Notes on a Legislature -- Week 9

Half a session, half a session, half a session onward, all in the valley of death (of bills) rode the 63.

With apologies (great, sincere ones) to Tennyson, lawmakers moved past the midway point of Session ’17 this week, headed into seven days in April when hundreds of bills will disappear. (Pray for the fish pedicures and the plastic bag ban.)

Democratic leaders Jason Frierson and Aaron Ford, sensitive to criticism that they are facilitating an agenda that will END BUSINESS IN NEVADA AS WE KNOW IT, have reached out to lobbyists to reassure them that some of the crazier stuff won’t get through the deadline a week from today. Overheard in the leadership offices if such conversations could be overheard: “Hey, you don’t think I support all the goofy stuff my caucus member supports, do you?”

The message: Chill.

This is the last week for the idealism of the newcomers, their naiveté about Democrats controlling both houses and the chances for their pet bills to pass. That all ends in seven days, when chairmen find their mythical desk drawers stuffed with bills that will never escape the crowded legislative sarcophagus.

So what happened the last few days that may – or may not –have portents for bill-killing week?

This week saw two interesting developments:

First, two GOP leaders sent a letter to Attorney General Jeff Sessions asking him to show his cards on pot: That is, is he planning on a government crackdown? That could leave a mark if he is.

Second, there was the first hearing on Gov. Brian Sandoval’s 10 percent pot tax. The governor opposed legalization – although I am making the baseless claim here that he is an inveterate marijuana smoker and THAT is how he stays so calm – but now wants the state to get a piece of the action. Not all the Republicans are on board – at least not yet – and I hear the Democrats want even more, maybe 12 percent.

The tax will make it past the bill deadline, and it could be one of the few measures that has even more reinvigorated life after April 14 as both sides look for ways to fund stuff.

----So many bills, Part II, elections: Riley Snyder and Megan Messerly catalogued the ridiculous and redundant number of election-related measures dumped into the legislative meat grinder. So what comes out on the other end?

I think it’s more likely that an ESA bill is passed this session than a serious voter ID proposal. But what about extending early voting hours and/or days? I hate early voting, but if you accept it as a necessary evil, why not make the period longer?

It will be interesting to watch the Democratic messaging on these bills – as well as many others – to see if they can build momentum to Sandoval’s desk.

----So many interests, energy: So now Chris Brooks knows how those military men in Hawaii felt. On Tuesday, the energy maven and rookie assemblyman sat there as NV Energy and then the Nevada Resort Association raised serious questions about his bill to increase renewable portfolio standards. If there are two more powerful entities than those two….

The energy world is protean and complicated, and Brooks knows it inside and out. How do the Democratic leaders consolidate all of the ideas floating around, placate powerful interests and get the governor’s signature?

----So many vetoes foretold: The seminal question of the session – no, not if Attorney General Adam Laxalt will ever let Democrats question him in a hearing -- is whether Ford and Frierson can cull the bad ideas from the good ones, with good either defined as excellent public policy or as something Sandoval will sign.

Neither Democratic leader wants the end of the session to be like the end of the poem. They don’t want that place across the courtyard to be the Valley of Death; instead, they have several hills to die for that will eventually become apparent.

The ending they are hoping does not occur is the one, as Tennyson might have described it: “Theirs not to reason why, theirs but to do (and watch bills) die.”

Disclosure: NV Energy has donated to The Nevada Independent. You can see a full list of donors here.