GOP two-step

An interesting joust between Republican leaders is being played out in advance of the Feb. 2 start date of the 2015 Nevada Legislature.

On Dec. 2, the Republican members of the Nevada Assembly met to sort out the changes after Washoe Assemblymember Ira Hansen announced he would decline the job of speaker, to which he had been nominated by an earlier GOP caucus.

With Hansen reportedly holding enough proxies to determine all the posts up for election or nomination, John Hambrick was designated as speaker, and Michelle Fiore was elected Republican floor leader.

Note that we used different terms for Hambrick and Fiore—designated and elected. That's because speaker is a public office, and floor leader is a party office. Thus, the Republican caucus has the power to elect its floor leader, but the Nevada Assembly elects the speaker. Hambrick is a nominee for speaker who has not yet been elected, but Fiore assumed her post immediately.

Jump ahead a few steps. After wrangles over whether Fiore, whose private business has had chronic problems with the tax people, should be chair of the Assembly Taxation Committee, Hambrick claimed to remove Fiore as floor leader. The problem is that Hambrick wasn't anything except a member of the Assembly yet. Fiore was both a member of the Assembly and floor leader. It's not clear where he would get the authority to do anything, much less remove her from her party post. Fiore was elected by the Republican caucus, so presumably it would take action by the caucus to remove her.

She sent him a letter: “You need to know that a sizable portion of the members of the caucus still consider me the majority leader, as do I. … Your reasoning that you can remove me as Majority Leader is faulty to say the least. Following that reasoning to its logical conclusion means you could remove Assemblywoman Kirkpatrick as minority [Democratic] leader.”

He responded in his own letter, “That is absolutely not a logical conclusion! The minority leader is the leader of the opposition party. The Speaker is the leader of the majority party. The majority FLOOR leader garners all of its responsibility at the will of the Speaker.”

Hambrick's problem is that he is not yet speaker. That election won't be held for another month. Fiore, on the other hand, is already Republican floor leader. Even if Hambrick were already speaker, that would give him authority over Assembly posts like committee chairs but not over party positions. Those would still be elected by the GOP caucus.

So Hambrick, who is not yet speaker, has tried to remove Fiore as floor leader, a job she already has. She refuses to go. Stay tuned.