In this year’s election, Nevada Democrats expanded their majorities in the Legislature while picking up the Governor’s Mansion for the first time in two decades. Does this mean the Silver State is about to become the ultimate progressive nirvana?
Not so fast. While we’re likely to see a new lay of the land thanks to the new sheriff in town, don’t assume Carson City is about to veer sharply to the left. Here’s what’s likely to change to next year, and what’s will probably stay the same.
Sandoval, Sisolak: Tomato, Tomato?
During the campaign, soon-to-be-former Governor Brian Sandoval (R) was regularly praised… By now Governor-elect Steve Sisolak (D). Meanwhile, Adam Laxalt (R) publicly played coy about his relationship with Sandoval as he ran against wide swaths of Sandoval’s record, from his implementation of the Affordable Care Act to the historic revenue-raising tax reform package that he championed in 2015.
Had Laxalt won, we’d now be talking about the 80th Legislative Session being an epic ideological battle of wills with everything from public education to the social safety net and civil rights lying on the line. Instead, we’re now looking at an upcoming session where Democrats will likely build upon the legacy they formed alongside Sandoval.
So if you were hoping for a debate over repealing “right-to-work” (or the law that limits unions’ ability to organize entire workplaces) or passing “Medicare for All” single-payer health care, don’t let your hopes get too high. But if you appreciated how the last legislative session concluded, you’ll love the upcoming sequel.
The revolution may not be televised, but the evolution will be livestreamed
While progressives were generally content with the victories they secured in 2017, there were a few sore spots. For one, Sandoval vetoed Assembly Member Mike Sprinkle’s (D-Sparks) bill to establish a Medicaid-style public option for Nevadans. He also vetoed a bill to increase the Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS), hence why progressives took to the ballot box with Question 6 this year. And he continued to oppose implementation of the background checks law that voters approved in 2016, even as Nevadans continued to face the danger of gun violence.
On these and perhaps a few other issues, we can expect Sisolak to change course. Since he’s already voiced support for Sprinkle’s Medicaid-style public option proposal, it’s in a prime position to become law next year. And since Sisolak has also voiced support for climate action and new gun violence prevention legislation, we’re likely to see movement on both pressing issues next year.
Though Sisolak often positioned himself as a moderate in the mold of Sandoval, he will nonetheless become a Democratic Governor who must work with a Democratic-controlled Legislature to fulfill a slew of campaign promises on public education, health care, and many of the issues we discussed above. So don’t be surprised if “the revolution” doesn’t get far past the bill draft request (BDR) list, but this year’s election results may speed up the evolution we’ve been seeing as the state transitions from “Wild West libertarian outpost” to “The New Nevada at the center of the 21st century economy”.
How relevant will Republicans be? It’s their choice.
With a recount confirming State Senator-elect Keith Pickard‘s (R-Henderson) narrowest of victories over Julie Pazina (D) to succeed outgoing Senator Michael Roberson (R-Henderson), Senate Republicans will have a caucus of eight in Carson City next year. Even though that’s their lowest showing in over a quarter-century, Republicans are nonetheless heartened because that’s one more than the seven seat finish that would have resulted in Democrats holding a 14 seat (as in, ⅔) supermajority.
This alone ensures that Republicans won’t be entirely irrelevant next year, as Sisolak and Democratic leaders will need Republican crossover votes to pass the tax increases (including extensions of previously approved tax hikes) that will be necessary to pass a workable budget. However with Republicans sticking with the leadership team who are best known for keeping alive a dead brothel owner’s Assembly campaign and beating the dead horse of “culture war” that failed spectacularly, it remains to be seen whether the final deal is struck by Democratic and Republican leaders hammering everything out, or if it results after Democrats reach an agreement with the few Sandoval loyalists left who don’t want to be associated with Nevada’s version of “The Trump Show”.
It will be quite ironic if the next session of the Nevada Legislature, one that’s now defined by an incoming Democratic Governor and large Democratic majorities in both houses, reaches its final hours with palace intrigue over what’s going on with the Republicans. But considering we’re talking about the wild and wonderful world of the Nevada Legislature, don’t rule it out. In my years of covering the wild antics of Carson City, that’s perhaps the most important lesson of them all: Don’t rule (most) anything out just yet.