Gibbons, lawmakers graded on racial equity efforts

CARSON CITY — Some of the Legislature’s most progressive members were not happy Tuesday about grades they received from the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada on their votes on racial equity issues in the 2009 session.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-North Las Vegas, received a C- while Sen. Bernice Mathews, D-Reno, and Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, each earned a D- grade.

Both Horsford and Mathews are black, while Coffin’s mother was Hispanic.

"It certainly poses a challenge for him and his leadership," PLAN President Kenya Pierce said about Horsford’s grade.

"PLAN does these kind of things to get attention," Coffin said. "It is a well-meaning, but incomplete first effort. They will improve with time."

Horsford defended his record.

"I am very proud of the progressive items we passed in 2009, protecting education funding and giving same-sex partners benefits," he said. "It was a difficult (session) and we have to deal with extreme revenue shortfalls."

Report organizers looked at bills they said were tied to issues of civil rights and education, economic, and health equity.

PLAN Executive Director Bob Fulkerson said legislators and the governor were analyzed on their support for legislation that, if passed, would have had a positive effect on communities of color.

More than 1.1 million of Nevada’s 2.6 million residents are Hispanic, black or belong to other minority groups, according to PLAN.

"Race matters in Nevada," Fulkerson said. "While a few leaders championed laws for all, missed opportunities in health and education crippled this legislative session."

Pierce said she works closely with Horsford and that he was disappointed with his grade.

She called Horsford a "champion for racial justice."

Despite his C- grade, Horsford missed what the liberal-leaning group considered correct votes on just two of the nine votes on which senators were graded. However, all lawmakers were docked points right off the bat for not passing legislation that would have helped minorities achieve health equity.

Horsford voted for the Real ID bill, which calls for drivers to produce more documentation about their identities before getting a license. He also voted against a bill to establish a plan for education programs for pre-kindergarten children. PLAN said those votes were wrong.

Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, was taken back by her F- score.

"I stand by my record," Gansert said. "I can tell you we work for common sense legislation."

Gov. Jim Gibbons also received an F- grade.

"PLAN needs to take five seconds and tell the governor everything they know about good, responsive government," said Daniel Burns, Gibbons’ communications director. "They just don’t have a feel for good, responsive government."

Overall, the Assembly received an A+ for its full support of 10 racial equity bills and the Senate received a D+ for its support of six of nine racial equity bills.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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