In the polarized political climate, bickering and mudslinging often take center stage — making Republicans and Democrats seem perpetually at odds.
A closer examination of votes this year in Carson City, however, tells a different tale: The vast majority of bills in the 2017 legislative session passed with unanimous or near unanimous support, while a much smaller number passed on strict party lines in both houses. But there’s a third group of votes — on more than 120 occasions this session, a minority of members of the Republican caucus broke with their party and voted with Democrats in supporting legislation on topics ranging from criminal justice reform to contraceptive coverage.
So which Republicans were more likely to side with Democrats on legislation this session?
The Nevada Independent analyzed and tallied every bill passed by both houses of the Legislature in which less than half of the Republican caucus in either house supported the measure — 35 total votes in the Senate and 91 in the Assembly. (That means any bill that received four or fewer votes from the nine-member Republican Senate caucus and any bill that received seven or fewer votes from the 15-member Republican Assembly caucus.)
The analysis revealed that on the Senate side, Sens. Becky Harris and Heidi Gansert were the most likely to break with their caucus and vote with Democrats and were the lone Republican vote on bills on two and three occasions, respectively. On the Assembly side, freshmen legislators Jill Tolles and Keith Pickard demonstrated themselves to be the most likely to work across the aisle and vote with Democrats, with Tolles casting the lone Republican vote on five pieces of legislation.
The guide below aims to take a look at what kinds of issues were at play when Republicans chose to break with the majority of their caucus on a particular issue — including high-profile votes on ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment, imposing an excise tax on recreational marijuana and controlling out-of-network emergency room bills.
We’ve double- and triple-checked our work to make sure we’ve counted every vote, but if you spot something off or think a vote wasn’t counted, feel free to email us at [email protected] or [email protected].
Becky Harris: 25
Harris joined the Democratic caucus as the lone Republican in support of two pieces of legislation — a bill that would authorize the formation of park districts in Nevada (AB379) and a piece of legislation revising the number of hours of training that child care facility workers must complete annually. (SB189).
The southwest Las Vegas-area senator was also one of two Republican votes on six mostly Democratic-backed bills, including measures to limit development near natural conservation areas (AB277 — vetoed by the governor), give photo identification cards cards to inmates upon release (SB268) and create a pre-prosecution diversion program for certain people accused of committing a misdemeanor crime (AB470).
After a tense standoff during end-of-session negotiations, Harris was one of three Republicans to vote for an excise tax on recreational marijuana (SB487) as well as the capital improvement projects budget bill (SB546). Those were two pieces of legislation requiring a two-thirds vote that Republicans had held hostage during a last-ditch attempt to secure a deal to restart the state’s stalled Education Savings Accounts program.
She also joined a handful of her Republican colleagues in voting for a number of other measures, such as requiring the state to use vendors who pay equal regardless of gender (AB106), business registration requirements for ride-sharing companies (SB554) and a ban on conversion therapy for minors (SB201).
Heidi Gansert: 21
Gansert was the sole GOP vote in the Senate in favor of three bills — a resolution to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (SJR2), a bill codifying certain women’s health and contraceptive benefits from the Affordable Care Act into state law (SB233) and a bill requiring ratings of hospitals and other health care facilities (SB482). Eight votes in the Senate had only one Republican supporting the legislation.
The Reno-area senator was also one of two Republican votes on mostly Democratic-backed legislation — the ID cards for inmates bill (SB268) and a bill allowing the imposition of certain taxes and fees to fund flood management projects (AB375).
She also voted in favor of the excise tax on recreational marijuana (SB487) and the capital improvements project bill (SB546), which included a number of significant projects in or near her district and one, money for a new engineering building, where she works at UNR. Gansert was also in the minority of her caucus in supporting legislation requiring criminal background checks of employees at small child care establishments (AB346), changing sex offender registration rules for juveniles (SB472) and an appropriation for school gardens (SB167).
Joe Hardy: 14
Hardy joined the Democrats in supporting a bill he sponsored (SB140) to allow certain older offenders to leave prison and spend the duration of their sentence in house arrest. Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed the measure in late May.
But the southeast Las Vegas Valley senator joined the minority of his caucus and Democrats in support of 13 other measures throughout the legislative session. He voted for measures to allow Reno to expand redevelopment plans (AB80), to prohibit the purchase, sale or possession of certain animal products (SB194) and to define obesity as a chronic disease (SB165).
Scott Hammond: 9
Hammond was the only Republican to vote in favor of a measure removing the requirement that anyone with a felony drug conviction is not eligible for Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits unless they complete a drug treatment program (AB427). The bill instead provides that to be eligible for TANF or SNAP someone must demonstrate that he or she is not currently possessing, using or distributing controlled substances in a prohibited way.
The northwest Las Vegas Valley senator also joined a minority of his Republican colleagues in supporting nine other bills, including measures to reduce the eligibility to qualify to the Silver State Opportunity Grant to 12 credits a semester under certain circumstances (AB188 -- vetoed by Sandoval), to limit development near natural conservation areas (AB277 — vetoed by Sandoval) and to designate UNLV, UNR and the Desert Research Institute as state land grant institutions (AB407).
Pete Goicoechea: 9
Goicoechea — who represents Clark, Elko, Eureka, Lincoln, Nye and White Pine counties — wasn’t the sole member of his caucus to vote in favor of any piece of legislation. However, he did join the minority of his caucus to support nine pieces of legislation mostly backed by Democrats.
Those bills include a measure allowing local governments to use the state’s Central Mailing Room (SB38), one allowing Reno to expand redevelopment plans (AB80) and another requiring constables to be trained as police officers (SB250 — was never sent to the governor.)
Ben Kieckhefer: 7
The Carson City and Washoe Valley senator was the lone Republican in support of a measure seeking to amend the Nevada Constitution to fix property tax calculations in the state (SJR14). He also was one of three or four Republicans to support six other mostly Democratic-backed measures, including a bill requiring a review of high schooler’s academic plans for college and career readiness (AB117), the ban on conversion therapy for minors (SB201) and a transfer of the oversight of medical marijuana to the Department of Taxation (AB422).
Like Gansert and Harris, Kieckhefer voted for an excise tax on recreational marijuana (SB487) as well as the capital improvement projects budget bill (SB546) in the final days of the legislative session.
Senator Michael Roberson: 6
Roberson, the Senate minority leader, bristled at his Democratic colleagues and their “Nevada Blueprint” priorities all session long — and an analysis of his votes shows that he was rarely in the minority of his caucus joining Democrats to support a measure. He was one of three Republicans to vote in favor of legislation requiring the review of high schoolers’ academic plans for college and career readiness (AB117), allowing private high schools to subject themselves to the state’s anti-bullying policies (SB225) and revising provisions relating to industrial insurance (AB267).
The Henderson senator also was one of four Republicans to vote in favor of three other pieces of mostly Democratic-backed legislation, including the ban on conversion therapy for minors (SB201).
Don Gustavson: 1
This rural Republican senator, representing Esmeralda, Humboldt, Lander, Mineral, Nye, Pershing and Washoe counties, joined the minority of the Republican caucus in supporting only one bill — a measure that requires criminal complaints to be filed within 72 hours of someone being arrested (excluding Saturdays, Sundays and legal holidays) unless a magistrate extends the time for an additional 72 hours (AB376). Three other Republicans supported the measure along with almost all of the Democratic caucus, except for Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro.
Jill Tolles: 70
Of the eight bills supported by only one member of the Assembly, Tolles was the lone Republican vote in favor of five of them. They include measures to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution (SJR2), require employers with more than 50 employees on Medicaid to disclose that information (SB366), support wildlife conservation (SJR13), bar prosecutors from seeking an indictment while competency proceedings are pending (AB377) and exempt nonprofits under contract with the state from rules and licensing of contractors (AB359).
The Reno-area assemblywoman was also one of two Republican votes who supported seven pieces of mostly Democratic-backed legislation. She voted in favor of measures to allow two people of any gender to marry (AB229), limits on firearm ownership for anyone with a domestic battery or stalking conviction (SB124) and a pilot program that lets prisoners use telecommunications device for certain educational and vocational training (SB420). (The measure initially failed in the Assembly, since it required a two-thirds majority; Tolles switched her vote on the floor, saying she did so to get it out of the Assembly and amend it in the Senate to change "approved telecommunications device" to "approved videoconferencing equipment.")
The freshman assemblywoman also voted with the minority of her caucus on 57 other bills, including criminal justice reform measures to give ID cards to inmates upon release (SB268), reduce penalties for the possession or trafficking of certain controlled substances to a misdemeanor (AB438 — vetoed by the governor) and allow certain older offenders to leave prison and spend the duration of their sentence in house arrest (SB140 — also vetoed by the governor.) She also voted in favor of a bill to allow the distribution of 12 months of contraceptives at once and codify certain Affordable Care Act benefits for women's’ health in state law (SB233), mandate employers to provide reasonable break times for breastfeeding (AB113) and require the state to use vendors who pay equal regardless of gender (AB106).
She was also one of seven Assembly Republicans to vote in favor of the budget bill (SB546) funding the state’s capital improvement projects over the 2017-to-2019 biennium.
Keith Pickard: 55
Pickard was the only Republican to vote in favor of extending the Foreclosure Mediation Program (SB490), which requires that medication be conducted as a condition of judicial foreclosure proceeding or the exercise of a power of sale affecting owner-occupied housing.
The Henderson-area assemblyman joined Tolles as one of two Republican votes on a number of measures including allowing two people of any gender to marry (AB229) and requiring criminal background checks of employees at small child care establishments (AB346). He also was one of two Republican votes on measures to restore voting rights to certain ex-felons (AB181) and mandating ward-only voting in Sparks (SB202).
Like Tolles, Pickard joined the minority of his caucus in supporting a number of other pieces of legislation, including bills to set the Renewable Portfolio Standard to 50 percent by 2030 (AB206), limit surprise hospital bills (AB382) and put certain restrictions on the resale of tickets (SB235). He also voted in favor of the capital improvement projects budget (SB546) and the excise tax on recreational marijuana bill (SB487).
Paul Anderson: 52
The moderate Assembly minority leader was not the lone Republican vote on any bills, but he was among the minority of his Republican colleagues in voting to support 52 different measures this session.
Anderson joined Pickard in supporting bills to restore voting rights to certain ex-felons (AB181) and mandate ward-only voting in Sparks (SB202). He also was one of three Republicans to support legislation limiting development near natural conservation areas (AB277 — vetoed by Sandoval), revising provisions relating to water rights (SB270) and securing the rights of expression of student journalists (SB420). In addition, he voted for legislation to ban conversion therapy for minors (SB201), remove the drug treatment requirement to qualify for TANF and SNAP (AB427) and require certain contraceptive and women’s health benefits from the Affordable Care Act be codified in state law (SB233).
Chris Edwards: 49
The Mesquite-area assemblyman never was the lone Republican vote on a bill or even one of two Republican votes in support of mostly Democratic-backed measures. But he still joined the minority of his Republican colleagues on a number of other bills, from criminal justice reform measures to historic window replacement in state-owned buildings.
Edwards voted in favor of a number of education-related measures, including providing for cultural competency endorsements for licensed teachers (AB196), appropriating money for computer education in schools (SB200) and providing funding for advance planning at the UNLV College of Engineering (SB553).
He also supported legislation to create Public Lands Day (SB413), require health and safety training for members of the entertainment industry (AB190) and put restrictions on solitary confinement for people with serious mental illnesses (SB402).
Al Kramer: 43
The Carson City assemblyman was the sole Republican to vote in favor of a bill enacting the Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights, providing for the mandatory payment of wages, limits on deductions for food and lodging, rest breaks and days off (SB232). He also joined Assemblywoman Robin Titus in supporting a measure to establish a grant program for family planning services (SB122).
And he supported a number of criminal justice reform efforts such as creating a diversion program for certain misdemeanor offenses (AB470), allowing felons to file a postconviction DNA test if they pay for it (AB268) and reducing penalties for the possession or trafficking of certain controlled substances to a misdemeanor (AB438).
John Hambrick: 35
Hambrick voted with a minority of his Republican colleagues on mostly Democratic-supported measures on nearly three dozen occasions — though on each vote he was always joined by at least three of his Republican colleagues.
The Summerlin-area legislator voted for measures requiring a Minority Affairs manager in the Office of the Director of the Department of Business and Industry. (SB373), allowing private schools to subject themselves to the state’s anti-bullying policies (SB225) and removing drug treatment requirements for SNAP and TANF (SB201).
The retired Secret Service agent also voted for bills revising provisions relating to information relating to a defendant being affiliated with or a member of a gang being included in presentence investigations (AB326), allowing residential confinement for certain older offenders (SB140 — vetoed by the governor) and restricting solitary confinement for people with serious mental illness (SB402).
Melissa Woodbury: 36
Woodbury, a Henderson and Boulder City-area representative, joined fellow Republican Assembly members Jill Tolles and James Oscarson in supporting a bill mostly backed by Democrats that requires the state to use vendors who pay equal regardless of gender (AB106).
A number of the 36 bills the elementary school teacher strayed from the majority of Republicans to support were education-oriented, such as measures requiring professional development for teachers in larger school districts (SB369), authorizing ethnic and diversity studies in public high schools (SB107) and regarding computer education and technology in schools (SB200). Woodbury also joined six other Republicans in supporting SB178, the much-discussed bill that provides weighted funding for the neediest students in the most struggling schools.
Other noteworthy pieces of legislation that Woodbury backed include the pot tax bill (SB487) and a measure that authorizes local governments to create parks, trails and districts with open space (AB379).
James Oscarson: 34
Oscarson, a hospital executive in Pahrump, joined the minority of Republicans in supporting a wide variety of bills mostly backed by Democrats — often on health care-related issues.
The rural assemblyman, representing parts of Lincoln, Nye and Clark counties, was one of two Republicans — the other was Assemblywoman Jill Tolles — who supported a bill that requires the Division of Public and Behavioral Health to prepare an annual report on obesity (SB165). Oscarson also voted in favor of AB382, a measure that sought to control out-of-network hospital bills but was vetoed by Sandoval.
Other bills that Oscarson joined Democrats in backing: a bill that prohibits the sale of cough syrup to children (SB159), a measure that requires employers to make certain accommodations for breastfeeding mothers (AB113) and one that makes revisions to the film tax credit program (AB492).
Ira Hansen: 14
The firebrand assemblyman from Sparks joined fellow Republican Jill Tolles in backing a Democrat-led election measure revising the method for ballot recounts (AB418).
He also eschewed traditional party voting patterns and supported some criminal-justice measures. For instance, Hansen was one of three Republicans who voted in favor of AB268, which lets felons file a postconviction DNA test if they pay for it. (The other Republican yes votes came from Assemblymen Chris Edwards and Al Kramer.)
In addition, Hansen helped ensure passage of SB140 — a measure sponsored by Republican Senator Joe Hardy but mostly favored by Democrats — that would have authorized residential confinement or other supervision for certain older offenders. But Sandoval vetoed the bill.
Lisa Krasner: 14
Krasner broke with her party to support legislation loosely related to education or youth issues. Of the 13 bills she crossed traditional party lines to support, a handful fell into that theme, including a bill related to bullying (AB292), a measure that authorizes ethnic and diversity studies in public high schools (SB107) and another one that requires certain educators to meet with public high school students at least once a year and review their academic plan as it relates to college and career readiness (AB117).
She also threw her support behind a bill that established the Nevada Pregnant Workers’ Fairness Act (SB253), which protects female employees or job applications who are pregnant, recently gave birth or have a related medical condition.
The Reno-area assemblywoman notably broke with her party to vote for a proposed constitutional amendment to recognize same-sex marriage (AJR2), a measure to protect gay marriage should the U.S. Supreme Court reverse its ruling.
Robin Titus: 9
Titus, a family-practice doctor from Lyon County, was the sole Republican who voted in favor of a sex-education bill (AB348), which Sandoval later vetoed. The legislation would have allowed parents to give their children clearance to receive sex education either for a certain school year only or for the duration of their time in a school district.
Titus voted for a number of other health-oriented bills mostly backed by Democrats. For instance, she was one of two Republicans who supported bills to establish a program that provides grants for family-planning services (SB122) and a rating system for health-care systems based on compliance with staffing requirements (SB482).
John Ellison: 6
Ellison, who represents several rural counties on the state’s northeastern side, joined two Republican colleagues — Paul Anderson and James Oscarson — in supporting AB277, which became known as the “Save Red Rock” bill because it would have limited development near natural conservation areas. Sandoval ultimately vetoed the legislation.
The rural assemblyman was one of six Republicans who backed bills that require police officers to wear body cameras (SB176) and revise provisions regarding fees collected by county recorders (AB169). Other Democrat-led bills that he supported related to hunting and fishing licenses (SB511), internships (SB66) and health and safety training in the entertainment industry (AB190).
Richard McArthur: 4
McArthur joined Assemblywoman Robin Titus as the only two Republican votes on a bill that requires the State Board of Health to establish a rating system for health-care systems based on compliance with staffing requirements (SB482).
The Republican representing northwest Clark County also sided with a minority of his party members to support bills that ban sexual orientation or gender identity conversion therapy for minors (SB201) and establish provisions related to dissolved mineral resources (AB52).
And McArthur solidified his stance on Yucca Mountain by supporting a AJR10, which expresses opposition to the nuclear waste storage project. Five of his Republican Assembly colleagues — Ira Hansen, Al Kramer, Keith Pickard, Robin Titus and Jill Tolles — joined him in opposing the controversial project.
Jim Wheeler: 4
Wheeler was one of four Republicans who backed a bill (AB292) that mandates more reporting of bullying and requires the school district board of trustees to reassign students who are victims of bullying or cyberbullying to a different school if their parents or guardians request it.
He also supported legislation related to the release of feral cats (SB411), a bill that authorized the Legislative Commission to suspend or nullify certain administrative regulations (AB403) and a bill that requires certain electric utilities to file a distributed resources plan with the Public Utilities Commission (SB146). Wheeler’s district includes Douglas and Storey counties as well as part of Lyon County.
Jim Marchant: 3
Marchant joined the Republican minority only three times in support of legislation that was mostly backed by Democrats. Marchant, whose district covers a portion of the northwest Las Vegas Valley, threw his support behind legislation that requires all police officers to wear body cameras (SB176) and clarifies releasing feral cats that have been vaccinated and spayed or neutered does not amount to abandonment (SB411). He also supported SJR5, which encourages Congress to enact the Marketplace Fairness Act, providing states the authority to require out-of-state retailers to collect and remit sales tax on purchases shipped into the state.
Feature photo: The Legislature and guests look on during Gov. Sandoval's State of the State address on Jan. 17, 2017. | Photo by David Calvert
6-18-17: This story has been corrected to reflect the fact that Assemblywoman Melissa Woodbury also voted with Assemblywoman Jill Tolles on SB250, as well as additional information about the vote on AB420.
6-19-17: It has also been corrected with the correct number of the weighted funding formula bill, SB178.