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Tim Burke: This Legislature not kind to rural Nevada

During this year’s legislative session, the more divisive and controversial bills introduced have the phrase “vote was along party lines” attached to how they were passed.

That means that the bill was passed by all the Democrat legislators voting for it and those votes against it were by the Republican legislators.

One of those bills that was approved along party lines is Assembly Bill 95. The bill is described as “AN ACT relating to water; requiring the State Engineer to continue to allow withdrawals of groundwater from domestic wells under certain circumstances in groundwater basins where withdrawals have been restricted to conform to priority rights; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.”

The bill gives the state engineer broad authority in controlling water and wells.

It gives the state engineer the ability to restrict domestic wells to 0.5-acre-feet of water and install water meters along with other restrictions.

Another is the prevailing wage bill Assembly Bill 136, “AN ACT relating to public construction; revising the manner in which the prevailing wage is determined; lowering the estimated thresholds at or above which prevailing wage requirements apply to certain public construction projects; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.”

The bill lowers the threshold for school and public work projects from $250,000 to $100,000. Above that threshold it is required to pay the prevailing wage. This will increase the cost of construction projects and is especially costly to rural counties. Further legislation on prevailing wage was passed in Assembly Bill 190.

Assembly Bill 458 freezes the tax credits for the Opportunity Scholarship program. It is described as “AN ACT relating to taxation; revising provisions governing the amount of credits the Department of Taxation is authorized to approve against the modified business tax for taxpayers who donate money to a scholarship organization and providing other matters properly relating thereto.”

The bill caps the amount of tax credits for the program by eliminating the annual 110 percent increase in the amount of credits authorized and, instead, provides that the amount of credits authorized for each fiscal year is a total of $6.65 million, plus any remaining amount of tax credits carried forward from the additional credit authorization made for Fiscal Year 2017-2018. This bill is another attempt to return the monopoly of educating our children to the public school system which ranks last or close to last in every rating of state school systems.

The governor has already signed Assembly Bill 143, the background check bill on gun sales. The bill is described as AN ACT relating to firearms; repealing, revising and reenacting provisions relating to background checks for certain sales or transfers of firearms; prohibiting a fee from being charged for certain background checks; requiring a licensed dealer of firearms to conduct a background check before a private party sale or transfer in certain circumstances; providing a penalty; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.”

Essentially the bill requires all gun sales, with a few exemptions, to have a background check done before the sale can take place.

One bill where the Republicans received a small amount of cross-party support was Assembly Bill 186, AN ACT relating to elections; enacting the “Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote”; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.

The nominees for presidential elector whose slate of candidates for president and vice president is the national popular vote winner become the presidential electors. Sections 3 and 8 of this bill provide that if the agreement is effective and applies to a presidential election, the presidential electors shall, with limited exception, mark their presidential elector ballots for the national popular vote winner. Sections 2, 3.8-6 and 9 of this bill make conforming changes.

In passing this bill legislators forgot that we are a republic and it removes the electoral college from the constitutional process.

This Legislature has not been kind to rural Nevada. The good news is that this session ends in just a few days. It will be interesting to see what the party in control of the Legislature is able to rush through before it ends.

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

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