By the lobbyists, for the corporations

Wanna be a Nevada lawmaker? Now’s your chance. There’ll likely be a spot for you, if you can afford it.

Since Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval opined that voters can’t be trusted to select suitable state legislators on our own, positions held by state employees (like university teachers) could be up for grabs.

The topic of public employees serving in the Nevada Legislature was on the front burners at county conventions for Democrats and Republicans Saturday. Washoe County Republicans voted to oppose all public employees—state or local—seeking office. This in spite of the fact that esteemed Republicans such as Jim Gibbons, the U.S. congressman who was formerly in the Nevada National Guard, wouldn’t be able to run.

Democrats passed a platform plank condemning Sandoval’s opinion. That seems appropriate, since limiting the pool of potential lawmakers can serve only to further jack up voter apathy.

About 20 percent of Nevada lawmakers or their families get some kind of government income, whether from the National Guard or area school districts. Subtract one-fifth of the Legislature, and there’ll be a void to fill. Who will step up?

The legislative gig doesn’t pay. Substitute teachers make more than state legislators. So do cocktail waitresses, valet parkers and probably even temp workers who bus tables at casino buffets. Since the last pay raise in 1985, legislators receive $7,800 per four-month session. Divide that by 120 brain-breaking days in Carson City, and it’s $65 a day. Put in a light 10-hour work day—it’s going to take 120 really long days to consider two years’ worth of lawmaking—and that’s $6.50 an hour. No tips.

Nevada’s legislators are among the lowest-paid lawmakers in the nation, reports the National Conference of State Legislators.

Those hoping to serve the public as legislators will have to take leaves of absence from their jobs. Won’t bosses grumble about employees who miss four months on the job? Maybe not. Here’s an idea: Serving on the Legislature could be part of the job for some workers.

After all, state legislators make decisions on numerous business-related issues: taxes, labor regulations and environmental considerations. Surely employers would enjoy having a legislator on the payroll.

We’ll have to vote them in. No one not employed by casinos, mining companies, telecommunications outfits, tobacco mongers, insurance firms, or banks could afford the job.

This new crop of legislators (a.k.a. lobbyists with voting power) can make sure businesses don’t contribute much to help pay, say, for state road projects or to assist Those Less Fortunate. Profit margins will be protected. Laws that protect wages and working conditions of Nevadans go the way of the dodo, as will regulations that protect Nevada’s air and water.

Underfunded public schools will continue to cut and slash and slice and dice programs, as parents end up footing more of the bills for textbooks, athletics, music, counseling and art programs in the schools. Parents should foot the bills, you say? Yeah, but what about Juan the talented running back who can’t afford to play football? What about Jane who doesn’t have the cash for a math book?

You think I’m exaggerating. Could be. It’s true that Nevadans wouldn’t be served by a Legislature packed with public employees any more than by one packed with the representatives of wealthy corporations.

But wouldn’t it be better if we the people were given the chance to decide for ourselves? Imagine this—a balance of private and public interests, a dialogue about what’s best for our state, a chance to work on a solution for all of us, workers and students and construction companies.

Nah. A brave new Legislature will undoubtedly make our state a better place—better, that is, for the businesses it represents.

Gotta love democracy.