Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Sine Die, #NVLeg: The Good, The Bad, & The Ugly

So it's over. It's finally over. And unless Sandoval pulls any surprise last-minute vetoes, it looks like Nevada will have a budget on time, more smoke-filled taverns, a new legal battle with California over Lake Tahoe, an "extreme makeover" of Reno's bowling stadium, and more.

Oh, joy!

Just before noon on Monday, the Senate approved Assembly Bill 561, the bill that extends $620 million in taxes approved in the 2009 legislative session, which were set to expire, or sunset, on July 1.

"They said we were too far apart to reach a budget agreement,” said Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas. “They said it couldn’t be done. We proved the pessimists wrong.”

The bill that sparked the contention was Senate Bill 506, a bill that allowed for a toll road in Boulder City, but which also included Assemblywoman Debbie Smith’s “School Works” legislation, which would allow school districts to lower their bond reserves and fund construction projects.

The bill died in the Assembly because of opposition to the toll road, but came back to life with 13 minutes left in the session.

This time, it passed 29-13. The School Works measure was moved to AB 376, a so-called “Christmas Tree” bill, which also included measures to allow the Reno Aces ownership to add a surcharge on tickets and downtown Reno casinos to add a $2 per room night charge for improvements to the National Bowling Stadium, Reno Events Center and Reno Ballroom. It was approved with nine minutes left in the session.

That could really sum it up, but there's even more to talk about. Let's start with the good that happened this session:

- The state gave up its lust for county and city funds now that The Nevada Supreme Court ruled the Clean Water Coalition money grab unconstitutional.

- SB 276, the bill written to protect K-12 students from dangerous bullying (and is LGBTQ inclusive), passed.

- AB 211! Finally, transgender Nevadans can no longer be fired from work just because of who they are.

- Yay! Kenny Guinn Millennium Scholarships continue!

- Despite a last-minute court ruling jeopardizing additional mining fees, the mining industry finally agreed to cough up an extra $24 million to keep the state running.

- And at least for now, Nevada's colleges will remain safe and gun-free.

While I wish to just leave it here, we must also unfortunately address the bad that happened this session:

- Let the Tahoe trashing begin! SB 271 passed, so now Nevada can look forward to more unnecessary legal battles with the feds and California.

The demands in Senate Bill 271 are major. Chief among the demands are that the U.S. Congress and California would have to agree that major decisions do not need approval from a majority of members of the board from both states. Also, the Governing Board of TRPA would have to consider economic conditions when amending their regional plan. Congress and California would have 4 and a half years to agree to the terms.

As the law stands now, If these demands aren't met, then Nevada would withdraw from the compact by 2015. However, there is another legislative session before that time and Nevada Legislators could back-track. But until then the measure puts at risk a 415 million dollar 10-year funding bill for the agency that is floating on the floor of congress.

And considering California still has to resolve its own budget crisis (yet again), Sacramento probably has no appetite for any of Carson's follies right now.

- Teachers and other public servants get spat upon yet again with more pay cuts, more layoffs, and possibly more limits to their collective bargaining power.

And finally, let's take a look at the simply ridiculous:

- Yet again, we have a "budget" cobbled together from random this and mix of that... And our schools are still being shortchanged.

- Redistricting is now likely to go to court, as The Legislature adjourned without agreement on a new set of maps to send to Sandoval.

- And as usual, The Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce pretty much got its way on everything.

So there you have it, folks! And that's all, folks... At least for now. #NVLeg may have adjourned, but the drama stirred up from this session may just be starting.

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