Although the 2015 session of the Nevada Legislature is still eight months away, lawmakers have already begun to ask the dedicated and long-suffering lawyers at the Legislative Counsel Bureau to start drafting proposed laws.
But why should those guys have all the fun? I’ve got a few ideas that I think ought to at least be considered as potential laws, too. I’ll publish an ongoing list occasionally as the session draws near. Here’s the first batch.
■ Make “None of These Candidates” Count Act: In any election where “None of These Candidates” wins, the office in question must be declared vacant and filled in the manner prescribed by law (either an appointment or a special election). However, no person who ran in the original election and lost to “None of These Candidates” may run in a special election for that office in that cycle or be considered for appointment.
■ Keep Traffic Flowing Act: We’ve all experienced the frustration of driving behind a scooter, sometimes called a moped, as it struggles to make speed on major surface streets. Although the speed limit may be 45 mph, and vehicles around them are whizzing by at 50 mph or more, these scooters simply can’t go that fast. As a result, drivers need to change lanes to get around them. We must insist that any vehicle — motorized or not — that cannot go at least as fast as the posted speed limit on surface streets be limited to the bike lane.
In addition, we should adopt an idea that’s already law in some other states: On the freeway, drivers in the left-hand, No. 1 lane (closest to the center median) must yield when they are approached by faster traffic, regardless of the posted speed limit. This anti-“fast lane hogging” law would enable left-lane squatters to be ticketed for impeding traffic, which can be as dangerous as the speeding and lane-hopping that takes place in order to get around squatters.
■ Binding Arbitration Reform Act: The issue of public-employee contracts is large and complex, but at least one change ought to be considered by the Legislature: Amending or repealing NRS 288.200(7), a law that requires arbitrators to consider a local government’s ability to pay for a proposed contract as a key component of deciding whether the competing offers of management or labor are reasonable.
In practice, this puts every local government that negotiates with public employee unions at a disadvantage, and it often robs local governments of funds that might be better spent elsewhere. We directly elect council members, commissioners and school board trustees to manage public purses; if they elect to build a new park or school rather than devote resources to salaries and benefits, they should be allowed to make — and defend — those decisions. One local government manager describes the current system as “a revenue-sharing arrangement” between local government and the union. It shouldn’t work that way; repealing or re-writing this statute would go a long way toward restoring a proper balance between the two parties.
■ Campaign Integrity and Transparency Act: As embattled Las Vegas Constable John Bonaventura has recently demonstrated, it’s entirely possible to accept campaign donations and never report them, allowing a person to finance a political campaign with no transparency whatsoever, so long as donor and recipient never rat each other out. We should expect more, especially given Nevada’s liberal donation limits.
First, candidates and officeholders should be required to report all donations electronically, at least once per month. Second, they should keep a running accounting of their campaign accounts, which would enable any member of the public to determine contributions, expenses and cash on hand. And third, the secretary of state must have the authority to audit campaign finance and spending reports to determine if the laws are being followed.
This idea isn’t exactly new; it’s been proposed without success before, and ignored by Republicans and Democrats alike. (Aversion to campaign transparency is a bipartisan affliction.) But if we’re to ensure integrity in the system, these reforms are key.
Steve Sebelius is a Las Vegas Review-Journal political columnist who blogs at SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at 702-387-5276 or firstname.lastname@example.org.