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the commentary of Ira Hansen's column graphic

Never Mind What the Pols
Say -- How Do They VOTE?

AB291: It's very interesting and a little disheartening to review the public comments by our State Senators on this bill, the purpose of which is to give county commissioners the power to increase sales taxes, and then compare their statements to their actual votes.

The Senate Taxation Committee voted 5-2 in favor of AB29l, with a few amendments; however, no one proposed the biggie, an amendment to allow the people to vote on the tax increase. Let's review their actions.

Ernie Adler

First, Carson City Senator ERNIE ADLER -- "I've got a lot of constituents who aren't happy about not having a vote of the people" he stated. Apparently, the fact the people who elected him wanted a say in the matter was starting to get to him; therefore, before this beginning of a backbone could solidify, he was hauled to the woodshed, so to speak, by the lobbyists for the casinos, unions, etc. Not only that, Governor Bob Miller paid him a personal visit as well, acting on behalf of, not the citizens of Nevada, but of the lobbyists themselves.
Adler defied the wishes of his constituents and voted yes. Score: lobbyists 1, the people, 0.
A positive side note -- Adler is probably the most liberal Senator from the North. He's up for re-election in 1998 and in his last election, he just barely squeaked by his opponent. This vote will probably do him in (good riddance).

Next, Senator RANDOLPH TOWNSEND -- "Half the calls and letters I've gotten in the past month are on this (AB291), and they don't want to see this unless they get a vote. On tax issues, they want the right to decide."
Townsend was expected to vote yes, but, in what turned out to be a surprise to some, he voted no. Score: lobbyists 1, the people, 1.
His vote was not that unexpected to me, because Townsend is probably the most poll-oriented legislator down there. Politically, he's very sharp, and undoubtedly sensed the rage ordinary voters are feeling about potentially being taxed without being able to do anything about it, thanks to their legislators -- a sentiment that will carry over to the next election, and Townsend's up again in 1998.

Dean Rhoads

Next, Elko Senator DEAN RHOADS: An A.P wire story stated, "[Rhoads] is one of three committee members who'd rather put the tax on the ballot. "I would prefer it go to a vote of the public," he said.
So, did Rhoads propose an amendment to allow the tax increase "to go to a vote of the public?"
No. In fact, he voted yes. Score: lobbyists 2, the people 1.  
Next, the views of the most conservative Senator in Nevada, ANN O'CONNELL of Las

Ann O'Connell

Vegas- "Senator Ann O'Connell, R-Las Vegas, has been an outspoken critic of tax increases in past sessions and agrees that voters should have a say. 'That would be my number one preference. The [June 3] elections (in which bond measures were defeated in Sparks, Elko and Henderson) prove we're right. It shows that people need to vote on this. I'm going to bring it up in committee.' she said."
With it being her "number one preference," surely the people could have counted on her to fight for their right to vote, right? Well, she did amend it, but none of her amendments asked for a vote of the people.
O'Connell voted yes. Score: lobbyists 3, the people 1.

Mike McGinnis

Next, Committee Chairman MIKE McGINNIS of Fallon. Clearly worried over the political fallout, McGinnis postponed the original committee vote after behind-closed-doors meetings with

Assembly Speaker
Joe Dini

Assembly members who had voted in favor of AB291. If the Senate voted AB291 down, it would look bad for them. Panic stricken, they privately pleaded their case to McGinnis.
McGinnis had never completely tipped his hand, but indicated he was at least willing to give the people a chance. "We'll talk about it [allowing the people to vote]. I would expect some amendments."
If they talked about it, it was a pretty brief conversation. McGinness proposed no amendment either. He voted yes. Score: lobbyists 4, the people 1.

Next, one of the most liberal State Senators , and the Democratic candidate for the Southern Nevada Congressional district in the last election, BOB COFFIN. Being a good loyal left-winger with close ties to the unions, who are strong backers of the bill, Coffin was the one member of the committe whose vote was a given. At least I thought so; but I was wrong. His public reasoning --- it would be bad for his district. My bet --- he felt it would be a serious damper on his political future. Coffin voted no. Score: lobbyists 4, the people, 2.

Jack Regan

Last but not least, Democrat JACK REGAN of Las Vegas. Senator Regan stated: "From a philosophical standpoint, I support all taxes going to a vote of the public." But he was quick to add a disclaimer, saying he wouldn't "push for a public vote." He certainly didn't lie. His philosophy didn't stand in the way of power politics, and he didn't "push for a public vote."
Final score: lobbyists 5, the people 2.
Have you ever wondered just how much the top lobbyists get paid? The most effective lobbyist for AB291 on the Senate side received $36,500 from the gaming industry alone.

Bill Raggio

Of course, many don't think of Senate Majority Leader BILL RAGGIO as being a lobbyist. But you can count on it: his influence behind the scenes, twisting various Senators' arms through promises and threats, reigned supreme.
The $36,500 from the gaming people for his last campaign was well spent. They really got their money's worth from yes-man Billy Boy. Raggio, heralded as the golden son of the North, should be exposed for the charlatan he is -- and what his price is -- $36,500 isn't too bad, although it's a drop in the bucket for the casinos. Gaming gave more to Raggio than any other legislator and now we can understand why. Raggio has used every trick in the book to prevent a vote of the people on this matter.

Ironically, the Republican Party leadership here in Nevada has indicated the Party is in favor of a public vote. John Mason, Chairman, sent out a fax to KOH Radio with some of the same Senators' quotes I used above, under the caption "Quarter cent sales tax hike: let the (little) people vote." If the Republicans are so in favor of a public vote, why is the most powerful Republican in the legislature doing everything he can to prevent it?

This blatant effort to force tax increases on the people --- clearly against their will --- is the most serious attempt I have ever seen here in Nevada to, in effect, crush representative government by the sheer brute force of a combination of unions, casinos and local governments. To force this through is tantamount to taxation without representation. If our legislators don't have the guts to stand up to these powerful special interest groups, the least they could do is give the ordinary citizen a fighting chance through the ballot box.
If our legislators continue on their current path, the voters' wrath that would have been focused on an undesired tax increase will be zeroed in on the unwise Assemblymen and Senators who disenfranchised the voters instead.

You can bet on it; this is one issue that's going to haunt them for a long, long time.

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