Posts Tagged ‘Warren Hardy’

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.

Immigration Bills Spark Heated Debate In Legislature

By Andrew Doughman | 1:10 pm April 6th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Two bills relating to illegal immigrants sparked heated debate in an Assembly committee this morning.

One from Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, would impose penalties and restrictions on illegal immigrants in a way similar to a controversial Arizona law enacted this past year.

Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, proposed that the state adopt the federal “E-Verify” system, an electronic database that verifies someone’s employment eligibility.

Chairwoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, had to ask numerous times for both the support and opposition to keep their comments relevant to the bill.

“I want to stick to the merits of the bill because any time we single out one group or another we do a disservice to the state as a whole,” she told those listening to the hearing.

Meanwhile, observers on the social media site Twitter accused each other of racism and bigotry.

Hansen’s bill would require proof of identity to vote, restrict eligibility for Nevada’s Millennium Scholarship to U.S. citizens, prohibit non-citizens from obtaining driver’s licenses or receiving certain state benefits.

He said the bill is mainly about jobs.

“The number one issue that was confronted with was the economy and the second was illegal immigration,” Hansen said of his talks with voters while campaigning for office last year.

Hansen said that the state’s undocumented workers are preventing Nevada’s unemployed people from finding employment.

He cited figures that show Nevada has a high number of illegal immigrants. A recent Pew Hispanic Center study also found that Nevada ranks No. 1 in the nation in terms of the percentage of illegal immigrants comprising a state’s total population.

Hansen’s bill would cost the state hundreds of thousands of dollars if passed into law. This is because it would require state agencies to spend more money to comply with the bills numerous requirements.

“You have half the kitchen sink here is what you have,” Kirkpatrick said of Hansen’s bill.

Hansen’s bill also would require the state to use the federal “E-Verify” database that verifies someone’s employment eligibility.

Hickey’s bill would require contractors bidding for state public works projects to use that system.

“I think this is a small first step,” he said. “This is not talking about all employers in this state, but starting with public works projects, which are tax-payer-funded ones.”

Opponents to the bill said that the federal database upon which E-Verify relies is rife with error. Contractors also objected to the language of the bill because it would make them responsible not only for their organizations, but for their subcontractors as well.

“The E-verify system is an attempt to try to do something that we support, but it has just not proven to be effective,” said Warren Hardy, lobbyist for the Associated Builders and Contractors of Nevada.

The bills sparked reactions from the numerous Hispanic legislators who sit on the Assembly Government Affairs committee.

Assemblywomen Teresa Benitez-Thompson, D-Reno, and Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, said that anyone testifying should restrict testimony to immigrants rather than Hispanics.

Others suggested that the bills would polarize the Hispanic electorate.

“It’s because of Republicans like [Assemblymen] Hickey & Hansen why R’s will have hard time making inroads with Hispanic voters in NV,” said Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, via his Twitter account.

The government affairs committee took no immediate action on either bill.