2017 is a year that will be incredibly hard to forget. From the nation’s bombastic new President to Nevada’s groundbreaking legislative session, this year was one of tremendous change.
Believe it or not, this may just the beginning. Below, we’ll do a sneak preview of what 2018 will likely bring. Fasten your seatbelts, Nevada, as the new year is certain to give us another wild ride.
Back to business, maybe
Before Congress left for winter break on December 21, they passed another continuing resolution to keep the government open through January 18. They also left without passing the DREAM Act or reauthorizing the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP).
All of these issues are bound to haunt Congress in the new year. About 13,000 DACA recipients here in Nevada are in need of a permanent solution to avoid deportation. Some 27,000 Nevada children will probably lose their health care coverage within the next three months if CHIP isn’t fully reauthorized. And ultimately, nearly all Nevadans will feel it one way or another if the federal government shuts down. But with less than three weeks for Congress to figure it out, it remains to be seen whether Republican leaders are ready, willing, and able to actually solve all these issues.
Is Trumpcare back on the table?
This leads to another major story of 2017 that’s destined for a sequel in 2018: Trumpcare. On one side, hard-line House conservatives are demanding another attempt at repealing Obamacare as soon as possible. But on the other side, Republican leaders are afraid of getting bogged down in yet another unpopular health care bill.
Who will win this fight? Even though the House hard-liners tend to have President Donald Trump and the Republican Party base on their side, they probably won’t have the public or enough Senators on board to get any further than they reached in 2017. Still, don’t be surprised if Congress spends even more time debating a bill whose chance of reaching the President’s desk remains somewhere between slim and none.
What the Heller is coming in 2018?
Senator Dean Heller (R) bet “bigly” on Trumpcare. Despite his initial promise to only support what Governor Brian Sandoval (R) was willing to live with, he instead followed Trump’s lead.
What has that left him with? So far, just ugly poll numbers, a Republican Primary challenger, and no successful legislation to show for it. Anything may still be possible, but it’s becoming less probable that Heller has done himself any political favors with his policy flip-flops.
Gold Butte still awaits its fate
Just hours after President Trump flew to Utah to announce deep cuts to Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monuments, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke declared that the Trump Administration is also considering cuts to Gold Butte National Monument. Yet as has been the case all year, Zinke was elusive in providing any details on what may be in store for the monument that’s celebrating its first anniversary this week.
What will Trump ultimately decide to do? That remains to be seen, even as Zinke has tilted his review in favor of Gold Butte opponents. If Trump does decide to weaken protections for the monument, he can probably expect a new round of lawsuits, just as Bears Ears and Grand Staircase-Escalante supporters are already initiating in Utah.
Laxalt’s moment of truth
2017 wasn’t as easy of a year for Attorney General Adam Laxalt (R) as he originally expected. While he has managed to consolidate much of the conservative Republican base behind his bid to become Nevada’s next Governor, Laxalt has struggled to expand his appeal beyond that conservative base, even to the point of being publicly rebuked by outgoing Governor Brian Sandoval (R).
Why is Laxalt in trouble? For one, his request that the Gaming Control Board (GCB) intervene on behalf of right-wing mega-donor Sheldon Adelson has raised questions about his ethics. Secondly, his embrace of President Trump‘s increasingly unpopular agenda on everything from health care to immigration reform feels awkwardly out of step with most voters in this state. And finally, Laxalt has continued to refuse enforcement of the state’s voter approved background checks law, even after Las Vegas suffered the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.
Nonetheless, Laxalt is running next year. But now, his campaign is looking less like an “anointment” and more like a difficult heavy lift.
Will 2018 be the year of progressive power?
This leads to our final big story to watch in 2018: Will progressives be able to capitalize on Trump’s and Heller’s unpopularity and build lasting power in this next election? While Nevada has become more of a “blue state” in recent years, the 2014 Election served as a reminder that the state remains a political battleground.
After Democrats retook control of the Nevada Legislature in 2016, progressives managed to secure key victories on a number of issues, from renewable energy to LGBTQIA civil rights, in the 2017 legislative session. However many activists still point to unfinished business on a number of fronts, from universal health care to stronger protection of immigrant communities. With a wide open Governor’s race and the Legislature up for grabs again next year, this will be a major opportunity for progressives to build upon recent successes… And perhaps, some actual lasting power.
Thus far, it’s likely that many of the attention grabbing headlines of 2017 will continue to make waves in 2018. And then, it will be up to Nevadans to decide whether to chart a new course. Stay tuned.