Jim Bagwell: Legislature has a lot to get to in not a lot of time
February 25, 2011
Washoe County, Reno and Sparks government leaders testified before the Legislature’s Governmental Affairs Committee asking, if not begging, that the state not cut deeper into local government funding. Each set of leaders told of how they have cut, slashed and trimmed their respective budgets including personnel layoffs of 16 percent to 30 percent to meet their budget shortfalls.
School leaders continue to lobby the public concerning their budgetary plight. I have always found it interesting that they always attempt to sway the public with their viewpoint before they bring their plan to the Legislature. It is convenient to blame low performance on lack of money. For at least 20 years the public schools in Nevada and most other states have not received enough funding to really do an adequate job when they do a self analysis. How convenient that we allow them to put parameters on the discussion of their performance before we get to do our own investigation.
Another news release shows the Nevada builders and contractors fear that our prevailing wage laws are “having a chilling effect on the Silver State’s construction industry.” Labor wages in Clark County are $42.94 per hour as compared to $14.28 in Arizona’s Maricopa County. An amazing disparity for two communities of comparable size and proximity. No wonder that construction costs soared, stalled and ended in a tailspin crash.
In another story the Washoe County juvenile director warns of more youth being incarcerated in state centers if we do not continue programs at present or increased levels. How interesting. What about the fact that they are leaving school without the necessary skills to get a job? How about the fact they raised themselves and did a poor job of it? Programs that occupy their time are great if they learn something, otherwise you are just getting them to adulthood so they can occupy a prison cell instead of a juvenile cell. What are his plans to keep them in school? A near 50 percent dropout rate is far worse than unacceptable.
Isn’t it interesting that in every issue money is at the forefront. I would be more inclined to support a leader that puts performance and results first and lets the financial reward come later. I would compare it to developing a new product, show it to me and if I want it I will pay for it.
As you can see, this is only part of one day’s news affecting our state and placed at the doorstep of the Legislature. There is no question that we are in a bad way, metaphorically speaking.
The Legislature has only 120 days to address all of these issues and much more. Even an additional 120 days wouldn’t provide enough time to adequately wade through this mega mess we have collectively created. If we approach this in a business as usual manner each issue will receive inadequate consideration and will be basically pushed to the next session to again be modified. We have done this for years and now the day of reckoning is here.
One final thought, the Legislature should give all of its attention to the agenda items that are required and begin a new era of addressing new issues based on need, not special interest. The 1,100 bills in 120 days; somehow that doesn’t compute. That allows about 158 minutes or 2.6 hours per bill if the Legislators work 24 hours a day. No wonder we only compound our problems and revisit the same issues every two years.
• Jim Bagwell of Carson City is a Vietnam veteran and graduate of the FBI National Academy who worked 31 years in law enforcement. He and his wife Lori own Charley’s Grilled Subs.