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Some post-legislative reflections

by Judy Cresanta, Publisher

ejoice, fellow Nevadans. The 1997 legislative session is, mercifully, over. The session certainly didn't end with a whimper—in the final days, extremely important issues were fast-tracked through the legislative process. And just what were some of those issues? The charter school bill, the welfare reform bill, the quarter-cent tax hike, electricity deregulation, infrastructure funding for the Las Vegas area and last but not least, a biennial budget. I'm sure you will agree that fast track is not how you want to see such issues handled! I wonder if the last-minute burst of energy during an otherwise yawn-filled session wasn't calculated to keep reporters and activists off balance and out of the flow of information (often important committee meetings were not even posted, as they were in the beginning of the session).

In spite of the 1,500-plus bills before them, the pace for this year's legislators was leisurely (more snail-like) during the first three-quarters of the session. As late as April, general sessions were filled with trite resolutions honoring Nevada's entertainers, long-winded black history lessons from Senator Joe Neal and debates over establishing an official state nut (no, I won't even touch that one). You have to wonder about the rationale of such practices at a price tag of $60,000 per day. And there were certainly enough days—this year, the gang in Carson City tied the record for the longest session ever. That time was needed, apparently, to come up with even more ways to spend Nevadans' tax dollars—the budget saw an increase of 24 percent.

So state government spending will roll on, just as it has at the local and federal levels for decades. Why change a bad thing? On their best day, it seems, Nevada legislators could never design a proposal as exciting and innovative as Medical Savings Accounts (MSAs). Our legislators might want to pay special attention to this month's profile of MSAs by NPRI Board Member Dr. Lexey Parker. She presents a strong case for MSAs, which have proven to cut costs government will close the door for participation in the MSA pilot program on September 1.

Elsewhere in this issue, Senior Consulting Editor Ralph Heller courageously wades into the deep, dark waters of the session that was, and accurately documents perhaps the most disgusting sideshow of 1997's Carson City Follies. Namely, the pay raises our alleged "citizen legislators" bestowed upon "the privileged" as the session came to a close.

With the legislature out of session now, many Nevadans' attention will turn to Washington. It may be a bit hotter than normal inside the Beltway this summer, at least for Clinton administration officials facing heat from two congressional committees investigating improper (and possibly illegal) campaign fundraising schemes. If you thought you knew everything about what some wags have named "donorgate," think again.

The network news media have been woefully unwilling to report the dozens of disturbing donorgate revelations that regularly see print in major newspapers. (They also refuse to air Senator Fred Thompson's investigation of donorgate.) Contributing Editor D. Dowd Muska adapted two studies from the Media Research Center that demonstrate how disinterested national news programs are in the ongoing stream of information on donorgate.

The hearings should have plenty of action, as Democrats try to obstruct the proceedings at every turn. That's good, in a way—at least partisan bickering over ethics investigations diverts their attention from dreaming up new ways to tax and spend. But as the 1997 Legislative Session has proven, no Nevadan should be afraid that our full-time legislators in Washington have begun to show some willingness to scale back the relentless growth of government. Their part-time counterparts in Carson City seem to be more than willing to pick up the slack u


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