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.
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.”