The crack in the GOP Assembly caucus widened Tuesday as conservative members balked at passing Senate Bill 119 out of the Government Affairs Committee.
That bill lifts the requirement school and university construction projects pay prevailing wages to tradesmen — a change long sought by conservative lawmakers and strongly opposed by Democrats.
But it also allows school districts to add 10 years to the life of their bonds without going back to a vote of the people — which that same block of newly-elected and strongly conservative Republicans object to.
The battle for control of the caucus surfaced following the November election after Ira Hansen of Sparks was ousted as Speaker amid charges he wrote racist columns for a Sparks newspaper years ago. Assemblywoman Michele Fiore of Las Vegas was initially named majority leader and chairman of Taxation but was removed from both posts after the discovery she was battling huge liens filed by the IRS. She initially claimed it was gender discrimination.
What appeared to be a lull in the fight resurfaced late last week when SB119 reached the Government Affairs Committee.
The first attempt to move the bill to the floor of the Assembly stalled on a 7-7 vote. After a hearing lasting more than two hours on another bill and a 15 minute closed door caucus, Chairman John Ellison, R-Elko emerged with an 8-6 vote to put SB119 on the Assembly floor for debate without a recommendation.
Several members of his caucus including John Moore, Stephen Silberkraus and Glen Trowbridge, all from the south, made it clear they would send the measure to the floor but didn’t intend to support it unless the bond-rollover language was amended out.
“I could go back and give a 45-minute speech about the problems and concerns I have with the bill,” Trowbridge told the Associated Press.
That prompted Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, and Becky Harris, R-Las Vegas, to introduce SB207 as an emergency measure containing nothing but the bond rollover language.
They described the bond language as critical to enable school districts to build badly needed classrooms. It passed shortly after introduction and was sent to the Assembly.
“We believe school overcrowding and degraded facilities have reached a level of crisis in Nevada that can no longer be ignored,” she said in a joint statement. “Our hope is that the Assembly passes SB119 by the end of this week. However, it is clear that any further delay past this week will put at risk critical school construction deadlines in Clark County.”
It’s likely that bill, with support from Democrats, would pass the Assembly despite the objections of the Tea Party wing. The difficulty might be in getting the measure out of the Assembly Government Affairs Committee and to the floor for a vote.
The prevailing wage language, which many in the GOP consider critical reform, could be taken up as a separate measure later and probably win a majority vote in both houses.