Posts Tagged ‘Mo Denis’

State Senate Candidates Await Fate

By Sean Whaley | 2:46 pm November 5th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The precincts have been walked, the issues debated and the media campaigns run. Now many Nevada voters will get to weigh in on five critical races to determine whether Republicans or Democrats will control the state Senate after the polls close tomorrow.

The 21-member Senate currently has an 11-10 Democratic edge.

Gov. Brian Sandoval and many of his Republican colleagues are working to change this by winning at least four of five of the races in play between the two parties on Election Day tomorrow.

Sandoval, who is expected to push for further education reforms and other changes in the 2013 session, would love to have the leverage a Republican Senate would provide to help win passage of his agenda.

State Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas.

Democrats meanwhile, are working hard to hold on to or even increase their majority in the Senate, where they have been in control since 2008. The 42-member Assembly is expected to remain under Democratic control following the election.

Races to watch

Four of the five Senate seats in play are in Southern Nevada and the fifth is in Reno:

Senate 5, where Republican and former Henderson city councilman Steve Kirk is facing Democrat and former state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse;

Senate 6, where GOP attorney Mark Hutchison faces Democrat businessman Benny Yerushalmi;

Senate 9, where Republican Mari Nakashima St. Martin faces Democrat Justin Jones;

Senate 15 in Reno where Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, is running against former state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno; and,

Senate 18, where Republican Assemblyman Scott Hammond faces Democrat Kelli Ross.

Republicans have a voter registration edge in Senate 15 and 18, while Democrats lead in the other three. There are a large number of nonpartisan voters in all five districts as well, however. How they vote could determine the outcome of the races.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said the top drawer candidates recruited by the Republican Senate caucus are all in a position to win on Tuesday.

State Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas.

“We’re right where we want to be, we’re right where we expected to be,” he said today. “We’re positioned to win all of these races. Whether we do or not the voters will tell us tomorrow.

“All of our races are very close,” Roberson said. “Some of them could certainly go either way. But we feel like we’ve done everything we can to put us in a position to be successful.”

The Republican candidates have been successful in attracting both Democrat and nonpartisan voters, he said.

“So I think you’re going to see a lot of ticket splitting; I think you’re going to see a lot of people who are registered Democrat or registered nonpartisan that come over and vote for our candidates,” Roberson said.

Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, was equally optimistic about the outcome for his Democratic candidates.

“Our take has always been that we were going to maintain and expand our majority,” he said today. “We went out and recruited some great folks and we’ve been out working hard on the ground since February, knocking on doors.”

The candidates and the caucus have raised the funds needed to fund competitive campaigns, and polling shows they are doing well with voters, Denis said.

“The registration numbers were great for us, and the early vote has been great for us,” he said. “So I feel real confident about our folks and how they’re going to do tomorrow.”

Early voting results statewide did favor Democrats, with 307,877 votes cast compared to 259,913 for Republicans. Not all of those votes came in the five Senate districts.

Republicans out raising Democrats in all five races

But the campaign funding race has favored Republicans, according to the Campaign Contribution and Expense forms filed with the Secretary of State’s office updated through Nov. 1.

Even so, all of the candidates have brought in and spent large sums since the beginning of the year, showing just out important both parties see the races.

The Brower-Leslie race alone has generated nearly $1.2 million in contributions combined since January.

In Senate 5, Kirk has raised $336,000 since the beginning of the year, but has spent $392,000. This compares to $243,000 for Woodhouse with nearly $267,000 spent.

In Senate 6, Hutchison has brought in just over $572,000 while spending nearly $520,000. Yerushalmi has raised $292,000 while spending $290,000.

In Senate 9, St. Martin has raised over $388,000 and spent $376,000, while Jones has raised nearly $313,000 and spent $297,000.

In Senate 15, Brower has almost $704,000 and spent $718,000, with Leslie bringing in nearly $483,000 and spending $500,000.

In Senate 18, Hammond has raised $214,000 and spent 208,000, while Ross reported just over $201,000 in contributions and $186,000 in expenses.

Roberson said a Republican majority in the Senate will bring more balance to the Legislature.

“And that’s going to encourage more bipartisanship, more cooperation, more collaboration,” he said. “And I think the end result will be better legislation, better public service for the people of Nevada, coming out of Carson City.”

Denis said he has a track record of working across the aisle with Republicans, and that his leadership will ensure bipartisanship and balance with the GOP.

“I think the balance has to come from leadership, and I’ve show that,” he said. “I know Sen. Roberson has said he wants to do that; he’s going to have to prove that with his actions. And so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he’ll want to do that.”

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Audio clips:

Sen. Michael Roberson says the Senate GOP candidates are positioned to win on Tuesday:

110512Roberson1 :23 to be successful.”

Roberson says Republicans will draw Democratic and nonpartisan voters:

110512Roberson2 :10 for our candidates.”

Roberson says a GOP Senate will encourage bipartisanship:

110512Roberson3 :18 of Carson City.”

Sen. Mo Denis says Democrats are poised to hold on to and even expand their Senate majority:

110512Denis11 :19 knocking on doors.”

Denis says he is confident the Senate Democratic candidates will do well Tuesday:

110512Denis2 :13 to do tomorrow.”

Denis says he has a track record of working with Republicans:

110512Denis3 :24 to do that.”

 

Nevada Voters To Weigh In On One Controversial State Ballot Measure In November

By Sean Whaley | 7:43 am September 19th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada voters will determine the fate of only one statewide measure in the Nov. 6 general election, but the proposal put on the ballot by the Legislature is somewhat controversial.

Question 1 on the ballot asks Nevada voters if the state constitution should be amended to allow the Legislature, on extraordinary occasions and only with two-thirds support of lawmakers in each house, to call itself into special session. Sessions would be limited to 20 days, but could be convened on a continuous basis if the extraordinary occasion requirement was met and with two-thirds support from lawmakers.

The term “extraordinary occasions” is not defined in the proposed constitutional amendment.

The Nevada state Senate in session, 2011. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

The constitution now says that only the governor can call a special session of the Legislature.

Currently, legislatures in 34 states are authorized to call a special session.

Nevada voters have rejected this concept once before, in 2006, by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent.

The measure is on the ballot after Assembly Joint Resolution 5 was approved by the Legislature in both 2009 and 2011. In 2011, the proposal passed both houses only by a party line vote with all Republicans opposed.

Opponents of the proposal are concerned the change could move the Legislature away from its tradition of meeting on a part-time basis.

In a discussion of the ballot language for the question by the Legislative Commission in June, Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said the ability of lawmakers to continue special sessions indefinitely was a concern.

Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said at the commission meeting that giving lawmakers the authority to call themselves into special session could be important if a situation like that in Illinois arose with impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich. It is unlikely that a governor facing impeachment would call a special session to allow for his removal from office, he said.

Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said in an interview this week that with the state getting bigger and issues sometimes requiring immediate attention, there are times the Legislature may need to convene itself into special session.

“I think it is closer to the people if the Legislature has the ability to do that,” he said.

But Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said this week he likes the way the system works now.

“I like the fact that we have a strong chief executive state,” he said. “That the Legislature can’t call itself into session for whatever purpose it chooses. I think the system that we have is functional for our state.

“And the idea that the Legislature can start calling itself into session whenever it wants just doesn’t really fly with me,” Kieckhefer said.

Special sessions of the Nevada Legislature have become more frequent in recent years, in part because of the state’s ongoing budget problems. But they have all been called by the sitting governor at the time. Gov. Brian Sandoval has not yet called for a special session in his 21 months in office.

The last special session was called in February 2010 by then Gov. Jim Gibbons to deal with a shortfall in the state budget. It lasted seven days.

There have been 10 special sessions of the Legislature since 2001. They were called for a variety of reasons, including tort reform for the medical industry and the impeachment of the late state Controller Kathy Augustine. Many were called because the Legislature could not finish its work by the constitutionally-mandated 120 days, a limit approved by voters in 1998 and taking effect for the first time in 1999.

Previously there had not been a special session since 1989.

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Audio clips:

Sen. Mo Denis says there are times when the Legislature may need to call itself into special session:

091812Denis :22 into special session.”

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer says he likes the system as it works now:

091812Kieckhefer :28 fly with me.”

 

 

Democrats Continue To Outpace Republicans In Voter Registration, Gain 100,000 Edge In Clark County

By Sean Whaley | 12:38 pm September 18th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Democrats continue to out-register their Republican counterparts, with the latest data from Clark County now showing a more than 100,000 voter advantage as the deadline to participate in the Nov. 6 general election draws ever closer.

Today just before noon the Clark County website, which updates registration totals regularly, showed 346,703 Democrats registered to vote compared to 246,479 for Republicans, a 100,224 advantage.

Nonpartisans totaled 132,529 and other minor parties totaled 41,910 for a total registered population of 767,621 in Clark County.

Early voting will begin in just a little more than a month.

The consistent outpacing of Democrats over Republicans in the voter registration race could spell trouble for the GOP from the presidential race on down to state legislative races.

In addition to the presidential contest between President Obama and GOP challenger Mitt Romney, an important Senate race pitting U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., against Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., is at stake.

And Republicans in the state Senate are engaged in a concerted effort to win control of the 21-member house in November. Democrats now hold an 11-10 edge.

Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said Democrats are doing well in the registration race because the message of the party on improving education and creating jobs is resonating with voters.

“We thought the economy was going to be the No. 1 thing, but education is and so, I think the message – better educating our children, trying to diversify our economy in different sectors, trying to do things that bring job here – I think those are all messages that are resounding with folks and they’re choosing to register Democrat,” he said.

Denis said Democrats in Nevada have a history of strong turnout for elections, which will also aid the party and its candidates. While nonpartisans will be a big factor in the races, many of those voters are expected to vote Democratic as well, he said.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said Republicans have the edge despite the registration difference.

“Well look, obviously we don’t want to see the numbers getting more divergent than they are in some of these races, and it’s unfortunate, but the reality remains that these are very winnable races for us,” he said. “We have a superior candidate, we have a superior organization, we have superior funding. So in that way, we still feel confident in each and every one of these districts that we’re fielding the better future state senator. So in that way I believe that we’re going to win every one of them.”

Contrary to Denis’ view, Kieckhefer said he believes nonpartisan voters are going to break Republican in the election.

Republican Senate candidates “are right on the messages, they are right on the issues,” he said.

“They have the position that is more in line with the majority of voters in their district,” Kieckhefer said.

The deadline to register to vote in the election is Oct. 16. The last day to register without appearing in person at an Election Department office is Oct. 6.

“I encourage everyone to visit our website to make sure they are registered to vote or to ensure their registration information is current,” Clark County Registrar of Voters Harvard Lomax said in a recent news release. “Individuals with a Nevada driver’s license will be able to take advantage of our online registration services and there is still time to register through the mail.”

Early voting for the election begins on Saturday, Oct. 20 and extends through Friday, Nov. 2.

A check of the Clark County website at noon each day for the past few days shows Democrats continue to consistently out-register Republicans.

On Thursday, the site showed 342,293 registered Democrats, 244,963 registered Republicans and 130,789 nonpartisans.

On Friday, Democrats had added 1,196 registered voters in Clark County from Thursday, Republicans added 322 voters, and nonpartisans increased by 478.

On Saturday, Democrats had added 287 voters from Friday, Republicans added 104 voters and nonpartisans rose by 98. The numbers were not updated on Sunday.

On Monday at noon, the Clark County site showed Democrats had added 1,970 voters from the weekend report, Republicans had added 610 voters, and nonpartisans increased by 674 voters.

On Tuesday at noon, the site showed Democrats had added 1,024 voters, Republicans had added 509 voters and nonpartisans increased by 520 voters.

In 2010, at the close of registration, Democrats only held a 91,633 advantage in Clark County. In 2008, at the close of registration, Democrats held a 125,218 advantage in Clark County.

Democrats have been outpacing Republicans in the statewide numbers reported monthly by the Secretary of State’s Office as well. Even nonpartisan registrations have exceeded Republican registrations in recent months.

As of the end of August, there were 463,229 Democrats registered statewide, 407,513 Republicans and 186,941 nonpartisans. The Democratic advantage stood at 55,716.

As of Saturday, Democrats had 471,585 registered voters statewide and Republicans had 411,525, giving Democrats a 60,060 edge, up by 4,344 voters since the end of August.

The push to control the state Senate is one of the bigger Nevada election stories this year. There are five seats considered competitive, and Republicans need to win four of them to take an 11-10 edge.

But Democrats keep making headway in the four Southern Nevada districts. As of last week, Democrats had a 4 percent edge over Republicans in Senate seat 5, 5.1 percent in seat 6, 6.1 percent in seat 9, and trailed Republicans by 2 percent in seat 18.

Seats 5, 6 and 9 now have larger Democratic edges than even in 2008.

In another closely watched contest, the race for the 4th Congressional District seat between state Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, and Republican Danny Tarkanian, Democrats now have an 11 percent edge, or 30,000 more voters, than Republicans.

“This is only the latest sign that Nevadans are rejecting Mitt Romney and Dean Heller’s plan to outsource jobs and end Medicare by turning it over to private insurance companies,” said Zach Hudson, spokesman for the Nevada State Democratic Party. “Nevadans across the state are excited about re-electing President Obama and sending Shelley Berkley to the Senate to create jobs, protect Medicare, and strengthen the middle class.”

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Audio clips:

Sen. Mo Denis says the Democratic Party message is resonating with potential voters:

091812Denis1 :24 to register Democrat.”

Denis says Republicans have disenfranchised voters, which is why many are registering as nonpartisan:

091812Denis2 :16 as a Republican.”

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer says he believes Senate Republicans are still favored to win because they are the better candidates and are better funded:

091812Kieckhefer :23 one of them.”

 

 

Richard Combs Named New Director Of Legislative Counsel Bureau

By Sean Whaley | 11:18 am May 30th, 2012

CARSON CITYRichard Combs, most recently an Assembly fiscal analyst and member of the Legislative Counsel Bureau staff since 1994, was unanimously supported today by the Legislative Commission as the new director of the agency.

Combs was also the unanimous choice of the Committee to Consult with the Director, which earlier this month interviewed five finalists for the position.

“It was kind of difficult when you get down to the end because any one of them could have done a great job,” said Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the committee that conducted the interviews. “But I appreciate the committee coming together. It was a unanimous vote.”

New LCB Director Richard Combs.

Denis said Combs has been great to work with on the fiscal side of the agency, and should do equally well as the new director.

Thirty-eight people applied for the job and five, including four employees within the Legislative Counsel Bureau, were interviewed.

Combs succeeds Lorne Malkiewich, who retired as director of the LCB in early April after serving in the position for more than 18 years. The position pays $138,000 a year.

Combs expressed his appreciation to lawmakers for the way they handled the selection process, which was conducted in public.

“Our first order of business is just going to be making sure that the level of service that you have become accustomed to continues for the 2013 session,” he said. “Notwithstanding the retirement of Mr. Malkiewich and my appointment, we’re going to work to make sure that that continues. We do have a few challenges that we’re facing with turnover as has been mentioned. But as Mr. (Assemblyman Marcus) Conklin said I’m very confident that we have talented and dedicated people in the bureau who are willing to step up and fill those roles.”

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Audio clips:

Sen. Mo Denis says any of the five finalists could have done a great job as director of the LCB:

053012Denis :22 other side, so.”

New Director Richard Combs says his first order of business is to ensure the high level of service by LCB staff continues in the 2013 session:

053012Combs :28 fill those roles.”

 

State Lawmaker Says GOP Poised To Win Control Of Senate In 2012, Democrat Disagrees

By Sean Whaley | 4:58 pm January 4th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Republican state Senator Michael Roberson said today he expects the GOP to retake control of the Senate in the 2012 general election, citing the quality of candidates recruited for two key Clark County races.

His optimism was countered by Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, who said he is confident Democrats will maintain control of the Senate come Nov. 7.

Democrats now hold a narrow 11-10 edge in the Senate, but the dynamics have changed as a result of the redrawing of legislative districts based on the 2010 census.

Roberson, R- Las Vegas, in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television show, said Republicans have recruited strong candidates to run in the Clark 5 seat now held by Democrat Shirley Breeden, who is not seeking re-election, and in Clark 6, now held by Democrat Allison Copening.

State Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas.

Former Henderson City Councilman Steve Kirk has announced as a Republican for Breeden’s seat. Kirk is expected to face off against former Democrat state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, who lost to Roberson in the 2010 general election.

And just yesterday Las Vegas attorney and Republican Mark Hutchison, who is leading Nevada’s challenge to the federal Health Care Law on behalf of Gov. Brian Sandoval, announced he will run for the seat held by Copening.

The Democrat candidate for this seat has not yet been announced by party officials.

“We’ve worked very hard to get the folks that we think are the very best candidates for these competitive seats,” Roberson said.

Both districts favor Democrats in voter registration, however, by more than five points.

Even winning just one of the two Democrat-held seats would likely flip the 21-member state Senate back to Republican control. Democrats have held the Senate majority for two legislative sessions.

Denis said Democrats have also done a great job of getting great candidates who are more in tune with the population as a whole, and who will also become great lawmakers.

“It’s ours to give away and we’re going to work very hard this year,” he said. “We’ve been working very hard to get great candidates and we’re going to work hard to get them elected and we think, if you look at the numbers, and all of the different indicators, that everything points to us maintaining the majority as we move forward.”

Roberson said the Senate GOP caucus is also endorsing freshman Assemblyman Scott Hammond for the new Clark 18 Senate seat created as a result of redistricting, and has Sen. Greg Brower seeking a full term in Washoe 15. Both are quality candidates who are expected to win their races, he said.

The fifth Senate seat in play for Republicans in 2012 is rural Senate 19 being sought by current Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, formerly held by Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, who was termed out of office.

Roberson, who is expected to lead the GOP Senate caucus, also pledged to work across the aisle with Democrats in the 2013 legislative session.

“You’ve got to work with the other side and that is exactly what our caucus is going to do when we’re in the majority next session,” he said.

Roberson has also been named as one of 12 state lawmakers to watch in 2012 by Governing.

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Audio clips:

Sen. Michael Roberson says the GOP Senate Caucus has recruited excellent candidates:

010412Roberson1 :15 Senate District 6.”

Roberson says Republicans will work with Democrats when they are in the majority in 2013:

010412Roberson2 :06 majority next session.”

Sen. Mo Denis says the Senate will remain in Democrat control:

010412Denis :23 we move forward.”

 

Nevada Campaign Reports Now To Be Filed Electronically For Better Public Access

By Sean Whaley | 2:14 pm January 3rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – Starting with the annual campaign contribution and expense reports due Jan. 17, elected officials and candidates must now file their information electronically with the Secretary of State’s office.

State lawmakers say they have not heard of any major concerns with the new requirements from their colleagues.

Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said he has not been made aware of any concerns about the new reporting requirement from Senate Democrats or candidates. It has been an option for quite awhile and many candidates already use it, he said.

Nevada state Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas. / Nevada News Bureau file photo

“It’s actually a little easier to do it because you can just go on and do it rather than the handwritten stuff that you fax and all that,” Denis said. “It’s supposed to be easier in the long run.”

The improved transparency with the new mandate is fine with him, Denis said.

“We know going in when we run for office that we don’t have anything to hide,” he said. “The only issue that usually comes up is because we are only part-time and we don’t really have staff, unless you raise enough money to get staff, sometimes you can run into those issues. But it’s not that you don’t want to do it, but sometimes it’s an issue of having the time to do that.”

Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said the new requirement will be a challenge for him because he is not as proficient with the on-line technology as some other office holders and candidates.

“Some of us older guys that aren’t nearly as ‘techie’; it’s going to be a little bit of a hardship on us that aren’t quite so computer literate,” he said with a laugh.

Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

But Goicoechea, a candidate for the state Senate who has filed handwritten reports in the past, said he has no issue with improved public access to the information.

“I don’t think anybody has any real issue with filing them,” he said. “It’s just going to be a little bit of a hardship for those of us that aren’t quite in this age.”

A new law that took effect Jan. 1 requires the electronic filing, which will make the information about who is contributing to candidates easier for the public to review.

The Secretary of State’s Elections Division launched its enhanced online system for campaign and public official finance reporting on Dec. 30. As of Jan. 1, 2012, all parties filing Contributions & Expense (C&E) Reports and Financial Disclosure Statements (FDS) are required to report the information electronically with the Secretary of State’s office as mandated by Assembly Bill 452.

Electronic filing applies to all filers, regardless of where they filed their reports, statements or candidacy papers in the past. Exemptions will only be granted to filers who submit an affidavit declaring they do not own, have access to, or have the financial ability to obtain access to the necessary technology. Candidates who receive or expend more than $10,000 are not eligible for the exemption.

Secretary of State Ross Miller sought the legislation in the 2011 session to improve transparency in the reporting by candidates and elected officials of their contributions and expenditures. Up to now, candidates could file the reports by mail. Often handwritten, the reports were difficult to read or analyze.

In an interview in September, Miller said: “Mandating that these reports be filed electronically is the first step in putting the information in a way that is accessible to the public. And I think when this system is unveiled it will bring Nevada out of the Dark Ages of campaign finance reporting and finally shine a light on the campaign finance data to make it accessible in a format for the public.”

Information in the reports will be available at 12:01 a.m. on Jan. 18, sooner for those who file early.

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Audio clips:

Sen. Mo Denis says electronic filing should be easier:

010312Denis1 :13 long run, so.”

Denis says he is fine with the improved transparency:

010312Denis2 :25 to do that.”

Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea says the new requirement will be a hardship for those who are not technologically savvy:

010312Goicoechea1 :11 so computer literate.”

Goicoechea says the improved reporting is fine with him:

010312Goicoechea2 :11 in this age.”

 

 

NPRI to Regroup Due to Denis Resignation

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:04 pm December 19th, 2011

As first reported by David McGrath Schwartz of the Las Vegas Sun, state Sen. Mo Denis said he plans to resign from his job with the Nevada Public Utilities Commission (PUC), possibly rendering moot the recently filed lawsuit challenging his ability to be employed in two branches of state government.

Denis, who is the heir apparent to Sen. Majority Leader Steven Horsford, told the Sun he’d already been looking for a new job with more flexibility in preparation for his Senate leadership role. He said the decision is not related to the lawsuit from conservative think tank Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI).

The NPRI suit contents that Article III of the state constitution clearly defines the separation of powers between the three branches of government, and that Denis’ job in information technology for the PUC was a violation of that clause.

Analysts had speculated that if the suit was successful, as many as 10 other lawmakers who are also public employees could have been affected.

However, it is now unclear whether the NPRI lawsuit can proceed as filed or whether a new suit would have to be filed against another legislator.

 

Nevada Think Tank Files Court Complaint Challenging Ability Of Government Employees To Serve In Legislature

By Sean Whaley | 3:02 pm November 30th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A conservative Nevada think tank today filed a complaint in district court against Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, saying the separation of powers clause in the state constitution prohibits government employees from serving in the Legislature.

Denis works for the state Public Utilities Commission as a computer technician. Attorney Joseph Becker with the Nevada Policy Research Institute’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation said his client William Pojunis is qualified to perform, and would like to apply for, Denis’ job.

Attorney Joseph Becker, left, and his client William Pojunis, take questions after filing a separation of powers complaint today against Sen. Mo Denis. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

If NPRI wins its case, Denis and several other state lawmakers who work for state and local government and the Nevada judiciary could be forced to pick between their jobs and legislative service.

Becker said the PUC’s employment of Denis violates the state constitution’s separation of powers clause in Article 3, Section 1.

“Nevada’s constitution is perfectly clear: One individual cannot serve in two branches of government,” he said. “Allowing one person to exercise power in two branches of government leads to numerous conflicts of interests and invites corruption. It also destroys the checks and balances that were built into Nevada’s government to protect citizens from power-hungry politicians.

“Applying this principle to this case has significant implications for this state,” Becker said. “We have 63 legislators and something close to 20 percent of them are affected by this provision. They are working in situations that we believe are unconstitutional. When the court holds in our favor, those lawmakers would either have to leave their executive or judicial branch employment or leave the Legislature.”

Denis said today he could not comment on the complaint because he has not seen it.

“I’ve only been hearing pieces of it,” he said. “At some point I will have a comment.”

The PUC had no immediate comment on the complaint either.

NPRI has one strong ally in its court action. Gov. Brian Sandoval, while serving as attorney general in 2004, issued an opinion that also determined that the separation of powers requirement in the state constitution precluded state government employees from serving in the Legislature.

Written at the request of then-Secretary of State Dean Heller, Sandoval’s March 1, 2004 opinion said in part: “It is the opinion of this office that Article 3, Section 1 of the Nevada Constitution bars any employee from serving in the executive branch of government and simultaneously serving as a member of the Nevada State Legislature.”

Sandoval did not find that the separation applied to local government employment, however.

Heller, now a U.S. senator, challenged lawmakers who also worked for the government in 2004, but the Nevada Supreme Court said it could not consider the case, which was brought against the Nevada Legislature, because it is the Legislature’s responsibility to determine the qualifications of its members.

Becker said NPRI’s case is different because it is challenging the PUC’s ability to employ Denis given the separation of powers clause and his election to the state Senate. The complaint was not filed against the Legislature, he said. The complaint was filed in Carson City District Court.

Pojunis, 66, came to Carson City with Becker to file the complaint, but did not directly answer any questions. Becker said NPRI was approached by Pojunis and decided to take the case. Pojunis is currently unemployed.

Some of the other lawmakers who potentially could be affected by a court ruling supporting the NPRI position include Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, who works for the Washoe County court system,; Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz, D-North Las Vegas, and Assemblywoman Melissa Woodbury, R-Las Vegas, both of whom work for the Clark County School District, and Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, who works for Clark County.

Becker said the legal action is not politically motivated.

“This is about him (Denis) holding a position as a civil servant that he is not constitutionally allowed to hold,” he said.

The Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation, which calls itself a public interest legal foundation, was established a year ago by NPRI. This is the first case brought by the organization.

Andy Matthews, president of NPRI, said the separation of powers clause is a vital part of state constitutions across the country.

“And when you have decisions that are being made in the Legislative Branch that can impact Executive Branch functions, Executive Branch agencies, it’s very important to make sure that the people who are making those decisions in the Legislature are doing so from the standpoint of what is best for the people of this state and what constitutes good policy, not because of some conflict of interest they may have as a result of their service in the Executive Branch as well,” he said.

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Attorney Joseph Becker with NPRI’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation says the case has significant implications for the state:

113011Becker1 :24 leave the Legislature.”

Becker says the case is not political:

113011Becker2 :14 correct on this.”

Andy Matthews, president of NPRI, says the separation of powers clause is a vital part of state constitutions across the country:

113011Matthews :24 branch as well.”

Face to Face: Assemblymen John Hambrick, Mo Denis Weigh In on Immigration

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:47 pm April 26th, 2010

Tonight on Ralston’s Face to Face, Assemblyman Mo Denis and John Hambrick talked about the new immigration law in Arizona.

SB 1070 states:  “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official, where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the Unites States, a reasonable attempt shall be made when praticable to determine the immigration status of the person.”

Mo Denis questioned the definition and after-determination of the word “reasonable,” saying, “It’s going to be different to different people,” and asking about those who might be profiled, “What do they look like? Are we talking Canadian? Are we talking Asian-American? Are we talking Hispanic?”

Denis expressed concerns with the high ratio of Hispanics residing in Arizona, saying, “I think that is problematic because I think you’re then singling out one specific race.”

Hambrick disagreed. “When you have 460,000 and the vast majority happens to be a particular ethnic group, you cannot racial profile, the pool is so large,” he said.

Hambrick defended the Arizona bill based on relatively high in-state support.  “When 70% of a state, according to media reports, agree with it, that is not 70% that are Anglo.  70% of the state, that is a good mixture, whether it is Latino or Anglo. They agree it is needed,” he said.

“Unfortunately a rancher died a few weeks ago, and there was a catalyst,” he said.

Hambrick said many voters feel the federal government has let them down on the issue of immigration.

“This administration made promises prior to coming in that certain benchmarks would be met in the first year. That has not happened,” he said. “Hopefully what happens now in Arizona will be a catalyst to force Washington to get off their bottoms.”

Hambrick acknowledged there are issues with enforcement and racial profiling but said training of enforcement officers is the answer.

“The government has said that there will be training,” said Hambrick.

“What is reasonable?” he asked. “Yes, it is in the eye or the mind of the person that is behind the badge that has made that stop.”

“Their life experinces, and the different communities they come from, if the police officer happens to be Hispanic and is dealing with a Hispanic, there is a different reasonable expectation of what will be happening there,” Hambrick said.  “If it’s an Anglo and a Hispanic, again, the community will have to judge whether that police offer has done his job adequately, fairly and objectively. And that will be determined by a court.”

Answering a question about fears that the law will become oppressive and that every ethnic person will have to walk around with proof of citizenship in their pocket, Denis said it is a valid concern.

“We are familiar with 287-G, that’s been going on even here, we have been dealing with that, trying to get people to step forward on crimes, and now they are afraid,” Denis said.

(Denis said 287-G permits Nevada authorities to ask about a person’s immigration status when they are in county jail.)

“And, but, you know, people do not trust that,” said Denis. “They think that maybe some of the police officers—  You know, we have had meetings with some of the individuals here, and there are some concerns that really need to dealt with, and even with that issue, so I can see where, you know, if you’re looking for somebody reasonable, what is it that somebody looks like… And do we really have to all walk around with papers, so we can prove our citizenship?”

Both Hambrick and Denis agreed immigration reform could be an issue in the campaigns, and that Nevada voters are generally concerned with immigration policy.