It was political maneuvering and hyperbole with a hint of class warfare thrown in for good measure on Tuesday when some Republican lawmakers raised the “Armani suit” card during a debate over a campaign transparency bill in the Nevada Senate.
The drama began when Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, offered an amendment to Senate Bill 49, a bill dubbed the “Aurora Act” by Secretary of State Ross Miller.
Aurora is the name of the search engine on Miller’s website where the public can go to review campaign contribution and expense reports.
The amendment came on the last day to pass the bill out of the state Senate, and Kieckhefer was taken to task by some colleagues for the late timing of his proposal.
Kieckhefer wanted to add several provisions to the bill, including a requirement for former candidates to dispose of unspent donations within four years if they do not run again for public office.
The proposal was aimed at former Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, who has maintained a six-figure campaign war chest since leaving office in 2010 despite not seeking another elective office.
A separate GOP measure taking aim at Buckley’s campaign fund already failed this session.
The amendment was defeated on an 11-10 party-line vote.
But then some Republican lawmakers, including state Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, and Greg Brower, R-Reno, criticized SB49 for a provision allowing candidates to use campaign funds to purchase clothing related to a campaign or service in public office.
“I can’t believe that any of our constituents would imagine that we could use campaign funds to buy the clothing that we wear,” Brower said.
State Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said the bill makes a lot of improvements in campaign reporting, transparency and accountability, none of which were discussed during the floor debate.
“I think the cynicism with the public is increased when we end up on the floor and accuse our colleagues of wanting to spend money on Armani suits,” she said.
State Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, mentioned a couple of former lawmakers he knew who did not own suits or have the money to buy the clothing required on the Senate and Assembly floor.
“If we tell people, ‘Listen, you can run for office and you can win, but if you don’t have the money to buy a few suits and ties, you can’t serve,’ is that constitutional?” he asked.
“I think my colleague from Senate District 20 always looks sharp though,” Manendo said of Roberson. “He looks like he fell out of a GQ magazine, I tell you. But not everybody can afford that.”
State Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, said: “I’ve never worn an Armani suit. I have no intention of wearing one. All my suits come from Macy’s, and all of them are under $200.”
Lawmakers are part time and should not be held to standards set for full-time legislators, he said.
Roberson said he was “left speechless” by some of the comments but would support the bill if the “Armani provision” was removed.
Ultimately, the clothing provision was left in, and the bill passed 13-8 with two Republicans in support. The bill will now be heard by the Assembly.
— Sean Whaley
MAD BILL RUSH WAS A KILLER
Oh what fun legislators had last Monday and Tuesday as they spent hours on the Senate and Assembly floors approving amendments and passing out hundreds of bills before a Tuesday deadline.
On Monday, Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, pleaded with Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, not to make a lengthy floor statement on an amendment to a bill that would change the state funeral board’s membership.
“It will take some time because it is a long one,” Bobzien responded. “(But) I will shrink it down so it won’t kill you.”
No Assembly members were injured during the long voting session.
— Ed Vogel
HELLER ON CRUTCHES
U.S. Sen. Dean Heller has been on crutches and using a wheelchair following surgery to repair an Achilles tendon.
Heller, 52, had surgery on his lower left leg April 17 at Georgetown University Hospital. He returned to the Senate that afternoon to cast votes.
The Nevada Republican said he was looking at a six-month recovery period, then will need surgery on his right Achilles as well.
He said both were found to have degenerated.
The Achilles tendon is the fiber behind the ankle that connects the calf muscles to the heel. Famous athletes often suffer this malady, such as, most recently, NBA star Kobe Bryant of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Heller was seen Thursday morning entering a Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee hearing on crutches, his left foot wrapped in a bandage. An aide had a wheelchair ready for him outside the hearing room.
Heller attributed the tendon problem to aging, wear and tear.
“Fifty years of basketball didn’t help,” he said.
— Steve Tetreault
For the two sessions he has been in the Assembly, Richard Carrillo, D-Las Vegas, has endured without complaint as the Assembly chief clerk and most legislators, other than his Hispanic colleagues, mispronounce his last name.
One would think the Assembly members, who pride themselves on the diversity of their house, would learn to pronounce his name as kah-REE-yo.
Come on, legislators.
— Ed Vogel
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901. Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@ reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900. Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at email@example.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC.