Fiore, now majority leader, not backing down

If you expected newly named Assembly Majority Leader-designate Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, to moderate her views now that she’s the No. 2 woman in leadership in the lower house, well, you just don’t know Fiore.

In a lunchtime interview Wednesday, Fiore didn’t back away from any of her positions on issues ranging from guns to taxes. She confirmed she was retaining her chairwomanship of the Assembly Taxation Committee, a post she was assigned by resigned Speaker-designate Ira Hansen last month.

Hansen resigned after a series of controversial columns he wrote for the Sparks Tribune were reported, first by the Reno News & Review, that were seen as racist, sexist and homophobic. On Tuesday, Assembly Republicans met and appointed Assemblyman John Hambrick speaker-designate, Fiore majority leader-designate and Hansen assistant minority leader-designate.

Although Fiore in 2010 signed the Americans for Tax Reform pledge, which commits signers not to vote for a net increase in taxes, she said her committee would give a hearing to any idea, including a margin tax similar to the one recently rejected by voters 79 percent to 21 percent.

“We’re open to hearing everything,” said Fiore, who was careful not to commit to voting for or against any specific proposal until it was vetted by her committee.

Fiore says she’s most interested in examining the more than 300 tax exemptions in state law, and perhaps eliminating some in order to increase revenue. Until the recent special session held to approve a tax incentive package for electric-car maker Tesla Motors, Fiore said she was unaware of a home-office tax credit that benefited insurance companies, for example.

Fiore said Gov. Brian Sandoval and Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson are still assessing the state budget, and that she doesn’t think a final decision has been made to approve a tax package. But after the Economic Forum issued a report on state revenue, Sandoval today issued a statement that seemed to indicate the state will need more money and tax reform going forward.

“While I am encouraged by positive economic indicators such as job creation and the falling unemployment rate, I am also reminded that our traditional revenue sources are not keeping pace with our state’s growth demands,” Sandoval said in his statement. “Today’s Economic Forum report reminds us yet again that our revenue structure is not built to meet the demands of our changing economy nor our continued increase in statewide population. Before I finalize and submit the state budget, I will ask my Cabinet to further scale back agency budget requests so that we can factor into account today’s projections.”

Fiore also said Republicans would see familiar legislation, including her bill to allow licensed concealed weapons permit holders to carry firearms on campuses of the Nevada System of Higher Education. (Her bill on that subject died in the Assembly Judiciary Committee in 2013, although Fiore maintains she had the votes to get it to the Assembly floor.)

In addition, Fiore said she would push for bills eliminating Clark County’s “blue card” gun registration program. During a debate in the Clark County sheriff’s race on 8NewsNow, both retired Metro Capt. Larry Burns and eventual winner, Metro Assistant Sheriff Joe Lombardo, said they favored eliminating the program, too.

“We’re getting our gun rights back this session, period,” Fiore said.

She even suggested bringing back “rifle clubs,” which she said existed when she attended high school in New York. “We need to bring back rifle clubs,” Fiore said. (Since firearms are prohibited on high school property, a change in the law would be required.)

Fiore also said public lands bills — including legislation governing the conduct of the Bureau of Land Management stemming from its April standoff with rancher Cliven Bundy — were being prepared. She said the federal government was failing to properly manage public lands. “They’re not taking care of it because they can’t afford to,” Fiore said.

Fiore was the most vocal elected official supporting Bundy, who’d failed to pay grazing fees to the federal government for 20 years, despite court orders to do so. (She faced off with MSNBC host Chris Hayes on the issue, in fact.) After a large number of self-styled armed militia members showed up at his Bunkerville ranch, the BLM stopped a court-ordered seizure of Bundy’s cattle.

In addition, Fiore — who was a primary sponsor of a voter ID bill in the 2013 Legislature — said she expects that issue to return in 2015, as well as school vouchers, which allow parents to take the equivalent of what the state spends per pupil and use it to defray tuition costs at private or parochial schools. (Although the Nevada Constitution prohibits state money being used for sectarian education, some conservatives believe that if vouchers are given to parents, rather than directly to parochial schools, a voucher program could be legal.)

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