Time to get serious

While the national media obsesses over the presidential election and what it does and does not mean for the reshaping of the Democratic party, here in Nevada we’re preparing for a new session of the Legislature in February, with Democrats in control of the Assembly and the Senate.

It’s time to be bold. The anger and frustration of the working class voter propelled Trump into office, because many don’t view either political party as their advocate. What they want is change that benefits the working stiffs instead of the plutocrats. But Trump’s swamp-infested, conflict-laden cabinet members, most of whom don’t even believe in the missions of the agencies they’ve been chosen to lead, will quickly disappoint them.

Here are a few ideas for Nevada’s lawmakers to consider to instill more confidence in a political system that has forgotten the middle class. The wealthy can take care of themselves.

Make voting easier. Nevada’s legislators can look to Oregon’s groundbreaking automatic voter registration program for inspiration. The “opt-out” version automatically registers Oregonians when they apply for a drivers’ license, unless a person specifically chooses not to register. Oregon had 80 percent of its registered voters participate in last month’s election, thanks in part to the 43 percent of automatically registered voters who made it to the polls.

Pass another mandatory ward voting bill, now bolstered by a court decision in favor of general election ward voting. The pre-filed Assembly Bill 36 changes the Reno City Charter back to ward voting, effectively eliminating a structure that currently prevents neighborhoods from choosing their own representatives.

Set up an independent commission to handle the decennial redistricting process. Politicians have proven they cannot set aside their self-interest when dividing up voters into new districts and Nevada’s legislators are no exception, having failed so miserably in 2011 that a court-appointed panel had to take over. Nevada should emulate the independent commission in California which has been able to get the job done much more fairly and efficiently, producing more competitive races.

Address economic issues by taking on predatory lending and prohibiting the excessive interest rates that trap people living paycheck to paycheck in an immoral cycle of debt that enriches the money-lenders. Raise the minimum wage. Enact family-friendly employment practices such as mandatory sick time and paid family leave.

Make progress on criminal justice reform by enacting the juvenile justice improvements suggested by the Council of State Governments Justice Center regarding needs assessments, recidivism, and outcomes tied to evidence-based programming. “Ban the box” on job applications for adult offenders who are trying to get a job, allowing them to highlight their qualifications. Mandate bail reform so the poor aren’t stuck in debtors’ prison. Further restrict the death penalty or get rid of it altogether.

Get serious about using the budget to pay for services people need and stop giving tax breaks as bribes to corporations and NFL teams. Create construction jobs by rebuilding and expanding our roads, or repairing schools and long neglected state buildings. Stop interfering with the free market by subsidizing chosen industries.

Don’t balance the budget on the backs of the poor and the mentally ill. Fund community behavioral health clinics, crisis intervention services and forensic interventions. Expand child care subsidies so people can work. Enact a state tax on millionaires as California and New York have successfully done to pay for human services.

Sell your proposals. Don’t get distracted by the bubble of the legislative building. Use mainstream and social media to interact regularly with constituents. Explain decisions and encourage input.

If Governor Sandoval, a moderate but partisan Republican, vetoes the Democrats’ work, so be it. He and his party will have to answer to the voters in 2018. We know they’ll be watching both parties closely.