My latest piece for the RGJ is up. This one is for all the discouraged Republicans out there who are tired of seeing headline after headline reporting the antics of a few incompetent loons. Most opinion columns involve a lot of complaining, and so it’s nice when we have positive things about Republican control of Nevada’s government to talk about.
Before the more directly related bonus features, I just have to give a some credit to the inspiration for the lead-in.
This is Steve Shinego, who was the XO on the USS Paul F. Foster when I was there as the Navigator in 2001-2. He never, ever, ever got tired of promoting his “get ahead of the game” philosophy, and insisted that the entire crew abide by it. There was plenty of grumbling at times, but he proved himself right over and over and over again. We flew through inspections, won awards, and earned a great reputation on the waterfront – with a better quality of life besides.
Part of his sense of urgency was the understanding that unexpected crises are things that need to be planned for. This sounds counter-intuitive, but it’s obviously correct, once you think about it. It might be an equipment casualty or a personnel emergency, but something will always come up. (And if it doesn’t, bonus time!) That, and frankly, he wanted to build in time to enjoy himself, and wanted the rest of us to enjoy ourselves, too. Miserable sailors working 22 hours per day while they’re lurching from crisis to crisis is not a scenario that puts a destroyer in top fighting shape. Steve was hands down the best officer I ever served under, and to this day I try to keep his exhortations in mind.
The Nevada legislature isn’t a warship, but the same issues apply. For example, in 2013, the US Supreme Court decided a case regarding the constitutionality of warrantless blood draws in DUIs that had major impact on our own implied consent statute. That case came down in April, while the legislature was still in session and could have taken action to update our own laws to be compliant with the law. But too much was still left for the final scramble, and so law enforcement and prosecutors have spent the last two years dealing with the Constitutional issues on an ad hoc basis.
But like I say in the column, it’s clear that Republican Leadership understands the Steve Shinego approach. And when it comes to Republicans getting down to real business and demonstrating seriousness and competence, I’m happy to say there’s plenty more to report than what my word limit allowed.
I focused on the Senate in my piece, but plenty of Republicans are getting down to business in the Assembly, too.
Yesterday, for example, they introduced a bill to address long-term problems with construction defect laws in an effort to better balance the need for consumer protection without disincentivizing contractors from building new homes. There is no glib solution to this problem that can be summed up in a partisan talking point, and so up until now it’s been ignored. But not now.
Taxes are the issue of the session, and how fortunate are we to have an actual tax attorney (who is also working on his CPA license) chairing the Assembly Taxation Committee? Couple that with the toughness I assume Derek Armstrong learned from his time as a Marine, and I find it frankly bizarre that anyone else could have ever been seriously considered for that post.
According to Ray Hagar, the Assembly is also poised to get started with real, long term reforms to our public employee retirement program. It involved transitioning from an underfunded (by $12 Billion!) defined benefit system to a defined contribution system. There is nobody with more expertise with the PERS system than Assemblyman Randy Kirner (who happens to be my Assemblyman), and nobody with more credibility when it comes to the details of reform.
Bizarrely, his challenger “from the right” in this last election tried to deprive the legislature of this expertise by running around telling public employees that Kirner was going to take away their retirement, and that the status quo should be maintained. Not only is that false, it’s a decidedly un-conservative position from an un-serious person. It’s a good reminder, too, that Saying you’re conservative and actually Being conservative can be two very different things.
Debts that can’t be paid, won’t be – and Randy understands this. Any public employee who is counting on PERS to be fully funded for their retirement plans ought to be grateful that Republicans are in charge, are taking the long view and getting started early to build a more sustainable system.
But yesterday’s events at the legislature should dissolve all doubt that Republican leaders in Carson City are serious about being serious. Treasurer Dan Schwartz embarrassed himself in front of both the Assembly Ways and Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee, testifying about a proposed “alternative budget” that was awfully shy on details. Talk about a lesson in making sure you get your homework done on time. The response from the legislators more or less resembled this:
First, he was blasted in the Assembly for requesting a significantly increased budget without backing up his requests (there’s that conservative Saying versus Being again), and then taken to task in an amazingly aggressive way in the Senate for showing up unprepared. His biggest detractors? Republicans who don’t have time for unprepared BS.
The Republicans who dug into Schwartz weren’t doing it for partisan reasons. They were doing it because serious people hate to have their time wasted by unserious people. While the Treasurer’s lack of preparedness is an important story, the real takeaway from it is that legislative Republican Leadership isn’t playing around. And that’s a very, very good thing for those of use who understand that electoral victories are only the start of making Nevada a better place – not the definition of it.
Compare this level of seriousness with some of the nonsensical gobbledy gook coming from some of the less impressive members of our party. If you haven’t listened to and/or read Jon Ralston’s transcript of this little radio conspiracy chat, do yourself a favor.
If you’re a conservative Republican who wants to be taken seriously enough to be part of serious reform, ask yourself – are these people you want to associate with? If you’re still not sure, think of it this way – can you imagine in a million years Ronald Reagan being part of this kind of conversation? You hear what they’re focused on, versus the focus of the Republican leadership they so despise. Which set of priorities matters to most Nevadans who care about their money, their families, their safety, and the long-term prosperity of our state?
And consider Schwartz again for a moment. Some of his proposals and criticisms of the governor’s plan may have had real merit, but showing up unprepared to discuss them in detail destroyed the credibility of the ideas he wanted to advance. Incompetent articulation or execution of your governing philosophy is a terrible way to get people to keep you or your party in power.
The so called “moderates” who are leading our party right now have accomplished more substantive work to advance long-held conservative ideas for better government in the last two weeks than these rabble-rousers have in their entire lives.
The other reason we know Republicans are doing the right thing by moving quickly is the complaining coming from the left that too much is getting done in Carson. Quelle horreur!
“I have been here for five legislative sessions and it is just incomprehensible why we need to go so fast on this bill,” said Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas. “We could be using this time to be discussing education issues. We could be talking about increasing teachers’ salaries, ELL (English-language learners) and full-day kindergarten. I don’t see a rush to discuss those issues, which are more important than this.”
I really like Senator Kihuen, but by pointing out that this is his fifth session, sessions in which Democrats have been in charge and the problems he cites have not been addressed, he’s pretty much answering his own implied question.
Tackle big stuff first. Get ahead of the game. Build time into your schedule. Be prepared. That’s how Republicans in Nevada are going about winning the future. Teachers salaries, ELL, and full day kindergarten will undoubtedly be discussed – and probably even acted upon. And so will a whole slew of other problems that for years have failed to be solved.
For everyone who loves Nevada and wants to see our home state grow and prosper, there is a lot to be excited about in the new political order.