CARSON CITY — Las Vegas Assemblywoman Michele Fiore’s tax liens and problems with the IRS were cited in her second removal from Assembly leadership positions Thursday.
Fiore’s removal could clear the way for moderate Republicans to control the Assembly in the 2015 session and eliminate any talk of a GOP-Democratic partnership challenge to the leadership. It could also smooth the way for Gov. Brian Sandoval to win more funding for public education.
Assembly Speaker designate John Hambrick reversed course on Fiore for a second time in recent weeks and removed the controversial lawmaker as majority leader. She has also been removed as chairwoman of the Taxation Committee.
Hambrick said in an announcement that he made the decision because Fiore failed to adequately address her IRS issues.
“I found that Michele’s explanations of her IRS issues were unacceptable,” Hambrick said. “They left unanswered questions, were full of deflections and slanderous allegations that have left our caucus further divided. At this time I feel it is best to (relieve) Assemblywoman Fiore of her leadership roles in the Assembly.”
Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, picked moderate Republican Paul Anderson, R-Las Vegas, as the new majority leader.
He named Assemblyman Derek Armstrong, R-Las Vegas, to lead Taxation. Armstrong is a practicing tax attorney but a freshman legislator. Hambrick said has “real world experience brings insight and experience that is needed in such a complex committee.”
Both Anderson and Armstrong are moderates in the GOP caucus, which is split nearly evenly between moderates and conservatives. The appointments, if they hold, would likely end any talk of some moderate Republicans joining with the 17 Assembly Democrats to form a new leadership team.
The appointments are also a plus for Sandoval, who is expected to seek increased funding levels for education when he presents his budget at his State of the State address on Jan. 15. Sandoval will need the support of Republicans and Democrats to get the two-thirds vote needed to raise new tax revenues.
Fiore could not immediately be reached for comment.
Anderson said: “Speaker Hambrick did what he thought best to unite the caucus and bring an end to the internal strife. This allows us to move forward and get to the business of the people.”
In his statement, Hambrick said: “The unprecedented Assembly election victories on November 4th created great opportunities for the Republican Assembly (RAC) to lead in the 78th Session of the Nevada Legislature. In preparation for the session the RAC has had some challenges in creating a cohesive unified body. The changes that have occurred today will help resolve these issues.”
The leadership changes come just days after Fiore spoke to the Review-Journal and other news media about more than $1 million in IRS tax liens against her home health care businesses in an effort to put an end to the controversy.
Fiore said she is fully compliant with the IRS and owes less than $200,000 to the agency, although she did not provide any documentation to support her claim.
But Hambrick said: “Michele’s actions have brought undue negativity and disharmony to our caucus. The attention to Michele’s tax issues, conspiracy theories and slanderous remarks have drawn the focus of our caucus members away from their constituents and preparation for the upcoming session.”
The 25-member Republican Assembly Caucus has been in turmoil since winning the majority in the general election month.
The caucus’ first choice for speaker designate, Ira Hansen of Sparks, stepped down under pressure from Gov. Brian Sandoval and others after newspaper columns he had written for a Sparks newspaper prompted a backlash. Critics said some of the comments were racist and homophobic.
The caucus then picked Hambrick to lead them in the 2015 session, and also picked Fiore as majority leader. Fiore also was named to helm the important Taxation Committee.
Hambrick later reversed course and removed Fiore from her tax committee leadership post, but changed his mind the following day.
Hambrick said that replacing Fiore with Anderson was the obvious choice.
“Anderson was originally elected the majority leader and I believe the majority of caucus members were correct in this,” he said. “Anderson has proven himself to be a great leader by guiding our caucus to victory in 25 seats as the RAC political director.”
An indication Hambrick was upset with Fiore came Tuesday after she appeared on the Alan Stock radio program in Las Vegas, where she criticized Las Vegas Republican Monte Miller, and two caucus consultants, Nathan Emens, Cory Christensen, for efforts to oust her from leadership.
In a Facebook post, Hambrick defended all three, and called Fiore’s remarks “truly regrettable and an embarrassment to our caucus.”
He urged Fiore to make a public apology.
Committee assignments will largely remain the same, Hambrick said. The few changes that do need to occur will be released soon, he said.
Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3900. Find him on Twitter: @seanw801.