Tuesday, February 5, 2013

This Time Will Be Different?

So it's here. Yesterday was the first day of the 77th session of the Nevada Legislature. And at least for a moment yesterday, Jon Ralston put aside his cynicism to praise the opening speech by new Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick (D-North Las Vegas).

Kirkpatrick asked her colleagues if they will “apply nickel-sized solutions to dollar-sized problems.” That phrase resonates because of its metaphorical and near-literal meanings – the penurious funding of most services and the small-minded thinking when large solutions are imperative.

Nickel-sized solutions for dollar-sized problems: Thus has been the story of every session I have covered, so Kirkpatrick is asking me to believe the Gang of 63 will actually put its money where its leaders’ (or at least the Democratic ones) mouths have been on Day One of nearly every Legislature.

Yes, some will translate that line to mean: Kirkpatrick wants to raise taxes. And while she might, that is the most simplistic interpretation of the line, which is more a call for real, substantive debate – the kind she has made her signature.

“Will we be a state that answers the wake-up call to the problems in our education system, or will we, once again, put off taking action and leave the toughest problems for future generations to solve?” Kirkpatrick asked. The tendency is to snarkily reply: “Well, of course you will.”

But Kirkpatrick’s fire ignites embers of hope that have been all but burned out by sessions of inaction and postponement. You could tell that these were not just words to Kirkpatrick, that she does not want them to fade into the expected hurly burly of the next 119 days.

For a moment, even I was tempted to believe. But then, reality intervened. And I started wondering just what we can expect this session.

Of course, I'd like to believe. It's just that I'm reminded of the 900 pound gorilla in Carson City. If the Legislature can truly handle tax reform and common-sense budgeting, then why is The Education Initiative likely heading to the ballot box instead of the negotiating table?

So what's actually possible in Carson City this session? And perhaps more importantly, what's probable?

We know what Governor Sandoval has said. And we know what Republican legislators have said. Does Speaker Kirkpatrick have some sort of magical "secret sauce" in her possession that can break the G-O-TEA logjam on meaningful tax reform?

I'd like to think so. I'd like to believe. And honestly, I'd like to think that there are future Kenny Guinn like figures waiting in the wings and ready to pursue meaningful changes to bring both Nevada's tax code & Nevada's economy into the 21st century.

It's just that all too often when legislators speak of "bipartisan consensus", they mean politicians in both parties giving into the whims & fancies of "the gaming-mining-lobbying industrial complex". Why should we believe that this session will be different? Can legislators actually muster the courage necessary to stand up to well "juiced" corporate lobbyists and work out the kind of tax reform needed to fully fund our schools, our transportation, our health care, and the rest of our public infrastructure?

Trust me, I want to believe this session will be different. I just need to see the evidence proving such is possible. Until then, I'll probably keep looking ahead to efforts for organizing a "ballot royale" next year. At least we now know that if legislators don't act, "We the People" finally can.

Hey, do you think the thought of that might just scare the Legislature into action?

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