Post-election campaigns ahead
It’s mid-summer in an election year, and Nevada’s legislative candidates are pounding the pavement in their districts, endeavoring to make a good impression on general election voters. It’s the perfect time for revealing the first round of bill draft requests (BDRs), giving voters a glimpse of some key issues which will consume the Nevada Legislature in 2017.
To say it’s a glimpse is to overstate the situation. The BDR list offers only the name of the bill’s sponsor and a few words of description that almost willfully obscure the bill’s intent. For example, BDR 1 has been requested by Sen. Patricia Farley and “makes certain changes relating to education.” What those changes are is known only to Sen. Farley and the bill drafter.
In fact, Sen. Farley may not know exactly what she intends to do with the BDR at this point. It might be a placeholder, a bill waiting for “the details” in legislative parlance. Or she may be perfectly clear about what she wants. The public won’t know for sure until the bill is introduced in the 2017 session. If the BDR is never converted to an actual bill, we’ll never know.
The Legislative Counsel Bureau has posted a helpful chart showing the precise number of bill draft requests that legislators, committees and public bodies are allowed, along with key deadlines.
Legislative observers and reporters weed through the BDR list every week looking for “retreads,” or bills that failed in the last session, and are likely to be resurrected in 2017. This gives lobbyists a clue that it’s time to start mobilizing their forces if they oppose the legislator’s idea, or, conversely, it confirms that a legislator intends to follow through with a campaign promise to introduce a particular piece of legislation.
Retread bills abound in the first 100 bill draft requests for 2017. Sens. David Parks and Ben Kieckhefer have already submitted their bipartisan “death with dignity” bill, responding to widespread public interest in the rights of terminally ill patients to end their lives on their own terms. The bill failed to get a hearing in 2015 due to the objection to physician-assisted suicide expressed by the Senate Health and Human Services Committee chair, Senator and medical doctor Joe Hardy, who rationalized his actions through his personal belief system that palliative care and hospice should fill the needs of those facing imminent death. Without a hearing, Nevadans were unable to publicly debate this difficult topic, instead watching passively as California became the fifth state in the nation to pass such a law.
Other BDRs on the retread list include Assemblymember Ellen Spiegel’s legislation to codify accommodations that must be made for nursing mothers. Assm. Mark Manendo also has submitted a request for a bill to require a registry for those who abuse animals. And it appears that Sen. Pat Spearman intends to push equal pay issues again, having submitted a resolution for Nevada to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment and a bill to enact the provisions from the federal Paycheck Fairness Act.
The first 108 bill draft requests also feature bills to reform elections, regulate trapping, and the usual Nevada obsession with not regulating firearms. Sen. Tick Segerblom will continue to push the envelope with a bill to allow the public use of marijuana in social clubs, events and concert arenas. He also wants to rename the Las Vegas airport to Harry Reid International, a concept bound to get caught up in partisan rhetoric.
All these issues will be decided in the next legislative session. Engage the candidates on these concerns and choose your representatives wisely.