Posts Tagged ‘term limits’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

State Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas.

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

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

The same scenario is expected in 2013, Roberson said.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Audio clips:

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

022012Denis1 :26 to be done.”

Denis says candidate recruitment is important:

022012Denis2 :22 up to speed.”

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

022012Roberson1 :26 the same way.”

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

022012Roberson2 :23 committed to do.”


Big Turnover in Nevada Legislature

By Sean Whaley | 7:39 pm March 9th, 2010

(Corrected at 4:21 a.m. on March 10, 2010)

CARSON CITY – Thanks to term limits and decisions by some lawmakers not to seek re-election, at least 17 members of the Nevada Legislature will not be returning in 2011, and the number could end up being even higher after Election Day in November.

Seventeen lawmakers are termed out of office in the 2010 election cycle, but three so far have filed for different legislative offices and could return to the Legislature for the 2011 session.

Five members of the Assembly not facing term limits, which take effect in this election cycle for the first time, are running for open state Senate seats where long-time lawmakers are being forced from office. Several face opponents in their races, some in primaries and some in the general election.

Two lawmakers, Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, and Assemblywoman Bonnie Parnell, D-Carson City, are not seeking reelection for personal reasons. Sen. Stan Olsen, R-Las Vegas, who was appointed to serve in the special session in place of Sen. Warren Hardy, who resigned from the Legislature last year, has no plans to seek election to the seat.

State Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, has also filed for a seat on the Clark County Commission. If he wins that race, he would have to resign from the Senate in mid-term. The Clark County Commission would have to select a replacement from the same party to serve in the 2011 session.

And a former member of the Assembly, Pat Hickey, could return if he wins the Washoe Assembly 25 seat being vacated by the retiring Gansert. Hickey served in the 1997 legislative session.

Candidate filing does not end until Friday, so the election season program remains in flux until then.

But one fact is clear: the Legislature will have many new faces when it has to tackle a budget shortfall estimated at as much as $3 billion just 11 short months from now.

Carole Vilardo, president of the Nevada Taxpayers Association, said the influx of new faces presents more questions than answers as to the effect on the 2011 session.

The loss of institutional memory on the Senate and Assembly tax and money committees could present problems, especially given the constitutional limit of a 120-day session, she said.

“Because they will be dealing with technical issues requiring some institutional memory of how we got to where we are,” she said. “It will be a steep learning curve.”

The Legislative Counsel Bureau already provides training sessions for new lawmakers, but that process might be expanded to give them a jump start on the revenue and expenditure situation, Vilardo said.

The potential for several seasoned members of the Assembly to move into the Senate may provide some stability to the process, but it is a question of whether they will be able to serve on the same committees they served on in the Assembly, she said. Seniority plays a major role in committee assignments.

“I’m not even going to attempt to guess what it will do,” Vilardo said of the influx of new faces.

Three of the seven members of the Senate Finance Committee are termed out and won’t return in 2011. Another eight of the 14 members of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee won’t be returning to the money panel, although some are vying for other legislative offices.

The taxation committees will also see significant turnover.

The other question is whether Republicans have a chance to take back either or both of the two Legislative houses this year.

Assemblyman Ty Cobb, R-Reno, who is running for the state Senate seat being vacated by term-limited Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, is not so sure about the Senate, where Democrats hold a 12-9 advantage.

“I’m not sure there are enough Senate races in play,” he said. “We don’t even have a candidate yet in Senate 1 in Washoe.”

The Washoe 1 seat is being vacated by Sen. Bernice Mathews, D-Reno, due to term limits. Term limited Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, is running for the seat, as is a Libertarian candidate.

A takeover in the Assembly would be much tougher as Democrats now have a 28-14 advantage.

The Twists and Turns of Term Limits

By Elizabeth Crum | 7:42 am March 3rd, 2010

I’ve never been able to completely make up my mind on the whole term limits issue.

On the one hand, I like the idea of citizen legislatures and think it’s a good idea to limit the powers of entrenched politicians.  On the other hand, historical and institutional knowledge is valuable when running a state and new blood is not always a good thing.  And if voters want an elected official out of a seat, they can do it by way of voting.

Anyway, here’s one for the annals here in Nevada, from Ralston just now:

RalstonFlash–Term-limited senator runs against husband of term-limited assemblywoman for term-limited assemblywoman’s seat

Got that?

Maggie Carlton, a term-limited state senator, is running in a primary against Victor Koivisto, whose wife is Ellen Koivisto, the term-limited incumbent in Assembly District 14.

So a legislator forced out of her current office by term limits is willing to run for a lower office to remain in office while the incumbent apparently is trying to will her seat to her husband to keep her hands in the game (he listed his email when he filed as

Is this what the geniuses who invented term limits had in mind?

State Senator Sets Sights on Assembly Due to Term Limits

By Sean Whaley | 3:16 pm October 16th, 2009
CARSON CITY – With term limits taking effect for 17 veteran state lawmakers in 2010, those who want to continue to serve are setting their sights on other elective office. A number of state Assembly candidates are looking to move up into a vacant state Senate seat.

But in at least one case, a lawmaker is doing the opposite.

State Sen. Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, is being forced out of her Clark District 2 seat due to term limits. She has decided to run for the Assembly 14 seat held by Ellen Koivisto, another Democrat who must also vacate her seat because of term limits.

Carlton said she has a lot of unfinished work from her time in the Senate, and serving in the Assembly is the best way to keep involved in public policy issues. Carlton is a resident in Assembly District 14 so the choice was an easy one to make. She has been endorsed by the Assembly Democratic Caucus.

“There has been a time or two when a member of the Senate has run for the Assembly,” she said. “But this will be the first time it has been inspired by term limits.”

Carlton, who works for the nonprofit Great Basin Primary Care Association, said she wants to continue working on the foreclosure crisis and health care reform, among other issues. The association promotes access to affordable health care for Nevada’s underserved populations.

“Health care will be huge,” she said.

Carlton just returned from a visit to Washington, D.C., where health care reform was the topic of discussion. State Legislatures will be involved in implementing any health care reform passed by Congress, she said.

Carlton said her experience dealing with the state budget crisis in the 2009 session will be a benefit in 2011. The 2011 session will be like 2009, part two, she said.

“Hopefully we’ll have turned the corner on the economy,” Carlton said.

But even if the economy is on its way to recovery, the state faces a huge challenge with the budget, she said.

Koivisto could not be reached for comment on her future plans, but she does not reside in Carlton’s Senate district.



Term Limits to Change Nevada Political Landscape in 2010 Election

By Sean Whaley | 3:44 pm October 12th, 2009
CARSON CITY – The November 2010 general election is more than a year away, but a political shift is already in motion as term limits take effect and 17 veteran lawmakers must either leave the Legislature or set their sights on other elective office.

The potential departure of more than a quarter of the state’s 63 lawmakers, some with dozens of years of political experience, could have significant ramifications for the citizens of Nevada.

But the reaction to term limits taking effect in Nevada – more than a decade after they were approved by voters – is mixed.

Supporters suggest that forcing out long-serving lawmakers will bring in fresh blood and new ideas. Term limits will also provide opportunity for newcomers seeking legislative office as a large number of seats will have no incumbents to challenge.

Critics are concerned that the loss of institutional knowledge when veteran lawmakers leave office may weaken the legislative branch of government. The fear is that lobbyists and bureaucrats will become more powerful as newly elected lawmakers  try to grasp the intricacies of the budget process and master complex policy issues.

Janine Hansen, a citizen lobbyist at the Legislature since 1971, said she did not support term limits at the ballot box but is excited about the possibilities now that so many lawmakers will be leaving office next year.

“Our Founding Fathers did not believe in serving endless years in a legislative body,” she said. “Lawmakers are in power too long and the power goes to their heads. They think it is their Legislature and their state rather than responding to the people.”

Hansen, a member of Nevada’s Independent American Party, said term limits may also create opportunities for third-party candidates.

“It is going to be a wonderful year for non-incumbents,” she said. “It will be unprecedented.”

With seven state senate seats being vacated in 2010, a number of opportunities will be available for members of the Assembly to move into the upper house. But it is also possible that members of the Senate may eye an Assembly seat or some other elective office.

Jan Gilbert, a citizen lobbyist for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, said she is concerned about the loss of veteran lawmakers because of their knowledge of the issues.

“I do believe it will give lobbyists and staff more power,” she said. “New people can be easily misled. They have to trust that what they hear is true.”

The impending loss of veteran lawmakers such as state Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, who has extensive knowledge about commerce issues and renewable energy policies, will leave a large void that will be difficult to fill, Gilbert said.

One potential effect of term limits may be a move by groups to use the initiative petition process to get their issues to the voters, she said. If gridlock ensues because there are so many new legislators, it may become a more attractive option for  interest groups, Gilbert said.

Nevada’s longest-serving lawmaker, Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, does believe the loss of institutional knowledge of veteran lawmakers will be a negative consequence of term limits. First elected to the Senate in 1972, Raggio is in the middle of what will be his final term.

“The weaker the institutional knowledge of legislators, obviously the more influence lobbyists have,” he said. “The more influence bureaucrats have.”

Raggio said he knows the reasons why various policy decisions were made by the Legislature in the 1970s and 1980s, reasons that will soon be forgotten as long-serving lawmakers are forced to leave office. Many of them will be hard to replace, he said.

Voters put their final stamp of approval on term limits in 1996, amending the state constitution to limit lawmakers to no more than 12 consecutive years in any one political office. But the 12-year clock only started ticking with lawmakers elected in 1998, making 2010 the first year for term limits to kick in. Term limits are also in effect for many local elected officials, the governor and other state constitutional officers.

Jim Wadhams, a lobbyist for more than three decades with a long list of clients, said getting outstanding candidates who can learn the issues quickly will be critical if the Legislature is to handle all of its challenges under term limits.

Term limits are taking effect just as the important processes of redistricting and reapportionment, where new boundaries are drawn for legislators and members of Congress, must be addressed, he said. Add to this complex issue the budget deficit facing the state in 2011, and there is no question but that this will be one of the most challenging sessions in decades, Wadhams said.

Leadership in both the Senate and Assembly will face enormous pressure to get the work done in the 120-day time limit set by the voters for legislative sessions, he said.

Wadhams said that while it may be true that lobbyists will have more power because of their knowledge of the legislative process, new lawmakers are more likely to rely on their own legislative staff for guidance rather than the capitol lobbying corps. Wadhams also noted that most of the Legislative staff live in Northern Nevada, far from the challenges and issues facing Las Vegas.

“It’s too soon to say whether term limits are good or bad,” he said. “There are probably elements that mix both ways. But new lawmakers will have to pay attention. They won’t have two or three sessions to settle in.”

Lawmakers Termed Out in 2010

Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City

Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas

Sen. Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas

Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas

Sen. Bernice Mathews, D-Reno

Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno

Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks

Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks

Assemblyman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas

Assemblywoman Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas

Assemblyman John Carpenter, R-Elko

Assemblyman Jerry Claborn, D-Las Vegas

Assemblywoman Ellen Koivisto, D-Las Vegas

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno

Assemblyman Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas

Assemblywoman Kathy McClain, D-Las Vegas

Assemblyman Harry Mortenson, D-Las Vegas