Heck among House's biggest mail spenders


Rep. Joe Heck ranked among the top spenders on mass mailings during the last House term, according to a new analysis of how lawmakers use their free mail privileges.

Heck, then a freshman, spent $649,631 on franked mail and other means to communicate with constituents during the 2011-12 session.

That ranked the Nevada Republican third behind Pedro Pierluisi, D-Puerto Rico, who spent $833,403, and Vern Buchanan, R-Fla., at $656,861, according to figures compiled by the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, of the entire House.

A Heck spokesman responded the reason was obvious. Before Nevada political maps were redrawn for the 2012 elections, Heck’s congressional district that encompassed the Las Vegas suburbs and most of rural Clark County was the most populous in the nation at slightly more than 1 million people.

“It simply costs more to send the same amount, especially to the largest constituency in the country,” said Greg Lemon, who added Heck sent 12 bulk mailings during the term on topics including Medicare, health care reform, the national debt and services provided by his office.

After redistricting, the 3rd Congressional District contained 703,278 residents, according to the Census Bureau, and included Henderson, Boulder City, Laughlin and rural areas to the southern tip of Clark County.

While Heck’s mail costs were substantial, Lemon noted at the same time the lawmaker has voted to cut office budgets and spent only 77 percent of his allotment for office expenses, ranking 398th among House members.

The cost of free lawmaker mail, which is borne by the strapped U.S. Postal Service, occasionally comes under scrutiny by watchdog groups. Some argue it is a form of free advertising for incumbents even as the communications deal with “official business” and not overtly political matters.

Said Lemon: “Part of the reason many Americans are frustrated with Congress is that their elected officials are out of touch or don’t keep them informed of where they stand on the issues. That critique doesn’t draw water against Congressman Heck, who has made it a priority to keep constituents updated on the major issues being debated in Congress and where he stands on them.”

BUSINESSMAN RUNS FOR ASSEMBLY

The president of a Las Vegas real estate firm has announced his intention to run for the Assembly seat being vacated by Majority Leader William Horne.

Sanje Sedera said he wants to be a strong Democratic voice for the community by using his experience to advocate for small businesses, better schools and help for the homeowners in Nevada who are still hurting from the foreclosure crisis.

Term limits are forcing Horne, a Democrat, out of office in District 34.

“With a Legislature that only meets every two years, we need to maximize the time our legislators are in Carson City and make sure they’re working to improve both opportunities for Nevadans and the climate for business,” Sedera said.

Sedera is married to Dr. Yoojin Lee and is the father of two children.

He is a commissioner of the Southern Nevada Regional Housing Authority, a mediator for the Clark County Neighborhood Justice Center and a member of the Las Vegas Citizens Review Board for the Metropolitan Police Department.

A member of the Asian-American community in Las Vegas, Sedera has spent his professional life in childhood education and real estate. Sedera was born in Sri Lanka and has lived in Nevada since 1995.

The district, which encompasses parts of west Las Vegas and south Summerlin in Clark County, is heavily Democratic. There are 14,692 active registered Democrats and 9,839 Republicans.

— Sean Whaley

ALL AGENDAS TO BE POSTED ON WEB

The agendas of all state boards and commissions will be placed on the nv.gov website when a new state law goes into effect in January.

Leslie Henrie, assistant to state Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp, said Wednesday that nv.gov is the state’s official website and the place where all the agendas must be placed. There are about 200 state boards and commissions that will be affected by the law, one of several legislators approved this year to give citizens greater access to government.

Each agenda must include the name of a contact person whom people can call to gain more materials about individual items on the agendas. An existing law allows citizens to request and be given all supporting material for each item on an agenda, unless the material contains information deemed confidential.

Few people have taken advantage of the law, in part because they did not know whom to contact or of their right to the information, officials said.

The Legislature itself in the past two sessions has been placing all supporting materials, including information presented to committees by witnesses, on its own website. The change has won widespread approval from nearly everyone.

— Ed Vogel

ANALOGY GONE AWRY

A Clark County Family Court judge who decided a couple was not legally married because the judge who married them had not yet taken office might use better analogies to back up her point.

Judge Sandra Pomrenze tried to show that District Judge Bryce Duckworth could not marry a couple in late 2008 before the start of the term of his office began by comparing him to a governor-elect who cannot make decisions before his term begins nor can a “senator-elect” vote.

If she were referring to Nevada state senators, she is wrong.

The state constitution states that legislators’ terms of office begin “the day next after the election.” If the election is the night of Nov. 7, and the Legislature needs to take a vote the next day, then the senator-elect would make it.

The best example of this occurring was the impeachment trial of state Treasurer Kathy Augustine in 2004. The general election was Nov. 2 that year, while the impeachment hearing began Nov. 10. All legislators who won election that month were seated and voted at the impeachment trial, although the legislative session did not begin until the following February.

While the Nevada Supreme Court ruled Aug. 29 that Pomrenze’s decision on the marriage “may have been in error,” they let it stand because one of the parties did not seek relief on the validity of the marriage until a year later.

Justices, however, also cited a law that even a marriage performed by someone who does not have authority to perform one is valid if both parties thought the person had proper marriage authority.

— Ed Vogel

Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC. Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Follow him on Twitter @seanw801. Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com, or 775-687-3901.

 

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