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Here come the bill drafts

Though some will always seek to make us more like oppressive and actuarially bankrupt California or New Jersey, Nevada is still blessed with a part-time Legislature, limited to working its mischief a mere 120 days in odd-numbered years.

As each of those biennial sessions draws to a close, a predictable scramble to pass huge omnibus spending bills ensues. In that 36 hours of chaos, bills are rewritten and rushed to the floor by lobbyists and lawmakers alike — promptly approved by delegates who can’t possibly have read all the details.

Some say the answer is a full-time Legislature. That’s like saying the best way to stay healthy is to live full-time in a hospital, inviting the interns to experiment on you — and bill you for their efforts.

The real answer is for our elected representatives to prioritize their work, busying themselves with the more important issues earlier on.

This is the context in which we must view the 160 requests for year-2009 bill drafts submitted so far by our state legislators.

Yes, many are mere “wish list” stuff submitted to please some constituent. Many will be stillborn — usually a blessing.

But far too many of the limited 120 days of the 2009 session will be spent dealing with proposals that already include:

Two schemes which will tend to make health insurance less affordable, ensuring that more Nevadans go without — the first a proposal from Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, mandating insurance coverage for autism screening and treatment, the other, from Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, requiring health benefit plans to provide coverage for acupuncture.

(No one is saying these can’t be good things. The question is why Nevadans shouldn’t be left free to shop for cheaper, “a la carte” health plans.)

Meantime, who could have missed the frenzied public outcry for state licensing of sheet metal workers? Well, most of us, actually. But not Assemblyman Jerry Claborn, D-Las Vegas. Can anyone spell “union protectionism”?

Sen. Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas, wants to “prohibit cyber bullying.” Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, D-Henderson, wants to “prohibit certain demonstrations at a funeral, memorial service or ceremony.” This is presumably targeted at misguided groups that make soldiers’ funerals their locale of choice to picket against the tolerance of homosexuals in the armed forces. This choice of tactics is repulsive, but it’s not clear the First Amendment allows the restriction even of “repulsive” speech on public sidewalks.

Meantime, today’s Safety Nazis are well at work. The Senate Committee on Transportation and Homeland Security seeks to “make failure to wear a safety belt in a motor vehicle a primary offense.” Assemblyman Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas seeks to prohibit minors from using cellular telephones and similar devices while operating motor vehicles. Only minors. Really. Never gonna extend that to adults. Scout’s honor. And the Assembly Committee on Transportation wants to restrict the use of mobile billboards. Really.

Both Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, and Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, want the Legislature to meet every year. What a team.

And winning the award for the worst idea to date, Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, wants to assure that the amount of tax money expended per pupil in Nevada “meets or exceeds the national average” … regardless, presumably, of whether the results exceed the national average. (If every state decided to spend more than the national average, would all the children end up “above average”? Paging Garrison Keillor.)

On the bright side, Sen. Terry Care, D-Las Vegas, does deserve credit for proposing to “require broad construction” by the courts “of the initiative and referendum single-subject rule in favor of proponents of ballot questions.”

And Assembly members Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks and Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson — along with state Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas — want to authorize the donation of medication by cancer patients.

The only silly thing there is that they should need state authorization to do so.

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