CARSON CITY — The Assembly could make history this week as a special committee considers the status of Steven Brooks, who has been arrested twice and hospitalized for a mental evaluation.
The saga of Brooks, D-North Las Vegas, is one of several weighty topics lawmakers will confront when the eighth week of the session begins Monday.
Here are five highlights of the upcoming legislative agenda:
JUDGING FITNESS TO SERVE
A new chapter in Nevada history could be written when a Select Committee convenes to hear evidence and recommend whether one of their own is fit to serve. The seven-member bipartisan panel is scheduled to meet Tuesday night at the Carson City Courthouse to consider Brooks’ political fate.
Brooks’ public troubles began Jan. 19 when he was arrested on allegations he voiced threats against Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas. Days later he was hospitalized for a mental evaluation when police responded to a domestic call at his grandmother’s home.
Brooks, who was elected to a second term in November, was seated with his colleagues when the Legislature convened Feb. 4. He was always accompanied by a police escort. A week later he was arrested again after police said he grabbed for an officer’s gun during an incident at his estranged wife’s home.
The Assembly banished him from the building, put him on leave and appointed the special committee to look into his behavior and recommend what action, if any, should be taken against Brooks.
The Nevada Constitution gives the Senate and Assembly sole authority to judge the qualifications of their members, and no member has ever been expelled, which takes a two-thirds majority or 28 votes in the 42-member Assembly.
MINING TAX CHANGES PROPOSAL
Mining is a frequent target when lawmakers look for new revenue sources, and this session is no different.
But the intensity of the mining tax debate ramped up when some Senate Republicans said they would propose an alternative ballot measure to raise mining taxes.
Before they can do that, lawmakers, and voters, must repeal taxing limits the state constitution has afforded the industry since statehood. In 2011, Senate Joint Resolution 15 passed 13-8 in the Senate and 27-15 in the Assembly. It must be approved by lawmakers again this year and by voters in 2014 to change the constitution.
The Senate Committee on Revenue and Economic Development has a hearing on the measure Tuesday.
WILD ANIMAL MEASURES PROPOSED
Don’t feed the animals. That’s one of three wild animal-related bills to be considered Thursday by the Senate Natural Resources Committee.
Senate Bill 371, sponsored by Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, would make it illegal to intentionally feed wild animals, except birds. It also would impose escalating fines for violations.
Senate Bill 213 would set new restrictions on the trapping of fur-bearers.
And Senate Bill 234, sponsored by Republican Sen. Michael Roberson of Henderson and others, would ban keeping dangerous animals as pets. That bill is a response to last summer’s rampage by two chimpanzees in North Las Vegas that left residents terrorized, one animal dead and another with a one-way ticket to an out-of-state sanctuary.
GAY MARRIAGE RULES UNDER REVIEW
In 2000 and 2002, Nevada voters approved the Protection of Marriage Act, a constitutional amendment proclaiming that “only a marriage between a male and female person shall be recognized and given effect in this state.”
In 2009, Nevada lawmakers overrode a governor’s veto and enacted domestic partnerships, extending rights similar to those of married couples to co-habitating couples, whether gay or straight.
Now, legislators are poised to debate the first step toward repealing the constitutional marriage definition, a step toward sanctioning same-sex marriage.
Senate Joint Resolution 13 will be heard Tuesday by the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections.
If approved this year and by the 2015 Legislature, it would be put to voters in 2016 for ratification.
WASHINGTON POLITICS COMES TO TOWN
Two members of Nevada’s congressional delegation come to town this week to address a joint session.
Republican Rep. Mark Amodei will speak 5:30 p.m. Monday in the Assembly chamber. Amodei won a special election in September 2011 to represent Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District, a heavily Republican area covering most of rural Northern Nevada. He replaced Dean Heller who was appointed to the U.S. Senate earlier that year.
Heller will address the Legislature at 5 p.m. Thursday. Heller retained his Senate seat in November after a grueling campaign against former Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley of Las Vegas. Heller won by about 12,000 votes in an election where more than 45,000 ballots were cast for “none of the above.”