Friday, May 31, 2013

Sandoval Threatens Veto of AB 440/AB 441 Election Reform

As we've discussed many times here before, this session of the Nevada Legislature has been quite action packed. We've seen many successes... And we've seen some failures. But without a doubt, Session #77 looks to be going down as a very memorable one.

Early last month, Secretary of State Ross Miller (D) joined forces with Assembly Member James Ohrenschall (D-Sunrise Manor) to introduce AB 440 and AB 441. Both revolutionize voting in Nevada by extending the registration deadline and bringing early voting style election centers to general election day. Last month, we saw compelling testimony for AB 440 and AB 441.

But of course, Governor Brian Sandoval (R-"TEA" Curious) isn't interested in that. Here's what PLAN tweeted earlier today on the Governor's newest veto threat.

While the Nevada State Democratic Party didn't have a colorful meme in response, Chair Roberta Lange had this to say.

“Today Governor Sandoval joined right-wing Republican Governors across the county in their blatantly political efforts to restrict voting rights. Nevada has one of the most restrictive voter registration deadlines in the county, yet Governor Sandoval thinks this arbitrary deadline that keeps thousands of Nevadans from voting is acceptable. Sandoval's announcement that he will veto this bill is only the latest sign that Republicans recognize their pro-Wall Street, anti-middle class agenda is out of touch with Nevada voters, and that the only way they can win at the ballot box is to prevent as many people from voting as possible.”

But ultimately, this isn't about partisan sniping. This is about empowering people to exercise their legal right to vote. Why should people be denied a chance to participate in the democratic process? Is it truly fair and appropriate for the state to deny people a chance to participate because they want to register in mid or late October?

Again, this isn't about partisan politicking... Or at least, it shouldn't be. Apparently, Governor Sandoval feels otherwise. And numerous eligible Nevada voters may ultimately suffer because of this.

SB 303 Signed into Law As Congress Drags Along on #cir

Earlier this week, the Assembly passed SB 303. The Senate had already passed the bill earlier this month. And now, it's becoming state law.

A bill allowing people in the country illegally to obtain driving privilege cards in Nevada has been signed into law by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval.

When the cards become available Jan. 1, Nevada will join four other states providing a way for immigrants to legally drive on state roadways and obtain insurance.

Nevada’s first Hispanic governor signed SB303 on Friday. He was surrounded by legislative leaders and others who have championed the bill.

Sandoval called it an “historic day” in Nevada. Democratic Senate Majority Leader [Mo Denis (D-North Las Vegas)] fought back tears as the bill was signed.

As we've discussed before, this is a historic achievement. Finally, people who have been living here and otherwise abiding by the law won't just be stopped and arrested because of how much personal documentation they have. And Nevada is at least taking some action on providing documentation to undocumeted immigrants who are still waiting for Congress to act.

Oh, yes. That's right. We're still waiting on Congress... And particularly on US Senator Dean Heller (R-46%).

The left-leaning Center for American Progress did a state-by-state analysis of the estimated economic impact of passing the immigration reform legislation. In Nevada, the organization estimated there were 190,000 immigrants in the state without legal status. Over 10 years, the legalization of the population would generate $534 million in tax revenue and a $17.9 billion increase in gross state product.

Also, more than 100 economists signed on to a May 23 letter to the Senate and House leadership supporting immigration reform, arguing the net impact would be economic growth. The letter was spearheaded by the right-leaning American Action Forum, and the signatories are identified as "conservative" economists.

While [US Senate Majority Leader Harry] Reid [D-Searchlight, & Don't You Forget It] is a strong supporter of the legislation, Sen. Dean Heller recently penned an op-ed for the Las Vegas Review-Journal in which he called for bipartisan work to pass reform and lauded the course set in the Senate while stopping short of fully backing the bill as it stands. [...]

Some pro-reform advocates have hope Heller will endorse the bill well before any vote on the Senate floor, possibly swaying other Republicans on the fence. The Sun's Karoun Demirjian reported last week that Heller was not biting, for now.

The full Senate is expected to take up the immigration reform in early June after addressing the farm bill, while the House of Representatives has its own "gang" of bipartisan legislators working on a proposal. The House plan is expected to be unveiled next week.

As we've discussed before, Nevada and other states have been trying to fill the void left by the federal government's past inability to implement comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). But now, Congress has a chance to finally change this. So will it happen?

That's what everyone is now asking. And that's why CIR advocates are demanding answers from Senator Heller. Will the passage of SB 303 in Carson City finally do the trick for Senator Heller?

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Fracking the Hell Out of Nevada?

Since January, we've been closely monitoring the surreptitious campaign to bring fracking to Nevada. Since then, Senator Tick Segerblom (D-Las Vegas) introduced SB 390 to institute state fracking regulations... And NV Energy unleashed its NVision into SB 123. While the (again) revised SB 123 does not call for as many new natural gas power plants as the earlier version of NVision, it does nonetheless call for more natural gas power in Nevada. And we've yet to see answers on where NV Energy expects to find the natural gas for these proposed new power plants.

Today, Senator Segerblom testified in favor of SB 390. However, he was not alone. Nevada Conservation League's Kyle Davis spoke in favor... And so did Paul Enos. He's President of the Nevada Trucking Association, but today he testified as a lobbyist for Noble Energy, the company pursuing a fracking license in Elko County.

Question time soon began. And Assembly Member Heidi Swank (D-Paradise) kicked it off by asking about "swarms of earthquakes" that have recently been striking Arkansas. Enos claimed they were likely just caused by a "bad drill".

Assembly Member Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) called fracking "a miracle". "We should be praising you guys from freeing us from the oil cartels," he said. Enos appreciated the praise... Because it at least temporarily deflected from the frightening reality that Assembly Member Swank alluded to. Earlier this month, The Nation published an expose on the ugly reality that fossil fuel fracking has brought to Western Pennsylvania. And that can be added to the growing pile of fracking horror stories.

Assembly Member Lesley Cohen (D-Henderson) then asked about water. There's a reason for that: Fracking is very water intensive. And the chemicals used in fracking contaminate the remaining water supply. And last time we checked, Nevada doesn't have much water. So why again are we even considering opening our lands to fracking?

More fossil fuel industry representative then spoke in favor of SB 390... But qualified it by saying they only now support the bill because it does NOT ban fracking, as a growing coalition of environmental and community health activists have been calling for. They then disputed the growing body of evidence showing the real dangers of fracking. I wonder if they've ever spoken with anyone from Timpson, Texas (and for that matter, the Dallas-Fort Worth region as well).

Assembly Member Cohen later corrected earlier claims that fracking doesn't affect water supply. That certainly is not the case in Colorado. And it certainly is not the case in Pennsylvania. And it's hard to believe that somehow Nevada is immune to the dangers being realized elsewhere.

Assembly Member Paul Aizley (D-Paradise) asked state regulators testifying at today's hearing about cleaning up. That's also what many residents of West Virginia, Pennsylvania, North Dakota, Colorado, and elsewhere continue to ask.

No action was taken on SB 390 today. But considering SB 390's unanimous approval by the Senate on Tuesday, the bill is expected to easily pass the Assembly. And considering the broad support the bill seems to have now, it's unlikely Governor Brian Sandoval (R) will veto it.

So is this really "good news"? Keep in mind that various fossil fuel industry lobbyists testified in favor of SB 390 precisely because it does not ban fracking. And considering one of them said he changed his mind on the bill precisely because its language was watered down amended, this should set off alarms.

OK, OK, so SB 390 at least fills the regulatory void left by the Bush Administration in 2005. That's a start. But considering Noble Energy supports this bill, it may very well leave the door to fracking wide open here in Nevada. And remember that companies like Noble want to frack for more of the very fossil fuels that are fueling the climate crisis.

There's a reason why many Californians have been protesting Governor Jerry Brown's (D) consideration of fracking there. And there's a reason why over 250 communities across the US have passed anti-fracking resolutions. Oh, and there's a reason why France and Bulgaria will not allow any future fracking. This shit is dangerous, and we're only opening ourselves up to peril if we start fracking the hell out of Nevada.

So what will it take for our state to realize the peril that lies ahead?


On Tuesday, the Assembly held a very heated and emotionally charged hearing on SB 221. Within hours of that hearing, Senator Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) dropped SB 520. It's supposed to be the Republican answer to Senator Justin Jones' (D-Enterprise) background checks bill. And of course, SB 520 doesn't expand background checks for gun purchases (while SB 221 does).

Funny enough, neither Senator Roberson nor Governor Brian Sandoval (R) wants to discuss the details of SB 520. And of course, they don't want to explain why they want to kill SB 221. And this is why the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Demand Action campaign is taking to TV airwaves.

The Nevada Republican Party has joined with the NRA and various "tea party" groups to kill SB 221. And of course, Governor Sandoval and Senator Roberson are deferring to them over the 86% of Nevadans who want expanded background checks.

So now, they're getting push-back. And that's not all. We'll also see a very important arrival in Carson City tomorrow.

RalstonReports: Just got robocall from Mark Kelly, who will be in Carson City on Friday to push gun control bill, telling me to call my assemblyman. #nvleg

Remember Mark Kelly?

Get ready for some serious push-back this weekend.

The Final Twist

On Tuesday, something quite interesting happened... Yet hardly anyone noticed. We're about to correct that today. So pay close attention to this.

On Tuesday, SB 390 passed unanimously. Remember that SB 390 aims to regulate oil and natural gas fracking in Nevada. If most Assembly Members and Governor Brian Sandoval (R) soon concur, then the State of Nevada will begin to fill the oversight void left when then President George W. Bush exempted fracking from numerous federal environmental and health safety laws. But of course, this still falls far short of the full fracking ban pursued by CREDO Action and many other environmental activists.

What's further complicated this issue is SB 123. NV Energy's NVision has run into controversy for several reasons, but at least some have been asking what NV Energy's proposal for more natural gas power plants means for future fracking in Nevada. While the matter of fracking still hasn't directly been addressed by NV Energy, SB 123 was revised again to pare back new natural gas power plant proposals before passing the full Senate earlier this month.

But yesterday, we saw an entirely new twist to this story. All of a sudden, a new player emerged at the very last minute. And now, Carson City is abuzz over the news of multi-billionaire super-investor Warren Buffett stepping in to buy NV Energy.

"I've spoken to Warren Buffett, (NV Energy president and CEO) Michael Yackira and (chairman of the board) Phil Satre, and it is not often I have been as enthused about a deal as I am now,” said U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. ”I am elated. It is really good news for Nevada that Warren Buffett wants to invest $5.5 billion in our state. He told me that he loves Nevada and now has an excuse to come here more often."

According to a news release, under the terms of the agreement, MidAmerican will purchase all outstanding shares of NV Energy’s common stock for $23.75 per share in cash. The transaction, which has been unanimously approved by both companies’ boards of directors, has an enterprise value of approximately $10 billion.

The acquisition is subject to customary closing conditions, including the approval of the transaction by NV Energy’s shareholders and the receipt of required state and federal approvals. The transaction is currently expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2014.

So what happens now? So far, both SB 123 and SB 390 seem to be on track for final passage. In fact, SB 390 has an Assembly hearing this afternoon.

And so far, Warren Buffett has shown interest in divesting from fossil fuels & investing in renewable energy. Was he noticing NVision & SB 123 when deciding to buy NV Energy? What does he want NVision to look like in the future?

And let's not forget what triggered all this in the first place. NV Energy was facing increasing pressure to shut down the Reid-Gardner Coal Plant near Moapa. At the same time, the company wants to cash in on Nevada's burgeoning green economy. Oh, and then there's that whole matter of the greatest global security threat of our time.

We've seen so many twists and turns as we've been tracking on the intersection of renewable energy policy, NV Energy's business plan, and fossil fuel fracking, and climate change. And now, we have the final twist provided by Warren Buffett. This should be fun.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

SB 374 Passes Senate Overwhelmingly

In March, several Nevada legislators took a field trip to Arizona to study the implementation of that state's medical marijuana law. Last month, Senator Tick Segerblom's (D-Las Vegas) bill to authorize medical marijuana dispensaries, SB 374, passed the Senate Judiciary Committee. And tonight, the full Senate finally passed the bill.

Backers said the measure, approved 17-4, establishes procedures to comply with a constitutional amendment approved by the voters in 2000 that allows the use of medical marijuana.

The bill would allow 40 clinics in the Las Vegas area, 20 in Reno, two in Carson City and one in each of Nevada’s remaining rural counties.

Sen. Mark Hutchinson, R-Las Vegas, said law enforcement was “comfortable” with the bill, which now goes to the Assembly. He noted that courts are dismissing cases in which businesses have been accused of illegally dispensing the drug.

The state Board of Pharmacy will regulate the dispensaries.

Only Senators Barbara Cegavske (R-Spring Valley), Don Gustavson (R-Sparks), James Settlemeyer (R-Minden), and Joe Hardy (R-Boulder City) voted against SB 374. All other Senators, including all top Senate Republicans, voted for the bill. The bill now moves to the Assembly with only five days left in the session.

Yet since this bill attracted such strong bipartisan support, it's hard to imagine this bill will run into all that much trouble in the Assembly in the final days of #NVLeg 2013. In addition, Governor Brian Sandoval (R) has been hinting at signing this bill into law. So do we have a done deal?

Perhaps so. After all, the state stands to collect $20,000 dispensary license fees and $5,000 renewal fees. And the state has been facing a law suit filed by the ACLU challenging current (convoluted) medical marijuana regulations.

So in the end, this is just making sense. Finally, Nevada's marijuana policy is about to get a healthy injection of common sense.

Postscript on Whittemore Verdict, SB 49, & the Real Solution to Nevada's Culture of Corruption

What a fall from grace. Not too long ago, Harvey Whittemore was one of Nevada's top power players. But now, he's officially a convict.

A U.S. District Court jury has found developer Harvey Whittemore guilty on three counts of making illegal campaign contributions.

Jurors are telling U.S. District Court Judge Larry Hicks they don't think they can reach a verdict on charges Whittemore lied to the FBI. Hicks is sending the jury back to deliberate on the lying charge.

Oh, and what we discussed over two months ago still stands.

Of course, the usual suspects will try to spin this all sorts of ways. So let's first clear this up: Harvey Whittemore was an opportunistic and bipartisan "juice man". He once had close ties to Harry Reid, Dean Heller, and a whole host of politicians at all levels of government across the state. He was only abandoned when the FBI began investigating him.

As we've discussed before, this is the tactic often used to deflect from the real pursuit of real solutions to this ongoing problem of corruption in Nevada Government. It's easy to just blame a politician who once received campaign contributions. It's much riskier to actually propose shutting down the ongoing "Merry-go-round of Corruption". [...]

We will only experience more of these embarrassing corruption scandals if we fail to address the root of this problem. That's why we eventually need real, serious dialogue on clean money. With clean money (or public financing of campaigns), we can finally have clean elections. And with clean elections, our elected officials are no longer beholden to shady "juice men" and conniving corporate lobbyists.

So before we hear any pundits and politicians restart the blame game on this and/or any future corruption scandals to emerge, we should dare them to offer a solution. Are they ready to bring clean money & clean elections to Nevada? If not, and if they don't like the concept of public financing, what is their solution?

Last month, we saw a glimmer of hope in SB 49's passage. And while the final bill does offer some campaign finance reform and more transparency than what we had become accustomed to, it's nonetheless a shadow of its former self. And it still comes nowhere close to ending Nevada's infamous culture of corruption.

Of course, we're not alone in this. New York has had its own share of recent scandals. And earlier this year, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo (D) showed some real courage in addressing the root of these corruption scandals... And advocating the real solution.

So my demand still stands. Before we hear any pundit and/or rival politician spin the Whittemore verdict against another politician, let's see these pundits and politicians discuss the real solution to this systemic corruption. This is what Nevada truly needs, not another meaningless round of finger pointing blame games.

Cut & Run

Yesterday, the Nevada Legislature witnessed another heart-wrenching round of testimony on SB 221, Senator Justin Jones' (D-Enterprise) background checks gun safety bill. But then, all of a sudden, Senator Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) dropped SB 520 just minutes after the SB 221 hearing concluded. He and Governor Brian Sandoval (R) were hoping to create the appearance of "doing something on gun safety" while actually killing SB 221 in a politically palatable way. Last night, Jon Ralston recapped all the action on his show.

So what happened? The Las Vegas Sun's Andrew Doughman has more 411 on what went down.

Jones introduced his bill on the fourth day of the 120-day legislative session and has been talking to the governor’s office about the bill during the past months. But talks stalled last week with the governor opposing mandatory private party background checks and Jones unwilling to strike what he called the “key” point of the bill.

Jones was displeased with Roberson for introducing the bill on the 114th day of the legislative session.

“It’s politically craven for Sen. Roberson to decide on day 114 that he suddenly cares,” Jones said.

Roberson had earlier offered an amendment to Jones’ bill that was nearly identical to SB 520. That effort failed on a party line vote.

While representatives from the governor’s office said Jones has been “extremely cooperative and forthcoming,” Sandoval was “having a lot of difficulty” with agreeing to the background check provisions of Jones’ bill, said Gerald Gardner, Sandoval’s chief of staff. [...]

“There is currently no plan to hear Roberson’s bill,” said Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the Senate Judiciary committee to which the Senate referred Roberson’s bill.

And we've already been going into detail on why this is happening. Again, it comes down to petty politics. Never mind that 86% of Nevadans demand universal background checks on firearms purchases. And never mind that the current loophole infested system allows for dangerous criminals and the severely mentally ill to access firearms. Because the NRA refuses to accept any real gun safety reform, Governor Sandoval won't let it pass. Instead, he and Senator Roberson are pursuing their own sham bill.

They just don't want us to recognize their sham bill for what it truly is. Why else would the typically loquacious Senator Roberson cut and run from a KSNV/News 3 reporter?

Need I say more?

SB 303 About to Become Law As Congress Wrestles With #cir

So it finally happened this week. In the closing days of the 77th session of the Nevada Legislature, the Assembly voted 30-9 to pass SB 303. This bill allows for undocumented immigrants and others who have difficulties accessing their personal documents to obtain driver's authorization cards.

And already, Governor Brian Sandoval (R) has signaled his willingness to sign SB 303 into law. So does this mean the matter is settled?

Perhaps not. Remember that this is just state policy on legal driving status. Ultimately, the federal government handles actual legal immigration status...

And US Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Searchlight) had something to say about this.

“I talked about this to a number of my senators today, and what he wanted to say is they haven’t done a whip count on this yet,” Reid said. “I think we have 60 votes. Remember, we start out at 55 Democrats. I think the most I’ll lose is two or three. Let’s say I wind up with 52 Democrats. I only need eight Republicans, and I already have four, so that should be pretty easy.

Funny enough, SB 303 enjoyed healthy margins in both houses of the Nevada Legislature. Yet in Congress, S 744 (the Senate comprehensive immigration reform [CIR] bill) has yet to reach 60 votes (out of 100) in the Senate. Oh, and it's still anyone's guess as to what US Senator Dean Heller (R-46%) will do to it.

And again, there's also the issue of the US House. Can any CIR bill pass there? Can anything get past the 21st Century Know Nothings there?

That's actually why Nevada is about to get SB 303. What else can the state do while the 21st Century Know Nothings continue to block comprehensive immigration reform in Congress? And will Republican Congresscritters notice what several Republican state legislators just voted to do?

Empty Rhetoric & Radio Silence

Yesterday, something interesting happened... But does Senator Dean Heller (R-46%) want us to notice? He held an "immigration reform forum", but he didn't want to talk to anyone at PLAN about comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). He may be seeing this, but he may actually be fearing this.

We've been warning for some time about the 21st Century Know Nothing campaign to kill CIR. Now, we're starting to see real money back up the hateful rhetoric. And not only that, but they've even been developing a "scandalous" strategy to destroy the bill.

And of course, it all comes back to this. The G-O-TEA run House has always looked challenging. We've been reminded of this lately, even as the Senate CIR bill moves forward. So yes, there's still the matter of that danged House.

In a sign that immigration reform still faces steep odds in the House, Reuters reports that a significant number of House Republicans are still not convinced that an immigration bill would help GOP outreach to Latino voters. Reuters quotes one representative, Tim Huelskamp of Kansas, capturing the mood of many of his colleagues this way: “There is no evidence to support this idea that Republicans will pick up a lot of votes if we give amnesty to 11 million folks.”

Meanwhile, Rep. Mo Brooks of Alabama sees “amnesty” as a slippery slope. “We can’t afford to give amnesty to every person who wants to illegally cross our borders,” he said. “We don’t have enough money in our piggy bank. Amnesty begets more amnesty.”

In other words, now that the bipartisan Senate gang of eight’s immigration reform compromise has cleared the Judiciary Committee and made its way to the Senate floor, making it more likely that it will pass the Senate, there’s still the very real possibility that reform will die in the House of Representatives. There, the numbers are not in their favor. House Republicans have long voiced their opposition to a comprehensive bill.

That the immigration bill has a long and difficult path to citizenship — thirteen years, with a sizable list of fees and requirements — doesn’t factor into this opposition. The mere fact that some unauthorized immigrants could receive citizenship at some point in the future is enough to inspire opposition. And among House Republicans, this opposition is fairly broad-based; as we saw with the fights over the debt ceiling, the fiscal cliff, and the sequester, Tea Party Republicans have a tight grip on the direction of the chamber.

And yes, we're still waiting for Reps. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) and Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) to weigh in on either the Senate and/or the House CIR framework. And at this point, they and Senator Heller probably prefer not to deal with this issue at all.

After all, there's now a widening wedge between the Republican establishment's desire for political survival and the "tea party" demand for ideological "purity". On one hand, "old school" paleo-conservative Republican establishmentarians continue warning their party of the peril they face if they don't change.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Yet on the other hand, the 21st Century Know Nothings are even violating "The 11th Commandment" and resorting to outright racism to kill the bill. Guess who's gaining more traction with the bulk of Congressional Republicans?

And that brings us back to Senator Heller's "immigration reform forum" yesterday. He keeps asking for a "bipartisan solution" and follows that request with more empty rhetoric. So what happens when one finally arrives? Radio silence, that's what.

So will Senator Heller finally embrace the "bipartisan solution" he's been asking for all along? Or will the "tea party" ultimately (again) be too much for him to resist? How much do you want to read into his empty rhetoric and radio silence?

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

The Buck Stops There ( @GovSandoval's Office, That Is).

Wow. That was fast. Just this morning, we witnessed the Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing for SB 221, Senator Justin Jones' (D-Enterprise) gun safety bill. And not too long after the hearing, some Carson City gossip hounds and pot stirrers were already declaring the bill "dead on arrival". It also didn't help that Governor Brian Sandoval (R-NRA) began hinting at "The V Word".

Then, all of a sudden, we saw this.

.@GovSandoval on GOP gun alternative: "I want to commend Senator Roberson for his attention to this important issue..." #nvleg #choreography

Remember when Senator Michael Roberson (R-NRA) pulled this stunt last week?

We even saw poison pill amendments, including one from Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson making the background checks provision voluntary instead of mandatory. Ummm, hello... Will anyone trying to purchase firearms and ammunition for nefarious, criminal purposes voluntarily submit to a background check? File that in the "Totally Defeats the Purpose" Department.

What was once Senator Roberson's proposed poison pill amendment to SB 221 now has its own bill number: SB 520. And seriously, Senator Roberson and Governor Sandoval may be inhaling a bit too much 420 (without even waiting to pass SB 374 into law!) if they think this act of political convenience can magically make Nevada's gun violence problems go away.

Funny enough, several of the 21st Century Know Nothings who testified against SB 221 this morning railed against the mental health portion of the bill along with the universal background checks provision. And that's not the first time this has occurred. (Thanks for the reminder, Senator Debbie Smith [D-Sparks].) Yet all of a sudden, Senator Roberson and Governor Sandoval are champions of better mental health care? I wonder what James Flavy Coy Brown, Monica, and/or any other mental health patient dumping victims have to say about that!

We all know what this is truly about: Governor Sandoval wants to remain in the gun lobby's good graces, yet he also wants the appearance of "doing something on gun safety". So all of a sudden, his "new old BFF" Senator Roberson has all too conveniently dropped SB 520 at the very last minute. Governor Sandoval can (once again) have his political cake and eat it, too!

Or can he? Senator Jones refuses to let his bill go down without a fight.

.@Jones4Nevada says he won't strip out background checks provision to get bill passed. Says leadership in Assem. will move it. #nvleg

And as long as the Assembly passes SB 221 within the next six days, the bill will still reach Governor Sandoval's desk. And ultimately, the buck will stop with him. So is there any wonder as to why he and Senator Roberson are desperately trying to pass the buck now? And would they really be doing this if they didn't believe 86% of Nevadans support Senator Jones' bill?

What About the Actual Policy?

This morning, we saw full houses in Carson City and Las Vegas. SB 221 faced its Assembly Judiciary Committee hearing. And we heard plenty from all sides on gun violence.

In Carson City, we heard plenty of testimony. And we heard testimony from people who know guns quite well. David Chipman was one of them.

atdleft: "This is a crime control problem... No 1 wants loved ones hurt." @DemandAction's David Chipman @ #NVLeg #SB221 #nvp2

He's a former ATF agent. And he now works with the Mayors Against Illegal Guns Demand Action project precisely because he knows personally how dangerous unchecked firearms can be.

Owly Images

And that's not all. ProgressNow Nevada's Brian Fadie and Teresa Crawford came prepared to the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas to talk about the real facts on SB 221 and gun safety. And they were not alone. In addition, citizen activist Esther Sass reminded the committee of the real world consequences of allowing dangerous weapons to fall into the wrong hands.

Yet when Senator Justin Jones (D-Enterprise) described the scene of the crime of the 2011 Lloyd George Las Vegas Courthouse shooting, a SB 221 opponent in Las Vegas shouted, "So what?!"

Eventually, it was their turn to testify. And here's how that went down.

SteveSebelius: Enforce laws that currently exist? Current law says felons, mentally ill can't have guns. B-ground checks will help us enforce existing law!

And that wasn't all. They even tried feigning concern for LGBTQ families, the mentally ill, and even the working poor! Isn't it funny how the "tea party" and NRA only care about oppressed minority communities when gun safety legislation comes up? Where's their "concern" when our civil rights and well being are actually at stake?

Owly Images

Owly Images

Of course, we're now seeing plenty of political jockeying on possible life or death for SB 221 and overall gun safety reform in the Nevada Legislature. What about the actual policy? With time quickly running out on #NVLeg #77, who's noticing this?

Only Just Beginning

This spring has certainly been a memorable one in Carson City. Yet during this 77th session of the Nevada Legislature, I couldn't help but think of what went down at the end of the 76th session. Remember the suprise Nevada Supreme Court decision that ultimately led to an unsurprising continuation of the status quo?

Remember the definition of insanity? We can't keep doing the same thing while expecting different results! We can't keep robbing Peter to pay Paul. We can't keep playing the same "accounting tricks" that ultimately got Enron into trouble. We can't keep avoiding reality.

The Nevada Supreme Court's ruling was a brutal reality check. And even if Brian Sandoval and most legislators continue to ignore the overarching message of that ruling to play more games and hobble together some sort of "Frankenstein budget", Nevadans are getting fed up with this nonsense. People out here are hurting, and they are wondering when they will see more job openings and how their kids will be able to get into college. Meanwhile in Carson, the debate is all about how [many] workers need to be attacked before schools can be allowed to stay open.

Wonderful. (snark)

But what if we don't want to keep going down this same road?

And that led us to think aloud about a different path forward.

It's now a question of whether Nevada will keep sputtering on its way to the bottom, or if progressives can turn this around and take advantage of this unique opportunity to inject more common sense into our state government. The days of Kenny Guinn and Barbara Buckley and Bill Raggio making "grand bargains" seem to be long gone. Term limits are taking away experienced legislators. Meanwhile, the power vacuum is being filled by corporate lobbyists, party central committees, and other outside forces.

So what can we do? In the long term, I still believe it's in our best interest that progressives work toward reforming state government to make it more responsive to the people and less beholden to special corporate interests. But in the mean time, we can't wait on the sidelines for the next two years while Nevada's people continue to suffer inadequate public education, health care, transportation, and other infrastructure necessary to make our state whole again.

So now, we have to ask ourselves not whether and when we will go to the ballot and ask the people to save our state, but how we will do so and who we will build coalitions with. Should we work with gaming and mining on a broad-based business tax? Should we work with other progressive activists on a corporate income tax? Should we push for some sort of mining tax reform? 2012 may seem like a long hike away, but it really isn't. We need to start planning now to take the first necessary steps to save our state and bring real progressive reform to Nevada government.

In many ways, it's started to feel like deja vu yet again. "Big talk" on tax reform has been replaced with tinkering around the edges (of a very broken system). And despite growing trouble arising from chronic underfunding of our social safety net, the chronic underfunding looks quite set to continue (albeit at a slightly less severe level).

Yet with this being said, something is different this time. This time, We the People will have the final say. 2014 may seem like a long hike away, but it truly isn't. And with The Education Initiative and SJR 15 going to the ballot box next year, this is only just beginning.

While we may yet see another politically convenient state budget full of ridiculously bad policy, something is different this time. It may not last too long. Voters will have the opportunity to finally put an end to the status quo next year. This is only just beginning.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Far from Finished

So this has been one hell of a Memorial Day weekend for many of us. It's especially been an awkwardly rough weekend for those citizen activists who worked tirelessly on AB 230 and improving teen safety. Last Friday, PLAN's Bob Fulkerson and Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood [NAPPA]'s Elisa Cafferata provided further perspective on what had just happened on "Ralston Reports".

Last Friday, we saw plenty of raw emotion explode all over the progressive blogosphere and social media. And yes, it even happened right here. I couldn't help it. I was so stunned, so verklempt.

Since then, we've had a chance to step back and notice the larger picture of what happened. For a "so angry one must laugh" take, check out Laura Martin's GIF loaded explanation. And if more catharsis is needed, check out Sin City Siren.

So now, let's take a moment and discuss the big picture some more. For so long, we've become accustomed to seeing the powers that be in Carson City as Kings and Queens of Pain who continually disappoint by agreeing to continue the failed status quo. That's actually a reason why We the People will be deciding on change at the ballot box next year.

Yet this session, we've also seen something we had not been accustomed to experiencing in Carson City: a slew of progressive victories. SJR 13 (marriage equality), SJR 15 (mining tax reform), SB 229 (saving Lake Tahoe), SB 303 (driver's authorization cards), and more progressive priorities have actually been advancing and winning in the Nevada Legislature. At times, activists have pinched each other to see if this is for real.

Yet while the bubble of happiness occasionally leaked with reminders of continuing fiscal madness, it didn't completely burst until Friday. The shocking demise of AB 230 reminded progressive activists of the continuing headwinds hindering further progress. How on earth could such common sense legislation aimed at protecting teens face such a ghastly demise?

It comes down to this: There's still a Republican Governor. And there are not enough votes in #NVLeg to override his veto(es). So it limits opportunities. Governor Sandoval had to be shamed into backing SB 229 and SB 303, and his action wasn't needed on SJR 13 and SJR 15. Yet on AB 230, he dug in his heels and refused to budge on his opposition... To educating kids on how to prevent teen pregnancies and spreading dangerous infections.

Could Senate Democrats have joined their Assembly colleagues in passing the bill anyway? Perhaps so. It would have been vetoed by the Governor, and perhaps it would have been fodder for the coming campaign cycle. (And it may still be anyway.)

Should Senate Democratic leaders have done this? It's often been recommended to "do what's right and let the consequences follow". I can't help but wonder why they couldn't have at least laid the blame directly on Governor Sandoval and shown everyone why comprehensive sex education couldn't become law in Nevada. Instead, there's no more bill... And these very Democratic leaders are being blamed for the bill's demise. Was it really good politics to treat good policy so badly?

Yet with that being said, it still would have resulted in AB 230's death. So what then? As NAPPA's Elisa Cafferata explained on Friday, there's still the possibility of parts of AB 230 being resurrected and amended into other bills. Perhaps this way, it will be harder for Governor Sandoval to veto it all way.

But whatever happens to the remains of AB 230 in the final days of the 77th session of the Nevada Legislature, progressive organizers and activists will again have to figure out how to regroup and move forward on this and other issues left by the wayside in Carson City. As we've learned the hard way on the above mentioned victories, they were all long and hard fought. They didn't come overnight, and they all met plenty of resistance along the way.

So what made the difference? You did. We did. The grassroots did. It took relentless advocacy to get us to the point where we are now. And clearly, we're still far from finished.

All too often, leaders in Carson City need for the grassroots to lead the way. That's clearly the case now. Regardless of what happens in the coming days, we're far from finished. One election can't change everything. Not even one legislative session can. It will take longer to achieve victories on issues like sex education and public education funding, but activists shouldn't throw in the towel just because of screwy politics in Carson City... Far from it.

We're far from finished.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

SB 229 Secures Final Passage, Will Repeal "Trash Tahoe Bill"

This week has truly been a wild one in Carson City. We've seen plenty of action as the 77th session of the Nevada Legislature comes to a close. And yes, we even saw major progress on saving Lake Tahoe.

The Assembly voted 40-1 to pass SB229 which repeals a law passed by the 2011 Legislature that paved the way for Nevada to exit the Tahoe Compact created in the late 1960s to regulate development and oversee environmental controls in the Tahoe Basin that straddles Nevada and California. The Senate passed the measure in April.

"We have found new ways to cooperate, and SB229's repeal of the timetable of withdraw sends a strong message that Nevada supports working together with California to protect the lake," Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, said while urging his colleagues' support on the floor. [...]

Bobzien urged lawmakers to support a plan to withdraw Nevada's threat to leave the Tahoe Compact with California. The Assembly approved the measure 40-1. (AP Photo/Cathleen Allison)

The bill was ushered through the Legislature after Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and California Gov. Jerry Brown recently announced an agreement to protect Lake Tahoe's delicate ecosystem while also considering the economy when making land use decisions.

"Tahoe is a natural beauty we have to be proud of in our state and I'm glad everybody could come together to work together," said Nevada Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas. "I'm glad that Tahoe will stay blue and we have good compromise, and I'm glad the governors worked together as well."

"The timetable for withdrawal from the compact was just always a problem," Bobzien said. "The forum for cooperating has always been the compact, so if you make the statement that the compact should be dissolved, how do you expect people to cooperate."

This has been a long time coming. In 2011, the Legislature voted for SB 271. And in turn, that launched a protracted war with California as environmental advocates on both sides of the state line were horrified by this brazen attempt to dismantle safeguards meant to preserve Tahoe.

So this session, SB 229 was introduced to repeal the 76th session's SB 271 and preserve regulatory safeguards for Lake Tahoe. Yet even as SB 229 passed the State Senate last month, its future remained uncertain as Governor Brian Sandoval (R) made veto threats. After all, since corporate developers pushed Tahoe to the brink, they seemed hungry for more.

But then, we saw a surprising twist of fate. Earlier this month, Governor Sandoval announced an agreement with California Governor Jerry Brown (D) to pass SB 229/repeal SB 271. Apparently, California's threats of unilateral regulation and the continuing law suit against the recent revisions to Lake Tahoe's master plan proved to be too much for Governor Sandoval to ignore.

And now, we have overwhelming Assembly passage of SB 229. And under the agreement secured from California Governor Brown, Nevada Governor Sandoval has reversed his stance and promised to sign it into law. While many questions remain over the future of oversight and over-development at Lake Tahoe, at least the lake's advocates can celebrate the end to the all out assault on the entire regulatory framework meant to save Tahoe.

Friday, May 24, 2013

The Ultimate Betrayal

Earlier this month, we saw the culmination of the extended 21st Century Know Nothing campaign to kill the prospect of comprehensive sex education throughout Nevada in the form of an outrageous editorial published on the web site of the state's "newspaper" of record setting embarrassments. Who could have guessed that one of the top Democrats in the Nevada Legislature would ultimately do the bidding of the 21st Century Know Nothings and the "newspaper" they so love? John Lee, meet Mo Denis (D-Coward).

The sex-ed measure was not a license for Planned Parenthood to invade schools and promote abortion. It was legislation designed to update a decades-old curricula that is no longer relevant and to educate kids about an array of dangers that didn’t exist or were barely known 30 years ago.

Isn’t it their job to educate any constituents who might have misunderstood the intent or whose fears had been fanned by the other side? Wasn’t this issue important enough to do that?

Instead, Democratic operatives and senators were trying Friday afternoon to tamp down a social media firestorm from the left. That was their priority -- not having THEIR people make this worse for them. Profiles in courage, they are.

And what do they say to their Assembly colleagues who backed this measure? I can imagine: "Sorry, we hung you out, but you know, people might be mad at us so we had to kill it. Hope it's not an issue for you in your elections."

According to a source who blabbed to the Las Vegas Sun's Conor Shine, Governor Brian Sandoval (R-Huh?!) was threatening to veto the bill. And considering Governor Sandoval's penchant for reluctance to accept reality, this is likely true. Still, why would Senator Denis concede defeat so quickly and without any sort of fight?

Was Senator Denis ever willing to even give this bill a chance? Did the Senate Majority Leader ever plan to even listen to the majority of his majority caucus? Does he really want to punish and endanger Nevada students just for the sake of pandering to 21st Century Know Nothings who will never support him or any other Democratic candidate anyway?

Supposedly, Senator Denis also did this to "protect vulnerable incumbents". But so far, blowback from progressives looks to be delivering the opposite result. And Mr. Majority Leader may pay the ultimate price for the ultimate betrayal.

Costly Status Quo

We've been warning of this for some time. And now, we are beginning to see the consequences. Nevada's largest psychiatric hospital, Rawson-Neal in Las Vegas, has faced disturbing allegations of mental health patient dumping since April. And today, an independent investigation of Rawson-Neal concluded that while many of the discharges were proper, quite a few were not.

The state hired Dr. Kenneth Appelbaum, a professor of psychiatry at the University of Massachusetts Medical School, and Joel Dvoskin, a clinical psychologist and faculty member at the University of Arizona College of Medicine, to examine the hospital's practices.

The two spent a week at the hospital earlier this month. Among their findings:

• Hospital staff often feel pressure to discharge patients quickly to make room for more.

• The hospital relies too heavily on treatment with medications and not enough on psychotherapy or behavioral therapy.

• Staffing levels are not adequate for the large volume of patients seen at the hospital.

The consultants recommended that the state increase the number of staff positions at the hospital by about 5 percent. They also recommended that the hospital "increase the amount of high-quality, evidence-based treatments beyond the provision of psychotropic medication."

Boosting staff levels, along with ensuring each patient has a clear treatment plan upon discharge, may reduce the number of patients improperly bused out of state without housing or treatment waiting at their destination.

"Every single state has seen massive budget cuts in their mental health system," Dvorkin said in an interview. "Billions of dollars nationally. It isn't just Nevada. In my opinion, we are starting to see the impact."

Surprise! Chronic underfunding of our state's social safety net is leading to ghastly consequences. Who could have guessed this?

As we've explained before, Nevada is finally experiencing a rude awakening. We can no longer afford lulls of complacency. The strained economy and tattered social safety net won't allow for any more.

At least Governor Brian Sandoval (R) has finally agreed to address the problems with Nevada mental health care. Yet with that said, is he ready to truly fix the systemic ills behind this latest scandal? His latest actions cast doubt. And it's not as if the Legislature now has the appetite to do something.

So for now, we're mostly stuck with the status quo. Look at how much it's already costing us. How much more can we afford?

It May Yet Work.

Back in March, the Nevada Legislature held a hearing on health care and uncovered complications in implementing the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Yet despite earlier worries, Nevada has become a national model in successfully preparing for the arrival of ACA health insurance exchanges. And on top of that, the overall program still looks to be on track to come online this fall.

Today, we have even more big health care news. We've also seen plenty of hand wringing over "rate shock". It turns out that California is delivering some "rate shock"... That's actually even more unexpected.

In 2009, the Congressional Budget Office predicted that a medium-level “silver” plan —which covers 70 percent of a beneficiary’s expected health costs —on the California health exchange would cost $5,200 annually. More recently, a report from the consulting firm Milliman predicted it would carry a $450 monthly premium. Yesterday, we got the real numbers. And they’re lower than anyone thought.

As always, Sarah Kliff has the details. The California exchange will have 13 insurance options, and the heavy competition appears to be driving down prices. The most affordable silver-level plan is charging $276-a-month. The second-most affordable plan is charging $294. And all this is before subsidies. Someone making twice the poverty line, say, will only pay $104-a-month.

Sparer plans are even cheaper. A young person buying the cheapest “bronze”-level plan will pay $172 —and that, again, is before any subsidies.

California is a particularly important test for Obamacare. It’s not just the largest state in the nation. It’s also one of the states most committed to implementing Obamacare effectively. Under Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger —remember how that really happened?—California was the first state to begin building its insurance exchanges. The state’s outreach efforts are unparalleled. Its insurance regulators are working hard to bring in good plans and make sure they’re playing fair. If California can’t make the law work, perhaps no one can. But if California can make the law work, it shows that others can, too.

Exactly. If California can do it, and if Nevada can do it, then perhaps the entire country can make this work. And once we make it work, we'll really enjoy the results (better health care).

But of course, Senator Dean Heller (R-"TEA" Curious) refuses to let the ACA work. He's voted for the G-O-TEA amendment to repeal health care reform in March. And now, he's pushing his own amendment to block IRS funding going toward ACA implementation. And on top of all this, Senator Heller is desperately trying to connect the ACA to Scandal-mania while completely ignoring the real source of Scandal-mania.

Yet while Senator Heller continues pandering to irrational 21st Century Know Nothing fears, health care reform keeps chugging along. The Affordable Care Act faces unnecessary and ridiculous hurdles because of this, but it's nonetheless the law. And perhaps despite the additional unnecessary hurdles, it may yet work.

Finally, Save Gold Butte?

We've been waiting for this for some time. We've been waiting for Congressional action on Gold Butte for months. And after several months of waiting, something finally looks to be happening to preserve "Nevada's Piece of The Grand Canyon".

Yesterday, Senator Harry Reid (D) announced he will be introducing legislation to designate Gold Butte as a National Conservation Area.

“Gold Butte is Nevada’s piece of the Grand Canyon,” Reid said in a statement. “As more and more people discover this remarkable place, we must protect these resources for future generations while continuing to allow recreational opportunities we enjoy today.”

Gold Butte’s attraction lies largely in its history. The site is home to historic mines, ancient Native American petroglyphs, wild sandstone formations and is a habitat for critical wildlife species, including the desert tortoise.

A coalition of conservation, community and business organizations applauded Reid’s action Thursday. Businesspeople who operate tour companies say the designation would turn Gold Butte into a go-to destination. [...]

“We are thrilled that Sen. Reid recognizes all the amazing things about Gold Butte,” said Nancy Hall of Friends of Gold Butte. “This diverse landscape represents our cultural history with petroglyphs dating back centuries, it is home to threatened species and it provides top-notch recreational opportunities including hiking, photography and bicycle and off-road vehicle riding.”

Some outdoors enthusiasts say the designation could lead to Mesquite becoming the “gateway to Gold Butte.”

“The addition of Gold Butte to our map of destinations in Southern Nevada will be important for businesses like mine to grow, creating more jobs and more opportunities for all Nevadans,” said Jared Fisher, president of Escape Adventures, a Las Vegas-based tour company with a second tour center in Moab, Utah.

We've discussed before the potential for Gold Butte to create more jobs in Southern Nevada, especially in areas like Mesquite that need this economic boost the most. But really, preserving Gold Butte can only help the entire region. Tourists come to the Las Vegas area for many reasons today. Some love the excitement of the Las Vegas Strip, while others want to escape the bright lights of Las Vegas Boulevard and experience the natural wonder of the Mojave Desert. Saving Gold Butte makes a win-win situation for all.

Yet while many in the community have been applauding Senator Reid's big announcement and encouraging Rep. Steven Horsford (D-North Las Vegas) to introduce a companion House bill, Senator Dean Heller (R) refuses to cooperate. Why? Oh, "he has issues".

Never mind that Gold Butte is one of Southern Nevada's greatest natural treasures. Never mind that this special place has Native American petroglyphs, rare wildlife, multicolored rocks, and even more natural beauty. And never mind that this place can boost the local economy if properly protected. Nope, Senator Heller prefers to play petty politics with serious policy.

So it's unclear as to what the future holds for Senator Reid's bill. But at least now, someone in Congress is ready to act.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Idiocy on Full Display

Today is supposed to be a joyous one for Nevada's LGBTQ communities. SJR 13 finally passed, and Nevada is one step closer to enacting marriage equality. But of course, leave it to the 21st Century Know Nothings to rain on our parade. But be warned, Heidi Harris just used this very graphic and offensive language on Twitter.

Does #transgender mean you can't locate your "parts"? That explains the GOP males in the #nvleg who have caved on #sjr13.

Of course, we all know what this means. Congratulations, Heidi Harris. You just earned this award.

Oh, where do I begin? Let's start with the real definition of transgender.

'Transgender' is an umbrella term often used to refer to people whose gender identity differs from their assigned sex at birth. However, people whose gender identity differs from their assigned sex at birth may not self-identify as transgender; some may identify as transsexual, trans, genderqueer, a person of transgender experience, etc. Transgender people may or may not use a different name or pronoun than the one they were assigned at birth, and they may or may not pursue hormone therapy or surgery. When in doubt, always defer to the way a person self-identifies.

And let's talk about the real discrimination that transgender Nevadans have endured. What the fuck is wrong with Heidi Harris?! Is she really that oblivious to the pain and suffering of real people who have faced intense bigotry and historic oppression?

And then, there's this. She actually suggested that legislators who voted for SJR 13 are "less manly". Oh. My. Gawd! Has she ever met Senator Ben Kieckhefer (R-Reno)?

While I've disagreed with Senator Ben Kieckhefer quite a few times this session, I can't deny the real courage he showed in bucking Republican leadership and standing for what he believes in. And Heidi Harris says this means Senator Kieckhefer is less of a man? What the hell is she smoking?

Well, I should remember that we are talking about Heidi Harris, local princess of the 21st Century Know Nothings.

Has anyone in the #nvleg calcluated the cost of #gaymarriage and family court? Extra judges? Nah, that would require brains #sjr13

Has anyone tried explaining to Heidi Harris the many economic benefits of marriage equality? Nevada is a top wedding destination. And Nevada has increasingly been engaging in marketing to LGBTQ tourists. Nevada stands to gain far more revenue in enacting marriage equality than incur additional costs.

Apparently, Heidi Harris is blissfully unaware of any of this. Perhaps she's angling for a job at the local "newspaper"? I can't think of another explanation for all this idiocy on full display today.

SB 303 Continues to Advance

Oh, yes. That's right. We have even more big news emanating from Carson City today as the Nevada Legislature races toward the finish line.

The Assembly Transportation Committee held a hearing on SB 303, the bill authorizing driver's authorization cards for immigrant drivers. Senators Mo Denis (D-North Las Vegas) and Ruben Kihuen (D-Las Vegas) stepped over to the other side of the Legislature Building to testify on "The Nevada Highway Safety Act". And yes, that's what was discussed at the hearing.

NV SB 303: bill not about immigration, but about public safety. - @RubenKihuen #nvleg driving permits

SB303 is a Public safety issue NOT an immigration issue so we urge the NV Assembly to pass this bill. #NVLeg #TimeIsNow

There was plenty of discussion on how more insured and documented drivers means safer roads. Oh, and of course, there was discussion of the $22 annual fee (as opposed to $22 for a standard driver's license for 5 years). This also delivers more revenue for the state budget right when the state needs more.

There was plenty of testimony in Carson City, as well as in Las Vegas. Several community activists told their own personal stories in Las Vegas. And a representative from the Washoe County Sheriff's Department testified in favor of SB 303 in Carson City. And for the record, no one (!!!) testified against the bill.

Oh, and we even heard this from the Nevada DMV representative offering neutral testimony.

"@BlancaSprkls: Don't hate! The #dmv is officially the happiest place on earth! #nvleg #SB303" #DriverAuthorization (don't tell Disney)

No vote was taken today. But considering the lopsided 20-1 vote (!!!) in favor of SB 303 in the Senate, its passage in the Assembly is all but assured. And so far, it looks likely that Governor Brian Sandoval (R) will sign the bill into law.

While SB 303 advocates tried to focus everyone's attention on the public safety matters addressed by this bill, the issue of immigration reform continued to linger in the background. After all, Nevada is now in this position because Congress has yet to pass any kind of comprehensive immigration reform (CIR). Senator Dean Heller (R-46%) has yet to say what he will do with the US Senate CIR bill, Reps. Joe Heck (R-Henderson) & Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) have yet to say what they will do with the emerging US House CIR bill, and they're all facing increasing pressure from the 21st Century Know Nothings to kill any & all attempts at CIR.

So against this complicated backdrop, SB 303 continues to advance. We don't know yet what Congress will ultimately do on CIR, but that isn't stopping the Nevada Legislature from taking action on this (in the limited capacity that it can).

SJR 15 PASSES #NVLeg, Goes to Voters Next Year

As we mentioned earlier, today is a huge day in the Nevada Legislature. Another of the bills receiving a final verdict in the Assembly is SJR 15, the bill to take the mining industry's corporate welfare sweetheart tax deal out of the Nevada Constitution.

There was some debate on the floor. And Assembly Member Pete Livermore (R-Carson City) offered this insightful quote.

Root Beer speech ! #NVLEG #SJR15 No more ROOT BEER if you kill off mining !!!! #RootBeer #Fries

Oh, yes. That's right. Assembly Member Livermore actually compared multinational mining corporations to his A&W franchise!

The bill passed 26-15. Again, Peggy Pierce (D-Las Vegas) was absent. Otherwise, all the Democrats present voted in favor while all the Republicans voted against.

And now that it's finally passed the Legislature in two consecutive session (it also passed both chambers in 2011), this finally heads to We (Us) the People.

Voters will now weigh in on NV's constitutional mining tax cap next year RT @RGJRayHagar: SJR15 passes Assembly, 26-15. #NVLeg

So this moves to the 2014 general election ballot for final approval. It may not be all that easy...

As reported by @RalstonReports, mining tried to bribe #NVLeg $50mil to kill SJR15. They'll spend at least as much to defeat it in Nov '14.

But now, we can finally look forward to our Carpe Diem moment with this and The Education Initiative on our ballot in November 2014. And even though she may no longer be serving in Carson City, Sheila Leslie's legacy just became even more awe-inspiring today.

Let's toss a little love to @sleslienv who was big on #SJR15 !!! #NVLEG

And on we go...

SJR 13 PASSES #NVLeg for This Session

Today is another huge day at the Nevada Legislature. Several key bills are about to receive a final verdict as the Assembly takes up several bills for final passage. One is SJR 13, the resolution calling to amend the Nevada Constitution to enact civil marriage equality.

The bill received just a few minutes of debate. Assembly Member Elliot Anderson (D-Paradise) began by explaining how many policies are addressed in the Nevada Constitution... And slaying the excuse given by Senator Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) in opposing it.

Wow @ElliotAndersonv is nailing counterarguments on #SJR13. Talks constitutional law, notes sponsors represent 1 million Nevadans #nvleg

And that's not all.

.@ElliotAndersonv speaking on #gaymarriage ban repeal "The will of the voters is changing as it has with me." #nvleg #SJR13

@ElliotAndersonv "This isn't about rights, this is about love." #SJR13 #NVLeg

Assembly Member Michele Fiore (R-Las Vegas) also had something to say on SJR 13 on the Assembly floor today.

.@AaronDFordNV @Jones4Nevada watching Assembly debate on #samesexmarriage ban repeal. @VoteFiore "Mom this vote is for you." #SJR13 #nvleg

We also heard some incredibly personal and heartbreaking stories on the Assembly floor today. Assembly Member Andrew Martin spoke of his own experience with marriage discrimination.

Asm. @andrewmartin, been w/partner for 27 years, but doesn't have same rights as everyone else. #SJR13 Everyone should have same rights.

So did Assembly Member James Healey (D-Enterprise).

Oh, sob. Asm. @james4assembly showing picture of deceased partner and talking about their dreams of marriage and family. #SJR13

The final vote was 27-14. All Democrats (save Peggy Pierce [D-Las Vegas], who had an excused absence) voted in favor, along with Republican Michele Fiore. All other Republicans voted against. SJR 13 has now passed this session, and it will be returning to Carson City for Round 2 in 2015. And Nevada has moved another step closer to marriage equality.

Caught Red Handed

Now isn't this precious. This morning, TPM picked up Ralston's big scoop from yesterday. Senator Dean Heller (R-NRA) actually sent a letter to constituents explaining his position on gun safety. And believe it or not, he actually said this.

"Knowing your interest in gun control, I wanted to give you an update on legislation I have cosponsored and supported recently."

Imagine how Nevadans felt when they received a letter that began that way from none other than Sen. Dean Heller, who voted against the Manchin-Toomey bill, saying he feared a creation of a gun registry despite his general support for the concepts in the measure. He was hailed by NRA types and blistered by gun control advocates.

I wonder how many folks who received that missive fell for the having-it-both-ways Heller approach.

Believe it or not, Senator Dean Heller actually claims this. Never mind that he caved into 21st Century Know Nothing pressure and voted to filibuster the most basic gun safety legislation. Oh no, he's been working furiously on gun safety. In fact, he's now busy... Trying to block implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

So what's causing this latest bout of deceit? Perhaps it's this.

Following the Senate’s rejection of gun legislation last month, the public continues to overwhelmingly favor making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks. Nearly three-quarters of Americans (73%) say that if the Senate bill is reintroduced, Congress should pass it. [..]

Gun control supporters can point to broad and consistent public support for expanded background checks. Fully 81% favor making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks, little changed since January (85%). The proposal draws nearly equal levels of support from Democrats (83%), Republicans (81%) and independents (80%).

However, the Senate bill on background checks is far more divisive. Republicans are decidedly less supportive of this legislation than of the general idea of making private gun sales subject to background checks; 57% support the Senate bill, while 81% favor expanding background checks. Many of those who have reservations about the bill express concerns that it includes other restrictions beyond background checks, or that it opens a “slippery slope” toward more government power.

Wow. Only 57% of Republicans support the Senator Harry Reid's (D) gun safety bill. And overall, 73% of Americans want this bill passed. And Senator Heller opposed his home state colleague's bill.

So no wonder why he's now backtracking. He wants to have it both ways. Heller wants to continue pleasing his gun lobby BFFs while simultaneously claiming he wants gun safety reform. It's too bad for the Senator that he's just been caught red handed.