By Ray Hagar, Nevada Newsmakers
A leading Republican state senator was critical Wednesday of the Democrats at the Nevada Legislature, who hold majorities in both houses, for not giving hearings to bills sponsored by Republicans.
Settelmeyer’s own Senate Bill 103 — which would open primary elections to all voters and from which the top two candidates would advance to the general election — was denied a hearing by the Democrats.
Also, GOP Attorney General Adam Laxalt sent a letter to two Democratic committee chairmen this week, asking the committees to hear a package of public safety bills from his office that so far — with the 2017 Legislature almost at the halfway point — have not received committee hearings.
The committees don’t have much time to hear the Republican bills, since the deadline for bills to be passed out of their first committee is April 14.
“I think it is hyper-partisanship,” Settelmeyer said on Nevada Newsmakers Wednesday. “I think all bills should be given a hearing. It doesn’t necessarily mean that we give them a vote.”
Democrats, however, do not agree with Settelmeyer’s assessment.
“At day 60, I count at least 12 Settelmeyer bills heard, including at least 4 that have gotten committee/floor votes. So partisan!” tweeted Peter Koltak, executive director of the Nevada Senate Democrats.
Settelmeyer said that in 2015, when he was chair of the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, “every bill that wanted a hearing got a hearing.”
All bills should get a hearing since they are, in essence, requests from a lawmaker’s constituency, Settelmeyer said.
“All ideas deserve a hearing,” he said. “After all, we’ve been sent here by our prospective constituencies to represent them. You may not agree with them, but out of respect, you hear their bill. And I heard bills that I disagreed with last time. But unfortunately, that is not happening this time.”
A longtime member of the Capital press corps said in a separate interview that the partisanship of this session may run deeper than previous sessions.
“I think it is probably greater,” said Sean Whaley of the Las Vegas Review-Journal. “The Democrats think they have the chance to make a real difference since they now control the Senate and the Assembly. I think they feel they have a governor who is a reasonable person, even though he is a Republican, and might entertain some of the legislation they have passed. And it seems to me, they (Democrats) have a real level of intensity about getting things done this session that they haven’t had a chance to do in a while.
“I think they (Democrats) are trying to accommodate Republicans but I don’t think they’re probably going as far as the Republican Party would like,” Whaley said.
Settelmeyer was reminded that when Republicans had majorities, they also refused to give hearings to some bills.
“I’m not saying it is right for either party to do,” he said. “I just personally took the attitude that all bills deserve a hearing and I remember getting grief from my own (Republican) colleagues asking, ‘Why are you giving that bill a hearing? I don’t agree with it (the bill) but it is the right thing to do.”
He said many in the GOP agree with him.
“Most of the (committee) chairs I knew from the Republican Party, that if an individual wanted a hearing, we granted them.”
Part of the partisanship “is posturing for the next election cycle,” Whaley said.
“So what they (Democrats) have is a person, the attorney general, who may run for governor in 2018,” Whaley said. “He has raised a lot of money and the last thing the Democrats want to do is give him a leg up in a campaign.”
So far, Laxalt has not made himself available to be interviewed by the Democratically controlled legislative committees about his requests.
“I’d think he would get some questions and some criticisms from the Democratically controlled money panels and he would be under oath so they could pretty much ask him anything they want, within reason, and he would have to respond,” Whaley said. “It is a one-way street and he doesn’t see that as anymore of an advantage to him than they (Democrats) do in hearing his bills.”
Settelmeyer also defended the Republican seating chart for the Senate from the 2015 Legislature. With the GOP in a majority, Majority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, sat all Republicans on one side of the chamber and the Democrats on the other. Democrats took it as an insult and an example of GOP partisanship.
“The seating chart, that goes back to the days of Raggio,” Settelmeyer said, referencing former state Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, who had the longest state-senate service record in Nevada history (1972-2011). “Raggio had friends. He had the bride and groom and either you sat on the left or you sat on the right. That is the way he did it. So if you go back through the times, it is kind of been how it has been done. Republicans have always been left and right. And their side (Democrats) have inter-mixed people somewhat.”
NOT INTERESTED IN CONGRESS: In the past, Settelmeyer has expressed an interest in seeking congressional office. Yet he said he is not interested in running for Nevada’s 2nd U.S. House District seat in 2018, should incumbent Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, not run for re-election.
“My wife and I, we have some young kids and I’m OK doing the job I’m doing now,” he said. “I’m not interested at this time.”
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