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Past sad prologue

With apologies to Robert Lang, whose Chamber of Commerce Preview presentation last week took a look back at the state from the vantage of 2031.

It was 5 p.m., according to the antique analog clock on the wall of the state Senate’s wood-paneled chamber in Carson City. The last rays of the setting sun streamed into the chamber as senators — both those appearing in person and those appearing from around the state by holographic projection — attended to the business of the 2031 Legislature.

At the head of the chamber, the computer-generated presiding officer turned to the final item of the day’s third agenda. As an homage, when the constitution was amended in 2025 to do away with human lieutenant governors presiding over the chamber, it was decided the holo-image would be that of Nevada’s longest-serving lawmaker, Bill Raggio.

“Senator Neal?” the presiding officer asked. Sen. Daniel Neal of the Fourth District, representing the consolidated cities of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas, rose to speak.

“Mr. Presiding Officer,” Neal said. “May we consider Senate Bill 321?”

“Senate Bill 321,” the presiding officer repeated, as the text appeared on the transparent touch screens on each senator’s desk. “A bill to establish a tax on business conducted in the state of Nevada.” The Raggio image flickered, the third time in the last 10 minutes. Nobody from the Legislative Counsel Bureau’s Technology Branch could seem to fix that odd glitch, although the holo-emitters had all been replaced.

Neal stood behind his desk, crowded with the unusual sight of actual books.

“Mr. Presiding Officer,” Neal said. “I rise in support of Senate Bill 321. I have on my desk the fruit of nearly 80 years of studies of Nevada’s tax structure,” Neal put his hand atop the stack. “From the 1960s through today, they all say the same thing: Nevada needs a broad-based business tax.

“As our economy has continued to sputter along, we’ve rejected efforts to change. Where has that gotten us? Do you realize that former governors and Legislatures once thought Nevada would be a hub of logistics, transportation, technology, clean energy and even manufacturing! Why, back in 2012, they actually put out a strategy to bring new business to the state!”

“Sadly, we know those efforts came to naught. Instead of growing, we cut. We cut our schools, our universities, and with those cuts, our state’s future. And now, we rely on the exact same industry we always have — gambling!” Neal thundered. (The once-mighty mining industry, have escaped any serious taxation, had mostly left the state in the late 2020s, after 98 percent of all minerals had been extracted.)

“And despite our efforts, despite the efforts of the NLC (the National Labor Collective, successor to the AFL-CIO), no business tax has ever been levied. The time has long since passed to do the right thing! I urge my colleagues to support this bill. Thank you.”

Silence filled the chamber. The bill had been heavily debated earlier, with senators from the Republican and Commerce Parties adamantly opposed. A few Democrats and Populist senators spoke in favor, but not many.

“Any other senator wishing to speak on SB321?” the Raggio image asked. Silence. “The clerk will open the roll.”

The clerk — actually a computer subroutine — displayed a series of colored buttons on the transparent screens. Senators, both flesh-and-blood and photonic, touched the buttons, as the tally appeared on the main screen overhead.

“The ayes are four, the nays are 17,” the presiding officer announced. “The bill having failed to receive a constitutional majority, it is declared lost.”

The Raggio image flickered once more. In the failing light streaming through the windows, it almost seemed like it frowned. But that wasn’t possible.

 

Steve Sebelius is a Review-Journal political columnist and author of the blog SlashPolitics.com. Follow him on Twitter (@SteveSebelius) or reach him at (702) 387-5276 or ssebelius@reviewjournal.com.

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