The 2015 Nevada Legislature was a mixed bag
Every time I watched a floor session during the 2015 Nevada Legislature, I’d think if Bernie Anderson were still alive, his head would explode. If he had watched the last 10 minutes before final adjournment, I think his heart would have broken on behalf of his beloved institution as chaos and confusion reigned.
The former assemblymember was the unofficial Assembly historian, someone who cared almost as much about the legislative process as the outcomes. He often tutored new legislators in Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure, the legislative parliamentary arbiter, and urged them to become familiar with the rules. He cautioned new legislators to think twice before requesting to speak on the floor, and carefully consider every motion and desired outcome before pushing the “speak” button at their desks.
To utter a word on the floor without being recognized by the speaker was unthinkable in Bernie’s world. An inability to make the proper motion when adopting an amendment or accepting a conference committee report would cause him to frown and shake his head. Bernie would have been apoplectic witnessing a legislator interrupting a colleague on the floor using crude language, such as, “Sit your ass down.” He might have stalked off in protest except he had too much respect for the institution to degrade it in any way.
But it wasn’t just the embarrassment on the Assembly floor or the suppression of minority views in the Senate that made me recall Bernie all session long. He would have been delighted about the hyper focus on improving K-12 education this year and very emotional during the last few days as it became clear a corporate tax would be enacted to finally fund vital programs. He would have loved the concept of Victory Schools and been excited about supporting teachers through scholarships, bonuses, and the simple act of reimbursement for classroom supplies.
Bernie would have been appalled, however, at the fact that Nevada now has the broadest and “best” school voucher program in the nation. While Republicans were busily celebrating the new law for allowing every parent to send their children to a religious or private school of their choosing at taxpayer expense, Bernie would have understood the $5,000 in per pupil funding would essentially be a subsidy for wealthy families, as working families still could not afford the tuition. Private schools also choose their students, relegating the harder-to-serve students with more expensive needs to the public educational system.
As the tax discussions intensified, I also thought of Assemblymember Peggy Pierce who died in 2013 and how she would have been delighted to see Nevada finally join 47 other states in taxing large corporations, a cause she long advocated to much eye rolling and condescension from the business sector. She might have preferred a more straightforward profits tax, but she would have well understood that any sort of gross receipts tax on large corporations is a huge win for Nevada. And it would have been entertaining to see her reaction to the ridiculous attempt by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce to extort funding for their pet projects as a condition of their support.
I also know the late Assemblymember Jan Evans would have been very happy about the defeat of an effort to weaken Nevada’s abortion laws by requiring parents to be informed when a teenager sought an abortion and subject her to a 48-hour waiting period before the procedure.
And Colonel Chuck Fulkerson, former director of the state Veteran’s Office who passed away last October, would have been beside himself as his dream of a veterans home in Northern Nevada became reality.
The memory of these revered Nevadans should inspire us to continue to work for change that sometimes takes far too long.