Government by the people

Nothing defines the quality of life in a community more clearly than people who regard themselves, or whom the consensus chooses to regard, as mentally unwell.
—Renata Adler, American journalist and writer

Once again our citizen legislature is in its full glory. With the deadline looming to get bills passed for consideration by the other side of the legislative branch, we have some good bills and some really bad ones. Fortunately, with a part-time legislature, our representatives only get to screw up once every two years.

Here is a bevy of Senate and Assembly bills sent through that sound pretty good. At least, they sound pretty good as reported by the Reno Gazette-Journal: SB548 requires publishers of election ads to reveal who paid for the ads. SB280 requires all health-care providers other than hospitals to provide patient bills within 120 days. SB299 is a bill to increase penalties for crimes against pregnant women, and SB438 would allow counties to let private companies operate jails.

Of course, with the good comes the bad and really bad.

SB112 puts restrictions on the sale and purchase of over-the-counter medications that contain substances that can be used to manufacture methamphetamine. It’s a useless bill that anyone with a working knowledge of high school chemistry could subvert. (For that matter any would-be terrorist with the same knowledge can put together a decent explosive device. Are we going to ban fertilizer next?)

SB274 allows the state engineer to fine those who violate water laws up to $10,000 per day. Can anyone say “punitive?”

I suppose it never occurred to anyone to require developers to use xeriscaping (the use of drought-resistant native vegetation) rather than turn this place into something it’s not: a tropical oasis requiring obscene amounts of water? On the other hand, such government interference would be construed by some as anti-business.

AB142 requires a course in ethics for newly elected or appointed officials and newly registered lobbyists.

Does anyone else find it slightly disconcerting that an elected official or a lobbyist would need a course on ethics?

SB487 creates a new authority to govern the water resources in Washoe County.

Just what we need—another government bureaucracy. One might question that if private companies should be able to operate jails, why do we need a new government agency?

AB477 says landlords of manufactured-home parks must pay to move a tenant if the park is sold or closed and must reimburse the tenant $5,000 or pay the market value of the home, whichever is greater. Clearly, a tenant with a mobile home renting space is entitled to have his or her mobile home bought out. Will this next be applied to apartment tenants in the next session?

SB302 bans Nevada-based credit card companies from using “universal default clauses” in credit card contracts. Obviously people can’t be bothered to read the fine print of what they’re liable for when they apply for and receive their credit cards.

SB516 increases salaries for certain county officials—once again, your tax dollars at work.

SB354 is a school-safety bill that mandates drug testing, psychological evaluation and a felony penalty for anyone caught with a firearm on a school campus. Oh yes, and as the recent events at Virginia Tech proved, a “gun free” zone is the safest place one can be.

AB369 establishes procedures for the release of someone who is committed to a mental facility after being found not guilty by reason of insanity.

One might question that the money might be better spent trying to identify and treat mental illnesses first.

And that perhaps brings us back to Adler’s quote and the Virginia Tech tragedy.