(Assemblyman Pat Hickey) – Having previously served in the Legislature, frequently I am asked to compare what things were like “back then” and “now.” ‘What is it like to come back to Carson after all those years?” “How much have things changed from the time you were here before?”
In many ways, things are different because I am different. Fourteen years ago, I had a large young family and a small new business. Both were hard to leave behind for what turned out to seem like an eternity. Finally getting out of the 69th Session on July 7, 1997, when we were only supposed to be there for 60 days, most of us left the building never wanting to see it again. Do I hope the 76th Session turns into one of those legendary legislative marathons leaving lawmakers, lobbyists, and the public worse off for wear? I hope not and so should you. As Mark Twain once quipped, the citizens of Nevada fare better when the Legislature is not in session!
Have things changed that much? At times, it does feel like, “Déjà vu all over again.” Following is an excerpt from my book Tahoe Boy, on what legislative life was like during my first term of duty:
The one piece of legislation I did agree to sponsor came from the mouth of babes. A class of “gifted and talented” students from Vaughn Middle School in my district had previously raised money to restore the flag from the USS Nevada that survived Pearl Harbor. They came to me wanting to pass a law that would do some good. Who could say no to a bunch of seventh- and eighth-graders who were desirous of participating in the political process?
Their idea was to change Nevada law to require only a single license plate on a vehicle’s rear bumper. The contingent of kid lobbyists studied legislative protocol and prepared their arguments better than most so-called adults that appear before us. In fact, the 13-year-olds struck fear in all who opposed them. The police, prison officials and the 3M Company were nervous [when] confronted by a bunch of adolescent adversaries. The students’ well-researched rationale was that 19 other states required only a rear license plate. District 27’s best and brightest argued Nevada could also make money from the commemorative plates the state could sell for the front bumpers of people’s Corvette’s.
I fully expected police agencies to oppose Assembly Bill 449. Better chance of apprehending crooks with both license plates; or so they testified. Even 3M rep’s opposition was understandable, since sales of their chemical sealants would decrease with the passage of the kid’s law. But when I was button-holed by a representative of the Department of Prisons telling me the legislation would hurt prisoner’s “take-home pay,” I was sure I had finally in my lifetime seen an example of the inmates running the asylum. It didn’t seem to matter that the students’ bill would have saved Nevada taxpayers millions of dollars. More importantly, it hurt the bottom line of prisoner’s paychecks.
Despite the deferential treatment received by the students, their measure went down in flames before the Assembly Transportation Committee. After all, the gifted kids from Vaughn Middle School got a great lesson on how government works. And so did I.
Whether or not it is true that “the more things change, the more they stay the same,” soon we will see how well Nevada lawmakers handle this Session’s most difficult challenge–the effects of a horrible recession and the Governor’s budget proposals.
To that end, I am hosting a town-hall style forum with panelists and the public discussing: “The Recession, Revenues, and Nevada’s Recovery” next Monday, April 18, at 3:00 PM in Senate Room 1214. Additional confirmed panelists include–Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, Chairwoman, Ways & Means Committee, Dr. Ty Cobb, former special Assistant to Ronald Reagan, and other previously confirmed speakers mentioned in this newsletter. Moderating the discussion, I will press participants to speak openly about the “end game” here at the Legislature. The citizens of Nevada deserve for lawmakers and lobbyists to lay our legislative cards on the table. I hope this important public meeting on Tax Day 2011—will start us doing just that.
(Assemblyman Hickey is a Republican representing District 25 in Washoe County.)