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‘Help us before
we kill again’

That seemed to be the subtext when two leaders of the Nevada Assembly—Assistant Majority Leader Richard Perkins and David Goldwater—appeared on the taxpayer-subsidized television show Capitol Issues a few days after the end of the legislative session. During a chummy hour-long retrospective with other lawmakers, Perkins and Goldwater—in a spontaneous fit of candor —frankly admitted that new health care mandates they and the rest of the Nevada Assembly had passed would be destructive to small business and jobs in the Silver State.

The basic problem, Perkins and Goldwater acknowledged, is that the votes by lawmakers to require that insurance companies cover more goodies only affect the small companies in Nevada—those least likely to be able to afford to pay the increased insurance costs that result. Groups covered under the federal ERISA rules— all the big companies or local governments large enough to accept the risk of being self-insured—are not subject to these new coverages. Before the session even started Nevada’s small businesses already labored under some 30 different insurance mandates, according to the Nevada Manufacturers Association (NMA). And during the session five more anti-jobs edicts began making their way through the Ledge: requirements that insurers and small businesses also pay for "mental health," for contraception, for mammograms, for osteoporosis and infertility treatments. Only the contraception bill and a much milder version of the mental health bill made it into law, the others promise to haunt the 2001 Legislature. "A few dollars per employee on this change and few more on that change, and before long the small guy either goes out of business or drops coverage completely," notes NMA Director Ray Bacon. The always-increasing costs of the mandates beloved by Nevada pols is a big reason why the state ranks so high in the percentage of employees not covered by health insurance.

Carson City, the
Land of Opportunity

Earlier this year officials decided that Carson City’s five-year-old, government-run farmers market had outgrown its Third Street location. So they chose to move the event to a larger location, the Pony Express Pavilion. That didn’t sit too well with St. Charles Hotel owner Charles McFadden, as well as other downtown businessmen who liked the customer traffic the market generated for them on Wednesday evenings during the summer.

But instead of whining about the takeaway of his taxpayer subsidy, McFadden chose to launch his own farmers market, and allow crafters to hawk their wares as well. Doing it himself wasn’t cheap. "I’ve paid $325 for a business license that I didn’t think I needed, plus $300 for a special-use permit," he noted. "By the time I get the crafters lined up, I’ll be into this event for about $1,000."

And how did Carson City officials react to McFadden’s plan? The way most bureaucrats do—by using the machinery of government to target the competition. Carson City Redevelopment Director Rob Joiner tried to get the Carson City Planning Department to deny permits for McFadden’s event. Happily, Joiner’s effort failed, and as Nevada Journal goes to press, the markets are set to begin their duel. At least one Northern Nevada newspaper was capable of recognizing the contest’s benefits. "Consumers who find one selection or location to their liking as opposed to the other now have a choice," editorialized the Nevada Appeal in June. "So do the farmers. That’s called free enterprise."

Fin de siecle in
the Silver State

It’s been a while since Nevada uber-pundit Jon Ralston broke any really major statewide news stories—stories deeply relevant to the future of this state and all of us within its borders. For years now the columnist has been content to simply gossip about the Silver State’s power elite. Primarily in terms of style, of course.

Neverthless, in the post-legislative-session wrapup issue of The Ralston Report, its editor delivered a story to Nevada and the world of historical proportions. It clearly was not his conscious plan to do so.

Ralston pegged his newsletter to the responses that 92 legislators and lobbyists had made to a 30-item end-of-session questionnaire. Then Ralston—their faithful scribe—awarded a number of snide end-of-the-session awards, including "Falling Star," "Clod with a Gavel," and "Seen Better Days." The winners are more or less irrelevant—it’s the assumptions made by Ralston and those he surveyed that reveal so much about end-of-century Nevada: Good legislators, of course, are those who deal. Standing on principle against the collectivist banalities and casually corrupt log-rolling that occupies Carson City during the session is morally bad. Not only does it get you blacklisted, but—from all indications—it also gets you seriously hated.

Freshman Assemblywoman Sharon Angle and second-term Assemblyman Don Gustavson were labeled "Just Wasting Space" for not making an "effort to learn or be part of the process" (Angle) and voting "no on everything" (Gustavson). In contrast, the anonymous toadeaters who filled out the survey loved every significant wielder of power. "Go along to get along" is not only their tactic; it appears to be their command.

Swimming in the power-seeking soup are some sadly sickly fishies. NJ


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