This isn’t democracy

Take a look at the 2003 Legislature. Many people have made the claim that the system of backbiting, compromises and special interests that have characterized this session is how our democracy is supposed to work.

To some extent, this may be true; the soul of American politics is compromise. Our government is supposed to be inefficient. But there’s a more overarching principle at work in our representative form of government: majority rules. That principle has been subverted by the Gibbons Tax Restraint Initiative, which was passed by Nevada voters in 1996. It’s named for Jim Gibbons, a current U.S. congressman for Nevada. Basically, the tax restraint initiative requires a two-thirds vote of both houses of the Nevada Legislature in order to pass laws that raise taxes.

The idea was to prevent Nevada’s elected officials from capriciously raising taxes. It passed in an atmosphere of hysterical rhetoric, and now we are seeing the results. A minority of elected officials are holding the state and its people hostage, threatening children with the closure of schools, single mothers with the loss of welfare pittances and seniors with the loss of their medicine because if the government should be shut down, as the governor has threatened, it will be the poor and powerless who get hurt.

Also at issue is just how small a minority can take the reins of government. As reported in the June 5 Las Vegas Sun, “If in the Senate, for instance, eight of its 21 members vote against a tax increase, the measure dies even if the Assembly votes 42-0 for more taxes. So, in effect, one-eighth of the Legislature can block a tax increase… .”

That’s not how our government is supposed to work. One of our government’s and society’s primary responsibilities is to care for the weakest among us. This flawed law allows the people most likely to garner sympathy to be taken hostage. Can you imagine what must be going on in the mind of a single mother who is faced with the possibility of not receiving enough help to feed her children next month?

Those women and children have hunger at their throats while the folks we elected play games with our money.

“Reopen spending, and maybe we’ll be able to cut enough to come up with a solution,” they say. “We’ll throw away all the efforts of people who negotiated in earnest to satisfy our hidden agendas.”

It’s a mockery. It shows utter disregard for charity, humanity and personal responsibility. And, good or ill, it will be remembered next election.

This legislative session points out that Nevadans must become more informed than ever when it comes to Election Day. Voters must select people with enough intelligence to know when taxes need to be raised, and enough integrity to raise them when it’s time. If you are not registered to vote, it’s time to get registered.