If the wave-crashing sea change in national politics that has arrived with the Trump Administration isn’t strange enough for you, take a look at the Bizarro World known as the Nevada Legislature.
The 2016 election put Republicans in control of D.C. but the opposite happened in our state, where Democrats took control of both houses of the Legislature. The only difference here is that we still have a Republican governor — although some would argue that fact.
It’s odd that the same dynamic responsible for putting Trump into office had the opposite result in Nevada, but then our state has always marched to a different drummer. The service-industry dominated economy in Clark County turned voters out in force to support Hillary Clinton, and they voted on party lines for state candidates as well.
Opening day of the 79th legislative session began with talk of working together but ended with power struggles bubbling to the surface. Republican Sen. Michael Roberson accused Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford of unconstitutionally stripping Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison of his right to vote as the tiebreaker on legislation. That’s the Bizarro World version of what happened Tuesday in Congress, when Vice President Mike Pence made history with the first tie-breaking vote on a Cabinet nomination in confirming school choice advocate Betsy DeVos as Education secretary.
School choice is also a key issue facing Nevada lawmakers, who approved a program last session. It failed to take off, however, because of legal challenges to the funding mechanism. Democratic leaders in the Legislature will battle with Republicans who side with our governor, attorney general and state treasurer on the issue.
Lawmakers will also address the governor’s only proposed tax increase – an additional 10 percent retail tax on top of the statutory 15 percent wholesale tax on marijuana sales. Money is needed to implement the program that voters approved in November, but higher taxes could make marijuana in our state the most expensive in the country. That would have a negative impact on tourism in the Las Vegas area as California prepares its own recreational sales.
Here in the rural part of our state, lawmakers are expecting a tough haul under the Democratic leadership. Assemblyman John Ellison and Sen. Pete Goicoechea have more pull due to their seniority but they still expect to face obstacles.
Rural legislation to be considered this session will have a heavy focus on water issues, as it often does. One bill specifically related to mining would change state water law to allow for more lithium exploration. This mineral is mined in a much different manner than the hard-rock minerals we are familiar with, and Nevada is lagging in exploration at a time when it would benefit operations like the Tesla megafactory.
Under the governor’s leadership Nevada has rebounded to the number one spot in job growth nationwide. The expanding economy should fund his budget goals of improving education and keeping Nevada poised for the future.
Still, it will take Superman powers for rural lawmakers to pass expensive measures like bridge funding for Great Basin College or air-service subsidies for Elko-Reno flights. When the dust from this power shift settles we hope they can develop a give-and-take working relationship that benefits both ends of the state.