Politicking Legislators Threatened To Delay, Kill Bills On Deadline Day
CARSON CITY – In the end, it was Sen. Joe Hardy who saved the day. He also saved one of his pet bills in the process.
The Republican doctor from Boulder City patched up a broken legislative process that threatened to kill bills after ideological disagreements between two Democratic committee leaders had resulted in an impasse.
Today is a deadline day for bills to pass, so if the two Democrats did not reach an agreement, the bills would die.
Caught up in the standoff were Hardy’s bill establishing toll roads in Boulder City, a bill revising state contracting in an attempt to mitigate abuse and a bill revising the open meeting law, among others.
“This committee made the boycott,” said Sen. John Lee, D-North Vegas, chairman of the Senate Government Affairs Committee. “I’m determined to see that the rights of the Senate are not abused by the Assembly … We’re not enemies, but it’s not just about me and her now.”
Lee was referring to his Democratic counterpart in the Assembly, Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas.
At this point in the legislative session, bills have swapped houses so Lee’s committee was considering Assembly bills and the fate of Senate bills were in the hands of the Assembly.
This morning, Lee said he was concerned Kirkpatrick would not vote Senate bills out of her Assembly committee.
Kirkpatrick said her committee would vote on bills that are likely to pass.
“I don’t play the hostage game,” she said. “We hear them [the bills] and the committee decides.”
The standoff resulted in a day-long delay before Hardy convened the two lawmakers and struck a deal behind closed doors.
In the meantime, lobbyists from local governments – government affairs committees usually address bills affecting cities and counties – waited to hear the fate of bills they were tracking.
“It’s hectic but with so many people playing politics, I don’t remember it being this bad,” said Carole Vilardo of the Nevada Taxpayer Association.
In the end, Lee heard the Assembly bills and Kirkpatrick passed Hardy’s toll roads bill out of her committee. Before the deal was struck, Hardy had declared that bill dead.
“Joe Hardy put both teams back together,” Lee said. “Joe Hardy saved the day.”
With so much action on a deadline day, legislators are under pressure to ensure their bills pass. Sometimes that means they have personal disagreements with the legislators in whose hands the fate of their bills rests.
It happens every legislative session, said one lobbyist.
“The Legislature is like labor pains,” said Susan Fisher, a lobbyist representing several clients. “We forget and then we come back and do it all over again.”
At the end of the day, several Senate bills did not meet the deadline and the Senate voted down the open meeting law bill.
But the proposal to revise state contracting rules passed.
Hardy praised Lee and Kirkpatrick for negotiating with “grace and aplomb.”
“They are both to be commended for being able to get together after having had feelings that were so tender come to the surface,” he said. “People were depending and counting on us.”