Posts Tagged ‘Lee’

Tarkanian Wins 4th Congressional GOP Race, Lee Upset By Democrat Challenger In State Senate 1 In Nevada Primary

By Sean Whaley | 11:02 pm June 12th, 2012

CARSON CITYDanny Tarkanian narrowly beat out state Sen. Barbara Cegavske in the 4th Congressional District GOP primary today, surviving a tough challenge in the contest to see who will face Democrat state Sen. Steven Horsford in the November general election.

4th Congressional GOP candidate Danny Tarkanian.

The son of former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, Tarkanian overcame bad publicity surrounding news that he and his family face a $17 million judgment in a civil real estate case out of California.

The race was close, with Tarkanian ending up with 32 percent of the vote to 28 percent for Cegavske. Cegavske won the more populous Clark County in the district which also stretches across much of rural Nevada. Tarkanian made up the difference with strong showings in the rurals, including Esmeralda, Lyon, Mineral and White Pine counties.

But Tarkanian faces an uphill battle in the new congressional district created in Nevada as a result of the 2010 census. The district, composed of parts of Clark County and several rural counties, has a 113,000 to 90,000 Democratic voter edge as of the close of the primary.

The big surprise of the night may have been the overwhelming defeat of state Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, in the Democratic primary against newcomer Patricia Spearman. Spearman had 63 percent of the vote to 37 percent for Lee.

The contest is expected to be decided with Spearman’s primary victory because of the strong Democratic voter edge in the district.

Progressive activists targeted Lee because of his conservative stand on some social issues. Spearman’s victory, however, won’t alter the political landscape as Republicans and Democrats face off in several other Senate districts in the effort to take control of the 21-member house in 2013.

The Nevada Priorities PAC, which supported Spearman in her underdog challenge, said Lee was their initial target because of his weak voting record on issues relating to education, civil rights, the environment and women’s choice.

“Voting records have consequences,” said Priorities PAC spokesperson Annette Magnus. “When we have a so-called friend abandon us on issue after issue, we were left with little recourse but to launch an independent campaign to educate primary voters.”

Lee raised more than $208,000 for his re-election bid, while the Nevada Priorities Political Action Committee raised $86,000. Spearman raised less than $14,000.

The statewide primary featured very low turnout by registered voters statewide. Fewer than 20 percent of active voters cast ballots in the primary.

There were no surprises in the other state Senate primary battles, with the toughest challenge in the GOP Senate District 9 contest, where Mari Nakashima St. Martin fended off Brent Jones. The race featured allegations of “partying” by St. Martin, while Jones was questioned about whether he took advantage of a mentally disabled man more than a decade ago by selling him two ostrich eggs for $30,000 to establish an ostrich farm.

The race pitted GOP Senate Caucus favorite St. Martin against Jones, an avowed opponent of new taxes. St. Martin had 54 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Jones.

A similar GOP primary battle occurred in Senate District 18, where Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, defeated Assemblyman Richard McArthur, R-Las Vegas, and Conrad Vergara. Hammond was the GOP Senate Caucus choice who voted to continue a package of expiring tax hikes in 2011, while McArthur ran as a no taxes candidate who opposed the package.

Hammond had 56 percent of the vote to 41 percent for McArthur.

For Democrats, Kelli Ross defeated Donna Schlemmer in state Senate 18 and will face Hammond in a district that has a Republican voter registration edge.

The Senate races are critical to both Republicans and Democrats to determine who controls the Senate in the 2013 legislative session. Democrats currently have an 11-10 edge.

The other three state Senate races in play between the parties are Senate 5, 6 and 15. The party primaries in Senate 5 and 6 had no surprises. Senate 15 in Reno had no primary. Republicans need to win four of the five races to take an 11-10 edge in 2013.

In some of the other races and issues facing voters around Nevada, the Laughlin incorporation vote went down to defeat. Residents of the community 90 miles south of Las Vegas rejected the idea of forming their own city by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.

There were no surprises in the other congressional races. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., both won their primaries in the Senate contest.

Former Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., had no opponent in the 1st Congressional District. She will face Republican Chris Edwards in November.

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., won his primary in the 2nd Congressional District and will face Democrat Samuel Koepnick.

Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., was easily winning his primary in the 3rd District and will face Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, in November.

In the two State Board of Education races, Allison Serafin and Ed Klapproth, were leading among five candidates in District 3 in Clark County, with 31 percent and 21 percent of the vote, respectively. Both will appear on the November ballot.

In the District 2 race in Northern Nevada among five candidates, current board member Dave Cook had 31 percent of the vote and Donna Clontz had 25 percent. Both will be on the November ballot.

Former Lt. Gov. and Regent Lonnie Hammargren had just over 50 percent of the vote in the race for the Board of Regents in District 12. Andrea Anderson was second in the four person race with 28 percent of the vote.

The only other upset in the legislative races occurred in Douglas County in a three-way Republican primary, where incumbent Kelly Kite lost to challenger Jim Wheeler. Kite was targeted for his vote in 2011 to continue a package of expiring taxes.

 

Carson Judge Russell Expected To Rule Quickly On Redistricting Guidelines, Sets Public Hearings For Oct. 10-11

By Sean Whaley | 3:14 pm September 21st, 2011

CARSON CITY – Racial gerrymandering, fracturing, packing, nesting – a three-hour hearing today in Carson City District Court over how to draw Nevada’s new political boundaries was full of arcane concepts and obscure terminology.

The much anticipated ruling from Judge James Todd Russell on guidelines for drawing those new districts will have major ramifications, however, for the state’s voters and its two major political parties.

The purpose of the hearing was to decide what factors a panel of three citizens must consider when drawing the state’s political lines for four congressional and 63 legislative seats based on the new population figures from the 2010 U.S. Census.

Attorneys for Democrats and Republicans used the terminology to make their cases for how the new political lines should be drawn. Most of the hearing focused on the four congressional seats that must be drawn for the 2012 general election. Nevada earned a 4th seat due to population gains over the past decade.

Time is of the essence in the dispute, with the election season set to get under way early next year.

Attorney Mark Hutchison, representing the Republican Party, argued that the Hispanic community in central Las Vegas should form the basis for one of the four congressional districts in any new redistricting plan.

Attorney Marc Elias, representing Democrats, argued that while communities of interest should be considered, there is no requirement in the federal Voting Rights Act that a predominantly Hispanic district be created.

Special Master Thomas Sheets, from left, GOP attorney Mark Hutchison and Democrat attorneys Mark Braden and Marc Elias confer after the redistricting hearing today. / Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau.

After the hearing, Hutchison said: “The court is going to take care to make sure this process is fair and from the beginning that’s all the Republicans have wanted, for the process to be fair. We want to start with a level playing field and let the chips fall where they might. We’re just opposed to any sort of a partisan Democratic slant to this process and I think we got that today.”

Hutchison said he will not appeal Russell’s ruling on how the redistricting process should be carried out by the special masters.

Elias declined to say whether he would appeal Russell’s ruling on the guidelines for the special masters on how to draw the maps.

“I always take these things one step at a time,” he said. “I’m here today and I’m going to wait for the ruling.

“Look, you heard the same thing I did – I think he said he was going to take this under advisement, he obviously listened attentively, he said he was going to do some research and then I expect we will hear from him.”

Russell has appointed the three special masters – Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover, Las Vegas attorney Thomas Sheets and former legislative Research Director Bob Erickson – to draw new political districts.

The issue ended up in the courts when a bipartisan plan could not be hammered out between Democrats and Republicans in the 2011 legislative session.

The Democrat-controlled Legislature passed two redistricting plans, both of which were vetoed by GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval.

While not immediately ruling on the Hispanic congressional district question, Russell did announce some developments in his plan to resolve the dispute.

He announced that the special masters will hold two public hearings, one in Las Vegas on Oct. 10 in the Grant Sawyer State Office Building, and the other Oct. 11 in the Carson City legislative building, to take comment from interested parties on what Nevada’s new districts should look like.

Following those hearings, the special masters will have until Oct. 21 to submit new political maps to the court. Russell said he will then release their report and proposed maps to the public.

Russell said that by Nov. 15 or 16 he will decide whether to accept the maps as drawn by the special masters or send the issue back for any specific revisions he deems necessary.

Regardless of how he rules, the redistricting issue is expected to end up in front of the Nevada Supreme Court, and could be appealed into the federal court system as well.

Elias asked Russell to use Senate Bill 497, the second redistricting measure passed by Democrats but vetoed by Sandoval, as the starting point for the special masters to draw new districts.

Hutchison and other attorneys representing Republicans rejected the idea, saying the maps approved for the 2001 redistricting, along with the many sets of maps proposed this year by lawmakers and citizens, could all be considered by the special masters as a starting point.

Attorney Daniel Stewart, representing Clark County resident Daniel Garza, who opposed SB497, said the congressional districts in the bill inappropriately “fractured” the Las Vegas Hispanic community into three different districts to create three safe Democrat congressional seats.

“This is a perfect example of what I think the masters shouldn’t do,” he said.

But Elias warned that any effort to focus exclusively on creating one Hispanic congressional district could lead to “racial gerrymandering” which would put any plan approved by Russell at risk for a federal court challenge. It is not possible to draw a congressional district in Las Vegas that would have a majority of eligible Hispanic voters, he said.

There is also no evidence of block voting by white residents that has thwarted the efforts of Hispanics to elect candidates of their choice, Elias said, noting the election of Sandoval, who is Hispanic.

One of the experts cited by Republican as evidence of block voting by whites was the election of former state Sen. Bob Coffin to the Las Vegas City Council in Ward 3, defeating Hispanic candidate Adriana Martinez in the process, he said. But the expert failed to note that Coffin is of Hispanic heritage himself, Elias said.

“Nevada is not Mississippi,” he said. “There is no white block voting in Clark County.”

Attorneys also argued their positions on other issues, including whether two state Assembly districts should be drawn to fit exactly within each state Senate seat, a process called “nesting.”

They also argued whether “representational fairness”, or consideration of how many “safe” seats each political party should have, is appropriately before the special masters.

A number of prominent Democrats have either announced or are said to be interested in running for the Southern Nevada congressional seats even though the district lines have yet to be drawn. Already announced candidates include Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, former Rep. Dina Titus who lost to Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., in the 2010 election, state Sen. John Lee of North Las Vegas and state Sen. Ruben Kihuen of Las Vegas. Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford of Las Vegas is also said to be interested in running for Congress.

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Audio clips:

GOP attorney Mark Hutchison says Republicans want a level playing field:

092111Hutchison :25 got that today.”

Democrat attorney Marc Elias says Judge Russell listened attentively and will issue his ruling after conducting some research:

092111Elias :15 hear from him.”

Nevada Legislative Leaders Make New Appointments To Homeland Security Commission

By Sean Whaley | 3:57 pm September 6th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Nevada legislative leaders have selected Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, and Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, to serve as nonvoting members of the Nevada Commission on Homeland Security.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, last week selected Lee to serve on the panel, which meets quarterly to hear updates on Nevada’s efforts to deal with homeland security issues.

In response to an inquiry, Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said today he picked Horne to represent the Assembly. Horne, on his 2010 re-election website, said he took the lead on homeland security issues in the Assembly.

Nevada state law says the Senate majority leader and Assembly speaker are to appoint one nonvoting member each.

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

Lee replaces former state Sen. Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, on the commission. Horne replaces Oceguera, who has announced he is running for a seat in Congress. Oceguera is termed out of office in the Assembly.

Lee has also announced he is a candidate for one of the congressional seats that have yet to be created because of a dispute between Republicans and Democrats about how the lines for the districts should be drawn in Southern Nevada. A hearing on the dispute is set for later this month in Carson City District Court.

State Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas.

Horsford is also believed to be considering a run for Congress.

The appointments of Lee and Horne come after a meeting of the commission last month during which the lack of participation by the nonvoting members of the Legislature was raised as a concern. No legislative representative has yet attended a meeting of the panel this year.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has appointed himself as chairman of the commission, a departure from past governors who designated others as their representatives on the panel.

There will be other new appointments made to the panel as well by Sandoval in coming weeks to replace voting members who have stepped down, including former chairman Dr. Dale Carrison, who served as vice-chairman under Sandoval.

Sandoval is charged with appointing the 14 voting members of the commission.

The next meeting of the commission is scheduled for Nov. 2.

Democrat Congressional Candidate Oceguera Says He Will Face Off Against GOP Incumbent Heck In 2012 If Necessary

By Sean Whaley | 3:40 pm August 17th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Assembly Speaker and announced candidate for Congress John Oceguera acknowledged today that a number of Democrats are seeking seats in the House of Representatives in the 2012 election, and that hopefully any costly primary battles can be avoided.

Oceguera, who announced in July he will run as a Democrat for Congress despite the fact that lines for what will ultimately be four districts remain theoretical only, said a primary battle between two Democrats for one or more of the seats would not be beneficial.

While unlikely, a primary battle is a possibility and Oceguera said he is prepared for such a scenario. But a primary would not help any of the candidates, and hopefully could be avoided “in the spirit of cooperation,” he said.

Former Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., has announced she intends to run again for a seat in Congress. State Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, is also an announced candidate. State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford and state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, both D-Las Vegas, are also potential candidates for one of the seats.

Democrat Assembly Speaker John Oceguera.

Oceguera made his comments during an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program.

The district lines remain undecided because the Legislature failed to approve a redistricting plan based on the 2010 census that met with approval of both Democrats and Republicans. Two Democrat plans were vetoed by GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval. The issue is now in front of Carson District Judge James Todd Russell with no clear timetable on when it will be resolved. It will likely end up before the Nevada Supreme Court.

Oceguera said he does not know what district he will end up in, but that he may have to face Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., who represents the 3rd Congressional District. Heck is a freshman who defeated Titus in the 2010 election.

Oceguera, who lives near Heck in Clark County, said he is not concerned with the possibility of facing an incumbent in his congressional run. Oceguera, who is termed out of the state Assembly, is a North Las Vegas firefighter, attorney and fourth generation Nevadan, born in Fallon.

Heck’s district has elected both Republicans and Democrats, he said.

“Where ever I end up, as far as where the maps are drawn, is where I will run,” Oceguera said.

Ryan Erwin, a political consultant to Heck, said in response to Oceguera’s comments: “Commenting on every Democrat candidate looking for the title of Congressman would be a full time job.

“Dr. Heck has been spending his time helping constituents and trying to get the federal government out of the way of small businesses trying to create jobs,” he said. “The truth is, creating an environment that allows Nevada businesses to grow, invest and hire new employees is far more important to Joe Heck than who might run against him next year.”

Oceguera announced his intention to run in July, saying it would be too late to mount a competitive campaign if he waited until the redistricting issue is decided. While fundraising is difficult in such an uncertain situation, waiting until the 2012 filing period next spring is unworkable, he said.

Oceguera said it will take between $2 million and $3 million to run a competitive race, and that he expects to have about $250,000 by the first reporting period.

Oceguera said he is running on his legislative record, including job creation efforts in the 2011 session, and on his history of hard work and desire to seek compromise on issues facing the state.

“It is something we’re sorely missing in Washington, DC, right now,” he said.

Oceguera said he and his fellow lawmakers fulfilled their promises in the 2011 legislative session.

“We said we were going to cut – we did, we cut,” he said. “We said that we were going to reform – we did, we reformed. We said that we were going to balance our budget – we did, we balanced our budget. And we said we were going to end on time and we did that as well. So I think that is a pretty strong record in the last legislative session.

“I’ve been strong on education, I think I’ve been strong for business,” Oceguera said. “I don’t know that that’s all I will run on, but I think my legislative record is solid.”

Audio clips:

Congressional candidate John Oceguera says the Legislature fulfilled its promises in the 2011 session to balance the budget, cut spending and make reforms:

081711Oceguera1 :25 last legislative session.”

Oceguera says he is strong on education and for business:

081711Oceguera2 :09 record is solid.”

‘Campus Carry’ Bill Wins Approval In Senate, Heads To Assembly

By Sean Whaley | 2:40 pm May 28th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A bill allowing Nevadans to carry concealed weapons on college campuses passed the Senate today and now heads to the Assembly for consideration as the legislative session draws to a close.

Senate Bill 231, sponsored by Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, passed 15-6.

Current law prohibits anyone from carrying a concealed weapon on the property of the higher education system unless an individual has written permission from the president of the campus.

In testimony earlier this session, Lee said the bill would allow properly licensed concealed carry weapon (CCW) permit holders to carry concealed weapons on the Nevada System of Higher Education campuses.

The bill was amended to prohibit the carrying of concealed weapons at large campus events such as football games.

Lee said there are over 40,000 people nationally supporting this movement through the grassroots organization known as Students for Concealed Carry on Campus.

“Nevada colleges and universities are labeled ‘gun-free zones,’ ” he said in his committee testimony. “I argue these zones are ‘defenseless-victim zones.’ Gun-free zones are often referred to as ‘criminal empowerment zones’ because they take away the ability for citizens to protect themselves.”

Also testifying for the bill earlier this session was Amanda Collins, who recounted an emotional story of her brutal assault at University of Nevada, Reno campus. Collins said she was defenseless when serial rapist and convicted murderer James Biela attacked her in a UNR parking garage and that having her weapon would have saved her from the assault.

Collins had a permit to carry a concealed firearm, but had left it at home knowing that it was illegal to carry her weapon onto campus.

Officials representing police departments throughout Nevada have opposed the bill, saying it would make campuses less safe if guns were to be allowed.

In a brief debate on the Senate floor, Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, argued against the bill, saying allowing students to carry guns will not make Nevada’s college campuses safer.

Leslie said criminologists at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, have analyzed the pros and cons of the bill and found that the arguments in favor do not hold up.

The assumption that armed students would prevent a Virginia Tech type of massacre is not accurate, she said.

“The typical mass murderer, however, in school shootings is often so mentally impaired that he is unable to make rational decisions,” Leslie said. “Many are already prepared to die for their acts so the supposed deterrence of armed students is of no use.”

There is no need for the bill, but there is much danger in it, she said.

In response, Lee said only trained and qualified individuals would be able to carry a gun under the law. Predators know that students are not able to protect themselves from attack, he said.

“There is nothing there that can allow these people who get out late at night after work to take these classes, security,” Lee said.

Audio clips:

Sen. Sheila Leslie says allowing guns on campuses won’t make students safer:

052811Leslie :19 of no use.”

Sen. John Lee says without the ability to carry a weapon, students are vulnerable to predators:

052811Lee :12 these classes, security.”

 

 

Many Proposals To Amend Nevada Constitution, Including School Vouchers, Fail To Advance In Legislature

By Sean Whaley | 2:05 pm April 15th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Efforts in the Legislature to amend Nevada’s constitution failed for the most part to move forward today as a deadline hit to get measures passed out of committee.

Measures creating a lottery, repealing the minimum wage and allowing tax dollars to be spent on religious schools all failed to advance.

One of the most significant failures came on the issue of vouchers for religious schools. Two measures, including one introduced by Gov. Brian Sandoval, did not make it out of committee by the deadline.

Sandoval has advocated for the change to allow for the use of tax dollars by parents to send their children to private schools, including religious schools. The state constitution currently bans the use of tax money for sectarian purposes. His measure would have clarified that using tax money to educate children in religious schools would not violate this prohibition.

But Sandoval’s proposal, Assembly Joint Resolution 8, did not even get a hearing in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee by the deadline.

Senate Joint Resolution 10, a separate measure by Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, had a hearing Tuesday but never came up for a vote in the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee. It would also have amended the constitution to allow tax dollars to be spent on the education of children in religious schools.

While a number of parents spoke in support of his measure, public school officials and the state teachers union were opposed.

Roberson said he appreciated the Democrat-controlled Senate holding a hearing on his proposal, but was not surprised that it did not come up for a vote.

“The Democratic Party is in the majority, and so many of these folks, their core supporters are the public sector unions,” he said. “They’re being asked to hear legislation and vote for legislation that one of their core constituencies is vehemently opposed to.

“Frankly I think it is shameful that they won’t even consider a vote in the committee on SJR10,” Roberson said. “But they are in the majority and that is their prerogative.”

Roberson said the discussion of school choice will not go away. If Republicans can win another seat in the state Senate in 2012 they will be in the majority, and proposals such as school vouchers will be brought forward again.

“So this is the opening salvo,” he said. “We’re not finished by a long shot.”

Amending the state constitution is not an easy task. Any legislative proposal to change it requires passage in two consecutive sessions, then a vote by the public. So if any pass this session, they will have to be approved by lawmakers again in 2013 and then approved by the voters in 2014 before they could take effect.

Most of the proposed amendments failed to survive the deadline.

A proposal to establish a lottery in Nevada to fund education failed to advance. The proposal has come up in numerous legislative sessions over the years but has never been successful.

Also failing to win a committee vote was a proposal from Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, to repeal Nevada’s minimum wage law.

At a hearing earlier this session, Hardy argued Nevada’s law, which sets the minimum wage at typically one dollar above the federal level, has reduced hiring by restaurants and other businesses that rely on unskilled workers.

The measure was criticized by labor representatives who argued Nevada voters approved the current law and the Legislature should not attempt to override the will of the people.

A few of the proposed constitutional amendments remain alive, including Senate Joint Resolution 15, which would remove the separate tax rate and assessment method established for Nevada’s mining industry. The proposal was given a waiver from the deadline by lawmakers.

If ultimately approved, it would allow the Legislature to set new tax rates for the industry, which has been the focus of some lawmakers this session looking for additional revenue to help fund the operation of state government and education.

Another measure sought by Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, to require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to impose an unfunded mandate on local governments, is exempted and so remains alive. The idea was embraced by local government officials at a hearing earlier this week.

Lee said the time involved in getting an amendment to the constitution approved should give lawmakers and the executive branch enough time to get the state’s finances in order before it could take effect.

“We owe them the responsibility of running a good state,” he said.

Also still active is Assembly Joint Resolution 2, which would provide for annual sessions of the Nevada Legislature. The Legislature now meets every two years.

Audio clips:

Sen. Michael Roberson says he is not surprised his measure did not come up for a vote:

041511Roberson1 :09 public sector unions.”

Roberson says core Democrat supporters are opposed to school vouchers:

041511Roberson2 :12 vehemently opposed to.”

Roberson says the debate over school choice is far from over:

041511Roberson3 :06 a long shot.”

Roberson says it is shameful the committee did not hold a vote on his measure:

041511Roberson4 :13 that’s their prerogative.”

Sen. John Lee says the time involved in getting his constitutional amendment approved will give the state time to get its finances in order:

041511Lee :10 own personal finances.”

Bill Dealing With Appeals Of Local Government Land Use Decisions Passes Senate

By Sean Whaley | 2:37 pm April 14th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A bill critics say will make it tougher to appeal land use decisions by Clark County local governments won easy approval in the Senate today on a 19-2 vote.

Senate Bill 85 now goes to the Assembly for consideration.

It is opposed by Lisa Mayo-DeRiso, founder of Northwest Residents For Responsible Growth, who sent an email to members of the state Senate voicing her objections to the measure. If a concerned citizen misses a public hearing due to other commitments, a failure to understand an agenda item or for some other reason, the person would have no legal rights to challenge the decision in court later on, she said in a recent phone interview.

Sought by the City of Henderson, a lobbyist for the city said the measure is needed so officials know what concerns a person has with a land use decision before the matter ends up in court. The measure also prohibits challenging land use decisions purely for competitive reasons.

Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, a member of the Government Affairs Committee that heard the measure, spoke in opposition on the Senate floor.

The process of challenging a land use decision by appearing at a public meeting, or in writing or through an official representative, works if people are aware that a particular land use proposal is under consideration, he said.

“This is fine unless you miss the public hearing,” Manendo said. “Many times citizens miss items on an agenda due to a wide variety of reasons such as they are at work, they are caring for their families; sometimes maybe they just can’t decipher the agenda item.”

He mentioned a controversial proposal in Clark County to build a minimum security facility close to homes and a school. The proposal had been moved to the consent agenda, which would not have allowed for testimony, until people complained, Manendo said.

“The unintended consequences are not in the public’s best interest,” he said. “We should not place undue restrictions on the public input in (the) appeal process in land and zoning decisions.”

Senate Government Affairs Chairman John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, said he would not be supporting the bill if he thought it would unfairly restrict public comment.

“If I thought for one minute that somebody would not have a chance to have an opportunity to have their thoughts put forth I wouldn’t push this myself,” he said.

Manendo was joined by Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, in opposing the measure.

Renny Ashleman, lobbyist for the city of Henderson, said in an earlier interview the legislation is needed so officials can know what issues may be raised in court later on. Existing law already requires an individual to appear in some form to be considered aggrieved, he said. This can be in writing and does not require an appearance at a meeting.

“Our bill says you have to tell us what you are aggrieved about,” Ashleman said.

Audio clips:

Sen. Mark Manendo says SB85 makes it tougher for the public to challenge land use decisions:

041411Manendo1 :28 the agenda item.”

Manendo says the bill is not in the public interest:

041411Manendo2 :11 and zoning decisions.”

Sen. John Lee says the bill preserves the public’s right to appeal land use decisions:

041411Lee :11 push this myself.”

 

Measure Raising Bar Before State Could Shift Costs To Local Governments Endorsed By Mayors

By Sean Whaley | 6:57 pm April 7th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A proposed constitutional amendment that would require a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to cut funding to or impose an unfunded mandate on local governments was heartily endorsed today by local officials including the mayors of Reno and Las Vegas.

Senate Joint Resolution 9 is being sought by Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, but would come far too late to stop a multi-million dollar hit to counties in Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed two-year budget even if it wins approval in the 2011 legislative session.

Sen. John Lee and League of Cities official J. David Fraser testify for SJR9 today./Photo by Nevada News Bureau

Sandoval has proposed shifting the cost of $107 million worth of programs to the counties to balance his $5.8 billion general fund budget. He also wants to redirect $121 million in local government property taxes to fund the state’s two universities.

Past Legislatures have raided local government funds to balance the state budget as well.

The constitutional amendment would have to pass twice, this session and in 2013, and then go to the voters for approval in 2014, before it could take effect. The Legislature is already required to get a two-thirds vote to raise taxes.

It was heard by the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee, which took no immediate action on the proposal.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, testifying from Southern Nevada, said unfunded mandates from the state are no different than those from the federal government.

“To us this is no different than the experience that we’ve had with the federal government when they imposed unfunded mandates on us and we have to live with that imposition,” he said. “We’re all representing the same constituents, though in different capacities, and we’re ready to work, and we’re willing to work, and future legislatures, on these serious issues, should know that we are of the mind that we want to resolve this on behalf of the folks that we represent.”

The city has made great efforts to reduce spending and economize where possible, Goodman said.

Reno Mayor Bob Cashell was more blunt: “Do I like it when someone comes messing with my taxpayers’ money. No, not really. Neither would you either, so, we would like to sit down and work with you and make sure we can do things and make them go forward. We think this is a good step but there needs to be some dialogue in the middle.”

Reno Mayor Bob Cashell testifies in support of measure against unfunded mandates to local governments/Photo by Nevada News Bureau

The mayors were joined by North Las Vegas Mayor Shari Buck as well as representatives of Washoe and Clark counties, the Nevada League of Cities and the Nevada Association of Counties, in supporting the measure.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, who is pushing for increased tax revenues to replace some of Sandoval’s cuts to social services and education, challenged the notion of ownership of the limited funds available to support government. He made his remarks prior to most of the testimony from local government representatives.

“The references that somehow the state is taking local government money is a little troubling to me, because it is somehow viewed as local government money and not taxpayer money,” Horsford said. “And I would like to use this, maybe, as an opportunity to open a discussion about how we can work as partners, regardless of jurisdiction, to prioritize the needs of all of our constituents that we serve.”

Horsford said Sandoval has offered some suggestions on how the delivery of services could be realigned between the state and local governments.

“And we need to work from those suggestions, but we need to figure it out in a way that makes sense,” he said. “Because what we shouldn’t do is impact the service delivery to our constituents in such a way that it is compromised.”

Local government officials agreed with Horsford’s comments, but said such a discussion is too complex and requires more time than is available in a 120-day legislative session. Lawmakers hit the halfway point today.

Audio clips:

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman says state mandates are no different than federal mandates:

040711Goodman1 :12 with that imposition.”

Goodman says the city wants to work with lawmakers on the issue of service delivery:

040711Goodman2 :21 that we represent.”

Reno Mayor Bob Cashell says city willing to work on issue:

040711Cashell :18 in the middle.”

Sen. Steven Horsford says delivery of services not an issue of state versus local governments:

040711Horsford1 :16 not taxpayer money.”

Sen. Horsford says SJR9 is an opportunity to discuss delivery of services:

040711Horsford2 :18 that we serve.”

Horsford says Gov. Sandoval has presented a starting point for dialogue:

040711Horsford3 :21 it is compromised.”

 

Rape Victim to Testify on Campus Carry Law

By Elizabeth Crum | 11:05 pm March 17th, 2011

LAS VEGAS – The ability to carry a firearm on Nevada’s college campuses could have prevented her brutal rape, says a victim who will testify before the Senate Government Affairs Committee tomorrow in Carson City.

Reno resident Amanda Collins will tell her story to legislators who will be weighing the merits of Senate Bill 231, the “campus carry” law proposed by Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas. If passed, the legislation would lift prohibitions on carrying firearms on Nevada college campuses.

Soft spoken and small in stature, Amanda Collins said she was defenseless when serial rapist and convicted murderer James Biela attacked her in a University of Nevada Reno parking garage.

Though she was a licensed gun owner with a concealed weapons permit, Collins was unarmed when Biela assaulted her less than 300 yards from a campus police office.

Earlier this summer it took a Nevada jury just six hours to convict James Biela of the rape and murder of Brianna Denison. Biela was also found guilty of three other felony charges, including the rape of a Collins in October 2007 and the rape and kidnapping of another woman a few months later.

Recounting details from the night of her attack in an interview this week, Collins said she left her classroom with a group of students at approximately 10 p.m. The students walked to a nearby parking garage and all but Collins, who had parked on the ground floor, ascended the stairs.

Collins said as she approached her own automobile, Biela grabbed her from behind and pulled her to the ground. He then put a pistol to her forehead and told her not to say anything as he clicked off the safety.

Collins stayed silent and was then raped at gunpoint, she said.

Collins said she would have been carrying her firearm and would have defended herself that night had campus rules permitted it.

“I know at some point during my attack I could have stopped it,” said Collins. “Had I been able to do so, two other rapes would have been prevented and a life could have been saved.”

Collins said she later submitted a request to the president of the university to be permitted to carry a concealed weapon on campus. The request was granted under a requirement of nondisclosure.

“Had SB 231 been the current law, my family and myself would have been saved a lot of torment,” said Collins.

“Because of the fact that I was rendered defenseless, this man was allowed to be at large and to continue to rape other women in the community, and consequently he murdered a young woman as well,” added Collins.

Gregory Brown, a history professor at UNLV, this week argued against the campus carry legislation on the UNLV Faculty Alliance website, saying the measure would “almost certainly” increase the likelihood of violent shootings on campuses.

Pointing to laws and violent incidents in other states as well as studies concluding that more guns lead to more violence on campus, Brown argued the legislation is unnecessary because data shows crime incidents are less frequent on campus than in surrounding neighborhoods. Brown said that fact along with others will be presented by Public Safety directors from NSHE campuses at Friday’s hearing.

Brown also said the law would “further damage the credibility of our already battered System of Higher Education” and that there was “no need, and much danger, inherent” in the bill.

Collins disagrees.

“If the university is going to deny individuals the right to participate in their own defense by carrying on campus, then they then assume the responsibility for ensuring the safety of every individual that steps onto that campus,” said Collins.

“And I know from my experience and from my knowledge that they are failing miserably despite their best efforts,” she said.

Collins acknowledged that lighting has been improved and more call boxes have been installed around the UNR campus and in parking garages since her attack, but she called the measures “inadequate.” She called for “a serious evaluation and discussion” about how realistic it is for universities to ensure the safety of students.

“A call box directly above my head, potentially, while I was being straddled to the ground by James Biela would not have helped me,” said Collins.

“The one equalizing factor when you’re attacked by someone much larger than you is a firearm, and that’s just the reality of it,” said Collins, who has obtained formal self-defense training in the past.

“I think that people lose sight of the fact that the only way to stop a bad person with a gun is with a good person with a gun,” said Collins.

“That is why when police respond to a call that says ‘shots fired,’ they bring their guns,” said Collins. “And while first responders are necessary, and they are good, immediate responders are better.”

Carrie Herbertson, a representative of the National Rifle Association’s lobbying arm, said Collins’ story is a compelling argument in favor of the campus carry law, and that the law as it exists makes little sense because concealed carry weapons permit holders are subject to the same standards on campus as off campus.

“What makes individuals with firearms on a campus any less or any more dangerous than off campus?” asked Herbertson.

Herbertson said concealed weapons permit holders are trained in police protocol including immediately identifying themselves and putting down their firearm when first responders arrive on a crime scene. She contends that allowing properly licensed firearms owners to carry their weapons on campus would reduce, not increase violent crimes at colleges.

“We are talking about trained, law abiding permit holders who are subject to the same standards off campus as they would be on campus,” said Herbertson.

Churchill County Sheriff Benjamin Trotter recently wrote Herbertson a letter in support of the legislation.

Washoe County District Attorney Dick Gammick, familiar with Collins case, will also submit a letter in support of the legislation to the Committee this week.

Audio clips:

Reno resident Amanda Collins says she could have stopped her attack with a weapon:

031711Collins1 :19 have been saved.”

Collins says if SB231 had been law, she would have been saved a lot of torment:

031711Collins2 :09 lot of torment.”

Collins says rendering her defenseless did not protect her from violent crime:

031711Collins3 :24 woman as well.”

Collins says if university students can’t carry weapons, university is responsible for safety:

031711Collins4 :25 their best efforts.”

Collins says an emergency call box would not have helped her:

031711Collins5 :11 have helped me.”

Collins says a good person with a gun can keep a crime from happening:

031711Collins6 :13 with a gun.”

 

 

States Rights Resolution Will Get Legislative Hearing

By Sean Whaley | 3:01 pm February 17th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A state Senate resolution telling Congress to respect Nevada’s right to govern itself under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is expected to get a hearing, the chief sponsor said today.

Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, introduced Senate Joint Resolution 6 on Wednesday. Cosponsors include all 25 Republican members of the Legislature.

Settelmeyer said the resolution mirrors one he and several other lawmakers sought in the 2009 session that did not get a hearing in the Assembly where he was serving at the time.

But Senate Government Affairs Chairman John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, said there is enough public interest on the issue to hold a hearing, and he has scheduled the measure for March 7.

The resolution, if approved, will be sent to Nevada’s Congressional delegation, and to the rest of Congress, asking that the federal government respect the right of the state to deal with those issues not under national control, Settelmeyer said.

This includes what is expected to be a costly mandate to the state to expand Medicaid coverage as a result of the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, he said.

Nevada is one of 26 states challenging the constitutionality of the act. The states recently won a victory in their challenge in a U.S. District Court in Florida.

“We have far too many edicts coming down from the federal government that we cannot afford,” Settelmeyer said. “They tell us to do stuff and give us no funding to do it with.”

The health care law is just one example, he said.

“This resolution again, is just mainly to state to our congressional representatives and to the U.S. Congress, that the Constitution is relevant and the 10th Amendment within the Constitution is extremely relevant as it pertains to its interactions with the states,” Settelmeyer said.

The resolution was not circulated among Democrats to sign on, although Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, signed on to the similar Assembly Joint Resolution 15 in 2009.

Lee said he is having his committee legal counsel review the measure and the law so that questions raised during the hearing will get answers right then.

“I’m only going to have two bills that day instead of four or five so people have a chance to discuss it,” he said.

Audio clips:

Sen. James Settelmeyer says the federal government has issued too many edicts to the states:

021711Settelmeyer1 :08 do it with.”

Settelmeyer says the resolution will send a message to Congress:

021711Settelmeyer2 :15 with the states.”

Proposal Could Make It Easier To Carry Concealed Weapon

By Andrew Doughman | 10:58 am February 16th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A bill from Sens. James Settelmeyer and John Lee would ease regulations for carrying a concealed semi-automatic weapon.

Their proposal would allow gun owners to obtain a generic concealed-carrying permit rather than a specific permit for each gun. Advocates for the bill said the current law’s requirements are like having to get separate driver’s licenses for every make and model of car you own.

“You do not have to qualify on your driver’s license for a stick shift and an automatic; it is the vehicle you are driving,” Lee said.

The law currently states that Nevadans must show proficiency with each semi-automatic weapon to obtain a permit for that specific weapon.

The same law, however, allows a person to test with one revolver in order to obtain a permit allowing concealed carrying of all types of revolvers.

Settelmeyer and Lee, a Republican and a Democrat, would change the statute to make semi-automatics equal with revolvers: one permit, all guns.

Frank Adams, executive director for Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association, also endorsed the proposal. He said the bill still keeps testing and training requirements to carry concealed weapons. It does, however, ease requirements for citizens and sheriffs alike.

“This would not only make it easier for our citizens … it would make the administration to that program considerably simpler for us at the sheriff’s office,” he said.

Senators at the Senate Judiciary committee before which the bill was heard questioned whether this would make government less accountable for public safety.

Adams said it would not.

“They [gun owners] go through the training and the qualifications and then they are issued a permit from the county sheriff to carry a weapon concealed,” he said.

Other gun dealers and certified trainers testified in support of the bill. They argued that the bill would not endanger either the gun owner or others by allowing owners to obtain one permit for all semi-automatics.

One gun owner, however, admitted he stood to profit from keeping the law the way it was.

“On the current bill we get to charge people for shooting 17 different automatics,” said Bob Irwin, owner of The Gun Store in Las Vegas.

Nonetheless, Irwin said, if a person qualifies with one semi-automatic, that should be enough to qualify for all of them.

One person testified against the bill, saying the proposal would make Nevada less safe.

Gibbons Wants Hearing on School Voucher Plan, Says Competition Would Improve Educational Opportunities for Children

By Sean Whaley | 11:09 am February 16th, 2010

(Updated at 12:04 p.m. on Feb. 16, 2010)

CARSON CITY – A handful of state lawmakers have tried and failed over the years to establish a voucher plan for Nevada students, giving parents a share of their taxes spent on public education so they can pick a school that best meets the needs of their children.

While other states have had some success, such measures have gone nowhere in Nevada. Two bills were introduced in the Assembly in 2009 to begin such programs. Neither bill even had a hearing.

Now Gov. Jim Gibbons has taken up the issue, making a school voucher program a central piece of his education reform plan. Gibbons, in his state of the state address Feb. 8, asked lawmakers to give his plan a hearing at the special session set to begin Feb. 23. It also includes a repeal of mandates for all-day kindergarten and class-size reduction and a repeal of the state’s collective bargaining law.

“I believe that we need to give the choice of education back to parents and get them involved,” he said after the speech. “We have 142 schools in the state of Nevada that are rated as the worst schools in the nation.”

Gibbons said parents of students attending these schools should have the choice to go elsewhere.

“I believe that vouchers give that choice to parents,” he said.

A school voucher proposal was not part of Gibbons’ proclamation issued today calling for the special session. Robin Reedy, chief of staff to Gibbons, said the intent is to get the budget shortfall and flexibility issues dealt with first.

“We fully intend on amending the proclamation between now and sine die (the end of the session),” Reedy said.

A school voucher measure will be one of those amendments, she said.

The five-page bill creating the “educational scholarship” as now written would not result in an immediate savings to the state budget, said Stacy Woodbury, deputy chief of staff to Gibbons.

The plan remains a work in progress, with the Gibbons Administration analyzing how best to make the vouchers available. They could be given to parents to give to the school of their choice, which would then be turned into the Department of Education for reimbursement, or given directly to parents.

In an interview last week, Gibbons said that is still being analyzed to determine the best approach to ensure the program is constitutional.

“I have no preference for whether a voucher goes to school or to a parent,” Gibbons said. “If the constitution will allow for it, I’m happy to send it directly to parents.”

Woodbury said the proposal would provide 75 percent of the local school district’s pupil support to the private school.

If tuition was less than 75 percent of the support, then the lower amount that would be provided, Woodbury said. If the cost of the school program was more than 75 percent of the support, the parents would have to make up the difference. The other 25 percent of the pupil support would remain with the local school district.

Private schools would have to be licensed by the state Department of Education to participate, she said. Those private schools that are not licensed would be ineligible. There are about 75 so called “exempt,” or non-licensed schools, operating in Nevada right now.

Licensed schools must use licensed teachers and follow other requirements. Students would have to pass the high school proficiency exam to earn a diploma.

Woodbury said under the governor’s plan, religious schools would not automatically be prohibited from participating. If a religious-based school spent 25 percent of its time on religious instruction, then it could be argued the 75 percent state support would go to the academic instruction portion of the curriculum, she said.

The Gibbons administration believes the proposal is constitutional under the Nevada State Constitution, Woodbury said.

Carson City attorney Scott Scherer, a former state lawmaker who worked on one of the voucher proposals introduced in 2009, said Nevada does not have a lot of case law on the issue, so predicting how the Nevada Supreme Court would rule on such a program is difficult to predict.

But one key element in withstanding a legal challenge is ensuring that only schools that are true educational institutions and that have the appropriate curriculum can participate, he said. Schools that offer a primarily religious education should not be included, Scherer said.

“I think if it is a legitimate educational institution meeting the needs of students to prepare them to graduate from high school and go on to college, then a religious affiliation would not prohibit a school from participating,” he said.

Not everyone agrees.

Article 11, Section 10 of the Nevada constitution is a provision called a Blaine Amendment dating back to statehood, which prohibits the expenditure of public funds on “sectarian purposes.”

Courts have rejected voucher school programs in other states because of these Blaine Amendments.

Lee Rowland, northern coordinator for the ACLU of Nevada, said a reading of the state constitution suggests there is no way a voucher plan in any form would withstand a legal challenge.

“We at the ACLU cannot imagine a voucher program that gives direct taxpayer funding to secular institutions that can in anyway comport without our constitutional prohibition on using public money for religious purposes,” she said.

Rowland said the prohibition “creates a very real hurdle for anyone trying to institute a voucher program in Nevada.”

People have a right to attend religious schools, just not with public funds, she said.

The Institute for Justice, a civil liberties and public interest law firm, disagrees with the ACLU interpretation. In its analysis of Nevada law, the organization says there are no recent court rulings or attorney general opinions addressing the issue.

“Although Nevada’s Legislature passed a law requiring that money allotted for public schools be used exclusively for public schools, NRS 387.045, other public money – general revenues or lottery proceeds, for instance – could support a voucher program,” the institute says in its analysis.

Andrew Campanella, a spokesman for the Alliance for School Choice, took issue with the ACLU interpretation of the Nevada constitution, saying the organization, “is taking liberties with the state’s constitution in their attempt to deny parents the opportunity to choose the best schools for their kids.”

“It is not surprising, given the ACLU has fought tooth and nail to deny deserving children the opportunity to achieve their own American dreams,” he said.

Woodbury said that if a voucher plan is approved by the Legislature, it would take some time to implement. The state Board of Education would need time to prepare for the new program, and so it might not get under way until the fall of 2011. While access to private schools might be limited at first, establishing the voucher program would allow for new schools to become licensed and offer educational opportunities, she said.

The same process happened with charter schools, she said. When the law first passed in 1997, it took awhile for the schools to be established. There are now 28 such schools operating in Nevada, according to the Department of Education.

There are about 422,000 students in the Nevada public school system now.

Many states have offered vouchers to select groups of students, such as special needs, Woodbury said.

“I say any child should be eligible,” she said.

“I commend the governor and his staff for bringing this forward,” said Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley. “For people who truly care about educating our children, they talk about getting parents involved. What better way to get parents involved than to give them choice.”

Goedhart, who proposed one of the school choice bills in the 2009 session that did not get a hearing, said a voucher program has not moved forward in Nevada because the politically powerful educational establishment enjoys its monopoly.

But offering competition would be best for Nevada’s children, and could even reduce the need to build new public schools, he said.

“We have to embrace innovative approaches to education, and one of those is vouchers,” Goedhart said.

While there may be room for a discussion on the issue, a special session of the Legislature that has to address an $881 million budget shortfall is not the time or place, said Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas.

“We’re open to just about anything that will get us through this budget crisis,” he said.

But Oceguera said is unrealistic to think the Legislature could consider such a major policy shift given the state’s pressing fiscal crisis.

Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, said he too does not believe the special session is the time to take up such an issue, although new ideas are always worth a look.

“We’ve got other things on our plate,” he said. “I am a big proponent of public education based on the success me and my family has had with the system, but I do believe we should be looking at new and innovative programs.”

Gibbons disagrees, saying in an op/ed piece Jan. 8 that a special session is the right time to consider education reform.

“Clearly legislators have not had time in their regular 120 day sessions every other year to address education reform. What better time to focus on reform than in a special session where topics are limited to a very few items?” Gibbons asked.

Woodbury said that since the governor has the exclusive authority to set the agenda for a special session, the Legislature should be prepared to review his education reform plan later this month.

“If they do not consider his plan, he may call them back in again, yes,” she said.

Goedhart also said the special session is the appropriate place for such a discussion. By putting it on his agenda, Gibbons and school voucher supporters will get a chance to see where lawmakers stand.

“The voters, residents and citizens of Nevada will finally get to see how lawmakers are voting on such a crucial issue,” he said.

Keith Rheault, state superintendent of public instruction, said any shift to private schools would be slow because of the limited availability. There are about 96 licensed private schools in Nevada now.

The licensed private schools are serving just under about 9,000 students statewide.

But Rheault said most of these schools offer only kindergarten or elementary grade level programs, and several school districts have no such schools operating as all.

“Most are in Clark and Washoe,” Rheault said. “Only eight districts statewide have private licensed schools.”

Rheault said from his agency’s perspective, the challenge of a voucher plan would be ensuring accountability. The state would need to verify the student enrolled in the school and attended, he said.