Why not work on solving real problems?
It’s become a cliché to claim a proposed idea is a solution in search of a problem.
And yet, there are several prime and dangerous examples of the phenomena in the Nevada Legislature this year, leaving one to wonder why legislators aren’t more seriously focused on the very real and pressing dilemmas confronting our state.
Case in point: The voter I.D. bills. During hearings on the legislation, proponents were repeatedly asked to provide data surrounding the widespread voter fraud problem driving their request to require all citizens to show a government-sponsored identification card before voting.
No one could produce the data because it doesn’t exist.
While one case of a voter intentionally voting twice was caught and prosecuted under former Secretary of State Ross Miller, that’s about it. Several people mentioned the ACORN case, one that Miller also pursued successfully, but that centered on voter registration irregularities, an issue with no bearing on polling place voter I.D.
Despite these facts, former assemblymember Sharron Angle testified that “we do have a voter impersonation problem across the country.” When pressed by Assemblyman Elliot Anderson for examples of this occurring in Nevada, she could not provide any, but said there is “anomalous activity that goes on in Nevada elections that is not easily explained.”
Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas, attacked the notion of opponents that the proposals would disenfranchise minorities, the poor, and the elderly who may not have original documents needed to get a government I.D. Instead, Fiore claimed opponents were using “the race card” and condescendingly told witnesses, in case they “hadn’t noticed,” that the president is black.
The I.D. proposals come with a high price tag and were unceremoniously sent to the Assembly budget committee, where hopefully this “solution” dies amid the proven need for these dollars elsewhere.
As the 2014 elections revealed, the real challenge in Nevada elections is motivating citizens to vote at all. A number of bills propose to address this real problem, including bills to preregister 17-year-olds, same-day registration, permanent polling places open to all, and extending the registration period. But it’s hard to see those bills passing in a GOP-controlled Legislature. Young, poor and minority voters tend to lean Democratic.
Another solution with no identified problem are the twin bills to enact the Nevada Protection of Religious Freedom Act. These bills are similar to SB 192 from the 2013 Legislature where no evidence was ever presented of any “state action that burdened a person’s exercise of religion,” the reported impetus for the legislation. Nevertheless, the bill was approved on a 14-7 vote by the state Senate with unanimous Republican support as well as four Democrats.
Sponsors of the 2015 legislation seemed oblivious to the disaster in Arizona when a similar “legalized discrimination” bill was approved, quickly leading to businesses refusing services to gays under the guise of “religious freedom” and a subsequent boycott that threatened to undermine Arizona’s economy. The backlash led to the embarrassment of state senators renouncing their own votes and joining the Chamber of Commerce in begging Republican Gov. Jan Brewer to veto the bill, which she did.
It took the self-destructive actions of Indiana Republican Gov. Mike Pence upon signing a similar bill last month, and the threats of corporations operating in Indiana, including the National Collegiate Athletic Association, to convince Nevada legislators to drop their bills. One said he reviewed the Nevada constitution with legal counsel and found religious protections already provided therein.
Instead of solving the non-existing problem of government-sponsored religious discrimination, these bills would have placed Nevada’s tourist economy at the same risk of a nationwide boycott.
The casino industry was never going to allow that to happen. When it comes to fleecing gamblers, Nevada doesn’t discriminate.