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October 24, 2014

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Answers: Clark County:

Same lobbyist for courts, shorter term, more money

What’s increasing faster than the price of gasoline?

Apparently, the cost of court lobbyists.

District and Justice Court judges want to hire lobbyist Rick Loop for $150,000 to represent the court system in Carson City through the 2009 legislative session. During the past session, Loop’s price tag was $80,000.

We called Loop to ask about the price hike. At first he said he thought the term of the proposed contract was longer than that of his previous contract. We pointed out that wasn’t the case. Under the proposed deal, he would work for the court system from July to September 2009. That’s actually one month less than in his last deal.

Loop then said he was less interested in the job this time around, so he asked for more.

“I was less willing to go back again,” he said. “They wanted me to go back and so we went through negotiations.”

Court officials agreed to the higher price.

“This is what he is requesting,” incoming Chief District Judge Arthur Ritchie said. “We think it is a fair amount for the work involved.”

Haven’t we heard about Loop before?

Yep. Loop lobbied lawmakers to approve 10 new judges in Clark County during the 2007 legislative session. The county opposed the new judges because although the state pays judges’ salaries, the county gets stuck with the bill for support staff and facilities to accommodate them. That can amount to millions of dollars.

The courts and the county compromised and settled on six new judges.

Then, about this time last year, judges proposed the county hire Loop again. That left county commissioners scratching their heads.

“Why is the county paying for a lobbyist who argued against us?” Commission Chairman Rory Reid said.

Commissioners panned that proposal.

Why would this time be different?

Loop would be paid with fees collected by the court system, rather than with money from the county’s general fund.

Still, commissioners must approve the contract, which could make for an interesting meeting Tuesday. Also on the agenda is a proposed contract with the county’s new lobbyist, Dan Hart. His firm would get $102,000 to represent the county through the 2009 session under the deal. The county paid its two-person lobbying team $105,000 during the past session.

Speaking of the courts, how will Commissioner Bruce Woodbury react to the Nevada Supreme Court’s decision to take up the issue of whether term limits for state and local officials are constitutional?

For those who might have forgotten, Secretary of State Ross Miller challenged the right of Woodbury and more than 20 other candidates to seek additional terms, citing a term limit provision approved by voters.

Woodbury and others — including District Attorney David Roger — argue the term limits don’t kick in until the 2010 election cycle.

Though some public officials have been quietly considering a challenge to term limits in general, Woodbury has said he would fight Miller’s challenge only on the narrow basis of whether term limits should go into effect now or during the next election cycle.

But the state Supreme Court last week asked all parties involved in the narrow term limits question to respond to the broader issue of whether they are constitutional.

Woodbury, however, told us last week that he will not be drawn into that debate.

The longest-serving commissioner in the state’s history said he told his attorneys: “I have to keep my word. I am not going to challenge term limits.”

That will leave Woodbury, arguably one of the most prominent and popular politicians to be challenged, on the sidelines during debate over the broader issue.

“My inclination is for my attorneys to take a rather neutral position,” he said.

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