Friday, June 7, 2013

Highlights of the Nevada Legislature (This Year)

So it's over. After 120 days of intrigue, drama, coaltion building, infighting, progress, backslides, cheers, tears, and so much more, we finally have a chance to reflect on what happened during the 77th session of the Nevada Legislature. So now that we have a chance to step back and reflect, let's take one more look at the 2013 Nevada Legislature.

Perhaps one of the greatest highlights of the session was the passage of SJR 13, the constitutional amendment to repeal the Question 2 marriage ban and enact marriage equality in Nevada. Here, the conventional wisdom of what had been considered "possible" in Carson City finally burst as we saw an outbreak of true courage. After the sharing of much heart-wrenching personal testimony, equality ultimately won the day... For now. We just have to do this all over again in two years... Unless federal courts deliver a big surprise in the coming weeks and months.

Another surprising moment was the second round of passage for SJR 15, the constitutional amendment to remove multinational mining corporations' sweetheart deal from the Nevada Constitution. While SJR 15 first passed in 2011, it looked to be on very shaky ground early this year as mining industry lobbyists doubled down to kill it. But then, a major twist of fate occurred as a prominent Republican (??!!) stepped forward to snatch a politically convenient way to kill IP 1 embrace mining tax reform. Yet even as his own mining tax scheme proposal died an ugly death, new life was quickly breathed into SJR 15. And after another shocking outbreak of courage in Carson City, SJR 15 ultimately sailed through the Legislature and onto our ballots next year.

And that wasn't all. The Nevada Legislature also surprised many by easily passing SB 303, the bill that creates driver's authorization cards for undocumented immigrants and other Nevadans with difficulties accessing personal documents (like domestic violence victims). The success was found in framing this as a critical driver safety issue... And in some Nevada Republicans' desire to fix their "Latin@ problem". So even as Nevada Republicans in Congress start succumbing to their toxic "TEA" and complicate efforts to pass comprehensive immigration reform this year, the Nevada Legislature found one way to work around their obstruction.

But wait, there's even more! SB 374, the bill to authorize medical marijuana dispensaries in Nevada, finally passed at the last minute. The state has been facing legal trouble over confusing current law, so there was an opening to act. Yet while another bill to fully legalize marijuana never saw the light of day, a surprisingly bipartisan coalition for medical marijuana emerged. And after a surprisingly bizarre last minute hiccup, the bill finally passed on the final day and headed to Governor Brian Sandoval's (R) desk (where he has yet to sign or veto).

And finally, we saw some encouraging environmental progress in the passage of SB 229. Like SJR 15, this bill had some troubling history behind it. In 2011, the Legislature agreed to SB 271, a bill meant to tear apart the regulatory framework protecting Lake Tahoe. And even worse, it was done simply because of juiced up power players' greed and disgusting backroom politics. That's why Governor Sandoval initially threatened to veto SB 229 (and keep 2011's SB 271 on the books). But after California stepped in and threatened to "go it alone" to protect Lake Tahoe, Governor Sandoval soon flip-flopped and embraced SB 229. And all of a sudden, Nevada then decided to keep Tahoe blue after all (yet it remains to be seen just how much blue and green will ultimately remain there).

And there's even more to discuss. But if I keep writing, I won't ever stop. So we'll leave it here for now, and we'll soon pick up where we left off in reliving the most memorable moments of the 77th session of the Nevada Legislature.

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