Posts Tagged ‘Oceguera’

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.


Gov. Sandoval Makes Appointments to Health Insurance Exchange Board

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 3:44 pm September 23rd, 2011

Dr. Ronald Kline.

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval announced today his appointments to the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange Board.

Sandoval has appointed Elsie Lavonne Lewis, Leslie Ann Johnstone, Dr. Ronald Kline, Barbara Smith Campbell and Marie Kerr. Each of the appointees will be voting members of the board.

“While Nevada remains a partner in challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care law, we are mandated to move forward with its implementation,” Sandoval said.  “Each member of the board will bring a distinctive perspective to the table to help Nevada formulate the most effective exchange.”

Lewis, chief operating officer of the Clark County Urban League, will serve until June 30, 2013. Johnstone, executive director of the Health Services Coalition in Clark County, will serve until June 30, 2014. Kline, a physician with Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada in Clark County, will serve until June 30, 2012. Smith Campbell, a Washoe County resident and former chairwoman of the Nevada Tax Commission, is the founder of Consensus, a tax consulting firm, will serve until June 30, 2014. Kerr, an attorney in Reno, will serve until June 30, 2012.

Reno attorney Marie Kerr.

Created by Senate Bill 440, the Exchange is required to:

-          Create and administer a state-based health insurance exchange;

-          Facilitate the purchase and sale of qualified health plans;

-          Provide for the establishment of a program to assist qualified small employers in Nevada in facilitating the enrollment of their employees in qualified health plans;

-          Make only qualified health plans available to qualified individuals and qualified small employers on or after January 1, 2014; and

-          Unless the federal health care law is repealed or is held to be unconstitutional or otherwise invalid or unlawful, perform all duties that are required of the exchange to implement the requirements of the law.

The bill creating the exchange passed both houses of the Legislature unanimously with four members of the Assembly not present for the vote. While lawmakers questioned the effect of the act being found unconstitutional on the operation of the exchange, there was no testimony in opposition to the measure.

The exchange is governed by the Board of Directors, consisting of five voting members appointed by the governor, one voting member appointed by the Senate majority leader and one voting member appointed by the speaker of the Assembly.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford has appointed Dr. Judith Ford with Canyon Gate Medical Group in Las Vegas, and Assembly Speaker John Oceguera has appointed Lynn Elkins.

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.


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.”

Governor, Legislative Leaders, Make Appointments To Economic Development Board

By Sean Whaley | 6:18 pm September 14th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval and legislative leaders today announced their appointments to the new Economic Development Board, which will focus on job creation and economic diversification.

Sandoval has appointed Rob Roy, CEO of Switch in Las Vegas, William Weidner with Gaming Asset Management, and Kathleen Drakulich, a lawyer with McDonald Carano Wilson.

Rob Roy, CEO of Switch in Las Vegas.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, has appointed Heather Murren of the Nevada Cancer Institute. Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, appointed Benjamin Yerushalmi with the Jewelers of Nevada and Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, has appointed Sam Routson with Winnemucca Farms.

The new board was established by Assembly Bill 449, passed during the 2011 Legislative session with bipartisan support.

“The new Economic Development Board brings together individuals from across Nevada representing some of the economic sectors we will be targeting to help diversify our economy and help get Nevada working again,” Sandoval said.

William Weidner with Gaming Asset Management.

“We worked hard to create an entirely new and results-oriented economic development model through this legislation, and today we have taken another step that will deliver the results we need,” Oceguera said.

“These individuals represent some of the best and brightest minds in our state, from small businesses and large, and we are fortunate to have their expertise made available at this critical time,” Horsford said.

“Nevada has a rare opportunity with this legislation and the joint efforts of the Governor and the Legislature to make real changes in the way we help small businesses in our state grow and bring new employers here,” McGinness said.

Gov. Sandoval Making Strides On Top Priority Of Job Creation For Nevadans

By Sean Whaley | 3:29 pm September 8th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval said today he is making big strides in his top priority of improving the Nevada economy and growing jobs.

Sandoval said he has been making calls to businesses interested in relocating to the state and is getting ready to launch a newly revised economic development board to help the state turn the economic corner.

In an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, Sandoval said a key element of implementing his jobs strategy is a study now under way by the Brookings Institution and the Stanford Research Institute, now known as SRI International, which will look at which economic development sectors the state should focus its efforts on. Two contracts, one for $40,000 with Robert Lang with Brookings, and the other for $200,000 with SRI, were approved by the Board of Examiners in June.

Gov. Brian Sandoval. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

The study, expected to be completed in late October, will review the different economic sectors the state is now involved in and identify “clusters” Nevada should turn its attention to in its diversification efforts, Sandoval said.

The state can’t take a “shotgun” approach to economic development, but instead must be more focused on those areas that can produce the desired result of economic diversification and job production, he said.

“Once we know what we can be the best at we can focus our economic developments in that regard,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval said he will also serve as chairman of the newly constituted Board of Economic Development, created as a result of the passage of Assembly Bill 449, which saw broad bipartisan support in the 2011 Legislature. The nine voting members of the board will include six private sector representatives. Sandoval said he will soon be announcing his three appointments to the panel.

The bill implementing the economic development reorganization, which was one of Sandoval’s priorities in his State of the State address, was sponsored by Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, and numerous other Democrat and Republican lawmakers.

The board will include three legislatively appointed private sector representatives, as well as Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and Secretary of State Ross Miller or their designees. The board will also send the names of three finalists to Sandoval to pick a new executive director of the Office of Economic Development, who will serve as part of Sandoval’s cabinet.

Steve Redlinger, spokesman for Oceguera, said the lawmaker expects to make his appointment to the board within seven to 10 days.

“John sees the board as getting some great people serving the state who can get our economic engines revving,” he said. “His expectations and hopes are high. We face serious challenges.”

Nevada leads the nation in unemployment.

Sandoval said he does not believe politics will override the mission of the new panel.

“I think you are going to see, to answer your question, an unprecedented effort in terms of education, in job training, and the effort we make to recruit new business to the state of Nevada,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval said he has made numerous calls to businesses considering Nevada for expansion or relocation, and he cited one case where it has helped pay off. The expansion of Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters to Washoe County with the construction of a distribution center providing 650 new jobs, was one of those calls, he said.

“I hope that I helped push it over the finish line, but it is a team effort and I would never take credit for that because there are so many people out there in the field every day,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval said the message he takes to company CEOs is that Nevada is a business friendly state, and that there will be “service after the sale” meaning access to state elected and regulatory officials.

That message has really resonated with the business community, he said.


Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says Nevada has to take a focused approach to economic development:

090811Sandoval1 :13 in that regard.”

Sandoval says Nevadans will see an unprecedented effort to bring new businesses to the state:

090811Sandoval2 :11 state of Nevada.”


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.”

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera Announces Bid For Congress In As-Yet Undetermined District

By Sean Whaley | 5:17 pm July 18th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Term limited Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, today announced he will run for Congress in one of four districts that have yet to be finalized in Nevada’s contested redistricting process.

Oceguera, a native fourth-generation Nevadan, said he wants to bring his skills in finding compromise on difficult issues honed in the Nevada Legislature over the past nearly dozen years to the House of Representatives.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera announced today he will run for Congress.

“I think what I bring to the table is kind of a common sense approach,” he said. “I think I’ve been successful in finding solutions in the Legislature and I think I will be successful in Congress.

“I think Nevadans are kind of fed up with the way it’s going in DC and I’m looking to help the middle class, the folks that rely on social security and Medicare,” Oceguera said. “I believe that they deserve someone that will fight for them and that’s what I intend to do.”

Oceguera, an assistant fire chief in North Las Vegas, said he decided to announce his candidacy even though the Nevada redistricting process is in the courts, where it could remain for some time before finally being decided.

“I’m of the belief that redistricting is going to be wrapped up in the court system for a number of months, and that might put us all the way as far as next year,” he said. “And you really can’t start a congressional campaign in the same year that the election is going to be held. You have to get started.”

Oceguera currently resides in the 3rd Congressional District represented by Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., but he said that could change by the 2012 election. Oceguera said he will challenge Heck if that is where he ends up.

“But I think it is really too soon to know one way or the other where we’re going to be because we have no idea how those lines are going to be drawn at this point,” he said.

The Democrat-controlled Nevada Legislature sent two redistricting bills to GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval, but they were vetoed out of a concern the proposals violated the federal Voting Rights Act. The issue is now in Carson City District Court and will likely be decided by the Nevada Supreme Court.

Oceguera’s announcement prompted Amy Tarkanian, chairwoman of the Nevada Republican Party, to describe him as a career politician “looking for a new gig.”

“Oceguera’s bid for Congress, made before even understanding or caring about the constituency he claims to want to represent, is an action of a termed-out assemblyman who is panicking at the thought of losing one of his government paychecks,” she said.

Tarkanian criticized Oceguera for attempting to push through a $1.3 billion tax hike in the 2011 session.

“Oceguera’s colleagues rejected his proposal then and Nevadans will reject him in 2012,” she said.

In response, Oceguera said public service is “not a bad thing.”

“I’m proud of what I’ve done as a fire fighter and the people I’ve helped,” he said. “I’m proud of what I’ve done in the Legislature and the Nevadans I’ve helped there and I want to continue that service. Certainly if I wanted to go into the private sector and make money that’s what I would be doing, but I choose to go and serve the public and I think that record speaks for itself.”

Audio clips:

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera says he can’t wait for redistricting to be resolved before starting a campaign:

071811Oceguera1 :24 to get started.”

Oceguera says he brought a common sense approach to compromise in the Legislature and will do so in Congress:

071811Oceguera2 30 successful in Congress.”

Oceguera says he is proud of his public service:

071811Oceguera3 :29 speaks for itself.”

Oceguera says Nevadans are fed up with what is happening in Washington, DC:

071811Oceguera4 :20 intend to do.”


Reaction Mixed To Education, Policy Reforms Achieved As Part Of Deal To End Legislative Session

By Sean Whaley | 7:21 pm June 7th, 2011

CARSON CITY – While some critics may never be convinced that Gov. Brian Sandoval should have agreed to support new tax revenue to balance the budget, the collection of reforms approved as part of the deal finalized this morning cannot be ignored.

From changes to Nevada’s collective bargain law allowing the reopening of labor agreements in emergencies to limiting teacher tenure to eliminating health insurance for newly hired state employees upon retirement – the changes approved in the 120-day legislative session by Democrats and Republicans could have far reaching impacts.

Ray Bacon, executive director of the Nevada Manufacturers Association and a long-time advocate for reform to Nevada’s public education system, said it will take time to see the effects of the changes, which also include making the state superintendent of public instruction answerable to the governor rather than an elected board.

“It’s going to take a while to see real change in this thing but I believe we’re going to see real change in K-12 performance,” he said. “Could we have done more on improving the education reform and improving the public employee benefit changes, sure. But given the makeup of the two houses, quite frankly I’m pretty well stunned with what we did get.”

Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, made note of the reforms in announcing his support of the tax extension bill on the Senate floor on Monday: “We’ll pass performance-based budgeting, collective bargaining and employee benefit reforms that will put our state on a path to fiscal sustainability.

“We also stressed this session the need for education system reforms that really does put our children first, education reforms that represent a shift in the right direction,” he said. “I’m not saying these reforms are the end all. They are a good start and I’m confident in the next session I leave behind some capable colleagues that will continue in these efforts.”

Not everybody is convinced that the reforms will result in real change.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, said on the Senate floor during the tax bill debate: “I don’t believe the concessions my colleagues made on the other side of the aisle will improve public education.”

Victor Joecks, communications director of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank, called the education reforms minor and said they will have minimal impact on increasing student achievement in Nevada.

“This differs from the governor’s original reform package, which included one-year contracts for teachers, vouchers and ending social promotion,” he said in a commentary.

There are those who wish more could have been done. Sandoval wanted to make a fundamental change to the public employees’ retirement system, but instead won only a study of the issue. While strongly supporting a change to the state constitution to allow a school voucher program, no progress was made on the issue in the 2011 session.

An effort to make some reforms to the state’s home construction defect laws failed when a bill failed to win passage in the Senate in the waning hours of the session. Supporters of reform in this area hailed the failure as a victory, however, calling Assembly Bill 401 no reform at all.

And in what could be called tax reform, the extension of business taxes and other levies that will bring in over $600 million in the next two years included the complete elimination of payroll taxes on Nevada’s 115,281 small businesses. Small businesses pay a 0.5 percent tax rate on their payrolls currently.

The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and other groups had sought reforms to education and public employee benefits this session in exchange for consideration of any additional revenues to fund the budget.

Democrats also sought reforms. Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, sponsored the bill seeking to restrict attorneys’ fees and reduce filing times for lawsuits in residential construction defects law. The construction industry dismissed the measure as inadequate, however, and argued for its defeat.

Oceguera took issue with the characterization of his bill, saying at a committee hearing that he worked with the construction industry to draft his bill.

“I asked for a list of the five most important things,” Oceguera said. “The three that are in this bill are the top three that you gave to me. So to say these aren’t important issues is disingenuous at least. These are the issues you told me you wanted to work on, and we worked on.”

But the Senate on Monday, sent the measure to defeat on a 12-9 vote.

The performance based budgeting bill, which has been signed into law by Sandoval, was sought by Oceguera and Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks.

The decision to support extending taxes came after a Nevada Supreme Court decision put into question a number of funding mechanisms proposed by Sandoval to balance the two-year budget that will begin July 1. While the ramifications of the decision were not entirely clear, Sandoval reluctantly opted to replace some local revenues proposed for his budget with the business and sales tax extensions.

The reforms were a requirement for his and Republican lawmaker support of the added revenues.

The reforms passed by the Nevada Legislature will:

  • End the seniority system in school district lay-offs. Other factors, including performance and effectiveness, must now be included.
  • Change collective bargaining for local government employees. Agreements will be re-opened during times of fiscal emergency and supervisory employees will not be allowed to collectively bargain.
  • Allow the governor to appoint the state superintendent of public instruction. A new state board will also have members appointed by the governor and legislative leaders, as well as four members elected by the people of Nevada.
  • Save an estimated $275 million over the next 30 years by removing eligibility of newly hired state employees for health insurance benefits during retirement under the Public Employee Benefit Plan, effective January 1, 2012.
  • Conduct a complete analysis of PERS in order to give the 2013 Legislature and the governor information they need to address unfunded liability. The study must include recommendations with actuarially-sound alternatives.

Audio clips:

Manufacturers Association Executive Director Ray Bacon says it will take time to assess the effects of the education reforms:

060711Bacon1 :09 “in K-12 performance.”

Bacon says he is surprised at the number of reforms approved in the session:

060711Bacon2 :18 we did get.”

Sen. Mike McGinness says the reforms are significant:

060711McGinness1 :26 the right direction.”

McGinness says more gains can be made in 2013:

060711McGinness2 :11 continue these efforts.”

Sen. Barbara Cegavske says the education reforms approved by lawmakers aren’t sufficient:

060711Cegavske :07 improve public education.”


Construction Defect Reform Measure Criticized As Inadequate By Building Industry

By Sean Whaley | 12:52 pm June 3rd, 2011

CARSON CITY – A bill proposing reforms to Nevada’s construction defects law was called inadequate today in a hearing before the Assembly Ways and Means Committee.

John Madole, representing the Nevada Chapter of the Associated General Contractors, told the panel the best option would be to not proceed with Assembly Bill 401, proposed by Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas.

Madole said his organization has been seeking meaningful reform to the construction defects law, but that AB401 does not meet that test. Rather than waste time on a bill that is only “rearranging the deck furniture on the Titanic,” the committee should defeat the measure, he said.

AB401 would revise provisions regarding attorney’s fees, clarifying that they are not automatic and awarding them only to the prevailing party. It would also clarify the statute of limitations for lawsuits, from unlimited for willful misconduct to three years after discovery.

Committee Chairwoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, asked if the measure at least made some progress on the issue and so could be supported by the construction industry.

“A lot of times it takes time to get them where you want them to be,” she said. “There’s no interest in making changes and having something out of this issue versus nothing?”

Madole said he believes the bill would actually make things worse.

“It’s my opinion that this will actually impede the efforts in 2013 to get meaningful reform,” he said. “I think what will happen in 2013 is that when something is brought forward, that people will be told we took care of this problem in 2011.

“I have taken this to an attorney who is an expert and he told me that in his opinion there are about 15 things that wrong with construction defects,” Madole said. “The language in this bill would not even make the top five, so what’s the sense of just trying to make everybody feel good?”

Madole’s comments prompted Oceguera to call his comments “disingenuous.”

Oceguera said he met with building industry officials, including the associated general contractors, before the 2011 session to discuss necessary reforms. The bill contains the three most important reforms cited in those talks, he said.

“I asked for a list of the five most important things,” Oceguera said. “The three that are in this bill are the top three that you gave to me. So to say these aren’t important issues is disingenuous at least. These are the issues you told me you wanted to work on, and we worked on.”

The issue of reforms to construction defect law is in play as part of a budget deal struck by Gov. Brian Sandoval and members of both parties in the Legislature. In exchange for a number of reforms, Sandoval has agreed to extend some expiring taxes to add funding to the budget.

Successful passage of the reforms is key to getting enough Republicans to vote for the compromise.

Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, said AB401 is not real reform.

“It does absolutely nothing,” he said Wednesday following announcement of the budget deal.

The bill is cited by Sandoval as a piece of the reform and budget deal.

The committee did not take immediate action on the bill.

Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said the concerns expressed by Madole can be raised if the bill is passed by the Assembly and sent to the Senate for further hearings. As written, however, Goicoechea said he would have to oppose the bill.

Audio clips:

John Madole of the Associated General Contractors says the bill does not make any real reforms:

060311Madole1 :22 it any further.”

Madole says the bill would actually make it tougher to implement reforms:

060311Madole2 :17 problem in 2011.”

Madole says the proposed reforms don’t come close to the changes that are needed:

060311Madole3 :16 everybody feel good?”

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith asks if the proposed reforms are better than no changes at all:

060311Smith :18 issue versus nothing?”

Assemblyman John Oceguera says the bill makes substantive reforms in three areas:

060311Oceguera :22 we worked on.”



Budget Deal Announced Today Includes Extension Of Taxes, Major Reforms

By Sean Whaley | 5:03 pm June 1st, 2011

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval and legislative leaders from both parties announced a budget agreement today that will see tax extensions and restorations of funding to public and higher education in exchange for significant policy reforms in education and collective bargaining.

The agreement came on the 115th day of the session, and virtually guarantees that lawmakers will adjourn the 2011 session by Monday as the constitution requires.

“Nevadans deserve leadership, stability and consensus, and I believe this budget and reform package provide all three,” Sandoval said at a press briefing attended by numerous lawmakers, lobbyists and other interested parties.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, called the agreement fiscally responsible and a true compromise that “protects the most essential funding for our schools, our community colleges and universities, and services for our most vulnerable.”

Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, head of the Assembly GOP caucus, said the deal is the best that could be achieved among the two houses and parties.

“None of us got everything we wanted,” he said. “But the bottom line is we hung together.”

Faced with a recent Nevada Supreme Court decision that threw his budget into turmoil, Sandoval reluctantly agreed to extend higher business taxes on the state’s largest employers for two more years to bring in nearly $300 million. The budget deal also includes a reduction in tax exemptions for the mining industry that will bring in another $24 million to the state general fund.

In all, the two-year state budget that begins July 1 totals $6.24 billion. This does not include another $265 million in other revenue that will go directly to the state’s public schools system bringing total spending to about $6.5 billion.

Sandoval decided to agree to extend sun-setting taxes because of the court ruling issued last week over the decision by the Legislature in 2010 to sweep a$62 million local government water fund. The court said it was impermissible. While opinions on the effect of the ruling differed, ultimately $481 million in anticipated revenue was eliminated from Sandoval’s proposed budget. The ruling forced lawmakers and Sandoval into intense budget negotiations.

Until Sandoval opted to relent on the tax issue, Republicans had held firm with him opposing new revenues to increase funding to public education, higher education and health and human services programs.

In exchange for extending the sun-setting taxes, Sandoval and Republican lawmakers won a number of reforms, including the elimination of teacher tenure and ending the seniority system used in the public schools for layoffs.

“These reforms do not hurt good teachers,” said Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas. “If you are a good teacher, you have a job.”

The reforms also include the complete elimination of the modified business tax for 70 percent of the state’s smallest employers. This group currently pays a 0.5 percent rate based on payroll.

Other reforms include the elimination of health care benefits upon retirement for new state hires. The state currently subsidizes health insurance for retirees. The change effective Jan. 1, 2012 will save an estimated $275 million over the next 30 years.

There are also reforms to the state’s collective bargaining law, including a provision allowing agreements to be reopened in cases of fiscal emergency and eliminating bargaining for supervisory public employees. There will also be a study on how to deal with the $10 billion unfunded liability of the Public Employees’ Retirement System.

The governor will also get to appoint the superintendent of public instruction.

One area that remains an issue is construction defect reform.

Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, said Assembly Bill 401, proposed by Oceguera, is not real reform. The construction industry is expected to oppose the measure, he said.

“It does absolutely nothing,” Hickey said.

Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said the budget bills implementing the spending plan should be introduced tomorrow. A final joint money committee hearing set for later today will put the few final minor finishing touches on the budget, she said.

But even with the increased funding, Leslie said the 2011-13 spending plan is not one she is proud of, or believes adequately funds important social and education programs.

“We’re eliminating programs like a senior outreach program,” she said. “We have the highest suicide rate for seniors in the country, and we eliminated the one outreach program for senior mental health that we have.”

It does eliminate the unacceptable securitization of the insurance premium tax proposed by Sandoval as a way to generate $190 million in additional funds for the budget, Leslie said. It also eliminates the use of the school bond reserve funds.

One bit of bad news for Nevada’s economic future was mentioned in passing in the budget compromise. Nevada’s forecast for revenue from unclaimed property was revised downward by nearly $34 million. The reason is the relocation of a division of Citibank now located in Southern Nevada.

The state’s unclaimed property fund has benefited from the Citibank presence because money belonging to the company’s customers from around the world ends up here when the owners cannot be identified. The company turned over $36 million in unclaimed property this year. With the relocation, this revenue will no longer flow to Nevada.

Reaction to the budget and reform deal varied.

Assemblyman Crescent Hardy, R-Mesquite, said: “I think neither one of us ended up real happy with the situation. I think we’re both pleased we have come to a consensus. They didn’t get their $1.2 billion tax package; we’re really happy about that.

“We had five reforms we wanted. We didn’t get all of them,” he said.

Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, said: “The Republican Assembly caucus had certain goals and priorities in mind and we stuck to them, but unfortunately through no fault of the governor he was handed a devastating blow by the Supreme Court’s ruling and he had to pick up the pieces.

“I had personally hoped for a little more depth in construction defect and collective bargaining reforms,” he said.

Nevada News Bureau Editor Elizabeth Crum contributed to this report

Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says the budget deal is the result of leadership and consensus:

060111Sandoval :12 provide all three.”

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera says budget deal is bipartisan and fiscally responsible:

060111Oceguera1 :18 our most vulnerable.”

Oceguera says work is still needed on reforming the state’s revenue structure:

060111Oceguera2 :12 state forward, thank-you.”

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford says the reforms to teacher tenure won’t harm good teachers:

060111Horsford1 :13 a great job.”

Horsford says Nevada policy makers came together while facing the biggest fiscal challenge of any state:

060111Horsford2 :13 to the plate.”

Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea says not everyone got all they wanted in the deal:

060111Goicoechea :15 resolve this issue.”

Sen. Sheila Leslie says the budget is not one she is proud of because of the necessary cuts to important programs:

060111Leslie :12 that we have.”

Health Insurance Transparency Bill Sees Final Legislative Approval, Heads To Governor

By Sean Whaley | 1:29 pm May 31st, 2011

CARSON CITY – A bill imposing more transparency on rate increases sought by health insurance companies is now on its way to Gov. Brian Sandoval for his review.

Assembly Bill 309, sought by Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, requires health insurance companies to publicize their rate increase requests online and allows the public to participate in rate hearings before the Nevada Division of Insurance.

One supporter of the measure said the bill was weakened with the changes made by the Senate Commerce, Labor and Energy Committee but called it a good first step. The Assembly accepted the Senate amendment on Monday.

The bill passed the Assembly on a 33-9 vote, but saw only a 12-9 vote in the Senate. Democrats in the Senate were joined by Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, in supporting the bill.

“This legislation would improve health insurance transparency by requiring health insurance companies to publicize rate increases online and hold health insurance companies responsible by requiring them to publicize the information justifying rate increases,” Oceguera said. “AB309 would make Nevada the fourth state to allow its citizens to request public hearings on rate increases.”

The bill would also benefit Nevada’s health insurance consumers by allowing the state to apply for almost $4 million in additional federal funding for increased rate review and online transparency, he said.

It would require insurance companies to post rate hearing information on their websites. The Division of Insurance will be required to link to the information as well.

“I am pleased this legislation passed the Senate, and I urge the governor to sign this common sense legislation,” Oceguera said.

Larry Matheis, executive director of the Nevada State Medical Association, called the amended bill a positive step.

“But we’ll have to do much better to make the health insurance industry’s actions and decisions transparent,” he said. “If we don’t, reforms can’t work. Over the next few years this may prove to be one of the most challenging aspects of health care reform. AB309 is a small step in the right direction.”

Matheis said more needs to be done to ensure the public knows what their health insurance policy actually covers and how premiums are used by the insurance companies.

The bill was amended to allow insurance companies to withhold some information deemed to be trade secrets.

“We took a step in this session, but it will have to be followed with much more in future sessions for the public to have any confidence that they can make meaningful decisions about health plans,” Matheis said.

Major Campaign Finance Reform Bills Pass Senate, Move Closer To Final Approval

By Sean Whaley | 11:12 pm May 30th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Two major bills seeking reforms to and transparency in Nevada’s campaign finance laws won approval in the Senate today and now must await review in the Assembly before they can go to Gov. Brian Sandoval for his consideration.

The Senate approved amended versions of Assembly Bills 81 and 452 on the final day for action on policy bills in the Legislature. Lawmakers have a week remaining to finish their business.

The third major reform measure sought by Secretary of State Ross Miller, Assembly Bill 82, has already passed both houses of the Legislature but also awaits final legislative action.

The Assembly must still act on amendments to all three of the measures added by the Senate before the bills can go to the governor.

The vote on AB81 could spell trouble for its future, however. It passed on a party-line, 11-10 vote with Republicans opposed.

The vote on AB452 was 14-7, but was brought back for reconsideration on a second vote where it picked up unanimous support in the Senate.

There was no debate on the measures before the votes, which occurred during two different floor sessions during a long day at the Legislature.

Miller said he was pleased with the progress of the legislation, and that chances are good for major campaign finance reform this session.

“All three bills that deal with campaign finance transparency and election reform have passed both houses, so we just need to have them reconciled in the Assembly and then eventually have the governor sign them, so, very, very promising,” he said. “We won’t count our chickens before they are hatched, but a very good sign.

“I think collectively taken together this will take a substantial step forward in terms of campaign finance and election reform,” Miller said. “It has been clear for a long time that Nevadans deserve better. This will dramatically improve Nevada’s elections statutes.”

AB81 contains a provision restricting the creation of political action committees to circumvent limits on how much money can be contributed to a campaign as is now being reviewed in Rory Reid’s failed gubernatorial bid.

Miller’s office is investigating Reid’s use of 90 shell political action committees his campaign established to funnel $750,000 into his failed race for Nevada governor. Reid has said the use of the multiple PACs was legal.

Another section of the bill would allow for bigger financial penalties if a third-party group spends money in a Nevada campaign without filing the required disclosure information.

AB452 would require on-line filing of campaign contribution and expense reports by most candidates and require earlier reporting of the information so voters could review the data before casting their ballots.

Reports would be filed four days before early voting and would be updated to reflect any additional contributions and expenses four days prior to the primary and general elections.

It would also make the Secretary of State’s office the central repository for the campaign reports for all elections, as well as for financial disclosure statements required of candidates and elected officials. These reports would also be filed electronically.

The information would be maintained in a searchable database so the public could review the reports in a simple and comprehensive way.

In testimony before the panel earlier this session, Miller said: “A big part of the transparency we want to provide is letting voters know who is funding the campaigns. The reasons of course are obvious, and the need is equally obvious, even to those outside of Nevada.”

A provision in the bill requiring a two-year cooling-off period for former lawmakers to lobby the Legislature was deleted by the Senate Operations and Elections Committee. The provision, which also applied to other public officers, was seen as problematic for the Nevada Public Utilities Commission.

The prohibition had been sought by Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas. Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the Assembly Legislative Affairs and Operations Committee, supported the deletion in the Senate committee hearing, saying other sections of the measure were too important to lose.

AB82, which would allow a county to establish an electronic voter registration system, was amended to include a provision prohibiting candidates from accepting campaign contributions from foreign nationals.

The amendment was sought by Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, in response to a controversy over a separate bill seeking to legalize Internet poker in Nevada. Several lawmakers received contributions from PokerStars, the foreign-based company seeking the measure. Most lawmakers receiving the contributions said they were unaware the company, based in the Isle of Man, was foreign.

Federal law prohibits contributions from foreign nationals, but Nevada’s law was not clear on the issue.

Audio clips:

Ross Miller says opportunity for campaign finance reform looks good in 2011 legislative session:

053011Miller1 :24 very good sign.”

Miller says three measures are a major step forward for transparency in Nevada’s election processes:

053011Miller2 :16 Nevada’s elections statutes.”


Bills Sought By GOP Senators ‘Returned’ To Assembly As Tax Discussions Continue

By Sean Whaley | 12:00 pm May 26th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Republican state senators who are refusing to go along with a call by Democrats to increase funding for the state budget say bills they have sponsored are being held hostage as a result.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, said Assembly Democrats, who have a 26-16 majority, “called back” seven Senate bills that had already been voted on and sent to the Senate for final action.

Senate Bills 89, 96, 111, 134, 225, 322 and 337 were requested to be returned to the Assembly, said David Byerman, secretary of the Senate. He said such requests are routine and are accommodated without requesting an explanation. Various reasons can prompt such a request, such as a reconsideration of a measure, he said.

All seven bills passed the Assembly unanimously on Monday. On Tuesday, Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee, including Cegavske, Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, and Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, refused to support a proposed budget relying on the extension of sun-setting taxes to add more than $700 million in funding.

The Assembly Ways and Means Committee today passed out a bill extending the sun-setting taxes on a party-line vote. But a two-thirds vote will be required in the full Assembly and then in the Senate to approve the measure.

Democrats in the Legislature need three GOP members of the Senate of 10 to vote to extend the sun-setting taxes. So far the Senate GOP caucus has remained firm in its opposition, holding with Gov. Brian Sandoval against any tax extensions or increases to fund areas of the budget.

On Wednesday, the seven GOP Senate bills were recalled by the Assembly leadership.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, who said he is working to win support from Senate Republicans for additional revenue for the state budget, acknowledged the bills were called back by the Assembly.

“I think the issue is the budget is the most important thing we have going right now,” he said. “Any policy bill is not that important right now. So we’re absolutely looking at holding all the policy bills until we have a budget.

“Call it what you will, I think what we’re doing is, there is nothing more important than getting this budget done so no policy bills are moving right now,” Oceguera said.

If the bills remain in the possession of the Assembly, they won’t see final approval or be signed into law by the governor, he said.

Oceguera said a lot of reform bills are caught up in the discussion over new tax revenue.

“Obviously if there is not reform on the tax side of things there’s not going to be reform on anything else either,” he said.

Cegavske said Republican senators are being punished for their opposition to tax increases but the bills are good legislation that don’t deserve such action.

Cegavske said failing to act on her Senate Bill 225 won’t hurt her personally, but it will harm the efforts of the American Heart Association.

“Yes my name is on it and if you want to punish me, punish me, don’t punish the American Heart Association,” she said. “Because it is truly a bill that will help them and there is nothing wrong with sending policy bills through while you are still debating budgets. There is nothing wrong with that.

“It saddens me that you would act in a manner that is unprofessional,” Cegavske said.

“It’s an angry attempt to say we didn’t like the fact that you voted against the sunset bills so we’re going to do something that affects you,” she said. “Well, it doesn’t affect me personally but it does affect the American Heart Association and what they’re trying to accomplish for the good of the citizens of Nevada.”

“One would hope we don’t need to go down such a partisan road,” said Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville.

SB89 imposing reforms on homeowners’ associations is sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon. SB96 making changes to the Guinn Millennium Scholarship is sponsored by Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City.

SB111, sponsored by Settelmeyer, would make changes to help children who are kept in protective custody. SB134 is sponsored by Rhoads and would make changes to the Elko City municipal elections.

SB225 sought by Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, would designate certain hospitals as stroke centers. SB322, relating to weight limits on vehicles, is being sought by Settelmeyer, Hardy and Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas. SB337 is being sought by Kieckhefer and Sen. Allison Copening, D-Las Vegas, and would make changes to the donation of anatomical gifts.

None of the measures have anything to do with policy reforms sought by some Republicans in exchange for consideration of taxes, such as collective bargaining.

Audio clips:

Sen. Barbara Cegavske said Senate GOP bills are being held up as punishment for opposition to tax increases:

052611Cegavske1 :17 wrong with that.”

Cegavske said there is no reason the bills should not be passed while the budget is being debated:

052611Cegavske2 :24 all that way.”

Sen. James Settelmeyer said the Legislature should not have to go down such a partisan road:

052611Settelmeyer :04 a partisan road.”

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera says the budget is the most pressing issue right now:

052611Oceguera1 :05 going right now.”

Oceguera says policy bills are not that important right now:

052611Oceguera2 :09 have a budget.”

Oceguera says the budget is the top priority:

052611Oceguera3 :09 moving right now.”

Oceguera says if there is not reform on taxes, there won’t be reform on anything else:

052611Oceguera4 :14 anything else either.”





Performance-Based Budgeting Bill Wins Approval In Legislature, Heads To Governor

By Sean Whaley | 4:11 pm May 23rd, 2011

CARSON CITY – A bill implementing “performance-based” budgeting, including requirements for agencies to set benchmarks and goals and be held accountable for their spending priorities using quantifiable measurements, passed the Senate today and now heads to Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Assembly Bill 248, sponsored by Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, and Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, already passed the Assembly.

The bill is part of a package of Democratic legislation to reform state government to make it more efficient, transparent, and accountable to Nevada’s taxpayers. The new budgeting process would replace the current practice of taking every agency budget approved by the Legislature and adding to it every session to accommodate rising caseloads, inflation and other cost increases.

“Performance-based budgeting is a proven approach to making government more efficient, accountable and making sure every taxpayer dollar is working harder and being spent wisely,” Smith said.

In addition to implementing a performance-based budgeting system, AB248 requires the posting of the information about performance on the Department of Administration website, along with report cards on state agencies, to increase transparency.

AB248 further empowers the governor to authorize executive agencies to conduct public hearings on the proposed budget between October 15th and January 15th of the budget cycle, providing additional opportunities for public input and enabling the legislature to have more information when the session convenes.

State Budget Director Andrew Clinger produced Nevada’s first performance-based budget for the current legislative session at the direction of former Gov. Jim Gibbons, along with the traditional budget document, for consideration by lawmakers.

If signed into law, AB248 would mandate the creation of such a budget.