Posts Tagged ‘Marilyn Kirkpatrick’

Nevada Lawmakers Hear Ideas For Revising Local Government Tax Distribution Formula

By Sean Whaley | 3:08 pm April 30th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A consultant hired by the cities of Henderson and Las Vegas to analyze the process used to distribute taxes to the counties and cities told lawmakers today the formula now used to make the allocations has weaknesses.

Jeremy Aguero, principal analyst with the consulting firm Applied Analysis, updated the members of the Legislative Commission’s Subcommittee to Study the Allocation of Money Distributed From the Local Government Tax Distribution Account on efforts now under way to improve the formula.

“What I’m going to try and show you is a couple of areas where I think we believe there is some weakness in that formula and then some ideas that are being discussed relative to how to address some of those weaknesses,” he said. “I don’t want to leave you with the impression that anything here is definitive or perfect or a final answer to anything. It is a work in progress.”

C-Tax formula has generated controversy

The Consolidated Tax, or C-Tax as it is referred to, has generated controversy over how the local government tax revenues are distributed. It affects 175 local government entities statewide. It was established by the Legislature in 1997. It is composed of sales tax, liquor tax, cigarette tax, real estate property transfer tax and government services tax.

Graphic from Free Software Foundation via Wikimedia Commons.

The city of Fernley 30 miles east of Reno, the last city in Nevada to incorporate in 2001, has filed a lawsuit against the state Department of Taxation and state Treasurer Kate Marshall alleging it has been shortchanged in the formula. As reported by Las Vegas Sun columnist Jon Ralston earlier this month, the city has seen population growth of 250 percent since the C-Tax system was established but has not seen significant growth in tax distributions.

Aguero said the expanded working group that is reviewing the C-Tax issues considered several alternatives, including a straight per capita distribution and reverting back to the old formula.

“What if we just threw it all out and started with another formula,” he said. “What if we went back to everybody just gets to keep whatever they collected.”

Each of these ideas presented their own set of problems, Aguero said.

Ultimately the working group decided to proceed by proposing modifications to the existing formula, Aguero said.

“We thought about reverting back to the original C-Tax structure, and there is some merit associated with that,” he said. “But we ultimately landed on this idea of modification to the current formula; that it has strengths, that it has weaknesses; and that we should build on those strengths and minimize those weaknesses as we go forward.”

But Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, the chairwoman of the panel, asked why the issues raised in the report cannot be resolved by the local governments themselves using a memorandum of understanding.

“I’m not sure why we’re spending tax dollars to have the study if they can already do this and it doesn’t change currently where we’re at,” she said.

Fernley mayor says the city wants equity

Fernley Mayor LeRoy Goodman testified before the panel, saying the city decided to sue after requests for an additional tax distribution were rejected by Lyon County. Other attempts to get relief have also been unsuccessful, he said.

“Our fundamental thing on this is simply equity,” Goodman said. “We’re simply asking for an equitable base amount of money, to be treated just like the other entities in the state of Nevada, whether they be cities, unincorporated towns or counties.”

But a Lyon County official told lawmakers Fernley’s share of the consolidated tax appears low because it does not provide all services. Lyon County, for example, provides law enforcement coverage to Fernley, said Lyon County Comptroller Josh Foli.

If Fernley opted to take over law enforcement or other services, the city could negotiate with the county to receive more consolidated tax, he said.

The report provided to lawmakers by Aguero identifies four major issues with potential solutions that would take into account such issues as rapid growth by some cities and counties.

The preliminary proposals would allow slower-growing jurisdictions to have base adjustments that reflect inflation and share modestly in incremental, growth revenues. They would also allow for faster-growing jurisdictions to benefit from a greater share of incremental growth revenues which are added to their base each year. It would also protect against disproportionate declines when revenues fall.

Issues that are still outstanding include determining what happens if a local government enters into a long-run period of decline and what happens if a new local government is formed.

A new city in Nevada is a possibility. Residents of Laughlin will vote in June on whether to incorporate.


Audio clips:

Jeremy Aguero, principal analyst with the consulting firm Applied Analysis, says the current tax distribution formula has weaknesses:

043012Aguero1 :30 as a whole”

Aguero says the formula has strengths as well:

043012Aguero2 :22 we go forward.”

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick says she does not know why the local governments cannot modify the formula on their own:

043012Kirkpatrick :10 where we’re at.”

Fernley Mayor LeRoy Goodman says all the city wants is equity:

043012Goodman :18 towns or counties.”


Lawmakers Respond to Poor Marks on Teachers’ Union Report Card

By Anne Knowles | 5:45 am August 30th, 2011

School just started and every Republican state lawmaker has already received a failing grade from Nevada’s teachers’ union.

The Nevada State Education Association (NSEA) has released its 2011 legislative session report card and the 16 Assembly and 11 Senate Republicans all earned an F, according to the statewide association.

“Taking away educators’ rights is not education reform, it’s union-busting,” said the report. “You cannot have proper reform unless the proper funding is in accompaniment. In this regard, the 2011 Legislature came up woefully short.”

But the report didn’t spare either political party.

“NSEA believes this unfortunate outcome lies at the feet of the leadership in both parties, along with Governor Sandoval,” the report says.

Only one Democrat, Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, received a failing mark, while the rest of the members of the Senate Democratic caucus got A or B grades. But more than half the Assembly Democrats fared little better than their Republican colleagues, receiving eight C and seven D grades in total.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, for example, the speaker pro tempore, who is known for her interest in education issues, received a D.

Smith was chairwoman of Assembly Ways and Means, where two major education bills, Assembly Bill 225 and AB 579 originated. AB 225 changed teacher probationary rules and supersedes collective bargaining, while AB 579 funded K-12 education. Smith was also a primary sponsor on two other key bills: AB 222, which created a leadership council to evaluate teacher performance, and AB 229, a broad reform bill.

“I’m disappointed, of course,” said Smith in reaction to her grade. “My whole adult life I’ve worked as an advocate for K-12. I understand the teachers’ union has a job to do, to represent their members on jobs and benefits.  But I’m comfortable with the packages we put forth.”

Republicans lawmakers were less concerned with the report.

“I’m not really as bothered by the failing grade for all the Republicans as I am by the failing grades in our schools,” said Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden.

Settelmeyer said the Republicans were right to work to reform collective bargaining and get rid of the so-called “last in, first out” way of laying-off teachers that protected seniority regardless of performance.

“I think the report shows how out of touch with reality the association is with both the economic situation and the desires of both parents and students,” said Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno.

Kieckhefer said NSEA’s stand on legislation showed it cared more about protecting its adult members than students.

The NSEA disagrees.

“Kids right now are going to school with fewer services and more kids in the classroom,” said Craig Stevens, director of government relations at NSEA. “If they were truly putting kids first, they wouldn’t have done what they did.”

The NSEA says the legislature gutted the budget, cutting $300 million from the previous budget and forcing a 9 percent pay cut on school employees.

In addition, says Stevens, the legislature did nothing to address the state’s budget deficit.

“To truly fix the funding problem we must fix the deficit. They’re going to walk into the next session with a billion dollar hole,” said Stevens. “At least the Democrats came out with a plan to try to fund the budget responsibly. The Republicans made no effort and sat there saying ‘no, no, no.’”

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick (D-North Las Vegas) said she thought lawmakers did the best they could on education measures in light of the challenges of balancing the state budget.

“In my mind, we are sent up to Carson City to make hard choices,” said Kirkpatrick. “And it could have been so much worse. If the taxes that were set to sunset had not been extended, I don’t know that I would have supported deeper cuts — but they were, so we found a way. And I think the reforms were fair.”

The Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI), a conservative think tank based in Las Vegas, characterized the report as misleading, especially on funding issues.

Victor Joecks, communications director for NPRI, said the education budget was cut in a 2010 special session by several hundred million dollars so the budget passed in 2011 actually increased funding slightly.

“It’s a false narrative that flies in the face of reform,” said Joecks of the report.

Joecks said per pupil spending will increase from $5,192 last year to $5,263 this fall and $5,374 in 2012-2013.

He also said that the nine percent cut in teacher pay cited in the report includes contributions teachers will now be making to their Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) accounts. Previously, teachers did not contribute to their retirement accounts.


Politicking Legislators Threatened To Delay, Kill Bills On Deadline Day

By Andrew Doughman | 8:34 pm May 20th, 2011

CARSON CITY – In the end, it was Sen. Joe Hardy who saved the day. He also saved one of his pet bills in the process.

The Republican doctor from Boulder City patched up a broken legislative process that threatened to kill bills after ideological disagreements between two Democratic committee leaders had resulted in an impasse.

Today is a deadline day for bills to pass, so if the two Democrats did not reach an agreement, the bills would die.

A dispute between the chairs of the Senate and Assembly Committees on Government Affairs endangered a number of bills dear to the hearts of lawmakers in both houses.

Caught up in the standoff were Hardy’s bill establishing toll roads in Boulder City, a bill revising state contracting in an attempt to mitigate abuse and a bill revising the open meeting law, among others.

“This committee made the boycott,” said Sen. John Lee, D-North Vegas, chairman of the Senate Government Affairs Committee. “I’m determined to see that the rights of the Senate are not abused by the Assembly … We’re not enemies, but it’s not just about me and her now.”

Lee was referring to his Democratic counterpart in the Assembly, Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas.

At this point in the legislative session, bills have swapped houses so Lee’s committee was considering Assembly bills and the fate of Senate bills were in the hands of the Assembly.

This morning, Lee said he was concerned Kirkpatrick would not vote Senate bills out of her Assembly committee.

Kirkpatrick said her committee would vote on bills that are likely to pass.

“I don’t play the hostage game,” she said. “We hear them [the bills] and the committee decides.”

The standoff resulted in a day-long delay before Hardy convened the two lawmakers and struck a deal behind closed doors.

In the meantime, lobbyists from local governments – government affairs committees usually address bills affecting cities and counties – waited to hear the fate of bills they were tracking.

“It’s hectic but with so many people playing politics, I don’t remember it being this bad,” said Carole Vilardo of the Nevada Taxpayer Association.

In the end, Lee heard the Assembly bills and Kirkpatrick passed Hardy’s toll roads bill out of her committee. Before the deal was struck, Hardy had declared that bill dead.

“Joe Hardy put both teams back together,” Lee said. “Joe Hardy saved the day.”

With so much action on a deadline day, legislators are under pressure to ensure their bills pass. Sometimes that means they have personal disagreements with the legislators in whose hands the fate of their bills rests.

It happens every legislative session, said one lobbyist.

“The Legislature is like labor pains,” said Susan Fisher, a lobbyist representing several clients. “We forget and then we come back and do it all over again.”

At the end of the day, several Senate bills did not meet the deadline and the Senate voted down the open meeting law bill.

But the proposal to revise state contracting rules passed.

Hardy praised Lee and Kirkpatrick for negotiating with “grace and aplomb.”

“They are both to be commended for being able to get together after having had feelings that were so tender come to the surface,” he said. “People were depending and counting on us.”


Host Of Renewable Energy Bills Could Mean Higher Utility Bills For Nevadans

By Andrew Doughman | 1:13 pm May 19th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The argument goes like this: every Nevadan would only pay 50 cents per person for a great renewable energy program.

Energy lobbyist Ted Ko even held up two shiny quarters during a legislative hearing to make the point.

But legislators are considering more than a dozen renewable energy bills this session,  and some lawmakers fear that a few dollars here and there will add up to significantly higher utility bills for their constituents if all of these bills pass.

“Pretty soon that 50 cents is $5 because there’s a lot going on … By the end of today’s discussion, we are going to have seven or eight bills that are ‘just 50 cents each,’ so it adds up,” said Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, at a legislative hearing last week.

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, also a Democrat from North Las Vegas, said many of her constituents live in older, larger homes and pay more than average for energy. Ko used 50 cents because it represents 0.5 percent of an “average” utility bill, the rate that people would pay under Senate Bill 184.

Kirkpatrick said her constituents could pay much more.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen a $100 bill in my life. … It’s not 50 cents to my constituents,” she said at a hearing last week.

Other bills being considered at the Legislature would raise subsidies for solar and wind and start a new subsidy for the purchase of electric-powered vehicles. Anybody receiving energy through a utility company would pay for these.

That is in addition to a 2009 program providing hundreds of millions of dollars in renewable energy subsidies to be paid out over several years.

And Nevadans already pay more than the national average for their energy, says Dan Jacobsen of the Nevada Bureau of Consumer Protection.

At the same time, Gov. Brian Sandoval and legislative leaders regularly tout the prospects for the renewable energy sector in Nevada.

Sandoval recently said he wants Nevada to be “the renewable energy capital of the world.”

Providing subsidies and government programs to attract investment in renewable energy could have many benefits for Nevada.

Renewable-energy factories in Nevada could provide high-paying manufacturing jobs and boost property tax revenues for local governments.

The renewable energy sector could also bolster Nevada’s ailing construction industry and provide jobs.

Lobbyists for renewable energy companies say that the long-term economic gain outweighs the cost of incentives that ratepayers subsidize.

“We definitely want to avoid a situation that would impact ratepayers to their detriment,” said Rose McKinney-James, a lobbyist for the Solar Alliance.

She said it would be dangerous to imperil the young renewable-energy industry by “pulling the rug out” rather than slowly weening the industry off subsidies.

“The challenge is this: how fast do you go and how much do you ask the base ratepayer to subsidize this?” Jacobson asked.

Ratepayers could see about a 2 percent increase on their utility bills if these bills pass, Jacobsen said, describing the impact of each bill during an interview last week.

NV Energy is already seeking a 5 percent increase for Southern Nevada customers and a 3 percent increase for Northern Nevada customers for “lost sales compensation” as customers have conserved more energy.

The utility company expects the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada to deliver a ruling on the proposed rate increase sometime next week.

In the meantime, legislators plan to whittle down the number of bills they are considering. They could carve up the bills and strike a compromise before the Legislature hits its looming deadline for passing bills.

“We definitely can’t do them all,” Atkinson said of all the bills.

Collective Bargaining Fight Again Shaping Up At Legislature

By Andrew Doughman | 1:20 pm May 13th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce is pushing for major changes to the state’s collective bargaining law for public sector employees.

In an amendment to another bill that already passed the Senate, the  chamber said the changes will alleviate budget concerns for local governments and save taxpayers money.

The chamber’s plan includes eliminating binding arbitration, allowing elected officials to create the final contract. Binding arbitration is the last step labor and management use when they cannot agree on a contract. A third-party group looks at both proposals and chooses one.

Sam McMullen, lobbyist for the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, said that these provisions make local governments more accountable to the contracts they choose.

The amendment would also allow local governments to renegotiate contracts automatically if revenues fall 5 percent or more for two consecutive years.

George Ross, also a lobbyist for the chamber, said that this provision would give government a tool to address economic downturns. Otherwise, he said, they could be contractually obligated to give their employees pay raises as the economy droops toward recession.

The amendment would also remove the eligibility of public sector managers and supervisors to negotiate their contracts and require newly negotiated contracts apply to the beginning of the prior contract expiration.

All of these changes, the chamber argued, would save taxpayers money.

The original Senate Bill 98, sponsored by Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, would require mediation prior to arbitration and free a third-party arbitrator from having to choose one of the final offers presented. It sparked no controversy and received a unanimous vote during a Senate vote.

The amendment came as a surprise to legislators. Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson, D-Reno, called it a “kamikaze amendment.”

The chamber lobbyists acknowledged the short notice, but said they wanted to resurrect the issue after other similar bills died.

Ross called the Legislature’s session a “Where’s Waldo” hunt for money. He said state employees and teachers earn at or below the national average while local government employees – through advantageously bargained contracts – earn more.

“We know we can’t attack that totally and instantly in one or two years, but we’d like to attack the conditions that made that happen,” Ross said.

Others, however, said that the proposals would not be fair.

“If you have two people talking and one of them gets to make the final decision every time, that’s not a negotiation, that’s a conversation,” said Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, of the section of the amendment eliminating binding arbitration.

Rusty McAllister, a lobbyist for firefighters, said that ending binding arbitration “boils down to collective begging” for workers.

The issue of collective bargaining has been important this session as Democrats work against the clock to pass a $1.2 billion tax package by June 6, when the Legislature is scheduled to end.

Assembly Republicans issued a set of policy reform demands including collective bargaining that they say would need to be met before they consider taxes.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has also said repeatedly that he will veto a tax increase. Therefore Democrats need to stay unified and find two Assembly Republicans and three Senate Republicans to join them in voting to override the governor’s veto.

The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce has also called for changes to the state’s collective bargaining laws as a precursor for their own endorsement of tax increases.

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said she would hold a second hearing for the bill since legislators were given no advance notice of the amendment.

That hearing seems certain to bring out the troops for what could be a testy hearing between public sector labor unions and local governments.

“I’m telling any local government official who is listening, you better get your representatives up here,” she said, calling for local governments to provide information to the committee. “For those local governments who do not get that to me by Monday, I will call you out so that the press knows who is not willing to give out that information.”




Legislators “Offended” and “Insulted” As They Make Symbolic Party-Line Vote Over Education Budget

By Andrew Doughman | 7:00 am April 20th, 2011

CARSON CITY – It was not until 30 minutes before midnight that a six-hour debate in the Assembly ended with a promise to talk more later.

After listening to presentations outlining more than $1 billion in “major reductions” to the K-12 budget, legislators debated their willingness to compromise or negotiate about Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed general fund budget.

“My caucus will be voting gov rec,” said Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, using an abbreviation for the governor’s recommended budget. “So you’re not going to get the wiggle room you’re looking for.”

In the end, all 16 Assembly Republicans voted in a symbolic motion to support a motion last night to pass Gov. Brian Sandoval’s recommended budget. All 26 Assembly Democrats opposed the motion.

The Senate will debate the same budget in the same process today.

Republicans repeatedly said they want to see specific tax proposals as well as a reassurance that reforms they want will pass out of the Assembly as a trade for tax increases.

“Until we have the discussions about the reforms and the revenue package, we will continue to have a discussion about gov rec,” Goicoechea said.

Democrats stressed the need to debate specifics of the governor’s proposed education budget. Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said the Assembly needed to find common ground for an acceptable level of cuts before they could discuss additional revenues.

“We rarely change a lot … 10, 15, 20 percent of the budget,” he said.

He called the six-hour marathon hearing in the Assembly chambers a success.

“We got the temperature of where people are at,” he said. “It felt to me that we saw a few people who said we can look at a few things.”

Sprinkled throughout the hearing in Assembly chambers were instances of legislators calling each other “disingenuous” and saying they were “offended” and “insulted” with each other.

The verbal sniping came only hours after the Senate inducted former Sen. Bill Raggio into the Senate’s Hall of Fame. Raggio, a legislator who retired earlier this year, was a constant critic of the partisan hardening and lack of respect characteristic of 21st century political debate.

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D- North Las Vegas, said Nevada’s Assembly was starting to look like D.C.

“If we want to have D.C. politics, here it is,” she said.

Both Democrats and Republicans did, however, say that the new process of having budget discussions involving all 42 Assembly members appealed to them more than having a few key legislators meet and make decisions in private.

But that does not make anybody more likely to agree.

“It looks like we’re going to be here for a very long haul,” said Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas.

Assemblyman Mark Sherwood, R-Las Vegas, called the whole hearing a “farce,” to which Kirkpatrick, retorted: “if you don’t respect the institution, don’t come back.”

As Wednesday morning drew close, Goicoechea said there’s “no doubt” everybody wants to find a solution.

“This is the beginning, this isn’t the end,” Smith said. “This was the first tough discussion we had … We can’t call each other disingenuous because we disagree. It’s not a farce. It’s not a train wreck.”

But by 11:30 p.m., the only unanimous motion was for the Assembly to retire for the night.


Republicans Accuse Democrats of Ignoring Republican Bills As Deadline Looms

By Andrew Doughman | 7:10 pm April 6th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Add it up and some of them have to die.

There is not enough time for the Legislature to hear every bill, but that has not stopped Republicans from accusing Democrats of ignoring Republican bills.

The partisan sniping comes as legislators are scrambling to save their bills from extinction of bills as a legislative deadline looms.

Republicans in the Assembly have the added weight of a list of bills they need to see passed before considering voting for a tax increase.

If some proposals are not given a look, “you’re not going to get a tax increase,” said Assemblyman Mark Sherwood, R-Las Vegas.

He accused some committee chairs of completely ignoring Republican bills.

Democrats see it differently.

“We don’t want to spend our resources, frankly, on things that don’t have a chance,” said Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas.

Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, made a point that new legislators like Sherwood may have unrealistic expectations.

“I think part of the issue is that we have a lot of new people who have a vision in their head that everything will get heard,” he said. “And it just doesn’t happen.”

Oceguera also noted that there are more Democrats than Republicans, so the ratio of bills heard in committees reflects that.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, sent an email to Majority Leader Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, yesterday alleging that Senate Democrats also are ignoring Republican bills.

As the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported, Republican leadership in the Senate downplayed the allegations, calling them “isolated incidents.”

Roberson, who is a freshman legislator, said yesterday that he is not alone in his views.

“Some people would consider the way they’re [Democrats] running things foolhardy,” he said. “…If the Democrats don’t want to hear our bills, that’s their prerogative. However, we are elephants and we do have long memories.”

Democrats in leadership positions have yet to propose any tax increases, but would need some Republican help to overcome a veto from GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Sandoval has said repeatedly he won’t “trade taxes for anything.”

Other Republicans, however, might make trades, and how their bills are treated may be part of the bargain.

But the partisan rancor over who gets their bills heard does not apply to all committees.

Minority Assembly leader Pete Giocoechea, R-Eureka, said that the bills are just “slow coming” and there is not yet a problem.

He noted the Legislature still has seven working days left before the deadline for committees to pass bills.

Some committee leaders also do seem to be hearing bills from both parties. Today, Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, gave a contentious Republican bill a hearing.

The bill from Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, resembles a controversial immigration law in Arizona. Democrats would almost certainly not vote for Hansen’s bill.

“She [Kirkpatrick] went out of her way to give me a hearing knowing that bill was dead on arrival,” he said. “There is a level of fairness in that they give me a chance to be heard.”

Next Friday is the first deadline for bills to pass out of their committee. Not all bills get hearings and more bills will die later.

That’s part of the process, says Oceguera.

“The process is built in such a way to kill bills,” he said. “It’s not built in a way to pass bills. It’s hard to pass a bill. It’s easy to kill bills.”


Immigration Bills Spark Heated Debate In Legislature

By Andrew Doughman | 1:10 pm April 6th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Two bills relating to illegal immigrants sparked heated debate in an Assembly committee this morning.

One from Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, would impose penalties and restrictions on illegal immigrants in a way similar to a controversial Arizona law enacted this past year.

Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, proposed that the state adopt the federal “E-Verify” system, an electronic database that verifies someone’s employment eligibility.

Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, had to ask numerous times for both the support and opposition to keep their comments relevant to the bill.

“I want to stick to the merits of the bill because any time we single out one group or another we do a disservice to the state as a whole,” she told those listening to the hearing.

Meanwhile, observers on the social media site Twitter accused each other of racism and bigotry.

Hansen’s bill would require proof of identity to vote, restrict eligibility for Nevada’s Millennium Scholarship to U.S. citizens, prohibit non-citizens from obtaining driver’s licenses or receiving certain state benefits.

He said the bill is mainly about jobs.

“The number one issue that was confronted with was the economy and the second was illegal immigration,” Hansen said of his talks with voters while campaigning for office last year.

Hansen said that the state’s undocumented workers are preventing Nevada’s unemployed people from finding employment.

He cited figures that show Nevada has a high number of illegal immigrants. A recent Pew Hispanic Center study also found that Nevada ranks No. 1 in the nation in terms of the percentage of illegal immigrants comprising a state’s total population.

Hansen’s bill would cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars if passed into law. This is because it would require state agencies to spend more money to comply with the bills numerous requirements.

“You have half the kitchen sink here is what you have,” Kirkpatrick said of Hansen’s bill.

Hansen’s bill also would require the state to use the federal “E-Verify” database that verifies someone’s employment eligibility.

Hickey’s bill would require contractors bidding for state public works projects to use that system.

“I think this is a small first step,” he said. “This is not talking about all employers in this state, but starting with public works projects, which are tax-payer-funded ones.”

Opponents to the bill said that the federal database upon which E-Verify relies is rife with error. Contractors also objected to the language of the bill because it would make them responsible not only for their organizations, but for their subcontractors as well.

“The E-verify system is an attempt to try to do something that we support, but it has just not proven to be effective,” said Warren Hardy, lobbyist for the Associated Builders and Contractors of Nevada.

The bills sparked reactions from the numerous Hispanic legislators who sit on the Assembly Government Affairs committee.

Assemblywomen Teresa Benitez-Thompson, D-Reno, and Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, said that anyone testifying should restrict testimony to immigrants rather than Hispanics.

Others suggested that the bills would polarize the Hispanic electorate.

“It’s because of Republicans like [Assemblymen] Hickey & Hansen why R’s will have hard time making inroads with Hispanic voters in NV,” said Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, via his Twitter account.

The government affairs committee took no immediate action on either bill.


Bill Would Require More State Data To Be Hosted Online

By Andrew Doughman | 10:31 am March 30th, 2011

CARSON CITY – More of the state’s financial data would migrate online with a bill from Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas.

He would require the Controller’s office to post the state’s revenues and expenditures online with tables, graphs and explanatory descriptions for each account.

State Controller Kim Wallin already hosts financial on her website, as does Gov. Brian Sandoval. Conklin, however, said that the current data-displays lack charts, graphs and year-by-year comparisons that his bill would require.

Adding these things would not cost the state any money, he said, but would make arcane financial spreadsheets more accessible to the public.

Nevada Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, speaks in committee at the Legislature. Conklin is sponsoring a bill that would put more state data online.

“Information is not readily available,” Conklin said. “It is very hard to find. … As some of you know in my private capacity, I do some economic research from time to time. … I can tell you from personal experience, finding good, usable consumable data is very, very difficult.”

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-Las Vegas, who chairs the Assembly Government Affairs Committee that heard Conklin’s bill, said the bill would be like putting the state’s checkbook online.

Wallin testified in support of the bill.

“It’ll paint a picture,” she said. “A checkbook online, you look at your checkbook and it’s just a bunch of numbers … I think if we can start showing the trends of our expenditures, I think that paints a better picture.”

The committee took no action on the bill today.