Posts Tagged ‘Randolph Townsend’

Interim Lawmaker Panel OKs Drafting Resolution To Provide For Study Of Legislature, Including Pay, Annual Sessions

By Sean Whaley | 4:18 pm August 20th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A legislative panel today voted to seek a resolution in the 2013 session to authorize the creation of a public commission to study the operation of the Legislature and make recommendations on issues ranging from lawmaker pay to moving to annual sessions.

The Legislative Commission’s Committee To Study the Structure and Operations of the Nevada Legislature voted to pursue such a review, which has not occurred in Nevada since 1988. The study would be performed by a public commission which could make recommendations for consideration by the 2015 Legislature.

Details of who would serve on the public commission, along with other aspects of such a review, will be worked out in committee hearings in the 2013 session that will start next February.

Currently the Nevada constitution requires the Legislature meet every other year for 120 days. The constitution also limits legislative pay to the first 60 days of a session and imposes term limits for state lawmakers. Voters would have to approve any changes to these requirements before they could take effect.

While the legislative panel approved the drafting of a resolution providing for a public commission to review these and potentially other legislative rules and mandates, one lawmaker said he will reserve judgment until he sees the final working of the proposal.

“I’m all for studying virtually anything and this is certainly a topic worthy of study,” said Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, a member of the panel. “But I don’t want to mislead the chair of the committee. I’m not convinced that creating a commission is necessary, especially in light of the fact that this committee has been meeting throughout the interim to do largely what the commission would do.

“But I will keep an open mind on that, and I will look at the resolution once it is created as a result of this committee’s work, and I will study it carefully during the next session,” he said.

Before the discussion on the resolution, the committee heard from former state Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, who now serves as a member of the Nevada Gaming Commission. Townsend was termed out of office in 2010. He had served in the Senate since 1983.

Former state Sen. Randolph Townsend. / Photo courtesy of Project Vote Smart.

Townsend suggested a number of ideas for the Legislature to consider, including changing the length of terms for state Senators from four years to six, and for Assembly members from two years to four, to reduce the frequency of campaigns that he said interfere in the legislative process.

“Whether you change term limits or not, I think you take a lot of the money and vitriol out of these things,” he said. “Because it’s gotten to the point where campaigns overcome policy making, and that is not fair to any of you no matter what party you are in or what section of the state you live in.”

Townsend also suggested that legislative sessions be changed to even-numbered years if there is no move to have annual sessions. Those elected to the Legislature in each general election every November in even numbered years would then have more than a full year to learn the legislative process before a session would begin. Now lawmakers are elected in November and must start a session early the following year, he said.

“Move it off a year,” Townsend said. “Leadership can appoint those folks to their interim committees, and they can start learning the process, and the issues, and their colleagues and the people that they affect. That one single change will make every legislator better, whether you’ve been there a long time or whether you are new.”

The change would also mean a shorter campaign season for lawmakers if sessions continued to end in early June in even-numbered years, Townsend said.

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the interim study committee, questioned how lawmakers would raise campaign funds in such a scenario but said such issues can be discussed at a later date.

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Audio clips:

Sen. Greg Brower says he is not convinced such a study is needed but will consider the issue in the 2013 session:

082012Brower :32 the next session.”

Former state Sen. Randolph Townsend says Assembly terns should be four years and Senate terms six years:

082012Townsend1 :11 you live in.”

Townsend says legislative sessions should be moved to even-numbered years:

082012Townsend2 :24 you are new.”

Debate Over State Budget ‘End Game’ Suggests Compromise Far Off

By Andrew Doughman | 7:38 pm April 18th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, wanted honesty about the Legislature’s budget “end game,” and he got it.

At a legislative town hall featuring 21 lobbyists, lawmakers and business leaders, the candid comments from panelists seemed to suggest a looming budget compromise is a fool’s hope.

“You’re not going to get a tax increase through this Senate,” said Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, one of the panelists. “You’re simply not going to get it.”

He clashed again with AFL-CIO lobbyist and co-panelist Danny Thompson. Now both men have said they are “offended” by what the other has said about collective bargaining. Roberson’s bill to change collective bargaining law died in committee last week.

Hickey gave each panelist about five minutes to speak, which was enough time for each panelist to repeat a few key talking points.

“It seemed business as usual,” said Jim Cooley, lobbyist for the Nevada Libertarian Party. “It was basically, ‘this is my pitch.’”

Each speaker brought his or her own expertise to the discussion. But the debate was framed by the needs and wants of each participant.

Washoe County Superintendent Heath Morrison called for education reforms paired with more funding than Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed in his general fund budget.

“We must improve education,” Morrison said. “Only by providing an educated workforce are businesses going to want to come to Nevada and stay in Nevada.”

Chuck Muth, conservative activist for Citizen Outreach, maintained his firm stance against new taxes.

“It is no longer sufficient to say that the government needs to do more with less,” Muth said. “It is time for us to start saying that the government needs to do less with less.”

Heidi Gansert, Sandoval’s chief of staff, did her best to put a new spin on the talking points representatives from the governor’s office have used to defend the budget since its January release.

“We recognize that there are some very difficult cuts,” Gansert said. “It’s time that we have to do that.”

Hickey organized the town hall meeting to bring a diverse crowd to one place to debate, as the title of the forum suggested, “the recession, revenues and Nevada’s recovery.” He said earlier that he wanted Nevada’s political players to put their “cards on the table.”

At least one lobbyist in the audience said he was discouraged that the cards the players revealed today were the same hands they were holding two months ago.

“I think it shows how firm both sides are in their positions, which means we probably are not playing for an end game in that first week of June,” said Paul Enos, a lobbyist for the Nevada Motor Transport Association.

Former Republican Sen. Randolph Townsend spoke at the event and channeled his colleague, former Republican Sen. Bill Raggio, in calling for more respect in the legislative debate.

“Deal only with the issue in front of you,” he said. “Don’t tie the issue to the person … the day you make it personal you lose … It’s a lot harder to become vitriolic when it’s somebody you know.”

Members of the public also joined by watching online or attending the town hall at the Legislature. Robert Stransbury, 64, is a retired teacher and Carson City resident who listened to the debate from the Legislature.

“I took away that there’s some very strong opinions on opposing sides,” he said. “I hope that they can agree and come together and get a budget.”

To that end, Townsend had some advice for the current legislators struggling to do more than cobble together a budget at the last minute.

“Once in awhile you have to walk out of the [legislative] building, breathe the clean air and try to get a different perspective, and right now that is what the building needs,” he said.

The 120-day legislative session is scheduled to end during the first week of June.

 

Assemblyman Asks Lawmakers To Put “Cards On The Table” In Forum Today

By Andrew Doughman | 12:47 pm April 18th, 2011

CARSON CITY — Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Sparks, is asking other legislators to “lay your cards on the table.”

As the budget debate in Carson City roils to no discernible conclusion, Hickey is bringing 21 lawmakers, business leadersa and academics to the Legislature to talk taxes and government reform.

“This forum will help get out into the open things that have only been talked about behind closed doors,” Hickey said. “As moderator, I plan to press participants to speak openly about the ‘end game’ here this session.”

That end game has traditionally involved closed door meetings between legislative leadership.

Hickey will moderate the “Recession, Revenues and Nevada’s Recovery” panel today between 3 – 5 p.m. at the Legislature. Viewers online can watch here.

Hickey said he would like to have a serious discussion in public that could evolve into legislative negotiations about the budget.

At the very least, the diversity of voices at the forum should provide an interesting sideshow to the day-in, day-out legislative hearings and committees.

Speaking at the forum span nearly every position on the tax debate. Politically, Hickey’s guests span the spectrum from left to right and include representatives from unions and contractors, free-market libertarians and progressive groups, chambers of commerce and school districts.

Hickey’s forum is not the only change in the legislative end game.

This year, Democratic leaders in the Assembly and Senate have said they will conduct budget hearings in the Assembly and Senate chambers. They say the move will lead to more transparency and include more legislators in budget discussions.

As first reported in the Las Vegas Sun, the change could prompt legislators toward a budget battle over education.

The Legislature has 49 days remaining to conclude its session, pass a budget and finish the drawing of political districts as required every 10 years by the U.S. Census.

 

Panelists for the “Recession, Revenues and Nevada’s Recovery” include:

Heidi Gansert, the governor’s chief of staff

Speaker Pro Tempore Debbie Smith, D-Sparks

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas

Tray Abney, Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce

Carole Vilardo – Nevada Taxpayers Association

Dr. Elliott Parker – UNR economist

Clara Andriola – Associated Builders and Contractors

Geoffrey Lawrence – Nevada Policy Research Institute economist

Dr. Heath Morrison – Washoe County School District superintendent

Mary Lau – Retail Association of Nevada

Dr. Tyrus Cobb – former assistant to President Ronald Reagan

Neil Medina – Northern Nevada Contractor

Jim Pfrommer – Education Alliance of Washoe County

Former Sen. Randolph Townsend

Assemblyman Crescent Hardy, R-Mesquite

Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks

Bob Fulkerson, Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada

Chuck Muth – Citizen Outreach

Dave Humke – Washoe County Commissioner

Danny Thompson – AFL-CIO union representative

Norm Dianda – Q&D Construction

Citizens Panel Appointees Ask for Patience as They Consider Nevada’s Vision for the Future

By Sean Whaley | 4:21 pm December 28th, 2009
CARSON CITY – As lawmakers prepare to study the state’s revenue structure and develop a long-term vision for Nevada’s future, several members of a citizens panel appointed to assist in the process agree on two points: Give us a chance before you pass judgment on our effort, and don’t put our work on a shelf.

“It’s tough to criticize something that hasn’t happened yet,” said Boyd Martin of Boyd Martin Construction, who is representing the Las Vegas Chapter of the Associated General Contractors on the 19-member panel. “I hope the panel will be effective; that the time will be well spent. I want our results to have some meaning.”

Marsha Irvin, chancellor of the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas, said the task of identifying what the state’s quality of life should look like in the next 5 to 20 years is of monumental importance.

An educator for 32 years, Irvin said: “I’m going into the process with the perspective of being very open minded.”

It is premature to suggest what, if any, recommendations regarding a tax increase will come from the group, she said. The first task is to examine where Nevada is now, where it should be and then set out to bring that vision to reality, Irvin said.

The panel will work closely with Moody’s Analytics, a contractor hired by the Legislature to perform the study of the state’s revenue structure at a cost of $253,000. The contractor has until July 1 to complete its review.

The Nevada News Bureau interviewed a half dozen members of the “Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group” to get their views on the challenging job ahead. The members were appointed last month by the Legislature. The panel will meet for the first time on January 8, 2010.

While the panel has yet to meet, its makeup has been criticized by some Republican lawmakers for having too many representatives of interests that consume tax revenue as opposed to those that produce tax revenue. There is also a belief by some critics, including Gov. Jim Gibbons, that a recommendation for a tax increase from the panel is a forgone conclusion.

Panel member Alan Feldman, senior vice president of public affairs for the state’s largest private employer, MGM Mirage, said criticism of the panel’s work is welcome as long as it comes from those willing to participate in finding solutions to the state’s challenges.

“Nothing is going to easy about this,” he said. “I’m not approaching it from a certain political point of view.”

But don’t play Monday morning quarterback, Feldman said.

“As a representative of the largest employer in the state, as a parent, as a member of this commission, we cannot under any circumstances let our educational system continue on the way it is,” he said.

Which is not to say there aren’t efficiencies that can be implemented, Feldman said.

Donald Snyder, who serves as the volunteer chairman of the board of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas and who is a former president of the Boyd Gaming Corp., said he is optimistic the panel can produce a report of value for use by lawmakers and the governor.

“I think this type of process is difficult even under the best of circumstances,” he said. “But if ever there was a time we need to take a long-term look, now is the time to do it.”

Snyder said the charge to the panel can only be accomplished with the public and private sectors working together to put their best thoughts forward for consideration by the group.

“If it is just another exercise in a study that will go nowhere, I will be really disappointed,” he said.

Rene Cantú Jr., vice president of multicultural affairs for Nevada State College and representing the Latin Chamber of Commerce on the panel, said Nevada needs to get away from its boom and bust cycles. Expanding the diversity of the state’s employment base would help to accomplish that goal.

“There needs to be some sort of method of stabilizing our funding for schools and roads,” he said. “I don’t believe throwing money at public education will improve our schools. We must spend smartly. But we have to spend if we want a good quality of life.”

Denise Tanata Ashby, executive director of the Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy at UNLV, said as a panel member she will reach out to as many people and points of view as possible.

Previous studies of Nevada’s tax structure have not been very successful, but Tanata Ashby believes this time might be different.

“We’re looking at a different climate right now,’ she said. “I hope there we can put some solid recommendations together that are going to improve Nevada.”

Tanata Ashby said it is time to gain some ground in Nevada’s poor rankings on issues affecting children. This doesn’t necessarily mean a tax increase, but possibly a realignment of where tax dollars are being spent, she said.

While Nevada cannot expect to move into first place in quality of life rankings overnight, progress needs to be made, Ashby said.

“We are all taxpayers ourselves,” she said. “But at some point, everybody has to contribute if we want that vision of Nevada that we have.”

State Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, has said he believes the panel is well represented by business and other varied interests throughout the state.

But state Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, in comments made after the panel was named last month, said he believes the outcome of the review will be a call for higher taxes since only six of the 19 are in the “taxpayer” category.

A review of the voter registration of the members of the panel shows that 12 are Democrats, five are Republicans and two are nonpartisan.

To critics of the panel‘s composition, it is a further sign that the end result of the review will be a preordained call for higher taxes.

Townsend said the next Legislature already faces the challenge of how to fill a multi-billion dollar gap in the budget before considering additional spending on public education or other quality of life issues.

“Not to criticize the contractor, but the problem is no one will admit that the society we want, we can’t afford,” he said. “We want everyone to have health care, jobs and educational opportunities. That’s great. But who is going to pay for that?”