Without any major dominating issue such as taxes or reapportionment, the 2007 Session of the Nevada Legislature seemed to end with little fanfare and most certainly without the nasty headlines that have accompanied the end of more recent sessions.
That’s not to say there were not controversial issues. A repeal of the 2005 “Green Building” bill, which gave huge tax breaks to companies that incorporated energy saving design into their buildings, caused a stir. Schools and local governments sought the repeal so they could recoup millions that were lost in tax breaks. The companies that received those tax breaks lobbied vigorously to keep the funds they had already incorporated into their building plans. In the end, both sides were left feeling incomplete, as some tax breaks were allowed but future green building credits were greatly reduced.
Some progress was made on transportation issues, with the Assembly creating and both houses passing a bill that would provide nearly $1 billion in funding for several targeted road projects in Northern and Southern Nevada. While it wasn’t a complete answer to the Silver State’s traffic woes, most experts saw it as a start that will need to be vastly improved upon in 2009.
Newly-minted Speaker Barbara Buckley received generally high marks in her first session leading the Assembly. She got her own pork bills through and held firm to the Democrat’s agenda, getting small gains in education funding and an increase in the schools offering all-day kindergarten. Her top lieutenant, Majority Leader John Oceguera, also had a very good session as the chair of Commerce and Labor.
It was clear from the beginning that the Democrats in the Assembly were going to hold together, and if they didn’t support a measure, it just wasn’t going to pass. The same was not always true of the Republicans in the Senate.
Although Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio was still well-respected, he could not always count on total support among his members. Sens. Bob Beers, Barbara Cegavske and Maurice Washington held the conservative line. With the GOP only holding a one-vote advantage in the 11-10 Senate, it often took a few Democratic votes to pass key legislation.
One of the overriding themes of the 2007 session was Gov. Jim Gibbons’ ironclad pledge to veto any bill that would raise taxes or fees, even if the industries being assessed fee increases approved of the measure. It forced the lobbyists and legislators involved in the transportation bill to find a way to shift money from other sources instead of finding new revenue.
While both houses could have overridden any veto with a two-thirds vote in each body, it would have been extremely difficult to get loyal Republicans in the Senate to go against their governor and support fee and tax increases.
What it also means is that the 2009 session of the Nevada Legislature will be very interesting to watch and mostly likely not as friendly as this year’s annual gathering.