Notes on a Legislature -- Week 8

The regular session midway point comes next week, signaling the prelude to the Rush to Close, a k a the Deadline Death Watch.

The events of the last week indicate that the Democrats who control the Legislature are going to look very foolish if they keep having to kill bills they, you know, proposed.

This is the dilemma confronting Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford and Speaker Jason Frierson: How many of the wish lists of our special interest friends do we let have their day in Carson City, and how many of their bills do we quietly euthanize?

What we saw this week was the Democrats kill two of their own bills, one co-sponsored by Ford himself and entombed after a fair amount of Republican frothing (and law enforcement opposition), and another pushed by the taxi industry and initially welcomed until a storm of criticism erupted.

Let’s recap the week, which I’ll call Two Funerals and a Rally:

----Funeral No. 1: After Megan Messerly broke the story Saturday about an obvious split in the Senate Democratic Caucus over an immigration bill designed to protect undocumented residents from unreasonable searches and seizures (I think there’s an amendment for that), the measure died on Monday. This was rookie Yvanna Cancela’s legislation, caricatured as a sanctuary state bill by the ever-opportunistic Minority Leader Michael Roberson.

The bill came in early, was immediately pummeled by law enforcement folks as handcuffing their ability to do their jobs and was pounced on by Roberson, who called it the worst piece of legislation since he was elected (and maybe since the Alien and Sedition Acts?).

What was most interesting about this was not just the Democrats having to announce the slaying of a bill that nearly the entire caucus had embraced – that was embarrassing enough. But the obvious schism between Judiciary Chairman Tick Segerblom, who backed Cancela’s revamped bill to simply codify Metro policy, and Ford, who clearly thought the measure was putting the Democrats at risk (Is there polling?), is fascinating.

Memory lane: Anyone else remember when Ford was seen as too moderate (and business-friendly!) by Segerblom and others? By the way, I find it hard to believe Cancela has given up on the core of this idea, which is that police should not be allowed to ask for papers if it is not germane to stopping a suspect.

It’s only March 31.

-----Funeral No. 2: When Riley Snyder first broke the news of the taxi union’s attempt to defenestrate Uber and Lyft, it seemed almost comical. But Commerce Committee Chair Kelvin Atkinson, a major Uber supporter who received a lot of cab cash last cycle, seemed willing to listen.

The money part of Snyder’s story:

Atkinson said he’s held meetings with the union and said the list of suggestions would likely be introduced on Monday as a committee-sponsored bill. He called the list of suggestions a “Christmas Tree” wish list, but said that part of approving the regulations allowing companies such as Lyft and Uber to operate in the state including reviewing how the the industry was managing in future sessions.

“We’ll have a hearing, we’ll take a look at what’s working, we’ll take a look at what’s not working, but in my opinion the TNCs are here to stay,” he said.

So it was no surprise when the bill was introduced, as Atkinson had promised, into his committee. The minimum wait time was increased to 15 minutes above a union-requested 10 minutes, a provision that would surely attract attention and outrage.

What ensued this week was Atkinson claiming on Twitter – and I called him out on his fact-challenged assertions – repeatedly saying he had not read the bill, had no knowledge of the provisions, and then when he said he had read it… he was outraged, and he and Ford killed it.

This would have been comical were it not….ok, it was comical.

Atkinson actually made it sound like it was not a Christmas tree but a Christmas gift, wrapped so he could not see it, and then he was like the kid who found an ugly sweater instead of an X-Box.

This just exposed why: (A.) You should not tweet if all you are going to do is dissemble with “smdh” in every tweet and with a glut of exclamation points and all-caps. (B.) Committee bill introductions should only be allowed if those responsible for the bills also are identified.

But, once again, in allowing a special interest that had inundated the Democrats with cash to get its wish list into a bill, the leaders then had to do a lethal injection. No real death, though, anywhere in that building until June 5.

These pro-taxi issues will be back, I’d guess. It’s about ROI.

----The Rally: On Wednesday, the building security folks had to escort people into an overflow room as a measure, sponsored by Cancela and backed by her old employer, the Culinary Union, was heard. It also had support from gaming companies and other labor unions.

Now this was a bill with some meat, and one that will cause ripples from now until adjournment. Why?

Because this is an issue (health care costs) that the Culinary knows well, and both parent union boss, D. Taylor, and his wife and the union’s health care policy maven, Bobette Bond, are engaged. The union also knows how to organize and knows how to research – check out this site that was ready to go.

Oh, and there’s that readymade bogeyman.

The Big PhRMA folks get that, too, which is why they sent a DC operative to the hearing. If it can happen here….

Keep an eye on this, especially because if enough pressure can be applied, Veto Corleone across the courtyard may find himself with an offer he can’t refuse.

As the session careens toward the end and the midpoint comes and goes, the ability of the Democrats to stop from having to entomb their own while pleasing their base interests will be the needle they have to thread. Some of these polarizing issues that have no chance are worthy of at least being heard for the policy debate – abolishing the death penalty, for instance.

But this week, with those two funerals, showed how awkward it can be. The sailing will either get smoother in the coming weeks, with measures never being heard and dying quietly, or the June train wreck will be something to behold.