Education and re-deregulation

“I’m going to vote for the bill, but I’m going to do so with a heavy heart. Nevada has sold its soul and tarnished its already shaky reputation today, just in exchange for a $30 million Band-Aid.”

—Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas

Lawmaking in Nevada takes its toll, even on those elected representatives with the best intentions. End-of-session wheeling and dealing manifests itself in many ways. Two examples: education and electricity.

The above quote from Dina Titus, as reported in the Las Vegas Review-Journal, referred to the passage of Senate Bill 577 Saturday. The bill’s candy coating? It would raise $30 million over two years by increasing the fees charged to corporations by the Secretary of State.

What made Titus gag was the bill’s bitter nugget—a measure to protect the private assets of corporate muckies. Titus worried that the change would “open Nevada to dishonest and unscrupulous business people.”

The money raised by the bill, though, would do Good Things for Nevada’s kids. It was coupled with a $20 million bill to upgrade technology in public schools and to give new teacher recruits a bonus of $2,000. This would help Nevada head off an inevitable teacher shortage, Gov. Guinn enthused.

But that’s not the worst news from the Last Days of the Legislature.

Check it out. I’ll bet you thought that savvy Nevada lawmakers nixed the idea of utility deregulation weeks ago. Yeah, right. At this very moment, lawmakers are working hard to deregulate utilities for a couple of key Nevada industries. AB 661, passed last week, deregulates utilities for … drum roll, please … big buyers, like mines and casinos.

Huh? What the heck? I thought we observed California’s mistakes—made by Golden State legislators after an all-night wine tasting event in Napa Valley. Given the frequency of the word “debacle” coupled with “deregulation” in headlines across the nation, you’d think we’d have learned something.

This re-deregulation pill is made palatable by another Good Thing for Nevada—a requirement in the Senate’s version that requires utilities to purchase at least 15 percent of their power from renewable sources by 2013. Hooray for the good guys.

When first proposed, the legislation allowed consumer groups to form aggregates to buy power at new, improved rates. This received a gubernatorial nix.

Assemblywoman Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said she didn’t get why consumers couldn’t get together and, like mines and casinos, also be allowed to buy power on the open market. Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, predicted that utility rates will skyrocket for the average residential consumer.

Oh, by the way, you did not read about the re-dereg bills in the Reno Gazette-Journal, because, compared with Gov. Guinn’s veto of the loud stereo bill, it was hardly news at all.

There’s just no telling what Nevada legislators will cook up in the next few days. Whatever it is, we’ll be stewing in it for two years. So pay attention. And those of you legislators who haven’t yet bowed the knee to Baal (aka Harvey Whittemore)—hang in there. We’re counting on you.