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Brooks neglects constituents

CARSON CITY — Assemblyman Steven Brooks might soon suffer the ultimate political loss if he is found unfit for office by his peers, but he isn’t the only victim of his own recent erratic behavior.

The residents of Assembly District 17 in North Las Vegas are losing out as well while their representative in the 42-member Assembly is on forced leave with pay.

Brooks, a Democrat whose questionable behavior has resulted in an Assembly Select Committee being formed to consider his ouster, has been absent from the Legislature since Feb. 7.

He left the Assembly on his own for medical treatment but was later banned from the building by Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, until his status as a lawmaker is resolved. That won’t likely be finalized until mid-March, at the earliest.

None of Brooks’ 13 bills have been intro­duced. His office is closed and there is no staff to take constituent calls. He has also missed two major Assembly votes, one to change a local government revenue sharing formula, which has important financial implications for the city of North Las Vegas, and another legalizing online poker.

But Brooks’ constituents in District 17, which stretches from Craig Road on the south to the Las Vegas Beltway on the north, have not voiced any concerns publicly about their lack of representation.

An effort to contact area businesses on the issue produced only a limited response, including that of Candy DeLucia, owner of DeLucias Pizzeria on East Centennial Parkway.

DeLucia said it is a concern that she has no representation in the Assembly in the state capital, although she was unaware of the details of Brooks’ current situation.

“Don’t you think we should be represented?” she asked.

Even so, the small-business owner said she has not in the past reached out to a state lawmaker on a constituent issue.

Despite the general lack of concern, dozens of bills are being considered by the Legislature this session that could affect District 17 businesses and residents, from a tax on fast food to a margins tax on business revenue.

SPEARMAN HELPS FILL IN

State Sen. Patricia Spearman, D-North Las Vegas, whose District 1 overlays Assembly District 17, said she is helping fill the gap in constituent services created by Brooks’ absence.

In an interview last week, she likened it to one parent picking up the slack in a household when the other is sick.

“If one parent gets sick, does it mean the children suffer?” she asked. “No. Because you have one responsible parent left. That responsible parent auto­matically picks up the other duties.

“His constituents are my constituents, even if he was here,” Spearman said.

Rick Combs, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said efforts have been made to direct constituent calls for Brooks to Spearman.

Brooks continues to receive emails to his legislative address because it remains active, Combs said. But if a call is made to Brooks’ office, staff in the Assembly chief clerk’s office answer the call and assist the individual, he added.

“If it is a constituent, they are informed of the situation and are referred to Senator Spearman because she is their legislator too,” he said in an email response.

An email sent to Brooks’ legislative address by a reporter generated no response. Brooks is collecting nearly $150 a day during his absence from the Legislature.

Other lawmakers representing North Las Vegas in the Legislature include Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, who Brooks is alleged to have threatened, Assemblywomen Olivia Diaz and Dina Neal, and state Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, all Democrats.

BIG ISSUES COMING UP

While he has missed important votes, it is unlikely Brooks’ presence or vote would have had any significant impact on the measures that have been taken up.

Both the local government revenue bill and the Internet gaming measure passed the Assembly with unanimous votes.

The revenue bill, which is now in the Senate, provoked a heated exchange between North Las Vegas Mayor Shari Buck and Kirkpatrick when it was heard by the Taxation Committee last month.

Buck said the city should receive more funding from the consolidated taxes and that the formula was unfair.

But Kirkpatrick, who also represents North Las Vegas in the Assembly, rejected her arguments.

Whether Brooks would have played a role in supporting the North Las Vegas request is unknown.

It is unclear just how important Brooks’ potential votes on future bills could be. He is one of 27 Democrats in the Assembly, one shy of the two-thirds majority needed to increase taxes or override a veto from the governor. Without him, Assembly Democrats would need to find two Republican lawmakers to support such efforts instead of just one.

Brooks’ bill proposals range from changes to the rules about dispensing marijuana for medical purposes to the distribution of property taxes to re­development agencies.

If Brooks is removed from office, the Clark County Commission will decide on a replacement. The new lawmaker would have to be from the same party.

Finding a replacement should not take long. It took the commission less than three weeks to name a replacement for former Assemblywoman April Mastroluca, who resigned in November for personal reasons.

The commission last month also approved a plan to streamline appointments to vacant legislative seats if the situation arises again.

HOW BROOKS’ PROBLEMS STARTED

Brooks was banished from the Legislative Building after two recent arrests, including one on Jan. 19 following accusations that he threatened Kirkpatrick, possibly over his committee assignments. According to police, Brooks had a gun in his car and dozens of rounds of ammunition.

Days after posting bail, he was detained and hospitalized for a mental evaluation after a disturbance at his grandmother’s house involving a sword.

On Feb. 10, he was arrested on suspicion of physically attacking his estranged wife in Las Vegas, then grabbing for an officer’s gun as he was taken into custody.

Most recently, Brooks attempted to buy a rifle at a Sparks sporting goods store but was denied for one year based on a background check. The reason for the denial has not been disclosed.

Mitchell Posin, Brooks’ attorney, said the gun purchase was blown out of proportion.

Brooks has denied wrongdoing in connection with any of the incidents.

Contact reporter Sean Whaley at
swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.

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