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August 27, 2014

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LEGISLATURE 2013:

As Legislature winds to a close, a look at its dramatic moments

Image

Lisa J. Tolda / Associated Press

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, right, pushes Assemblymen David Bobzien in jest while on the Assembly floor of the Nevada Legislative building Thursday, May 30, 2013. Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero Loop, left, and Assemblyman Skip Daly, wearing the tie, look on.

After the 2013 Legislature whispers its way to a close Monday, it will not be known as a session of the dramatic tax fight.

There will be no epic showdown between parties on the size of government. No game of budget chicken between the governor and lawmakers that threatened a special session.

But as tame as this session has seemed compared with past sessions, it hasn’t been without its moments of drama.

Here’s a look at the top dramatic moments — some that made headlines, some that didn’t — that punctuated the legislative doldrums.

    • Ex-Nevada Assemblyman Steven Brooks, holds his arms up as he is arrested, Thursday, March 28, 2013, in Victorville, Calif. Brooks led police on a chase from Barstow, Calif., until his tires were spiked in Victorville, Calif. Brooks was arrested on charges including resisting arrest and throwing objects, just hours after he became the first lawmaker ever expelled from the Nevada Legislature.

      Historic expulsion of a lawmaker

      The unprecedented saga of Assemblyman Steven Brooks’ spiral into mental illness dominated the first half of the legislative session.

      Just two weeks before the session opened, Brooks was arrested with a gun and ammunition in his car on allegations he threatened the life of Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick.

      That arrest presaged an increasingly violent series of encounters Brooks had with police over the next two months as lawmakers grappled with how to deal with a colleague whose erratic, angry outbursts and bizarre behavior led to members arming themselves in committee and left most in the building unsettled.

      The Assembly voted March 28 to expel Brooks from the Legislature, after a closed hearing on a confidential investigation into his behavior.

      That night, he fled Nevada and allegedly engaged California law enforcement officers in a high-speed chase that involved a fight with a police dog and ended with him being Tasered and punched by an officer.

      On Friday, attorneys for Brooks asked a judge in a Victorville, Calif., court for more time to work on the case, according to the Associated Press. Another hearing has been set for June 18.

      Brooks' defense had asked in May that he be enrolled in a mental health court program that would release him on probation and hold him accountable for receiving mental health treatment. That plan was rejected. Brooks has been in a San Bernardino County jail since his March arrest.

    • Nevada Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, left, talks with Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, on the Senate floor at the Legislative Building in Carson City, Nev., on Wednesday, April 24, 2013.

      Roberson and his mining bombshell

      Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson has been the instigator of several of this session’s dramatic moments, but perhaps the most consequential moment occurred March 5.

      Roberson and five GOP colleagues announced their intention to back a measure removing the mining industry’s tax provisions from the constitution and seek a mining tax increase to fund education.

      The announcement took nearly the entire Legislature by surprise, as Roberson essentially usurped an issue that had long been one Democrats had used to fire up their base.

      In doing so, Roberson not only angered the opposing party, he also opened a rift in his own. Gov. Brian Sandoval opposed the move, as did Assembly Republicans and four Senate Republicans.

      While the actual proposal went nowhere — Roberson was never given a hearing on his bill to put the mining increase before voters next year — he did take ownership of the mining issue away from Democrats.

    • A somber, brave decision to share an intensely personal decision

      Before a quiet committee room in April, Assemblywoman Lucy Flores revealed she had an abortion as a teenager.

      The emotional testimony came as the Assembly was considering a bill to standardize sex education in Nevada.

      “I had six other sisters; all of them became pregnant in their teens — all of them,” Flores said. “That is what I had to learn from.”

      Flores’ announcement provoked an angry outcry from those who opposed the sex education bill and abortion. The lawmaker reported receiving death threats in the wake of her admission.

      She also engendered a passionate outpouring of support from others in the community, particularly on social media, where supporters adopted the hashtag #fierceflores to convey their backing.

      The sex education bill ultimately died in the Senate.

    • Nevada Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, listens to debate on the Senate floor at the Legislative Building in Carson City on Wednesday, May 22, 2013. At left is Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden.

      'I'm black. I'm gay'

      Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, beat NBA player Jason Collins by just one week when he pronounced on the Senate Floor: “I’m black. I’m gay.”

      Atkinson’s public declaration came amid the most riveting floor debates of the session, as senator after senator stood to share personal, heartfelt anecdotes to describe their reasons for voting for or against a measure that would begin the process of removing Nevada’s ban on gay marriage from the state constitution.

      Atkinson’s decision to come out resulted in a string of national media interviews and a flurry of emails, text messages and letters of support.

      Atkinson isn’t the only gay or lesbian Nevada lawmaker.

      When the Assembly voted to pass the measure, Assemblyman James Healey held up a photograph of his partner, Eddie, who had died in a motorcycle crash.

      “I promised his mother and his family that I wouldn’t stop fighting until we had this,” Healey said, stopping to control his emotions before continuing. “To this day, I dream I can marry Eddie. He is gone, but we have a chance today to let loving couples of Nevada like Eddie and I have the chance to live that same dream that my brothers and their spouses do.”

    • Nevada Assembly Democrats Teresa Benitez-Thompson and David Bobzien talk on the Assembly floor at the Legislative Building in Carson City, Nev., on Wednesday, April 10, 2013. Benitez-Thompson's Government Affairs committee approved Bobzien's bill to bar Pershing County from imposing regulations and fees on Burning Man.

      Tell that baby to hang on until deadline!

      Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson arrived at the Legislature about seven months pregnant with her third child.

      The chairwoman of the busy Assembly Government Affairs Committee powered through weeks of legislative work, barely making the critical committee passage deadline April 12 before going into labor.

      Her daughter, Sandra, was born at 1:41 a.m. April 15.

      Benitez-Thompson returned to work one week later and can sometimes be seen with Sandy strapped into her Snugli on the Assembly floor.

    • That 'no' is one too many

      Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, apparently had it with hearing the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce lobbyists oppose tax increases.

      When lobbyist Brian McAnallen testified against the margins tax petition in March, he soon found himself taking the brunt of an epic tongue lashing from Pierce, who has long fought for a broad-based business tax in Nevada.

      “You did not like the gross receipts tax in 2003,” Pierce said, slowly winding up. “You have not liked anything in all the terms I have been here. You guys have not liked anything in the quarter of a century that I have lived in this state. You do not like any taxes that you or anybody you know has to pay.

      “Sooner or later, the people of the state were going to run out of patience. ... I am telling you come election night 2014, you are all going to be sitting there looking like Karl Rove looked last election night, saying, ‘Gee I did not know that was going to happen,’ and Jan. 1, 2015, this becomes law and you will have nobody to blame but yourselves, because all you ever say is no.”

    • Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, works in committee at the Legislative Building in Carson City, Nev., on Wednesday, May 29, 2013. A bill creating a network to provide medical marijuana patients a legal way to obtain the drug was approved by the Nevada Senate on Wednesday, May, 29, 2013. SB374, pushed by Sen. Tick Segerblom sets out a regulatory framework to create medical marijuana dispensaries more than a decade after voters approved medical marijuana.

      Good bud

      Sen. Tick Segerblom harkened back to his doobie days during a trip he took other lawmakers on to tour medical marijuana dispensaries in Arizona.

      “I’ve never seen bud that good,” Segerblom exclaimed upon inspecting the goods at a Phoenix dispensary.

      Segerblom worked tirelessly to earn bipartisan support for his bill to create a dispensary system for medical marijuana in Nevada, taking his committee to see how they operate in Arizona.

      He succeeded in getting the bill out of the Senate, with Republican Sen. Mark Hutchison as much of a champion of the measure as Segerblom.

      Although the state constitution allows doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients, there is currently no legal way to obtain the drug in Nevada.

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    1. The two Lawmakers that made any headway were Tick Seagerblom and Michael Roberson. They "get it" and have worked hard this session to make it all happen. Thanks guys!

      With Nevada continuing to be at the bottom in education, sustainable and adequate funding needs to happen. Doing "more with less" is no longer viable. Nevada has been unable to lift itself due to the adverse impact of unchecked flood of immigrants from south of the border, Mexico, which is the lowest ranking nation in math and science STEM education in the world. Nevada never retooled adequately for this onslaught and assault on our educational system.

      Mining continues to enjoy favored status and not pay its fair share for the precious nonrenewable resources it extracts from Nevada's earth. Lawmakers continue to bow down and genuflect to the Governor and Mining, as the state continues to suffer with an underfunded infrastructure. Quality of life for all Nevadans will continue to be marginal, until initiatives get passed by voters to fix these ongoing problems. Sad to say.

      Blessings and Peace,
      Star

    2. "Although the state constitution allows doctors to prescribe marijuana to patients, there is currently no legal way to obtain the drug in Nevada."

      Damon -- you failed miserably to make the proper point on this. The Constitution was changed in the '98 and '00 elections when We the people instructed the legislature to make those laws. Have a look @ http://www.leg.state.nv.us/const/nvconst...

      Meantime the raids continue and people's lives are dismantled then ruined forever due to this failure. This legislature, like all government, has failed Nevada miserably.

      "Tobacco, hemp, flax and cotton, are staple commodities." -- from Thomas Jefferson "The Works," vol. 3 (Notes on Virginia I, Correspondence 1780-1782), "A Notice Of The Mines And Other Subterraneous Riches; Its Trees, Plants, Fruits, &C."