Posts Tagged ‘Senate’

Berkley In Attack Mode, Heller Takes More Restrained Approach In Second Senate Debate

By Sean Whaley | 10:11 pm October 11th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley used a second Senate debate tonight to attack Sen. Dean Heller on issues ranging from Medicare to online poker legislation, while her Republican opponent took a more restrained approach in the hour-long discussion on public television.

Berkley accused Heller of supporting a bill by Rep. Paul Ryan to change Medicare to a voucher program for those aged 55 or younger, adding to the cost of their health insurance.

“My opponent voted twice to end Medicare by turning it over to private insurance companies,” Berkley said. “That’s not the way to fix Medicare, that’s the way you destroy Medicare. Why? Because it’s going to increase the cost of Medicare, health care for older Americans, by $6,400 a year.”

She repeated criticisms made by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., that Heller failed to uphold his end of a deal to get online poker legislation passed in Congress that would help Nevada.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

But Heller, who is reportedly ahead in several polls in the hotly contested Senate race, did not respond in kind, instead taking a more restrained approach on topics ranging from gas prices to immigration reform.

Heller said his support of the Ryan budget plan would not lead to the privatization of Medicare, and that online poker legislation would be passed by the end of the year after the Nov. 6 election with him and Reid working in concert.

Heller said the poker bill has been turned into a political issue that cannot be addressed until the election is over.

“And I’ll be the first to say, that I believe I have two opponents in this particular race; I have the Congresswoman, and I have Sen. Reid also,” he said. “And I’m OK with that. Because we’re going to continue to push forward, and I’ll continue to push forward on the online gaming. And we’re going to get a bill passed before the end of the year. And I’m going to do that with the help and support, working together, with Sen. Reid.”

While the two candidates focused on the issues in the debate, which was marred in Northern Nevada by several lengthy technical interruptions related to the weather, the more sensational ad wars continue unabated on the airwaves.

Rep. Shelley Berkley - D-Nev.

A Berkley ad now running says she is the real supporter of the middle class and job creation, while the National Republican Senatorial Committee is focusing on Berkley’s previous international travels at taxpayer expense.

In response to a question about a bill that would provide Bureau of Land Management land to the city of Yerington to allow for the development of a job-creating copper mine project, Berkley said she supports the measure even though she voted against it in a package of several bills.

Berkley said she looks forward to voting for a “clean” bill that does not include other measures that are unrelated to the proposal, which has been pushed by Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.

Heller questioned Berkley’s commitment to the bill, saying that only in Washington, DC can you say you support a bill but vote against it.

Berkley acknowledged in response to a question that she voted in 1999 for a bill that deregulated the financial services industry, which has been blamed in part for the 2008 financial meltdown.

Berkley acknowledged voting for the Glass-Steagall Act, which she called a mistake, but said the country needs to look forward at what can be done to protect the American people. Berkley said she voted for the Dodd-Frank bill to reign in the worst excesses of the banking industry.

“My opponent had an opportunity to reign in the worst abuses of Wall Street by voting for the Dodd-Frank bill and he didn’t,” she said. “So unlike me, who is fighting for the middle class and trying to make some sense out of this and give these banks some regulation so they can never get us into this mess again, so we never have massive unemployment because of their avarice and greed and we never end up with a housing crisis like we did.”

But Heller said Berkley’s voted for deregulation while former Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., opposed the bill. She then voted for the bank bailout bill and then supported Dodd-Frank was to give her and her colleagues cover for earlier supporting bank deregulation.

“So when the banks came and said hey, we want to be deregulated, my opponent said OK,” he said. “When they said we made bad decisions because of this deregulation, they said we want to be bailed out, she said OK. And then what happened is they passed Dodd-Frank. The purpose of Dodd-Frank was to give cover for those who voted for the bailout.”

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Audio clips:

Rep. Shelley Berkley says Sen. Dean Heller voted twice to end traditional Medicare coverage:

101112Berkley1 :16 $6,400 a year.”

Berkley says Heller did not support a bill to reign in the excesses of Wall Street:

101112Berkley2 :27 like we did.”

Heller says he will work with Sen. Harry Reid and get an online gaming bill passed by the end of the year:

101112Heller1 :17 with Sen. Reid.”

Heller says Berkley’s vote for the Dodd-Frank bill was to give herself cover for voting for bank deregulation and the subsequent bank bailout bill:

101112Heller2 :18 for the bailout.”

 

 

State Senate Candidate Advocates New Corporate Profits Tax In Debate, GOP Opponent Says Call Is Premature

By Sean Whaley | 2:50 pm September 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Former state Sen. Sheila Leslie drew a clear contrast with her Republican opponent Sen. Greg Brower in the District 15 race in Washoe County in a debate today, calling for a corporate profits tax to generate enough revenue to adequately fund education.

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposal to extend a package of sunsetting taxes into the next budget to avoid any further cuts to education won’t provide enough revenue, she said in a debate with Brower on the Nevada NewsMakers television program.

The Washoe County School District will have to cut $50 million next year even if the sunsetting taxes are continued, she said.

“All the surrounding states have that kind of a tax,” Leslie said. “Utah is the lowest at 5 percent. We could have a 1 or 2 percent tax and still be the lowest. We could phase out the modified business tax, which is a job killer. And we could lower the sales tax, eventually.”

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

Brower said he supports extending the sunsetting taxes, but said talk of new taxes is premature.

“Including the tax revenue that was to sunset as revenue that we will or may have as we build the budget is the only common sense thing to do,” he said. “Otherwise we have a $700 million hole in the budget and we just can’t fill that, especially if we are not going to cut education further, which I think is absolutely critical.”

The debate, which went off without any fireworks, involves a state Senate seat considered critical by both Democrats and Republicans as they seek to control the 21-member house for the 2013 legislative session. Democrats now have an 11-10 majority. The 42-member Assembly is expected to remain in Democratic control.

In an unusual political move, Leslie resigned her Senate 1 seat to run against Brower in the new District 15. Brower was appointed to the Senate in District 3 to fill out the term of the late Sen. Bill Raggio. The new district, the result of redistricting based on the 2010 census, has a Republican voter registration edge of 39.8 percent to 37.9 percent for Democrats as of the end of August.

Brower said it would be better to have Republicans control the Senate because the party is more pro-business. Republicans will also do more to further public education reform and work to reform the collective bargaining process, which is crippling local governments, he said.

Democrats came along “kicking and screaming” in their support the 2011 education reforms, Brower said.

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

Leslie said having Democrats in control has ensured that Nevada has not had to deal with “horrible legislation” that has been seen in other states such as voter suppression efforts and hard-line anti-immigration measures.

Sandoval is a Republican so there is balance, she said.

“And as to the education reforms, those came out of the Democratic Assembly, they were the ones who brought forth the reforms, so it’s not true that Democrats don’t ever want to reform anything,” Leslie said.

Having said that, Leslie said the 2013 Legislature needs to look at properly funding education and retaining the best teachers, not pursuing further reforms. The 2011 reforms, including a new teacher evaluation process, have not even had a chance to take effect yet, she said.

Brower said he would like to see more choice for parents in picking schools and have the state give up some of its control to the local school boards. The best teachers also need to be paid more, he said.

The two candidates will also debate Friday on the Face to Face television show.

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Audio clips:

Senate 15 candidate Sheila Leslie says she would support the creation of a corporate profits tax to adequately fund public education:

092612Leslie1 :14 sales tax, eventually.”

Candidate Greg Brower says such talk is premature:

092612Brower1 :21 talking about that.”

Brower says a Republican-controlled Senate would be more pro-business and allow for more education and collective bargaining reforms:

092612Brower2 :15 in the Legislature.”

Leslie says having Democrats in control has kept Nevada from passing bad legislation:

092612Leslie2 :17 to reform anything.”

 

Prevailing Wage, Taxes Focus Of State Senate 18 Debate

By Sean Whaley | 8:27 pm September 25th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Democratic state Senate candidate Kelli Ross said today that she is the “union” candidate in the District 18 race in Las Vegas, while Republican Scott Hammond said he will listen to but not vote in lockstep with labor in the Legislature.

The two candidates in the newly created Senate seat in northwest Las Vegas debated on Jon Ralston’s Face to Face television program. The Senate contest is one of five viewed by both parties as critical to controlling the 21-member house in the 2013 legislative session.

Democrats now have an 11-10 edge in the Senate.

Kelli Ross.

During the debate, Hammond, currently a member of the Assembly, said he would seek to reform Nevada’s prevailing wage law so that public construction projects could be built more cost effectively and generate more jobs. Paying less would stretch public construction dollars further, he said.

He pointed to the Phoenix, Ariz., area, where prevailing wage rates are $14 an hour compared to $42 an hour in Nevada.

“I think we need to reform that, look at putting it back on to something that is the standard market, and I think we’re going to see significant savings there,” Hammond said.

Ross said she would oppose any move to reduce the prevailing wage, a wage set for construction workers hired for state and local government projects. The prevailing wage guarantees a qualified workforce, she said.

“Not only would it not save money it would even hurt the middle class that much more,” Ross said. “When you’re paying a prevailing wage you’re guaranteeing that you’re going to get a job done, get a job done on time and get the job done right.”

State law requires the state Labor Commissioner to survey contractors who have performed construction work during the past year in order to determine the prevailing wage rates. Prevailing wage rates are required to be paid on all Nevada public works construction projects such as schools, libraries, roads and government buildings costing more than $100,000.

Scott Hammond.

Ross acknowledged that most of her endorsements are labor groups, and she said there is not a labor position she is aware of that she would oppose in the Legislature.

“Yeah, I am the union candidate,” she said. “But I’m also the candidate that is there for the people. I am born and raised in Nevada. These people know that I’m going to do what is right for them, and what is going to bring our middle class up to the standards that it should be.”

Hammond said he will listen and try to respond to union concerns.

“But I’m not going to be beholden to the union organizations,” he said.

The debate also delved into the issue of taxes, and Hammond’s support for extending a package of sunsetting taxes supported by GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval in the 2011 session. Hammond said he has not yet decided whether to support extending the sunsets in the next two-year budget as proposed by Sandoval to avoid further cuts to education.

Hammond said the tax extension in 2011 also resulted in the complete elimination of the state business tax for small Nevada employers.

“The reason why I haven’t made up my mind is because I still want to see what the Economic Forum is going to tell us in the next couple of months,” he said.

The forum estimates the tax revenues that will be collected by the state for the next two-year budget.

Ross said she supports the tax extension, but called it just another Band-Aid that does not solve the state’s long term revenue issues.

In a discussion of education concerns, Ross said the current public funding formula shortchanges Clark County at the expense of rural and Northern Nevada. It needs to be changed so Clark County taxpayer money stays in the south, she said.

An interim legislative committee recently endorsed revisions to the public education funding formula to compensate for such issues as poverty and non-English speaking students, factors found more often in Clark County than elsewhere in the state.

Hammond said the formula can be reviewed, but giving parents more choice in where their children attend school, including expanding charter schools, will improve student achievement.

Senate District 18 has a Republican advantage, with 39.9 percent of the voters registered GOP compared to 37.6 percent for Democrats as of the end of August.

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Audio clips:

Senate 18 candidate Scott Hammond says Nevada’s prevailing wage law needs to be reformed:

092512Hammond1 :10 significant savings there.”

Senate 18 candidate Kelli Ross says the state’s prevailing wage law helps the middle class:

092512Ross1 :10 job done right.”

Ross says she is the union candidate but also the candidate of the people:

092512Ross2 :13 it should be.”

Hammond said he will listen to but not automatically support labor concerns:

092512Hammond2 :16 the union organizations.”

 

 

GOP Members Of Congress Ask Governors To Reject Health Exchanges, Nevada Program Already Well Under Way

By Sean Whaley | 12:30 pm July 10th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A letter from 12 U.S. Senators and 61 members of the House to the nation’s governors asking them to oppose the creation of health care exchanges under the Affordable Care Act comes too late to have any effect in Nevada.

No members of Nevada’s Congressional delegation signed the letter, which says in part: “These expensive, complex, and intrusive exchanges impose a threat to the financial stability of our already-fragile state economies with no certainty of a limit to total enrollment numbers. By refusing to create an exchange, you will assist us in Congress to repeal this violation which will help lower the costs of doing business in your state, relative to other states that keep these financially draining exchanges in place.”

Sen. Jim DeMint of South Carolina and Rep. Michele Bachmann of Minnesota are the first names on the letter signed only by Republicans and dated June 29.

The GOP-controlled House is set to vote this week on whether to repeal the law, but the Democratic-controlled Senate is not expected to consider such a measure.

Gov. Brian Sandoval.

GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval moved forward in the first days he took office in January 2011 to implement the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, despite his concerns about the constitutionality of the law. The U.S. Supreme Court last month ruled most of the law constitutional. Nevada was one of 26 states to challenge the constitutionality of the law.

Sandoval announced his intentions in his 2011 State of the State address: “I firmly believe that many aspects of the law are unconstitutional, and I will continue to fight to have them overturned. In the meantime, however, the law imposes many deadlines, and we cannot wait until litigation is resolved. We must also plan for a Health Insurance Exchange so that we – and not the federal government – control the program.”

A health care exchange is basically a one-stop shop for purchasing health insurance.

Several governors have said they won’t create their own health exchanges, among them Texas Gov. Rick Perry.

Among the states that have not moved forward to create an exchange include Louisiana, Florida, Nebraska, Alabama, Oklahoma, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Missouri, Michigan, South Dakota, Texas, Virginia and Wisconsin.

But Nevada’s program is well along and will have a state based Exchange operational by Oct. 1, 2013. To date the Exchange has been awarded approximately $24.7 million in federal grants to pay for its establishment and implementation.

“Nevada was prudent to begin implementation over a year and a half ago rather than wait and risk federal intervention,” said Jon Hager, executive director of the Exchange, in a recent news release. “Thanks to advanced planning and foresight, Nevada is positioned to implement a state based health insurance exchange that is built with the needs of Nevadans in mind.”

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates approximately 21.3 percent of Nevadans, or 563,000 people, are uninsured. The Exchange’s mission is to increase the number of insured Nevadans by facilitating the purchase and sale of health insurance that provides quality health care through the creation of a transparent, simplified marketplace of qualified health plans.

Nevada’s exchange was created by Senate Bill 440 of the 2011 Legislature. It was passed unanimously of those voting in both the Senate and Assembly at the end of the session. Four members of the Assembly were excused and did not vote.

Rove Predicts GOP Control Of Congress In 2012 General Election, Says Presidential Race Outcome Uncertain

By Sean Whaley | 1:56 pm February 2nd, 2012

RENO – Former Sparks resident and George W. Bush presidential adviser Karl Rove predicted today the both houses of Congress will go Republican in the November general election, but said the presidential election is up in the air even with President Barack Obama’s low approval ratings.

Rove, speaking at the Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce event Directions 2012, predicted that the U.S. Senate will see Republican control with a minimum of 52 seats, but possibly as many as 54.

Karl Rove, former senior adviser to President George W. Bush, speaks at a Reno chamber event today. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

Republicans could lose a handful of House seats but will maintain control, he said.

No president has won re-election with poll numbers as low as President Obama has now, but he is a tough competitor with $1 billion to spend, Rove said.

“It’s going to be difficult,” he said, predicting that the U.S. will see “the nastiest, ugliest general election campaign we’ve seen in our lifetime.”

The Obama campaign team will put the Republican candidate on trial and prosecute tough and hard, and with $1 billion in the bank, as often as they can, Rove said.

Winning 51 Senate seats is important if Republicans win the White House as well, because it will mean the immediate repeal of the federal health care law, he said. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act passed in the Senate using a process called reconciliation, which requires only 51 votes to reverse, Rove said.

In his comments to several hundred attendees at the event, Rove noted that the federal Health Care Law is the only major piece of social legislation since polling began in the 1930s that is less popular after it was passed.

“Why?” Rove asked. “Because every single promise made about it is turning out not to be true.”

He declined to pick a winner of the Republican presidential nomination, although he said, Mitt “Romney looks like he could be the guy.”

“You have a big role to play in that,” Rove said of Nevada GOP voters.

Nevada’s Republican presidential caucus, the first in the west, is Saturday. The four remaining contenders for the nomination are visiting Nevada to make their case with GOP voters. Romney is the favorite to win.

Rove, who lived in Sparks from age 9 to 15, served as senior adviser to Bush from 2000 to 2007 and deputy chief of staff from 2004 to 2007. At the White House, he oversaw the Offices of Strategic Initiatives, Political Affairs, Public Liaison and Intergovernmental Affairs and was deputy chief of staff for policy, coordinating the White House policy-making process.

Before Rove became known as “The Architect” of President Bush’s 2000 and 2004 campaigns, he was president of Karl Rove + Company, an Austin-based public affairs firm that worked for Republican candidates, non-partisan causes and non-profit groups. His clients included over 75 Republican U.S. Senate, Congressional, and gubernatorial candidates in 24 states. He writes a weekly op-ed for the Wall Street Journal.

Nevada Delegation Split on Latest Payroll Tax Cut Bill

By Elizabeth Crum | 4:08 pm December 19th, 2011

Nevada’s congressional delegation is currently split 3-2 on the latest bill temporarily extending the payroll tax cuts.

Rep. Shelley Berkley favors the measure passed by the U.S. Senate (by an 89-10 vote Saturday) and supported by Sen.s Harry Reid and Dean Heller.

However, both Rep.s Joe Heck and Mark Amodei say they oppose the two-month extension of the payroll tax cuts on the basis that it is too short-term.

House Speaker John Boehner this morning said Republicans will most likely vote down the measure, objecting to the temporary fix and saying he favors the year-long extension approved last week. He now wants to establish a conference committee to negotiate a different deal.

But Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said in a statement earlier today that he is not going to call the Senate back into session:

“My House colleagues should be clear on what their vote means today. If Republicans vote down the bipartisan compromise negotiated by Republican and Democratic leaders, and passed by 89 senators including 39 Republicans, their intransigence will mean that in 10 days, 160 million middle-class Americans will see a tax increase, over 2 million Americans will begin losing their unemployment benefits, and millions of senior citizens on Medicare could find it harder to receive treatment from physicians.”

Sen. Heller said there was “no question” that the payroll tax cuts and unemployment insurance benefits should be extended for one year, but that there was “no reason to hold up the short-term extension” while a longer-term deal is worked out.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, Heller’s Democratic opponent in the U.S. Senate race, also spoke in support of the short-term Senate measure on the House floor today, saying the hold-up is “thanks to the Tea Party extremists in the House of Representatives.”

But Rep. Joe Heck this afternoon put out a video statement explaining his strong opposition to the two-month measure, part of which is based on his objection to returning to this same debate in February.

Rep. Mark Amodei, the newest member of Nevada’s congressional delegation, also put out a statement saying, in part:

“To enact a 60-day extension of these important programs instead of a year, which would give doctors, patients, seniors, taxpayers and those looking for predictability and stability in their personal lives and jobs, is a can-kick of Olympic proportions. I have yet to hear of a reason for 60 days instead of 12 months. Conclusions for political sport are all that I see so far.”

If House Republicans do not pass the measure and the Senate does not return to Washington D.C. to negotiate a new bill, the payroll tax cuts will expire on Dec. 31.

 

 

Carson District Judge Signs Off On New Political Boundaries, Making Only Minor Changes To Special Master Maps

By Sean Whaley | 2:58 pm October 27th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Carson City District Judge James Todd Russell approved a set of maps outlining Nevada’s new political boundaries today, making only modest changes to the lines drawn by a panel of three court-appointed special masters.

Russell, who ended up in charge of the redistricting process after legislative Democrats and Republicans could not come to an agreement in the 2011 session, signed off on the four congressional districts as proposed and made minor changes to several state Senate seats to correct what he said was an irregularly shaped state Senate 8 seat now held by Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas.

The changes to Senate 8 also resulted in modest changes in the percentage of Democrats and Republicans in Senate District 9 held by Sen. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, Senate District 6 held by Sen. Allison Copening, D-Las Vegas, and a new Senate 18 district created in Clark County with the population shift from northern and rural Nevada to the south.

Democrat attorney Marc Elias, left, and Republican attorney Mark Hutchison look over the new maps in Carson City District Court today. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau

Russell also changed the proposed boundaries of Assembly Districts 34 and 37 in Clark County to return Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, to his District 34. Horne had moved and was unintentionally drawn out of his district.

Russell made the changes after consulting this week with the special masters in advance of today’s hearing.

Attorneys for Democrats and Republicans reserved judgment on whether they will appeal the new political boundaries, required as a result of the 2010 Census, after reviewing the changes. The new political boundaries could potentially be challenged both to the Nevada Supreme Court and the federal courts.

Republican Party attorney Mark Hutchison had argued for changes to Senate seats 6, 8 and 9 to make them more competitive for Republicans, but Russell made only minor changes to the districts.

Democrat Party Attorney Marc Elias had asked for no changes to the maps drawn by Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover, Las Vegas attorney Thomas Sheets and former legislative Research Director Bob Erickson.

Elias said he could propose a laundry list of changes to the maps to improve Democrat political changes in the 2012 election, but that absent any serious errors that needed fixing, the political demands of the two parties should not be accommodated by Russell.

Russell said he tried to address the concerns of rural Nevada, which saw a Senate district drawn all the way into Clark County to reflect the population shift, but could find no way to do so. He noted that both the redistricting plans proposed by Republicans and Democrats moved the district into Clark County as well. The map as drawn by the special masters encompasses less of Clark County than the plans proposed by the parties, Russell said.

“We tried to accommodate these people . . . but there’s no way to work it out,” he said.

The rural district could have been kept whole only if the Legislature had voted to expand its size from the current 21 Senate and 42 Assembly seats, but it did not do so. The state constitution allows the Legislature to be expanded to as many as 75 seats in total.

The congressional maps, which include a new fourth seat due to Nevada’s population growth over the past decade compared to other states, has a central urban Las Vegas District 1 that is 42.8 percent Hispanic.

“I think overall we can live with the congressional maps, particularly based on the court’s decision to accept the special masters’ finding that there was no white block voting that precluded minorities from being elected or choosing candidates of their choice,” Hutchison said.

Elias said he does not believe the new congressional districts violate the federal Voting Rights Act and so no federal court challenge looks likely.

“It doesn’t seem to me that there is any basis at this point for a federal court action,” he said. “We’ve said, literally from the first day here, that the Voting Rights Act does not compel the creation of a majority-minority congressional district.”

Russell said he also considered the idea of returning the redistricting process to the Legislature in a special session, but rejected the idea. A two-week special session would have cost about $550,000, he said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval is the only one with the authority to call a special session of the Legislature, and he had previously rejected the idea, saying he had confidence in the court process to resolve the impasse.

Russell also found that the districts as drawn do not violate the federal Voting Rights Act.

The Nevada Supreme Court still has a hearing scheduled for next month on the issue of whether the Legislature has the responsibility to draw the state’s new political boundaries, not the courts.

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Audio clips:

GOP attorney Mark Hutchison says Republicans can lives with the new congressional districts:

102711Hutchison :15 of their choice.”

Democrat attorney Marc Elias says he does not believe there are federal issues with the new districts:

102711Elias :16 majority-minority congressional district.”

Battle-worn Byron Georgiou is Out of U.S. Senate Race

By Elizabeth Crum | 10:03 am August 10th, 2011

Las Vegas millionaire and Shelley Berkley-challenger Byron Georgiou this morning announced that he is dropping out of the Democratic race for the U.S. Senate:

After thoughtful consideration, I have decided to terminate my campaign for the Democratic Party’s 2012 nomination for the United States Senate.

I continue to believe that my background and experience well qualify me to serve in the Senate. However, at this time, I have concluded that I can more effectively contribute to resolution of the serious economic issues facing our state and nation through my work in the private sector, in the areas of clean energy, health care information technology, and broadband development.

I thank my many supporters, my staff, my friends and my family for their confidence in my candidacy.

With respect,

Byron

The businessman — a millionaire who made a name for himself as one of the attorneys who recovered $7.5 billion for investors in Enron Corporation – has been under fire for months by Democratic Party operatives who first tried to persuade and then later attempted to force him out of the race against Rep. Berkley.

Among other things, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid called the candidate’s credentials and ethics into question even though Reid was largely responsible for appointing Georgiou to the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission (FCIC), a panel tasked with examining the causes of the recession. Reid even went so far as to say he was “misled” about Georgiou’s resume and regretted appointing Georgiou to the commission.

But Georgiou was determined and said he refused to drop out, even seeming energized by the attacks. He told the Las Vegas Sun he believed the criticisms were politically motivated and “part of the continuing efforts of the Shelley Berkley campaign to disparage my candidacy.”

A spokesman for Reid stood behind the criticism and told the Sun that while Georgiou was on the FCIC, he was making public and private statements that were in violation of the ethics code for the commission.

Although many political analysts agreed the attacks on Georgiou looked like a coordinated effort to force him out of the senate race, Reid was not the first elected official to question whether all Georgiou’s work for the FCIC was ethical. California Republican Rep. Darrell Issa’s House Oversight and Government Reform committee has this year been investigating whether Georgiou and FCIC lead investigator Chris Seefer may have broken the commission’s ethical rules regarding conflicts of interest and confidentiality.

If unchallenged by any other candidate, Berkley will face appointed U.S. Sen. Dean Heller in the 2012 race as he seeks to hold the seat for the Republicans.

Update (compliments of Steve Sebelius at SlashPolitics who provided both of the below comments):

Rep. Shelley Berkley said this today in response to Georgiou’s announcement.

I have nothing but the utmost respect for Byron Georgiou. He has an impressive record as a businessman and public servant and I know that he will continue to contribute to the betterment of our state and country in the years to come.

And Sen. Harry Reid said this:

While Byron and I have had our differences in the past, I’m heartened by his decision today.  His is an important voice and perspective on the causes of the financial crisis.

Byron and his fellow Financial Crisis Inquiry Commissioners performed a significant public service by investigating and identifying for the President, the Congress and the American people the causes of the economic crisis that continues to grip our nation.  Their report remains the most comprehensive accounting of the causes of the crisis and what we should do to avoid a repetition.  Byron’s decision allows him to focus even more of his energy, time and considerable talents on what he is obviously very passionate about — ensuring that what happened never happens again.

Byron has had a diverse and distinguished career in business, law and public service.  I have the highest regard for his professional expertise, and am confident that Byron will continue to contribute to Nevada and America in the years to come.

Quite the 180. As Sebelius quipped in his blog header, “Can you feel the love tonight?”

Update:

Nevada State Democratic Party Chair Roberta Lange issued the following statement regarding Byron Georgiou’s decision to withdraw from the U.S. Senate race:

We thank Byron Georgiou for his years of public service and wish him well in his future endeavors. This election will be a clear choice between Shelley Berkley’s commitment to getting Nevadans back to work and Dean Heller’s job-killing TEA Party agenda that would gut Social Security and end Medicare by putting the health of Nevada seniors into the hands of profit-first private insurance companies. With Nevada suffering from the worst unemployment in the Nation, we need Shelley Berkley in the Senate to fight to create jobs, not a politician like Dean Heller who has consistently thrown Nevada’s seniors and middle class under the bus to protect tax breaks for corporations that ship American jobs overseas.


 

Bills Sought By GOP Senators ‘Returned’ To Assembly As Tax Discussions Continue

By Sean Whaley | 12:00 pm May 26th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Republican state senators who are refusing to go along with a call by Democrats to increase funding for the state budget say bills they have sponsored are being held hostage as a result.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, said Assembly Democrats, who have a 26-16 majority, “called back” seven Senate bills that had already been voted on and sent to the Senate for final action.

Senate Bills 89, 96, 111, 134, 225, 322 and 337 were requested to be returned to the Assembly, said David Byerman, secretary of the Senate. He said such requests are routine and are accommodated without requesting an explanation. Various reasons can prompt such a request, such as a reconsideration of a measure, he said.

All seven bills passed the Assembly unanimously on Monday. On Tuesday, Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee, including Cegavske, Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, and Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, refused to support a proposed budget relying on the extension of sun-setting taxes to add more than $700 million in funding.

The Assembly Ways and Means Committee today passed out a bill extending the sun-setting taxes on a party-line vote. But a two-thirds vote will be required in the full Assembly and then in the Senate to approve the measure.

Democrats in the Legislature need three GOP members of the Senate of 10 to vote to extend the sun-setting taxes. So far the Senate GOP caucus has remained firm in its opposition, holding with Gov. Brian Sandoval against any tax extensions or increases to fund areas of the budget.

On Wednesday, the seven GOP Senate bills were recalled by the Assembly leadership.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, who said he is working to win support from Senate Republicans for additional revenue for the state budget, acknowledged the bills were called back by the Assembly.

“I think the issue is the budget is the most important thing we have going right now,” he said. “Any policy bill is not that important right now. So we’re absolutely looking at holding all the policy bills until we have a budget.

“Call it what you will, I think what we’re doing is, there is nothing more important than getting this budget done so no policy bills are moving right now,” Oceguera said.

If the bills remain in the possession of the Assembly, they won’t see final approval or be signed into law by the governor, he said.

Oceguera said a lot of reform bills are caught up in the discussion over new tax revenue.

“Obviously if there is not reform on the tax side of things there’s not going to be reform on anything else either,” he said.

Cegavske said Republican senators are being punished for their opposition to tax increases but the bills are good legislation that don’t deserve such action.

Cegavske said failing to act on her Senate Bill 225 won’t hurt her personally, but it will harm the efforts of the American Heart Association.

“Yes my name is on it and if you want to punish me, punish me, don’t punish the American Heart Association,” she said. “Because it is truly a bill that will help them and there is nothing wrong with sending policy bills through while you are still debating budgets. There is nothing wrong with that.

“It saddens me that you would act in a manner that is unprofessional,” Cegavske said.

“It’s an angry attempt to say we didn’t like the fact that you voted against the sunset bills so we’re going to do something that affects you,” she said. “Well, it doesn’t affect me personally but it does affect the American Heart Association and what they’re trying to accomplish for the good of the citizens of Nevada.”

“One would hope we don’t need to go down such a partisan road,” said Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville.

SB89 imposing reforms on homeowners’ associations is sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon. SB96 making changes to the Guinn Millennium Scholarship is sponsored by Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City.

SB111, sponsored by Settelmeyer, would make changes to help children who are kept in protective custody. SB134 is sponsored by Rhoads and would make changes to the Elko City municipal elections.

SB225 sought by Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, would designate certain hospitals as stroke centers. SB322, relating to weight limits on vehicles, is being sought by Settelmeyer, Hardy and Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas. SB337 is being sought by Kieckhefer and Sen. Allison Copening, D-Las Vegas, and would make changes to the donation of anatomical gifts.

None of the measures have anything to do with policy reforms sought by some Republicans in exchange for consideration of taxes, such as collective bargaining.

Audio clips:

Sen. Barbara Cegavske said Senate GOP bills are being held up as punishment for opposition to tax increases:

052611Cegavske1 :17 wrong with that.”

Cegavske said there is no reason the bills should not be passed while the budget is being debated:

052611Cegavske2 :24 all that way.”

Sen. James Settelmeyer said the Legislature should not have to go down such a partisan road:

052611Settelmeyer :04 a partisan road.”

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera says the budget is the most pressing issue right now:

052611Oceguera1 :05 going right now.”

Oceguera says policy bills are not that important right now:

052611Oceguera2 :09 have a budget.”

Oceguera says the budget is the top priority:

052611Oceguera3 :09 moving right now.”

Oceguera says if there is not reform on taxes, there won’t be reform on anything else:

052611Oceguera4 :14 anything else either.”

 

 

 

 

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.”

 

 

 

Senators Sit On Floor In Impromptu Debate With Camping Activists

By Andrew Doughman | 5:18 pm May 17th, 2011

CARSON CITY — Senate Republicans gave new meaning to the legislative jargon “floor debate” today.

Several lawmakers sat on the floor outside their offices today as they talked to activists who have been camping on the Capitol lawn since yesterday night in support of new revenue.

The impromptu, hour-long debate featured a variety of popular budget topics including teacher pay, textbooks in schools, higher education tuition and taxes.

It all started when about two dozen campers requested an audience with Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, who did not have room for them in her office. So she stepped outside, and they sat on the floor together.

Several other Republican senators joined her soon after, and Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, offered shortbread Girl Scout cookies all around.

“I’ve never seen this before,” said Warren Hardy, a former legislator and current lobbyist who watched the debate. “It’s a great dialog. If I were still a senator, I would be right in the middle of it because I think that’s the respect these people deserve.”

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, speaks with Michael Flores, a ProgressNOW organizer, outside her office in the halls of the Legislature. //PHOTO: Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau

Republicans fielded a variety of questions from tough critics, some of whom are from organizations like Progress NOW Nevada and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. Those groups have supported Democratic plans for new taxes and have opposed Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget.

One girl asked about a shortage of textbooks in her Clark County School District high school.

Responding, Roberson said that many Clark County School District employees earn six-figure salaries and he wants more money going into the classroom.

Bob Fulkerson of PLAN called the response a “good sound byte,” but not a solution for poor rural school districts.

Roberson, in a familiar line, said that collective bargaining is “bankrupting the state,” after which several people shouted: “no.”

“If every teacher makes concessions, you will not have one teacher laid off,” Roberson said.

Republicans touted reforms to collective bargaining and advocated for the governor’s recommendation to cut teacher and state employee salaries by 5 percent, saying that it is the same suffering that private sector employees have had to bear during this recession.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, listens to a young girl ask him a question about the K-12 system as he sits outside legislative offices with a group camping outside the Legislature to show support for taxes. //PHOTO: Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau.

The conversation was mostly an exercise in disagreement: over taxes, over the influence of public sector unions, over teacher pay, over tuition.

“If you want taxes to happen immediately, why can’t reforms happen immediately?” asked Sen. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, as Roberson, Cegavske, Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, and Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, looked on.

McGinness had met with the group of campers earlier.

“They talked to me about taxes and I talked to them about the governor’s budget,” he said. “We agreed to disagree.”

Similar disagreements are happening behind closed doors as McGinness and other legislative leaders from both parties are talking about taxes and the governor’s budget. McGinness said he thinks it is likely legislators will meet almost every night to reach a budget compromise.

Seated on the floor, no Republican had a sudden revelation that taxes will save Nevada and none of the campers disavowed taxes, but both groups seemed pleased with the debate.

“I’m so proud of you for sitting on the floor with us,” Cegavske said. “This is awesome.”

Michael Flores, a Progress NOW organizer, said it was “amazing” to talk to legislators for that long in an open-forum debate.

“This is what Democracy looks like,” he said.

Democrats Introduce Revised Congressional Maps

By Andrew Doughman | 3:23 pm May 17th, 2011

CARSON CITY — Since the governor did not like their last redistricting plan, Democrats are trying again with revisions to their redistricting maps.

Gov. Brian Sandoval earlier vetoed the Democratic plan for the boundaries of political districts, which must be redrawn every 10 years according to U.S. Census demographic data.

The new plan is a second attempt for Nevada’s Democratic-controlled Legislature and Republican governor to reach a compromise over appropriate political boundaries. If they cannot agree, the political tug-o-war could be resolved before a judge.

In a short afternoon hearing today, Democrats introduced and voted their second proposal, Assembly Bill 566, out of committee with Republicans again voting against it. Lawmakers could vote on the bill in the Assembly as early as tomorrow.

“One of the reasons we’re trying to move this stuff is because we want as much time as possible to consider them,” said Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who noted that the legislative session is scheduled to end soon.

Segerblom said that they did make changes based on what the governor had asked for.

The plan, however, provoked backlash from Republicans, who said their plan has never received a hearing, much less a vote.

Republicans also contended that the Democratic plans still are not fair.

“It doesn’t create enough competitive districts,” said Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson. “We want more competitive districts.”

Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, noted that Republicans have not even put their data into the Legislature’s computer system.

“I’m not trying to start a fight here, but the Republican maps are not on the public GIS system,” he said. “I’m just perplexed whey we can’t get this information. I’d love to have this discussion.”

Democrats voted to have the Republican plan hosted on the Legislature’s information system.

The new Democratic proposal includes two solid Democratic-leaning districts, one solid Republican district and one district with a 7 percent Democratic edge.

In a statement released this past Saturday, Sandoval said he did not believe Democrats complied with the federal Voting Rights Act, which guides how states should treat ethnic minorities when drawing political boundaries.

So Democrats created a congressional district three with a 36.72 percent Hispanic population.

This district is represented by Republican Representative Joe Heck, who won by a slim margin over Democratic incumbent Dina Titus during 2010.

Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, who saw the new proposals this morning, said that Heck’s winning margin was “inch deep” in the 2010 election, therefore making it difficult to keep his district Republican.

Compared to their vetoed plan, the Democratic proposal also moves Heck’s district solidly into Clark County, whereas before it had spread north into rural Nevada.

Heck is the only incumbent that Democrats and Republicans are considering as they draw new districts. Former Rep. Dean Heller became Sen. Heller after Sandoval appointed him to replace Sen. John Ensign, who resigned last month. Rep. Shelley Berkley has said she will face Heller in an 2012 election for that Senate seat.

Nevada’s explosive population growth between 2001 and 2010 earned also Nevada one more Congressional District, giving Nevada four Congressional Districts.

In a Republican plan released earlier, Republicans had drawn one congressional district with a majority Hispanic population. They had also created two districts favoring Democratic candidates and two favoring Republican candidates.

New Democratic Proposed Congressional Districts

District Population Deviation GOP% DEM% HVAP% BVAP% Total Hispanic%
CD01 675,138 0 31.12 47.33 22.29 13.03 26.28
CD02 675138 0 42.81 35.27 16.6 2.19 20.43
CD03 675137 -1 30.28 47.33 31.33 9.91 36.72
CD04 675138 0 35.27 42.28 19.3 8.99 22.7

Vetoed Democratic Proposed Congressional Districts

District Population Deviation GOP% DEM% HVAP% BVAP% Total Hispanic%
CD 01 675,138 0 31.9% 47.9% na na 33.6%
CD 02 675,138 0 42.8% 36.0% na na 20.5%
CD 03 675,138 0 34.4% 44.1% na na 29.2%
CD 04 675,137 -1 35.0% 43.1% na na 22.9%
*former CD04 in last proposal **CD03 in last proposal

Democrats also offered minor amendments to their vetoed proposals for state Assembly and Senate districts. The governor had said in his veto statement that he thought the Democratic proposals were too skewed toward Democrats.

“At its core, this bill creates districts that were drawn exclusively for political gain,” Sandoval said in his statement.

Segerblom said he still believes there is time to compromise.

“It’s still early … lots of time to talk and negotiate,” he said.

If Sandoval vetoes this plan, Democrats may still have time to introduce a third proposal. So far, that plan is not yet in the works.

“There is no plan C,” Segerblom said.

 

Governor Sandoval Vetoes Democratic Redistricting Plan

By Andrew Doughman | 2:20 pm May 14th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval has vetoed the Democratic redistricting plan for new Congressional, state Senate and Assembly districts.

Sandoval, in a veto statement issued today, said that the Democratic plan violated the federal Voting Rights Act, which governs how ethnic minorities should be treated when the boundaries of political districts are drawn, and was created for the partisan gain of Democrats.

The veto represents the first rejection of proposed maps, drawn according to 2010 Census data, in what could be a long path toward compromise.

If the Democratic-controlled Legislature and the Republican governor cannot reach common ground, the drawing of political districts may become a matter for the courts to decide. Anticipating the veto, Democrats have another redistricting bill that they can amend and send back to the governor.

At stake is the political representation of Nevada’s Hispanic community. Sandoval charged that the Democratic plan would dilute the Latino vote.

“Of the four Congressional seats it establishes, not one contains a Hispanic majority—though such a district can clearly and simply be drawn, consistent with traditional redistricting principles,” Sandoval’s statement read.

A Republican plan that did not receive a vote created a congressional district with a  50.7 percent total Hispanic population.

The governor also said the Democratic plan would not “afford Hispanics an equal opportunity to elect representatives of their choosing.”

In an earlier speech on the Assembly floor, Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, asked whether this logic implied that only a Hispanic majority could elect a Hispanic candidate.

“Nevada has proven that Hispanic and other minority candidates can and have been elected in minority influence districts,” she said.

Sandoval, Nevada’s first Hispanic governor, was himself elected with a majority of the white vote while losing the Hispanic vote.

In a Republican redistricting plan, Republicans created eight Hispanic-majority seats in the Assembly, four in the Senate and one in Congress.

Democrats spread Hispanic voters throughout more districts, creating two Senate, three Assembly and no congressional districts with a majority Hispanic population

Democrats responded to the veto and called the assertions that their party violated the Voting Rights Act “legally absurd.”

“It is nothing but a smokescreen in an attempt to obscure the partisan ambitions of a party that has a pathetic record on issues of minority rights,” the Democrats said in a statement released following the veto.

Some have said that partisan politics are behind the rhetoric.

During the 2010 election, Hispanics overwhelming voted for Democratic candidate Rory Reid in the gubernatorial race and incumbent Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the Senate race.

A Hispanic population diffused over many districts should then create more Democratic-leaning districts while a Hispanic population concentrated in one district should create more Republican-leaning districts.

Hispanics now comprise 26 percent of Nevada’s population and are a voter bloc that both parties cannot ignore.

One in seven eligible voters in Nevada are Latinos, the sixth-largest Hispanic eligible voter population share nationally, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

Sandoval also said the Democratic plan seemed to benefit Democratic candidates politically.

“At its core, this bill creates districts that were drawn exclusively for political gain,” he said.

In earlier statements, Republicans had contended that Democrats had not drawn enough competitive districts and had created too many Democratic-leaning districts.

Democrats would have a voter registration advantage in three of Nevada’s four congressional districts in their proposal.Republicans would create a 2-2 split.

Republican incumbent Rep. Joe Heck would also lose a Republican majority in his congressional district under the Democratic proposal.

The Democratic proposal promises a 30 – 12 Democratic split in the Assembly and a 14 – 7 advantage in the Senate, according to voters registered Democratic and Republican in each proposed district.

The Republican proposal reflects a 26 – 16 Democratic advantage in the Assembly, which is the current ratio in the Assembly. The Republican plan for the state Senate would create 14 seats with more voters registered as Democrats and seven seats with a Republican voter advantage.

The Legislature is required to redraw the boundaries of political districts every 10 years based on changes in population released through the U.S. Census.

 

Democratic Redistricting Plans Pass Out of Senate And Assembly, Head To Governor

By Andrew Doughman | 3:54 pm May 10th, 2011

CARSON CITY — The political power game of drawing political boundaries escalated today as Nevada’s Democratic legislators passed their plans for new political districts.

Legislators will deliver the proposal for new Congressional and state Assembly and Senate districts to Gov. Brian Sandoval. The Republican governor has said before that he will veto any redistricting plan that he does not deem “fair.”

Republicans today contended that the Democratic plan was not fair.

“While the [population] numbers are equal [between districts], the numbers slanted toward the Democrats are somewhat unfair for the Republicans in the minority,” said Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, on the Assembly floor.

The governor has until Monday to veto the bill. If the Democratic-controlled Legislature and the Republican governor cannot reach a compromise, the drawing of political districts could end up in the hands of Nevada’s judges.

Although the budget overshadows the legislative session, redistricting offers politicians an opportunity to blend combinations of voters to their favor. Although ostensibly governed by equal populations between districts, redistricting is an inherently political process.

“Every 10 years we get to select the voters that will be voting for us and we have a special responsibility to be fair in this process,” said Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, on the floor of the Assembly.

The Senate vote for the Democratic proposal broke along party lines with an 11-10 vote. In the Assembly, all Republicans voted against the proposal, joined by Democratic Assemblyman Harvey Munford, who said he was unhappy with how his party redrew his Las Vegas district.

Both Democrats and Republicans have focused much of the debate about political districts on Nevada’s growing Hispanic community. Hispanics now comprise 26 percent of Nevada’s population and are a voter bloc that both parties cannot ignore.

One in seven eligible voters in Nevada are Latinos, the sixth-largest Hispanic eligible voter population share nationally, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

Democrats would like to establish “minority influence” districts where ethnic minority populations comprise an influential voting bloc in several districts.

Republicans argue that Nevada should have a majority-minority “opportunity” district because 26 percent of the state’s population is Hispanic and therefore one of the state’s four congressional districts should be majority Hispanic.

Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, said the Democrat plan ignores the intent of the federal Voting Rights Act for congressional districts by failing to ensure fairness in representation for the Southern Nevada Hispanic community

The Republican plan created one of four congressional districts with 50.7 percent total Hispanic population. The Democrat plan creates no such district, which is in violation of the act, Hardy said.

“This plan actually creates four districts in which whites make up a significant majority,” he said. “Any plan that does not begin with an attempt to create a majority Hispanic district in Clark County fails to adhere to the letter and the spirit of the Voting Rights Act. It is something I personally cannot ignore in good conscience.”

On the Assembly floor, Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, asked whether this logic implied that only a Hispanic majority could elect a Hispanic candidate.

“Nevada has proven that Hispanic and other minority candidates can and have been elected in minority influence districts,” she said.

Sandoval, Nevada’s first Hispanic governor, was elected with a majority of the white vote while losing the Hispanic vote.

The Republicans are calling for eight Hispanic-majority seats in the Assembly, four in the Senate and one in Congress.

Democrats spread Hispanic voters throughout more districts, creating two Senate districts and three Assembly districts with a majority Hispanic population.

The Legislature is required to redraw the boundaries of political districts every 10 years based on changes in population released through the U.S. Census.

Nevada’s explosive population growth between 2001 and 2010 earned Nevada one more Congressional District, giving Nevada four Congressional Districts.

All districts must be nearly the same size. Map drawers use the U.S. Census total population figures for Nevada and divide those by the number of districts so that each district has an ideal size. The ideal size for a Congressional district is 675,000 people.

 

//Bureau Chief Sean Whaley contributed to this report.

After Tiff, Republicans Offer “Minor Tweaks” To Redistricting Proposal

By Andrew Doughman | 4:46 pm May 3rd, 2011

CARSON CITY — State legislative Republicans have changed their proposals for new state Assembly districts.

The boundaries of some proposed districts were altered today after Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, publicly criticized Senate Republicans for their maps.

“We tried to resolve their concerns,” said Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville. “We heard their issues and concerns and sat down with them.”

Goicoechea said earlier today that the “minor tweaks” to the maps satisfied him.

“They made us a lot happier,” he said.

The amended maps show more boundaries that run along county lines in rural counties and in Washoe county.

Settelmeyer said these changes would mean rural legislators would represent fewer counties. That change allows lawmakers to travel to fewer county meetings in districts that already span hundreds of miles.

The Republicans’ proposal for Clark County Assembly districts largely stays the same.

The two Republican caucuses had drawn separate maps, but Assembly Republicans decided to shelve their proposal after a lawyer recommended that they keep it private.

The lawyer said the proposed map did not correspond with the federal Voting Rights Act, which governs how racial minorities are treated in the redistricting process.

Goicoechea said they would go along with the Senate’s proposals and adopt those as their own.

The proposed maps now also show streets, highways and bodies of water, which should make it easier for Nevadans to analyze the districts.

The updated maps also show district numbers that reflect the current numbers. The earlier maps had changed every district number, which means that no legislator could be deemed an incumbent or use the word “reelect” in a campaign.

Settelmeyer said the original intent had been to ignore incumbents and purely look at data while drawing maps.

Now that the maps are out, however, the numbers have been changed back, he said.

“It makes it easier for people to understand which numbers are which, so it helps eliminate some of the confusion,” he said.

The Nevada Legislature must draw new political districts every 10 years following population statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The updated proposals can be viewed here.