2019 Legislative Session
At Nevada Policy, we’re keeping track of the most important bills on our online Legislative Bill Tracker. Taxpayers, too, can follow the good and the bad there. On the “bad” side, we’ve seen a major threat to government transparency this week. We’ll be watching it close, and our tracker will continue to be updated in real time throughout the week (view here). Every Friday, a summary of developments is posted right on our website (view here) as well. Click below to see what we’re watching today!
Civil Asset Forfeiture
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court held that the Excessive Fines Clause of the Eighth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects Americans not just against the federal government, but against states and local authorities too. (Read more) The case hinged on a question about the practice of Civil Asset Forfeiture, and has brought the law-enforcement tactic of seizing property related to alleged criminal activity back into the news cycle. The renewed focus on the often-abused practice is good news for civil libertarians, as it’s one of the few areas of bipartisan agreement in Carson City. (Listen to Nevada Policy’s Michael Schaus discuss the issue on Nevada Public Radio here.) In 2017, a bipartisan bill to reform the practice of asset forfeiture was introduced, only to die a silent death in committee at the hands of a deputy District Attorney who’d gotten elected as a lawmaker and was on the committee. Maybe, with a renewed focus, 2019’s legislative session will be different. (Read more)
Nevada Public Employee Retirement System
Nevadans will send roughly 2.1 billion tax dollars to PERS next year — an amount equal to nearly half of the entire State General Fund. And yet, even the people in charge of setting policy for the system seem to be deeply misinformed about how the system actually works. (Read more here.) Making matters even worse, however, is the fact that system personnel have gone out of their way to keep lawmakers, policymakers and the general public completely in the dark. Now, a new push in Carson City aims to further shroud the system in secrecy, by classifying as “confidential” non-sensitive information that the courts have repeatedly said should be public. Click here to read Nevada Policy’s testimony on what is being called the “PERS Secrecy” bill.
The point of education policy should be to ensure children have access to the best education available. Unfortunately, that’s not what it has actually become. Lawmakers and Gov. Sisolak are talking up the possibility of drastically reducing Nevada’s Opportunity Scholarship program for low-income children — a program that helps low-income families send their children to quality private schools. (Read more here) The move is purely political, as public-sector unions have become increasingly hostile toward any alternatives to the traditional, one-size-fits-all, public-education model that employs them. It’s a particularly devastating narrative, given the fact that such choice options are proven to work. A study by the (left-leaning) Urban Institute, for example, found that students who participated in Florida’s Tax Credit Scholarship Program were far more likely continue their education after high school and earn bachelor’s degrees than their public-school peers. (Read more)
The big casinos have already left NV Energy. MGM, Caesars and Wynn are among others than have said “see ya!” to Nevada’s utility monopoly — though they must pay huge fines and fees to escape to the free-market. The Cosmopolitan is the latest hotel and casino to take the leap, and seek out alternative energy providers. (Read more here) But it’s not just hotels. As it turns out, even government entities have had it with Nevada’s monopoly energy provider. The Las Vegas Convention Center and the new Raiders’ stadium have already sought out alternative energy providers, and this month the City of Las Vegas admitted it might soon be joining the bandwagon. (Read more) Of course, for all of us “average” consumers, this kind of choice isn’t available. After NV Energy spent $60-plus million dollars last year to misinform voters about energy realities, we’re all stuck under the monopoly, while it’s the politically connected who get the freedom to shop around.