And now we’ll move on
Some post-election observations:
• During the campaign, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid finally seemed to be getting the message about the “imaginary filibuster,” a Senate ritual under which a single senator can impose a cloture supermajority on any bill, thus requiring 60 votes to pass bills. Senators are not actually required to filibuster, only threaten to.
This procedure, adopted in 1975, originally had a good purpose. It kept the Senate floor clear for other business instead of tied up by filibusters. But that assumed no one would abuse the procedure. Today, it is routinely abused. Each Congress, dozens of imaginary filibusters are mounted by senators who have no intention of actually filibustering. They just want to use the filibuster-level vote threshold to stop bills, making supermajorities routine and causing incessant deal-making.
Reid doesn’t need to do away with real filibusters (though it would be a good idea), only with the imaginary kind. During the campaign he said, “We’re going to have to change it” because of the abuses. The Wall Street Journal now speculates that Reid will back off because of the reduced Democratic majority and because the imaginary filibuster offers an advantage to Democrats now that there is a Republican House majority. But it is always going to be strategically inconvenient for one party or the other to get rid of the imaginary filibuster. And though the WSJ reports that “a change in the filibuster rule could be made through a majority vote,” in fact no rules change is needed. The imaginary filibuster—which is the kind that is abused—is not authorized in the rules. It’s just a Senate leadership tactic.
Sen. Reid should follow through. The issue is not party advantage, it’s a dysfunctional Senate.
• There’s a change the Nevada Legislature should make in state statutes as soon as lawmakers go into session, and it’s a shame it wasn’t made years ago. They should amend Nevada Revised Statute 353.230 to provide that in the future, the state budget office is promptly turned over to the governor-elect.
That’s the way it works in California. When Jerry Brown won the election, he gained control of the process by which the governor’s budget recommendations to the legislature are written. Unfortunately, the same does not happen in Nevada.
There are plenty of years, as was the case when Jim Gibbons was elected to replace Kenny Guinn, when the budget priorities of the new governor are sharply different from those of the outgoing governor. The budget recommendations should reflect the new governor’s policy positions.
When Brian Sandoval takes office, he will inherit budget recommendations written by a governor who was rejected by Republican voters last June. There will be little time for the new governor to do much more than tinker with them. That process may be eased somewhat because Sandoval kept on Gibbons’ able budget director Andrew Clinger, but the state can’t count on that always being the case. The sentiment of voters, as expressed in elections, should be better represented in the budget process.
• In every election when there are glitches and breakdowns, plenty of people are happy to fault election officials, often in unnecessarily insulting language. This election ran smoothly, with few problems or interruptions, and election officials—certainly including Washoe Registrar Dan Burk and his crew—are entitled to the praise and thanks of all of us, including their chronic critics.