Posts Tagged ‘special session’

Nevada Voters To Weigh In On One Controversial State Ballot Measure In November

By Sean Whaley | 7:43 am September 19th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada voters will determine the fate of only one statewide measure in the Nov. 6 general election, but the proposal put on the ballot by the Legislature is somewhat controversial.

Question 1 on the ballot asks Nevada voters if the state constitution should be amended to allow the Legislature, on extraordinary occasions and only with two-thirds support of lawmakers in each house, to call itself into special session. Sessions would be limited to 20 days, but could be convened on a continuous basis if the extraordinary occasion requirement was met and with two-thirds support from lawmakers.

The term “extraordinary occasions” is not defined in the proposed constitutional amendment.

The Nevada state Senate in session, 2011. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

The constitution now says that only the governor can call a special session of the Legislature.

Currently, legislatures in 34 states are authorized to call a special session.

Nevada voters have rejected this concept once before, in 2006, by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent.

The measure is on the ballot after Assembly Joint Resolution 5 was approved by the Legislature in both 2009 and 2011. In 2011, the proposal passed both houses only by a party line vote with all Republicans opposed.

Opponents of the proposal are concerned the change could move the Legislature away from its tradition of meeting on a part-time basis.

In a discussion of the ballot language for the question by the Legislative Commission in June, Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said the ability of lawmakers to continue special sessions indefinitely was a concern.

Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said at the commission meeting that giving lawmakers the authority to call themselves into special session could be important if a situation like that in Illinois arose with impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich. It is unlikely that a governor facing impeachment would call a special session to allow for his removal from office, he said.

Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said in an interview this week that with the state getting bigger and issues sometimes requiring immediate attention, there are times the Legislature may need to convene itself into special session.

“I think it is closer to the people if the Legislature has the ability to do that,” he said.

But Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said this week he likes the way the system works now.

“I like the fact that we have a strong chief executive state,” he said. “That the Legislature can’t call itself into session for whatever purpose it chooses. I think the system that we have is functional for our state.

“And the idea that the Legislature can start calling itself into session whenever it wants just doesn’t really fly with me,” Kieckhefer said.

Special sessions of the Nevada Legislature have become more frequent in recent years, in part because of the state’s ongoing budget problems. But they have all been called by the sitting governor at the time. Gov. Brian Sandoval has not yet called for a special session in his 21 months in office.

The last special session was called in February 2010 by then Gov. Jim Gibbons to deal with a shortfall in the state budget. It lasted seven days.

There have been 10 special sessions of the Legislature since 2001. They were called for a variety of reasons, including tort reform for the medical industry and the impeachment of the late state Controller Kathy Augustine. Many were called because the Legislature could not finish its work by the constitutionally-mandated 120 days, a limit approved by voters in 1998 and taking effect for the first time in 1999.

Previously there had not been a special session since 1989.


Audio clips:

Sen. Mo Denis says there are times when the Legislature may need to call itself into special session:

091812Denis :22 into special session.”

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer says he likes the system as it works now:

091812Kieckhefer :28 fly with me.”



Gov. Sandoval To Lawmakers: Finish Your Work By June 6

By Sean Whaley | 5:35 pm May 16th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Memo to Nevada lawmakers: If you don’t finish up your work on June 6 as the constitution requires, don’t expect Gov. Brian Sandoval to call you back to work right away in a special session.

Sandoval Senior Adviser Dale Erquiaga, in a briefing today with the press, said there is a belief expressed by some involved in the process that if the Legislature does not complete a budget and redistricting by the 120-day deadline, that Sandoval will immediately call lawmakers back into session to continue their work.

That won’t happen, Erquiaga said. There won’t be a special session called for the remainder of that week for certain, he said. Only the governor can call a special session of the Legislature.

The session will actually end at 1 a.m. on June 7. The Legislature gets the extra hour because of the change to daylight savings time.

“Three weeks from today, the Legislature is constitutionally required to adjourn and they will do so,” Erquiaga said. “There will be no special session that week. So those folks who think that this governor will simply keep the Legislature around to continue its work are misinformed. They can finish their work on June 6 and we expect them to do so.

“I want you to understand clearly that this notion that has been bred around here lately that special sessions just follow on after the 120th day is not an operating premise for this administration,” he said. “We don’t think they need to come back at all. If they don’t finish by June 6, it is their responsibility.”

Erquiaga also said Sandoval believes the tax proposals under discussion by lawmakers over the past few days, including a services tax, were “dead on arrival” and the Legislature should work to finish the next two-year budget with the $6.1 billion in available revenue. The amount of revenue, revised upwards after some add backs and new Economic Forum projections, compares to the $6.2 billion in spending in the current budget, he said.

Sandoval has agreed to look at a “trigger” mechanism whereby if tax revenues come in ahead of the forum’s conservative projections, that the money can be restored to K-12 and higher education over the course of the two years of the budget, Erquiaga said.

But the $1.2 billion in tax proposals being pushed by Democrats, including a new business margin tax and the extension of taxes approved in 2009 that will sunset June 30, are not supported by Sandoval, he said.

Sandoval would support a review of the various tax proposals in the interim before the next session in 2013, but it is too late to review the complex data now even if the objective was for a revenue neutral tax structure, Erquiaga said.

“Fourteen days is not a time frame in which to adopt the most significant shift in tax policy in this state since 1955,” he said.

The comments came as Democrat lawmakers today added more spending to Sandoval’s proposed budget in the area of parole and probation. They also came as Sandoval vetoed a bill passed by Democrats funding public education for the next two years that contained $660 million in spending beyond what he had proposed. In his veto message, Sandoval said the higher level of funding amounted to a “circuitous attempt to secure a tax increase.”

In response, Assembly Ways and Means Chairwoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said: “In his veto statement, the governor mentions only spending the money we have and not allowing for additional funding of education. Let me be clear: A.B. 568 does not contain additional funding, but instead prevents massive cuts to public schools – the largest in our state’s history.”

The Senate Revenue Committee today also took more testimony on a bill to extend the tax cuts set to expire June 30 and to implement a new business tax that would eventually replace the current modified business tax on payroll.

Asked what happens if the Legislature fails to finish the budget by the deadline, Erquiaga said that scenario is not being given any consideration at this time. The administration is researching what would have to happen if the state does not have a budget by the start of the fiscal year July 1 but no contingency plans are being developed, he said.

“We don’t think it’s going to be necessary,” Erquiaga said.

“I think it is more likely they will agree if they realize there is a real deadline with this administration, and that they don’t get to just stay and meet a couple of more weeks,” he said. “They have three weeks.”

Audio clips:

Sandoval Senior Adviser Dale Erquiaga says there will be no special session called immediately if lawmakers fail to finish their work by June 6:

051611Erquiaga1 :25 to do so.”

Erquiaga says the idea that special sessions just follow the 120-day session is not an operating premise for the Sandoval administration:

051611Erquiaga2 :18 as we’re concerned.”

Erquiaga says the Legislature can finish in the three weeks remaining:

051611Erquiaga3 :22 is their responsibility.”

Erquiaga says Sandoval has a real deadline for the Legislature to adjourn:

051611Erquiaga4 :15 have three weeks.”

Erquiaga says there is not enough time remaining in the session to have a major overhaul of Nevada tax policy:

051611Erquiaga5 :09 state since 1955.”

Gov. Gibbons Optimistic Congress Will Extend Medicaid Program That Means $88 Million To Nevada Budget

By Sean Whaley | 1:58 pm June 8th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons expressed optimism today that Congress will act to extend Medicaid funding that was counted on by state lawmakers in February when they approved an $800 million plan to balance the budget.

Action could come this week in the Senate on a six-month extension of the temporary enhancement of the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP), which provides funding for state Medicaid and other health programs. Failure to approve the extension from Jan. 1, 2011 through the end of the 2011 fiscal year would mean the loss of $88.5 million to Nevada, money lawmakers counted on in balancing the current state budget.

“It’s a huge concern to us,” Gibbons said.

But Gibbons said even if the extension is not approved, the shortfall in the budget can be addressed without calling the Legislature into special session.

Gibbons said he does expect Congress to act on the extension, however, since many states face the same funding concerns. There is pressure on Congress to act, he said.

State budget Director Andrew Clinger said the extension has now been made part of a U.S. Senate bill. If approved, then the House would also have to act, he said.

Clinger said he believes that if the shortfall materializes, any budget reductions can be presented to the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee for approval rather that the full Legislature which would require Gibbons to call lawmakers into a special session.

But waiting until February when the Legislature is scheduled to meet in its regular session would not work, he said. Spending reductions would have to be implemented much sooner than that, Clinger said.

Groups nationally are weighing in with support for the extension as well.

In a letter to the bipartisan U.S. Senate leadership today, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., five pharmacy associations called on Congress to pass a six-month extension of the FMAP. The additional assistance, which was enacted in 2009, is set to expire at the end of 2010 without further Congressional action.

“While the U.S. economy has shown positive signs of recovering, state finances are expected to continue to suffer at least two more years, with state budget deficits approaching $180 billion,” the associations wrote. “Therefore, continued federal assistance to states at this time is critical as the recession has driven many Americans out of work, increasing reliance on state Medicaid programs.”


Audio clips:

Gibbons says special session not needed:

060810Gibbons :12 session for that.”

Gibbons says Congress expected to act

060810Gibbons2 :22 at this point.”

Budget Director Andrew Clinger says IFC can OK reductions if needed

060810Clinger :16 Finance Committee process.”

Lobbyists Spend Little at Special Session, Legislative Reports Show

By Sean Whaley | 11:37 am March 18th, 2010

CARSON CITY – The 2010 special session called by Gov. Jim Gibbons last month to balance a state budget out of balance by more than $800 million touched on major issues from gaming and mining fee increases to layoffs of state employees.

But the importance of the session, which ended in the wee hours of March 1, is not evident from the lobbying expenses reported by those seeking to influence or just keep an eye on the actions of lawmakers.

While a few reports remain to be filed, a whopping $75.55 was spent by three lobbyists on five different lawmakers over the six-day session, according to reports filed with the Legislative Counsel Bureau.

The “big” spender was lobbyist Russell Rowe, who spent $22.50 on both Assemblyman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, and Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, and $17.55 on Assemblyman Chad Christensen, R-Las Vegas.

Rowe represented a number of clients at the session, including Boyd Gaming and the Nevada Development Authority.

Lobbyist Jon Sasser spent $5 on Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero Loop, D-Las Vegas. Sasser represented Washoe Legal Services.

Lobbyist Bob Gastonguay spent $8 on Sen. Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas. Gastonguay represented the Nevada State Cable Telecommunications Association at the session.

The other 272 registered lobbyists who filed expense reports with the Legislature reported no expenditures. Eleven lobbyists have not yet filed reports.

Marnell, M Resort Files Suit

By Elizabeth Crum | 12:04 pm March 12th, 2010

Via RalstonFlash in two parts:

M Resort Files Suit Over Clean Water Coalition Money

Named as defendants are the Legislature, the Governor, the Treasurer, the Controller and the CWC. Action seeks injunctive and declaratory relief and damages. The plaintiff is asking that if the money put into the CWC is not used for CWC purposes, it is to be returned to those who paid those monies into the CWC.


Marnell:  Actions by Legislature were fundamentally unfair and a breach of an implied contract with all those who were assessed

Anthony Marnell III, who is scheduled to appear tonight on “Face to Face,” said of the suit just Flashed to you:

“Schools, homebuilders, the resort industry, and other businesses as well as not-for-profit organizations have been assessed tens of millions of dollars for a specific project here in Southern Nevada,” Marnell said, “and we were assured that these funds would be used to provide a clean water source for us all. We strongly support funds being used for a sustainable source of clean water now and into the future. However, if this project is deemed unnecessary, then those monies should be returned to the school district, library, and other businesses that paid them, not simply placed into the state’s general fund.”

And this:

“I appreciate that state government is facing a revenue shortage, the magnitude of which has not been seen in this state’s history,” said Marnell. “But so are the schools and businesses, large and small, that contributed to this CWC fund. If the CWC project is deemed to be unnecessary, then those funds should rightfully be returned to those who contributed them. Otherwise, you are setting a precedent of asking people to pay for things that they are not going to receive and moving the money to other unrelated projects in a markedly unfair manner.”

AP: Gibbons to Veto Furlough Bill

By Elizabeth Crum | 2:31 pm March 8th, 2010

Via the AP via the RJ, Governor Gibbons will veto the furlough bill from the special session:

CARSON CITY — Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons will veto a bill tightening furloughs for state workers that was passed during a special session of the Legislature.

Gibbons’ staff says the governor instead will enact most of the provisions of SB3 through executive order and regulations.

The bill also establishes four-day, 10-hour work weeks for most state agencies beginning July 1, and tightens one-day-per-month furloughs imposed last year by requiring exempt employees to instead take a 4.6 percent pay cut.

Chief of Staff Robin Reedy won’t discuss details of the governor’s concerns over the bill, saying they will be addressed in the governor’s veto message.

Governor Gibbons to Sign Race to Top Bill in Las Vegas on Wednesday

By Sean Whaley | 11:57 am March 8th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons on Wednesday will sign the “Race to the Top” bill allowing Nevada to compete for federal school improvement funds, a spokesman said today.

Dan Burns, communications director for Gibbons, said via email that the governor will sign Senate Bill 2 to give Nevada the chance to compete for as much as $175 million in one-time federal funds to improve student achievement.

The signing will take place in Las Vegas. The bill was passed by the Legislature in the special session that ended March 1.

The bill eliminates a provision in Nevada law that says student achievement data cannot be used to evaluate teachers. The provision has barred Nevada from competing for the funds. An application seeking a share of the funds is due from the state by June.

The measure became embroiled in controversy, however, because some new language was added saying that student achievement data could not be the only criterion for evaluating teachers. The bill passed the Senate on a 16-5 vote, with some Republicans expressing concern about whether the new language might hamper the state’s ability to compete for the funds. The bill passed the Assembly on a unanimous vote.

There was some suggestion that Gibbons might veto the bill, sending it back to the Legislature for a potential override of the veto during the special session. But as a source inside Gibbons’ office told the Nevada News Bureau on February 26, that did not occur.

Assembly Minority Leader Says She Will Not Run for Re-election

By Sean Whaley | 12:35 pm March 4th, 2010

Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, said her surprise decision announced today to leave public office has nothing to do with rumors that she could be appointed to serve out the remainder of Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio’s term should the lawmaker decide to step down.

“I’ve never talked to him about that,” she said. “It had nothing to do with my decision. I thought it was a good time for me to step aside.”

Asked if she would consider such an appointment should Raggio resign with more than two years left on his term, Gansert said: “That is not on my radar. I have not had that discussion. I have no answer for you. I have not considered it.”

“You know, Senator Raggio has been my senator nearly all my life,” Gansert added.  “I’m nearly 47 and he’s been my senator for 37 years.”

Gansert said she made her decision to not seek re-election “a while ago” but kept it quiet because of the impending special session. The Assembly GOP caucus needed to focus on the huge budget gap and not have any distractions, she said.

The session ended Monday with bipartisan agreement on a budget balancing plan.

Gansert said she believes Assembly Republicans played a pivotal role in the special session even though they were outnumbered by their Democrat counterparts by a margin of 28-14. Fee increases were kept to a minimum in balancing the budget.

“We influenced the outcome,” she said.

Asked if she might return to political life someday, Gansert said she would consider that at some point in the future.

“I may,” she said. “I’m taking it one step at a time.”

Gov Gibbons Email Blasts: Giant “Contribute” Button Replaced with Giant “Volunteer” Button

By Elizabeth Crum | 10:36 am March 3rd, 2010

No fundraising allowed so soon after a special session, so, a blast from the governor’s office just now (see my comments at the bottom):

“This building [The Nevada Legislature] is full of difficult decisions and Gov. Gibbons’ participation has been instrumental in making these decisions reach the critical point of action” – Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki


It’s hard to look around Nevada and not see the toll taken by the current economic crisis. With record unemployment, record home foreclosure rates and dramatically decreasing state revenues, last week I was forced to call the Nevada Legislature into a special session to deal with the nearly $900 million deficit facing the state. Many called it impossible. I was told countless times that the only way to fill this budget gap is to “expand the tax base.” Many were calling for increased taxes on business, insisting that they share the burden of the budget shortfall. But while everyone is suffering during these tough economic times, we can’t tax ourselves out of a situation of our own making.

The answer to these problems is the same one you and I make a daily basis. When our paycheck decreases, we have to decrease spending, so I submitted a budget for the Special Session which would reduce spending.

As the session opened, I submitted a budget which cut state spending by $850 million. After a week of negotiations and many late nights, we were able to reach and agreement which focused on spending cuts instead of more taxes. Instead of placing the burden of balancing our budget on taxpayers, fiscal responsibility has temporarily returned to state government.

The sad truth is this isn’t the end of Nevada’s budget struggles. A recession brought on by Washington politicians is a reality Nevadans have to live with. The next session of the Nevada Legslature will bring even greater challenges with an even greater budget shortfall being forecast already. I will continue to fight for fiscal responsibility and against the proposed tax increases which are still being proposed in Carson City.

I’m committed to continuing to building One Nevada and pushing back against those who expand the reach of government through taxes and government spending. There are many people claiming that they will unite our state and solve our economic recession, but none of them have taken the kind of bold action my administration has to ensure that this recession doesn’t get worse,and those on the other side of the aisle are already gearing up their efforts to promote new business taxes and more government spending on their pet projects.

I vetoed the 2009 tax increases. I called the 2010 special session and was able to get the spending cuts we needed to balance the budget. I have taken an 8% cut in my own pay and asked my staff to do the same. I understand the burdens this recession has placed on Nevada families, and I’m committed to fighting for Nevadans for another 4 years, but I need your help.

Nevadans need to know what is at risk in this election. Please join me in reaching out to voters and sharing with them importance having a strong leader in the governor’s mansion who understands the challenges we are all facing.

As Battle Born Nevadans, we need to stand together and oppose continuing efforts to increase taxes and spending. At this critical time, I need the help of every one of you who believes in our pledge to hold government back to join us in this re-election campaign. Please visit my website and volunteer to tell your community that you want strong leadership in Carson City.


Jim Gibbons


Krolicki is invoked because this is primary season and he’s a Hero with the base.  If Gibbons makes it to the general, will he repeat all the nice things Raggio, Buckley and Horsford said about him last week as well?  The nicey-niceness — how appreciated and respected Gibbons was for his pro-active participation — was flowing very freely during all the public special session LoveFests…

Assembly GOP Leader Says Bank Fee in Budget a Tradeoff, Concerned About Last Minute Jobs Bill

By Sean Whaley | 5:44 pm March 1st, 2010

CARSON CITY – Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert said in an interview today that GOP agreement to include a new fee on banks in the final budget deal approved by the Legislature early today was in exchange for support for keeping Nevada State Prison open.

Gov. Jim Gibbons had proposed to close the aging facility as part of his budget cuts, but the move was opposed by many lawmakers because it would mean the layoff of 136 state employees and cause further economic problems for the capital city. Public safety was also cited as a concern.

“In the end it was somewhat of a trade for Nevada State Prison to tell you the truth,” Gansert said on the television program Nevada NewsMakers. “Nevada State Prison has been in limbo for quite some time. We can’t seem to figure out whether to close it or not.”

Closing the prison would also have resulted in maximum capacities at other Nevada correctional facilities as inmates were relocated, potentially creating the need to build a new expensive prison to handle inmate population growth, she said.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, proposed the new banking fee that ultimately was part of the budget agreement. The new fee will create a foreclosure mediation program for small businesses. The fee was originally proposed at $500 per notice of default, but ended up at $200. It will raise about $13.8 million.

The savings from closing the prison was about the same amount of money: $13 million, so the bank fee was included as an offset, Gansert said.

“It’s a tough choice; it’s not something that any of us supported,” she said of the bank fee. “But in the end we felt that we needed to relive some of the uncertainty and give us some more time on the state prison.”

Ultimately six of the 14 GOP Assembly members, including Gansert, voted for the bill to balance the state budget, including the new bank fee. The bill passed both houses of the Legislature and is expected to be signed by Gibbons, who helped craft the budget agreement.

Gansert called the new fees in the bill “a pittance” compared to the budget cuts and other maneuvers, such as sweeping various agency bank accounts, used to balance the budget and erase an $800 million-plus shortfall.

In the interview, Gansert also expressed concerns about a last-minute measure approved by the Legislature to create road construction jobs. Senate Bill 6 passed both houses of the Legislature in the final hours of the six-day session. It will use existing taxes, including a one-eighth of a cent sales tax in Clark County, to finance a bonding program for road construction.

“That bill was a very last-minute bill,” she said. “I know we had a mixed vote out of the Assembly. My concern was there was no check on it. It became an evergreen for a sales tax and an evergreen for some other taxes.”

Gibbons amended the special session proclamation to allow for consideration of the proposal, which was crafted by Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas.

Gansert and four other Assembly Republicans opposed the measure. It received unanimous support in the Senate.

Gansert called the proposal “very unusual” in that no other approvals were required to go forward with issuing the bonds.

“Typically with anything related to bonding, you either have a time frame or a cap — and both of those were gone,” she said.

Gansert said another objection was to a provision giving the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles the authority to raise its own agency fees. The Legislature has not previously given the agency the ability to change its fees through regulation, she said.

Bipartisan Budget Deal in Place

By Sean Whaley | 8:10 pm February 28th, 2010

(Updated at 1:47 a.m. on March 1, 2010)

CARSON CITY – As a deal to close an $805 million budget gap was announced today, bringing a close to a sometimes rancorous six-day special session, Republican lawmakers say they helped shape the debate that led to a minimal use of taxes and fees to balance the spending plan.

And in another more modest victory, Republicans in the Legislature won bipartisan support for a resolution asking the 2011 Legislature to consider opening up to public view the collective bargaining process used by local governments and employee unions to negotiate salaries and benefits.

Gov. Jim Gibbons asked for consideration of the collective bargaining proposal in his proclamation adding issues to the special session, and Assembly Republicans had made it a key point in their acceptance of any budget-balancing plan.

The proposal, along with a collection of education reform measures sought by Gibbons, including a voucher school proposal, did not get hearings, however.

Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, called it a win for her 14-member caucus, which is in a difficult bargaining position because of its minority status. Democrats in the Assembly outnumber Republicans 28 to 14, enough votes to approve new fees without support from the GOP members.

“Our caucus is very concerned about transparency,” she said. “We recognize that billions of taxpayer dollars are spent through collective bargaining process and we believe the taxpayers deserve to know where that money is spent.”

Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, also welcomed the decision to seek transparency in the labor negotiation process.

Legislative leaders of both parties also praised Gibbons, who is facing a tough primary election battle against former federal judge Brian Sandoval, for working with them to craft an acceptable plan.

Gibbons spent long hours with lawmakers in closed-door meetings with legislative leadership over the past few days to come to an agreement.

The praise from Raggio was particularly noteworthy, given that he and Gibbons had exchanged some pointed criticisms in the days leading up to the session and during the session itself. Raggio has said in public comments he believes Sandoval is the only Republican candidate with a chance of defeating Democrat Rory Reid in the governor’s race.

Gansert has endorsed Sandoval in the primary race.

In announcing the agreement, Gibbons said everyone had to give something up to get bipartisan support and he credited Democrats and Republicans for working together.

“It took a lot of give and a lot of take and a lot of debate, some of it heated at times,” he said.

Raggio said the cuts to be implemented by the Legislature will be severe.

“There is going to be some pain out there,” he said. “Hopefully some of this will be an impetus for us to take a long hard look at how we fund state government, not to mention what goes on in local governments,” he said.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said she was pleased to be able to reduce the cuts to public and higher education. The agreement reduces public education cuts to $117 million instead of $211 million. Higher education is cut b y $46 million instead of $76 million.

Some of the “worst of the worst” cuts to Health and Human Resources programs were also restored, she said.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, also highlighted the ability to reduce the cuts first proposed by Gibbons.

“There are certain parts of the plan that each one of us don’t like,” he said.

But reducing the education cuts from 10 percent to 6.9 percent was a big victory, Horsford said.

Gansert said the language encouraging the 2011 Legislature to subject the collective bargaining process to the state open meeting law was added to Senate Concurrent Resolution 1, which passed the Senate earlier this week urging local governments and employee groups to mutually address the budget shortfall. Gansert said the language is as strong as allowed, since current lawmakers cannot bind future Legislatures to a particular course of action.

The vote on the budget bill in the Assembly was 34-8, with all eight “no” votes coming from the GOP caucus. The vote in the Senate was 20-1. Only Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, voted no.

While voting against the budget plan because of the mining and banking fee increases it contains, Assemblyman Ty Cobb, R-Reno, said Republicans clearly influenced the dialogue over how to balance the budget.

When Assembly Republicans proposed their own plan that balanced the budget without new taxes or fees not contributed directly by users, it pushed Democrats to move away from those revenue sources, he said.

“Us showing a united front, with a solution, absolutely drove the Democrats to a resolution that is less reliant on more spending, more taxes and more fees, and back to being more fiscally responsible,” he said.

Gansert, who voted for the bill, said the Republican influence can be seen in that only about $52 million of the total shortfall is being addressed with new fees. Most is coming from $26 million in a mining claim fee increase that was modified to exempt small operators and $13.8 million from an increased fee on banks when filing notices of default.

That is just a fraction of the overall shortfall, she said.

The caucus did also agree to restore some cuts Gibbons had proposed in public and higher education, Gansert said.

“We absolutely don’t like all of it,” she said. “It was a struggle to add anything back to tell you the truth.”

Gansert predicted that some, but not all, of her caucus would vote for the plan and her prediction held true.

Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, opposed the budget bill because of the banking and mining fees.

“There are some difficult pills in there to swallow,” he said.

Settelmeyer said he would have liked to see progress in the special session on the collective bargaining proposal as well.

“Our caucus stood up as a group and said it was important to us,” he said.

Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, voted for the agreement once he received assurances that the mining claim fee will not affect the small operators.

He praised Gibbons and the leadership for working out an agreement.

As to the failure of the Legislature to consider Gibbons’ other issues, Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said the proper focus of the special session was balancing the budget.

“These other policy concerns are best brought up in a regular session when the public can have full access and deliberations can be held. I don’t think it is appropriate to take up major policy reforms in a special session,” she said.

Special Session: 6:43 p.m.

By Elizabeth Crum | 6:43 pm February 28th, 2010

All right, Dear Readers!  Just in from the front steps of the legislative building where the governor and legislative leadership held a press conference, the gist of which was “we all pulled together as a team.”  Means they really, Really have a deal now, and we’ll see the bill hit the two floors tonight.

A legislative leader told me after the presser that they will cut and paste all the piecemeal stuff into an omnibus bill so…yes, it seems, this will be done tonight.

Sean Whaley will post a sum-up with quotes from the press conference and details of the bill on the front page (and all the other major newspapers will do a full write-up), so I’ll just share some interesting snippets:

– The deal includes a new (tiered by size) mining claim fee structure.

– The deficit is now officially $805 million (increased net proceeds revenue and secretary of state fees have reduced it).

– Ralston summed up the unspoken sentiment of the leadership (Gibbons, Raggio, Gansert, Buckley, Horsford) pretty well:  “We used to despise each other and called each other names for a few weeks, but now, for the purposes of this performance in front of the Legislative Building, we are The Five Musketeers — one for all and all for one.

– The governor acknowledged he has received the Race to the Top bill but said he has yet to decide whether to sign it. A split in opinions among his senior staff is causing the waver.  My source told and still tells me:  He will not veto.

– Cuts to state funding for K-12 education will be $116.8 million; cuts to higher ed will be $46 million instead of $76.  Most of the Health and Human Services cuts that had been suggested didn’t happen.  And the Nevada State Prison will remain open.

– A four-day work week for most State offices will be instituted. $10 million will be saved through cutting certain State contracts with outside consultants. No more cuts to pay for State workers. $197 million will be redirected from State funds to needed areas. A tax amnesty program will help the state collect $20 million in unpaid taxes.

– Mining fees and fees on new gaming licenses have been increased, and the fee paid by banks when filing a Notice of Default has been raised from $50 to $100.

– Gibbons, acknowledging he is breaking his no-tax pledge, said a “fee is a tax” when Ralston asked him about the $200 foreclosure fee. But when pressed about signing a bill with a tax, he said he had to accept it as part of the “compromise” and to head off a gaming or sales tax.

And some notes/quotes:

– Gansert:  Biggest disappointment was not getting transparency w/ collective bargaining done.  “We do think it’s critically important.”  She is hopeful they can/will get to this issue next session.  “The taxpayers deserve to know where their money is spent.”  Said she was glad education cuts were reduced to 6.9% by consensus, thinks it was “the right thing to do.”  When I asked her about wrapping the whole bill into one big measure and how that would affect yes/no votes from her caucus, she said “some” Assembly Republicans would be voting “yes” to the plan, some “no.”  Declined to say which would be which.

– Horsford in his office after:  On the super majority requirement:  Gibbons put it to the voters, and they approved it.  Unless there is a change to that, it’s the law:  two-thirds is required not just to pass a tax but to pass a fee. “That is creating quite a limitation particularly when you have a group of legislators saying “no” to everything.”  Said a lot more, but everything else he said was just a recap of prior comments.

A Deal!

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:39 pm February 27th, 2010

Looks like we can all go home tomorrow.  All the details to follow, but they worked out the mining thing, and the bank fees plus education cuts everyone could live with.

Faces beaming in the halls.

And, amazingly, the Senate is in session right now discussing Water.

Update (9:44 p.m.):  Per Ralston, on Channel 3 just now, education cuts = 6.9%.  So, less than the governor’s 10% but more than the 5% for which the Democrats hoped.

And gaming, apparently, got off scot-free.  This time.

Furloughs, Four Day Work Week

By Elizabeth Crum | 12:50 pm February 27th, 2010

The Appeal‘s Dornan and Duggan wrote the scoop on furloughs and the four day work week this morning.  Snippets:

The governor and lawmakers have tentatively agreed not to increase the furloughs imposed on state workers.

State workers were hit with an eight-hour unpaid furlough each month during the 2009 Legislature. That translated to a 4.6 percent pay reduction and was very unpopular with employees.

Gov. Jim Gibbons’ original plan to balance the budget in the face of an $888 million shortfall called for the eight-hour monthly furlough for all state workers to be increased to 10 hours, a move that drew protests from state workers who say they were being hit harder than other public employees.


The decision will add about $6.8 million to the total revenues needed to offset the shortfall.

Meanwhile, the Senate passed the bill that would close most state offices on Fridays. The potential change to furlough time would mean the Senate would have to reconsider it.


The most recent version of the bill also appears to strip the furlough exemption given to the Department of Corrections.

The Senate, which passed the measure in a 19-2 vote, sent the legislation over to the Assembly for consideration late Friday where a vote wasn’t expected until this morning.

Taxes, Fees, Revenue Enhancement: Friday Special Session Review, Friday Night Re-Cap with Horsford, Saturday Preview

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:13 am February 27th, 2010

All right, here’s a round-up of all the main tax, fee and revenue stuff from the special session, bullet-style:

– Assembly Republicans put forth a re-worked Dem budget plan on Thursday evening.  Revenue and fee proposals include an increase in unclamed property transfers ($4M), tax amnesty ($5M), borrowing from Clark County School District capital projects funds ($25M) and Clark County Reclamation fund ($56M), a spend down of the ending general fund balance ($5M), an unclaimed property program ($91M), state park fee increases, Gaming Control Board investigation fees ($4.2M), and the mining deal ($62M).  Total revenue:  $253 million.

– Nevada Mining Association head Tim Crowley says the NMA agrees to prepay some taxes and raise a mining fee from the existing $5 to $25 in order to chip in $100 million. But both Gibbons and Horsford say they do not support pre-payment of taxes because they leave a budget gap.

– Assembly Democrats this week proposed that gaming pay for Gaming Control Board’s enforcement division to the tune of a $32 million tax hike.  But Gibbons said he would veto the measure unless gaming voluntarily agreed to it, and the Nevada Resort Association claimed (surprise, surprise) that it couldn’t get members on the same page.

– In a Senate floor discussion yesterday with gaming lobbyist (and head of R&R Partners) Billy Vassiliadis, Horsford said he wanted gaming to come to the table and do its part.  Vassiliadis retorted that (1) gaming has born up under three tax hikes since 2003, (2) gaming revenue dropped by a $6.7 billion during the last fiscal year and (3) gaming has laid off nearly 34,000 workers so far and that the new tax could lead to as many as 1,000 more layoffs..  He promised help in 2011  but said, “I am sorry to say that for the first time, this year, we just can’t help out.

– Horsford on gaming:  “In fairness to the gaming industry, they contributed nearly 50 percent to the general fund and yes, they have been asked to step up time and time again. But I think they have to do it again.”  And asked of gaming:  ”The question is why should the state subsidize your cost of doing business?”

– Buckley had said earlier this week that the $32 million they want from gaming (which now comes from the general fund) could be better spent on education.  Horsford said that the total spend on the Gaming Control Board ($62 million) could save 800 teachers jobs.

– When it was their turn to be in the Senate Floor hot seat, Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Veronica Meter and Reno-Sparks Chamber of Commerce lobbyist Tray Abney said a lot of words amounting to one thing:  Business can’t help out.  Abney quipped, “If my members cease to exist, government ceases to exist.”  He asked the Legislature to ease the hiring process for businesses by streamlining registration and taxes.

– Senator Randolph Townsend jumped to his feet and grilled Abney. “’No’ is not a plan. Taxing the world is not a plan,” he said, adding, “You are wasting our time. You need to be at the table now.”  Townsend asked Meter and Abney to come up with ideas; the two essentially repeated their talking points. Townsend reiterated his position (for whatever good that did:  there is a two-thirds vote needed to raise taxes and the governor is strongly opposed to a business tax increase, so the business community has no motivation to volunteer anything).

– Other business reps – trucking, the retail association, manufacturers and banks – also testified on the Senate floor.  Interestingly, Nevada Brothel Association lobbyist George Flint joined mining and offered up some help by re-suggesting last year’s idea of a $5 tax on prostitution, saying it would raise $2 to $2.5 million.

– Late last night, Horsford met with the press corps to discuss the remaining agenda and state of negotiations.  Some blurbs and bullets from the Q&A:

– Re: gaming’s position:  “I’m a little disappointed” and “I think they should come to the table.” When asked if he believes gaming cannot afford $32 million, Horsford said bluntly, “No” and added, “Thirty million is three 10 million dollar high-rollers.  I mean, come on.”  He went on to say, “Steve Wynn just announced 400 hires, a new night club and the opening of a new pool.  That is in conflict with the statement, ‘We just can’t.’”

– Horsford: “Revenue reform is at the top of the agenda for 2011. It is THE agenda.”

– Horsford said he was “really pleased” that Gibbons had spent so much time meeting with the Legislature Thursday and Friday.  He said the governor had been “listening to proposals and views” and “interjected his own ideas” and that he seemed “genuinely interested in reaching an agreement.

– When asked if he would agree to 5% education cuts (the current agreed-upon number is 7.5%), Horsford said, “Yes, but having said that, we want the cuts to be as low as possible.”

– Re: the proposal by Assembly Republican to open up collective bargaining to public meeting rules, Horsford said he does not support it, and city and county managers are pushing back because they are in the middle of contract negotations now.

– When asked whether water will stay on the special session agenda, Horsford said he did not think there would be enough time for it.

– Re: Race to the Top, Horsford indicated that based on his conversations with Assistant Secretary of Education at the DOE, he expected the state to qualify for the federal grant funds.

– Re: Senator Townsend and his heated remarks on the Senate floor, Horsford quipped, “I wish we could do term limit reform.”

Today’s expected events:

–More closed door meetings between the governor and the Legislature.

– More discussion of how deep education cuts will be: 7. 5% or 5%.

– More arguing over taxes and fees for gaming and business.  More working out of how mining revenue will work.

– Race to the Top bill sits, or if it goes to Gibbons, does not get vetoed after all.

– A deal, and we all go home tomorrow.  Maybe.