(Assemblyman Pat Hickey) – For what seemed like forever, both sides at the 76th Legislature only talked about talking to each other. Finally, last week we actually sat down face-to-face and did.
The Democrats invited Assembly Republicans to a meeting to discuss the reforms that our caucus said would be a pre-condition to considering any revenue enhancements (taxes). The “D’s” produced a white paper outlining the five areas of reforms to be discussed–education, collective bargaining, prevailing wages on public works projects, construction defects and trial lawyer’s fees, and changes to PERS.
I was asked to present a think piece on the “R’s” position on various education reforms. The proposals mirrored the recommendations of the Blue Ribbon Panel that Elaine Wynn chaired with stakeholders from statewide business, education and elected circles. In Thursday night’s meeting with the Democrats, talks were tense but cordial.
Unfortunately, after that get-together the discussion lights appear to have gone dim. Since Republicans were merely the “invited” and not the “invitee,” I can only speculate as to the reason. I suspect the presence of 300 union employees the next day at the Legislature insisting that Democrats not give away any concessions on prevailing wage and collective bargaining rights may have played a role the pause in negotiations.
An interesting twist in the mix occurred the next day when Senate Majority Leader Horsford and Speaker of the Assembly Oceguera sent out a “Dear Colleague” memo statewide to Democrats urging them to email certain Republicans like myself to agree to raise new taxes. The next day, a second email was sent out by the NSEA union president from Clark County using the school district email system urging teachers to send letters to us “open-to-dialogue’ Republicans as well. Memo to Democrats: you might want to send letters to Republican voters—they are the ones I am not hearing from regarding raising the new taxes your party is proposing.
A couple of bright spots in last week at the Legislature involved young people visiting the Legislature. First students showed up in Carson City to protest cuts to Higher Education. Their donut-eating encounters with Brian Sandoval are by now, well documented. Less noticed were the one-on-one encounters with Republican lawmakers like myself. I came away admiring both their passion and their willingness to pay higher student fees for an education they obviously valued. Besides, they were such better kids than my generation was in the 60s. That shaggy crowd was not content to sleep in tents in the cold during protests but instead occupied government buildings while partying in them!
The other noteworthy event was the bright, light and exciting appearance of the Miss Nevada and Teen Nevada contestants who added a degree of buzz to the Floor Session heretofore not seen. The kind of excitement generated by the young women oozing innate goodness had not been seen since earlier this Session when Harry Reid proposed banning one of the world’s oldest professions that Democrats hope to tax.
(Assemblyman Hickey is a Republican representing District 25 in Washoe County.)