Legislature swoons on the muggy Ides of June

Expanded from the 6-15-2003 Daily Sparks, Nev., Tribune
and the 6-19-2003 Comstock Chronicle

The 19th Special Session of the Nevada Legislature was aptly named if interpreted in terms of adolescence and retardation. The 20th Special Session, which will convene on June 25, will reinforce our butt-first plunge back to our roots as Mississippi West.

We deserve it. There's plenty of blame to go around, so get out the appropriate fingers and let's get pointing.

CASINOS HAVE SCROOGED US. The gambling industry is both the cause of our problems and the stone wall blocking a solution. A perverse coalition of Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum and Tweedle Dumber in the Nevada State Assembly has iced the lower house into the dead meat locker of political irrelevance.

One faction is so fearful of the loss of gambling industry campaign contributions that it will support nothing but the tax plan created by the casinos and endorsed by Gov. Dudley Do-Right. That particular abortion has had its name changed a couple of times...

LIPSTICK ON A PIG. The Gross Receipts Tax, the Grotesque Receipts Tax, the Unified Business Tax or RUST — the Regressive Universal Sales Tax — no matter the name, it all comes out the same. The gambling industry will ante only petty cash into the game.

LILLIPUTIANS AS DUMB PUTZES. I can respect those openly sold out to the gamblers more than I can respect the dunderheads who have both the opportunity and the intelligence to understand what gambling is doing yet believe the industry's ongoing "poorboy" mantra. Some overly-educated lawmakers have actually told me that they don't want to single out the poor, beleaguered casino industry.

Those lawmakers are true Nevadans, co-dependent on their abusers and feeling most needed when having the hell beaten out of them. All on behalf of their precious constituents, whoever they are.

NAGGING BROBDINGNAGIANS. The third faction in the lower house consists of ideological true believers. Government is bad. Taxes are bad. Each county in the land should become an independent city-state. (The latter is only a mild exaggeration and not a totally meritless idea.)

Assembly Democrats began the session taking a hands-off approach to taxes and wanting senate Republicans to be the initiators, thus providing rope with which Donkeyites could hang them at the next election. When they saw that senate actually providing some leadership — starting with killing the casino free-ride plan — the assembly was compelled to defend their gambling patroons' position.

LEGALLY BLONDE. Somewhere in the scalp, Sen. Bill Raggio's, R-Reno, multi-hued hair is probably all battleship gray. This session, that's largely the work of three battle axes known variously as The Blondes or The Three Blondiegoats Gruff. Sens. Ann O'Connell and Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, and Sandra Tiffany, R-Henderson, have broken both their majority leader's clout and his cosmetics. Bill Raggio's been scalped by his own kind.

THE NINE OF CLUBS. It's gone unreported, but Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, the legislature's longtime Cassandra in the coal mine, actually got nine senators to back a major hike in the gross gaming tax last week. The senate is stuck at a one-half of one percent increase. The casino shills in the assembly back the industry plan for a quarter-point hike in the lowest such tax in the world, unchanged for 16 years. (Actually, when various credits and rebates are factored in, the casino-assembly plan just about zeroes the industry's new tax liability. See
"Casinos continue to cook the books." See also the Feb. 7 installment of this column in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.)

In the past six years, although a few have given lip service, only Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, has actually voted in support of Neal's call to make the gambling industry pay a fair share for the growth it causes and from which it is principal beneficiary. Schneider backed a two-point hike in 2001. Thus, Neal's generation of nine votes last week probably scared the bejabbers out of the casino lobbyists gathered in a bar across the street. (Lobbyists had been asked to stop pecking lawmakers to death. so the gamblers started using compliant lawmakers as runners to convey orders from across Carson Street. Your public servants in action.)

SINS OF COMMISSION. Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, saved gambling's fat bacon when the senate was close to passing a tax plan hitting the casinos hard. She latched onto an amendment tacked onto the tax bill which she herself had submitted on behalf of Schneider, who had been hospitalized with high blood pressure. Schneider's amendment would have allowed gambling licenses to be portable. Titus then used the existence of the amendment to make a speech to kill the plan. This is the classic rhetorical technique of setting up a straw man so that you can look good knocking it down.

Neal tried to get the package approved and sent to the lower house by removing the Schneider-Titus amendment, but his colleagues voted that down as well. Go figger.

Even the Straw man who sauntered down the Yellow Brick Road was treated with more respect. As were the paying customers.

BACK TO THE FUTURE — HERE COMES THE JUDGE. Gov. Dudley Do-Right and others have been warning that if the impasse continues, someone may file a lawsuit and the courts will run Nevada government. Fine by me. Hope it's a federal court rather than the Nevada Supremes who are shot up the tush with political conflicts. Nevada education law is built in conformance with longstanding court decisions. A federal case would have much merit.

We have long lived well with another example of courts running our lives. Federal Watermaster Garry Stone and his predecessors have worked under the direction of the U.S. District Court since the 1944 Orr Ditch Decree settled the water rights of the Truckee River.

THE PUNCH LINE. Station Casinos, the guys running the new Thunder Mountain Indian casino in Auburn, Calif., have dropped out of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce after fellow members would not back the gamblers' tax plan. Mandalay Bay (Circus Circus) casino boss Mike Ensign (father of U. S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev.), last week said he's considering doing the same. One of his critiques was that the chamber's position is hurting economic diversification. Four years ago, Mandalay VP Mike Sloan blamed economic diversification as the cause of Nevada's fiscal problems. The LV Strip moguls need to take a meeting and get their stories straight. (For a few enlightening laughs, see the Nevada Commission on Economic Development study which torpedoed Sloan's — ahem — Arthur Andersen research on that point.)

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Copyright © 1982-2003, 2013 Andrew Barbano

Andrew Barbano is a 34-year Nevadan, a member Communications Workers of America Local 9413 and editor of and Barbwire by Barbano has originated in the Daily Sparks (Nev.) Tribune since 1988.

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