(Chuck Muth) – After extensive research on SB163, the bill providing medical coverage for certain transgender medical services, I believe it requires some historical political perspective for those who are relative newcomers to Nevada.
Over the past 25 years, our state has changed. A LOT.
When I got actively involved full-time as the Clark County GOP chairman in 1995, Las Vegas was exploding…literally. One after another, a Strip hotel was blown up to make way for brand-spanking new resorts.
In addition, there was a housing boom to accommodate all the people moving here, especially “missionaries,” not “refugees,” from California. But thanks to frontier and rural counties, we were still a “purple” swing state.
Then in 1998, things started to turn “red.” Republicans won 5 out of 6 of the statewide constitutional offices. Democrats controlled the State Assembly, but Republicans controlled the State Senate.
For the next 16 years, a Republican sat in the governor’s office, Democrats continued to hold the Assembly, and both parties switched back and forth for control of the Senate.
Then 2014 came along. Thanks to a REAL “red wave” – the Democrat candidate for governor actually lost his primary to “None of the Above”! – Republicans ended up controlling all 6 of the statewide offices, as well as the Senate and Assembly.
If ever there was a chance to change the GOP’s political prospects for years to come, this was it. But as you know, Republicans never blow an opportunity to blow an opportunity.
Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, Republican Senate Majority Leader “Tax Hike Mike” Roberson and Republican Assembly Speaker John Hambrick proceeded to pass the largest tax hike in state history, failed to redraw legislative district lines, and refused to properly fund Education Savings Accounts (ESAs) after the Nevada Supreme Court ruled they were legal.
Those failures resulted in Democrats winning back control of both houses of the Legislature in 2016 and getting a Democrat elected governor for the first time in twenty years in the 2018 GOP wipeout.
They also won 3 out of 4 congressional seats, as well as both U.S. Senate seats.
And they used their power to redraw district lines following the 2020 Census to better protect all of them.
Today, if we’re not a blue state, we’re at least deep purple. And the results of last year’s elections show where the GOP needs to be in this new political reality.
The “MAGA” and “Tea Party” Republicans – falsely predicting a red wave and spouting undocumented and unproven election fraud conspiracy theories – went down in flames.
Democrats increased their majorities in both the Senate and Assembly. In fact, they gained a super-majority in the Assembly and fell just one seat short of a super-majority in the Senate.
The only real bright spot for Republicans was Joe Lombardo kicking Steve Sisolak – the Master of COVID Disaster – out of the governor’s office. In fact, he was the only Republican to oust an incumbent Democrat governor anywhere in the U.S.
He did so by campaigning and being who he is.
Make no mistake, Lombardo’s no movement conservative like many of us – and never pretended to be so (like Sandoval did). He’s a pragmatic chief executive focused on, in his own words, “getting sh*t done.”
But through the lens of conservative principles. Here’s one example…
As Clark County sheriff, Lombardo had to make a tough decision when it came to dealing with illegal aliens who had been arrested.
He was facing an expensive lawsuit if he continued what was called the “287(g)” notification partnership with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement) – a lawsuit that would have been a crapshoot, at best, if it went to court.
Instead, Lombardo found a work-around. He quietly had METRO call ICE before an illegal alien criminal was released from jail so ICE could be on the doorstep to pick ‘em up when they came out the door rather than directly handing them over.
Getting sh*t done.
In his inaugural State of State Address back in January, Lombardo detailed his legislative policy agenda that included a LOT of what conservatives were looking for. School choice, a crackdown on crime, election reforms making it harder to cheat, etc.
However, Lombardo was also the only GOP governor in the country saddled with a Democrat-controlled Legislature – and an extreme, and extremely hostile, one at that.
In addition, the ragtag team of Republican legislators he went into the fight with included a bunch of freshmen who didn’t even know where the bathrooms were, as well as a number of wishy-washy squishes who tucked tail and ran whenever a Democrat said “boo” to them.
Anyone who thought Gov. Lombardo could enact conservative policies like governors in states such as Florida and Texas – who enjoy the luxury of having Republican-controlled Legislatures – was politically ignorant or hopelessly naïve.
But now’s not the time to talk about Las Vegas Review-Journal columnist Victor Joecks.
When the smoke cleared after the end of the session, Lombardo – the only thing standing between us and the total californication of Nevada – DID get much of his policy agenda through – though in some cases, parts were watered down.
But the BIGGIE, expanding school choice Opportunity Scholarships, wasn’t one of them. At the orders of the teachers’ unions, Democrats dug their heels in and made cutting funding for Opportunity Scholarships, rather than increasing it, their “hill to die for.”
School choice advocates were understandably disappointed. But remember, Lombardo is a pragmatic chief executive who knows there are more ways to skin a cat and get sh*t done.
So he’s already taking steps to replace the money Democrats took from the Opportunity Scholarship program – which mostly benefits low-income, minority families – with private money from other sources.
In addition, the Democrats dumped a ton of bad bills on the governor’s desk that Republicans were unable or unwilling to kill in the Legislature.
In return, Lombardo shattered the previous single-session veto record of 48, set by conservative former Gov. Jim Gibbons, by rejecting 75 bills.
But remember, those 75 crappy bills could still become law!
If Democrats hold their super-majority in the Assembly and pick up just one seat in the Senate – a very real possibility – the Democrats will have enough votes to override all 75 of those vetoes when the 2025 session of the Nevada Legislature is convened.
So Republicans need to keep Nevada’s long-term, big-picture political reality in mind when assessing how and why the governor signed, rather than veto, the most explosive bill of the 2023 session…SB163.
I’ll finish up my research on this bill later today and explain what I’ve learned tomorrow. In the meantime, consider this…
FAMOUS LAST WORDS
“An Arkansas judge struck down the state’s law banning medical treatments for minors seeking gender transitions, the nation’s first such measure.” – New York Times, 6/20/23
Mr. Muth is president of Citizen Outreach, publisher of Nevada News & Views, and founder of CampaignDoctor.com. You can sign up for his conservative, Nevada-focused e-newsletter at MuthsTruths.com. His views are his own.