Posts Tagged ‘Sen. Greg Brower’

State Sen. Greg Brower Criticizes His Opponent For ‘Quitting’ On Her Constituents

By Sean Whaley | 2:21 pm March 19th, 2012

CARSON CITY – State Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, today criticized his Democratic challenger for “quitting” on her constituents when she resigned her Senate seat in mid-term and then filed to run against him.

Brower is running for election to a full four-year term in what is now Washoe District 15 after the state’s legislative districts were redrawn following the 2010 census. Former state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, who was in the middle of a four-year term in what is now Senate District 13, formerly Washoe Senate 1, resigned from office when she moved into District 15. She then filed for election to the Senate 15 seat.

Filing for public office ended Friday and it didn’t take long for the campaign season to begin.

In an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, Brower said: “It was a little surprising; I guess they couldn’t find a candidate to run against me and so partisan politics, I guess, prevails once again and so an incumbent moves to make sure I have a tough race.”

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

But it is a strong Republican district, one that GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval won by almost 20 points two years ago, he said.

The district has 28,002 Republican and 26,511 Democrat active voters as of February. There are also 10,957 nonpartisan voters.

The race is viewed as one of five state Senate contests that could determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the 21-member Senate in 2013. Democrats currently have an 11-10 edge.

Brower said Leslie was serving on several important committees in this interim period before the 2013 legislative session, including the Interim Finance Committee, the Legislative Commission and the Legislative Commission’s Audit Subcommittee.

“It’s a strange way to do public service by resigning and basically quitting on the folks you represent,” he said. “But the interim, as you know, has a lot of activity with respect to interim committees, and Sheila, frankly, served on a couple of important committees that she no longer serves on now because of her resignation. And that’s not good for Washoe County.”

Brower said he has worked well with Leslie on Washoe County issues.

“And the fact that she has just taken herself away from all of that interim activity, the Interim Finance Committee, the Legislative Commission, and other important committees, I don’t think speaks well to her commitment to the folks in Washoe County.”

Former Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

Leslie, asked to respond to his comments, said by email: “I understand Senator Brower’s frustration that I moved and am going to give him a competitive race when he was hoping for an easy election. I resigned my seat in Senate District 1 because I believed it was required when I moved out of that district by about a mile. I followed the rules. It was not an easy decision, but I believe it was the ethical decision.

“Now that we both live in Senate District 15, we’ll be able to present our constituents with a clear choice between someone who is committed to funding education and essential services and someone who chose to vote the extreme Tea Party-line to ensure he had the right kind of record for a Congressional primary,” Leslie said. “I think the voters will know who is really committed to the citizens of Washoe County.”

Brower was appointed to the Senate seat to replace the late Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, who resigned before the start of the 2011 session. Brower refused to speculate on his political future beyond 2012 when asked if he was considering a run for Nevada attorney general. Democrat Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto will be termed out of office in 2014.

“I am 100 percent focused on getting elected to this Senate seat,” he said.

When asked by host Sam Shad if he would commit to a full four-year term in the Senate, Brower said: “I can’t predict the future, Sam, I just don’t know what is going to happen. I’m just not even going to think beyond 2012.”

Brower also defended Sandoval for his announcement last week that he would continue a package of expiring tax increases into the 2013-15 budget to avoid any further budget cuts to education. Brower voted against continuing the 2009 taxes in the 2011 session even though Sandoval supported the decision as a compromise to finalize the current budget.

“I think what the governor is trying to do is move this state forward,” he said. “And that means leadership on real issues like the budget. And I think that’s what we saw last week and that’s what we’re going to continue to see. And to the extent this governor is going to take a leadership role in moving this state forward, I stand solidly behind him.”

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Audio clips:

Sen. Greg Brower says Sheila Leslie quit on her constituents:

031912Brower1 :17 for Washoe County.”

Brower says her resignation makes him question her commitment to the residents of Washoe County:

031912Brower2 :20 in Washoe County.”

Brower says he stands behind Gov. Brian Sandoval’s decision to extend a tax package into the next budget to avoid cuts to education:

031912Brower3 :20 solidly behind him.”

 

State Senate Will See Large Turnover, Many New Faces In 2013

By Sean Whaley | 3:49 pm February 20th, 2012

CARSON CITY – For years the Nevada state Senate was a pretty stable place, with many lawmakers serving for decades.

From one election cycle to the next, the names and faces in the 21-member body didn’t change very often.

That reality was altered in a big way when term limits finally began to have an impact on the state Legislature starting in 2010.

And in this election cycle, already it appears that a minimum of nine incumbents, or more than 42 percent of the Senate, will be gone as of Election Day on Nov. 6.

Term limits, redistricting and personal decisions by lawmakers not to seek re-election are all playing a role in the significant turnover.

So in addition to the political ramifications for Democrats, who are trying to hold on to their one-seat majority, and Republicans, who are seeking to retake the majority, the Senate will have to face the reality of multiple new members when the 2013 session begins Feb. 4.

Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said the new reality with term limits and resulting turnover can be viewed as both a challenge and opportunity.

State Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas.

“I think that it makes the work of caucuses a little bit more . . .; you do more work because you want to make sure you get good people that can move up and work and do the things that need to be done,” he said.

“I think the candidate recruitment is an important part of that, that you’re trying to get good people that can step up,” Denis said. “And at the same time, training people and getting them up to speed. That means you have to do more work in the interim, that kind of thing, so people are up to speed.”

There is a loss of legislative institutional memory when long-time lawmakers leave, but it also provides a chance for new people with fresh ideas to participate, he said.

The Legislative staff has helped by adding more training so new lawmakers are ready to get to work as soon as the session begins, which is also limited to 120 days, he said.

Denis was speaking by phone from Oregon, where Nevada lawmakers serving on an interim study looking at how the Legislature conducts its business in-between sessions were visiting to see how the process works in another state.

The Nevada Legislature only meets every other year and Denis said the panel is looking at ways to improve the legislative process and make it more responsive to the public.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said the turnover is not a major issue for Republicans because of the quality of candidates being recruited to fill the 12 seats in play.

State Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas.

“It’s more of a problem for the Democrats,” he said. “I think their caucus is a little chaotic at this point. And so their bench is pretty thin. They lost a lot of experienced state senators. We only lost a couple, frankly, from this past session. So from our perspective we’re fine with the turnover. Not so sure the Democrats should feel the same way.”

There were worries going into last session that the large amount of turnover in both the Assembly and Senate due primarily to term limits would negatively affect the performance of the Legislature, Roberson said. But a number of new lawmakers in both parties and in both houses stepped up to make a major contribution, he said.

The same scenario is expected in 2013, Roberson said.

“So we’re going to have a lot of smart people, a lot of very capable people, in our caucus in the Senate next session.

“The key thing is, whether you’ve been there 20 years or two, we’ve got to work together to solve the problems of the state of Nevada,” he said. “And we’ve got to get past excessive partisanship and figure out a way to work with each other. That’s what the people want. That’s what I’m committed to do, that’s what our Senate caucus is committed to do.”

Term limits continues to take its toll on the ranks of lawmakers. Four state senators, Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, and Valerie Wiener and Mike Schneider, both D-Las Vegas, are all leaving office this year due to term limits. The four lawmakers combined have more than 70 years of service in the Senate.

Two other senators who are completing their first terms, Shirley Breeden, D-Henderson, and Allison Copening, D-Las Vegas, have both announced they will not run for new terms.

Another, Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, is running for the house in Nevada’s new 4th Congressional District. Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, is a candidate for the house seat as well, and would make the turnover numbers even higher if she wins.

In a surprise move last week, Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, resigned from her seat in mid-term because she is moving into the district represented by Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, where she plans to run for election. One of the two lawmakers will be out of a job on Election Day.

And in another move in what was a busy week for the state Senate last week, Sen. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, announced she was resigning in mid-term for personal reasons.

Both Leslie’s and Halseth’s Senate seats will be filled in the 2012 election as well. Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, has already announced her plans to run for Leslie’s seat.

The turnover doesn’t only mean new faces, but new leadership as well. Both Roberson and Denis, the expected caucus leaders for next session, are in the middle of their first terms in the Senate, although Denis also served for a time in the Assembly.

Eight current members of the Senate who are in mid-term and are expected to return in 2013 are freshman, having been elected in 2010. In the 2013 session, three or fewer of the 21 members will have served more than one legislative session in the Senate, although quite a few members do have prior experience serving in the Assembly.

Assembly experience will likely be a factor in the 2013 Senate as well, with a number of Assembly members of both parties seeking Senate seats.

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Audio clips:

Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, says term limits and turnover makes the work of the caucus even more critical:

022012Denis1 :26 to be done.”

Denis says candidate recruitment is important:

022012Denis2 :22 up to speed.”

Sen. Michael Roberson says Republicans are not as affected by the turnover as Democrats:

022012Roberson1 :26 the same way.”

Roberson says the key is for lawmakers of both parties to work together:

022012Roberson2 :23 committed to do.”

 

Controversy Over State Use Of Outside Legal Counsel Expands To Robo-Signing Lawsuit

By Sean Whaley | 10:49 am February 2nd, 2012

CARSON CITY – When state Sen. Greg Brower asked the Attorney General’s office earlier this month about the $6 million in outside legal costs incurred so far in defending the state in a freeway construction dispute, he said his motives were purely fiscal in nature.

“We just don’t have money to waste,” said Brower, R-Reno. “At least this particular situation seems to suggest that maybe we are. Maybe there are good answers to all of these questions I raised in my letter but there is only one way to find out and that is to ask them.”

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

But the use of outside counsel is being questioned in another case where Brower’s law firm, Snell & Wilmer, is representing a company being sued by Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, who is also using the services of a private law firm.

The lawsuit was filed on Dec. 16, 2011 in Clark County District Court against Lender Processing Services Inc. (LPS) alleging deceptive practices against Nevada consumers related to the default servicing of residential mortgages in Nevada, specifically loans in foreclosure.

“The robo-signing crisis in Nevada has been fueled by two main problems: Chaos and speed,” Masto said in announcing the filing of the lawsuit in December. “We will protect the integrity of the foreclosure process. This lawsuit is the next, logical step in holding the key players in the foreclosure fraud crisis accountable.”

Masto obtained approval from the state Board of Examiners and the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee in 2009 to hire the law firm of Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll to investigate and prosecute mortgage lending cases, including the current case against LPS. The firm works on a contingency basis, not getting paid unless the firm obtains settlements or court judgments.

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

In a statement in response to the lawsuit issued in December, LPS said the use of the Washington, DC law firm is apparently a violation of Nevada law.

“Unfortunately, the company’s efforts to engage in meaningful discussions with the Nevada Attorney General’s office have been frustrated by the Nevada Attorney General’s decision to outsource its investigation to Cohen Milstein Sellers & Toll PLLC, a plaintiff’s law firm located in Washington, DC in apparent violation of Nevada law,” the company said in a statement. “The complaint highlights misconceptions about LPS and seeks to sensationalize a variety of false allegations in a misleading manner.”

The firm on Tuesday filed a motion to dismiss the civil complaint.

In an interview Friday, Brower called the two legal matters “apples and oranges.”

Brower said the questions in his Jan. 12 letter to Masto asking about the use of the Washington, DC, firm of Watt, Tieder, Hoffar & Fitzgerald to handle the case filed by Ames Construction against the Nevada Department of Transportation over construction of the first phase of the Carson City bypass are strictly related to the $6 million in legal costs incurred by the state in the matter, which remains unresolved. He also asked why the state hired an out-of-state firm, and whether the Attorney General’s office could have handled the matter itself.

Gov. Brian Sandoval also raised concerns about the legal costs at a January meeting of the Board of Directors of the Transportation Department. So did board member Tom Fransway.

In the LPS dispute, Brower said he arranged a meeting between the Attorney General’s office and the company last year to discuss the matters of concern before the lawsuit was filed, but Brower said he will not be representing LPS in the dispute going forward.

The state has frequently employed outside legal firms for various matters over the years, including the successful pursuit of a settlement agreement by Nevada and other states against the nation’s big tobacco companies in the 1990s. Since the settlement was reached in 1998 under then-Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa, Nevada has collected $505 million for a variety of programs through 2011.

The state Agency for Nuclear Projects has also employed the Washington, DC, law firm of Egan, Fitzpatrick, Malsch & Lawrence since 2001 to represent it in its ongoing dispute over construction of the nuclear waste dump at Yucca Mountain. The contract was also approved while Del Papa was attorney general and the late Kenny Guinn was governor. Payments through 2012, including expert witnesses, are expected to total $33.4 million, most of which is federal funds.

State Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said he also has questions about the legality of using Cohen, Milstein, Sellers & Toll to sue on behalf of the state, and has asked Masto in a letter to respond to his concerns. He first raised questions at a meeting of the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee in December.

The statute is clear that the Attorney General’s office has the authority to hire outside counsel to defend the state or in the case of a conflict of interest, he said.

“But to hire counsel to then go out and prosecute or go after other private entities doesn’t seem legal within our current statutory framework,” Kieckhefer said.

Kieckhefer said he also asked for more information on the use of a contingency fee for the contract.

“When you’re trying to execute justice, you’re suddenly putting a monetary incentive into the execution of justice, and that seems inherently problematic to me so I’ve asked for a little bit more information on that as well,” he said.

There is a difference in the two contracts. The firm representing NDOT is being paid an hourly rate. The state Transportation Board approved an additional payment amount to get the case to an arbitration hearing next month. The legal costs including the new amount will total $6 million.

The contract with Cohen, Milstein is a contingency agreement, meaning Nevada will not have to pay unless the firm is successful against LPS. The firm is eligible to receive up to 15 percent of any settlement.

In yet another wrinkle in the use of outside legal counsel, Brower’s firm was also employed by the Department of Transportation in a construction dispute similar to the one he has raised questions about. Snell & Wilmer was paid nearly $2.9 million to represent the agency in a dispute that was settled with the firm Parsons Brinckerhoff in Feb. 2011.

The litigation involved the design and construction of the Interstate 515/215 interchange in Henderson.

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Audio clips:

Sen. Greg Brower last week expressed concerns about the legal fees associated with an NDOT contract dispute:

020212Brower :31 to ask them.”

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer questions if the Attorney General has the legal authority hire a private law firm to sue a private business:

020212Kieckhefer1 :31 current statutory framework.”

Kieckhefer says he also has concerns with the use of contingency fees in such legal actions:

020212Kieckhefer2 :20 that as well.”