As the dust settles following the end of the legislative session, there are going to be a lot of takes on winners and losers. But the truth is that the story of this legislative session is pretty much the same as every session: The rich and powerful got theirs and the working-class Average Janes and Average Joes got screwed.*
I know that’s not the politically correct thing to say. I know that I’m supposed to talk about the wins and down-play the pain that is coming for all Nevadans. And do not delude yourselves, it is coming, my friends. But frankly, I’m just fed up! (And I’m not the only one.) I am so tired of trying to celebrate that we didn’t get by calling it a victory that the other side didn’t get EVERYTHING they wanted. That’s not victory. That’s just pillow talk, baby.
In fact, this is what has taken me so long to get to writing something about the end of the legislative session. I’m just… really tired of being so frustrated, so under-whelmed by those who are supposed to be my champions, so out-played by those who hate everything I stand for… And I’m so tired of writing about how much Nevada sucks. Believe me, I don’t want to write about that. I don’t want it to be true. And that’s why I became an activist and sit on boards in this community and write this silly little blog. Because despite my despair at the state of things in our state — and this is very much my home after living here for 12 years, buying my first home and now raising my daughter here — it doesn’t seem like it ever gets any better! It feels like the more we fight, the deeper we sink in the quick-sand of our opposition.
I’m sorry to say these things. I’m sorry that many of you are mad at me right now that I am writing these things and virtually saying them out loud. But how many losses do there have to be? How much further do we have to sink?
A lot of people I know tell me that I’m the one who is being delusional for having any optimism at all. “They voted for those assholes. Let them get what they deserve!” I have been told. I always think that’s a depressing way to look at it. But maybe they’re right. Maybe all these hard-core conservatives in rural and Northern Nevada who keep voting for these politicians who hate any whiff of progress in our state — maybe now that times are dire and services are not just being cut but eliminated — maybe now they will get their comeuppance for their short-sighted view and complete lack of compassion for anyone but themselves.
For some reason, as the Legislature was in its final days, I kept thinking about the movie Casino with Robert DeNiro. I love that movie. I have probably watched it a dozen times and any time it is on TV, I can’t help myself but to watch it again. It’s beautifully depraved. It’s that juxtaposition of the ugly and the beautiful that is always so haunting in a Scorsese film, you know? Well, there’s a line in that movie, when the county commissioner is asking Ace to hire his incompetent nephew, as a favor. And after Ace just flat-out refuses, the commissioner says something like, “You people come out here. And you act like this is your place. But you forget, you’re just visiting.”
And for some reason, I kind of feel like that is what is happening in this state. All the people who moved here in the big boom are getting their asses handed to them as they feel the boot in their back. So long! Thanks for playing! And as I don’t want to be a hypocrite, I did move here in 1999, so I’m one of those folks, too. But I’m staying. I’ve played by the rules. And fuck you for thinking that I don’t deserve to fight for the kind of place I want to raise my kid just because you’ve lived here longer!
Well, anyway, here’s the session snapshot:
- Points all around for Big Mining and Big Corporations: Congratulations, you managed to mostly protect your luscious tax status’ and continue to screw all Nevadans by not paying your fair share. What’s that? Mining has to pay $24 million in taxes? Big freaking deal! It sunsets in two years! And it’s still far less than they would be paying if ANYONE at the legislature had any backbone and pushed for real reform to our state’s tax structure.
- Education: Do I even need to go into all the specific ways that Nevada’s education system got fucked? We held them at 7.5 percent pay cuts for lower ed (instead of the governor’s proposed 11)! What a victory. I don’t even want to talk about it anymore.
- Speaking of education: The comprehensive sex-ed bill died. Wouldn’t it be nice that when that happens it automatically triggers more funding for STD testing, prenatal care for pregnant teens and expedited government aid for newborns to parents who don’t have the financial resources to care for them? Yeah, that never happens.
- The Clean Indoor Air Act got gutted: Well-played tavern owners. You got your cigarettes and second-hand smoke back. You’ve lost my business because smoke gives me an asthma attack. But I doubt you give a shit.
- Hang ’em high: Unfortunately, AB501, which would have authorized a study on the cost of the death penalty to Nevada, was vetoed this week.
- In a surprise win, it was a good session for transgender rights: Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the bill (AB211) adding “gender expression and identity” into Nevada’s ENDA law that protects workers from discrimination on the job. Nevada is only the 14th state to enact such protections for transgender individuals. (For once, we’re not LAST at something good!) Likewise, SB331, which protects against discrimination in public accommodations has passed, too.
- A bill prohibiting the shackling of pregnant prisoners (only while they are in labor) unanimously passed both houses. (Someone I know who was at the hearing on this said that there was actually debate about if it was a good idea to let prisoners in labor be unshackled because it could be a chance for them to escape! Hilarious! Just ask any woman who has gone through labor: Running is the last thing on her mind!)
- The cellphone ban passed: I am actually glad about this. I admit it will be hard to stop talking on my phone while driving. But texting while driving? Yikes! That’s just scary!
- And score one for animal rights: “Cooney’s Law” passed, which makes it a felony to torture or maim an animal intentionally.
- Score one for civil liberties: The so-called “Brianna’s Law” died. AB552 would have authorized the collection of DNA evidence upon arrest for certain crimes. Although bill backers said there were safe-guards to ensure that DNA samples would be destroyed if charges were dropped, the bill still gave me and my friends at the ACLU of Nevada some heartburn.
- How about a collective sigh of relief that the guns on campus bill, SB231, stalled out. Kudos to the bravery of rape survivor Amanda Collins for testifying about why concealed weapons on campus is a frightening thing.
*And just for the record, this is my own personal opinion and does not reflect or speak for any group with which I am affiliated.