There’s a public defender in charge of Assembly Judiciary, and he’s preventing proposals by Nevada’s attorney general to help veterans and victims of rape, domestic violence and human trafficking from even getting hearings.
Attorney General Adam Laxalt has shown himself to be a practical, hardworking problem solver. Instead of offering sweeping ideological bills, his office has submitted 20 bills to increase public safety, enhance ethics in government and help crime victims.
On the Senate side, nine of his 10 proposals have received committee hearings, but in the Assembly, just four have. There’s an obvious culprit. Assembly Judiciary Chairman Steve Yeager, D-Las Vegas, has heard only one of the six attorney general-sponsored bills before his committee.
The five bills Yeager has yet to schedule for a hearing include AB55, which would mandate testing of rape kits; AB56, which would allow a justice court to establish a program to treat veterans; and AB58, which would increase the penalty for those who intentionally violate a restraining order issued for protection against domestic violence.
It’s easy to understand a Democratic chairman sitting on a controversial bill from a Republican constitutional officer. I applaud Controller Ron Knecht for AB71, his excellent bill reforming the Public Employees Retirement System. But I’m disappointed, not surprised, that Assembly Government Affairs Chairman Edgar Flores, D-Las Vegas, hasn’t given it a hearing.
Laxalt’s bills aren’t like that. These proposals would pass with only minimal dissent if put up for a floor vote. So why is Yeager sitting on them?
Yeager won’t say. His office couldn’t get me off the phone fast enough after I said I was with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. When I called back, his office offered only “no comment.”
Let’s connect the dots. Yeager works for Clark County as a public defender. The attorney general has proposed bills to make the public safer but that could also make Yeager’s $143,000-a-year day job harder. Yeager is using his authority as Judiciary chairman to kill these bills.
This is another reason why public employees shouldn’t be allowed to violate the separation-of-powers clause in the Nevada Constitution.
There’s time to fix this, but not much. In three weeks, non-exempt bills — those without a fiscal impact — have to be voted out of committee, or they’ll die. Assembly Judiciary’s schedule through March 30 doesn’t include any of Laxalt’s bills.
If Yeager doesn’t allow a hearing and vote on these bills, he needs to explain to voters why he prioritized defense attorneys over veterans and victims of rape, domestic violence and human trafficking.
Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Nevada section each Monday, Wednesday and Friday. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.