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Not all bills are created equal

We are so going to need Assembly Bill 542 to pass.

That measure, which licenses the operation of distilleries in Nevada, is one of the few known cures for the avalanche of irrelevancy, silliness and downright stupidity that can be found in bills introduced in the Legislature.

As of this writing, there are 1,114 bills, resolutions, joint resolutions and concurrent resolutions pending before lawmakers, following a Monday deadline for committees to introduce their measures. Many are worthwhile and needed, but there are some real losers in the bunch, too.

Nevada may be facing a budget shortfall of billions, but somehow the Assembly Ways and Means Committee has in Assembly Bill 485 identified $3 million for the Nevada Broadband Task Force. That money could buy a lot of teachers.  

Both the Senate and the Assembly have crafted joint resolutions to create an intermediate appellate court, which voters just rejected in November.

Is there anybody left in the United States who doesn’t know smoking is unhealthy, much less smoking during pregnancy? Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce has a bill — AB170 — that would post signs with that news flash outside stores. Then again, you wouldn’t be able to smoke at all on university property under Assemblyman Paul Aizley’s AB128. That should save money on signs.

Instead of rectifying a longstanding problem — the fact that there’s no legal way to buy medical marijuana in Nevada — Assemblyman John Ellison wants to outlaw fake marijuana in AB 339. (And that goes for fake cocaine, too: State Sen. David Parks’s Senate Bill 224 would make that a controlled substance.)

You may wonder how Nevada has survived as a state for 146 years without licensing music therapists, but that will be fixed with state Sen. Mo Denis’s SB190. And thanks to state Sen. Allison Copening and her SB291 we can rest easy knowing  juveniles who use tanning beds will have written parental permission.

State Sen. Elizabeth Halseth (and the rest of the state Senate) along with Assemblyman Scott Hammond (and a handful of Assembly members) have teamed up with bills to ban falsely claiming you’ve received a military honor when you have not. A similar federal law has twice been rejected as unconstitutional under the First Amendment by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Speaking of the Constitution, it has not stopped Assemblyman Ed Goedhart from introducing AB186, to deploy the state’s power of eminent domain against the federal government. Goedhart hasn’t been able to explain thus far how the power to take private land for public use would apply against another government.

There are proposals for special license plates to recognize female veterans, and even a bill to increase the number of specialty license plates in circulation to 30, up from 25.

The list goes on.

Not every lawmaker can be working on the budget and redistricting. In fact, a very small cadre of leaders will negotiate those issues behind closed doors toward the end of the session. But that doesn’t mean everybody else needs to fill time with frivolous bills that have no chance of passing (Yes, that’s right: The lottery is back!).

Lawmakers have a responsibility — in every committee, in every hearing — to ensure the state is spending every dollar on a critical function. That should capture full legislative attention during the 120 days of session, not the state licensing of mobile billboards or taxes on bottled water or high-calorie fast food.

There is one worthwhile measure that stands out: Assemblyman Richard McArthur’s AB187, which would limit the number of bills lawmakers and committees could introduce.


Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. His column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Reach him at 387-5276 or ssebelius@reviewjournal.com.

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