What did rural counties like Elko get out of the 79th session of the Nevada Legislature?
For some, the highlight was seeing a bill to rename McCarran International Airport after former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid fail to pass.
Hundreds of millions in unanticipated revenue was chalked up during the course of the session but not even a paltry $1 million could be spared to help rural counties boost their air service.
“In general, I think rural Nevada got kicked in the teeth,” Elko City Manager Curtis Calder told our legislative correspondent.
A bill requiring law enforcement agencies to outfit their officers with body cams was passed with no funding. Instead, lawmakers gave counties “permission” to raise the money themselves by tacking on more fees to phone bills. No one ever explained what telephones and police cameras have to do with each other.
It turns out the only department in our part of the state that isn’t already outfitted with body cameras is the City of Elko’s police department – and the City does not have the authority to adopt the phone fee. Without it, the body cam bill is another unfunded mandate on the City’s already strained budget.
Passage of the body cam bill also means Nevada and its cities and counties will never be eligible for enhanced 911 grants from the federal government. Not that Nevada was trying to take advantage of this; none of the Republican governors who have been in charge since enhanced 911 became available have even bothered to appoint a state 911 coordinator.
While the Vegas-dominated leadership did nothing to help rural counties pay for air service or body cameras, it was a big help in bringing marijuana to our doorsteps. West Wendover is expected to open a medical marijuana dispensary this summer and likely expand to recreational marijuana next year after lawmakers passed a bill allowing municipalities in Nevada’s rural counties to obtain pot licenses directly through the state.
The leadership also snubbed rural counties by passing a bill that allows for predator control fees to be used for things other than predator control. In this case, however, Gov. Brian Sandoval exercised his veto power.
From a statewide perspective, both Democrats and Nevada’s Republican governor claimed many successes.
In a press release listing his top accomplishments, Gov. Brian Sandoval’s top item was the re-establishment of a Rainy Day Fund.:
“I am pleased to report that the budget passed by the Legislature will return approximately $193 million to the Rainy Day Fund or what I like to call, the Nevada family savings account,” he said. “This is the first time since 2008 that the State has not looked to drain those funds in order to achieve a balanced budget. “
Of course, the state had to drain those funds in 2008 because of the black hole now known as the Great Recession. Later on in the press release we learn that recreational pot smokers will help keep the pot filled.
“Although I called for the money to go directly to education, the 10 percent retail [marijuana] tax, projected at $63 million, will stabilize the Rainy Day Fund,” the governor announced.
They might want to rename it the Smoky Day Fund.
For Democrats, the top accomplishments of this session included the failure to fund education savings accounts, boosting public education funding, restoring incentives for rooftop solar installations, and tracking the profits of insulin manufacturers.
Considering the lackluster achievements of this year’s legislative session, we are happy to see that a bill requiring annual sessions failed to pass.