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Assemblyman John Hambrick sits as the Nevada Legislature opens the 80th session on Monday, Feb. 4, 2019 in Carson City, Nev. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Republican Assemblyman John Hambrick expects to return to the Legislature sometime next month, after a health-related absence that has lasted more than half of the 120-day session.

Hambrick, 73, attended the first week of the legislative session but has stayed home in Las Vegas amid a lingering knee injury suffered last year and his wife’s ongoing health issues. He said he plans to return to the Legislature sometime in May and stay through the end of the session.

“I will finish. I will be there,” he said. “It is my personal goal along with my wife, it will be my last term, and I will be there for sine die. Those are my two favorite words during the session.”

Hambrick said he has been in regular communication with legislative leadership and committee chairs and has followed legislative proceedings from home, while noting that he appeared in person in Las Vegas to testify for two of his bills related to human trafficking during a committee hearing in March. All four of the bills with Hambrick listed as a primary sponsor survived last week’s deadline for bills to make it out of committee.

“They have just been exceptionally helpful to me, and I truly, truly appreciate it,” he said, referring to several committee chairs. “Politics stops at a certain point, and other things take over.”

Hambrick was appointed to serve on the Assembly budget committee, Health and Human Services Committee and Legislative Operations and Elections Committee. His absence leaves Assembly Republicans with just 13 members, but Assembly Republican Caucus Leader Jim Wheeler pointed out as a super-minority caucus, Hambrick missing votes is not making a difference. He also says none of Hambrick’s constituents have raised concerns.

“We haven’t heard anything from anybody. Not the constituents, not the other side of the aisle, nothing,” he said. “Everyone likes John. He’s a good guy. It’s his last session, he’s going to be termed out. How would you feel if it was you? Because you’re getting sick, you can’t be at work? Aren’t we passing laws in this place saying you’ve got to get paid to do that?”

Hambrick, who represents the Republican-leaning Assembly District 2 that encompasses a portion of southwestern Las Vegas, is a retired Secret Service agent who served as speaker in the 2015 Legislature. He has attended four of the 38 days that the Assembly has convened so far this session, or about 11 percent.

Hambrick told The Nevada Independent in late February that he was still recovering from knee surgery from an injury suffered last year, and hoped to return to the Legislature soon. He’s not the only lawmaker in recent years to miss a large portion of the session because of health issues.

Democratic former Sen. Debbie Smith was present for about 28 percent of Senate sessions in 2015, as she fought brain cancer before her death in early 2016. Democratic former Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce attended about 64 percent of the Assembly sessions in 2013. She died later that year after a 10-year battle with breast cancer.

Democratic Assemblyman Steven Brooks attended only 11 percent of Assembly sessions in 2013 before he was expelled from the Legislature. After threats to a legislative leader and other erratic behavior, fellow lawmakers said they did not feel safe with him in their midst.

Assembly leaders gave no indication that they wanted to find a replacement for Hambrick because of the time missed.

In an interview, Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson said he planned to give Hambrick “as much time as he needs” to ensure that his and his wife’s health concerns were met. Frierson pointed out that several of Hambrick’s bills were advancing through the Legislature and said he had seen no reason to ask him to leave the Legislature.

“I think it would be the worst thing on the planet to try and kick him out of the Legislature when mathematically it wouldn’t matter, and he’s also having health challenges,” he said. “If that changes, to where a disserve is being provided, I think we’ll consider that, but at this point there is no motivation to do something to him when he hasn’t engaged in any bad conduct.”

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