Assemblyman Steven Brooks takes seat; expected to take leave of absence
(AP) – As the Nevada Legislature convened Monday, troubled Assemblyman Steven Brooks was set to be sworn in before taking a leave of absence, statehouse leaders said.
Brooks, D-North Las Vegas, was arrested Jan. 19 on allegations he threatened incoming Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, a fellow North Las Vegas Democrat.
His arrest launched a string of bizarre events, ending with his hospitalization for a mental evaluation. He was released Thursday, and came to Carson City to take his seat.
Kirkpatrick said Monday that Brooks will be sworn in and then take medical leave for an undisclosed period of time.
“I think the most important thing is Steven recognizes he needs to get his medical affairs taken care of, and that’s a priority for all of us,” Kirkpatrick told The Associated Press before Monday’s session began.
She said she met with Brooks on Sunday. “We had a conversation. He apologized. We will move forward.”
Outside his office Monday, Brooks declined to comment on his immediate plans. Last week in a telephone interview he told the AP that he intended to take his seat.
Kirkpatrick said the Assembly still intended to appoint a select committee to look into Brooks’ conduct and recommend procedures for how do deal with issues involving legislative members in the future.
“Honestly, we’ve never had an avenue to deal with things that might come before us,” she said.
After being arrested Jan. 19 when he was found to have a gun and ammunition in his car, Brooks has posed shirtless for a newspaper photograph and was later taken into custody for a mental evaluation after a domestic disturbance.
Kirkpatrick is poised to become only the second woman to lead the Assembly in Nevada history when she assumes the gavel. Former lawmaker Barbara Buckley, a Las Vegas Democrat, was the first to hold the position during the 2007 and 2009 sessions.
Monday starts the clock ticking on a 120-day session that by law must end by midnight June 3.
Opening day is typically reserved for accolades, speeches and introductions before lawmakers begin to tackle the state’s business.
Lawmakers will debate Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval’s $6.5 billion general fund budget proposal against a backdrop of tax discussions.
Sandoval has said he won’t support any new tax increases, though his two-year budget plan includes extending $620 million in taxes that otherwise would expire June 30.
Democrats promise a discussion on Nevada’s tax structure, and Kirkpatrick said that review will begin on Day 2. Hanging in the wings is a tax initiative pushed by the state teachers union and other labor groups that was upheld last week by the Nevada Supreme Court. The proposal would impose a 2 percent tax on businesses that gross over $1 million a year to help fund education.
Legislators by law have 40 days to pass the measure – an unlikely scenario – or it automatically goes to voters in 2014.