Las Vegas Sun

September 20, 2017

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J. Patrick Coolican:

To citizen legislator Mo Denis: Don’t forget about the rest of us citizens

J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

Catching up on the news after a little vacation, and, oh, look, it’s like I never left — a state senator has offered up some cheesy legislation that would help his old boss.

Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, has sponsored Senate Bill 316, a measure that would require all construction and demolition sites to dispose of their waste at a “materials recovery facility.”

Wouldn’t you know it, Denis worked at Lunas Construction Cleanup, a materials recovery facility — or MRF, which rhymes with “Smurf” — until just before the legislative session began.

(Will he be hired back if all goes well this session, er, I mean, this quarter?)

Here’s my colleague Anjeanette Damon’s description: “In addition to furthering Denis’ goal of promoting more recycling in Nevada, the bill also would guarantee a lucrative waste stream for companies such as his former employer, Lunas Construction Cleanup, which sorts single-stream construction waste into recyclable material and garbage meant for the dump.

Senator Moises Denis of the 77th (2013) Nevada Senatorial District.

Senator Moises Denis of the 77th (2013) Nevada Senatorial District.

“The bill would prohibit construction waste from going to a landfill or — somewhat ironically — recycling centers.”

I applaud Damon’s restraint when she says the bill would “somewhat ironically” prohibit construction waste from going to recycling centers even though Denis is allegedly trying to increase recycling.

Furthermore, these MRFs are allowed to send more of their waste to the landfill than the recycling centers.

The key difference between the MRFs and the recycling centers is that Denis wasn’t working for a recycling center on the eve of the session.

An official with the health district, which regulates recycling, said the legislation would likely put some of the recycling centers — i.e., the competition — out of business, which of course would be good for Denis’ former employer, which is, you know, the point.

Indeed, Denis was hired to do information technology work for the firm, but did double duty as its “government relations” specialist in front of the Southern Nevada District Board of Health, which, again, regulates his old company’s industry.

“They don’t really have a government-relations person and they asked if I was interested in going, so I said sure,” Denis told Damon of the small, family-owned business. “You know how small businesses are, everybody kind of is asked to just step up and do whatever.”

Yeah, ya know, one minute I’m cleaning viruses out of the PCs, but then, aw shucks, sure, I’ll push a broom or throw my legislative weight around in front of a board that regulates my company and was created by state statute. What the heck!

Speaking of the Board of Health, Denis offered up another piece of legislation that would affect his former company. It would require the Board of Health to include a member who represents a recycling business.

I think this was offered up as a plot idea in the “Sopranos” writing room but was turned down by David Chase as being far-fetched.

How can we have a health district board without representation from the garbage, excuse me, recycling industry?

Denis argues that the health board talks a lot about recycling — 68 percent of the board’s agenda items, he says — and so should have a representative of the industry on its board.

Let’s all concede the health district and its board are pretty screwed up, but I don’t think it’s a problem that will be solved by putting a recycling company lobbyist on its board.

The general idea of regulation, which Denis apparently doesn’t grasp, is independence.

And that’s the funny thing: I honestly don’t think Denis has an unethical bone in his body, at least in his own mind. I don’t think he thought he was pulling one over on anybody.

It’s the Nevada Way: He was just using his “expertise” in his field to better the state as a “citizen legislator.”

The thing is senator, you only have 120 days, so maybe you might want to focus on schools and tax reform and mental health, and less on your old company and its lucrative construction trash.

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