May 10, 2023 - 9:00 pm
Legislative Democrats, who hold a majority in both houses, profess a devotion to affordable housing and cheaper health care. So why would they entertain proposals that undercut both objectives? Consider the special interests involved.
Senate Bill 426 remains alive in Carson City. It would impose a statewide version of rent control by limiting how much Nevada landlords could boost rents for individual tenants. Other proposals floating around the Legislature would also restrict rent hikes.
Yet while rent control may provide short-term relief to a handful of tenants, it is a recipe for long-term problems. Reasonable housing prices depend on creating enough housing stock to meet demand. Burdening landlords and builders discourages construction and renovation, driving up prices over time.
In the long run, rent control “decreases affordability, fuels gentrification and creates negative spillovers on the surrounding neighborhood,” noted Rebecca Diamond of the Brookings Institute. “Forcing landlords to provide insurance to tenants against rent increases can ultimately be counterproductive.”
Yet rent control has proven irresistible to progressive politicians interested in looking like they’re doing something, whether it actually works or not. It becomes even more alluring when it has the vocal support of the Culinary union, an integral cog in the Democratic political machine that dominates Clark County politics.
A similar dynamic is at work with Assembly Bill 401, which would octuple the cap on medical malpractice awards, boosting it from $350,000 to $2.5 million. While some increase may be justified — the limit has been in place for 20 years — a hike of this magnitude will have negative ramifications.
Nevada already has difficulty attracting talent in the medical field. This proposal won’t help. In addition, higher caps will lead to higher insurance costs for doctors and a potential increase in “defensive medicine.” That, in turn, will drive up costs for patients.
Those who have been legitimately harmed by medical malpractice deserve their day in court. Medical disciplinary boards should more openly and aggressively serve as a check on bad doctors. But AB401 seems excessive and probably will exacerbate existing Nevada problems in terms of physician recruitment.
Nevertheless, this bill has survived late in the session. It’s no coincidence that the driving force behind the legislation is the wealthy trial bar, a reliable financial benefactor of Democratic candidates.
Will Democrats vote in favor of higher housing and health care costs in order to appease liberal special-interest groups? If they do, add SB426 and AB401 to the long list of bills that Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo should quickly veto when they arrive on his desk.