Thursday, March 15, 2012

John Lee on the Nevada Legislature

You know, John Lee didn't just go to Stonewall last night to get grilled on LGBTQ equality matters. He also wanted to speak about something that's very near and dear to him, which happens to be the Legislature that he serves on.

He began by going in depth on the legislative process. Honestly, it felt awkward at first to hear a lecture on the legislative process from the guy at the center of the Lake Tahoe controversy, the SB 231 "Shoot 'em up on Campus" controversy, and repeated conflict with his fellow legislators. But as he kept talking, I kept listening... And I noticed something.

He really seems to be into his job. And he seems to relish his role as "The Lone Ranger" when it comes to ruffling feathers on both sides of the aisle. He's resisted efforts by Republicans to turn control of the Senate back to them (by joining their caucus), but he's also repeatedly caused headaches for Democratic leaders by proposing high-profile bills hated by progressives (as noted above), opposing key bills on their agenda (like SB 283 & AB 211), and making the budget process much more grueling last year by initially joining the bulk of Republican legislators in opposing a tax deal. He definitely has a history of "Going Rogue", and it doesn't sound like he intends to stop that any time soon.

So will he aim higher? There have been rumors of him seeking a leadership post himself next session (since he definitely now has the seniority to qualify), but I doubt that will happen. However as Chair of the Government Affairs Committee, he will probably have plenty of influence on local affairs for quite some time in the near future. In fact, sounded like John Lee relishes his role in determining what happens in Clark County and what Las Vegas, Henderson, and North Las Vegas can expect from the state.

Lee also discussed his work on addressing funding inequities in Nevada higher education. Yes, believe it or not, he went there. He said point blank that UNR, Great Basin College, and the northern community colleges receive more funding per pupil than UNLV, NSC, and the CSNs. We'll have to see how far he goes there. Funny enough, many progressives down south may actually appreciate Lee's work on this issue. But with Debbie Smith likely to join him in Senate chambers next year, will she and other Northern Nevada Senators (from both parties) be willing to reexamine the funding formulae that the late Bill Raggio championed as a way to shield Northern Nevada from devastating budget cuts (that Southern Nevada ultimately had to shoulder)?

Whatever the case, it seems like John Lee is ready to keep going his own way, doing his own thing, and frustrating leaders on both sides of the aisle now that he's running for reelection to SD 1 one more time. I guess it's now part of the fun of working with Nevada's Legislature.

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