In 2017, Nevada became a key state for “The Resistance” to push back against Trump Administration policies, from immigrant rights to renewable energy and marijuana legalization. This week, we’ll be remembering the moments that made 2017 a year that none of us can forget. Let’s begin with a review of how Nevadans reacted to the first days of the Trump Presidency, and why the 2017 legislative session broke new ground here at home.
The March that sparked it all
2017 began with neither a bang nor a whimper, but rather with a march. Hours after Donald Trump’s inauguration as the 45th President of the United States, the Women’s March delivered not just a larger crowd than Trump’s inauguration, but it also brought out over 10,000 in Las Vegas and another 10,000 in Reno to register their disapproval and promise to fight back.
From there, the resistance came home
In the days following the Women’s March, many activists came out to follow through on their promise to resist. In a historic move, the Clark County School District (CCSD) passed a resolution to guarantee safe spaces in public schools for immigrant students. Several community leaders turned out for “Know Your Rights” forums where immigrants found much needed legal assistance amidst a more hostile environment. And the community turned out in force at UNLV for the People’s Climate March to make clear that Nevada’s still committed to act on climate change.
Early signs of a rough year ahead for Heller and Amodei
In a sign of what was to come, Senator Dean Heller (R) and Rep. Mark Amodei (R-Carson City) ran into resistance from constituents when they mostly fell in line behind Trump’s agenda. Heller got into more trouble when he began to limit his public exposure, to the point where constituents had to pay to attend private events where Heller appeared just to see him. When Heller and Amodei held a rare public town hall in Reno in April, Nevadans from across the state turned out to demand answers on health care, the environment, and the federal budget.
Heller got an even rougher reception one month later, when health care and immigrant rights activists confronted Heller at the Las Vegas Latin Chamber of Commerce luncheon. Despite the Latin Chamber’s attempt to keep critics out before the event, Heller watched as constituents were removed from the room after interrupting the program to ask their questions.
Nevada Legislature opens for business
In 2015, progressives mostly had to play defense in the Republican-run Legislature. In 2017, a new Democratic majority meant new opportunities on a number of issues. Following voters’ approval of recreational marijuana in 2016, Governor Brian Sandoval (R) and legislative leaders worked throughout the session to develop a new tax system to cash in on “the great green rush“. The state also blazed new trails in banning conversion therapy on LGBTQIA youth, passing a fiduciary rule for the financial services industry, and restoring rooftop solar net metering.
Even amidst all this progress on all these other policies, progressives ran into headwinds over school vouchers. After the Nevada Supreme Court struck down the funding mechanism for the 2015 Education Savings Account (ESA) law to establish school vouchers, conservatives demanded a new funding mechanism to reactivate the program. Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) made a last-minute attempt to force revival of school vouchers by whipping Republicans to vote against critical budget bills, but Governor Sandoval and a group of moderate Republican legislators ultimately struck a deal with Democrats to end the legislative session on time on June 5 while leaving the ESA voucher program for dead.
Laxalt’s year of scandal
In 2014, Adam Laxalt (R) rocked Nevada’s political scene with his election as Nevada’s Attorney General. Laxalt then began to lay the groundwork for a promotion to the Governor’s Mansion in 2018, but one odd request to the Gaming Control Board (GCB) and a series of missed appointments at the Legislature would set the stage for major trouble ahead.
In 2016, Laxalt approached GCB Chair A.G. Burnett to request they intervene on behalf of Las Vegas Sands CEO and conservative mega-donor Sheldon Adelson in a lawsuit involving Adelson’s corruption scandal in Macau. Adelson’s scandal then became Laxalt’s scandal when Laxalt unintentionally revealed at a May hearing that the GCB had become so concerned about Laxalt’s conflict of interest that they asked him to recuse himself from GCB legal matters.
— Nevada Forward (@NevadaForward) May 18, 2017
These were just some of the big moments that came to define 2017 here in Nevada. However, there’s far more for us to reexamine with fresh eyes. In Part 2 we’ll review the stories that rocked the second half of 2017, from the Trump Administration’s review of Gold Butte National Monument to Senator Dean Heller’s moment(s) of truth on health care and the mass shooting that struck the Las Vegas Strip and shocked the world. Stay tuned for more.