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Politics: Sisolak Sticking To His Guns On Gun Control

Associated Press

Almost a month after the general election and Nevadans are starting to get a feel for how Steve Sisolak will lead as governor.

He is not backing off his campaign promise to do something to control guns. And he and outgoing Gov. Brian Sandoval seem chummier than many thought, what with the governor opening his budget to Sisolak’s transition team.

And about his transition team: It's a database of progressive Nevada politicians. Does that mean support for progressive bills that would have died under a Republican governor?

Rory Reid, son of Nevada’s former U.S. Senator Harry Reid, ran for governor as a Democrat in 2010. Warren Hardy is a lobbyist and former Republican Nevada state senator.

They joined State of Nevada to talk about Nevada politics.

Discussion Highlights:

Is Nevada a blue state?

Reid: I think as the state’s grown it has become much more urban and therefore diverse. And in the past, a Democrat has had to win Clark County by a substantial margin to hold his or her own. They’ve had to hold their own in Washoe County to win a statewide race.

It really was a great day for Democrats up and down the ticket. The real reason that happened was because they didn’t just hold their own in Washoe County they won it and they won it by substantial margins.

If Washoe County continues to vote Democratic… then I think that Nevada might be a blue state and Republicans won’t have a path to victory unless they find a way to change that.

Hardy: Unfortunately, I do agree with Rory on that… The dynamic has always been Clark County is a heavy stronghold for Democrats. The rurals are strongholds for Republicans and Washoe County tended to lean Republicans. That flipped this time.

The question for me is whether that is a permanent flip, which it could be given the fact that we have so many folks from California retiring and moving to the Northern Nevada area. In addition, you have Tesla and some of these other technology companies moving in and that is attracting perhaps a more progressive, liberal individual to Washoe County. If that occurs, then Rory is right – Nevada is a blue state. 

Can Steve Sisolak move forward on changing Nevada’s gun laws?

Hardy: We talk about being reasonable, but I think there needs to be some reasonableness to the argument.

The problem is not that we have too many guns. The problem is we have guns in the hands of people who shouldn’t have them.

There is a reasonable discussion to be had. The far right is wrong about this debate. The far left is wrong about this debate.

Reid: I think Governor-elect Sisolak was affected greatly by what happened October 1. You heard it in his voice. This is something he believes in and he’s going to find a way to get it done.

I think the place to start is where we already were. Voters approved background checks. The Legislature followed suit and there were some machinations to prevent it from happening and I think that’s a place to start.

Is the school choice idea gone in Nevada? Or should Governor-elect Sisolak consider it?

Hardy: I would hope he would consider it. One of the things I’ve always admired about Sisolak is that he is always willing to reach out and think outside of the box.

What we’re doing in this state is not working. We have given more money. I personally in 2003 voted for an $870 million tax increase to get more money. I voted for a tax increase in 2009 to provide more money because I felt there wasn’t enough money for education.

Now, there is significantly more money. Now, we need to start thinking about the policy.

My daughter goes to a private school and they say, ‘well, you can afford to send her to private school.’ Well, guess what if we had vouchers everybody could afford to send the daughter or son or whomever to a private school. It opens up those opportunities where parents can make the choices to everybody.

Reid: First of all, those in favor of vouchers talk about choice. They want to frame this as choice. Well, we have choice in Nevada. We have charter schools. We have magnet schools. You are not limited to the public school to which you’re zoned.

Second thing, Warren would have us believe that if we had a voucher program everybody could just go to the private school of their choice that just isn’t true. The voucher program that was passed in Governor Sandoval’s first budget would have provided parents $5,000 approximately per year. That’s enough to send their child to the private school of their choice.

The other thing that is wrong with the policy is that it has been shown not to work. In Louisiana, if you take a look at what happened there it made student outcomes much worse. It didn’t improve them. 

Sisolak has a supermajority in the Assembly. He’s just one vote shy of that in the Senate. What does that mean for him?

Hardy: Some people call that a mixed blessing. I don’t see that it’s a blessing at all. In the years I’ve been there, government is always best the way the Founding Fathers intended and that is some competition.

It creates a difficulty. We saw this in 2015 when Republicans controlled. There are so many expectations from the base to do everything that they want to have happen. That it is a difficult thing for anybody to governor.

Rory Reid, attorney, former Democratic candidate for governor/former Clark County Commission chairman;  Warren Hardy, lobbyist, former Nevada state senator

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Joe Schoenmann joined Nevada Public Radio in 2014. He works with a talented team of producers at State of Nevada who explore the casino industry, sports, politics, public health and everything in between.