Denis: Nevada Legislature is like “high school”

Victor Joecks

Is this what Nevada's legislature is like?

Great news. Just in case you thought it was good idea to give our legislators more power, consider what Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis told freshmen lawmakers recently.

Denis said: “Don’t buy into the gossip. You’ll hear a lot of that, too. In some ways, it reminds you of college or high school up here during session.” 

Gossip runs rampant at the Legislature. And not the just the smutty kind that sometimes, but definitely not always, has a kernel of truth from the above-mentioned nightlife in Carson City. 

Policy can be affected by such rumors as who is or isn’t supporting a bill, what the governor will or will not do on the budget, and what sneaky plan a lobbyist might have for hijacking certain legislation. 

Any smart lawmaker will keep an ear to the rumor mill but verify before taking action. (Emphasis added.)

Is there a way to avoid this entirely? Probably not, because you can't change human nature. 

But there is a way to limit it? Absolutely. Limit the length and frequency of legislative sessions, which fortunately Nevada already does. 

Now some, like liberal pundit Jon Ralston, think it would be great for Nevada's legislative "high school" to meet on a full-time basis. Here's what he said last week on Ralston Reports

Oh, I know: Few people agree with me. 

Imagine what Mark Twain, whose 177th birthday was Friday, would have said. Maybe what he said about a century and a half ago: “No man's life, liberty, or property are safe while the legislature is in session." 

Twain would be appalled at giving people he considered thieves more time to steal the public’s business. But these are territorial days no more – and Nevada is long overdue to modernize its legislative process. 

It’s not just that we get what we pay for. It’s that the term limits gutting of experience and talent has exacerbated an endemic problem. Offer people a good salary. Give them well-paid staff. And have them meet every year so it’s not like throwing darts at a faraway dartboard to project what will happen in the state and what Nevada’s needs might be. (Emphasis added.)

So would high salaries for full-time legislators and full-time staffers lead to better results? 

We don't have to speculate on the answer in the vacuum, because our neighbor, California, has a full-time legislature and pays its legislators over $90,000 a year plus $140 per session day in per diem. Lawmakers also have huge legislative staffs, including 93 staffers making over $100,000 a year in salary

How's that working out for them? Hmmm

Or how about Congress? House and Senate representatives make$174,000 a year plus benefits and have huge staffs. 

How's that working out for us? Hmmm

Government isn't designed to solve problems; it's intended to protect freedom and provide core services (more at the state and local than federal level). 

When you give legislators more power and more time in session, they tend to "solve" problems that aren't any of their business by taking away the liberty they should be there to protect in the first place.