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Las Vegas budget hits close to home for some council members

Sometimes, it’s the little things.

Las Vegas City Council members Tuesday didn’t blink while passing a $524 general fund budget that included millions of dollars in projected new fee revenue and always uncertain consolidated tax receipts.

But they did spend the better part of an hour weighing different ways to pay for the transfer of neighborhood service staffers now set to take up residence in three out of seven city council offices.

City leaders representing older wards on the east side of town had requested those staffers to better address constituent complaints over neighborhood and park maintenance, though none liked the idea of absorbing the costs of those moves in their executive office budget.

One proposed means of paying for the transfers would have required the staffers to leave their union. Another would have seen the city cut into its ending fund balance or transfer cash from its capital projects budget.

None seemed particularly palatable to Councilman Ricki Barlow, who cast the lone vote opposing the city spending plan.

For Barlow, the city’s failure to carve out additional cash to pay for overtime and other expenses associated with the transfers proved a deal-breaker.

“I need an additional body,” Barlow said. “So I can’t support this budget moving forward if I can’t have that.”

The $300,000 combined cost of the staff transfers opposed by Barlow represented less than a tenth of 1 percent of the city’s expected fiscal year 2016 expenditures.

Discussion surrounding the matter took up 46 percent of the total time dedicated to deliberating the city’s budget.

— James DeHaven

POLL: EARLY SENATE SNAPSHOTS

As U.S. Rep. Joe Heck prepares to announce whether he will run for the Senate, a poll that surfaced last week took an early snapshot of how he matches up against potential opponents, at least for starters.

The Henderson-based Republican led former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, 49 percent to 41 percent, in the poll taken May 11 through May 13 by Wilson Perkins Allen Opinion Research, a GOP firm. The poll of 502 likely voters carried a 4.9 percent margin of error.

In another matchup, the poll shows Heck tied with Democratic Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., holding a statistically insignificant 45 percent to 44 percent edge.

A poll summary first was reported by Politico.

Heck is being heavily courted by national Republicans as Gov. Brian Sandoval has signaled he is little interested in running for Senate in 2016. And while Heck brushed off a race initially, he now is giving it a serious look.

In an interview May 13, Heck said he was “50-50” on running, though some Republicans who have spoken with him have come away with the impression he is leaning more heavily in favor.

“I’m in no hurry to make an announcement or a decision,” Heck said. If he ran, most pundits believe he would clear the field on the Republican side.

Titus also is weighing a Senate race. If she’s a go, that would mean a contested primary against Cortez Masto, who is Sen. Harry Reid’s handpicked choice to succeed him.

Cortez Masto, who was attorney general from 2007 through 2014, declared her Senate candidacy a few days after Reid announced March 27 he was retiring at the end of his term.

Titus, whose district contains the city of Las Vegas and areas of Clark County surrounding the Strip, has said she might announce her intentions after the state Legislature adjourns, which is little more than a week away.

— Steve Tetreault

FIORE SENDS BRASS MESSAGE

The final days of the 2015 session might well be a time when legislators need to make ballsy decisions.

At the very least, Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, thinks so.

She has a special gift for eight of her fellow GOP Assembly members who voted against a “campus carry” bill amendment that would have allowed registered firearms owners to have guns on college campuses.

Fiore’s gift: It’s a key chain with a with a pair of brass testicles — or balls — attached to it. She showed one such key chain to reporters Thursday after the Assembly killed the amendment with a 24-18 vote, saying she plans to give each of the GOP opponents a key chain.

Fiore’s reasoning is that the eight Republican should have supported the amendment to Senate Bill 175. She said they need to “grow a set.”

The shiny brass balls didn’t get mentioned one day later, when seven of the eight GOP Assembly members introduced a new campus carry bill.

It’s unclear why, exactly, the seven changed their stance, or if those new brass balls had anything to do with it.

The seven sponsors are Republican Assembly members James Oscarson, Jim Wheeler, Melissa Woodbury, Derek Armstrong, Chris Edwards, Stephen Silberkraus and Lynn Stewart.

Majority Leader Paul Anderson, who also opposed the amendment, is the only Republican who isn’t sponsoring the new bill.

— Ben Botkin

Contact James DeHaven at jdehaven@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3839. Find him on Twitter: @JamesDeHaven. Contact Review-Journal Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault@reviewjournal.com or 202-783-1760. Find him on Twitter: @STetreaultDC. Contact Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-405-9781. Find him on Twitter: @BenBotkin1.

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