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New war of words over Berkley bills

A new war of words in the U.S. Senate race was ignited on Monday when Rep. Shelley Berkley introduced two promised pieces of legislation that her opponent, Sen. Dean Heller, wondered were ever going to show up.

As Heller’s campaign was teeing up an accusation that Berkley was making a habit of promising bills and not delivering them,  the Democrat submitted several, including one she touted back in February.

• One Berkley bill seeks to protect taxpayers who deduct state and local sales taxes on their returns. The deduction, which is popular among Nevadans, is only temporary and must be renewed every few years by Congress.

Berkley’s bill that she previewed on Feb. 17 would make the deduction a permanent part of the law, offsetting its cost to the Treasury by a tax surcharge on people with adjusted income of more than $1 million.

• The second bill, which Berkley promised on April 25, forbids federal agencies from avoiding  particular cities when scheduling conferences. Berkley said it would address fears of Las Vegas becoming "blacklisted" in the wake of the now-infamous $832,000 General Services Administration conference at the M Resort in 2010.

As it turns out, the two bills were introduced at roughly the same time that Heller’s campaign was sending out a press release accusing Berkley of making a show of "promising legislation she doesn’t deliver" in order to grab headlines.

"It appears the seven-term congresswoman is campaigning on legislation she doesn’t introduce," said the release that spotlighted Berkley’s promises on the sale tax and conference blacklist, and another, on clean energy tax credits, that took her six weeks to introduce earlier this year.

Chandler Smith,  a Heller spokeswoman, said she found it hard to believe it was coincidence that Berkley’s bills were introduced the same day Heller was calling her out on them.

"Congresswoman Berkley waits weeks, even months, to introduce bills she’s already held press conferences about and now the same day she’s called out publicly for failing to follow through she drops the bills?  Come on congresswoman, do you really think that is believable?" Smith said.

"The simple fact is that the 14-year congresswoman cares more about holding press conferences than she does actually doing her job," Smith said.

A Berkley campaign aide said the two bills were ready last week but could not be introduced because the House was not in session.  They were submitted on Monday when the House reconvened, the spokesman said.

The sales tax bill needed to be redrafted several times to address concerns raised by the House legislative counsel, each time pushing it back several weeks,  according to Berkley’s camp. The GSA bill was drafted just last week by the legislative counsel.

"Really? After voting to turn Medicare over to private insurance companies, extend taxpayer giveaways to Big Oil companies and restrict access to birth control, Dean Heller is attacking Shelley Berkley for being careful and deliberate when crafting legislation?" said Berkley consultant Zac Petkanas. "He should really take a page from Shelley and put a little more thought into his own legislative work before voting to throw seniors, taxpayers and women under the bus."

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