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A new governor, the first Democrat in some 20 years, was sworn into office this week.
Democrats and women are the majority seat holders in the Legislature.
What’s that going to mean for Nevada over the next four months of the legislative session? Does it mean more funding for education? What about mental health?
Or does it mean, as Republicans like to charge, more taxes?
And if Nevada is a firmly blue state, as indicated by the mid-term elections, does it matter that possible presidential candidates are already organizing here? Are we a swing state anymore?
Rory Reid, a former Clark County commissioner and Democratic candidate, and Warren Hardy, a former Republican state senator and current lobbyist, join State of Nevada to talk about Nevada's shifting political landscape.
What do you think about Sisolak becoming emotional during his inauguration speech?
Reid: “I think what was remarkable was authenticity that you saw because you don’t see authenticity in politics very often. And I think people are tired of it. They are used to hearing the same canned phrases over and over. And what you saw from the new governor was raw, unfiltered emotion.”
Hardy: “What you see is what you get. That was genuine. And I think it’s worth noting that’s the primary reason he won the job in the first place… So, regardless of what you think about his politics, that’s genuine that’s who he is… If Gov. Sisolak continues his posture as governor that he had on the county commission, I don’t think Republicans have anything to fear from it. I think he’s going to be measured. I think he’s going to moderate. I think he’s going to look beyond politics. He always has.”
Improving education was a central theme for Sisolak’s campaign. What can he do to make that happen?
Hardy: “I think it’s important to note there are a lot of things that can be done that are revenue neutral with the existing funding structure to improve education… I think that it can all start with funding formula itself.”
Reid: “I think a roadmap of what the new governor wants to do was in the speech he gave. The first thing he talked about was education… What has to happen is we need to change the funding formula. It needs to be a cost-based formula. Where we look at the real factors that are going for kids and fund education accordingly.”
Could efforts to improve schools mean an increase in taxes?
Hardy: “Potentially it could, but don’t think it will this time. There may be some proposals. I don’t look for the Democrats to go in and recommend large increases in taxes.”
In his inauguration speech, Sisolak talked about protecting key issues covered by the Affordable Care Act, but can he really affect change on health insurance?
Hardy: “States can certainly play a role in demanding those reforms at the federal level…. I think we all support the notion of going back and making sure we fundamentally fix what’s wrong with our health care system and I think states can play a part in that through lawsuits… other things to try to drive those conversations on a national level.”
Reid: “Health care was a huge issue, particularly pre-existing conditions, which Obamacare protects… The way states become involved in the health care issue principally is through litigation. And what’s changed fundamentally is we have a new governor, who has campaigned on the issue, and new attorney general, who is going to do the exact opposite of what Adam Laxalt did and that’s where the change will occur.”
Is there anything Republicans in the Legislature will be able to get done or be able to block this session?
Hardy: “Oh sure. I think one thing you saw… in the last couple election cycles… we’ve shed a lot of the far right, my-way-or-the-highway approach.
Schoenmann: “You think it’s gone?”
Hardy: “I don’t think it’s gone but I think it is on hiatus for a while. Most of the Republican legislators that are left are considered bipartisan. People who will work for a solution. There is always that rhetoric after an election, ‘you might as well not even be there if you’re a Republican,’ but it is really not true. When legislators get there, there is mutual respect. There is collegiality among those that are there to put partisanship aside and work for the betterment of the state.
Reid: “One of the themes of [Sisolak’s inaugural speech] was bipartisanship. As Warren suggested and I agree with him because I was on the county commission with Steve and he is not an ideologue. He’s a pragmatic guy. He wants to get things done and I think he realizes he’s more likely to get things done if he can work with people.
On Twitter, Alex asked what would happen with gun control now that the Democrats control the levers of power in Carson City?
Reid: October 1 was a transformative event for everybody I think in this town and it certainly was for Gov. Sisolak. When he was on the campaign trail, he talked about it all the time… I think it’s going to lead to him attempting to do many things with regard to the issue. Certainly, he’ll start with background checks, which would have happened had they not been vetoed by the governor.
Hardy: “We need to make sure that these weapons are kept out of hands of people who shouldn’t have them, felons and others. Regardless of what you think of that issue, it was passed by voters. There is an obligation on behalf of the Legislature, on behalf of the attorney general, on behalf of the governor to implement the will of the people. The jury is out on that… you need to try to do something.”
What do you think former Governor Brian Sandoval’s legacy will be?
Reid: “I think the praise he has received is well deserved. When you look at the totality of what a governor does during their administration you want to look to whether they have a significant achievement and I don’t think there is any question that Gov. Sandoval does. With education, he’s a Republican that raised a billion dollars in new revenue to improve education. I think he would acknowledge that there is a lot more to do but I think he should be proud of what he did.”
Hardy: “I think he does need to be considered among our best. I had the privilege of serving with Governor Kenny Guinn, who I think also is one of our better governors and I think that Governor Sandoval deserves that recognition and respect as well.’
A caller would like to see the bipartisanship seen in Nevada’s Legislature brought to Washington, D.C.:
Hardy: “When I was in the Senate, it was very collegial. There was a lot of working together. That suffered for a couple of sessions, I think that’s fair to say… I see it returning. I think Governor Sandoval deserves a lot of credit for that for reaching out. In my opinion, sometimes he reached out too much… but I am optimistic that we’re going to get back to that place where we can disagree. I really disagree with Rory on a lot of issues, but I consider him a dear friend.”
Reid: “I’m hopeful too. I think the kind of authenticity you saw from Gov. Sisolak and his personality and that fact that he is a guy that is pragmatic and tries to see both sides of an issue. I think there are reasons to hope that Nevada can be what it was.”
Do you think it is time for the Legislature to start meeting every year?
Hardy: “That bill has been regularly introduced… the issue needs to be taken to the vote of the people because the political will is not there to push it forward otherwise. But I agree that it is absolutely time that we follow the Utah model that meets longer every other year and has a budget session.”
Reid: “The Legislature meets for 120 days every two years. That is just a ridiculous situation. How can they do their business in that amount of time? Every legislative session, the pace of it that is required to just get the budget done for two years makes it impossible to focus rationally on other important issues.”
Warren Hardy, lobbyist and former state senator; Rory Reid, attorney and former Clark County Commission chairman
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