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November 25, 2015

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Legislature 2013:

Lawmakers move forward on process to expel Brooks from the Assembly


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Assemblyman Steven Brooks questions Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, obscured in the photo, about canceling a subcommittee meeting, which in fact wasn’t scheduled, during the third day of the 2013 legislative session Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 in Carson City.

2013 Legislative Session - Day 3

The late afternoon sun casts a shadow of the Nevada state seal on the wall of the Legislative Building on the third day of the 2013 legislative session Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 in Carson City. Launch slideshow »

Assembly leaders plan to appoint members to a special committee today to investigate whether Assemblyman Steven Brooks, D-North Las Vegas, is fit for duty, a move that could culminate in a vote to expel him from the Legislature.

That first step in seeking Brooks' expulsion follows the Assembly Democrats' decision Wednesday to banish Brooks from their caucus for reneging on his agreement to take a medical leave of absence.

Brooks showed up for work Wednesday, sitting through a brief floor session and spending less than 15 minutes in a Health and Human Services committee meeting that lasted longer than an hour.

He declared himself ready and able to represent his constituents.

Asked what he would do if his colleagues voted to expel him, Brooks answered:

“Have you ever heard of such a thing? Why would you ask me something so silly? Why don’t you ask me if I’m here to represent the people of District 17? That’s what I’m here to do.”

Brooks was arrested last month on allegations he threatened Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick. A week later, police detained him for a psychiatric evaluation. He was released from a hospital five days later and has been in Carson City since the opening of the legislative session.

Legislative police officers accompanied Brooks throughout the Legislative Building on Wednesday, often shooing off reporters who tried to ask him questions.

At one point, officers stood by — somewhat uncomfortably — when Brooks confronted Ways and Means Chairwoman Maggie Carlton in the hallway.

“Why did you cancel my subcommittee meeting this morning?” he asked her.

Click to enlarge photo

Assemblyman Steven Brooks makes his introduction during a meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee before departing for the remainder of the meeting on the third day of the 2013 legislative session Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 in Carson City.

Brooks sits on the subcommittees that oversee the budgets for audits and public safety, natural resources and transportation. No meeting was scheduled Wednesday for either of those subcommittees.

Carlton explained that to Brooks, who remained insistent that his meeting had been canceled.

Brooks also tried to schedule meetings with lobbyists and fellow lawmakers.

But Brooks' presence at the Legislature only antagonized Democratic leadership, who had spent the better part of the past two days negotiating the terms of his leave of absence in an attempt to give him a graceful out from the legislative session. After apparently agreeing to a 60-day leave, Brooks then refused to sign the agreement and began showing up for work.

Democrats then moved forward on their plan to oust him from their caucus. Under their decision, Brooks is now a free agent of sorts. He can still serve on his committees and vote on the floor, Assembly Majority Leader William Horne said.

"He is still the assemblyman from District 17," Horne said late Wednesday.

But Brooks will no longer be invited to caucus meetings for strategizing on votes and policy. It's also unlikely that the Republican caucus would pick him up. Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey couldn't be reached for comment after the Democrats expelled Brooks, but has voiced concern about Brooks' health.

Today, legislative leaders will also move forward on the unprecedented process to expel Brooks from the Legislature entirely. But members of his Democratic caucus appear split on whether they would back his expulsion.

Assemblyman Harvey Munford, D-Las Vegas, whose district neighbors Brooks’, said he would likely vote in favor of expelling him.

“A lot of my constituents think maybe he should take a leave of absence,” Munford said. “I don’t think he realizes the effect his being here is having on other legislators. I’m not sure people feel safe and secure.

Click to enlarge photo

Assemblyman Steven Brooks chair sits empty after he left a meeting of the Health and Human Services Committee on the third day of the 2013 legislative session Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 in Carson City.

“Once I’ve heard all the facts, sure, I would vote to remove him. And I’ll be glad to see him go. He’s arrogant.”

Assemblywoman Dina Neal, D-North Las Vegas, took the opposite tack.

“I would not (vote to expel him),” she said. “I don’t see any need to.”

Most Democrats interviewed said they had been “too busy” to pay much attention to the situation.

“How could you say yes or no to that question?” Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, said. “We have to hear the relevant facts. There are multiple sides to this. So to be fair, we need to wait and see.”

Republicans would also participate in the select committee’s hearings and any eventual floor vote on Brooks’ future.

Hickey said he had been asked for recommendations of Republicans to appoint to the committee. Horne will chair the committee.

“The sense is, because he said so himself and his actions seem to demonstrate it, that (Brooks) is not well,” Hickey said. “There’s a legitimate question to be asked and that is, ‘Can he serve and is it in his interest to go get help?’”

Reporter Andrew Doughman contributed to this story.

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