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Tim Burke: Are rural Nevada counties breaking law with civil disobedience?

Updated March 15, 2019 - 1:01 pm

Many of the rural counties of Nevada have started using “civil disobedience” with regard to recent legislation passed by the 2019 Nevada Legislature.

Civil disobedience, also called passive resistance, is the refusal to obey the demands or commands of a government, without resorting to violence or active measures of opposition.

Thomas Jefferson advocated for civil disobedience and declared in the Declaration of Independence that it was the “Right of the people to alter or abolish” any government, and institute a new one that would better secure their safety and happiness.

His views helped conceive the start of the Revolutionary War. During the civil rights movement of the ‘60s, Martin Luther King, Jr. commented in his famous letter from the Birmingham jail: “One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws.

Conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.”

Extreme political polarization poses a grave threat to this country and its states. That polarization is linked to the widely differing political views between the urban and rural areas.

The issue of rural vs. urban politics has grown significantly dating from the start of the Obama presidency and into the Trump presidency. Rural residents have begun examining in earnest how to separate their conservative rural areas away from the liberal urban cities.

The State of Jefferson is one movement that is trying to form a new state by combining rural areas of California and Oregon into a new state separate from the urban centers. A separate movement originating in California proposes to divide that state into three separate states.

In Nye County, a New Nevada State Movement committee has been formed in an effort to separate the rural areas from larger cities (the Las Vegas area and Reno).

The recently passed gun background check bill in this session of the Nevada State Legislature strengthens the belief of rural residents that the predominately urban area legislators are driving an agenda that does not consider the needs or desires of citizens outside their large cities.

In addition to that bill, there are other proposed bills that do not make much sense for our rural areas.

One of my favorite proposed bills that falls into the “are you kidding me” category is Senate Bill 159, widely referred to as the sunblock bill, that would require public and private schools to adopt safe sun exposure policies.

Bill sponsor and state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, said those policies must not treat sunscreen as an over-the-counter medication and must allow students to apply their own sunscreen.

She said policies enacted under the bill would require kids who participate in outdoor activities to wear proper clothing, such as hats, that protect against sun exposure.

A bill to allow students to apply sunscreen without being treated as an over-the-counter medication makes sense but why go beyond that? No one testified in opposition to the measure during a hearing in the Senate Committee on Education.

Maybe because they were trying to wrap their heads around the concept of “safe sun zones” and were afraid they might laugh if they spoke up?

Another proposed bill is Assembly Bill 187, which would levy a $15 fine on kids using a bicycle, tricycle, scooter, roller blades or “other similar recreational device” without a helmet.

First violations of the proposed law would be met with a warning. Second offenses would warrant a fix-it ticket, which could be waived upon purchase of a helmet.

I can see it now, our local deputies driving through our rural countryside looking for children on Big Wheels and issuing them tickets. They have nothing else to do, like actual law enforcement work, right?

Lawmakers have yet to schedule a hearing on the measure sponsored by Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel, D-Henderson.

Notice two commonalities of the sponsoring legislators. They are both Democrats and are from Henderson, which is essentially a suburb of Las Vegas. It is these types of bills, along with the gun background check bill, that are pushing the rural areas and their elected officials to move toward civil disobedience.

Several rural counties have enacted or are considering enacting resolutions against the gun control laws passed during the 2019 Nevada legislative session. Several rural sheriffs have stated “they will not enforce the law.” They are using civil disobedience by ignoring the gun law as a form of protest.

It is one thing to organize committees and try to gather signatures for ballot measures in a separatist statehood movement but outright disobeying of laws is a much more serious matter and it demands a solution before we find ourselves in a modern-day Revolutionary War.

Perhaps our urban area state legislators might want to reacquaint themselves with the Declaration of Independence. They should pay particular attention to the second paragraph and the part about the “Right of the people to alter or abolish” any government.

Tim Burke is a businessman, philanthropist, educator and Pahrump resident. Contact him at timstakenv@gmail.com

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