Episode 71: Get Ready to Get Involved!

Marcos Lopez, Michael Schaus

Free to Offend Episode 71 | Guest: Marcos Lopez, Nevada Policy

Nevada’s legislative session is underway this month – which means the difficult work is about to begin for those who believe in a limited and accountable government.

Nevada Policy Outreach and Coalitions Director Marcos Lopez joined the show to discuss how activists can become more involved during the legislative session. From Nevada Policy’s legislative bill tracker to regular updates for supporters and activists, Marcos explains how the institute is focused on keeping Nevadans informed and engaged so they can have an outsized influence on what happens in Carson City.

Read the Transcript

Marcos Lopez: So, we’re actually now number one. At the most recent edition of the License to Work site that IJ put out, we are now the worst state there.

Michael Schaus: Hey, we got to be number one at something, you know.

Marcos Lopez: So, we are number one now when it comes to the worst regulatory regime.

Michael Schaus: This is Free to Offend. I’m your host, Michael Schaus. Yeah, the legislative session is finally here, 2023. Got a lot coming up. It’s going to be an interesting one, folks, especially with the divided governments, which might not be a bad thing, by the way.

But to talk to us a little bit through what to expect in the next 120 days, we’ve got Marcos Lopez. He is the Director of Coalitions and Outreach for Nevada Policy. Marcos, first of all, thank you for joining the program.

Marcos Lopez: Oh, thank you for having me. It’s great to be back. You know, I’m regular listener to your show, except the episodes in which I’m on. I definitely skip those.

Michael Schaus: Right. Obviously, you know, I always used to do the same thing. Whenever I’m on a radio show, I just want to tune out. But no, we’ve got a lot to talk about because hey, the legislative session is basically finally upon us. There’s going to be a lot going on as always. I’m sure it’s going to start off a little bit slow and then suddenly become extraordinarily complicated as we near the end of it.

But one of the tools that Nevada Policy has to help keep people kind of on top of it is your guys’ legislative bill tracker. Tell me a little bit about what this is set up to do and, and why people ought to know about it.

Marcos Lopez: So, our bill tracker really has been a staple at the legislative session since I’ve been around. I’ve known many legislators and their staff to kind of go to it. The public is able to find bills of interest to us that kind of fit within our purview of what our priorities are in terms of advancing limited government, economic freedom, and really just keeping Nevada a prosperous state.

You can find a short one sentence summary, kind of find more links of our information, of our opinions on these bills. We will be updating it with new articles if they pertain to a particular bill.

And one of the things that I kind of wanted to tackle was make it as user-friendly as possible. So, this iteration, I believe, is the most user-friendly version of our bill tracker we’ve ever had. I really wanted to make sure that we’re creating the most value possible for people who follow us, including legislators and the general public.

So, on there you are able to have a filter by topic. You are able to find it whether we were in support or opposition of the legislation, and you’re even able to email the sponsor of the bill right there.

I wanted to just create a system that work super easy for everyone who might be either new to the process or just a veteran who wants to cut down the amount of links and websites they have to go to find information on legislation.

Getting people involved that do believe makes a big difference in the long run.

Michael Schaus: And this is, you know, just a really important tool anyway, because if as you’re going along and you hear about a bill in the news, you can check the bill tracker, see that it’s on there and see, you know, what your guys’ view of it is, any additional information that you might have.

I constantly have people ask, “Okay, how do I get more involved during the legislative session?” And obviously contacting your lawmaker, letting them know what you think on specific issues. But one of the real advantages, I think, is knowing exactly where the bill is. If it’s sitting in a committee somewhere, that’s potentially where it might die. How many bills don’t get through the committee?

So having that information at your fingertips where I know exactly who to contact because I know exactly where this bill is in the process. That’s a huge asset.

Marcos Lopez: You’re absolutely correct. I mean, it’s 120 days. They only have so much time and bandwidth to really pay attention to all the bills that are brought forward.

Now, we do have the advantage in Nevada that we are limited in the amount of bills that a legislator can bring forward. I personally think this is great because it kind of narrows the scope and hopefully it means we get better bills brought forward of more pertaining issues. But they will always find something that has nothing to do with what’s going on in the everyday lives of people.

But to get involved, definitely email your own legislature, have that relationship with them. But it’s more important as well to also contact the committee members that are hearing this legislation as you alluded to, particularly when it comes to the deadlines.

Now, there’s regular scheduled deadlines that if a bill is not leave the committee that they’re in, that it’s not brought to the general floor, the bill is automatically dead, just by the way that the legislature works. There are advantages to this and disadvantages. Some of the times if it’s a bill you dislike, you’re just waiting for that committee deadline and hopefully keeping track on it that it will die during that time period.

But the really big bills are also exempt from a lot of this stuff and leadership area is able to exempt a whole bunch of bills, particularly if it’s a pet project of them. So, it’s very important to keep close eye on them.

That’s one thing that we will be having on our bill tracker is what stage is this bill at. Has it died yet? Is it stuck in committee? Is it an exempt bill? We will be updating our bill tracker if all that. I don’t think I’ve mentioned it yet, but it is available at nevadapolicy.org/bill-tracker, that’s where you’d be able to find our bill tracker online.

Michael Schaus: And it’s one of those things I always tell people, just because bill dies, don’t breathe a total sigh relief until the 120 days of the legislative session is over. Because you know what we see at the end of the session, a lot of crazy stuff happens and sometimes they start resurrecting ideas that you thought might have already been dead.

We saw that last year with a handful of kind of bad ideas that at the last minute made a reappearance. As the session goes on, you guys are going to keep this thing updated and everything. But I figure that as the session goes on, that’s when the value of this bill tracker is really going to be a big deal.

I mean, at this point, I’m sure you guys are adding bills daily. What are some of the worst bills that you’re seeing added to the tracker? And what are some of the few rare gems that you kind of hope move forward between now and the end of the session?

Marcos Lopez: We actually haven’t had that many bills released yet. We probably maybe have 180 something bills out, which is kind of low still for what we’ll see by the time February’s over, we’ll probably have over a thousand bills on our docket.

But a lot of the bills that we’ve seen so far, there’s kind of three main trends I’ve been noticing. There’s a lot of green agenda stuff, whether it does deals with gas emissions. There’s a lot of stuff in terms of education reforms. Nothing in the size that we’re really looking for released yet.

But we are expecting some very good bills coming down the pipeline on opportunity scholarships, on Universal ESAs, on an expansion to the TOTS program, which is kind of a voucher style system for toddlers and children with disabilities. And we are expecting some bills on funding parity for charter schools, along with a whole slew of other bills that we’re looking forward to on voter ID and occupational licensing.

There’s two in particular that people should keep an eye out for. One is Joint Nurses Compact that P.K. O’Neill is bringing out. And the other one is Jeff Stone, he’s doing a universal recognition bill which should go hand in hand with the executive orders that the governor signed a couple weeks.

Michael Schaus: Yeah. So P.K.’s bill on the nurses, would that be the licensure compact with other states so that way nurses can come in without having to go through the entire licensure program again?

Marcos Lopez: Correct. And then this compact, the way that works, dozens of states have joined it. Basically, it says, I will recognize your license if you recognize my license to make it easier for nurses to be able to travel across state lines.

And this is the thing with occupational license, right? Just because you crossed the state line doesn’t mean that you forgot how to do what your trade is. If you’re a good nurse in one state, you’re going to be a good nurse in a different state. But unfortunately, the regulatory regime often prevents people from being able to practice their trade, practice what they know best, just because they crossed an imaginary line on the floor, and now they’re in a different state. And they can’t practice without passing all sorts of exams and paying all sorts of fees to the government.

Michael Schaus: This is something I want to talk about. Obviously, this is not on the legislative bill tracker, at least not yet. Who knows? Maybe somebody will come up with a bill that kind of mirrors it. But we saw the executive order from Governor Lombardo tackling occupational licensing.

And I thought that this was such a great move, because at the very least, regardless of what ends up happening in terms of, you know, somebody potentially suing or something, it kind of forces the legislature to start talking about this issue.

You know, his executive order, basically said, “Okay, look, we have to stop implementing new regulations. We all these boards, all these occupational licensing boards need to go back and look at what is really, truly needed.”

And to me, that’s huge because our state, Nevada is according to the Institute for Justice, one of the worst in the nation when it comes to burdening, especially low-income workers with licensure requirements.

So, what did you think of that executive action and, and kind of, how do you think that’s going to plan out? Do you that it probably is going to be challenged in the courts?

Marcos Lopez: So, we’re actually now number one. At the most recent edition of the License to Work study that the IJ put out, we are now the worst state.

Michael Schaus: Hey, we got to be number one at something, you know.

Marcos Lopez: So, we are number one now when it comes to the worst regulatory regime. But I’m very excited for this. I mean, these two executive orders, the first one just put a freeze on any new regulations. They ask the boards to identify 10 regulations that should be repealed.

And then the second basically said that if a majority of states do not license your occupation, and they define majority by 26 or more states, then the board has to propose a plan of how they’re going to eliminate themselves. Because the presumption is that they’re not something that necessarily needs to be licensed.

If you did have more than 26 states that had a board on your occupation, you had to come with a plan of how you were going to recognize out-of-state licenses. This is huge. This great in the state that’s growing the way we are.

I mean, we are one of the fastest growing states in this whole country. There are many people coming here that have great skills, great talents, that want to be a part of Nevada, and enabling them to be able to practice what they do best, what they know best, is a great way to continue our economic growth and our recovery in this post-pandemic.

And there’s also people that are considering new occupations. You know, hospitality was shown that it is very turbulent. It’s constantly in flux and there might be better, safer opportunities for people. And we need people to be entering different trades.

So, I’m super excited about these two executive orders. By mid-May, we should know what these reports will have in them. There is going to be a public hearing in between that we’re looking forward to participating in. And this is a great step in the right direction, when it comes to reigning and occupational licensing regime because it’s out of whack.

EMTs, if you look at EMTs and barbers, a barber in our state has to spend more hours training, almost three times as much than an EMT. Someone who’s going to save your life versus someone that’s given you a haircut. It is completely out of whack, our regulatory regime.

Michael Schaus: I know we’ve talked about it before, but it’s just one of those issues that it just gets under my skin. Interior decorators in this state have to be licensed, and that’s just mind boggling to me. I think we’re only one of two or three states that regulate inter interior decorating the way that we do.

So the idea that that board, for example, will have to justify its existence since clearly not a majority of states license interior decorators, things like that would be a huge step forward for freeing up a lot of options for folks who, you know, especially right now with the way that the economy’s been for the last few years, might be looking around saying, “Hey, I want to do something different, but I don’t have thousands of dollars in my pocket to go out and get a license.”

Marcos Lopez: Yeah, and I mean that interior designer one, I always joke around that someone must have really pissed off some legislator with the way they decorated the inside of their house for that legislator to be like, “You know? We need to eliminate you from the marketplace.”

Michael Schaus: It’s, well, it’s amazing to me because, I wrote an article about this a little while ago, and some of the pushback that you get from folks is, “Well, look, you know, consumers. Don’t we have to protect consumers?” I mean, even an interior decorator, for example, you know, that can cost you a lot of time and money. And are you just saying, you know, oh, buyer beware in all circumstances.

You know, explain to me, in the absence of some sort of regulatory scheme that licenses professionals say cutting hair or shampooing, just shampooing, you need a license to be a shampoo-er in a professional salon. Absence license, what mechanism is there to make sure that not all of us get ripped off, and that we don’t have to just go through life hoping that this is one of the good guys?

Marcos Lopez: So, the first thing is recognizing that licensing is the most restrictive form that you can deal with, either regulation or just supervision of a market in general, right?

This means that you have to go to the government. You have to prove that by their standards you are competent. You have to pay them a lot of money. And you have to come back for regular renewals to be able to continue to practice your profession.

So, what is the complete opposite of that? That is just a free market that you provide a good service, and the market regulates you in terms of reviews. And that’s one of the things that we see, right?

If you are a bad Uber driver, you will be eliminated by Uber because they don’t want bad Uber drivers out there. They want safe drivers who are not going to be considered either a threat to the consumer or not going to turn off people from that service, that are going to protect their interests.

And so, there’s a strong economic interest to make sure that we have good participants in the marketplace. But there’s a whole wide range, right? There is some sort of government intervention that is required. You can have inspections, you can have registration, there could be mandatory bonding or insurance.

There’s a whole wide range of things that you can do that do not lead to just having a license if you’re required that you need to ask a government permission slip to practice whatever your trade is. And we see that most industries do have of some version of this.

I think about, you know, restaurants in Las Vegas was an example that was explained it to me once. The most a restaurant and some of the finest restaurants in the world in Las Vegas have to do is get a food handling safety test certification to pass. But the one procuring the food doesn’t have to go find some license to get a food procurer. The chef doesn’t need one. The waitress, the hostess, everyone that takes part in running this restaurant doesn’t have to go and ask permission from the government to be able to perform the job that they do.

This is a prime example I think of that the market works and the market is the best arbitrator when it comes to consumer and business disputes. But there’s a whole wide range of courses that you can do. We call this in the industry the hierarchy of licensing alternatives.

Visualize this inverted pyramid from what is the freest form of, I hesitate to use your regulation, but kind of watch of the market versus the most restrictive. And what we see is consumer reviews, whether it’s Yelp or Google reviews being one of the best methods versus government licensure which is very restrictive.

Michael Schaus: Yeah, and you know, this plays out, I mean, most of us intrinsically understand the value of, for example, consumer reviews. I mean, you know, people get sick at restaurants all the time and, you know, all these restaurants are passing basically the same food and safety expectations. So, before you go out to dinner somewhere, what do you do? You jump on Yelp, and you see what the review is of that restaurant, or you ask around in the community or something.

Just because they have a government license to serve you food doesn’t mean that you’re going to be absolutely blown away by their service or their quality.

Getting back to the legislature, I mean, you mentioned that there’s not a whole lot of bills out yet. That’s probably going to pick up here pretty quick. Do you know off the top of your head when the first deadline is? When should we expect most of the things that are going to be discussed to be out as some sort of a bill?

Marcos Lopez: Typically, by mid-February we start seeing more regular releases of bills. And now beyond the daily, you’ll get somewhere between dozen to maybe sometimes up towards of a hundred released. But by March we should have the bulk of the bills out.

Michael Schaus: Because what I’m kind of curious about is whether or not what everybody always talks about, is there a theme to the legislature this year?

You know, and you kind of mentioned a lot of what you’re seeing so far as some of the green energy stuff, fuel mandates and things like that. Are you getting like an overriding theme from the Democrat leaders right now? You know, certain big-ticket issues that they’re obviously going to be highly focused on.

Marcos Lopez: So, what I think the big fights and the big things, this legislative session on the Democratic side that they’re going to be asking for is refusing to make any changes to the electoral system is a big one for them. Yeager’s responses to the State of State as a non-starter from the beginning.

They’re going to want to protect the public option. That’s Nicole Cannizzaro’s proposal from a couple years ago. That’s going to be a big one for her. She’s up for reelection. She’s going to want to make sure she defends that program. And Governor Lombardo has already signaled that he wants to do away with that program.

They’re going to want to continue passing the same emission standards as California. I mean, this is all part of trying to get to the 100% renewable portfolio that voters approved and passed. So that’s going to be a big focal point for them.

And then when we enter into the realm of criminal justice reform, that is one of the areas that I’m looking very closely at. Now we don’t engage in too much criminal justice reform in Nevada Policy. But that will be very interesting to see what comes out of that. That’s Yeager’s, who’s now the Speaker of the Assembly, it’s his bill 236 from 2019 that was called out directly by the governor in the State of the State. So, it’ll be very interesting to see what happens with negotiations for that.

And then lastly, for education, school choice, for educational choice, we are expecting that some deal will be brokered at the end of the legislative session that leads to the passage and the expansion of opportunity scholarships in the state. Will we be able to get anything more than that this legislative session? Probably not. But the governor is also pushing for creating an office of school choice within the Department of Education, whose purpose will be to promote school choice programs. So, I’m very interested to see what happens with that one as well.

Michael Schaus: Yeah, I think the criminal justice one is going to be an interesting story too because you know, the last few years that Democrats have had control of everything. They really didn’t do a whole lot on some of the big-ticket criminal justice items like civil asset forfeiture or qualified immunity, for example.

I’m interested to see whether or not any progress can be made because I know Yeager’s been a big advocate for a lot of that stuff, but it’s consistently run into headwinds with Nicole Cannizzaro, who used to work for the district attorney’s office, and love him or hate him, you’ve got a former sheriff as governor.

So, it’s going to be interesting to me to see how some of that shapes up, especially with some of the criminal justice reform that has gone way too far in other states. And then stacking that up with some of the more kind of common-sense libertarian stuff that’s been that’s been talked about for years.

So, I’m interested to see how that unfolds. I think you’re right. That’s going to be an interesting one.

Marcos Lopez: I worked on quite a bit of those bills when I was at Americans for Prosperity, my previous employer. And I mean, we worked in integrally on AB 236, on the bail reform bill and the decriminalization of traffic tickets.

And a lot of those bills were good common-sense legislation. I think there’s a lot of politicizing has been occurring around them and, you know, it’s played for good politics this past election cycle. But in general, I think those are pretty good policies and probably should be protected.

Michael Schaus: Yeah. And to me, you know, it’s one of those cases where the politics of it just make it very difficult. The kind of partisan politics at play, but also the government insider stuff. I mean, Nicole Cannizzaro’s been consistently trying to kill a bunch of criminal justice stuff and it kind of makes sense because she worked in the DA’s office. I mean, she’s got a, you know, very hostile attitude towards some of that stuff. So, it’s always been weird to see how that unfolds.

As the legislature meets here this month and gets going on everything, what is your advice to people, aside from obviously sign up for Nevada Policy’s bill tracker? You know, what’s your biggest piece of advice for folks who want to be involved on, say, a particular issue? What do you tell them in terms of, okay, pay attention to what’s going on, contact your lawmaker, but do you have anything more specific than that?

Marcos Lopez: Well, definitely sign up for our bill tracker and our email alert. It will keep you updated on all of that.

But it’s definitely start with the easy, low hanging fruit. That’s your legislator. Even if they’re an opposite party of you, they are there supposedly to represent you. I know, and sometimes it surprises people that, you know, certain Democrats or Republicans are not as partisan as they might seem. They’re not there to just represent their Democrat voters or their Republican voters. They’re supposed to be there for every single one of you.

So, it’s important to kind of speak up, have an opportunity. Be polite, you know, don’t be rude. Definitely don’t make any threats to any of them. But, you know, build that relationship with them. A lot of them are more reasonable than they might seem while they’re on the campaign trail.

And then from there, it’s moving on to whatever important committee are relevant to you, right? If you really are passionate about energy policy, if you’re really passionate about economic regulation, go and find what committee has the most oversight in the area that you are focused on. Get to know the members on those committee.

Everyone on that committee has a voice. Everyone in that committee is important when shaping that policy, and they really specialize. That’s the thing of our system, right? We operate on committees which drive specialization among the legislators on the topic that they talk about the most, and they see the most before them.

So, get to know the members of those committees and that will help make you more effective when you’re communicating what your policy positions are, what your view is. And hopefully you’re out there advancing liberty if you’re listening to the podcast. But it will help you out in the long run to be able to affect policy and get the right questions asked.

Michael Schaus: Yeah, and at the very least, knowing where to look for some of those things. You know, it keeps you from being in the bad position where all of a sudden you hear about a bill, but there’s nothing you can do about it because oh, you just heard that it died. You know, you’re kind of ahead of the curve and you’re able to get your neighbors, your friends, your families, coworkers, whoever, whoever might agree with you on a particular topic involved as well.

Marcos Lopez: I do want to plug in at this junction two more items, right? So, for the legislative session, two new things that we will be rolling out is at the end of each week, we will be doing a phone call, kind of phone conference with Nevada Policy kind of summarizing what happened this week and looking forward to the next week.

It won’t be too long. Probably be like a 30-minute, 40-minute endeavor depending on how much stuff was happening that week of the legislature to keep people informed of what’s going on.

And then at the last Friday of each month instead of doing that phone call, we’re going to do a longer format webinar. We’ll be inviting on legislators and talking in greater detail about what happened that previous month at the legislature and painting a picture of what’s going to happen next. We really want to make sure that we are shedding light to what’s going on at the legislature.

Michael Schaus: Excellent. Well, Marcos, thank you so much for taking the time and you got a lot of work ahead of you in the next 120 days, so we’ll be looking forward to checking in with you for sure.

Marcos Lopez: Always a pleasure to be on.

Michael Schaus: Again, Marcos Lopez with Nevada Policy. Definitely check out Nevadapolicy.org/bill-tracker so that way you can stay up to date because I mean that’s really what it all boils down to. Whichever issue it is that you care about, if you want to have an outsized impact during the legislative session, if you don’t feel comfortable just leaving it all up to your elected representatives, which by the way, you shouldn’t even if you like your representative, don’t leave it all up to them. If you want to take an active role, it starts with knowing exactly what’s going on at the legislature.

So, check it out, Nevadapolicy.org/bill-tracker. Sign up for their emails. It’s going to be a rough session. It’s going to be an interesting session. There’s going to be a lot going on. You definitely don’t want to miss it. Thank you so much for listening. This has been Free to Offend.

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 Free to Offend:
A podcast that radically defends free speech by regularly practicing it.

Produced by Nevada Policy Research Institute,
featuring Nevada Policy’s Michael Schaus.

Marcos Lopez

Marcos Lopez

Policy Fellow

Marcos Lopez serves as a Policy Fellow for Nevada Policy. For over a decade, Marcos has fought to advance free-market principles, limited government, and secure individual rights through electioneering, lobbying, and grassroots mobilization at all levels of government across nine states and Washington D.C.

Originally from Miami, Marcos moved to Nevada in 2015 and has lived in Reno and Las Vegas, where he currently resides. His main areas of focus include economic opportunity, criminal justice reform, and school choice. Marcos’ work and efforts have been recognized and featured in The New York Times, The Las Vegas Review Journal, The Nevada Independent, This is Reno, and The Nevada Current.