Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Special Session?! (Yes, We're Going to Overtime.)

It's over now. Wait... It's supposed to be over now. Isn't it? Isn't it... WHAT?!

I know I wasn't the only one who was shocked to wake up to the 27th special session of the Nevada Legislature. But alas, it's now here. And Governor Brian Sandoval (R) has already been cooking up schemes to try to take advantage of this.

The special session proclamation arrived just before 4 a.m., directing legislators to convene at 4:30 a.m. and end at 8 a.m. to consider five bills.

Perhaps the most significant measure to die at midnight was Assembly Bill 496, which would have allowed the Clark County Commission to raise taxes to fund more police officers. That bill was first on Sandoval's list.

The governor also directed the Legislature to take up the measure that directed $2 million to the national nonprofit organization Teach for America. Recognizing that the bill would likely die in the Assembly, where Democrats strongly oppose the measure, Sandoval recommended instead that the money be directed to the Millennium Scholarship Fund.

Also on the proclamation is a bill to changing the oversight of the state's Charter Schools account, a bill on class-size reduction policy and another bill on tax abatements for economic development.

"The key bill is the More Cops bill," Sandoval's chief of staff Gerald Gardner said. "The second is the TFA bill."

Indeed, it was a the More Cops bill that set off a mad, last-minute scurry in the final seconds before the midnight close to the 2013 regular legislative session.

Governor Sandoval has been trying to sneak in some school privatization since last week. But so far, most legislators aren't biting. So instead, Governor Sandoval is agreeing to toss additional tobacco law suit settlement money into the Millennium Scholarship (but of course, not into health care for lung cancer victims or tobacco addiction prevention).

So how did we get here? Well, the 77th (regular) session did turn out to be quite a busy one.

Indeed, Democrats, who control both houses, pushed a number of liberal bills through the Legislature this session on issues lawmakers have largely been loath to broach before.

The gay marriage ban may be on its way to a voters repeal in 2016. Voters can decide whether to take mining’s tax protections out of the constitution in 2014. Immigrants here illegally will be able to get a driver’s authorization card in 2015.

A bill to require background checks on private party gun sales is on its way to Sandoval. Another measure would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to open in Nevada next year. And if fracking takes off in rural Nevada, a bill exists to regulate the controversial practice.

“It really is a sea change,” said Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who pushed many of the bills on the progressive agenda. “Last session, we couldn’t even get a hearing on marijuana.”

Indeed, SJR 13 (marriage equality), SJR 15 (mining tax reform), SB 229 (saving Lake Tahoe), SB 303 (driver's authorization cards), SB 374 (medical marijuana dispensaries), and even more critical progressive supported bills passed this spring. To be fair, there actually has been plenty of progress in Carson City this year. Yet with that being said, we did ultimately run into the same problem we always seem to have in Carson City.

Yet even on overall tax reform and restoration of our state's public infrastructure, We the People will have the opportunity to provide leadership next year when SJR 15 and The Education Initiative will appear on our general election ballots. Yet because the Legislature couldn't get modest class size reduction legislation and authorization for more police officers for Clark County (funded by a surtax on sales tax here in The South) to the Governor in time, we're going to overtime.

And while we may have a few more days of wild song and dance routines, we already have a strong sense of what has to happen going forward.

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