinge upon trust and honor.

Whether deemed artful negotiation or political skullduggery, such trades may only grow more prevalent as legislators wheel and deal to close the budget.

Longtime lobbyist Carole Vilardo says bills live and die by “public perception, political palatability, policy and politics.”

“It’s part of the game,” says lobbyist Susan Fisher.

And Ellison had already broken the rules once. The Elko Republican had voted down Democratic Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson’s bill when he had promised to vote for it.

The result was a 27 – 14 split vote, one vote shy of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass. Ellison’s initial ‘no’ vote caused the bill to fail the first time.

It took a parliamentary procedure for a wily Democrat to resurrect the bill. So when it returned for a vote before the Assembly, Ellison was under even more pressure to keep his word.

“He got a chance to fix his vote and keep his commitment, which is very important in this building,” said Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks.

Atkinson, a North Las Vegas Democrat, wants to establish a low-cost auto insurance program through his bill. All Nevadans would pay an extra 50 cents on their auto insurance policies to help subsidize the pilot program in Clark County.

Ellison’s vote for that fee increase earned him the title of a Republican “voting badly” from conservative activist Chuck Muth.

Muth employs as a lobbyist Janine Hansen, who ran an unsuccessful campaign against Ellison during the 2010 election.

Out in Elko, the electoral fights pit conservative against even more conservative, giving Ellision good reason to restate last week that he is a “very, very conservative person.”

“This was a thing of honor, not a thing of taxes,” he said.

Ellison cast his vote last week on a deadline day for the Legislature. The Assembly slogged through floor vote after floor vote. Legislators voted to adopt amendments to bills hours before they voted on them.

Under so much pressure, legislators could not always make a bill’s policy merits their paramount concern.

“It was just a last minute confusion – my biggest fear was the confusion and the promise,” Ellison said.

Ellison’s rural constituents would get nothing but a 50 cent fee increase from Atkinson’s bill.

But Atkinson had a favor to return to Ellison.

As chairman of a committee, Atkinson is the arbiter of which bills live and die. So when Ellison finally voted for Atkinson’s bill, Atkinson kicked Ellison’s bill downstairs to the Assembly floor. The bill lived.

“I believe, in this building, all you have is your word,” Atkinson later said. “If he [Ellison] had not honored his commitment, would I have sent his bill down [out of committee]? Probably not. …You shouldn’t be rewarded for making false promises.”

Ellison’s bill would relieve some rural businesses of fees from Carson City-based regulators and allow local governments to conduct some inspections locally.

Democrats fast-tracked Ellison’s bill through a fiscal committee last week. Now it is eligible for a floor vote on the Assembly.

For all the talk of partisan rancor, most votes do not fall along party lines. Legislators dissent. They tepidly endorse and unanimously approve. They break ranks and make promises, and in Ellison’s case, they get criticized by colleagues.

“There was some behind the scenes arm twisting,” said Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley. “…A lot of people have their pet legislation they want to slide through and they’re able to hold their noses and vote for a bill that they don’t like in exchange for a vote on their bill.”

Two other Republicans voted for Atkinson’s bill. One, Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Las Vegas, claimed that he liked the bill because it was coming to Clark County.

The other, Assemblyman Pete Livermore, R-Carson City, said he made an honest mistake.

“ I mistook the bill,” he said. “I made an error. …I’m new and I’m a freshman and even though I try my darndest, that one got by me.”

For Ellison, the experience rattled him. He later said he just wanted to vote and “get out of here.” The fate of his bill, he said, was the last thing on his mind.

“I didn’t care if they sent it to the moon,” he said.

Democrats, though, also kept their word. Ellison’s bill could come up for a vote soon. Meanwhile, Atkinson’s bill is alive and well in the Senate.

Fisher, the lobbyist, said that these negotiations are not only part of the process, they work.

“In the end, they both got what they wanted out of it: win-win,” she said.

 

 

Bill Removing Mining Industry Eminent Domain Privileges Passes Assembly, Heads To Governor’s Desk

By Andrew Doughman | 8:17 pm April 25th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A bill removing the mining industry’s right to take private land heads to the governor’s desk after passing in the Assembly this evening.

Senate Bill 86 gained early bipartisan support when Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, joined the bill’s sponsor, Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, in criticizing a corporation’s ability to take land from a private citizen.

The bill passed the Senate 21-1 and the Assembly 41-1 with two rural legislators from the Elko-area, a mining community, voting against the legislation.

But Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko, later said that he does not support eminent domain rights in any situation. He said he voted against the bill by mistake.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has not said whether or not he will sign the bill into law.

The bill arriving at the governor’s desk is among the least controversial of several proposals relating to the mining industry.

Progressives in Nevada have argued for removing the mining industry’s special provisions in Nevada’s constitution and reducing the amount of allowable tax deductions for the mining industry.

The mining industry has also come under fire after it was revealed that the state had not been auditing the industry’s tax deductions and that state regulators may have had a cozy relationship with mining lobbyists.

Senate Bill 86 also removes the same eminent domain privileges for the state’s now-defunct sugar beet industry.

 

Rural Lawmakers Could Pay High Price For Backing Governor On Budget

By Andrew Doughman | 4:15 pm April 22nd, 2011

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s rural Republican legislators are struggling to defend the cuts to their communities in the governor’s budget.

Democrats have been showcasing cuts to the rural counties in order to convince rural Republican legislators that a vote for tax increases is a vote to mitigate the harm to their districts.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said that rural counties are already “cut to the bone,” and in many cases could lose all that they have left.

“Are they willing to be so loyal that they hurt the very constituents that elected them?” Horsford asked.

Many of the governor’s budget cuts would affect rural counties. The budget reduces the money going to rural health clinics or shifts that responsibility to county governments. Many clinics and college campuses that have branched out into the countryside are slated to consolidate to more populated areas.

So far, these cuts have not pushed any rural Republicans to voice anything but support for Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed general fund budget.

“There’s nobody blinking, so to speak, from the rural areas about increasing taxes,” said Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora.

Rural legislators say they understand they must share in the cuts, but that the cuts should be fair. For some Democrats, though, that means rural counties need to shoulder more of the burden.

 

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, here speaking before the Senate, has highlighted impacts of Gov. Brian Sandoval's proposed budget. "I'm particularly concerned about the impact to the rural and underserved communities," he said today./PHOTO: Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau

This Monday, Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said that Washoe and Clark counties have to subsidize the rural counties.

“A lot of you come from areas of the state that are taking from the largest counties of the state,” he said to his fellow legislators in the Assembly chambers.

Horsford has argued that it is unfair for the state to divert property tax revenue from Clark and Washoe counties to the University of Nevada, Reno and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas when counties like Elko and Eureka, beneficiaries of Great Basin College, do not.

The governor’s staff has said that Washoe and Clark counties benefit economically from the state’s two universities and should therefore pay more to support them.

“If you close Great Basin College, which does mining and other training to the mining industry, if you close that campus, that’s going to have a tremendous economic impact to that region,” said Horsford, who earlier urged the Board of Regents to consider closing campuses to save money. “So to suggest that there’s no economic benefit to those rural communities either by underfunding or funding their programs, I’m not understanding their logic.”

The governor’s chief of staff, Heidi Gansert, said that Washoe and Clark counties have more money. The governor is asking all counties to pay for a greater share of health services, but she said the two largest counties can shoulder that burden and rural counties cannot.

Despite this defense, budget cuts in rural counties worried Sandoval enough that he traveled to Elko this past Saturday to listen to concerns from county officials and state legislators.

Rhoads said he had personal chats with the governor during the flights to and from Elko. They discussed cuts to the Wells Honor Camp and the rural bookmobile program. Rhoads said the governor told him he would “add back” funding for these services if the state receives more revenue as the economic recovery inches forward.

“He’s looking at amending this stuff back in now,” said Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko, who also met with the governor in Elko this past Saturday. “I think at the end of the day … I’m hoping it’ll be fair.”

From left to right, Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko, Senator Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, and Assemblyman Tom Grady, R-Yerington, watch Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., address the Legislature earlier this week. Gov. Brian Sandoval visited Rhoads and Ellison earlier this week to discuss budget cuts to rural districts. /PHOTO: Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau

Budget Battle Could Pit Urban Against Rural

Sandoval has said before that the Legislature is free to move money around within his budget. As long as the $5.8 billion arrives at his desk without taxes and fee increases, he will sign it.

“If you don’t want to spend more in this account and move it to that account, that’s the Legislature’s prerogative,” said Dale Erquiaga, the governor’s senior adviser, at a press briefing earlier this week.

But Erquiaga later suggested that policy decisions “pitting urban against rural” would be bad for the state.

“I don’t think he [Sandoval] has given a carte blanche,” said Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, suggesting the governor would not sign a budget that overtly hammers rural Republican districts.

Given the magnitude of the governor’s proposed cuts, it is unlikely that any one legislator would be spared cuts to his or her district.

“As long as we’re not taking more than their [urban legislators'] share, everyone is willing to do their part,” said Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon.

But what is “fair” is a matter of debate. Just like in Congress, legislators will try to do what they can for their districts. This time, though, that is less a matter of bringing home the bacon than it is of saving the farmhouse.

State entities, however, may have an monetary incentive to favor urban districts. Centralizing services in cities could save money while reaching the majority of Nevadans.

“We’ll offer fewer classes at fewer locations,” said Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich. “In particular, this could impact rural locations that could suffer as our colleges focus on serving the greatest number of students.”

That pressure, however, does not mean rural legislators are pushing to be first in line to vote for a tax increase.

“Most of my constituents have indicated that in these tough times we have to make some cuts,” Settelmeyer said. “Most of them have told me they would prefer to make tough choices [over raising taxes].”

The cuts, though, still could become a bargaining chip. The governor has said he wants “shared sacrifice,” but the Legislature could end up with an Animal Farm scenario in which all cuts are equal, but some cuts are more equal than others.

***UPDATED April 23, 2011 to reflect  that no NSHE entities are fully closing, although some satellite campuses may close.***

Partisan Politics Enter Fray As Regents Consider Closing Colleges

By Andrew Doughman | 3:59 pm April 8th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Campus closures, consolidations and mergers are back on the table after the Board of Regents today undid a vote from last month to not consider campus closures, which itself followed a February vote to consider campus closures.

Many of the smaller colleges are in districts represented by Republicans.

Some Republicans consider the Regents’ move a political one. The threat of campus closures could be a bargaining chip Democrats can use later to convince Republicans to vote for tax increases.

“I’ve never seen political hayday as bad as this,” said Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko, whose district includes Great Basin College. “I’m not a supporter of blackmail.”

Democrats refuted the claims.

“It’s more of a reality check that they’re going to have to take some pretty drastic measures,” said Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, the chairwoman of the Assembly Ways and Means committee.

But, she said, the Legislature is a political environment. Last month, Assembly Republicans released their own list of bargaining chips that they would trade for taxes.

“We’re fooling ourselves if we think that these decisions won’t be somewhat political,” Smith said.

The Board voted 10 – 3 to again consider closing campuses. They did not, however, vote on any actual campus closures.

Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, spoke at the meeting in Las Vegas in support of considering campus closures.

Horsford has been a driving force in putting the possibility of closures back on the table. He earlier asked Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich to develop full plans for how the universities and colleges of Nevada will absorb Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed $162.4 million higher-education budget reduction.

“I would urge you to reconsider your earlier action that took campus closures off the table as one of the implications of reduced funding for higher education,” Horsford said. “One of the realities we must face – in light of the new information on the full extent of the governor’s proposed cuts – is that if those cuts are accepted, campuses would have to close.”

The debate in the Legislature mirrored the Regents’ debate about campus closures.

“It’s hogwash, it’s politics, and I’m not in favor of it,” said Jack Schofield, a regent representing Clark County. “I’m not in favor of getting this thing back in where we can emasculate anything that we’ve worked for.”

Regent Michael Wixom, who represents Clark County, said that all they are doing is gathering information about campus closures.

“If I’m going to make an informed decision, I have to follow that process,” he said.

Regent Ron Knecht, a former Republican Assemblyman from Carson City, was the primary supporter of keeping campus closures off the table. He said it would cause undue stress and demoralize students, staff and faculty at institutions considered for closure.

“Apparently some politicians have some political battle to fight with the governor and minority party legislators and that fight is more important that those considerations,” he said.

Assemblyman Pete Livermore, R-Carson City, represents a district that includes Western Nevada College.

“I believe it’s an issue of targeted political pressure,” he said.

The Regents met in March at Western Nevada College and heard a preliminary report from Klaich that closures could save $7 to $15 million.

The Regents voted to not further consider closures at that meeting after hearing hours of public testimony during which students and faculty described how detrimental those considerations could be to morale.

Following today’s vote, the Regents will again consider all options to mitigate cuts. To that end, they also voted unanimously to support raising revenue for higher education.

The campus closures, however, appear to be more politically contentious than the unanimous vote.

“I’m a little concerned that you keep asking a question until you get the answer you want,” said Livermore.

Minorities And Women Could Gain Bidder Preference In Assembly Bill

By Andrew Doughman | 5:48 pm March 25th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A proposal in the state Assembly would give minority-owned or women-owned businesses a five percent bidder preference for state public works projects under $100,000

Assemblywoman Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, advanced the bill in a Assembly Government Affairs hearing today.

Her bill, with amendments, would allow businesses that qualify under federal standards as a “small, disadvantaged business enterprise” would get the bidder preference.

Like the preference currently available for disabled veterans who own businesses, a 5 percent bidder preference would artificially make a bid lower by 5 percent, thus making the bid more competitive.

Neal cited 2002 ownerships statistics from Nevada that show few minority or women business owners in the construction industry.

Minorities and women comprise large numbers of the population, but their numbers are not reflected in the number of business owners in Nevada.

“We at least want to provide the opportunity for groups that may be able to bond collaboratively together to start to become part of public works in a real way,” Neal said. “…There may be a need at this point to level the playing field so they may equally participate.”

Nevada Assemblywoman Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, talks with lobbyist Jack Mallory during a hearing at the Legislature. Photo by Cathleen Allison/NevadaPhotoSource.com

Others, however, took issue with changing the bidding procedure to favor disadvantaged businesses, many of which are owned by women and minorities.

“I always thought you did a job based on the ability of the individual,” said Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko. “Nobody should take a precedent over anybody else.”

Ellison said that this bill would put others at a disadvantage.

“Maybe it’s a little simplistic, but we’d just like to be in an environment where it is a meritocracy,” said Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley.

Neal, however, disagreed. She said that a meritocracy is theoretically ideal, but it is not what Nevada has now. She said her bill would level the playing field for small, disadvantaged businesses.

“There’s nothing in this bill that compromises the quality of the contractor here,” said Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson, D-Reno.

The committee did not vote on the bill today.

***UPDATE 3/26/11: A mention of the  $100,000 cap for the bidder preference was left out of the original version and has been added.