Episode 88: What ‘Grade’ Did Your Lawmaker Earn?

Geoffrey Lawrence, Marcos Lopez, Michael Schaus

Free to Offend Episode 89 | Guest: Geoff Lawrence and Marcos Lopez   

Sure, we’ve talked plenty about the outcome of Nevada’s 2023 legislative session … but do you really know whether your lawmakers voted in your best interests?

Nevada Policy’s Geoff Lawrence and Marcos Lopez joined the program to discuss Nevada Policy’s Legislative Scorecard, which grades lawmakers on their votes and legislative priorities. Geoff and Marcos discuss the “inside baseball” of what happened in Carson City and why every voter should be looking at how the scorecard judges lawmakers on their roles in shaping policy during the session.

Read the Transcript

Geoff Lawrence: When you’re taking money out of taxpayers’ pockets in order to finance this thing, there’s an inverse multiplier, right? And that never gets measured up front.

Michael Schaus: This is Free to Offend. I’m your host, Michael Schaus. So, Nevada Policy is coming out with their legislative review and report card, which is great. We’ve already had some recaps in regard to what happened during the legislative session. But the scorecard is such an awesome piece of what Nevada Policy does because it gives you kind of an inside view as to what actually happened up there in Carson City.

I mean, yes, you’ve got the rating for the for all the lawmakers, which is very useful if you want to see who’s being fiscally responsible. But even beyond that, all the chapters of the book give you kind of the inside scoop on what was actually going on in the halls of Carson City as they were talking about things like education and healthcare and, of course, the stadium.

So, to talk a little bit about that we’ve got Geoff Lawrence and Marcos Lopez, both of whom were pretty heavily involved in everything that was going on in Carson City. So, guys, first of all, welcome to the podcast.

Let’s start with the big one because it’s on everybody’s mind. It’s what everybody was talking about, probably because it’s the last thing that happened. We had kind of early-ish on in session rumors that the Oakland A’s were going to be moving here. Las Vegas poaching another team from the bay Area. And sure enough, by the end of the session, we had details about what the stadium deal was. And then there was even a special session specifically for that bill.

Geoff, I’ll start with you. Should we be upset that it’s becoming a pattern with Republican governors that we don’t get school choice, but we do get some sort of a stadium?

Geoff Lawrence: Well, yeah, it definitely speaks to priorities, right? Twice now we’ve had Republican governors call a special session to address one issue alone, and that is public financing for professional sports stadium. We’ve never had a special session in Nevada to consider, you know, school choice or really any kind of educational performance issue. We have had budget related special sessions in the past. But this definitely is a bad omen that this is how the new administration is kicking off.

Michael Schaus: And Marcos, how did you see that whole debate play out? I mean, you and I talked about this before. As soon as we heard that there was a rumor that the A’s were looking for someplace on the strip, I think I even wrote a column. I said it’s going to happen. They’re going to be here. The question now is how much is it going to cost? You know, is that kind of what you saw from your seat? Or how did you see the fight actually play out?

Marcos Lopez: I mean, that’s exactly what happened. Here we are today. The cost that I’m uncomfortable with is just how much was given up trying to make this happen, right? It’s not just the tax increment financing, but actual bills that the governor vetoed that now are coming back and were signed into law.

That’s one of the reasons why in our scorecard, our legislative review, we actually gave extra weight to this vote. Because you weren’t just voting on the stadium and making that choice of where the money to go to. You’re actually voting for legislation that many of these legislators who voted for, voted against to when it was going through, and that was a prevailing wage for monorails.

So overall, I think it’s disappointing that Nevada is basically finding another trend that we believe the best way to get out of poverty and to break that cycle is to go into professional sports and not to get a quality education. And when you look at the state report card that was just released last week, where 20 percent of kids in the schools do not know how to do math; they aren’t proficient in it. We have a serious problem here.

Michael Schaus: So obviously the softball question here. Do any stadiums actually pan out? Do any of them show us economic promise? What we hear every time, and I’m so sick of it here in Nevada because every single time we hear the same thing, is “look, we know it doesn’t work everywhere else but it’s going to work here. Las Vegas is different. We’re different.” Any weight to that?

Geoff Lawrence: Right. Whenever somebody tries to procure public funding for a stadium project or something like this, there’s a formula that they follow, right? They commission a study that looks at the direct jobs that will be created by the stadium, the indirect jobs from all of the additional spending that’s going to circulate through the economy, and then what they call induced jobs, which is kind of the same thing, right?

So, adding all this, together, it kind of creates this pie in the sky projection that says, look, the economic benefits in terms of jobs and GDP growth and things that we’re going to get from this project outweigh the cost. Therefore, we should do it.

But when you go back in retrospect and look at the economic impact of any stadium project anywhere, those have never panned out. And the reason people miss that is because when you’re taking a money out of taxpayers’ pockets in order to finance this thing, there’s an inverse multiplier, right? And that that never gets measured up front.

So, when we’re taxing tourists more in terms of their room tax, their stay in Vegas instead of being seven nights might be five nights because that’s what they can afford now. So, there’s less spending elsewhere in the economy in order to finance these special projects.

At any stadium project, whether it’s the renovations at the King Dome that were being financed over 30 years and taxpayers were still paying it 10 years after the King Dome was torn down. And St. Louis, they’re still paying for the Ram Stadium, even though the Rams have been in LA for several years now winning Super Bowls.

So, it’s a uniformly bad proposal, no matter which stadium project you look at.

Michael Schaus: Yeah. Now, with that same idea in mind, we’re going to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on this in a special tax district and everything else. The big question, especially for those of us who saw school choice being the number one issue that we wanted to see move forward, is how many scholarships could that fund?

You know, Marcos. You talked about the horse trading and stuff that went on in the back in order to make this happen. For a lot of folks, not even getting into some of the details and some of the bills that were reversed or some of the bills that Lombardo decided to let pass rather than die, people just look at this and they say, again, back to priorities.

Okay, we had 600 kids who were about to be kicked off of their opportunity scholarships. As we move into the education issue with the $2 billion for public school spending, no money for opportunity scholarships, in terms for the scorecard, how do you relate all that? I mean, how do you score lawmakers on that saying, okay, this is clearly skewed priorities?

Was that taken into account with your calculations?

Marcos Lopez: It was to some degree, particularly as I mentioned, we gave extra weight to SB 1, which was from the special session, the stadium. But we try to also encapsulate, you know, what were the worst proposals put forward and what were the best proposals put forward?

And we also gave extra points for good legislation that was introduced, but due to partisanship did not get a hearing. And I think that was a crucial element we introduced this legislative scorecard previous to the other ones because it really tries to capture the full effort put forward by the said legislator.

And there were some very good bills that were introduced, such as expansions to opportunity scholarships, expansions to ESAs, all sorts of different items that were put forward that just didn’t get a hearing. And we knew they weren’t going to get hearing because of the partisanship up there in Carson City.

But as long as we’re kind of giving some credit for this, I think this is a positive direction to help guide voters in Nevada, guide activists about what is the full picture of what their legislator is doing in Carson City.

Michael Schaus: So, what does the state of education look like right now? Because we’re talking about $2 billion in new funding for public schools. And it’s funny that we’re talking about this right now because, of course, Clark County Education Association and Clark County School District are going head-to-head over what money they’re going to spend where and what have you.

Something we talked about briefly, Geoff, off the air right before we came on was the fact that, yes, money was set aside to give teachers raises and charter schools don’t get any of that. This is where the scorecard really comes into its own. You can look and you can start to identify the priorities of lawmakers that are up there. What was the excuse from Democrats for not including charter schools, not trying to help charter schools out financially?

Geoff Lawrence: Right, this was actually the reason that there were two special sessions following the regular session. First one was a one-day special session because Senate Republicans had held up the final budget bill on the final day of the session.

This was the reason why is because there was this bill coming from the Assembly that allocated $250 million toward teacher pay raises statewide. And that will be matched by another $250 million raised by the districts themselves, right? So, half a billion dollars in total.

In the Assembly, the Democrats specifically had written out charter schools as being eligible, even though they’re public schools, to receive this money. And charter schoolteachers are already paid less than district teachers.

Once that bill went to the Senate, the Senate Republicans held it up. That’s why they had to come back the next day. Sadly, the administration didn’t back the Senate R’s when they did that. And so, it came back with the exact same language and was passed as it had originally been sent over to the Senate.

That’s how it works out now. All of the districts are scheduled to get up to $500 million depending on their ability to raise the matching funds. Charters are not eligible.

Part of what’s going on right now in Clark County is that that money hasn’t actually been sent to the districts yet. So, the district is in this weird spot of having to negotiate a new union contract, but those dollars aren’t in the bank now. So, they can’t pledge that money toward, you know, a new contract, which is what the union is demanding. And so, it’s, they’re kind of in this weird in between.

Michael Schaus: It almost feels like the system’s broken. Obviously, we know some of the good ideas that did not get passed when it came to education. You know, we had opportunity scholarships as you mentioned. ESAs once again were a no go, but at least somebody brought it forward, trying to keep the idea alive. What were some of the really horrible things that stood out to you, Marcos, as you were going through the scorecard?

Marcos Lopez: I always go back to Assembly Bill 85, which was that proposal by Assemblyman Orentlicher to put forward a board to regulate and set the prices for all outpatient procedures in the state. And this is all part of Democrats’ goal of implementing a state run health care, a public option plan here, which is something that’s still on the table that we’re going to be dealing with in the next coming years, because that was passed in the last legislative session as SB 420. By far, that was the one that stuck out to me the most.

But then it was the whole slew of just rent controls. This whole concept of price controls is really coming back into vogue, which is kind of disappointing because we know we can see it all around the country, all around the world, the economic literature is very clear that this does not work. We’re creating shortages. We’re going to disrupt the market. But they keep trying to impose these command-and-control type policies. So those were among the worst, particularly the one that Patricia Spearman put forward, which capped all rentals in the state at a rate of increase of, I believe it was 10 percent.

And this is a sweeping reform. A lot of that is coming also from the Culinary Union, something that they tried to impose in north Las Vegas. They’re trying to twist the arm the legislative session to kind of push it through, and they still want to continue to pursue those policies.

So, it’s very critical, I think, that in the housing sector and the housing enrollment policy, we come up with some constructive solutions and alternatives to that so there is more ammunition when we go into the next legislative session.

Geoff Lawrence: One of the things the Clark County School District requested out of this legislation was the authority to purchase or construct their own housing for employees. So literally create a company town, which is interesting when you just think about the fact that, you know, the school district is not very good at the one thing they’re supposed to have core competency in, which is educating students. So now they’re going to be a major commercial housing manager, which no one in the district has any experience or expertise in. It just begs the question, where, again, are the priorities here?

Michael Schaus: Yeah, and affordable housing is one of those things. It’s not ever really going to go away. I think one of the reasons why, even though it’s a bad economic idea, keeps on coming back is because it’s a difficult thing for folks to argue against.

I mean, you’ve got all these Democrats who are representing people who likely, you know, like most of us are worried about the cost of housing. And they come out and they say, “Okay, I’m going to do something about that. Here’s a 10 percent cap on how much renters can charge.” It’s an uphill battle.

What saved us from some of those bad rent proposals this year?

Marcos Lopez: I mean, some of it was just, I think, the unification around the Senate Republican Caucus. I think this was probably the best Senate Republican Caucus in terms of holding together in votes that I have seen in a long time, definitely my whole time in the legislative session lobbying. So, it’s about three, four of them.

They all got pretty close, not like super close, but there was definitely two that got to the governor’s desk. One in particular attracted a lot of Republican caucus votes in the Assembly side, which was very disheartening. All of them came from rural districts for the most part, which was really confusing.

And they all came forward with the promise that, “Oh, we’re voting for this to make sure we stop all the other rent control bills that are moving forward.” You know, no surprise, two weeks later, there was a different rent control bill that came over. And of course, it made it through. And you know, my question back to them was like, I thought you guys stopped this by voting for this.

But it’s clear that they were horse trading for other different policies. But at the end of the day, I think it was good to have the governor there with a veto pen.

Michael Schaus: Yeah, and that brings me to the next thing I want to talk about, because I think I’ve talked to both of you guys about this separately. One of my favorite things in the world is divided government.

Bipartisanship always scares me, because usually they come together over what I would consider the wrong things, for example, a stadium deal. But there’s enough tension in divided government that it stops a lot of bad ideas. And we really saw that this year with, I mean, how many vetoes did…

Marcos Lopez: 75

Michael Schaus: 75 vetoes. That shows you that there is definitely some sort of tension there. As you were watching the legislative session play out, one question I have for either one of you, whoever wants to answer this, how much of what the Democrats were doing, and I mean, to a certain extent, the minority party as well, the Republicans… but how much did they know was not going to be passing that that governor’s desk, but they were doing it just to signal that, “Hey, look, guys, we’re trying. We’re doing it for, you know, our constituents.” Of those 75, do you think they expected that many vetoes from the governor?

Marcos Lopez: I don’t think they expected that many vetoes. I think they didn’t really take the veto threat seriously at the beginning. I think when we first walked into the legislative building in the early month, it was kind of a posturing game. Where were they each other at?

Halfway through it became evident that they were holding their worst bills that they wanted a chance to get through towards the end of session. So, they’re able to come back, hoping that the next election cycle, they’ll have the votes to get it through. And there’s about 45 of those bills that are eligible when they come through next time.

But as of right now, you know, if this general dynamic remains, which is the rule in Nevada not to have a trifecta. It’s usually divided government, it’s not the exception. It will be very interesting to see what they bring forward next legislative session if the election cycle either keeps the current parameters or shifts in one direction towards the Republicans having more influence within the government.

Michael Schaus: Yeah, I mean, Geoff, you’ve been following, obviously, legislation in Nevada for a long time. Did the 75 vetoes surprise you or were you kind of expecting that from the very beginning?

Geoff Lawrence: No, that surprised me. I mean last time there were Democratic majorities and Republican governor was Jim Gibbons. He, of course, held the previous record for vetoes.

But, you know, Gibbons was known for having confrontational rhetoric. That’s just kind of who he was, right? With Governor Lombardo, it didn’t seem that way going in and I think that emboldened legislative leadership who said, we’re really going to push this guy. And they were surprised to find out that he wasn’t just going to give in.

Marcos is right. There’s always some measure of like virtue signaling to your base. But the Democrats did make some calculated bets here that they’ll be able to capture supermajority in both chambers going into the next legislative session and be able to override those vetoes.

Michael Schaus: I want to talk a little bit about that dynamic, too, because Democrats almost have a supermajority currently. As the session was playing out, honestly, I was kind of surprised that the Republicans, especially in the Senate, as you pointed out, Marcos, were sticking together as much as they were. This is something that we’ve seen time and time again, not just here in Nevada, but elsewhere, where having an almost supermajority can basically be just as good as having an actual majority.

As you were looking through the scorecard, what was your overall take on the minority party being kind of one mind, so to speak, in either chamber? Which chamber do you think was doing better?

Marcos Lopez: Oh, definitely the Senate Republicans. I think we see that in the scores that they finally ended up getting. Just a little sneak preview, the Assembly Republicans got about an 81 percent rating and the Senate Republicans got an 85 percent.

Michael Schaus: And which chamber overall came out looking a little bit more fiscally responsible? I’m assuming that that was the Senate as well.

Marcos Lopez: Ah, yes, definitely the Senate. By far, it would be the Senate. Again, I think there’s less of them right now. There’s only eight of them but this is the best crop.

Michael Schaus: They can’t even form a baseball team so it’s easier to hold them together.

Geoff Lawrence: The dynamic changes, too, when you know you’re in the super minority because there’s no incentive to whip votes. Anybody who has worked around the legislature realizes that that’s a thing. And once that imperative dissipates, then nobody’s going around to see how people are going to vote. People take wacky votes.

Michael Schaus: What were some things that really surprised you this session? And it could be other specific pieces of legislation or just kind of story arcs that happened. Anything that, if we were to go back in time and tell you that this was going to happen at the beginning of the session, you would look at me absolutely crazy.

Geoff Lawrence: I guess the biggest surprise to me was the film tax credit proposal, which dropped like two weeks before the end of session. Apparently, a couple of the bill sponsors had been negotiating it for like a year and a half.

Michael Schaus: Years, yeah.

Geoff Lawrence: Yeah. But almost no one knew about it, and it wound up being a bipartisan proposal that was, over a course of 20 years, almost four and a half billion dollars in tax giveaways.

And the way that’s structured is like kind of like a literal giveaway. It’s not just an abatement of the tax. It’s something called a transferable tax credit, which is basically a coupon that you can sell to someone else, and they can turn in in lieu of paying their taxes. So, it’s the closest thing the state can do to handing someone physical cash as giving them one of these coupons that they can sell on a secondary market.

Michael Schaus: Same exact point. I was amazed that it just showed up out of the blue and near the end of the session when everything’s chaotic. I said that it was one step below just taking a wheelbarrow full of cash from the treasury. I mean, it really is. If a studio comes in, does a movie, and if they have no real tax liability, they can just sell it to somebody else.

And we actually saw that with Tesla several years ago when Tesla sold to, I think, MGM or something. So, it reduced MGM’s tax liability because Tesla didn’t have any because of all the other abatements that they had.

I mean, $4 billion film tax credit was massive. It surprised me that that did not pass, just because, kind of like the stadium deal, everybody seemed excited about it.

Now, I guarantee you it’s coming back again here pretty soon, but what was holding it up? What stopped it from going through, just like the stadium?

Geoff Lawrence: Yeah, I think it was just a lack of time because it was introduced so late, and it has such a huge fiscal impact. I mean, when you think about four and a half billion dollars, that’s almost what the state spends on an annual basis.

So, you know, giving up that amount in tax credits is difficult to budget out with no notice. It’s been pretty clear this is going to come back. The Governor’s Office of Economic Development has spoken favorably about this and wants to consider it in the next session.

And, truth be told, I mean, I think it’s a bad idea regardless of when you do it.

Michael Schaus: Isn’t Georgia trying to get rid of their tax credits right now or peeling back or something?

Geoff Lawrence: Actually, the California Legislative Analyst’s Office of all places has said that film tax credits is hurting us and we’re the home of film.

Michael Schaus: This is where Hollywood is located.

Geoff Lawrence: That’s right. But across the country- Georgia, North Carolina, Louisiana- they’ve had these film tax credits. Their nonpartisan legislative staff have all done fiscal analyses and said, look, we’re losing money on these things.

But most state legislatures have not rolled these things back. A couple of them have. Georgia is. North Carolina cut theirs in half. The problem is that the film industry makes really handsome campaign contributions and no matter what kind of fiscal argument you make, you’re probably not going to outweigh that with a lot of state legislators.

Michael Schaus: Well, and not only that, but, you know, movies. We all love movies. I mean, it’s the same thing as sports. This is one of the reasons why sports stadiums keep on getting built all over the country. I think it was Nashville just shelled out a bunch of taxpayer dollars for a stadium as well.

People like movies, people like sports. So, look at this, isn’t this flashy? And hey, we’re bringing this to Nevada.

Marcos Lopez: I just want to say for the Democrats, I think they would also love to get more unions in Las Vegas. And that comes with the territory. I mean, right now we have the writers’ strike, we have the actors strike. So, I think there is a political component to this as well, which makes it very promising.

I’m not surprised that the former Democratic chair in the legislature, Roberta Lange, was the one that kind of championed and brought this forward. So, there’s that dynamic.

And then they bring the movie stars down. They get all glitzy. They brought everyone from the Avengers down to come see everyone at the legislature. And I think that, that does have an effect. Legislators are people, too.

Michael Schaus: Yeah. The campaign contributions are definitely a big part of it. But a benefit, but also kind of a liability, for Nevada is we’re still a relatively small state. The folks that are part time legislators are still just the types of human beings that you meet in the grocery store.

And that means that they too can get starstruck when all of a sudden, you’ve got all these actors.

Marcos Lopez: I mean, this problem is not even a problem necessarily of just this administration or the last administration. This is just a problem across all levels of Nevada. We have this idea of economic development can only be done through government management and government subsidies and has to be directed from the government.

And people love it, right? The legislators get to say, look at all the jobs that I’ve “created.” Look at all the money I’m bringing into the state. Not seeing that you’re just stealing from other taxpayers and just giving it away flamboyantly.

Michael Schaus: I got to tell you, a Sony Studio somewhere in southern Nevada or something would catch a lot of attention and it’d probably be all positive attention despite the fact that obviously it is costing us taxpayers a lot of money. And if supposedly we don’t have enough money for Opportunity Scholarships or anything else, why are we spending it literally on making make believe.

A couple of quick thoughts as we’re going into the next year. So legislative session is behind us. We know that some things are going to be coming back. We know that there’s going to be a fight over Opportunity Scholarships or educational choice of some sort. We know that the tax credits for the film industry are going to come back. What are some big things between now and the next session?

I imagine Democrats are really going to be harping on things like rent control. What are some things that we expect to kind of become the ” kitchen table” issues that actual human beings who don’t just obsess over politics? What are they going to be caring about the next year and a half or so?

Geoff Lawrence: Well, you know, it’s difficult because I think some of those issues are bigger than Nevada. Inflation being top of mind for a lot of people. You know, your paycheck just doesn’t go as far as it did even a couple years ago.

Michael Schaus: And I think, actually, that’s probably going to feed into the rent control. arguments that the Democrats have, because when you’re worried about your finances, what’s the biggest payment most people have every month?

Geoff Lawrence: Well, that’s true. And that also is affecting union negotiations everywhere. I see it with Clark County, even now you’re seeing it with United Auto Workers, everywhere across the country. You know, UAW is demanding 40 percent.

Michael Schaus: Culinary was even talking about action at some point.

Geoff Lawrence: Right, right. CCSD, they want an 18 percent pay raise for across the board and then even more for some categories of teachers. It’s hard to argue that costs aren’t increasing, right?

And this is also feeding into the state’s fiscal situation because sales taxes are off the charts. They’ve never risen this fast before because the price of goods that are being taxed are going up. And so, the state has all this money, which that’s how we were able to turn around and dump two billion extra dollars into public education. All because of inflation.

Well, this is ultimately the person that’s paying the bills whether it’s, you know, their Nevada tax bill or their just regular grocery bill, they’re getting squeezed more and more every day. And I think that you know, we have to be able to paint a roadmap for people that this is the way that you get out of it is through fiscal discipline and sound money. Because we’ve had now for the past four years, unprecedented levels of government spending. And what you’re seeing from that is that your buying power and your quality of life has declined.

Marcos Lopez: And I mean, just to add that thing when you added the whole government spending sound money part right on the money. If you look at what Culinary tells its members in its newsletters, they’re blatantly lying to them, just telling them this is all greed from corporate entities. That’s what’s causing inflation. That’s why you’re seeing higher prices. They’re completely ignoring the effects of fiscal and monetary policy overall.

And I think to add kind of insult to injury, the reason we had such a large Christmas tree bill that went forward was because they wanted to spend all the federal money before it went back to the feds. So indirectly, or directly, the legislature is responsible for increasing the federal debt as well as the impacts of federal spending.

Michael Schaus: Yeah, I mean, that’s something that I don’t think is really talked about enough. We talked about it during the lockdowns and during the panic over COVID and everything, all the “free money” that’s going out there.

You’re absolutely right that legislatures are now scrambling to spend that. And then with sales taxes higher than ever before, there’s a lot of money there. $2 billion extra for public education. I mean, that sounds good. I’m sure that’s part of what Lombardo was going for, “Hey, look, I am an education governor and that includes public education.”

But with all the chaos that’s going on right now at CCSD, with massive vacancies, with the fact that there was a showdown over whether or not we could give 600 kids scholarships, I think that there’s a real opportunity there for Lombardo and anybody that thinks like him. There are even obviously rank and file Democrats who support the idea of educational freedom or school choice or whatever you want to call it.

There’s a huge opportunity there for people to point and say, look, government, I know you’ve got all this money and I know you want to spend all of it right now, but how you spend it matters, too.

And that to me was kind of the lesson as I was going through the scorecard. Yeah, there was a lot of spending. There were a lot of priorities. But one thing that kind of gets missed when, when people are just following along in the news is how we are actually spending that money is going to be far more important than how much we are necessarily spending at the end of every session.

What are some big takeaways as we’re closing? Obviously, scorecard is coming out. Everybody should read it because it gives some really great inside baseball, so to speak, when it comes to the session. But what are some things that you kind of want to tease for there?

Personally, I love the one little blurb you had about cigar taxes because I’m a big cigar smoker, so I needed to know that.

But what were a couple things that jump out at you?

Marcos Lopez: For me, I just love the legislator ratings. That has always been my thing with scorecards. I used to do scorecards for AFP as well, mainly because it does communicate something to the general public about legislators.

And I know a lot of legislators sometimes, particularly if they have a bad score, they always go, “Well, I don’t care about ratings or scorecards. I will explain for what I’m doing.” First, before you get there, you need to have some basis. And with the scorecard and the votes that we took, and we graded on them, hopefully someone out there, you know, voters hold their politicians accountable for the votes that they took.

Michael Schaus: I go through and I look at the ACLU scorecard and obviously I’m not going to agree with everything, you know, when it comes to how the ACLU is scoring things. But it does give you a very good indication based on that group’s priorities, that group’s interests, just how far a gap there is between certain lawmakers.

So, you can take a look at that scorecard, see who’s up on the very top, see who’s down on the very bottom. You can even see how the two parties differ or what have you. And that will give you kind of a guiding star as to, okay, if I care about fiscal policy like Nevada Policy, then I know that this is the difference between these few lawmakers. So, it’s, it’s a great tool, I think, especially as we go into another election season.

Geoff, was there anything in the scorecard that you think you really kind of got to tease for people? Because if they pick it up and read one thing, what’s that one thing in there?

Geoff Lawrence: From both the session and the scorecard, what really stands out to me is the Christmas tree bill because even before we knew that legislators were funding organizations that they were done turning around and drawing their own income from, it was already egregious enough, right? We’re giving tax dollars, 50 some million dollars’ worth of people’s hard-earned money away to other private organizations just because they had some political connections and really not even making any other argument about it, right?

And now since then, of course, we’ve learned that legislators are turning around and drawing their own incomes from those appropriations.

Michael Schaus: Yeah, we’ve got multiple scandals going now.

Marcos Lopez: I can hark on that bill forever. I mean, it was debated for basically 10 minutes in one chamber, and then it was handled behind the bar in the other.

Michael Schaus: Well, and that was the big thing reading through the scorecard. I know you guys talked about it as well. So much of it happens outside of public purview. It’s not like they bring forward this bill, have a bunch of hearings, everybody’s shouting at each other across the desks or anything. That’s not what happens.

They bring it forward after they’ve already discussed it in private. And then if there’s any sort of problem, they go back into private, rediscuss things again. It is such an opaque process, which is part of the reason why things like the scorecard are so valuable to voters who actually want to know what the heck went on up there.

Well, both of you guys, thank you so much. Obviously, if you want to get the scorecard, you can go to NevadaPolicy.org. All updates on when they’re releasing it and everything else is going to be right there.

You can also go to NevadaPolicy.org/podcast to sign up for the podcast and then you can let us know if there’s any topics or guests that you think we ought to have on it.

Thank you, guys, again so much. We appreciate it.

Free to Offend can also be heard on Amazon and iTunes.

 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.

Geoffrey Lawrence

Geoffrey Lawrence

Director of Research

Geoffrey Lawrence is director of research at Nevada Policy.

Lawrence has broad experience as a financial executive in the public and private sectors and as a think tank analyst. Lawrence has been Chief Financial Officer of several growth-stage and publicly traded manufacturing companies and managed all financial reporting, internal control, and external compliance efforts with regulatory agencies including the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.  Lawrence has also served as the senior appointee to the Nevada State Controller’s Office, where he oversaw the state’s external financial reporting, covering nearly $10 billion in annual transactions. During each year of Lawrence’s tenure, the state received the Certificate of Achievement for Excellence in Financial Reporting Award from the Government Finance Officers’ Association.

From 2008 to 2014, Lawrence was director of research and legislative affairs at Nevada Policy and helped the institute develop its platform of ideas to advance and defend a free society.  Lawrence has also written for the Cato Institute and the Heritage Foundation, with particular expertise in state budgets and labor economics.  He was delighted at the opportunity to return to Nevada Policy in 2022 while concurrently serving as research director at the Reason Foundation.

Lawrence holds an M.A. in international economics from American University in Washington, D.C., an M.S. and a B.S. in accounting from Western Governors University, and a B.A. in international relations from the University of North Carolina at Pembroke.  He lives in Las Vegas with his beautiful wife, Jenna, and their two kids, Carson Hayek and Sage Aynne.

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.