Change worker laws

At a laundromat in Sparks, one of state legislator Mike Sprinkle’s constituents was offering her theory on his resignation: “I think it’s politics. They just wanted him out of the way.”

That’s one of the consequences of hiding the facts of cases like this. When Sprinkle resigned, no one explained why. Sprinkle himself put out a statement with minimal detail. The Assembly speaker did the same.

And so did the governor, for some reason. Though he is not a member of the legislature and did not deal with the case, he denounced Sprinkle.

So what is the public to think? When facts are withheld, when secrecy prevails, the public fills in the empty spaces for themselves. Thus, Sparks residents are speculating like crazy.

Legislative courtesy serves its purpose, but that purpose is to keep the legislative process civil and accommodating so that work gets done amicably. But Assm. Sprinkle was leaving the process. He should not have been able to set down the rules for his departure. Legislative leaders should level with the public and his constituents and explain what happened and why he departed.

On the same topic, it is not enough just to remove legislators who do not conduct themselves properly. It is also necessary to remove the workplace conditions that make that kind of behavior possible. There isn’t much that can be done for visitors to the legislature or for legislative interns, but there is one important change that should be made to protect legislative employees from harassment. It is time to stop treating legislative employees differently from other state employees, time to bring them all under the same system and the same protections. As it stands, legislative employees are at the mercy of politicians. They must keep legislators happy to keep their jobs. And far too often, that means keeping their mouths shut when legislative conduct is improper.

There’s no reason the employees in the Department of Minerals or the Public Utilities Commission should have protections that legislative employees do not share. Yes, some employees are hired only for the four months of the legislative session, and it would be inconvenient to give them full-fledged employee status. Tough. Legislators have not shown they can be trusted to deal with temporary workers professionally, so they should just put up with the inconvenience. And those who are year-round employees definitely deserve that protection. This will require the legislators themselves to enact legal shields for their employees—not a great situation, but they need to do it.

For far too long, lawmakers have thought of the Nevada Legislature and its building as theirs. They don’t give their workers protection. They don’t live under the open meeting law that other agencies must observe. The legislative police are used as chauffeurs and gofers. Well, it’s not their legislature or their building. They come and go. The workers last longer and should be treated with respect.