Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, said flatly on Friday two significant Republican bills won’t get a hearing in his end of the building.
Asked whether Sen. Scott Hammond’s new enabling legislation for the school vouchers program would get a committee hearing, he said simply, “No.”
But Ford reserved judgment on a similar measure being prepared by Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office.
“We’ll look at the governor’s bill,” he said. “I’ll make a determination after I see the bill.”
He said the Democratic focus “is on public school education and public school funding.”
The comments came during the weekly press availability Ford and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, hold each Friday.
Ford previously said he doubted any Democrat would vote for the so-called Educational Savings Accounts program this session.
The program was approved on a party-line vote by Republican majorities in the Senate and Assembly in the final hours of the 2015 Legislature. While the Nevada Supreme Court said the concept of ESA’s could be constitutional, it ruled it unconstitutional because the funding was taken directly from the K-12 General Fund budget. Ironically, the basis for that ruling was the Education First amendment to Nevada’s constitution pushed by then Rep. Jim Gibbons before he became governor.
Also in Friday’s briefing, Ford was asked when there would be a hearing for Sen. James Settelmeyer’s bill to allow open primary voting. The bill would let voters choose the primary they want to vote in — including those registered non-partisan who currently don’t get to vote in primary elections period.
“It’s not,” said Ford.
Asked why, he cut off a reporter, saying, “We don’t think it’s worth a hearing. Next question.”
Asked for a reaction to the machinations in Washington, D.C., surrounding the Affordable Care Act, Frierson declined.
“I don’t think it would be a good sign for us to address legislation this important with ultimatums,” he said. “Congress has a job to do and I don’t know if ‘my way or the highway’ is the best way to address it.”
Ford said he was glad, however, Sandoval “is aligned with us on this thing.” He referred to the letter to Congress by Sandoval and several other governors of states calling for changes to the GOP healthcare plan to protect Medicaid recipients who signed up for coverage under the Medicaid expansion.
The refusal to hold committee hearings on legislation, however, isn’t new or uncommon. It’s a common tactic by the majority party to handle measures they don’t agree with that are proposed by the minority.