Got it right

The 2005 Nevada Legislature vindicated the judgment of Nevada voters, who sent less doctrinaire, more able lawmakers to Carson City this year. That’s not to say that this legislature (or Nevada voters) made flawless decisions, but there was no repetition of the legislative process being held hostage by an intransigent minority faction. That’s a huge improvement. Many lawmakers about whom there had been apprehensions, such as Washoe County’s Heidi Gansert, were serious and willing to work with other legislators.

But even if there were not the dismal example of 2003 with which to compare this year’s legislative session, 2005 would still be a good year. After Gov. Guinn set an ambitious agenda in January, the legislators took on and did their best with a dizzying array of issues—usury, mental health, the federal No Child Left Behind education law, disaster relief, eminent domain, Medicaid, a state lottery, initiatives and referenda, prostitution slavery, pharmaceutical-drug importation, health-care costs, alternative energy, adoption and child custody, water, minimum wage, all-day kindergarten, open meetings, various privacy issues, smoking restrictions, plus all the revenue issues like what to do with the state surplus, what to do about property taxes.

The lawmakers even did something to help gambling addicts, approving and dramatically expanding a proposal first made by Gov. Guinn. It removes a black mark on Nevada’s reputation as a state that has benefited for three-quarters of a century from gambling but never lifted a finger for its victims.

No one will agree with everything the legislature did on these and other issues, but Nevadans can take satisfaction in knowing that with a few exceptions, their legislators were legislators, working out differences, compromising on obstacles, creatively looking for solutions to the state’s problems. There were a few dogmatic lawmakers who would have liked to deadlock the legislature again this year, but the majority kept them in check.

There are still difficulties. The voter-approved 120-day limit on legislative sessions in Nevada is as foolish as the Indiana House of Representatives’ 1897 vote that pi is not 3.1416. As they have become accustomed to doing since approval of the 120-day limit, Nevada lawmakers this year were forced to rush their work, and it affected the quality of that work. Some of the issues they dealt with, such as water or privacy, deserved more attention and greater care. That this did not happen is the fault of voters, not of lawmakers. Yes, the legislative session ran over slightly into a special session. It was worth it.

Finally, we would like, one of these years, to see a legislature at which the problems of low-income working Nevadans receive half as much attention as those of business and those of organized groups.