By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
Republican state Sen. Pete Goicoechea of Eureka County said on Nevada Newsmakers that Gov. Steve Sisolak is a no-show at the Nevada Legislature this session and it hurts the lawmaking process.
“It has really caused some hardship in the legislative building,” Goicoechea told host Sam Shad. “But I don’t know, maybe on the other side of the aisle, they have a little bit more accessibility. But I don’t know how you could. He is not in the building. And I think a lot of times, he’s not even up here in Carson.
“He has stopped coming into the building and it is leaving a void,” Goicoechea said.
“I hate to say it, and of course this is my 10th session and I go back to (Governors) Guinn and Gibbons and Sandoval.”
Sisolak, however, has been absent from the legislative building because he is following the rules of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said Meghin Delaney, his communications director.
“As you know, the legislative building is currently closed to the public due to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the governor and his staff have been following the rules set forth by LCB,” Delaney wrote in an email response after viewing Goicoechea’s comments online. “Thankfully, technology has allowed for the governor and his staff to communicate with members of the Nevada Legislature throughout this session.”
Delaney also pushed back on Goicoechea’s accusation that Gov. Sisolak is not spending time in the state capital.
“The governor and the majority of his staff have been and continue to be working from Carson City full-time, with the occasional trip to Las Vegas to visit with family or for a work-related meeting or event,” Delaney wrote in an email.
Goicoechea, who has been an elected legislator since 2002, said he hasn’t seen the governor face-to-face in more than a year.
“I have to say, the last time I saw Gov. Sisolak was in Ely last January. That’s the last time I’ve seen him anywhere.”
Despite not seeing Sisolak, Goicoechea said he still has a go-to guy in the Las Vegas Democrat’s administration.
“When I reach out, I reach out to his legal counsel, Scott Gilles,” the former Eureka County commissioner said. “We have a relationship that goes back and so I reach out to Scott and try to get some questions answered or at least get some direction from the governor’s office.”
He also does not interact much with Sisolak’s Chief of Staff, Michelle White.
“I met her a couple of times. I really don’t know her,” the senator said.
The last time Sisolak and Goicoechea spoke, it was about prison issues in Ely, about staffing at the prison in Ely and its transition from a maximum security prison to a medium-security one.
Now, Goicoechea is also concerned about the possibility of increased mining taxes in the Ely area.
Democrats, with the majority in both houses, are expected to advance one or more of three constitutional amendments they passed during a 2020 special session about overhauling mining tax laws.
If the Legislature passes any of the proposals, they would be included on the 2022 general-election ballot.
One proposal would increase the 5-percent net proceeds tax cap in the state constitution to a 12 percent, according to reports.
One mining outfit providing jobs for White Pine county residents is already talking about shutting down if taxes are increased, Goicoechea said.
“It is a foreign-held company and they are already saying, if there is a tax hike, they will shut the doors,” he said.
“Ely has been there before,” Goicoechea said about mining shutdowns. “It is not good.”
Yet despite environmental concerns, Goicoechea sees a bright future in lithium mining in Nevada.
Lithium is used for everything in modern life from extended-life batteries and nuclear reactors to Alzheimer’s prevention and space exploration. Currently, there are two major lithium mining sites in Nevada.
A Houston-based oilfield company recently announced plans to launch a lithium extraction plant in Clayton Valley, southwest of Goldfield.
The BLM under the Trump Administration also approved a lithium mining operation in Northern Nevada at Thacker Pass, north of Winnemucca. That site, however, is now threatened by a federal lawsuit based on multiple environmental concerns.
“Hey, we are going to need the lithium,” Goicoechea said. “And if we going electronic and build batteries, we better find it someplace. If we end up importing it, it will truly be expensive. It is an industry that is very viable. We can work around the environmental concerns. I think it can be done.”