Gov. Brian Sandoval vowed Friday that the 2017 legislative session will come to a close as scheduled on Monday at midnight. “No special session,” he said.
The next few days will reveal what that means for a host of issues, particularly the governor’s school choice plan, better known as Education Savings Accounts. A Thursday confrontation on the issue at least temporarily scuttled talk of a peaceful compromise.
Regardless of how the endgame plays out, though, a handful of things have come into focus:
— Democrats have little to show for their majority status. Contrast that with two years ago.
During the 2015 session, Republicans controlled both houses for the first time in 40 years. In 120 days, they managed to push through more substantive legislation than Democrats had in the previous decade. Several GOP lawmakers even risked their political careers by voting for a massive tax hike to raise money for the public schools. On the election trail in 2016, several Democrats, particularly those running for Assembly seats, then had the gall to hammer them for the very tax votes that shielded progressives from the heavy lifting. After using such cynical tactics to regain control of the Assembly and Senate in November, the Democratic leadership eschewed serious policy and opted instead to spend much of the 2017 session trying to repeal GOP initiatives passed two years earlier.
— At virtually every turn, legislative Democrats will favor Big Labor over the taxpayers.
Among the measures that majority leaders hoped to bargain with on the ESA issue was a bill forcing the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority to use union labor on its expansion project, and a proposal allowing unions to lay claim to more of a local government’s “ending fund balance” when times are flush. Both would significantly increase costs to the private-sector workers who pay the bills. Likewise, for legislation passed along a party line vote to roll back modest collective bargaining reforms enacted in 2015. And then there’s Senate Bill 384, which would make secret certain information regarding retired public workers and their pensions. So tight are the union shackles on Nevada’s legislative Democrats that they prefer appeasing government employees over accountability and transparency.
— The school choice issue isn’t going away.
Legislative Democrats have tried to paint Republicans as trying to weaken public education through school choice. In reality, most parents see through that rhetoric and realize that tolerating a failing system means closing the doors on thousands of children, mostly from poor families. A poll conducted last November by the Clark County Education Association found widespread support in Southern Nevada for the governor’s Education Savings Accounts proposal, particularly among parents and Hispanics. If dismal test scores continue to be the calling card of the Clark County School District, expect momentum to keep building for providing families with more options — and expect rigid opposition to choice to become a political liability.