The absence of decorum

It’s easy — oh, so very easy — to poke fun at Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas.

Last week, Nevada’s most infamous lawmaker stormed off the Assembly floor after an amendment she badly wanted inserted into another bill failed. She was briefly barred from returning to the Assembly chamber, but eventually got her privileges back after an apology.

It was her second apology, if you’ll recall. The first came after she broke protocol to order Assemblyman Chris Edwards, R-Las Vegas, to “sit your ass down,” again, during floor debate. Subtle, she’s not.

But let’s also consider for a moment the incredible stress that may have contributed to Fiore’s outbursts, not to justify them, but to understand.

First, the amendment in question was an important one to her: It would allow people 21 years old and older who have earned concealed-weapons permits to carry guns on college campuses. Fiore brought the legislation in the 2013 session, too, only to see it stall.

Although there’s plenty of room for debate on the topic, Fiore thinks the bill would make things better. She cites the case of Amanda Collins, a UNR student who was brutally raped in 2007. Collins was a concealed-weapons permit holder, but she left her gun at home because guns were banned on campus. Her attacker had a weapon, however.

Second, Fiore is frustrated at the process. Her idea passed the Assembly as a bill, but stalled in the state Senate, where the chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Greg Brower, R-Reno, says there aren’t enough votes to pass it. (Curiously, Brower himself voted for campus carry in 2013.)

Third, Fiore has worked hard to keep her bill alive. After Brower refused to bring it up in his committee, Fiore engineered a way to introduce it as an amendment to another gun bill. It was the failure of this amendment that sparked last week’s outburst.

Fourth, Fiore feels betrayed by fellow Republicans, from Brower to Speaker John Hambrick, who declined to hold a roll call vote on the amendment after a division of the house (in which supporters and opponents of the amendment stood up in the chamber to be counted, but were not officially recorded as voting). And four of the eight Republicans who stood against her amendment were co-sponsors of her original bill!

Add to that the long days, flurry of bills, amendments, conferences and other legislative business that occupy lawmakers’ limited time, and it’s a wonder everybody doesn’t blow up.

But that’s just the thing: They don’t.

In the state Senate, Democrats have had to endure votes on measures they hate wrapped inside measures they love. They’ve seen the rules changed mid-session, essentially to limit amendments to bills on the floor. And they’ve had some heated exchanges with each other. But Minority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, has never stormed off the floor or used inappropriate language thereon.

Some Republicans in the Assembly have been the target of attacks from right-wing bloggers and activists for their moderate stances or their willingness to vote for taxes. And while it’s never fun to be publicly pilloried, none of them have brought shame or mockery on the institution.

At one time or another, it’s a good bet every single lawmaker has wanted to erupt at some unfairness, some killed bill or watered-down amendment, some last-minute trick that costs him or her a prized piece of legislation. But they realize what Fiore needs to: That’s democracy, the very worst form of government, except for all the others, or so Winston Churchill once reminded us. It’s full of frustrations, defeats, setbacks and, occasionally, tiny little incremental victories.

Personally, I’m no fan of Fiore’s campus carry bill, although I can understand her anger and frustration at its fate. Maybe someday, she’ll be able to understand why respecting the institution is as important as being successful in it.

Steve Sebelius is a Las Vegas Review-Journal political columnist who blogs at SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or ssebelius@reviewjournal.com.

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