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May 3, 2015

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Kirkpatrick vows to be a different kind of speaker


Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick takes part in a Ways and Means Committee meeting on the second day of the 2013 legislative session Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013 in Carson City.

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If Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, has a mantra this session, it would be this: “Things will be different.”

She repeats the line in press interviews and badgers lobbyists in committee hearings with it.

“I’m not afraid to do things a little bit different,” she said in her opening speech. “Sometimes you need to shake things up to get different results.”

A week into the session, Kirkpatrick has proved herself to be a different kind of speaker. But whether she achieves different results remains to be seen.

Kirkpatrick’s upbringing may be her most well-told distinguishing characteristic. To free herself from a broken home, Kirkpatrick emancipated herself from her parents when she was 16. She worked nights and went to school during the day, sometimes sleeping on a couch in the counselor’s office.

But her story as an adult also separates her from past speakers. Kirkpatrick runs a large-scale food service operation.

“She understands volume and margins, which is a very unique set of experiences for a Democratic speaker to have,” one business lobbyist said.

Not since Speaker Joe Dini in 1999 has a Democratic speaker had business experience. The past three were a firefighter, a lawyer and a police officer.

Kirkpatrick also is not afraid to voice her disapproval or show her irritation. Where former Speaker Barbara Buckley often exuded a quiet foreboding when she was angry and former Speaker John Oceguera simply displayed no emotion, Kirkpatrick uses the word “freaking” when she is irate.

But perhaps the most noticeable — and likely the most important when it comes to the results side of the equation — is that Republicans really like her. Even the most conservative ones.

The opening day of the legislative session is always reserved for happy speeches that pay lip service to a bipartisan atmosphere of cooperation. But on Monday, Republicans on the Assembly floor voiced genuine and personal respect for Kirkpatrick, some telling individual anecdotes about working with her.

Click to enlarge photo

Assemblyman Pat Hickey and Assembly speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick confer during a meeting of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee Thursday, Feb. 7, 2013 during the 2013 legislative session in Carson City.

Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, said Kirkpatrick’s speakership has changed the character of the Legislative Building.

“You can talk with her,” Hickey said. “We can bring her individual bills and we know they will be heard. She will be very open. I don’t think we’ve ever had that.”

Another key difference: If Kirkpatrick has designs on a higher office after this, she hasn’t told anyone about it. Last session, both Democratic leaders were running for Congress. And that set the tone for much of the session.

“It was obvious to everyone in the building that everything they did was tied in to or calculated to fit into their run for Congress,” Hickey said. “You felt like bit players in their political saga.”

As a moderate or even conservative Democrat, Kirkpatrick runs the risk of antagonizing some of her more liberal caucus members. But in the all-important numbers game, she may be able to lean on Republicans to make up the votes lost to the left. That will be important when it comes to tax reform.

And that gives Hickey’s small minority some outsized leverage.

Of course, one of the ways Kirkpatrick promises to do things differently is to eschew the horse trading — Republicans asking for conservative policy reforms in exchange for supporting a tax increase, for example — that has characterized past legislative sessions.

“I don’t see either side asking for trades,” Kirkpatrick told Jon Ralston on “Ralston Reports.” “It’s different this time.”

And that’s where the yet-to-be-seen factor on the results side of the equation will be tested.

“Horse trading is part of the legislative process,” said Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas. “There will be horse trading. Anyone who tells you different is blowing sunshine up your skirt.”

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  1. "Blowing Sunshine Up Your Skirt"..Sexist? I ask you?
    Of all the people in the Legislature this session, I have huge wishes of success for Marilyn. She is a doer..let her work. Horse trading, god only knows we have enough horses to trade. We need to herd them over the State line to California, where they will have fine homes in the hills of LA. Good luck Marilyn.

  2. Missing for over 100 years, is the likes of Nevada Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick. Finally, a dedicated Citizen of Nevada, who is willing to lead, to set the path and pace, bring this grand state that is so troubled and in disrepair, into a process that will repair the decades of neglect.

    Clearly, the old guard, old school way of doing things had virtually crippled Nevada and has only worked destruction and disfunctionality. Things now are so bad, the only way is UP. That's one hell of a way to leave a state, and voters are fed up with Lawmakers "kicking the can down the political road to be dealt with in the future". The "future" is NOW!

    Good luck and best wishes to Speaker Kirkpatrick and those who serve to make a true difference for the good of Nevada and its People! May the 77th Nevada State Legislative Session be a successful one!

    Blessings and Peace,

  3. "If Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, has a mantra this session, it would be this: "Things will be different."

    No, not so different. As a recent article here showed, one of the first legislative acts was to pay themselves. To me this shows pretty much their intent is business as usual.

    "I think you all know that I've always felt the nine most terrifying words in the English language are 'I'm from the government and I'm here to help.'" -- the late President Ronald Reagan on YouTube @

  4. "I'm from the government and I'm here to help" of the most overworked cliches in politics. Hope that you never have to go through a natural disaster, KillerB. After the microburst that tore through our hamlet, killed one, destroyed 16 houses and left dozens more damaged, reps from the Colville Tribal Government and State of Washington visited every house and home, checking especially on elders. They arranged for food, generators, shower and laundry trucks at the community center, emergency loans, housing repair and debris removal crews, etc. For all its faults, real, perceived and exaggerated, I,m glad that we have government in place.

  5. "Hope that you never have to go through a natural disaster..."

    wharfrat -- my kids got out just ahead of Katrina, only one still lives there, so I can relate. Of course that storm showed how utterly useless our federal government is. Especially when the St. Bernard Parish sheriff ordered his deputies to arrest anyone from FEMA from interfering with utility crews and the Wal-Mart relief convoy.

    My point being there's a lot of difference between government taking care of business during a natural disaster and forcing itself on us like we're children. I think that was Reagan's point.

    So what's someone from NE Washington state doing on this board?

    "Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -- C.S. Lewis