Fiore loses leadership of Taxation Committee; alleges ‘war on women’

CARSON CITY — Las Vegas Assembly­woman Michele Fiore has been ousted as chairwoman of the Taxation Committee by Republican leadership, the lawmaker confirmed Wednesday, characterizing the move as a Republican “war on women.”

Fiore, who is facing criticism for tax liens placed against her home health care business, was removed by Assembly Speaker-designate John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, on Wednesday. Her tax problems were reported in 2010 when she unsuccessfully ran for Congress and recently have been resurrected by political pundit Jon Ralston.

Fiore’s vice chairwoman, Victoria Seaman, R-Las Vegas, has also been removed from her position.

In their places, freshman Derek Armstrong, R-Henderson, has been named chairman of the panel and Pat Hickey, R-Reno, has been named vice chairman, Sparks Assemblyman Ira Hansen said.

In an emailed statement in response to Hambrick’s decision, Fiore and Seaman characterized the move as a “war on women” within the Republican Party.

Fiore, who would serve as the first female GOP majority leader based on last week’s caucus meeting, said: “It appears a few men in our party are not happy that we have Republican women in key leadership roles in the Legislature, and may look to Democrats for help in unraveling more leadership roles.

“Women make up only 35 percent of the Nevada Assembly, while they are 50 percent of our population in Nevada; it seems it is time for women to have a voice and take on leadership roles in Nevada government.”

Of the 15 women in the Assembly, seven are Republicans, and of those, five are freshmen Assembly members. This is the largest influx of Republican women in decades, Fiore noted.

Seaman said: “To replace the two women elected to the Taxation Committee with two men sends a very dangerous message to Nevada women voters. Women pay taxes too in Nevada. They are small-business owners and they usually control the household budgets. They deserve to have women in leadership roles looking to impact the laws on taxation in Nevada.”

Assemblywoman Jill Dickman, R-Sparks, said: “Republican voters in Nevada elected women to represent them in majority numbers this year. Education, the economy, and other core value issues are what women face every day as working moms, single parents, wives, and mothers. They want to see conservative women with values they relate to in leadership roles.”

Hansen had earlier confirmed the move by Hambrick.

Hansen stepped down as speaker-designate last month after an outcry over statements he made as a newspaper columnist for the Sparks Tribune came to light. The comments were described by critics as racist and homophobic.

Hambrick became speaker-designate after a caucus meeting last week. He could not be reached for comment.

The GOP caucus in the Assembly has been in turmoil since winning the majority in the Nov. 4 election.

Hansen said he has asked Hambrick to reconsider his decision regarding Fiore and Seaman, saying there is an effort under­way to remove conservative Republicans from any meaningful participation in the 2015 session.

Hansen said Fiore is likely still the elected majority leader for now, since Hambrick alone cannot remove her from the leadership position.

But even more alarming to Hansen is the potential “unholy” alliance of a handful of moderate Assembly Republicans with the 17 Democrats in the 42-member body to take control for the 2015 session.

Republicans took the majority in a sweep in November, going from a 15-member minority to a 25-member majority, controlling the Assembly for the first time since 1985.

But since then the caucus, divided among conservative no-tax members and a more middle-of-the-road contingent, has failed to coalesce and finalize its committee members and assignments.

Hansen said a rumored Dec. 22 meeting among some Assembly Republicans, including Hickey, who was passed over for Assembly speaker-designate when Hansen was selected, and Democrats to form a new majority has substance.

Hickey did not respond to a request for comment regarding a possible upcoming meeting with Democrats.

At the time Fiore was running for Congress, she said the IRS was wrong, but has not since expanded on that. A federal tax lien is the government’s legal claim against your property when you neglect or fail to pay a tax debt, according to the IRS.

The Assembly Taxation Committee will play a crucial role in the upcoming session.

GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval is expected to propose some type of revenue plan for the new budget at his State of the State address in January, but he has not disclosed any details. With a Republican majority in the state Senate expected to work with the governor on increased funding for public education, the discord in the Assembly has been a cause for concern.

Hambrick said last week he would support Sandoval in any increased funding for public education, even though he signed a pledge promising not to raise taxes.

Contact Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.