Posts Tagged ‘Sen. Michael Roberson’

Latin Chamber Commends Lawmaker For Proposing Funding For English Language Learners

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 2:22 pm October 4th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce today commended Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, for his commitment to seek $20 million a year in funding for English language learner programs in the Clark County School District.

“We applaud Sen. Roberson for standing up for the needs of Hispanic students in Clark County,” said Latin Chamber Chairman Javier Trujillo. “They are the true future of our community and our state. Their education is what is going to make the state of Nevada strong economically in the next decade. We look forward to working with Sen. Roberson on this initiative.”

State Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas.

Roberson on Monday announced his intention to seek funding for ELL, saying there are currently 52,000 students in the Clark County School District who are not proficient in the English language. These children, many of whom are Hispanic, face an almost insurmountable battle to succeed, he said in a news release.

There is currently no state funding for ELL programs in Clark County, Roberson said.

“This much needed investment in the education of Nevada’s Hispanic children is definitely a step in the right direction,” Trujillo said. “We need to make sure every level of education in Nevada – from elementary school through college – takes the necessary steps now to address the future needs of our Hispanic children.”

A panel of state lawmakers earlier this year agreed to consider changes in the state public education funding formula to take into account such factors as the number of English language learners in a school district.

The New Method for Funding Public Schools interim study was authorized by the 2011 Legislature to look at the “Nevada Plan” the current funding formula adopted in 1967. The Clark County School District sought the review to look at whether the state’s education funding plan needs to include additional funding for educating specific groups of students.

Roberson’s proposed “Every Child Learns Initiative” would provide funding for ELL programs at each of the 217 elementary schools in Clark County, which will initially serve 6,400 pre-kindergarten English language learner students and will include the creation of 200 new teacher positions, as well as 200 new instructional aide positions.

Finding money for the proposal will be a challenge in the 2013 session. While Nevada’s economy is improving, there will also be a lot of demands on the state’s limited general fund revenues.

“Of the 311,000 students in CCSD, one-sixth cannot speak proficient English,” Roberson said. “A large portion of these students are Hispanic. No rational person can think that this situation is acceptable. Latino students make up almost a majority of students in CCSD. For CCSD to succeed, Hispanic students must succeed. Likewise, for Nevada to prosper, the Hispanic community must prosper.”

CCSD Superintendent Dwight Jones is supporting the Every Child Learns Initiative.

“Providing support to our English language learners is one of the top priorities for the Clark County School District,” Jones said. “Other states with a large number of English language learners, such as Florida, have seen real academic gains by employing strategies such as early childhood education. This is an investment in our students that will pay off with big increases in our overall academic achievement as we prepare our students to be ‘Ready by Exit.’ ”

“The Every Child Learns Initiative will provide more Nevada children with a real opportunity to succeed,” Roberson said. “Nothing we do in Carson City is more important. While the initial focus of this initiative will be in Clark County (where the largest number of English language learners reside), it is anticipated that the Every Child Learns Initiative will become a statewide program. I look forward to working with my colleagues from both sides of the aisle to make Every Child Learns a reality in 2013.”


GOP Candidates For Senate 18 Face Off In Televised Debate Ahead Of June 12 Primary

By Sean Whaley | 7:56 pm May 17th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Two Republican members of the Assembly who both want to move into the Senate in District 18 faced off today in a televised debate that focused primarily on a controversial 2011 tax vote.

Two-term lawmaker Richard McArthur and freshman Scott Hammond emphasized their divergent positions on the tax vote during the match-up on the Face To Face television program.

McArthur emphasized his conservative credentials, noting he was one of the few Republican members of the Assembly who in 2011 voted against a measure to extend a set of expiring taxes into the current budget to balance state spending plan. He received the highest score in the Assembly from the American Conservative Union.

GOP Senate 18 candidate Richard McArthur.

Hammond, who is endorsed by the Senate Republican Caucus, said his vote to extend the sunsets still resulted in 70 percent of Nevada businesses paying less in modified business taxes. The sunset extension eliminated the tax on businesses that reported less than $250,000 annually in annual wages. A recorded statement from 2010 showed Hammond telling an audience that he would not raise taxes, however.

Asked about his vote, Hammond said: “In the 2011 session, what we voted to do was actually to decrease spending by $500 million and over 70 percent of the businesses in the state of Nevada are now paying less in taxes on their MBT (Modified Business Tax) than they were, or were going to. So basically when I took over office people now are spending less in taxes than when I took over.”

But McArthur said the decision to extend the sunsets, based on a Nevada Supreme Court ruling that some said called into question a number of elements of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget that relied on local tax revenues, was overstated. The ruling in the Clean Water Coalition case found that Sandoval could not take $62 million in local revenues to bolster the state budget.

The case created only a small $62 million hole in the budget and did not require the extension of the expiring taxes, McArthur said.

“The budget wasn’t in jeopardy,” he said. “There wasn’t any problem. That was $62 million. That was easily covered.”

Sandoval, a Republican, recently announced his intentions to extend the sunsets another two years to avoid any further cuts to education

The candidates also talked about what they would support to reform public education.

McArthur said the education reforms approved in the 2011 session were minimal.

McArthur said he wants to end social promotion, a practice of advancing students to the next grade regardless of their achievement. Sandoval has made this issue a top priority of his 2013 education reform plan. McArthur also supports vouchers, which would give parents tax revenues to pick a school, including religious-sponsored schools, for their children to attend.

Hammond said he supports more school choice, including an expansion of charter schools. There needs to be more competition, he said.

GOP Senate 18 candidate Scott Hammond.

The Senate 18 district in Clark County, newly created as a result of redistricting due to the 2010 census, has a Republican voter advantage, 40.7 percent to 37.6 percent as of the end of April. It is one Republicans are counting on in their effort to take the majority in the 2013 session. Democrats now have an 11-10 edge in the 21-member Senate.

In the GOP Caucus endorsement of Hammond, Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said: “Assemblyman Hammond is exactly the kind of candidate Nevadans are looking for. He has a thorough understanding of the issues facing our state and is not afraid to tackle the tough issues. He will be a great addition to the Senate.”

Two Democrats, Kelli Ross and Donna Schlemmer, are also running in a primary for the seat.

Hammond teaches government and Spanish for the Clark County School District and political science at UNLV. He lives in Las Vegas with his wife and their three children.

McArthur is a retired FBI agent with 25 years of service. He lives in Las Vegas with his wife of 41 years.


Audio clips:

Assemblyman Scott Hammond says his vote to extend a package of expiring taxes in 2011 did not increase taxes:

051712Hammond1 :19 I took over.”

Assemblyman Richard McArthur says the Supreme Court ruling did not create a budget hole requiring additional taxes:

051712McArthur1 :14 that $62 million.”



Legislative Commission OKs Laughlin Incorporation Vote But Lawmakers Could Reject Cityhood In 2013

By Sean Whaley | 3:42 pm March 29th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The Legislative Commission voted today to let the residents of Laughlin decide in June on whether they will become Nevada’s next incorporated city.

The 10-2 vote by the panel imposed several conditions, however, including a review by the 2013 Legislature that could delay any incorporation from the July 1, 2013 target date or overrule a favorable vote entirely if it determines it is not financially feasible. Two studies have presented conflicting data on whether it would be financially feasible for the town of about 7,500 on the Colorado River to become a city.

Laughlin. / Photo by Stan Shebs via Wikimedia Commons.

Laughlin is much larger in population than Mesquite, the last city to incorporate in Southern Nevada, in 1984. Mesquite had about 1,200 residents when it incorporated.

The last city to incorporate in Nevada was Fernley, east of Reno, in 2001.

The vote for moving the process forward was 10-2, with Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, and Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, voting no.

The additional conditions were included to ensure there would be enough votes on the 12-member commission, comprised of six Republicans and six Democrats, to support moving the incorporation process forward.

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said during a discussion of the issue that it was the only way she would support a vote in Laughlin on incorporation.

“I don’t know why for once we can’t do something in a bipartisan manner to help the process move along but yet have a fallback so that we can put that horse back in the gate,” she said.

Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, who heard the Laughlin incorporation bill in his Government Affairs Committee in the 2011 session and supports giving residents the chance to vote on the issue, said the additional protections would allow the vote to go forward. He presented them to the commission as a way to gain support for a vote by Laughlin residents.

“I think it’s going to be one of the more remarkable pieces of legislation for the whole state of Nevada,” he said in testifying before the panel. “But if it doesn’t work this will fall under its own weight, and it’s just the way it’s going to be. And you and I will decertify this community.”

The commission also wants voters to know that there is the potential for their taxes to rise if incorporation moves forward, and so sought to have the pro and con arguments that will be published with the ballot language include that information. The ballot information would also be published in the newspaper to ensure transparency.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said Laughlin residents are likely already aware of the potential tax implications of incorporation.

“I get the idea, although I don’t necessarily agree with it; I understand the concerns that we need to publish so that the folks in Laughlin understand this may require a tax increase,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, who also serves as chairman of the commission, said the panel has a fiduciary duty to ensure incorporation is feasible because if a city fails, the financial consequences could be borne by the state as a whole.

The conditions will tighten the process and provide greater guarantees to the public and the state, he said.


Audio clips:

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick said the additional requirements would ensure transparency and gain lawmaker support for a Laughlin vote:

032912Kirkpatrick :12 in the gate.”

Sen. John Lee said the 2013 Legislature will decertify a Laughlin incorporation if necessary:

032912Lee :15 decertify this community.”

Sen. Michael Roberson said Laughlin residents already know their taxes could go up under incorporation:

032912Roberson :15 aware of that.”

Sen. Steven Horsford said lawmakers have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure Laughlin can succeed as a city:

032912Horsford :21 those local governments.”



Gov. Sandoval Will Extend Sunsetting Taxes Into Next Two-Year Budget To Avoid Education Cuts

By Sean Whaley | 2:17 pm March 13th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval said today he will propose to extend a package of taxes now set to expire in June 2013 into the next budget to avoid further cuts to education, which he said cannot withstand further reductions.

To maintain a basically flat spending plan for the two-year budget that will begin on July 1, 2013, Sandoval said the modified business tax that was maintained at a higher rate for large businesses in the 2011 legislative session, along with a small increase in the sales tax, must be continued.

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

The 2011 tax package also eliminated the business tax for 115,000 small Nevada businesses which would continue into the next budget as well.

“We’re going to keep them,” Sandoval said of the sunsetting taxes. “Again, my baseline is this: I’m not going to cut education, and that includes K-12 and higher ed. I am not going to reduce services for the most vulnerable people in our society.

“I’m not going to pit kindergartners against senior citizens,” he said. “I’m not going to pit higher ed students against people that need essential services.”

This preliminary recommendation for beginning the budget process for the 2013 legislative session could be modified as the state’s fiscal picture becomes clearer in the coming months, Sandoval said.

“We’re going to be having many conversations between now and when the final budget is presented to the Legislature,” he said. “I believe at this point in time, which is very early, it is the responsible thing to do for the future of the state of Nevada.”

Sandoval said an expanding Medicaid caseload, along with costs associated with the expansion of the program under the federal health care law, will consume any revenue increases. Because of this, failing to include the sunsetting taxes for budget planning purposes would mean cuts to education.

“In addition to avoiding further cuts to education, this decision means there will be no need for tax increases in the next session,” Sandoval said. “Nevadans will pay no more than they are in the current biennium. The budget building process remains ongoing, but we must begin today.”

Efforts are under way to circulate petitions to put possible tax increases before the voters, including measures that could lead to hikes in both mining and gaming taxes. A gross margin tax on business is also being considered by labor groups and teachers but no ballot measure has been filed yet.

Sandoval made the announcement to the capitol press corps after a meeting of the Board of Examiners. He said his intention with the announcement is to be transparent.

Sandoval strongly opposed continuing the tax increases approved by the 2009 legislature in the 2011 session, but ultimately agreed to do so after a Nevada Supreme Court ruling threw his proposed budget into financial disarray.

The 2013-15 budget planning process begins Thursday with a briefing by state Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp to state agencies and representatives of public and higher education.

Today’s announcement was immediately welcomed by some Republican lawmakers.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, who is expected to lead the Republican Senate caucus in the 2013 legislative session, said he supports Sandoval’s preliminary budget instructions.

“I support Gov. Sandoval and his budget instructions that will not impose new taxes on the people of Nevada,” Roberson said. “I will continue to lead the fight against new tax increases while working with Gov. Sandoval to improve public education. I will not support additional cuts to public education.”

Roberson opposed extending the sunsetting taxes in the 2011 session, arguing that the Nevada Supreme Court ruling did not create the huge financial hole in the budget that others had suggested.

“Gov. Sandoval has outlined a prudent and fiscally responsible preliminary budget framework,” Roberson said.  “I am grateful for his tremendous leadership. I will stand with him and support him.”

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, announced his support for Sandoval’s proposal via Twitter.

“I applaud the decision by Gov. Sandoval to do what is necessary to protect education from cuts,” he said, adding that what that means in the 2013 session is yet to be determined.

Nevada Senate Democrats issued a statement saying they “applaud” the change of position by Sandoval and Republican lawmakers but that the proposal is an insufficient short-term fix.

“What we need are long-term solutions to resolving our budget problems, not postponing them for another 2 years,” said Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas. “We must address tax fairness for middle class families, cut wasteful spending in our government, and provide Nevada business with an educated workforce that can help compete in the national and global marketplace.

“In order to diversify our economy and attract new businesses and industry to Nevada, we must show them we are serious about investing in a well educated workforce,” he said. “We can’t do that if education funding remains stagnant.”

Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, criticized Sandoval’s announcement in a statement:

“Taxpayers lose again with Gov. Brian Sandoval’s decision to propose extending the so-called ‘sunset’ taxes,” he said. “This demonstrates, once again, the danger behind the concept of a ‘temporary’ tax increase. Once bureaucracy becomes dependent on that additional revenue to sustain itself, the tax increase rarely goes away.

“In 2010, Gov. Sandoval stated that raising taxes is ‘the worst possible thing you can do’ after a recession,” Lawrence said. “His statement is as correct today as it was then – raising taxes on job creators is exactly the wrong thing to do in the aftermath of a recession.”

Sandoval said the spending will also be prepared using the new approach of performance-based budgeting.


Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says he will keep the sunsetting taxes in his budget to avoid cuts to education:

031312Sandoval1 :14 in our society.”

Sandoval says he won’t pit kindergarteners against senior citizens:

031312Sandoval2 :12 need essential services.”

Sandoval says at this point in time it is the responsible thing to do:

031312Sandoval3 :12 state of Nevada.”


Regulation Requiring Many Home-Based Businesses To Pay Business License Fee Approved By Legislative Panel

By Sean Whaley | 5:47 pm March 8th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A regulation requiring thousands of home-based businesses to pay a $200 annual fee won approval today from a legislative panel.

Secretary of State Ross Miller has been trying to get the regulation approved for several months, but has seen the regulation stymied by strong opposition from some Nevada residents and Republican lawmakers who argued the regulation exceeded his authority.

The regulation affects home-based businesses operating as limited liability companies and corporations that earn less than $27,000. It does not apply to individuals operating businesses out of their homes.

Secretary of State Ross Miller.

The Legislative Commission’s Subcommittee to Review Regulations, made up of four Democrats and two Republicans, approved the regulation on a party-line vote. The same subcommittee deferred action on the regulation in December, sending it to the full 12-member Legislative Commission for action.

That panel, made up of an equal number of Republicans and Democrats, failed to act on the proposed rule at a meeting on Feb. 15.

The subcommittee took up the regulation again today. The approval means the regulation can now take effect.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, a member of the subcommittee, asked how Miller could be given the authority to collect the fee from a new class of businesses since there is no clear legislative authority to do so.

State Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas.

“That’s been my argument, that we are now forcing home-based businesses, including people who sell Tupperware or whatever product or service, even though they don’t open their home up to the public; they now have to make the difficult choice of waiving the legal protection of our LLC statute or facing this tax increase,” Roberson said. “And I do not think this is the time in our economy in this state to be doing that, and putting those smallest home-based businesses in that difficult position.”

Roberson said the panel should request an official written opinion from Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto on the issue before taking a vote.

But Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said lawmakers rely on their own legal counsel and that she was comfortable with the advice from Legislative Counsel Brenda Erdoes that the approval of the regulation on a simple majority vote was proper.

Erdoes said the panel did not have the authority to request such an opinion from the attorney general.

Roberson then asked Miller to request the legal opinion, saying there appeared to be confusion as to what the attorney general’s office position is on the issue.

The regulation will require home-based businesses that are on file with Miller’s office as limited liability companies and corporations to pay the business license fee. The companies had previously paid the fee, but an interpretation provided to Miller’s office by a deputy attorney general in 2009 had exempted them from paying the fee. Miller said that interpretation was a mistake.

The action by the legislative subcommittee was condemned by the group Nevada Families/Eagle Forum.

“This regulation is taxation by regulation,” said Janine Hansen, in a statement on behalf of the organizations. “The process violates the Nevada Constitution which requires a two-thirds vote of the Legislature to impose a tax, and it violates the separation of powers.”

“It is appalling that Ross Miller would seek to impose, by regulation, what he could not get through the Legislature,” Hansen said.

She was referring to Assembly Bill 78, which was approved by the Legislature in the 2011 session but never made it to Gov. Brian Sandoval for his signature.

Erdoes told the subcommittee that there was no two-thirds vote requirement to approve the regulation. The two-thirds requirement applies to the Legislature, not the subcommittee, she said.

Erdoes said a bill passed in the 2009 session, approved with a two-thirds majority, gave Miller’s office the authority to adopt regulations needed to collect the fee. The failure of AB78 to win approval in 2011 has no effect on the regulation, she said.

Following the vote, Miller said: “My office will be enforcing the home-based business exemption in accordance with the original intent of the Legislature, which will level the playing field for the many businesses that have been compliant and paying the appropriate fees.”

The regulation clarifies that the home-based business exemption applies only to natural persons, i.e. sole proprietors or general partnerships who meet the requirements of the exemption.


Audio clip:

Sen. Michael Roberson says it is the wrong time for Nevada’s economy to impose the $200 annual fee on a new class of businesses:

030812Roberson1 :29 that difficult position.”


Trio Of GOP Lawmakers Ask Democrat Sen. Steven Horsford To Allow Vote On Laughlin Incorporation

By Sean Whaley | 6:14 pm March 7th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Three Republican state senators, all members of the Legislative Commission, have asked Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, to call a meeting of the panel as soon as possible to vote on the feasibility of the incorporation of Laughlin.

In a letter dated Feb. 28, Sens. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, and James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, asked Horsford to allow a vote of the commission on whether the residents of Laughlin should be able to vote in June on whether to become Nevada’s newest city.

Consideration of the determination of feasibility of incorporation for Laughlin had been scheduled for a Feb. 15 meeting of the commission, but Horsford, who is also serving as chairman of the 12-member panel, tabled the issue. The commission is comprised of six state senators, three of each party, and six members of the Assembly, again divided equally between Republicans and Democrats.

A favorable vote from the commission would pave the way for a vote by Laughlin residents on their future.

Laughlin. / Photo by Stan Shebs via Wikimedia Commons.

“The Senate Republicans on the Legislative Commission request a meeting of the Legislative Commission be scheduled, to vote on the City of Laughlin issue,” the letter said. “Recently the Clark County commissioners voted to not put the city of Laughlin incorporation on the ballot.

“Since the Legislative Commission failed to take action on this matter at the last meeting this would mean that the citizens of the city of Laughlin will not be able to weigh in on this matter in the upcoming election. A meeting should be scheduled as soon as possible so the citizens are not denied that right.

“Furthermore section 4 of Senate Bill 262 (Chapter 481, Statutes of Nevada 2011) states that the Legislative Commission shall review the report and make a determination. The commission has failed in that respect and is in violation of the Statutes of Nevada,” the brief letter said in conclusion.

The vote needs to come within about two weeks or Laughlin residents will not have the chance to vote on the incorporation question this year.

The Legislative Commission is scheduled to meet March 15 but an agenda has not yet been finalized for the meeting.

Concerns have been raised by at least one Republican lawmaker that the Laughlin incorporation issue has been held up by Democrats as part of a deal to get a separate regulation sought by Secretary of State Ross Miller approved. Miller, a Democrat, has been thwarted in his efforts to get a regulation approved that would allow his office to collect a $200 business license fee from companies that claim they are exempt from the assessment.

Republicans have opposed the regulation, arguing the issue should  be considered by the full Legislature in 2013.

The Legislative Commission’s Subcommittee to Review Regulations is scheduled to meet Thursday to consider the business license fee collection regulation. The subcommittee is comprised of four Democrats and only two Republicans. If the regulation is approved at the subcommittee meeting, it will take effect without needing a vote from the full commission.

Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, who sought the bill in the 2011 legislative session allowing for Laughlin to vote on incorporation, suggested a link between the two distinct issues in a story published Feb. 26 in the Mohave Daily News. Hardy was quoted as saying Democrats wanted GOP support for Miller’s regulation in exchange for a vote on the Laughlin incorporation issue.

Hardy said today there is a perception by some lawmakers that the two issues are linked.

“I think they were emotionally linked, if nothing else,” he said. “And the legislative process is certainly not a bland process.”

An individual close to the Senate Democrat Caucus rejected the notion that the two issues are linked, saying Hardy’s comments are conjecture only. The individual, who spoke on background, said the claim is “absolutely false.”

When the Legislative Commission did not vote on the incorporation issue, it went to the Clark County Commission, comprised of all Democrats, who voted unanimously Feb. 21 that incorporation was not feasible for the community 100 miles south of Las Vegas.

Dave Floodman, president of the nonprofit Laughlin Economic Development Corporation, said today that there was bipartisan support in the Nevada Legislature in 2011 to allow consideration of the incorporation question. SB262 passed unanimously in the Assembly and by a 16-5 vote in the Senate.

While a feasibility study of the incorporation prepared by the Nevada Department of Taxation found incorporation was not feasible, a separate study by a reputable California company and commissioned by his group found that it would be feasible, he said.

The two reviews differed on the cost of providing police and fire protection, Floodman said.

“Our position is that the two different scenarios should be decided by the people in Laughlin,” he said.

Hardy said he believes incorporation is viable and that Laughlin residents should have the chance to vote on their future.

“Myself, I think it is fiscally feasible and I think that the citizens of Laughlin deserve to have the right to have that presented to them in such a way that they say, ‘we want to have this level of service and pay this much money in taxes’ and present it that way and say, OK, we want it or we don’t,” he said. “And that is what this is about.”


Audio clips:

Sen. Joe Hardy says the proposed Ross Miller regulation and the Laughlin incorporation issue are emotionally linked at a minimum:

030712Hardy3 :16 a bland process.”

Hardy says he believes incorporation is viable and that Laughlin residents should have the right to vote on the issue:

030712Hardy2 :34 this is about.”


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.


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.”


School Choice Limited But Expanding In Nevada As National Event Highlights Need For More Options

By Sean Whaley | 9:41 am January 22nd, 2012

CARSON CITY – As National School Choice Week gets under way today state officials say Nevada school children have more opportunities than ever before to choose a school that works best for them.

But one element of choice, a school voucher program, remains an unrealized and divisive issue for the state’s policy makers.

Successes include a strong charter school law that is helping make the semi-autonomous schools available to more Nevada students, expanding distance learning programs, home-schooling opportunities and the ability in the state’s largest school district for open enrollment, Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a Friday interview.

Another positive are the career and technical academies in the Clark County School District that allow students to focus on specific vocational programs, from aeronautics to fashion design, he said.

“They are remarkable,” Sandoval said. “That is a big component of choice in Clark County that is very popular.”

Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the Senate Education Committee in the 2011 session, also points to the state’s charter and magnet schools as examples of choice in Nevada.

“So I think we have a lot of great choices there,” he said. “We also have some decent laws on home schooling. Some parents want to have that ability to home school their kids but maybe they can’t provide sports or music so now they have that opportunity with some of the things that we’ve changed. So I definitely think it is important for parents to have some choices and options.”

National School Choice Week focuses on need for options

National School Choice Week – a series of hundreds of events shining a spotlight on the need for better educational options for children, kicked off in New Orleans on Saturday and runs through Jan. 28.

Sandoval issued a proclamation last week declaring National School Choice Week in Nevada while visiting a new charter school in Fallon. The Oasis Academy just finished its first semester with 120 students and has a waiting list, he said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval. / Nevada News Bureau.

Supporters of National School Choice Week believe that children and families deserve increased access to great public schools, public charter schools, virtual schools, private schools, and homeschooling.

School vouchers remain controversial in Nevada

But Nevada does not have a voucher program where parents could use taxpayer dollars to help pay to send their children to private schools. Efforts by Sandoval and state Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, to move in that direction in the 2011 legislative session were unsuccessful.

“I think the time has come for our state to move forward with regard to school choice and see how it works,” Sandoval said. “I think it would be extremely popular. I think there is a huge appetite amongst parents to have this opportunity.

“Competition is good,” he said. “And at the end of the day, the beneficiary is going to be the kids. And my goal is for every child to have quality education (and) a great teacher in every classroom every day.”

Sandoval said he supports a voucher program with means testing and will pursue the idea again in 2013, but the approach may change based on legal rulings on such programs around the country. Providing funding to parents instead of private schools, for example, might allow Nevada to avoid the constitutional prohibition on using public funds for “sectarian purposes.”

A handful of states offer voucher programs.

Another option is giving corporations that provide scholarships to parents for private school would get tax breaks, a program used in Florida.

Many Nevada lawmakers and members of the education establishment remain strongly opposed, however, to a voucher program.

Denis said the state needs to do more for its public education system before even contemplating the idea of a voucher program.

“If we were doing everything we could for public education then I would be willing to look at that issue in the future,” he said. “But we underfund education. You want to make sure the field is level.

“We’ve got some challenges but we’ve made some great changes in our reforms, and I think we’ll continue to do that,” Denis said. “But as far as the voucher stuff, I don’t think that there is support for that.”

Lynn Warne, president of the Nevada State Education Association, also opposes the idea of vouchers, saying there are quite a few other options for parents.

“The courts and the constitution say there should not be the commingling of public funds for that purpose and so we are opposed to vouchers,” she said. “We believe it undermines the public school system whether it is a charter school receiving state funding or a traditional public school receiving state funding. It takes money away from the system.”

It undermines the free education for all concept the country was founded on, Warne said.

Another component of choice, the open enrollment option in the Clark County School District, has a ways to go before it is a real option for many students.

Keith Rheault, Nevada’s superintendent of public instruction, said open enrollment is limited from a practical standpoint because of a lack of space at many schools to accept students from outside their attendance areas.

“Even though there is more flexibility, the choice probably isn’t as much as you think,” Rheault said.

School choice opportunities have expanded in Nevada

Nevada now has 31 charter schools serving about 8,000 students. Nevada’s passed its first charter school law in 1997. Nevada’s ranking among the states just improved to 20th from 23rd based on a national report issued last week by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Overall charter school enrollment now exceeds that of many of Nevada’s rural school districts.

The primary reason for the improved ranking was the 2011 Legislature’s adoption of Senate Bill 212, which created a new entity to focus exclusively on reviewing and approving charter schools in Nevada, a measure welcomed by Sandoval in his education reform efforts.

Sandoval said he has asked Steve Canavero, director of the new State Charter School Authority to review the states at the top of the rankings to see what more the state can and should do to promote the creation of the schools.

The state also has 174 private schools with just under 14,000 students enrolled. But Rheault said enrollment in private schools has been flat in recent years, due in part to the tough economy and the inability of parents to afford the tuition.

Rheault said distance learning, offered to some extent by the school districts and particularly in charter schools, is growing quickly in Nevada.

“The Nevada Virtual Academy, for example, I think started in 2007 with about 400 students, and they are strictly a distance ed school,” Rheault said. “I think they are over 2,000 students this year. We probably have over 5,000 or 6,000 students being educated just by distance education programs.”

But the option exercised by most parents is to send their children to the public school system run by locally elected boards in each of the 17 counties. For the most part, children attend the school they are zoned for by each district.

Public school enrollment was projected to total just under 422,000 this year.

National School Choice Week comes at a busy time for education reform in Nevada

On Tuesday, a panel of Nevada state lawmakers will begin looking at news ways of funding public education. And on Thursday, the state Board of Education is expected to receive the names of six finalists for the state’s top public education job. The names of three finalists will be forwarded to Sandoval for the position of state superintendent of public instruction, an appointment he has said is one of the most important he will make as governor.

The 2011 Legislature changed state law to allow the governor to pick the schools chief. Until now, the state Board of Education picked the superintendent.

The state is also pursuing a waiver to allow for flexibility in implementing the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Sandoval supports the move, which is expected to allow the state to tailor the requirements of the law to meet Nevada’s unique characteristics.


Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says he will bring the voucher bill again in 2013:

012212Sandoval1 :37 state of Nevada.”

Sandoval says the time has come to move forward with school choice:

012212Sandoval2 :31 school choice bill.”

Sandoval says competition among public and private schools will benefit the kids:

012212Sandoval3 :17 classroom every day.”

State Sen. Mo Denis says Nevada offers parents a lot of school choices:

012212Denis1 :25 and some options.”

Denis says the state needs to fund public education before considering vouchers:

012212Denis2 :18 field is level.”

NSEA President Lynn Warne says the courts oppose vouchers:

012212Warne1 :30 choice of theirs.”

Warne says vouchers undermine the concept of a free public education for all:

012212Warne2 :22 was founded on.”


Collective Bargaining Bill Dies In Committee

By Andrew Doughman | 7:23 pm April 14th, 2011

CARSON CITY — Senate Operations Committee Chairman David Parks has put the brakes on a collective bargaining bill that the sponsor said could save $2.3 billion for the state.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, who sponsored Senate Bill 343, said it would save local governments as much as $2.3 billion by amending the state’s collective bargaining law and ratcheting wages down to national averages.

Parks called a hearing on the bill earlier this week, but he said today that the testimony was so negative that he did not believe the bill would have the votes to pass.

“It came down to the overwhelming testimony we received in opposition,” Parks said. “My determination was that there wasn’t strong enough support for it to get a vote.”

The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and the City of Reno testified in support of the bill. Firefighters and police unions, joined by the AFL-CIO, testified against it.

The bill would eliminate a third-party, binding arbitration process in management and labor contract disputes and instead impose the local government’s contract offer for up to one year.

The Legislature faces a Friday deadline to vote bills out of committee. In a more symbolic move, Parks may have brought the bill for a vote only to vote it down. By not bringing it up, he let it die quietly.

“It troubles me that the discussion of real reform is not proceeding,” said Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, who co-sponsored the bill.

He serves on the Legislative Operations committee that heard the bill. He would have voted for the bill as would have Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas. The three Democrats on the committee would have been likely ‘no’ votes.

Public sector unions have traditionally been a strong ally to Democratic candidates, making a bill like Roberson’s potentially unpalatable to his colleagues across the aisle.

The hearing earlier this week had raised the ire of both the sponsor and the opposition.

Lobbyists for public sector unions called the bill “insulting,” and at the end of the hearing Cegavske asked people to apologize to each other for “derogatory comments.”

Roberson at one point during the testimony of the opposition interjected that supporters of the bill were given short shrift.

The Legislative Operations committee did hear another bill, Senate Bill 98, that would also make changes to collective bargaining by requiring mediation prior to arbitration and freeing a third-party arbitrator from having to choose one of the final offers presented. This bill, however, sparked little contention and both public sector unions and local governments endorsed it.

Roberson’s bill, however, appears dead with the caveat that it could be resurrected as an amendment onto a similar bill such as SB 98.

SB 98 was voted out of the Legislative Operations committee today.


Dual “Anomaly” Districts Likely To Disappear In Nevada’s Redistricting Process

By Andrew Doughman | 12:36 pm March 25th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Ask people living near the strip in Las Vegas who their state senator is and, if they know, they might say Sen. Mark Manendo or Sen. David Parks.

They would both be right on both counts. Parks and Manendo represent one of the state’s two dual districts, which each have two senators.

They are a relic from a past era, and Parks says there is a “strong likelihood” they will soon be a thing of the past.

Parks is the chairman of the Senate committee that publicly works on drawing the boundaries.

“From a personal perspective, I’d sooner have a single Senate district because I would have fewer constituents to campaign to,” he said.

The Nevada Legislature will redraw political boundaries this year using data from the 2010 U.S. Census.

“It makes sense that the double districts go away,” said Sen. Michael Roberson, a Republican who represents Clark County District Five with Sen. Shirley Breeden, a Democrat. “What’s the rationale? If double districts are great, why aren’t double districts everywhere? It’s an anomaly. … I haven’t heard a single person argue for the merits of a double district.”

Clark County Senate Districts 5 and 7 have two Senators each. Those districts could disappear in the 2011 redistricting process. Legislative Counsel Bureau

About 475,000 Nevadans currently live in the dual districts that elect two senators each. Each dual-district senator technically represents half the district. The districts are double the size of districts that elect a single senator.

In the rest of Nevada, one district elects one senator.

Double districts are double the size to keep in line with national laws. National court rulings have established a “one person, one vote” rule.

Senate districts that are double the size of other districts must then have two senators. Or, the other way around, if a district has two senators, it must be double the size of districts that have one senator.

Campaigning in a double district is more difficult than in single districts. Roberson said that candidates have to solicit votes from double the voters, pay double the mailing costs and spend double the money in order to reach double the number of people.

In this century, the districts seem odd.

“Within the context of Nevada, it may be an anomaly,” said Guy Rocha, Nevada’s former state historian. “We don’t need it today.”

But it has not always been so.

The double districts came about as the United States Supreme Court made a ruling in the 1960s that changed the old way Nevada elected its senators.

Before, each of Nevada’s 17 counties elected one senator.

But as Clark County’s population grew, legislators in the north seemed to wield disproportionate influence since they represented fewer people than the Clark County legislators.

Nevada overhauled the way it elected its Senators and Assembly members in 1965 to use population, not county, as the base.

In 1971, Nevada had many districts where one district elected one assembly member or senator based on population. But Nevada also had one seven-member and one two-member district in Clark County and one four-member Washoe County district.

After 1971, these abnormal districts began to disappear.

By 1991, Clark County had five double districts. That number shrank to the current two double-districts in 2001.

Now it seems that they will all go away.

“It would end what I call a latter-day tradition,” Rocha said. “Perhaps, it’s served its purpose and served its time.”