Michele Fiore is beyond pathetic

“Sit your ass down,” she yelled into the micro-phone on the Assembly Floor, interrupting a colleague from her own party who was questioning her proposed amendment to the infamous Bundy Bill. There were gasps of disbelief at the unprecedented breach of decorum, and she was quickly ruled out of order. Her subsequent forced apology, complete with rolled eyes and hand gestures, was worthy of an immature and obnoxious adolescent. This is what term limits has wrought.

The Assembly floor session on the evening of the first-house-passage deadline of April 21 was a train wreck in slow motion, careening steadily toward the culminating display of crass, rude, and intolerable behavior by Assemblymember Michele Fiore.

Broadcast to the world via the Internet, Assemblymember Fiore’s public explosion had been building all evening, as she continually insulted her colleague, Assemblymember Chris Edwards, and others with nary a cautionary word from the speaker about her tone or words. She also seemed incapable of following Assembly floor procedures even though every rookie learns how to perform such routine tasks as adopting an amendment. It was embarrassing to watch her flounder and infuriating to see how little she cared.

The Assembly has always been “the people’s house,” more rumble and tumble than the staid and—until this session—deliberative Senate. Deadline Day floor sessions often involve short tempers and even tears. But this was something else entirely.

The floor debates were painful to watch whenever Fiore and her followers were involved. Their statements were full of misinformation, sarcasm and arguments that made no sense. It made one hunger for the respectful intellectual debates of the Barbara Buckley-John Carpenter era.

It’s not as if there have never been strong opinions and hurt feelings on the floor. But it’s difficult to think of a Speaker from either party who would have allowed such middle-school behavior.

Speaker John Hambrick, a very nice, polite man, seemed uncomfortable with the conflict. Hambrick cheerfully admits he never expected to be elected Speaker, having never served in leadership, the usual career path for a would-be Speaker. But his inexperience and unwillingness to confront the unruly, indifferent members of his own caucus, contributed to the evening’s chaos.

Hambrick struggled to manage the floor under the pressure of Deadline Day. The evening session was generally disorderly, complete with far too many missing amendments, “one minute” recesses, and legislators seemingly unfamiliar with procedure even though they’ve been in Carson City almost three months. Hambrick constantly fumbled for his script, and was prompted often by the chief clerk or veteran Assembly members, saved from humiliation only by his good-natured attempts to get it right.

As Republican newcomers bumbled through the floor session, it was the Democratic leadership team that provided the model of proper floor behavior. Assm. Maggie Carlton assisted Fiore in getting key elements of a union-criminalization amendment on the record, even though Carlton personally detested the bill. Carlton even used a Point of Order to alert Edwards that he was giving a long commentary on the wrong amendment, something the majority floor leader or speaker should have caught. They didn’t seem to realize their job is to intercept those mistakes.

The Assembly has had its share of firebrand right-wing extremists before—think Sharron Angle, and Don Gustavson—but they were unfailingly polite when expressing their views and followed procedures. Former assemblymember Ron Knecht was quite rude at times, and was chastised by leaders on both sides, though he never approached the level of Fiore’s meltdown. There would have been consequences.

Not any more. The day following the Fiore tantrum, Hambrick minimized her behavior, telling the Reno Gazette-Journal that “she just went a tad outside the lines.”

How did our standards sink so low? Oh, yeah, term limits.