The record of the 78th Nevada Legislative session at the halfway mark is not admirable. It’s characterized by highly partisan maneuvering of the Republican controlled body, consisting of regressive, anti-labor, anti-government (except in the case of women’s rights, corporate welfare, etc.) and anti-tax proposals. Ironically, the same strong Republican majority threatens Gov. Brian Sandoval’s progressive education and necessary revenue programs.
Already passed and signed by the governor is a bill eliminating payment of prevailing wages in certain public works projects. Making its way through committees is a wide-ranging bill to restrict collective bargaining rights of public employees and a proposal to eliminate time and a half wages for work in excess of eight hours a day. These measures hurt average, hard-working Nevadans.
Republican bills will limit voting rights, including a requirement for voter identification, restrictions on early voting and preventing counties from keeping polls open after 7 p.m.. A democratic society promotes voting, rather than make it a burden.
The ever-present gun lobby is pushing to allow weapons, including those concealed, in schools and on college campuses. School administrators and law enforcement authorities generally oppose such legislation.
One of the most controversial bills is AB 408, which purports to provide all land within the boundaries of Nevada, not owned by private persons or the state government, is owned by the citizens of Nevada, and the use thereof must be granted by the state to the first person who uses the land for “grazing, logging, mineral development or another beneficial use.” The bill ignores the fact that about 85 percent of such land is owned by the Federal Government by virtue of the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, which ended the Mexican-American War in 1848.
At an Assembly committee hearing Tuesday, AB 408 supporters offered a litany of opinions “the people” own the land, which in 21st century America amounts to a declaration of anarchy.
Interestingly, the Legislative Council Bureau on March 26, citing numerous authorities and precedents, issued an opinion the bill if passed and challenged would be declared unconstitutional on the basis it violated the authority of Congress to manage and control federal land.
Nevada cannot acquire federal property by fiat.
AB 408 is known appropriately as the Bundy Bill, for rancher Cliven Bundy who has been in contempt of a federal court order for 15 years for illegally grazing cattle on federal land and has said he does not recognize the existence of the national government. Like Mr. Bundy, the sponsors of AB 408 need a lesson in history and constitutional law.
More disturbing, however, the bill would remove treasured natural resources from public use and enjoyment and mandate they be used for private, commercial purposes. That’s a sacrilege too egregious even to be considered. Imagine cattle grazing and mining equipment defacing the land in the Great Basin National Park.
Gov. Sandoval is pushing hard for passage of his much-needed education reforms and increased revenue to fund the needs of Nevada’s schools and colleges. His strongest support, not surprisingly, is from Democratic legislators. While the Republican leadership seems to be on the governor’s side, Assemblywoman Michele Fiore claims to have almost enough committed votes to kill the necessary tax increases. That would be tragic and would continue to condemn our children to a poorer education than they deserve and our state requires.