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April 23, 2014

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politics:

Democrats ask: Where’s Republican state Sen. Elizabeth Halseth?

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Freshman Sen. Elizabeth Halseth talks with veteran Sen. Michael Schneider after a meeting of the Senate Revenue Committee on the second day of the 2011 legislative session Tuesday, Feb. 8, 2011, in Carson City.

Democrats on Wednesday asked where state Sen. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, has been in recent months, raising a question that could help decide which party will control the state Senate.

Halseth has not returned calls from lawmakers seeking to schedule meetings, legislators said. On Wednesday, she was absent from a Legislative Commission meeting.

Halseth is divorcing her husband, who was arrested in October on charges of “open and gross lewdness.” She is seeking custody of their children.

The freshman state senator has not responded to media inquiries about her plans regarding the Legislature as her absence has fueled speculation she might not complete her term.

Both parties are studying the ballot implications if she doesn’t.

Highlighting the sensitivity of the issue, state Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said during Wednesday’s Legislative Commission meeting that he wanted to pull from the agenda a discussion of Halseth’s whereabouts.

“One of our colleagues has things going on in her life that have necessitated her missing a lot of meetings,” Roberson said. “There’s no need to have this on the agenda today.”

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said she was struggling to schedule an interim committee meeting on how taxes are distributed among local governments because Halseth, who was appointed by her caucus to sit on the committee, has not returned calls.

“We’ve had a hard time reaching Ms. Halseth to determine her role,” Kirkpatrick said. “The last thing I’d want is for a Senate Republican not to be represented on the committee.”

While the tax distribution issue — the consolidated tax — is important in the world of local government finances, Halseth’s absence raises a larger question that could have big political ramifications: Will she return to the Legislature in 2013?

If Halseth moves out of her district or resigns ahead of the June 12 primary, it would put her seat on the ballot. Because of redistricting, her seat has a significant Democratic voter registration edge.

If she stays, however, Halseth is in the middle of a four-year term and her seat would not be open until 2014. She was elected in 2010 and became the youngest elected state senator.

Before Wednesday, Republican state Senate leadership was confident it would be able take the state Senate, which it held for most of the past two decades before Democrats took control in 2008.

Republicans believed control would come down to two races — Senate District 5 and Senate District 6. While both seats slightly favored Democrats, both incumbent Democratic state senators decided not to run for reelection. Republican challengers significantly out-raised the Democratic candidates.

But state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, announced Wednesday her resignation from her Senate seat to challenge District 15 Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, and it instantly made that district competitive.

Whether Halseth’s seat will be on the ballot is unknown. She did not return requests for comment made through her website, her attorney or her political consultant from the 2010 election, when she beat an incumbent Republican in the primary and a highly touted Democrat based on a campaign that questioned her opponent’s values. Halseth’s cellphone has been disconnected.

State law provides a number of reasons to remove elected officials, including:

• “The neglect or refusal of the incumbent to discharge the duties of the incumbent’s office for a period of 30 days.”

• The person no longer lives in the district they represent.

State law requires the district attorney or attorney general to remove the person from office if the person will not give up the office.

Roberson said during the Legislative Commission meeting that the interim tax committee does not immediately need to name a replacement.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, said he understands that with a citizen Legislature, personal and work obligations can interfere with legislative duties.

But, he said, the interim committee was struggling to form a quorum for meetings.

“I’d ask for some explanation if you have that,” he said. “Do you know why there’s a lack of response or availability?”

Roberson noted that Horsford has been absent from meetings.

“You have missed a couple of meetings,” Roberson told Horsford. “This is not the forum to debate this, unless we’re going to discuss why every member of commission misses meetings.”

Kirkpatrick then said, “This is not a battle we should have in a public forum.”

The next meeting of her committee is March 15, and Roberson said he hoped to have more information by then.

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  1. Seems to me that Ms Halseth at least owes her party and her constituents an explanation as to what her political plans are for the future. A simple phone call would suffice.

  2. This reminds me of that old PBS show, "Where in the World is Carmen Sandiego?" We have a whole bunch of clues, but we have to find Elizabeth Halseth before Michael Roberson tries to cheat SD 9 voters out of a special election. Everyone knows she left. Why must we keep this charade game going?

  3. Mr. Schwartz,

    You know, the Democrats know, and we all know you know where Senator Halseth is. I am sure the good people of the State of Nevada can do without a freshman Senator.

    Also, we know Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick's statement is a lie -- "The last thing I'd want is for a Senate Republican not to be represented on the committee."

    What passes for news reporting in this Town is reprehensible. Please know, Mr. Schwartz, that political posturing is not news.

    Purgatory

  4. Smartone & Homer,

    Ask yourselves this question -- do the appropriate officials know where Senator Halseth is?

    Now, when you realize and understand that the only possible answer is yes, what is the story? The answer to that question is politics.

    Weirdos.

    Purgatory

  5. The residents of both the current and future Senate District 9 deserve to know where their State Senator is and what her plans are. If Sen. Halseth has no intention of finishing out her term, she should do the right thing and resign, not run out the clock so the residents of SD9 are saddled with an appointed State Senator they had no voice in choosing.

  6. A pathetic disgrace. Her actions show a lack of respect for the senate office, the Nevada legislature and the people of Nevada. Just another Vegas dip-sh*t with the pervasive "me, me, me" track playing in her head.

    Having an affair with the golf pro and going through a divorce is no excuse to ignore the duties of a United States Senator. Shame on you.

  7. She's making Michael Schneider blush. Party of family values indeed.

  8. I don't believe the assertion in this story regarding state law provisions governing removal of officers is accurate, at least as applied to state legislators.

    The very same statute, NRS 283.040, provides that the provisions of the section do not apply "to the extent that they conflict or are otherwise inconsistent with any provision of the Constitution of the State of Nevada regarding the power to judge of the qualifications, elections and returns of or to punish, ... expel or remove from office ... State Legislators."

    Other procedures set out in chapter 283 regarding removal specifically exempt the legislature from coverage because there are only two constitutionally permissible ways to remove a legislator from office during the term to which the legislator was elected.

    Constitutionally, there are two ways to remove a legislator from office: recall or expulsion by the house to which the legislator belong (Nev. Const. art. IV, sec. 6; art. II, sec. 9).

  9. In the minds of some elected officeholders, everything becomes a republican vs democrat issue. EVERYTHING!!. When does the public interest come first???????

  10. Fellow Sane Commenters and Assorted Ignorant MisFits,

    I refer you to the Nevada Legislature web site - http://leg.state.nv.us/

    On that side you will read the following...

    "The 77th Regular Session of the Nevada Legislature will begin on February 4, 2013. We are now in the interim period between legislative sessions."

    Mr. Schwartz knows this fact. As such, Senator Halseth is neither absent without leave nor is she shirking important official duties. I assumed most people understood the process, and understood that what Mr. Schwartz is attempting to convey is totally without merit. However, by the logic and reason of the comments above mine, I clearly underestimated the gullibility and stupidity of the readers.

    Weirdos.

    Purgatory

  11. Ok Purgatory, I've been watching your postings all morning and have had just about enough.

    First, I am a constituent of Senator Halseth. I don't care if (as you believe) the "appropriate officials" know Ms. Halseth's whereabouts. I have a right to have representation and, thereby, access to my legislative representative. During the legislative session, Ms. Halseth ignored e-mails and requests for constituent meetings, with the excuse (relayed to me by a 3rd party) that she was "too busy" to respond while in session.

    Now, the legislature is out of session, yet I've still received a response. Ms. Halseth is still apparently "too busy" -- just with other things. Now you (incorrectly) claim that because of that she has no obligation attend important interim committee hearings. Exactly when DO you think Ms. Halseth's obligations to her constituents begin and end? The business of this state continues and EVERY legislator knows that interim committee assignments are part of the job description.

    While I certainly understand her need to tend to her family during a crises, she cannot abrogate the commitment she made to her constituents when she decided to run for office. If she can no longer fulfill those responsibilities, then she needs to step aside.

  12. Grotheer,

    You are free to ask her to "step aside" and I suggest you do just that if you so desire. However, it does not change the facts that she is fully exercising her duties, and that the sole purpose Mr. Schwartz wrote his story is to make a political statement.

    Furthermore, you have no "right to...access your legislative representative." A Right? Pahleezzzeee. Please tell me you don't actually believe that. And, an "interim committee meeting" is of little to no value in the legislative process. They are designed to make you feel good. I am certain you realize the fault in your logic. You and your fellow constituents -- who feel so poorly represented in Carson City -- should find something more productive to do with your time.

    Purgatory

  13. Heck, I don't know about the rest of you, but if I don't show up for work for that long - I've no longer got a job. Things happen in life. I got divorced once too - but still had to go to work.

  14. Just because the legislature is not in session doesn't mean that elected officials are not supposed to be accountable to their constituents. Does anyone really believe that we only expect an elected to represent us for eight months out of a four year term?

    Additionally, everyone misses meetings. But to miss meetings and not return phone calls or have their whereabouts known to others is not normal. I think Ms. Halseth either has some explaining to do or some resigning to do.

  15. Purgatory:

    The Nevada Legislative Manual is produced each biennium (as required by NRS 218F.400) by the Legislative Counsel Bureau. Although designed primarily as a reference tool for legislators, it is also intended for use by members of the Executive and Judicial Branches of government, representatives of private interest groups, and interested citizens.

    The 2011 Manual outlines the duties and obligations of state legislators during the interim period as follows:

    "When the session ends, legislators continue to make speeches, assist constituents, serve on special legislative committees, and compile information in preparation for the next session. Often, legislators serve as facilitators among various groups. For example, a legislator might contact a government agency on behalf of a constituent or bring opposing factions together to solve a problem.

    In addition, legislators monitor the implementation of certain bills passed during the preceding session. In this capacity, a legislator might attend a hearing conducted by a State agency formulating pertinent regulations.

    Between sessions, a legislator may serve on one or more interim committees. Some of these committees study a specific subject, provide oversight of ongoing issues, or are part of national organizations that bring together legislators from the various states to discuss similar problems. Permanent committees of the Legislature are created through statute. Temporary committees usually originate in concurrent resolutions passed in one session and are dissolved by the beginning of the next."

    Clearly the legislators who drafted & adopted the 2011 manual didn't contemplate that a representative's responsibilities end at the conclusion of the legislative session. My expectation that Ms. Halseth meet those responsibilities is certainly not unanticipated or worthy of your level of derision.

  16. Does anyone not see the calculated steps of the democrats from the events of yesterday that the media has run with today?

    Senator Sheila Leslie (D) resigns because she purchased a home, over a year ago, that is in a new senate district (redistricting) versus living in her current home, in her current safe district, so she can take one for the team and be a formidable opponent against Senator Greg Brower (R)in hopes of adding to or maintaining the state senate democratic majority.

    The legislative commission just happens to meet on the same day and Senator Steven Horsford uses it as a political vehicle to call out the republicans to make them look bad because Senator Elizabeth Halseth is absent and people then may call for a resignation.

    Message: Our party does the right thing by resigning.

    Marilyn Kirkpatrick (D) makes a statement about republican representation but not only was Senator Leslie absent from that meeting (due to her resignation,) but I believe Johnny O.(D) may have been absent too.

    Yesterday was pure political posturing for the next election cycle to maintain the democratic majority. Possibly forcing Senator Halseth to resign opens up that seat for the next election.

    What has happened to the concept of a public servant? Both parties need step up and take that seriously without playing these games on the taxpayers dime. Nevada and Nevadans are what is important right now. Not playground bullying.

  17. Grotheer...I know how it works...so do you...ask her to resign...do whatever your heart desires...but please, please, please, endeavor to understand the difference between the law and politics...when you and your ilk blend the two, just as Mr. Sun blends opinions with news, we all suffer...I have made my point...ignore it if you wish...I will return to my own Purgatory...

  18. Purgatory,
    I actually have no idea where Sen. Halseth is. And I'm not sure what you think the "political statement" I'm trying to make is. It sounds like generic pushback from someone that doesn't like a question being asked.
    As for whether people expect their citizen lawmakers to be available and serve in the interim, that's open for debate. Hence, the comment section.
    Dave

  19. Pwned.

  20. Dave Schwartz FTW! Purgatory, I have no idea where the State Senator is either. As an elected official, though, you have duties to fulfill. Answering to the voices of your constituants are part of those obligations that you accepted when becoming a publicly elected official. If you don't like that, then don't get into this field. I'm divorced and went through my divorce while taking care of my newborn, working in excess of 40 hours a week, and going to UNLV full time. No one cried for me. This lady needs to get her affairs in order and perform her role.

  21. OMG I am shocked! The Dems are agin her and the REPUBS are a fore her.....this is a new thing, nasty partisan politics in Nevada!

  22. PS the original intent of a "part time" legislature was that politicians NOT be full time political workers. I know this is hard to grasp for those who see it as ok for their part timers (D and R both) to use their time "off" to actually campaign full time. The government is there if you need something when the Senate is not in session. Senators should be working their day jobs now. Politicians are SUPPOSED to be off now, as designed, duh.

  23. According to a source Sen Halseth has resigned as of today .