As the 2023 Legislature winds down, I’m reminded of the 1997 session, which I covered as a reporter for the Reno Gazette-Journal.
It was a year of belt-tightening. Lawmakers spent a lot of time lamenting the hard decisions they had to make as they decimated state budgets. Education, health care, social services and other things essential to Nevada’s well-being were on the chopping block. Some witnesses in hearings wept as they described the consequences of such frugality.
Assemblymen and senators felt their pain, but gosh, they had to be fiscally responsible.
Then, in the final days of the session, Las Vegas casino mogul Steve Wynn came to Carson City to explain his plan to buy fine art to be displayed at his new Bellagio hotel-casino. Pablo Picasso, Paul Gauguin, Vincent Van Gogh, Pierre Renoir and Claude Monet were mentioned. There was talk of a tax break. Magically, a bill passed to make that happen.
Lawmakers who were swift to cut mental-health care, rural hospitals and education budgets lined up on both sides of the aisle to support the measure. It was a matter of tourism and culture, after all.
Since then, proposals for a stadium, corporate welfare for tech firms and other shiny objects have materialized during the waning days of the Legislature, again and again mesmerizing lawmakers. This session, Hollywood has its hand out, as columnist Shelia Leslie reports.
This year, though, the politicians haven’t been totally sidetracked by such last-minute giveaways. The governor and legislators continued to work on a measure aimed at increasing educators’ pay as the session approached its final gavel.
That may be a sign important issues are finally getting the same 11th-hour attention lawmakers in the past have showered on Monet and movie stars.