Posts Tagged ‘Roberson’

Many Nevada Lawmaker PACs Show Modest Contributions In First Report Of 2012

By Sean Whaley | 4:14 pm May 23rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – Political Action Committees formed by state lawmakers to help their candidates win seats in the Legislature are off to a slow start in fundraising, according to campaign finance reports filed this week with Secretary of State’s office.

Many of the lawmaker-created PACs reported no contributions in the first campaign contribution and expense report filed Tuesday and reflecting financial activity from Jan. 1 through May 18 of 2012.

More lawmakers are forming their own PACs in an effort to both help their party’s candidates and to wield more influence.

Graphic courtesy of KRNV.

The “A Brighter Nevada” PAC formed by state Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, received only $1,000, according to its filing. The “Battle Born Leadership Group” PAC formed by Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, reported no contributions.

But a few of the committees did report some more significant contributions.

The Assembly Republican Caucus brought in $95,000, including $10,000 from the Keystone Corp., and spent $70,000, including a $5,000 contribution to the Committee to Elect Wes Duncan. Duncan is running for the Assembly District 37 seat in Las Vegas now held by Assembly Majority Leader Marcus Conklin.

Conklin’s Nevada First PAC reported no contributions.

The Senate Majority PAC formed by Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, brought in $34,500, including $5,000 from Station Casinos. It also contributed $10,000 each to GOP Senate candidates Mari Nakashima St. Martin and Mark Hutchison. The PAC also took in $160,000 in 2011.

The Majority 2012 PAC formed by Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, reported $7,500 in contributions in 2012. It also took in $15,000 in 2011. It contributed $5,000 to each of four Senate Democrat candidates: Sheila Leslie, Joyce Woodhouse, Justin Jones and Benny Yerushalmi.

The two main Senate caucus reports showed bigger numbers in the first report of 2012, with Democrats out-raising Republicans $187,000 to $149,000.

The Nevada Democratic Party also won the fundraising race in the first 2012 report over the Republican Party. The Democratic Party took in $465,000, while the Republican Party brought in only $75,000 in contributions.

All of these numbers will change after the primary as the parties and caucuses gear up for the November general election.

Republicans Lead In Fundraising In Critical State Senate Races But Democrats Argue They Have Broader Support

By Sean Whaley | 3:27 pm May 23rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – Republican candidates have big leads in fundraising in four of five seats considered critical to control of the state Senate in the 2013 legislative session, with a slight monetary advantage in the fifth, according to campaign contribution reports filed this week.

Both Democrat and Republican caucus leaders are fighting hard to win the seats to control the 21-member house where Democrats now lead 11-10.

The first reports of 2012 show contributions through May 18 and were filed Tuesday with the state Secretary of State’s office. Several candidates also raised money in 2011 and these amounts have given the GOP candidates the funding edge early on in the 2012 election season.

Republican caucus leader Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, is optimistic that the GOP can retake control of the Senate in the November general election. Republicans need to win four of the five seats to do so.

Democratic Senate leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, is equally confident Democrats will maintain control.

Roberson said he is pleased with where the Senate candidates are right now, but added that it is a long time until November. Roberson also said he is pleased but not surprised at the level of contributions to the candidates and the caucus.

“I know the caliber of the candidates we have,” he said. “The group of candidates that agreed to run this time on the Republican side, our endorsed candidates, are some of the best candidates either party has seen in 20 years.”

But Senate Democrats point out that two of their candidates, Justin Jones and Sheila Leslie, both had larger numbers of individuals contributing to their campaigns than their GOP counterparts in the 2012 reports, suggesting they have a broader base of support. A third candidate, Joyce Woodhouse, also out-raised her opponent in the 2012 report.

The Senate Democratic Caucus also out-raised its Republican counterpart so far in 2012, $187,000 to $149,000.

“The recent finance reports show that the Senate Democratic Caucus is a very strong position to expand and protect the majority,” said Mike Luce, executive director of the Nevada Senate Democrats. “We have very strong candidates and the registration in these new districts favors Democrats.

“We have been  saying all along that the Democratic candidates are running strong campaigns and talking about bringing jobs to this state,” he said. “Our message is working, our campaigns are knocking doors and raising the necessary funds to run competitive races.”

In Senate District 5, where former Henderson city councilman Steve Kirk, a Republican, is expected to face Woodhouse, a former state senator, in the November general election, the GOP has the edge in contributions so far. But Kirk has also spent much of his war chest already.

Kirk reports $131,000 in total contributions and expenses of $67,000. Kirk has a primary battle. Kirk received a $5,000 contribution from the Retail Association of Nevada in the first reporting period this year.

Woodhouse reports raising about $96,000 and spending $18,000. She has large contributions from the Nevada State Education Association, $5,000; outgoing state Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, $5,000; and Nevada Senate Democrats, $5,000; in the first reporting period for this year.

The other Republican in the Senate 5 race, Annette Teijeiro, reports about $28,000 in contributions and $15,000 in expenses. The primary is June 12.

Author: David Ball, via Wikimedia Commons.

In Senate District 6, where GOP attorney Mark Hutchison is expected to face businessman and Democrat Benny Yerushalmi, Republicans also have a fundraising advantage.

Hutchison reports $185,000 in contributions and nearly $48,000 expenses. Contributions include $5,000 from the Keystone Corp., $5,000 from the Retail Association of Nevada and $10,000 from the Senate Republican Leadership Conference.

Yerushalmi reports $74,000 in contributions and $10,000 in expenses. He has a primary against Thomas Welsh. Yerushalmi, who ran unsuccessfully for a state Senate seat in 2010, has $4,000 contributions from both the Nevada State Education Association and the Clark County Education Association.

In Senate District 9, where Republican Mari Nakashima St. Martin is expected to face Democrat Justin Jones, the candidates are fairly evenly matched. Both face primary opponents. Brent Jones is also a GOP candidate, and Frederick Conquest has filed as a Democrat.

St. Martin reports nearly $114,000 in contributions and $60,000 in expenses. Contributions include $10,000 from the Senate Majority Political Action Committee, $10,000 from the Jobs First PAC, and $10,000 from the Senate Republican Leadership Conference.

Justin Jones reports nearly $112,000 in contributions and $23,000 in expenses. Contributions include $2,500 from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Searchlight Leadership Fund.

GOP candidate Brent Jones has raised nearly $33,000 in contributions.

In the Senate 15 race where incumbent Greg Brower, R-Reno, will face Leslie, who resigned her Senate 13 seat to challenge the attorney who was appointed to fill out the term of the late Sen. Bill Raggio, the Republican is leading in the fund-raising race.

Brower reports $299,000 in contributions and $76,000 in expenditures, with a $7,279 donation from the Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Leslie reports $141,000 in total contributions and $58,000 in expenses. Her contributions include $2,000 from R&R Partners, $5,000 from the Laborers’ Intl Local 169, and $8,700 from the Barbara Buckley Campaign. Buckley is a former Assembly speaker.

In Senate District 18, where Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, is likely to face Democrat Kelli Ross in November, Hammond reports $127,000 in contributions and $70,000 in expenses. Contributions include $2,500 from Station Casinos and $5,000 from MGM Resorts International.

Hammond raised $59,000 in the first 2012 reporting period from Jan. 1 through May 18. He also raised $68,000 in 2011.

Hammond, who is endorsed by the GOP Senate Caucus, and who faces a primary challenge from Assemblyman Richard McArthur, R-Las Vegas, is well ahead in contributions. McArthur reports about $16,000 in total donations. Republican Conrad Vergara, has also filed.

Ross, who has a primary against Democrat Donna Schlemmer, reports $47,000 in contributions and $5,500 in expenses. She received $10,000 from the Committee to Elect Steve Ross and $5,000 from the Committee to Elect Tom Collins.

Schlemmer has raised about $7,000.

Democrats have a voter registration edge in three Clark County races: Senate 5 by 40.6 percent to 37.5 percent for Republicans; in Senate 6 by 41.4 percent to 38.2 percent; and in Senate 9 by 39.6 percent to 35.3 percent, based on registration numbers through April.

Republicans lead in Senate 15 in Washoe County, 40 percent to 38 percent, and in Senate District 18 in Clark County, 40.7 percent to 37.6 percent.

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Audio clips:

Sen. Michael Roberson says he is pleased with where the Senate candidates are but that it is a long time yet to November:

052312Roberson1 :14 sure we’re successful.”

Roberson says the GOP Senate candidates are some of the best in the past 20 years:

052312Roberson2 :20 in 20 years.”

 

Thirteen Nevada GOP State Lawmakers Get High Ratings In First Report Card From Conservative Group

By Sean Whaley | 10:38 am November 3rd, 2011

CARSON CITY – The national conservative organization American Conservative Union ranked Nevada lawmakers for the first time in a report card released today, handing out top scores to five GOP state Senators.

Sens. Greg Brower, R-Reno; Don Gustavson, R-Sparks; Elizabeth Halseth and Michael Roberson, both R-Las Vegas; and James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville; all were named as “Conservative All-Stars of the Nevada Legislature” for scoring 100 percent in the ratings.

Another eight Republican lawmakers, two in the Senate and six in the Assembly, were identified as ACU Conservatives for scoring 80 percent or higher in the ratings.

State Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

They are Sens. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas; Mike McGinness, R-Fallon; and Assembly members John Ellison, R-Elko; Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley; John Hambrick and Richard McArthur, both R-Las Vegas; Ira Hansen, R-Sparks; and Mark Sherwood, R-Henderson.

One lawmaker, Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, scored a zero on the report card and was identified as “A True Liberal of the Silver State.”

ACU Chairman Al Cardenas announced the rankings at a press event in Las Vegas.

“Just as we hold every member of Congress accountable for his or her voting record on the most important issues facing our nation, the ACU will ensure voters in Nevada have access to the latest information on their state representatives’ conservative credentials,” he said.

The ACU, which describes itself as the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots conservative organization, recently announced a new initiative to expand the ACU Congressional Ratings program to state legislatures for the first time ever, grading members on their votes on key conservative issues.

State Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks. / Nevada News Bureau file photo

The ACU said in its report that it tracks a wide range of issues before state legislatures to determine which issues and votes, “serve as a clear litmus test separating those representatives who defend liberty and liberal members who have turned their backs on our founding principles – constitutionally limited government, individual liberty, free markets, a strong national defense and traditional values.”

The votes selected for the inaugural State Legislative Ratings in each of five targeted states – Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and the Commonwealth of Virginia – are not always considered the “most important” votes as defined by others, the ACU said in its report. Instead, the votes selected are chosen to create a clear ideological distinction among those casting them.

The group selected 31 legislative measures to score the 63 Nevada lawmakers, including Assembly Bill 299, which would have imposed a 50-cent surcharge on auto insurance policies to subsidize car insurance for low income residents, which the ACU opposed. The bill did not pass.

Another measure was Assembly Bill 321, which implemented the “Castle Doctrine” in Nevada, giving citizens the right to defend themselves in their own homes. The ACU supported the bill, which was approved by both houses of the Legislature.

The ACU also used the vote on extending a collection of taxes set to expire on June 30 in its report card. Assembly Bill 561 passed the Legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval as part of a budget deal between Democrats and Republicans.

“As pleased as we are to recognize a total of 13 members of the Legislature as true conservative patriots, we are disappointed there were not more members who adhered to conservative principles,” Cardenas said. “Thankfully, Gov, Brian Sandoval, a rising star of the conservative movement, has championed limited government and pro-growth policies by vetoing several ill-conceived pieces of legislation passed by the Nevada Legislature.”

“I am honored to be named the most conservative legislator in the Nevada Assembly,” McArthur said. “This rating will reinforce the ratings I have previously received from the Nevada Policy Research Institute and Citizen Outreach.”

McArthur scored 94 percent in the ACU ratings, ranking him as the most conservative member of the Nevada Assembly.

Gustavson said he was pleased to rank so highly in the survey.

“It doesn’t come as a surprise because I have been living up to my conservative values that got me elected and keep getting me elected,” he said. “So I’m very honored to have received the award.”

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Audio clips:

Sen. Don Gustavson said he has been living up to his conservative values:

110311Gustavson :09 received the award.”

 

Conservative Nevada Think Tank Grades Lawmakers On Taxes, Education Reform

By Sean Whaley | 2:00 am June 28th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A conservative Nevada think tank gave passing scores to 22 Republicans in the just-concluded 2011 legislative session, handing out failing scores to four other GOP lawmakers and all 37 Democrats in a report card released today.

The report card produced by Geoffrey Lawrence of the Nevada Policy Research Institute formulated the grades based on each lawmaker’s voting record on legislation related to economic freedom and education reform. The 78 specific bills used in the analysis are available for review at the group’s website.

Tops in the analysis was Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, with a score of 89.1 percent out of a possible 100. He was followed by Sens. Greg Brower, R-Reno, and Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, with scores of 88.63 percent. Sens. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, with a score of 88.15 percent, and James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, at 87.68 percent, rounded out the top five.

Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, won top honors in the NPRI report card./Nevada News Bureau file photo

The 12 lawmakers with the highest scores were all Republicans who voted against a measure to extend a package of taxes for two more years, six in the Senate and six in the Assembly.

“I think that will make my constituents very happy,” Gustavson said of his grade. “The business community as well.”

The state was not in a position to raise taxes this past session, although a majority of lawmakers ended up supporting such a policy, he said.

“We need to keep business going by not raising their taxes,” Gustavson said.

At the other end of the scale, Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, received the lowest score of 26.52 percent. Pierce authored a number of tax measures in the 2011 session, including a proposed tax on services and tax hikes on cigarettes and alcohol.

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, another one of the low scoring Democrats, called the grade a badge of honor.

“If they don’t like me it means I’m doing something right,” he said.

Segerblom said he campaigned on increasing taxes and is a strong supporter of education and unions, positions supported by his constituents.

“They can read the score and if they don’t like my grade and don’t like the way I voted they can obviously vote me out,” he said. “But I think I voted just like my constituencies wanted me to.”

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom said the low grade from NPRI is a badge of honor./Nevada News Bureau file photo

Segerblom said based on his grade with the NPRI he intends to run for the state Senate in Clark District 3 being vacated by Sen. Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas, who must step down due to term limits.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, scored the highest among Democrats at 35.55 percent, and Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, scored the lowest among Republicans at 43.98 percent.

Lawrence said the group’s 2009 report card reflected higher scores for some Democrats over Republicans. This session party affiliation and ideology went more hand-in-hand, with Republicans as a group acting in a more fiscally conservative way, he said.

Settelmeyer said he appreciates the types of pro-business measures included in the NPRI analysis.

“They tend to reflect the business friendly community that we’re trying to promote in the state of Nevada,” he said.

Roberson said he is pleased with the high grade from a group that supports free market approaches to education and fiscal policy. But he is disappointed at the level of reform finally approved by the Legislature to end the session.

“I don’t think the reforms were nearly as far reaching as I would like to see,” he said. “The governor proposed some really great education reforms that didn’t even get a vote taken.”

With Democrats in control of both houses, Republicans will focus on winning majorities in the next election cycle, Roberson said. The freshman lawmaker will head GOP efforts to win the Senate majority in 2012.

In addition to votes on several education reform measures and the budget, including a tax package that extended 2009 revenue hikes set to sunset June 30, other examples of bills used in the evaluation included a proposal to charge a fee on auto insurance policies to create a subsidized program for low-income residents of Clark County, and a measure to subsidize the development of wind and solar power.

The auto insurance measure passed the Assembly but never saw a vote in the Senate. The subsidy bill was vetoed by GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The grading system is adapted from one used by the National Taxpayers Union to grade Congress. The NTU methodology allows bills of greater significance to be weighted accordingly. Lawrence said NPRI adapted the grading system to include such elements as education reform.

The 2011 session was one where Sandoval and many Republicans were adamantly opposed to new taxes, with many Democrats pushing for new or increased revenues to further fund public education and other programs.

This paradigm shifted after the Nevada Supreme Court rejected the Legislature’s taking of $62 million from a Clark County water quality fund in the 2010 special session. Sandoval and some lawmakers expressed concern about the legality of using other local funds proposed as part of the new 2011-13 general fund budget that takes effect this Friday.

The ruling led to an agreement to extend the taxes set to sunset, but a number of reforms, including several to public education, were made part of the agreement. Payroll taxes for the states’ small businesses were also eliminated.

Lawrence said some of the reforms passed in the session on their own merits are more significant than those included as part of the budget and tax deal.

He cited the performance-based budgeting bill sought by Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, another measure expanding empowerment schools and a third strengthening the charter school process as examples of legislation that could have far reaching consequences.

Of the reforms included in the budget deal, Lawrence said: “It is arguable that Sandoval and legislative Republicans would not have been able to secure the education and labor reforms they received had they not reversed their position and embraced taxes. However, each of the reforms had merit on its own and should not have required an 11.5 percent increase in the overall state tax burden for lawmakers to consider its passage. Time will tell if the deal was worth its price.”

Audio clips:

Geoffrey Lawrence of NPRI says the most important reforms are unrelated to the budget deal:

062811Lawrence1 :06 the budget deal.”

Lawrence says the reforms that are part of the budget deal will have to be evaluated long term:

062711Lawrence2 :10 they actually materialize.”

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom says he voted the way his constituents wanted him to vote:

062711Segerblom1 :10 wanted me to.”

Sen. Michael Roberson says he is disappointed with the level of reforms approved in the 2011 session:

062711Roberson1 :16 a vote taken.”

Roberson says the GOP goal is to win majorities in both houses of the Legislature:

062711Roberson2 :19 in the Legislature.”

Sen. James Settelmeyer says he appreciates NPRI’s bill priorities:

062711Settelmeyer1 :21 get more jobs.”

Settelmeyer says some of the measures approved this session will likely have to be re-evaluated next session:

062711Settelmeyer2 : 14 of an idea.’”

 

 

Bill To Generate Money For Public Education, Create Jobs, Raises Legal Concerns

By Sean Whaley | 5:20 pm May 18th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A bill authorizing the state Treasurer to use up to $50 million in education funds to support economic diversification efforts and generate more money for public schools passed the Senate today despite questions about the constitutionality of the measure.

Senate Bill 75, amended twice before the vote, passed 12-9 with 10 Democrats and two Republicans in support. It will now be considered by the Assembly.

The bill is being sought by state Treasurer Kate Marshall.

It would create a first-for-the-state private equity fund to allow for investment in both existing Nevada companies and companies seeking to locate to the state that are in such industries as cyber security, alternative energy and health care.

The intent is to assist in diversifying Nevada’s economy while generating a better return on the invested monies from the state’s Permanent School Fund.

A big hurdle for the measure is the state constitutional prohibition on loaning state money to any company except a corporation formed for educational or charitable purposes. Supporters of the bill have a judicial determination that the proposed investments would be constitutional. Some Republican lawmakers say the determination is insufficient to satisfy their concerns.

The bill also has some political overtones. Marshall is a Democrat who has announced her intention to run for the open Congressional District 2 seat in the September special election. State Sen. Greg Brower, who voted against the measure today, is a Republican who has also announced his intention to seek the seat.

The constitutional question proved troubling for some lawmakers during a debate before today’s vote.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said he wanted to see either an attorney general’s opinion or one from the legal counsel of the Legislature answering the constitutional question before he could support the measure.

“It’s one thing to ask a judge to sign an order,” said Roberson, an attorney. “It’s another thing to have the imprimatur of the attorney general’s office saying yes, we believe as a matter of law, this is our opinion, that it is constitutional.”

Brower, R-Reno, also an attorney, had similar concerns.

“I sat on the committee that heard this bill and was impressed by some of the ideas brought forward that were behind this bill, and considered it with great interest in terms of it being, as you might call it, an outside-the-box approach to this issue,” he said.

But, Brower said: “We haven’t been able to get a good, clean bill of health on this bill in terms of its constitutionality.”

Until the issue is clarified, the Legislature should not pass a bill that may not be constitutional, he said.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said waiting for the Nevada Supreme Court to rule on whether each bill passed by the Legislature is constitutional would unduly hamper the legislative process. He said he would rely on the district court determination.

Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, said the bill has the potential to help create desperately needed jobs in Nevada. There is time while the bill is being considered in the Assembly to resolve the constitutional question, he said.

The bill had already been amended by Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, who successfully put the authority of the investment process in the hands of the Commission on Economic Development. Even so, Cegavske said her concerns with the overall bill, including the constitutionality question, caused her to vote against the measure.

Kieckhefer and Hardy voted for the bill. Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, was the only Democrat opposing the measure.

The bill as originally introduced would create a nonprofit public entity, the Nevada Capital Investment Corporation, to be headed by a board that includes members appointed by the governor and legislative leadership based on their investment expertise. The state treasurer, whose duties include the investment of state money, would also be a member.

The NCIC would hire professional private equity fund managers that would seek to partner with capital investment firms to invest in select companies and innovative start-up businesses that would assist in the state’s efforts to grow and diversify its economic base, leading to increased employment.

Steve George, chief of staff to Marshall, said the office remains supportive of the intent of the bill. But he suggested the Cegavske amendment, by changing the focus of the bill from improving the investment return for public school funds to one solely looking at economic development, could actually make it unconstitutional.

The primary focus originally was to get a better rate of return on the Permanent School Fund, a trust fund made up of federal funds provided to the state for decades from such sources as the sale of federal lands and court fees, George said. It is a trust fund that can’t be spent, only invested.

Eleven other states, excluding Nevada and Colorado, can invest their funds in more diverse ways, George said. Nevada has earned 4 percent on its investments over the past five years with the current limitation, while three other states have earned in excess of 5 percent, according to information provided by the Treasurer’s Office to Gov. Brian Sandoval. Oklahoma has earned 6.22 percent over the past five years.

“With no focus on return, we don’t think it will pass the constitutional requirement,” George said.

Audio clips:

Sen. Michael Roberson says his constitutional concerns with the bill remain unanswered:

051811Roberson :12 that it’s constitutional.”

Sen. Greg Brower says he has the same concerns despite the outside-the-box thinking in the bill:

051811Brower :17 to this issue.”

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer says he will rely on the opinion of the district court:

051811Kieckhefer :23 on his opinion.”

 

 

 

Low-Cost Auto Insurance Bill Gets Rough Treatment In Senate Hearing

By Sean Whaley | 5:30 pm May 6th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A bill that would charge most Nevada drivers a fee to subsidize a low-cost auto insurance pilot program for eligible residents of Clark County ran into some rough questioning today at a Senate hearing.

The bill, sought by Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, was the subject of some serious vote trading to get the two-thirds support required to move it out of the Assembly last month.

The bill required a two-thirds vote because it would impose a 50-cent fee per insured vehicle per year to establish a lower-cost auto insurance policy for low-income Clark County residents who are having trouble paying for a regular policy.

In testifying for Assembly Bill 299 in the Senate Commerce, Labor and Energy Committee, Atkinson said the intent of the program is to provide a way to reduce the number of uninsured drivers in Nevada, a number put at 19 percent by the Nevada Sage Commission in a 2010 report.

“I’ve heard first hand that too many low-income drivers remain uninsured because the cost of standard insurance premiums are beyond their financial reach,” he said. “Walking my district this past summer, my constituents told me that they are having a difficult time paying for insurance even when they are great drivers with no driving convictions on their records.”

Atkinson said his proposal is modeled on a similar program in California that has extended auto coverage to thousands of motorists.

The program, which would be administered by the Nevada Division of Insurance, would lower the cost of an insurance premium by about $184 a year, he said.

There are a number of requirements individuals would have to meet to be eligible for the program, including having good driving records as defined in the bill, Atkinson said.

But Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said the bill would create a process of wealth distribution, which he would oppose. The eligibility criteria for the low-cost insurance at 250 percent of federal poverty guidelines also suggests that huge numbers of Clark County residents could participate, he said.

“To say you can’t afford car insurance, and that everyone else should pay so you don’t have to, I mean what we’re talking about is wealth redistribution,” Roberson said. “Maybe some are OK with that but I’m not.”

Jim DeGraffenreid, representing the Nevada Republican Party, said the California program the proposal is modeled after has not been successful. The California program insured fewer than 50,000 drivers out of an estimated 3.5 million uninsured drivers, he said.

DeGraffenreid also said it would cost $800,000 to expand the bureaucracy of the Division of Insurance to administer the program, a figure Atkinson said was not correct.

DeGraffenreid’s comments prompted Roberson to ask why Nevada would want to emulate a failed California program.

Joe Guild, a lobbyist representing the State Farm Insurance Co., said the company estimates the policy would save only about $50 a year. Because the low-cost policy would provide only $3,000 worth of property damage coverage instead of the $10,000 provided for in regular policies, it could also cost the low-cost participants more out-of-pocket if there was an accident, he said.

Guild said State Farm is not opposed to the proposal, however.

The National Association of Mutual Insurance Companies (NAMIC) submitted a letter in opposition to the bill, saying the program “is unlikely to do anything other than create a new state bureaucracy for taxpayers and insurance consumers to fund.”

The letter went on to ask, “. . . when one considers the very low participation rate in the California Low Cost Auto Program, one needs to question why Nevada taxpayers and insurance consumers should be assess a 50 cents per passenger vehicle fee to fund a program that hasn’t been even remotely successful in a neighboring state?”

A number of other individuals testified in opposition as well.

The bill did see some support from Jan Gilbert, representing the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, who said the pilot program should be given a chance. The savings, while modest to some, could help families who are finding it tough to make ends meet, she said.

After listening to the opposition testimony, Atkinson said he was surprised by the comments. None of the people testifying against the bill made an appearance when it was heard in the Assembly, he said.

Drivers will pay for those who choose to drive without insurance one way or another, and the low-cost program is the better alternative, Atkinson said.

The committee took no immediate action on the bill.

Audio clips:

Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson says he proposed the low-cost auto insurance plan to help those with financial difficulties in the economic downturn:

050611Atkinson :20 on their records.”

Sen. Michael Roberson questions why some drivers should be required to subsidize insurance for others:

050611Roberson :15 that, I’m not.”

 

Many Proposals To Amend Nevada Constitution, Including School Vouchers, Fail To Advance In Legislature

By Sean Whaley | 2:05 pm April 15th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Efforts in the Legislature to amend Nevada’s constitution failed for the most part to move forward today as a deadline hit to get measures passed out of committee.

Measures creating a lottery, repealing the minimum wage and allowing tax dollars to be spent on religious schools all failed to advance.

One of the most significant failures came on the issue of vouchers for religious schools. Two measures, including one introduced by Gov. Brian Sandoval, did not make it out of committee by the deadline.

Sandoval has advocated for the change to allow for the use of tax dollars by parents to send their children to private schools, including religious schools. The state constitution currently bans the use of tax money for sectarian purposes. His measure would have clarified that using tax money to educate children in religious schools would not violate this prohibition.

But Sandoval’s proposal, Assembly Joint Resolution 8, did not even get a hearing in the Assembly Ways and Means Committee by the deadline.

Senate Joint Resolution 10, a separate measure by Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, had a hearing Tuesday but never came up for a vote in the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee. It would also have amended the constitution to allow tax dollars to be spent on the education of children in religious schools.

While a number of parents spoke in support of his measure, public school officials and the state teachers union were opposed.

Roberson said he appreciated the Democrat-controlled Senate holding a hearing on his proposal, but was not surprised that it did not come up for a vote.

“The Democratic Party is in the majority, and so many of these folks, their core supporters are the public sector unions,” he said. “They’re being asked to hear legislation and vote for legislation that one of their core constituencies is vehemently opposed to.

“Frankly I think it is shameful that they won’t even consider a vote in the committee on SJR10,” Roberson said. “But they are in the majority and that is their prerogative.”

Roberson said the discussion of school choice will not go away. If Republicans can win another seat in the state Senate in 2012 they will be in the majority, and proposals such as school vouchers will be brought forward again.

“So this is the opening salvo,” he said. “We’re not finished by a long shot.”

Amending the state constitution is not an easy task. Any legislative proposal to change it requires passage in two consecutive sessions, then a vote by the public. So if any pass this session, they will have to be approved by lawmakers again in 2013 and then approved by the voters in 2014 before they could take effect.

Most of the proposed amendments failed to survive the deadline.

A proposal to establish a lottery in Nevada to fund education failed to advance. The proposal has come up in numerous legislative sessions over the years but has never been successful.

Also failing to win a committee vote was a proposal from Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, to repeal Nevada’s minimum wage law.

At a hearing earlier this session, Hardy argued Nevada’s law, which sets the minimum wage at typically one dollar above the federal level, has reduced hiring by restaurants and other businesses that rely on unskilled workers.

The measure was criticized by labor representatives who argued Nevada voters approved the current law and the Legislature should not attempt to override the will of the people.

A few of the proposed constitutional amendments remain alive, including Senate Joint Resolution 15, which would remove the separate tax rate and assessment method established for Nevada’s mining industry. The proposal was given a waiver from the deadline by lawmakers.

If ultimately approved, it would allow the Legislature to set new tax rates for the industry, which has been the focus of some lawmakers this session looking for additional revenue to help fund the operation of state government and education.

Another measure sought by Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, to require a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to impose an unfunded mandate on local governments, is exempted and so remains alive. The idea was embraced by local government officials at a hearing earlier this week.

Lee said the time involved in getting an amendment to the constitution approved should give lawmakers and the executive branch enough time to get the state’s finances in order before it could take effect.

“We owe them the responsibility of running a good state,” he said.

Also still active is Assembly Joint Resolution 2, which would provide for annual sessions of the Nevada Legislature. The Legislature now meets every two years.

Audio clips:

Sen. Michael Roberson says he is not surprised his measure did not come up for a vote:

041511Roberson1 :09 public sector unions.”

Roberson says core Democrat supporters are opposed to school vouchers:

041511Roberson2 :12 vehemently opposed to.”

Roberson says the debate over school choice is far from over:

041511Roberson3 :06 a long shot.”

Roberson says it is shameful the committee did not hold a vote on his measure:

041511Roberson4 :13 that’s their prerogative.”

Sen. John Lee says the time involved in getting his constitutional amendment approved will give the state time to get its finances in order:

041511Lee :10 own personal finances.”

Senate Panel Hears Proposal To Move Nevada Toward School Choice

By Sean Whaley | 8:24 pm April 12th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A proposed amendment to the Nevada constitution to allow a future Legislature to create a school voucher program so parents could get state funding to send their children to private schools, including religious schools, was heard by a Senate panel today.

Senate Joint Resolution 10, if ultimately approved by Nevada voters, would not create a school voucher program. Instead, it would clarify that using public funds to educate children at religious schools would not violate a constitutional prohibition on using tax dollars for a sectarian purpose.

The legislation, sought by Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, would make it clear in the state constitution that a voucher program including religious schools would not violate Nevada’s Blaine Amendment dating back more than 140 years, which prohibits the expenditure of public funds for “sectarian purposes.”

Courts have rejected voucher school programs in other states because of these Blaine Amendments.

The Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections took testimony on the measure, the first voucher school proposal to get a hearing in the 2011 legislative session. The hearing featured testimony from several well-spoken children in Las Vegas asking members of the committee to support the legislation.

Roberson said Nevada’s Blaine amendment dates back to the 19th century and is a relic of anti-Catholic bigotry from that time.

“Blaine amendments were passed as a direct result of the nativist, anti-Catholic bigotry that was a recurring theme in American politics during the 19th and early 20th century,” he said. “SJR10 would simply give the people of Nevada the opportunity to decide at the ballot whether the current Blaine amendment is good policy for 21st century Nevada.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval is seeking the same constitutional change in support of a school voucher program. The governor’s proposal, Assembly Joint Resolution 8, has not yet been scheduled for a hearing.

Dale Erquiaga, senior adviser to Sandoval, spoke in support of SJR10, but said also the governor would pursue a hearing on AJR8 as well. AJR8 contains the same language as Roberson’s bill, but also includes a section describing how the voucher program would work.

The language in AJR8 would allow a parent to send a child to private school and receive in exchange at least half of the funding that the public school would have received if the child had attended public school. The remaining half would be made available based on financial need.

Erquiaga said there are currently 18 voucher programs operating in 12 states.

“I think you all know by now this governor supports school choice and school vouchers as part of that program,” he said.

The proposal, which was not immediately acted on by the panel, saw opposition testimony as well.

Craig Stevens, representing the Nevada State Education Association, said private schools can and should exist, but they are private to keep government regulation out of their classrooms. Why should a private school receive tax money if it is not going to be accountable to the taxpayers, he asked.

Nevada has choice, with magnet schools and charter schools, but they are all public schools that are accountable to taxpayers, Stevens said.

Also testifying in opposition was Allen Lichtenstein, a Las Vegas attorney representing the ACLU of Nevada, who said in his prepared remarks: “SJR10 attempts to do away with the wisdom of the early founders of our state, and a mechanism used to insure religious harmony for well over the past century, for a new scheme that in the name of furthering education, is, in fact, designed to aid religion with our tax money.”

Joyce Haldeman, representing the Clark County School District, said the district’s school board is in opposition as well.

In his testimony, Roberson said the proposal would not create a voucher program. If it was approved by the Legislature in two sessions and then by the voters, it would clear the way for lawmakers to craft a school choice program that would allow tax funds to be spent at religious schools, he said.

Roberson said if created, a voucher program would improve public schools by making them more competitive. School choice does not drain funding from public schools either, he said. States and cities that have school choice programs have increased per pupil spending, Roberson said.

Audio clips:

Sen. Michael Roberson says the prohibition on spending tax dollars on religious schools in Nevada dates back to 19th century religious bigotry:

041211Roberson1 :11 early 20th century.”

Roberson says his proposal would let voters decide if this prohibition should be repealed:

041211Roberson2 :12 21st century Nevada.”

Roberson says his proposal would not immediately create a school voucher program:

041211Roberson3 :23 existing federal law.”

Roberson says school choice programs don’t financially harm existing public schools:

041211Roberson4 :08 the program began.”

Dale Erquiaga, senior adviser to Gov. Sandoval says the governor supports school choice:

041211Erquiaga :18 of that program.”

 

Freshman State Senator Shakes Up Mining Industry As Legislative Session Begins

By Sean Whaley | 9:21 am February 21st, 2011

CARSON CITY – Freshman Republican state Sen. Michael Roberson got a lot of people’s attention last week when he engaged in a brief but spirited line of questioning at a Judiciary Committee hearing with mining industry lobbyists.

On the job just one week, Roberson, R-Las Vegas, was trying to get information from the mining industry about their profits in Nevada. He was not satisfied with the answers, and said afterward the mining industry might be able to pay more in taxes, firing a shot across the bow of one the state’s most powerful industries.

Sen. Michael Roberson

Roberson, the only attorney on the Judiciary Committee and one of only two in the 21-member Senate, did not mince words with the industry lobbyists during a discussion of a measure to take away mining’s right to use eminent domain.

In an interview in his legislative office last week, Roberson said it is his job to get the answers, and he won’t stop until he does.

“What I wanted to know from mining, and I didn’t get a straight answer – how much money are the mining companies making here in Nevada,” Roberson said. “What’s their profit? I think that’s important for the people to know. And it was clear to me, the lobbyists for mining didn’t want to give me those numbers.”

Roberson says he is in complete agreement with GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval on the need to balance the next two-year state budget without a tax increase. But restructuring Nevada’s tax system to generate more income from mining while reducing the burden on small businesses, for example, is worth considering if taxes don’t increase overall, he said.

Watching Roberson take on one of the biggest players in the Nevada Legislature was an eye-opener for some observers, but should not come as a surprise. Roberson ran a tough campaign to unseat the better funded Democrat incumbent Joyce Woodhouse in the November election in District 5, paring the Democratic majority in the Senate to a single vote.

Bob Fulkerson, director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), which has been pushing for a tax increase on the mining industry, said Roberson’s comments at the hearing, “broke the sense of entitlement the mining lobbyists swagger around with.”

“It was very refreshing to see a legislator from Nevada have the guts to expose mining’s sweetheart tax loopholes in such a forceful way,” he said. “It shows we make mistakes – me and PLAN, or anybody – it shows we can’t pigeon-hole lawmakers based on party and ideology.”

Roberson knows a bit about the mining industry, or at least its sometimes less appealing aftermath. Raised in Galena, Kansas, a small mining town with a population of 3,300, he saw the effects of mining on the community in the 1960s after the minerals had been extracted and the companies had left.

“It can’t help but color how I see things because in my formative years that’s what I grew up with,” he said. “And again, I’m not against mining. I’m not anti-mining. I think it is an important industry to our state, especially to the rurals, and I want mining to thrive here in Nevada.

“But it took many years before the EPA came in and finally cleaned up Galena. In fact I had already moved away by the 1990s.”

Galena is the name of a lead-based mineral that was also found here in Northern Nevada. Galena Creek in south Reno and nearby Galena High School share the same name.

Roberson said Galena itself was the poorest area of the state. On his campaign website Roberson describes himself as coming from “modest beginnings.”

After graduating from high school, Roberson attended the University of Kansas where he graduated in 1993 with a political science degree. He then attended the University of Kansas School of Law on an academic scholarship, earning his degree in 1996.

Roberson said he was inspired to get involved in politics with by the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. He worked on the U.S. Senate campaign for Sam Brownback in 1996 and moved to Washington, D.C. in 1997, where he worked on Capitol Hill for then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay. He then worked for a political fund-raising company named CAPTEL.

Roberson moved to Nevada in 2000 and is currently an attorney with the law firm of Kolesar & Leatham, Chtd.

Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, said he first met Roberson at the GOP caucus meeting after the election and was impressed with his demeanor.

“He was not overly gabby but when he did talk, he was very thoughtful,” he said.

McGinness said Roberson’s line of questioning at the Judiciary hearing was appropriate, given the state’s budget situation.

“He went into the deep end of the pool right away,” he said. “He’ll do OK.”

Roberson, 40, said he enjoys serving in the Judiciary Committee and that the legislative process thus far is about what was expected. Roberson is also serving on the Natural Resources and Commerce, Labor and Energy committees.

“You never really know what it is going to be like but I guess this is generally how people described it to me before I got into this,” he said. “But I’m enjoying it. I really am.”

Being away from his wife, Liberty Leavitt-Roberson, a Clark County school teacher, and their two dogs, is one of the more difficult aspects of the job so far, but time away from family is part of the job description for a Southern Nevadan to serve in the Legislature in Carson City, he said.

“That’s the toughest part about this, I miss my wife, I miss my two little dogs, it’s tough being away from my family,” Roberson said. “It was tough not being with my wife on Valentine’s Day. But those are the sacrifices we make. We’ll be fine.”

While his comments on mining profits have garnered the most attention early in the session, Roberson said his legislative agenda includes reforms to public education and the collective bargaining process to try to drive down public employee salaries to make them comparable to the private sector.

Roberson said he wants a school choice program where parents can get a rebate for half the per pupil support to pick a private or public school or use the money for home schooling. It would require testing to show student achievement, he said. Roberson also wants a study of Florida’s school reforms to see which might work for Nevada.

Changes to collective bargaining are needed because the pay differential is 30 percent higher for public sector workers, he said.

“We’re never going to get control of this beast until we do something about narrowing that gap,” Roberson said.

His bills have not yet been introduced.

He would also support a change sought by Sandoval to change the public employee retirement system to a defined contribution plan for future hires.

But for now, mining is the hot topic for Roberson.

Richard Perkins, a lobbyist for the Newmont Mining Corp. and former speaker of the Assembly, said Roberson is thoughtful and asks good questions.

“But like any freshman legislator, Senate or Assembly, (he) is still trying to find his sea legs,” he said. “And the questions he asked this last week were a part of that process.”

The mining industry now needs to educate Roberson about the business and satisfy his concerns, Perkins said.

“His profile will more fully develop itself to all of us after that education occurs and we look at how he handles this specific issue,” he said.

Roberson said he does not yet know if the mining industry can afford to pay more, although he is inclined to believe the companies are doing OK.

“My general sense is mining is doing exceptionally well right now,” he said. “And I know for a fact small business in this state is on life-support.”

If that proves not to be the case, Roberson said he would not pursue a tax increase on the industry. But he wants the answers to the mining industry’s profitability in Nevada first and said he will get them.

Based on the exchange at the Feb. 14 judiciary hearing, the mining industry probably believes he won’t take no for an answer either.

Audio clips:

Sen. Michael Roberson says toughest part of job is being away from family:

022111Roberson1 :07 from my family.”

Roberson says it took long time for EPA to clean up his home town:

022111Roberson2 :17 by the 1990s.”

Roberson says he is not opposed to mining industry:

022111Roberson3 :16 here in Nevada.”

Roberson says he did not get a straight answer from mining on profits in Nevada:

022111Roberson4 :10 people to know.”

Roberson says mining lobbyists did not want to provide information:

022111Roberson5 :17 become more suspicious.”

Roberson says if restructuring of Nevada’s tax system makes sense and is revenue neutral, that is OK:

022111Roberson6 :08 open to discussing.”

Mining lobbyist Richard Perkins says Roberson’s questioning was part of his learning process as a freshman:

022111Perkins1 :10 of that process.”

Perkins says Roberson’s profile will become more clear after seeing how he handles the mining issue:

022111Perkins2 :08 this specific issue.”

Senate Majority Leader Says ‘Extreme Right-Wing’ Interests Jeopardize Nevada’s Future

By Sean Whaley | 6:08 pm January 6th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford has sent an email to supporters and constituents suggesting the next two-year state budget is facing an attack from “extreme right-wing” interests who will use the current economic crisis to “dismantle our state.”

“When Nevada’s Legislature returns to session on February 7, we will face an unprecedented budget crisis and incredibly hard choices,” said Horsford, D-Las Vegas. “As state Senate majority leader, I will be keeping you informed about the decisions being made and how they impact you and your family.

“Sadly, extreme right-wing interests are lining up to use the budget crisis to dismantle our state,” Horsford said in his email.

He did not identify the extreme right wing interests and he could not be reached for comment.

Asked for a response to the email, newly elected Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said Horsford, “has decided to adopt ugly rhetoric and scare tactics to get in the way of the facts.”

“It is my earnest hope that Senator Horsford will realize that it is incumbent on all of us to work together to turn this economy around and get people working again,” he said. “That means we need to work to make Nevada more competitive and create an environment that is truly friendly to small business.”

Horsford has suggested in past interviews that some level of tax increase will be needed to maintain critical state programs and public education in the 2011-13 general fund budget.

This position is at odds with GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval, who has said he will submit a balanced budget to the Legislature without any tax or fee increases. The state is expected to have about $5.3 billion in general fund revenue, well below current spending levels due to expiring temporary tax increases and the loss of federal stimulus funds.

The exact size of any shortfall remains in dispute.

Horsford, who will run the state Senate with an 11-10 edge over Republicans, said in his letter that, “some things are worth fighting for – like our kids’ education, keeping promises to retirees and preserving an already fragile safety net for struggling working families.”

“I did not enter public service to slash funding for our schools or leave our most vulnerable citizens without care,” he said. “That’s why I will fight every day to protect Nevada families from the extreme agenda that threatens our future.”

Roberson said Horsford does not have the votes to raise taxes.

Horsford and the Democratic Party spent more than $1 million on “outrageously false and defamatory lies” against him and Republican Sens. Elizabeth Halseth and Barbara Cegavske in the November election in an unsuccessful effort to gain a 14-seat veto proof majority in the Senate, Roberson said.

Roberson defeated incumbent Democrat Joyce Woodhouse to win the Clark 5 Senate seat and reduce the majority edge to one seat.

“Now, to gin up support for more job-killing tax increases and an ever-expanding state government, he wants to call others ‘right-wing extremists’ who intend to ‘dismantle our state,’ ” Roberson said. “The fact is, Senator Horsford does not, and will not, have the votes to pass a job-killing tax increase. He can huff and puff all he wants, but elections do have consequences.”

Nevada State Senate 5 Debate Focuses On Unfair Political Attacks, Taxes And Budget Shortfall

By Sean Whaley | 8:29 pm October 18th, 2010

Democratic state Senator Joyce Woodhouse and Republican challenger Michael Roberson debated the budget, taxes and unjustified political attacks today in a race viewed as critical by both parties for the upcoming 2011 legislative session.

Woodhouse, running for a second term in Clark District 5, said the mailers sent out by the Nevada State Democratic Party attacking Roberson did not come from her campaign or have her review.

Roberson, an attorney, said the misstatements about his campaign should be an embarrassment for Woodhouse and the Democratic Party.

“I don’t have a voting record,” he said. “Apparently they know they can’t talk about jobs and taxes and the economy.”

Woodhouse, a retired educator with the Clark County School District, had her own criticism of Roberson for calling her a liberal loony.

Roberson said his criticisms of Woodhouse are based on her voting record in her four years in the Senate.

Democrats, who have a 12-9 majority over Republicans in the upper house, are trying to hang on to Woodhouse’s seat to maintain and potentially expand their majority. Republicans are seeking more seats in an effort to exert greater control over discussions on the budget, taxes and the redrawing of Nevada’s political boundaries.

In the debate on Jon Ralston’s Face To Face television program, Woodhouse said she is a hardworking person. She called Roberson’s comments hurtful.

Roberson countered that voting to give the Millennium Scholarship to illegal immigrants as Woodhouse did is a loony idea.

He also criticized Woodhouse’s former employer, the Clark County School District, for having more than 350 bureaucrats making in excess of $100,000 a year.

Roberson said the attacks on him from the Democratic Party are clearly untrue and he asked Woodhouse to denounce them.

The ads, based on a questionnaire filled out by Roberson for the conservative pro-life group Nevada Concerned Citizens, say he wants to keep women from getting birth control and investigate women who have miscarriages. Roberson said he only answered “yes” to a question about whether he is pro-life.

Woodhouse would not go so far as to denounce the ads, saying, “I do dislike negative campaigning incredibly.”

She did say they “are not good political pieces.”

The candidates were also asked about how they would deal with the next two-year state budget, which faces a funding shortfall of anywhere from $1.5 billion to $3 billion.

Woodhouse said she is pursuing a review of the state budget as part of a legislative panel looking to eliminate nonessential services and consolidate programs. But once all efficiencies are identified and implemented, a tax increase may be needed to balance the budget, she said.

Roberson said he would not raise taxes to balance the budget. The budget shortfall is more in the $1.5 billion range, he said. The average government employee makes 30 percent more than a private sector employee and state employee pay will have to be reduced, he said.

Nevada’s spending levels are unsustainable, Roberson said. Woodhouse’s record does not show one case where she voted against a tax increase, he said.

Audio clips:

Michael Roberson says Democratic attacks are outlandish:

101810Roberson :09 please tell me.”

State Sen. Joyce Woodhouse says she is a hardworking conscientious person:

101810Woodhouse :13 are really hurtful.”

Under Fire, State Senate Majority Leader Pulls Plug On ‘Pay To Play’

By Sean Whaley | 10:03 am August 18th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, today criticized a fund-raising “pay to play” letter sent out recently by Majority Leader Steven Horsford, saying it borders on an ethics violation.

“I have always avoided that kind of a fundraiser,” he said. “I think it is inappropriate. The perception is that to have access to a leader or chairman you have to pay. I think that sends a terrible message.”

The Nevada News Bureau first reported Tuesday the existence of the letter sent by Horsford, D-Las Vegas, seeking as much as $25,000 in contributions to his political action committee in exchange for access to himself and committee chairmen and women.

Horsford did not return a call seeking comment on the email solicitation. But in a statement released to KRNV Channel 4 in Reno in response to the story, Horsford said he will pull the plug on the fund-raising plan.

“This really was a poor action,” Horsford said. “I take full responsibility for it. I have directed my staff to discontinue the program. It was never our intent to send a message that in order to gain access to our chairs that people needed to make donations, but clearly the optics show that, and at a time when we need confidence and responsibility among our elected officials, I pulled the plug.”

“I just thought it was inappropriate, offensive,” Raggio said. “It’s a very poor way to campaign. This is really strong-arming.”

Raggio said he has also been told by Republican candidates that their efforts to raise money for their campaigns are being hampered by intimidation tactics aimed at lobbyists.

“I’m told there is a lot of intimidation out there,” he said. “My GOP candidates are being told by lobbyists that if they contribute to their campaigns, they won’t get anything done in the session.”

The Nevada News Bureau has been unable to confirm with any lobbyists directly that such tactics are being employed by Democratic legislative leadership.

Neither Horsford or Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, returned calls seeking comment on the claims.

Horsford has a 12-9 majority in the Senate but is seeking a veto-proof 14-seat majority.

Oceguera is seeking to hold on to his current 28-14 veto proof majority. The Assembly 40 seat is a key race in that effort. Incumbent Democrat Bonnie Parnell is not seeking re-election.

Both Pete Livermore, a Republican candidate for the Assembly 40 seat in Carson City, and Michael Roberson, the Republican candidate challenging Democrat incumbent Joyce Woodhouse in Clark District 5, say they have been told the same story by lobbyists.

“The bulk of the lobbyists I talk to tell me the same thing,” Roberson said. “He (Horsford) is definitely playing hardball.”

Nevada State Republican Party Chairman Mark Amodei said he too is aware of the effort by Democrats to prevent campaign donations to GOP candidates.

“It’s not even an if or a maybe,” Amodei said. “Lobbyists have been told that if you contribute against my candidate, don’t bother showing up. I absolutely believe it to be true.”

Amodei, a former state Senator from Carson City, said in an interview Tuesday that such an edict borders on an infringement of constitutionally protected free speech rights.

“I don’t know if it is illegal or not but it sends a clear message about the ability of people to participate in the process,” he said.

No such edicts came from Republicans when they were the majority in the Senate, Amodei said.

“I think it falls under the category of a sad state of affairs for Nevada politics,” he said.

Keystone Announces Endorsement of GOP Fiscal Conservatives in State Senate Races

By Sean Whaley | 12:07 pm November 16th, 2009
CARSON CITY – Today the Keystone Corp., which identifies itself as Nevada’s leading political voice for free market business development, private sector job creation and fiscal conservatism, announced endorsements in key Nevada state Senate races for the upcoming 2010 election cycle.

The Keystone Corp. is a statewide political action organization that recruits, supports and advocates for candidates for public office who support private sector job creation, low taxation, a responsible regulatory environment, and effective delivery of essential state services.

Endorsed candidates include: Sen. Barbara Cegavske – running for reelection in Clark County’s District 8; Ty Cobb – currently an assemblyman representing District 26, running for state Senate in Washoe County’s District 4; and Chad Christensen – currently an assemblyman representing District 13, running for state Senate in Clark County’s District 9.

Other endorsements are James Settelmeyer – currently an assemblyman representing District 39, running for state Senate in the Capital District; and Michael Roberson – an attorney from southern Nevada, running against Sen. Joyce Woodhouse in Clark County’s District 5.

Keystone’s board members offered the following comments for each of their endorsed candidates for state senate:

“Sen. Barbara Cegavske has a proven record as a fiscal watchdog on behalf of the Nevada taxpayer. Sen. Cegavske is a conservative senator Nevadans need to fight for their interests in Carson City.”

“Assemblyman Ty Cobb has been a consistent, reliable and fierce advocate on behalf of the Nevada taxpayer, and we believe his voice on fiscal discipline and accountability will be a needed asset to our state Senate.“

“(Christensen) has fought to control government spending in order to promote economic growth. Chad Christensen will be the strong advocate for private sector job creation and limited government.”

“Assemblyman James Settelmeyer understands what is needed to make Nevada fiscally strong. He is one of the hardest working legislators in Carson City and a genuine policymaker. Mr. Settelmeyer will make the right decisions to promote economic growth while protecting taxpayers.”

“In our interview process, we found Roberson to be a strong and principled advocate for private sector job creation in Nevada. He will be a welcomed addition to the state Senate, replacing a senator who supported job-killing tax hikes in the midst of one of Nevada’s worst recessions in state history.”

Roberson Announces Candidacy for Senate District 5

By Sean Whaley | 12:15 pm October 17th, 2009
Business attorney and Henderson resident Michael Roberson has announced his candidacy for the state Senate in District 5, a seat currently held by Democrat Joyce Woodhouse.

“Like many Nevadans, I have grown frustrated with the tax-and-spend policies coming out of Carson City, especially during a crippling, job killing recession,” he said. “Too many Nevada businesses have gone under and too many of our residents have lost their jobs, their homes and their retirement savings. I am running to restore the common sense that has escaped incumbent Sen. Joyce Woodhouse.”

Woodhouse is completing her first four-year term in the Senate. She is running for reelection and held her campaign kickoff earlier this month.

Roberson said unemployment has nearly doubled since members of the Legislature, including Woodhouse, voted to raise taxes by $1 billion in the 2009 session.

“That kind of decision-making is dangerous and will only further erode our economy and our quality of life in southern Nevada,” he said.

In his job, Roberson assists clients who are seeking to provide job and business development in Southern Nevada.

Roberson said he would work in the Senate to balance Nevada’s state budget without tax hikes. Money should not be spent on non-essential government programs, only essential programs such as education, public safety and health care for those most in need, he said.

Roberson has been endorsed by the Senate Republican Caucus.

Roberson earned both a political science degree and his law degree at the University of Kansas.