Nevada Legislature gives in to corporate lobbyists and abandons the working class

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Nevada Legislature gives in to corporate lobbyists and abandons the working class

August 18, 2023 | Article
Valerie Thomason

As socialists, we are fundamentally aware of the ways money impacts legislation at all levels of government – that is clear in the voting records of Nevada’s legislators during the 2023 Session.

With cash flowing in from all sectors of private business, including landlord associations, working class needs were de-prioritized and often completely rejected. This is especially true for affordable housing. In 2022, Culinary 226 delivered a ballot initiative to North Las Vegas City Council to demand rent stabilization. This ballot initiative would have applied to North Las Vegas alone, and not Las Vegas or unincorporated Clark County. Still, it was a good bill that would have protected families from rapidly increasing rents. The ballot initiative was scrapped by North Las Vegas City Council, who tied it up in expensive litigation and declared that the signatures obtained by Culinary 226 were invalid. Of course, every North Las Vegas City Council member has received money from for-profit housing groups, including “progressive” Isaac Barron.

It was then carried by Senator Pat Spearman to the legislature, who introduced the bill to implement rent stabilization statewide. Culinary 226 rallied behind the bill, as did hundreds of community members. Las Vegas DSA sent over 200 letters in support, and community members spoke directly to the legislature about the pain Nevadans face due to drastic and unyielding rent increases. Three housing lobbyists were also in attendance: Ovation Properties, The National Apartment Association, and Nevada Realtors.

The bill passed the senate, then was left to die in the house, a common tactic used by the legislature. They didn’t vote no, in favor of the lobbyists who spent a combined $3 million on their personal campaigns, they simply didn’t vote at all!

It gets worse. If you follow these same three lobbyist groups throughout the legislature, you’ll quickly notice a recurring theme. Whenever they opposed a bill, they typically won. In one egregious instance, Ovation Properties submitted an amendment on a bill that would have ended exploitative application fees by capping the amount landlords could charge. Senator Fabian Donate, the sponsor, graciously allowed this corporate behemoth to amend his bill, changing it from a bill that helped tenants into a bill that allowed landlords to sue tenants for their own evictions. Officially, landlord groups have donated over $8700 to Donate’s campaign. Unofficially, that number is surely higher.

This is not just about housing. Other bills that supported workers over corporations were also shot down. A bill that would have provided water breaks for outdoor workers was rejected, much to the confusion of everyone involved. It originally included mandated breaks at temperatures over 95 degrees, but was quickly amended to say “as needed” over 105 degrees before it ultimately died in the assembly committee. No one directly opposed the bill, however, construction industries have donated heavily to Democratic lawmakers.

While labor unions also donated heavily to campaigns this cycle, their concerns were often ignored. Senator Rochelle Nguyen, the recipient of massive amounts of casino money, took it upon herself to champion a bill to roll back daily room cleanings at hotels, which was opposed by Culinary 226. Nguyen took a bizarre, niche stance in fighting against the union’s desired protections. While it may seem like a matter of small importance, what’s truly striking about the bill is that it was introduced at the behest of casino corporations. Nguyen argues that COVID era protections are no longer needed, but that’s not why this bill was introduced. The Nevada Resort Association pressured the Democrats to pass the bill, so they did.

Workers lost most of the fights in the Nevada legislature. Democratic lawmakers shot down most tenants rights bills, including bills that would have ended income discrimination and reigned in application fees. Workers rights were non-existent in the legislature, with zero bills passed to correct the power imbalance between employee & employer. Democrats were, however, successful in passing several liberal reforms. They managed to remove slavery from the constitution and further enshrine our already enshrined abortion rights, facing zero opposition from Republicans in doing so. The NGO world has chosen to fixate on these wins despite the overwhelming failure to support the working class.

Workers didn’t just lose, corporations and billionaires won. Most bills for worker or tenant protections simply “died” in committee without a vote, a shrewd move that voters are supposed to believe is due to time limitations. Meanwhile, a bill to provide over $500 million in public tax money to fund the construction of a baseball stadium for billionaire A’s owner, John Fisher, got its own special session. For a week, Democrats played coy. They made public announcements against the special session, stood up in session and delivered fiery speeches about the rich … then voted to pass the bill. Assemblyman Steve Yeager signaled which direction they would vote when he responded to criticism by saying “I didn’t get into politics to make friends”. I disagree, it seems that you can be Steve Yeager’s friend, but only if you have the right amount of money. Combined with the $400 million in tax breaks handed out to billionaire Elon Musk, Nevadans are now on the hook for $1 billion in free money to two billionaires.

With the help of the Nevada Legislature in this recent session, corporations are allowed to continue to mistreat workers, while tenants are without any meaningful protection, rents continue to rise, wages continue to stay the same, and no real help is offered to the homeless – except to hide them in a massive corporate sponsored jail facility. Nevadans deserve better.