(Michael Chamberlain/Nevada Business Coalition) – Most of us are familiar with the serial Peanuts cartoon sequence in which Lucy convinces Charlie Brown to take a running kick at a football she is holding. Each time she assures him that she will not pull the football away. Each time, however, Lucy yanks the ball away at the last instant, causing Charlie Brown to miss the ball, upend himself and land with a painful, and embarrassing, “Thud!”
A similar sequence of events repeats itself during Nevada’s biennial legislative sessions. Big government legislators promise to reform government programs and government employee compensation if only conservatives would vote to increase taxes. Liberal legislators get their tax increases while their naïve colleagues are left on their backs with the football of meaningful reform having been snatched away from them.
This time around, while the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce gladly plays the role of Charlie Brown to liberal legislators’ Lucy, Governor Sandoval, Senate Republicans and, for the most part, Assembly Republicans have refused to play along in the farce.
Even when Republicans have been inclined to accept the role of Charlie Brown, liberal legislators have done a much poorer imitation of Lucy than in past sessions.
Republicans have accused Democrats of refusing to come to the table to debate reform measures on their priorities — an accusation that is flat wrong, according to Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas.
“Let’s name the bills you wish to have available,” [Democratic Assembly Speaker John] Oceguera replied to [Republican Assemblyman Mark] Sherwood. “I believe that the construction defect bill, I have that bill, it is still alive. A (public employee retirement) reform bill, it’s still alive. Prevailing wage, we have that bill. Still alive. Tell me your other reforms. I think I answered all these questions.”
Of course, Oceguera’s idea of “reform” and that of Republicans, and most Nevadans, are not nearly the same. Reform proposals from Republicans – such as those that would have ended binding arbitration in government union negotiations, ceased collective bargaining privileges for supervisors and management in government, allowed for school vouchers and others – died in committee while a few much weaker proposals offered by Democrats have survived.
Oceguera said Democrats have offered bills on education, construction lawsuit and retirement reform, although the bills still in play fall far short of Republican demands.
“If they think we’re going to do everything they want to get nothing, they are sorely mistaken,” he said.
So much for reform. But it always has been the case that the offer of “reform” is just a ruse, another empty promise by Lucy to entice Charlie Brown into once more falling for her trick.
(Michael Chamberlain is Executive Director of Nevada Business Coalition.)