Focus and common sense required as Legislature nears end

Depressed by the lack of accomplishments so far as Nevada legislators seem to focus on social issues instead of serious financial issues?

Last Friday was the day bills had to pass out of the second house committees, next Friday is the deadline to pass out of the second house, with the exception of budget bills. With four leaders who have never gone through the torture of closing a legislative session, I’m not optimistic.

June 3 is supposed to be the final day of the Legislature. So far, Gov. Brian Sandoval has signed 12 bills. Except for Sandoval’s pet bill for online gaming, few bills of any real substance have passed.

Then suddenly, I was cheered. California came through to make Nevada lawmakers look like stalwarts.

San Francisco Assemblyman Tom Ammiano is pushing a bill under which transgender children would be able to decide what their gender is and then decide whether they can use the restrooms they think best suits them. Bathrooms, sports, dressing rooms would all be open to children, based on what they determine their gender to be.

Reporter Katy Grimes’ well-researched piece posted on California Political Review spelled it out.

Ammiano, a gay Democrat, said his bill would clarify California’s nondiscrimination laws by specifying that all students in K-12 schools must be able to participate in school programs, activities and facilities in accordance with the student’s gender identity.

Grimes wrote, “If AB1266 is passed and signed into law, girls will be forced to use bathrooms, locker rooms and showers with anatomical males, and boys with anatomical females, because the transgender persons self-identify as a member of the opposite sex.”

Thank you, Assemblyman Ammiano.

Our folks passed a bill to allow judges to increase penalties when crimes are committed because someone is transgender, which is reasonable. Adding “gender identity or expression” to the list of other hate crimes based on the victim’s race, color, religion, national origin, sexual orientation and physical or mental disability is fine.

But then I’d add language increasing penalties for crimes against women with cats.

Giving Nevada voters a second crack at whether they want to legalize gay marriages has absorbed lawmakers’ time too. Although U.S. Sen. Harry Reid said he’ll vote for it, partly because he has a niece who is a lesbian, he declined to predict whether Nevada voters will approve it when it reaches the ballot.

Anyway, all this legislative talk makes me think about leadership. We have four new leaders. Democratic Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick and Assembly Republican Leader Pat Hickey are in one house. Down the hall, there’s Senate Democratic Leader Mo Denis and Senate Republican Leader Michael Roberson.

They all have ideas, but they don’t have enough followers. I predict a lot of their ideas are likely to go belly up, including the entertainment tax.

Perhaps they’ll surprise me and something significant will emerge from this Legislature.

But with so little time between now and June 3, I have doubts.

One of my favorite quotes of the session was when Kirkpatrick, on the jubilant first day of the session told the Las Vegas Sun: “The last day is going to be just like this. It’s going to be just as happy. We are going to get a lot done and everybody is going to feel good walking out of this building.”

Not sure that’s a reality. Certainly at this stage it isn’t.

To achieve anything of substance, leaders have to have followers.

Their various tax policy proposals may go nowhere. Their pledge to enhance education may do little more than what Sandoval set out at the start.

Still, they look more sensible than California Assemblyman Ammiano. Surely, that’s something. Just not enough.

Jane Ann Morrison’s column appears Monday, Thursday and Saturday. Email her at Jane@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0275.