Monday, June 3, 2013

Finally, Ready for Change?

This spring, we've seen all sorts of tension, drama, brilliance, achievements, breakthroughs, madness, setbacks, meltdowns, and more in Carson City. We've even seen this. Oh, and we've even seen this.

Late last month, many progressives were stunned and upset when AB 230 encountered a shocking demise. How on earth could such common sense policy to protect teens in school encounter such a ghastly demise in the Nevada Legislature? Today, we have another #FAIL to add to the #NVLeg pile as SB 221 looks to be encountering a similarly shocking and ghastly demise.

“I’m worried about the penalty,” said Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas. “It worries me how we inform the public so unwitting people don’t become criminals.”

Lobbyists working on the bill said that legislators like Ohrenschall are worried that Southern Nevada’s large bilingual population might not understand the bill if it becomes law, and people might inadvertently be punished for their ignorance.

The bill already passed the Senate with 11 Democrats in favor of Senate Bill 221 and 10 Republicans voting against it. [...]

Meanwhile, [SB 221 sponsor Justin] Jones [D-Enterprise] moved half of the bill into another bill in an amendment, a move that could acknowledge the background check provisions may fail.

Jones’ bill would require speedier mental health reporting to proper federal authorities. That aspect of the bill could make it more difficult for the mentally ill to acquire guns, which earned broad bipartisan support. Gov. Brian Sandoval also is in favor of the reporting requirements.

Sandoval earlier said he would veto the background check bill.

Jones amended Senate Bill 38 late Sunday night in a quick meeting between senators and members of the Assembly, said Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas.

Apparently, there is one key difference here. At least this time, we have a better idea as to how and why SB 221 has stalled. Assembly Member James Ohrenschall is concerned about clogging up criminal courts over ignorance. And a few other Assembly Democrats have expressed concerns about certain provisions in the bill. And they, in turn, have unintentionally strengthened Republicans' hands as they move to kill the bill. So now, Senator Jones is left searching for ways to salvage the most universally accepted provisions of an already milquetoast bill with 86% public support.

This seems so pathetic. But sadly, this is reality in Carson City. This is the final day. And with not much time left and an absent Democratic Senator, there's virtually no room left for error today.

So of course, we're stuck with yet another dead bill where there should have been advancement on good policy. Meanwhile, the state budget looks to be moving just in the nick of time. Apparently, the rude awakening hasn't been enough to shake Carson City out of its failed status quo.

However, that doesn't require us to stay there. As we've discussed here before, We the People will finally have our "Carpe Diem moment" for tax reform next year as SJR 15 (mining tax reform) and The Education Initiative (IP 1, corporate margins tax) head to the ballot box. Next year, we will have the opportunity to finally do what the Governor refuses to do and the Legislature can't manage to do.

So where does this leave us? Go West, young people. Remember when we discussed the looming prospect of "Californication"? Guess what... We're here.

The more Nevadans learn about how multinational mining corporations have abused our tax code to pay virtually nothing for profitting off our natural resources, the angrier we get. And if the decision on how much to tax them moves from the Legislature to "we the people", the mining industry will probably have to kiss its sweetheart deal goodbye.

This probably also explains why "big bid'ness" power brokers (like Monte Miller?) fear the AFL-CIO's margin tax on big business. In addition to the mining industry, other big multinational corporations like to set up "on shore tax shelters" here in Nevada to avoid paying taxes. But really, what do we get out of it? After seeing them profit while Nevada families suffer from decaying schools and inadequate transportation infrastructure, Nevada voters may also be ready to finally make the big guys pay their fair share.

So in the end, Pete Ernaut may have a valid point in stating the problems with "ballot box budgeting" and waging electoral campaigns on tax policy. However when the Legislature won't tackle this, someone has to. And when Nevada is in real need of real reform that finally moves our tax code into the 21st century, we can't blame citizen activists for wanting to take matters into their own hands. And since Ernaut's own BFF in the Governor's Mansion encouraged obstruction on tax reform in Carson City last year, he should have realized that he helped bring "Californication" of Nevada policy making here.

Oh, yes. That's right. I just went there... Again.

So California, here we are. We've already been experiencing the failures as state government has gradually been breaking down and extreme ideology has taken the place of good faith negotiation. And because the Nevada Legislature only meets for 120 days every two years, this problem is exacerbated here.

But can we finally begin reaping the rewards of success? Probably. We the People just have to make it happen ourselves. This involves some "ballot box budgeting" now, but it will probably also mean serious structural reform of state government later.

After all, the failure of common sense policies espoused by the likes of AB 230 and SB 221 should be embarrassing to the powers that be in Carson City. As they quickly approach sine die, do they really want to "declare victory"? Do they really want the failed status quo to continue? Or are they ready for change?

Remember why bills like SB 221 and AB 230 died. Remember why we will be experiencing some serious "ballot box budgeting" next year. And remember why we can't afford any more failed status quo. I increasingly sense We the People are ready for change. Now, Carson City needs to be.

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