(Assemblyman Pat Hickey) – There is no denying that money and political constituencies play a huge role in the life of the Nevada Legislature. Campaign support and party allegiances help elect candidates and certainly influence incumbents once they get to Carson City. To say that lawmakers are mere puppets controlled by their benefactors is to be cynical. To think there are no strings attached to the purses of contributors and precinct workers that help deliver legislators to the big dance is to be naïve.
Like boxers, both Democrats and Republicans employ managers and handlers in their respective corners whispering strategies they believe will result in a knockout or at least a unanimous decision from the judges (the voters) when the fight is over. In the “blue corner” are the Democrats. Their trainers and cut men are typically the unions (AFL-CIO, Teachers, etc.) In the “red corner” are the Republicans, supported by business interests (Chamber of Commerce, the Tea Party, etc.) Political ideology and individual philosophies play a part in the makeup of each combatant. Bigger government and higher taxes are common tenets for Democrats. Smaller government and lower taxes are among the core values for Republicans.
Both camps seem determined for there to be a “winner” and a “loser.” Even a “draw” at the end of this Session will leave fans from both sides disappointed, with calls for a rematch in hopes of political revenge. If that is all that happens in the 76th Session, how will we have fared as a state facing such crucial challenges?
It might be wise to recall how during the Civil War, Abraham Lincoln warned Americans that, “a house divided against itself will not stand.” Is common ground be found in the current political divide of what we call the “right” and “left” wing of this country? If so, it will not be in some middle of the road moderate position that Texan Jim Hightower once described as a place for “yellow lines and dead armadillos.”
Still, with Nevada facing a worst-ever recession, an education systems in crisis and a desperate need for economic revival—we should pray that lawmakers find both the common sense and common ground to bridge our differences. As legislators, if we do not want to be bound to the constraints of the left and right wing of our respective parties—maybe it is time to climb above the two and create for ourselves a “higher wing” with a sagebrush perspective. At least we should sit down and talk together.
That is what I am hoping will begin to unfold at the Town Hall-style forum I am hosting on Monday, April 18, at 3:00 PM in Senate Room 1214 on the topic: “The Recession, Revenues and Nevada’s Recovery.” Panelists from both sides of the political spectrum will be on hand with other lawmakers, lobbyists and members of the public.
This past week hundreds of Nevada college students were bussed in to Carson City, at a cost of $15,000 from student fees to protest Governor Sandoval’s proposed cuts to higher education. Appearing before the Ways & Means Higher Education Subcommittee, they were for the most part well-behaved and passionate, as only 20-year-olds can be. Some comments like, “Would you want your child to attend college in Nevada?” and “We will soon be like a Third World country,” were over the top, but understandable coming from 20-year-olds. When one student testified saying, “Why are you raising our tuition when we didn’t cause the Recession?” I wanted to answer, “You may not have caused it, but neither are you immune from its effects.” I thought better, realizing students learn that with time, and many will surely become Republicans in just a few years!
This week in Assembly Transportation, I have the privilege of introducing my primary election opponent Bernie Carter’s bill on Railroad Quiet Zones for residents near the Truckee River. Getting to know a former campaign foe proves that politics not only makes for “strange bedfellows,” but for new friends as well in the process.
(Assemblyman Hickey is a Republican representing District 25 in Washoe County.)