Nevada Legislature 2013: It’s all over but the yelling

Without a doubt, the 77th regular session of the Nevada Legislature will be one for the history books.

This session started with the unusual and slightly disturbing situation of Assemblyman Steven Brooks expulsion — a dubious first in Nevada history — after he threatened violence and demonstrated mental instability. (He would go on to be arrested within hours of his expulsion.)

And that was just in the first month and a half of this legislative session!

Of course, the real history being made at the Nevada Legislature this year, as always, was the life and death of the most interesting, core-shifting, and polarizing bills of the session. Let’s take a look at the bills that will mark this session:

Progress:

  • Nevada joined the groundswell for LGBT equality: With Senate Joint Resolution 13 (SJR 13), Nevada moved one step closer to repealing the constitutionally protected same-sex marriage ban. Because the same-sex marriage ban is embedded within the state Constitution, it will take another passage of both state houses in the next session as well as a vote by the people in 2016. But, as they say, it begins with the first step.
  • Big Mining may finally pay its fair share: The no-less controversial SJR15 was a real David and Goliath story and many laid odds that Big Mining would squash the little resolution — that actually could. With its second passage through the Legislature this session, SJR15 will allow the people to vote next year on whether or not Big Mining should pay taxes like every other business in Nevada, by repealing its constitutionally protected tax cap put in place in the 1800s around the founding of the state (really!).
  • The humanity of animal cruelty bills: Outside of gun control and the comprehensive sex education bill — more on those in a minute — Nevadans really turned out for bills related to animals and animal cruelty. Shucks, Nevada, I would have never guessed that under that grizzled steak-dinner facade (which makes living as a vegan in Las Vegas particularly painful at times) you got a soft-spot for the birds and beasts of the world. If Gov. Brian Sandoval signs Senate Bill 83 (SB83), Nevada will become the 37th state to make cock-fighting a first-offense felony. Meanwhile, SB72 adds horse tripping to the existing animal cruelty statute. Pitbull owners are celebrating the passage of AB110, which prohibits the banning of a types of dogs based on breed alone.
  • Protections for transgender people: A bill adding “gender identity” to the existing hate crimes law was passed and signed by the governor, an excellent sign of progress in our state.
  • Homeowners Bill of Rights: You can thank Venicia Considine of Legal Aide of Southern Nevada for the Homeowners Bill of Rights, (SB321), a set of rules that will ease the jumbled process for mortgage-holders and smooth out the bumps for those facing foreclosure. The bill is modeled after the legal framework that binds the five biggest banks to the National Mortgage Settlement, which sunsets in 2015. Chief among the requirements will be a single (human) point of contact for mortgage-holders and forcing mortgage brokerages and banks to streamline the process for refinancing and foreclosures.
  • Help for domestic violence tenants: Gov. Sandoval just signed AB286, which offers protections to survivors of domestic violence who may need to break their lease in order to flee an attacker. This is important because often times perpetrators of violence can essentially trap a victim because s/he would face penalties for breaking a lease or rental agreement.

Interesting:

  • This series of tubes got more than just porn, you know: It’s possible the Legislature set a speed record in working Gov. Sandoval’s much cherished internet gaming bill through in a matter of weeks. Place your bets!
  • Nicolas Cage photo-op not included: It was hard to take Legislators seriously when their twitter and Facebook feeds began erupting with pics of them mugging with the two-time Oscar winner. Gosh, would the Nevada film tax credit bill (SB165) have a prayer? (Cut to: Me rolling my eyes.) I enjoy a Nic Cage movie — incorrect representations of the geography of the Las Vegas Strip notwithstanding — but comeon! It’s hard not to be pissed when the Legislature moves to approve a $35 million tax break for filmmakers the same time that the scandal broke of busing mental health patients outside of the state because of our abominable lack of services (Nevada cut 28 percent from mental health care funding between 2009 and 2012)! It sort of gives new meaning to the Moonstruck scene in which a young Cage cries, “I don’t care! I ain’t no monument to justice! I lost my hand!”
  • Light ’em if ya got ’em: Or maybe not. A new law will target underage smoking (if counties elect to use it). Is that still a thing? Kids still smoke cigarettes, says everyone my age and older. And as I write this, it’s still anyone’s guess how that medical marijuana bill (SB374) will fare in the Assembly (it already passed the Senate). There’s a munchies joke in there somewhere.

The Ugly:

  • The heartbreak kid: The unceremonious death of AB230, the comprehensive sex education bill, was the betrayal heard ’round the land. Progressives (myself included) angrily took to twitter and Facebook to vent their outrage at the cowardly act of Democratic Senate leadership pulling AB230 from the floor for a vote at — you could almost say literally — the 11th hour. And why? Reelection fears for Democratic Sen. Justin Jones’ district, which he won by 300 votes. Jones and other Democrats were shaken by the firestorm and lashed out at me and others who called them out on their broken promises to move AB230 across the finish line. Senate Democrats tried to cajole progressives with the SJR13 win — we got the same-sex marriage win, so shut up! — suggesting that progressives should be pitted against each other, rather than working together. But this cowardly stunt will not soon be forgotten, especially when it comes time to hit the streets for campaign season and when it comes time for me to pick my endorsements. Women are watching, Mr. Jones. Women are watching.
  • Speaking of women, how about one more round for Fierce Flores? I considered putting this in the progress category, but really it belongs here with the Uglies. While Assemblywoman Lucy Flores was testifying for AB230 (see above) she revealed publicly for the first time that she had an abortion at age 16. (A story that only I and Reno Gazette Journal’s Ray Hagar wrote about in coverage of the Assembly hearing on April 1 when the comments were made.) Within days, Flores was targeted by anti-abortion activists and received threats on her person. That’s just about as ugly as it gets. But then a funny thing happened. After hearing about this, I stayed up late and wrote a piece about what happened, encourage folks to show their support for Lucy by using the #FierceFlores hashtag. While I have never met Lucy Flores (nor does she represent me), I like to think that the resulting tidal wave of support that came from all over the world with thousands of messages for Lucy, helped to ease her mind. No one deserves to be targeted with violence simply for speaking at a public hearing, no matter what they say. It doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree with the assemblywoman, she did not deserve threats for telling her story. If the #FierceFlores campaign did one thing, I hope it was to show just how much bigger and united those who believe in freedom and choice are compared to those who would rather be fear-mongers of hate.
  • Guns, Guns, Guns: The background check bill, SB221, looked to be dead, thanks to Assembly Democrats holding it up in committee yesterday. But in a squeaker, it got through (only to be promised a veto stamp by Sandoval.) Interestingly, bill sponsor Sen. Jones was running around trying to work furiously on amendments or deals that could get it through. So, for those keeping track at home: Jones worked tirelessly on gun control and voted against his LDS church on gay rights, but sex ed? Psssht. That’s just pillow talk, baby. (And just in case anyone is wondering, Jones is my representative.)

Remedial Ed:

  • What about the children? I am honestly asking. I know that at the last second Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich managed to milk $2.5 million out of the Legislature for rural colleges. Seems like a pittance to me, but hey, it’s something, right? And late on the final day SB504, which approves funding for English language learner education, passed. So there’s something. There may be a success story if the margins tax — bringing in an estimated $800 million for primary education and the nation’s worst public school system — gets passed by voters next year as Legislators opted to punt, rather than go on the record as voting for a tax increase. I guess the win here is that Gov. Sandoval’s budget puts about $300 million more in to education — which goes a little ways toward plugging the gaping $800 million hole former Gov. Jim Gibbons left (good times). It’s like the proposed margins tax would fix the gap! Those teachers. So sneaky.

The Take-away:

  • Republicans: For all their cock-blocking of bills designed to raise the caliber of education, quality of life, health care, mental health care, benefits for veterans, safety net services, and generally make life more equitable in Nevada… I gotta hand it to them for sticking to their guns, so to speak. They remained (mostly) unified on their core values. I may passionately disagree with them — and often — but I get the sense that GOP constituents got their money’s worth out of their party.
  • Democrats: Holy fuck, Democrats. (Shakes head in disbelief.) Was this the Tale of Two Democrats? The best of the party. The worst of the party. The Dems hold a unique ability to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and that’s never been on better display than it was this session. I mean, AB230 anyone? Gun control? Education? Or how about presenting a solid fucking tax plan? What the fuck, Democrats?! I hope you use the off-season to get your heads out of your asses. There were some stand-outs who stemmed the tide. But for the most part, if I was a Republican I’d be pointing and laughing at you right now. You managed to take solid wins — like SJR13 and SJR15 — and render them practically token victories (won largely on the sweat equity of outside groups!) against a backdrop of ineptitude and gross incompetence. You went in with majorities in both houses and squandered the lead by second-guessing yourself and aligning with cowardly leadership. Progressives were in a unique position this session to lay any failures at the feet of a GOP governor up for reelection. Instead, high-profile losses came from within. Get it together Dems! People are counting on you!
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9 thoughts on “Nevada Legislature 2013: It’s all over but the yelling

  1. Pingback: This week in the world of progressive state blogs: Check out ALEC’s step-sister & Nevada’s new laws - Online Political Blog

  2. People forget one important thing: Having the majority vote doesn’t matter on constitutional or fiscal bills – a two thirds vote is required and Dems didn’t have that – especially in the Senate. Emily, I love you, girl, but for the life of me I can’t fathom why you or others consider this session such a failure – especially given the volume of progressive legislation they were able to pass. Disappointed on some issues? You bet. But “get your heads out of your asses?” I just don’t get it.

  3. Much talked about alimony reform, such are the dreams of the disabled veteran. When is that going to happen? However, any proposed legislation is discriminatory which does not include alimony reform for disabled veterans. As made obvious, both in states where attempts where made, and where passage was successful. Proposed and passed into law without thought or consideration for the disabled veteran wanting, under similar circumstances. However, actions by state courts are not as unintentional when it involves veteran’s disability compensation.
    =
    “It is well established that disability benefits are a protected property interest and may not be discontinued without due process of law. See Atkins v. Parker, 472 U.S. 115, 128 (1985); Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 332 (1976)”
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    38 USC 5301 Nonassignability and exempt status of benefits. “Payments of benefits due or to become due under any law administered by the Secretary shall not be assignable except to the extent specifically authorized by law,.. a beneficiary shall be exempt from taxation, shall be exempt from the claim of creditors, and shall not be liable to attachment, levy or seizure by or under any legal or equitable process whatever, either before or after receipt by the beneficiary.
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    The question being, how is it, that state court judges can arbitrarily and capriciously award as alimony, with the mere wave of a hand, waive away a portion of a veteran’s VA disability rated compensation? Moneys in the form of disability compensation, the disability rights of a veteran, whose disability rating that maybe determined and factored in as critical? Judgment as if all disabilities are exactly the same. A disabled veteran’s plead to the judge, “I have a severe serious back injury, I need all of my VA disability compensation.” The judge would reply, “Are you a doctor?”
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    But yet, state court judges, are in reality playing doctor, without medical license or knowledge .. a practice forbidden, providing penalties by law , and border on medical negligence. All without any input, or approval from the Veterans Administration. Overstepping those whose authority it belongs, the dedicated VA medical professionals, in the practice of medicine, re-evaluation, and rehabilitation of the veteran. While at the same time violating federal law, 38 USC 5301, 42 USC 1408, and the 14th Amendment.
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    Ninth Circuit Says Congress, Not Courts, Have Say Over VA Health Care.
    VETERANS FOR COMMON SENSE v. SHINSEKI December 13, 2011
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    Continually, State court judges disregard the law, as reduction in disability compensation cannot be “reduced unless an improvement in the veteran’s disability is shown to have occurred.” USC 1155 Authority for schedule for rating disabilities.
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    How are judges allowed the non-life threatening discretion to award as alimony disability compensation based on ‘statutory’ awards? Which are not predicated directly on the average reduction in earning capacity, but primarily upon consideration of noneconomic factors such as personal inconvenience, social inadaptability, or the profound nature of the disability. The purpose of the statutory award for loss or loss of use of a creative organ is to account for psychological factors.
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    “Clear and substantial” major damage to federal interests occurs when state court judges make lasting decisions, that seriously impact disabled veterans’ rated compensation and complicate Veterans Administration goals, and responsibilities. Upsetting, and overruling VA medical compensation decisions, which involve many hours of work that VA medical professionals have invested in the medical care, control, follow-up, and rehabilitation of disabled veterans. All this happens with VA complicity, when a state court, arbitrarily is allowed to take away a veterans VA disability compensation in third party alimony awards in violation of….. 38 USC 5301. 42 USC § 407 – Assignment of benefits, carries similar language.
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    Where is it written, the VA authority, when a state judge can arbitrarily overrule the VA, the VA medical doctors and other medical professionals’ that determine a veterans’ medical rating compensation? His future now without the compensation that was by law assured? Tax payer monies mandated by Congress purposely, as veterans service compensation for injuries received, life altering as they are, now being diverted purposely by state courts to healthy third parties in many cases, in a determined and engaging violation of the law. To allow what has been happening, was it the intent of Congress that state court judges substitute their judgment for the judgment of VA doctors and medical professionals? I don’t think so!
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    Perhaps, state legislators will or have proposed alimony reform legislation such as Massachusetts, West Virginia, California, as well as other states, due to the changing realities of family life, either proposed or passed that ‘permanent current alimony’ obligations be eliminated in alimony reform legislation? Legislation having broad appeal, proposed, and as happened, passed into law without thought or consideration of the disabled veteran wanting, under similar circumstances.
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    To this day, there is no eagerness of state legislators to extend this, or any proposal to eliminate veterans disability compensation awards from alimony, despite the law, or any reform measures. The laws protecting disability compensation are very clear. What is needed is reform in the court system, and legislative re-thinking, that for whatever reason, due process and property rights do not apply to disabled veterans? This is something disabled veterans’, despite all efforts at law, over many years have tried to accomplish. Passing alimony reform legislation without disabled veterans would be just another insult. Brushed aside for more important things.
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    The law is clear as to a veteran’s rights and a state court judge’s improper judicial authority in denying protections that are guaranteed.
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    Disabled veteran’s have had the exact same alimony issue as everybody else. However, correcting clearly improper and illegal court rulings imposed on disabled veteran‘s is the issue, as much as it is any reform proposal.
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    I hope state legislators will honor them, with clarifying legislation supporting the property rights of the disabled veteran, setting an example for the rest of the nation.
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  4. Thanks for the round up. Just what I needed. I know some wonderful Dems. Too bad their leadership support the very same financial interests as the Republicans (and Libertarians, pretty much too).

  5. Pingback: The SCOTUS decision on DOMA & Prop 8: A game changer for liberty and justice for all | The Sin City Siren

  6. State court violation Separation of Powers DISABLED VETERANS

    When in the course of business, if, and when the question is a disabled veteran’s VA disability compensation as alimony/support, something to consider first.
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    The “separation of powers” doctrine is completely ignored by Nevada and most state court judges, acting like doctors, holding themselves as qualified, as a provider of health care, policy making outside their jurisdiction. Substituting their judgment for the judgment of VA doctors and medical professionals awarding as alimony a disabled veteran’s VA disability compensation. To allow what has been happening, was this the intent of Congress?
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    Nevada Constitution Article 3 Section 1 subsection 1
    “The powers of the Government of the State of Nevada shall be divided into three separate departments,—the Legislative,—the Executive and the Judicial; and…”
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    If the United State court of appeals, in VETERANS FOR COMMON SENSE, VETERANS UNITED FOR TRUTH, INC., v. ERIC K. SHINSEKI, December 13, 2011, ruled, “As much as we may wish for expeditious improvement in the way the VA handles mental health care and service-related disability compensation, we cannot exceed our jurisdiction to accomplish it,..” As well, Nevada courts are in no legal position to do so. Despite the law, it continues.
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    “It is well established that disability benefits are a protected property interest and may not be discontinued without due process of law.” See Atkins v. Parker, 472 U.S. 115, 128 (1985); Mathews v. Eldridge, 424 U.S. 319, 332 (1976)”
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    14th Amendment. “No State shall make or enforce any law which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, with due process of law, ..”
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  7. Pingback: It’s 2014: On your marks, get set, GO! | The Sin City Siren

  8. Pingback: Nevada dead last in education — again | The Sin City Siren

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