Told by a political opponent that he would either die of syphilis or at the end of a rope, a 19th-century English statesman shot back: “That depends on whether I embrace your mistress or your principles.” What he didn’t contemplate was offering to do one or the other for a fee.
Modern man is more practical. Faced by what some consider an inevitability, various Republicans are urging Nevada to negotiate with the federal government over Yucca Mountain and accept nuclear waste.
This is a shocking idea to many. For over 20 years, Nevada has fought the “evil” federal government, which wants to make the state the nation’s trash can. Now, there’s a break in the united front. The temptation to “sin” isn’t on the part of any of the congressional delegation. In fact, they were joined by Republicans Governor Kenny Guinn and Attorney General Brian Sandoval in expressing outrage.
But Lynn Hettrick (R-Gardnerville), the minority leader of the Republican
Assembly, said he’s very much in favor of negotiating with the feds for money in return for housing the nation’s nuclear waste. “I’m absolutely convinced there’s no significant risk from the storage of spent nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain,” he emphatically stated. “You don’t have to agree with it, but the Constitution guarantees you are entitled to just compensation. We could have had the $5 billion the government has spent fighting us in court,” explained Hettrick.
But does this sudden vision of Nevada rolling in dough and nuclear waste change the election landscape? Many business people, angered by the attempt to pass a gross receipts tax in the last legislative session, are putting their money on Republican candidates for the Assembly. Because of the tax issue, they see a real chance for Republicans to finally grab the majority.
Now, Republican Assembly candidates may be vulnerable to charges that they don’t care about Nevada’s future health and safety. But Hettrick says he’s seen polls showing that 78 percent of Nevadans want to negotiate over Yucca. Governor Kenny Guinn, though, said in the polling figures he’s seen, fighting the dump is “consistently supported by 75 percent to 78 percent of the people in the state.”
According to one political consultant who didn’t want his name used, “How important an issue it may be in the upcoming election will be dependent upon how Democrats use it, and how Republicans react to it. No one’s tied to his or her party’s platform. They can say they don’t agree with it, just as Democrats are saying they don’t agree with the idea of impeaching President Bush.” (The impeachment of the president is in the Democratic platform.)
Richard Perkins (D-Henderson), the speaker of the Nevada Assembly, said the issue may hurt Hettrick’s ability to lead. “Issues in each Assembly campaign will be more local,” said Perkins. “But some voters may question if (they want) the person they’re voting for to follow Hettrick as their potential leader.”
Lindsey Jydstrup, executive director of the Assembly Democratic Caucus, says other issues will be as important. “People are worried about the safety of transferring nuclear waste, but they’re more concerned with candidates’ visions of this state and where we’re going. They’re worried about healthcare and how to pay for it, education and the state’s ability to improve it.”
What’s significant is that the Republicans’ biggest issue – taxes – is not being discussed at all. In fact, it looks as though they will use the negotiating for funds as the reason for not raising taxes, thereby perhaps giving voters a choice of, as one pundit said, “being screwed or unglued.”