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June 13, 2024 12:21 pm

Opinion

Opinion | Your 2023 Legislative Session: The Good, the Bad, and the Unremarkable

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by Hugh Jackson, Nevada Current

The best thing the Nevada Legislature did this year, so far, was not approving a $5 billion public subsidy for film corporations. It looked touch and go for a while there, as if legislators might actually approve the biggest and silliest government giveaway in Nevada history.

But in a sign of resistance to providing unlimited favors to the rich and corporate at the public’s expense, as uncharacteristic as it was unexpected, lawmakers determined it best to approve, at most, only one expensive and utterly daft economic development trickle-down pipedream in a matter of days, not two, and the film thing didn’t make the cut.

If legislators similarly pull the plug on publicly subsidizing the A’s stadium, that would be the best thing lawmakers did this year. 

If they approve it, it will be the worst.

During the ongoing special session to consider the stadium, several state senators Wednesday at least gave the look of performing due diligence on the idea, some of them even scoffing at the project.

And for good reason. Early during yesterday’s hearing, Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority CEO Steve Hill, pom poms customarily aloft, gushed that the baseball stadium would be great for Las Vegas “marketing” and put the region in a “spotlight.”

Pro baseball’s worst team. Baseball’s worst and cheapest owner. Playing in a barely half-covered facility in Las Vegas in the summer. (Baseball games get called for rain; do they also get called for heat?) Yeah, sounds like just the thing that will finally put Las Vegas on the map! 

It’s an odd take for Hill to make. The organization Hill runs, and the fancy-pants PR firms it “partners” with, have spent decades and hundreds of millions of dollars trying to put Las Vegas on the aforementioned map. Is Hill saying that hasn’t worked?

From the scheme’s impenetrably byzantine financing to the wholly implausible pie-in-the-sky projections to the slap-dash fashion in which the plan was cobbled together to the general and obvious untrustworthiness of the A’s ownership and business management to the comparative advantage of spending nearly $400 million on virtually anything else – senators drilled in yesterday on some of the many factors that render the stadium an absurdist proposition.

Sadly, that doesn’t mean the Nevada Legislature won’t pass it. Sigh.

During this legislative session, as with most (all?) legislative sessions, the competition can be stiff for the dishonor of being the worst thing. Approval of the A’s stadium would win the category hands down.

But another particularly strong entry in the field this year is the resort industry’s last minute power play to get the state to pay to remove those experiencing homelessness from the Las Vegas Strip and put them … anywhere else. 

Ubiquitous pitchman for hire Jeremy Aguero took a break from his busy schedule of shilling for the A’s last weekend to hold forth on, of all things, public policy to address homelessness. 

So that was weird.

After all, some of the world’s largest, most powerful and most profitable casino-hotel corporations, collectively and quaintly known locally as “gaming,” could have just said “Hi legislators and governor we would like the police to methodically and perpetually round up homeless people from the Strip and haul them off to somewhere else and we’d like the public to pay for it, m’kay?” and left it at that. 

Legislators and the governor would have said “yes gaming, of course gaming, whatever you say gaming,” in keeping with custom. But why not add a public relations flavor spike, and spin the initiative as your beloved resort industry, out of the selfless benevolence for which it is world-renowned, responsibly taking point on an urgent public problem?

And who better than the mercenary motivational speaker and traveling Ted Talk act who has fronted specious justifications and laughably fluffy projections for every “game changer” Nevada movers and shakers glom on to, from the football field to Blockchainsville to, just yesterday, the A’s farce, i.e., Aguero?

Professional experts around the nation who study and advocate solutions for homelessness, a group to which Aguero does not belong, assure anyone who will listen that the indispensable requisite and indeed central component of addressing homelessness is, you know, homes. The legislation plopped down by “gaming” last weekend, and dutifully sent to the governor’s desk lickety split, does nothing about that.

Nice work, everyone. If you wanted to create a caricature of Official Nevada at work, it could not have been more illustrative and spot-on than rushing the legislation through on greased skids.

Gov. Joe Lombardo will sign the Hide the Homeless from the Tourists Act (probably not its real name) into law. He was Clark County sheriff (and something of a police uniform fetishist, as it happens) before he was Nevada’s governor. So he’s accustomed to doing whatever “gaming” says, both those jobs having long been recognized as high-visibility resort industry upper middle management positions.

Speaking of Lombardo, you may recall when he gave his state of the state address, his lead policy proposal, the one that got the most headlines the next day, was a $250 million gas tax holiday. He also promised to greatly expand public funding for private schools. And to get oodles of millions of dollars for a Lombardo-controlled “Nevada Way” slush, er, economic development fund. And repeal criminal justice bills that Democrats had passed BLT (before Lombardo’s time). And end universal mail balloting while mandating voter IDs.

Those priorities, along with multiple other Lombardo initiatives and dreams, never got anywhere near the vicinity of reality. 

He vetoed multiple good bills – and in coming days will veto many more – citing talk-radio caliber arguments about the evils of regulating business, the virtue of weapons worship, generic all-purpose Trumpism, etc.

But as a Republican governor in a state with a Democratically controlled agenda, Lombardo’s first legislative session was, predictably, unremarkable. 

That said, calling a special session for a baseball stadium only to have lawmakers reject it would be remarkable. And hilarious. And most importantly, good for Nevada.

Nevada Current is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Nevada Current maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Hugh Jackson for questions: info@nevadacurrent.com. Follow Nevada Current on Facebook and Twitter.