Party time at the legislature

As the Nevada Legislature nears the one month mark, it’s refreshing to see the Democratic majority introduce a raft of progressive bills designed to address concerns of everyday Nevadans instead of promoting more tax giveaways for billionaires with legacy stadium projects or gigafactories. Although it’s early in the session and more tax cuts may be in the works for those at the top of the economic pyramid, one can hope that Democrats maintain their focus on what truly matters.

It’s unclear how Gov. Sandoval will receive these progressive bills should they be approved. This is a far cry from two years ago when the session began with a host of terrible ideas pushed by Republicans who controlled both houses. Thankfully, many of those bills died before they reached the governor’s desk, victims of a chaotic and fractured Assembly caucus unable to agree on a cohesive agenda.

The 2017 Democrats have already held two hearings on bills designed to give Nevada’s minimum wage workers a significant raise in the range of $11 to $15 an hour. The Chamber of Commerce was predictably outraged at the idea, arguing that the so-called “job creators” will self-destruct if they have to provide a living wage to the workers who ensure their success. One worker suggested legislators try to raise a family on the current minimum wage, but there were no takers. Raising wages at the bottom will mean more money in the economy for everyone, not just the privileged few at the top.

Several bold bills have been introduced providing a visionary energy policy for Nevada’s future. Clark County’s Assemblymember Chris Brooks wants to increase the Renewable Portfolio Standard to 80 percent by 2040, giving the renewable industry a huge boost and reducing Nevada’s reliance on fossil fuels. Assm. Justin Watkins has a bill to prohibit hydraulic fracturing in Nevada, protecting our citizens from the negative impacts of fracking, especially on our treasured public lands.

First termer Sen. Yvanna Cancela, is thinking about how to provide women with basic health care should the Republicans in Washington be successful in repealing Obamacare and defunding Planned Parenthood. Her measure, Senate Bill 122, would establish the mechanism for Nevada to provide direct grants for family planning services such as birth control, prenatal care and STD testing and treatment.

Republicans have been busy introducing bills, too. Douglas County Assm. Jim Wheeler wants to lower the gambling age to 18 while Clark’s first term Assm. Jim Marchant thinks a fish pedicure bill should be a priority. The usual Republican obsession with voter fraud is represented by Reno’s own Assm. Lisa Krasner, who wants to require proof of identity when voting in person, despite no evidence of a problem at the voting booth. Meanwhile, Assm. Richard McArthur and Washoe Sen. Don Gustavson want English to become the official language of Nevada, seemingly oblivious to its current premier status.

To highlight the differences between the two parties, Senate Republican leader Mike Roberson of Clark County has purposely embraced a set of bills deeply offensive to the Democratic psyche, designed to give him a platform to stay relevant in a session essentially between the governor and the Democrats. Roberson has once again changed his chameleon political personality and now resembles the Roberson we met in 2011, exhibiting a mean uber-right persona instead of the 2015 version of a reasonable Republican concerned about quality education. This year, Roberson is recycling failed legislation from the past, such as weakening the public retirement system and taking public lands away from the public. He rather viciously wants to outlaw sanctuary status for undocumented immigrants in any city or county in the state, even if local officials pass their own ordinances. Progressives would do well to avoid being sucked into the vortex of his faux outrage, which just feeds his insatiable need for attention.