Posts Tagged ‘Lynn Stewart’

Democratic Redistricting Plans Pass Out of Senate And Assembly, Head To Governor

By Andrew Doughman | 3:54 pm May 10th, 2011

CARSON CITY — The political power game of drawing political boundaries escalated today as Nevada’s Democratic legislators passed their plans for new political districts.

Legislators will deliver the proposal for new Congressional and state Assembly and Senate districts to Gov. Brian Sandoval. The Republican governor has said before that he will veto any redistricting plan that he does not deem “fair.”

Republicans today contended that the Democratic plan was not fair.

“While the [population] numbers are equal [between districts], the numbers slanted toward the Democrats are somewhat unfair for the Republicans in the minority,” said Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, on the Assembly floor.

The governor has until Monday to veto the bill. If the Democratic-controlled Legislature and the Republican governor cannot reach a compromise, the drawing of political districts could end up in the hands of Nevada’s judges.

Although the budget overshadows the legislative session, redistricting offers politicians an opportunity to blend combinations of voters to their favor. Although ostensibly governed by equal populations between districts, redistricting is an inherently political process.

“Every 10 years we get to select the voters that will be voting for us and we have a special responsibility to be fair in this process,” said Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, on the floor of the Assembly.

The Senate vote for the Democratic proposal broke along party lines with an 11-10 vote. In the Assembly, all Republicans voted against the proposal, joined by Democratic Assemblyman Harvey Munford, who said he was unhappy with how his party redrew his Las Vegas district.

Both Democrats and Republicans have focused much of the debate about political districts on Nevada’s growing Hispanic community. Hispanics now comprise 26 percent of Nevada’s population and are a voter bloc that both parties cannot ignore.

One in seven eligible voters in Nevada are Latinos, the sixth-largest Hispanic eligible voter population share nationally, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

Democrats would like to establish “minority influence” districts where ethnic minority populations comprise an influential voting bloc in several districts.

Republicans argue that Nevada should have a majority-minority “opportunity” district because 26 percent of the state’s population is Hispanic and therefore one of the state’s four congressional districts should be majority Hispanic.

Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, said the Democrat plan ignores the intent of the federal Voting Rights Act for congressional districts by failing to ensure fairness in representation for the Southern Nevada Hispanic community

The Republican plan created one of four congressional districts with 50.7 percent total Hispanic population. The Democrat plan creates no such district, which is in violation of the act, Hardy said.

“This plan actually creates four districts in which whites make up a significant majority,” he said. “Any plan that does not begin with an attempt to create a majority Hispanic district in Clark County fails to adhere to the letter and the spirit of the Voting Rights Act. It is something I personally cannot ignore in good conscience.”

On the Assembly floor, Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, asked whether this logic implied that only a Hispanic majority could elect a Hispanic candidate.

“Nevada has proven that Hispanic and other minority candidates can and have been elected in minority influence districts,” she said.

Sandoval, Nevada’s first Hispanic governor, was elected with a majority of the white vote while losing the Hispanic vote.

The Republicans are calling for eight Hispanic-majority seats in the Assembly, four in the Senate and one in Congress.

Democrats spread Hispanic voters throughout more districts, creating two Senate districts and three Assembly districts with a majority Hispanic population.

The Legislature is required to redraw the boundaries of political districts every 10 years based on changes in population released through the U.S. Census.

Nevada’s explosive population growth between 2001 and 2010 earned Nevada one more Congressional District, giving Nevada four Congressional Districts.

All districts must be nearly the same size. Map drawers use the U.S. Census total population figures for Nevada and divide those by the number of districts so that each district has an ideal size. The ideal size for a Congressional district is 675,000 people.


//Bureau Chief Sean Whaley contributed to this report.

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.



Governor Sandoval Rebuffs Democrats’ Request For Public Hearings On Ensign Replacement

By Andrew Doughman | 3:57 pm April 25th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The answer from Gov. Brian Sandoval is no.

Today the governor’s senior adviser, Dale Erquiaga, rebuffed a proposal from state Democratic legislators to hold public hearings and a public review process in selecting a replacement for resigning U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev.

“I think the law and tradition are clear, this is an executive decision,” Erquiaga said at a press briefing this afternoon. “We appreciate the Assembly’s and Senate’s advice, but it’s not relevant to the current decision.”

Erquiaga said the governor has just two criteria for an appointment: the appointee should have a political ideology similar to Ensign’s and be qualified enough to “start work right away.”

The governor should select an appointee to the U.S. Senate by the end of this week, Erquiaga said. That decision would come ahead of May 3, the day Ensign officially resigns.

Assembly Democrats today argued for a one week period to allow candidates to declare their intention to be considered to replace Ensign. Under their proposal there would be an additional one week period when the governor would hold public hearings equivalent to public job interviews for the candidates.

“A question of public importance requires, I think, an open and transparent debate,” said Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas.

A similar vote in the Senate today provoked a party-line vote with Republicans arguing that both state law and the state’s constitution are clear that the governor should make an executive appointment.

Even one Senate Democrat seemed upset with the measure, which he said has “nothing to do with the work of this body.”

“We have so much to do,” said Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas. “Really that [measure] has nothing to do with what we should be doing here. … It sounds like the constitution is pretty clear the governor gets to make an appointment.”

Oceguera’s statement echoes the reasoning Democrats have used to debate the governor’s proposed general fund budget in large, public hearings. Erquiaga praised the Legislature for efforts to “obtain additional information and have an open discussion.” But he said not all decisions are matters of public debate.

“You can’t even compare them. The budget process is always done in committee … that’s the budgetary process, that’s not an executive appointment,” Erquiaga said.

Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Las Vegas, echoed Erquiaga in his call for the governor to follow precedent set in law and in Nevada tradition.

“I think we ought to keep the system that’s effective for both parties, Democrats and Republicans, since 1864,” Stewart said.

The Democrats proposal, Assembly Concurrent Resolution 8, seems to preempt a likely Sandoval appointment of current U.S. Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev. If Sandoval appoints Heller to the Senate, that would mean Heller’s seat would become vacant and a special election would have to be called to fill it.

“Any appointment that creates a vacancy in another office which necessitates a subsequent special election will cost Nevadans hundreds of thousands of dollars of taxpayer money at a time when severe cuts to education and essential services are under consideration,” the resolution states.

Secretary of State Ross Miller said this past weekend there are a number of costs associated with an election: printing up ballots, sending out ballots, securing locations for voting, programming voting machines and staffing the polling locations. He said, though, there is no “generic price tag” for an election.

Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, said that the public should have a chance to ask questions of potential appointees, suggesting a question seemingly designed for Heller.

“Should we spend tax money on a special election at a time when the governor has asked us for shared sacrifice? We’ll only know the answer to critical questions like this if they are asked,” he said.

Senate Republicans, however, reiterated Assembly Republicans’ comments that past governors have had no controversy in appointing replacements for resigning member of Congress.


Atia in AD-22 Picks up Henderson Chamber Endorsement

By Elizabeth Crum | 7:12 pm May 17th, 2010

A non-incumbent GOP candidate in AD-22, Calinit Atia, got a nod from the Henderson Chamber of Commerce today.  Good get.

But the coolest blurbs about Atia?

She once worked for the Israeli Air Force (she was born and raised in Jaffa although she has lived in Vegas for 14 years and has dual citizenship as of 2004).  She was also a sales executive for Maariv, the largest newspaper in Israel.

Here in the states, she’s been an active member of the business community (read her bio).  And she runs a business — A to Z Events — that just landed a huge contract with Wynn Resorts and is hiring at a time almost no one is.

Today’s endorsement was a nice little boost, though.

Her fellow candidates in that primary are the incumbent, Lynn Stewart, along with:

Scott Chappell (R)

Duane Christy (R)