Thursday, February 7, 2013

Whose House? Whose Business?

Remember this? Just after Governor Brian Sandoval's "State of the State" speech, Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey (R-Reno) unintentionally exposed perhaps the worst kept secret in Carson City. At least then, it was finally admitted on statewide TV.

There was another reminder of this yesterday as reporters were shut out of a "private meeting" at the public building that houses the Nevada Legislature. Even some legislators were actually blocked from this meeting! Yes, corporate lobbyists believe they are that powerful in Carson City.

After Nevada journalist Jon Ralston tweeted about the meeting Wednesday morning, Senate Democratic leaders, about to head into a floor session, peered into the room, bewildered and more than a bit peeved. Some of these lobbyists, after all, are the people who sometimes try to kill policies put forward by Democratic leaders, gathering together right under lawmakers’ noses to plot strategy.

Then, the Senate sergeant-at-arms peeked inside through the small window and asked a colleague whether they were allowed to be in there. The staff member wasn’t sure.

This is when Denis arrived. He asked lobbyist George Ross, whose clients include the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce, whether he could come in with Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas. Ross told Denis he would ask Sam McMullen, a prominent business lobbyist and leader of the Business Lobbyist Group.

They ushered Denis and Kihuen in. But when this reporter tried to enter, McMullen said no.

“This is a private meeting,” he said.

“This is a public building,” the reporter said.

There was a collective intake of breath from the lobbyists.

“Close the door,” McMullen said.

Denis gave his speech, which was inaudible from outside the room. The lobbyists applauded at the end.

And this, all too often, is how business is done in Carson City. And legislators wonder why the public largely holds such a low opinion of state government?

Of course, these corporate lobbyists are trying to kill The Education Initiative. Because of course, they fear real tax reform. And they fear what may happen if the people are given a chance to vote on it.

So they're trying to muddy the waters. That's why we're now seeing this swirl of confusion on taxes in Carson City. Is it "revenue-neutral"? Will there be another competing initiative next year? Or will they just agree to drown us in some good old fashioned sunny "Gov Wreck"?

It's bad enough that such horrid policy is being celebrated in Carson City. It's even worse that corporate lobbyists are secretly crafting plans in what's supposed to be "the people's house" to try shoving this horrid policy down our throats. If this isn't a stinging indictment of "business as usual" in the Legislature, I don't know what is.

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