Published Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 | 5 p.m.
Updated Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2013 | 7:30 p.m.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid praised Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval, dissed a Democratic rising star’s bill and called on the Legislature to go after NV Energy to spur renewable energy projects in a speech Wednesday to the Nevada Legislature.
In his biennial address, the Democrat from Searchlight also said the Legislature should pass a law allowing Nevadans to register to vote on election day. He dismissed a voter verification bill being proposed by Democratic Secretary of State Ross Miller as a “solution looking for a problem.”
In the same speech, he praised Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval — twice. Once for supporting a sales tax increase in Clark County for cops; the second for expanding Medicaid under the federal Affordable Care Act.
“I congratulate Gov. Sandoval for respecting the wishes of Clark County voters, and supporting this tax increase,” Reid said, according to his prepared remarks. “I also applaud Gov. Sandoval for his role in our state's efforts to implement the health care reform law. I am pleased I was able to facilitate a conversation between the governor and the White House.”
That expansion would allow for 78,000 Nevadans to qualify for health insurance who otherwise wouldn’t.
Reid, in praising former Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, for his work on renewable energy, also called for ending term limits.
“In my view, arbitrary term limits purge a part-time legislature of full lifetimes of experience,” Reid said. “I urge you to reverse this, which denies our constituents the right to select their own leaders. Elections are the only term limits Nevada needs.”
To reporters after the speech he called term-limits “un-American.”
On his own re-election, Reid said once again that he planned to run for re-election in 2016.
“Sure. Why not?” he told reporters after the speech.
The speech lacked the big splash that it had in 2011, when the Legislature last met and Reid called for an end to legalized prostitution in Nevada. He argued that legal prostitution hurt the state’s economic diversification efforts. News of his remarks leaked out before the speech. Prostitutes and an owner of a legal brothel sat in the audience. No lawmaker took up Reid’s proposal to end prostitution.
Later, Reid said of his proposal: "Boy, that went over like a pregnant high jumper, didn't it?"
On Wednesday, brothel owner Dennis Hof and some of his working girls came to the speech, though the reason wasn’t immediately clear.
Still, the speech had substance. It called for cooperation from stakeholders to build an arena in Southern Nevada. It also took on NV Energy — without naming them — for using “loopholes” in the law to meet its renewable energy standard.
He said the utility should not get credit for buying hydro-electric power from Utah or “allow them to meet the portfolio standard by handing out energy-efficient light bulbs at Home Depot.”
“Closing these loopholes will strengthen the law and send a powerful signal that Nevada remains committed to kicking our dependence on out-of-state, fossil fuels,” he said.
Environmentalists and renewable energy developers have blamed NV Energy, in part, for a stalled renewable energy market in Nevada.
State Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, and Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, avoided mentioning loopholes or NV Energy in statements released after Reid’s speech but applauded his proposal to strengthen the state’s renewable energy standard.
He also decried the fact that Southern Nevada does not have a large-scale arena. “A new arena could be the next frontier for this pioneer town. But to make a top-notch stadium a reality, it will take top-notch cooperation between Clark County stakeholders,” he said.
The stadium proposal has faced setbacks in recent days as casino groups have balked at paying for the stadium and the Federal Aviation Administration has warned that the stadium’s proposed height is too high given its proximity to McCarran International Airport.
“It's time we united around this idea to move Southern Nevada's economy forward,” he said in his speech.
He later told the press that “it’s not out of the question that the state Legislature may be called upon to do something to help on a tax basis or something.”
“The people of Clark County have to work it out,” he said. “If they need something up here, they can talk to Sandoval. If they need something in Washington, they can talk to me.”
Miller, a Democrat who is exploring a run for Nevada attorney general, said: “I understand and appreciate his concerns about photo identification requirements, whether they lie with typical voter ID bills or with my election modernization proposal. I'm committed to engaging in a continued dialog with the senator as we move through the legislative process.”
Reid passed — after a long pause — on taking a position on Senate Joint Resolution 15, which would take the state’s tax on minerals out of the state’s constitution.
He also would not offer a position on the teacher’s Education Initiative, a proposed business tax to raise money for the state. He told reporters, that he was concerned with reaching a federal deal on sequestration over the next few weeks.