Nevada’s 2014 in Review

The New Year began with word that 75 percent of applicants had failed the Department of Motor Vehicles written test needed for the new driver authorization card. Passed by the 2013 Legislature and signed by Governor Brian Sandoval the law allows illegal’s in Nevada without citizenship status to get the driver authorization cards.

Also in January, former Nevada State Assemblyman Bernie Anderson died. The Washoe County Democrat represented District 31 and was a retired Reed High School teacher.

He served from 1991 through 2010, in several key positions including chairman of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. His family says the 71-year-old had been hospitalized in Reno since December 26th for pulmonary problems.

Nevada decided to drop its defense of a state ban on gay marriage in February. This despite Nevada’s voters approving a state constitutional amendment by wide margins in back-to-back elections in 2000 and 2002 barring same-sex marriage, establishing that “only a marriage between a male and a female person shall be recognized and given effect.”

The move, made by the state’s Democratic attorney general with the support of its Republican governor, did not legalize gay marriage in Nevada but removed the state as an opponent of those fighting to overturn the ban in federal court. Same-sex marriage in Nevada was okayed on October 9, 2014, after a federal district court judge issued an injunction against the state’s enforcement of its ban on same-sex marriage, acting on order from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

In early spring, the Bureau of Land Management sought to carry out federal orders to remove rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle, which had been grazing on BLM-administered land near Bunkerville. Bundy refused to budge, and neither did the armed supporters who came to his defense.

That led to a lengthy standoff — which was catnip for national news organizations –before federal authorities eventually withdrew from the area. The dispute, which dates to 1993, remains unresolved.

The medical marijuana movement finally made its way to Nevada this year. And even though the growing and selling of medical marijuana was approved by the 2013 Legislature, the plant remains a point of contention and a probable focal-point for the 2015 Nevada Legislature.

Lawmakers are expected to debate legalizing the recreational use of marijuana and will propose a study on the issues surrounding DUIs, employment drug testing and how it relates to Nevada’s medical marijuana law. They ‘re also going to see a bills introduced seeking the legalization of hemp, so it can be used as clothing, oils, carpeting, auto parts, ropes and biofuels and another allowing medical marijuana licenses to be transferred between people.

On June 8, Metropolitan Police officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo were shot dead while having lunch at a pizza restaurant in east Las Vegas. The two assailants ambushed the officers, murdering them, then overtook a nearby Walmart, shooting and killing bystander Joseph Wilcox.

Wilcox, who was armed, attempted to stop the pair as they entered the store front. After an in-store standoff between officers and the assailants, the nightmare ended when police shot and killed the male suspect and the woman turned her gun on herself.

Also in June, Las Vegas resident Nia Sanchez was crowned Miss USA, beating out 50 other contestants from all the states and the District of Columbia Sunday for the title. Sanchez will go on to represent the U.S. at the Miss Universe competition January 15, 2015.

For the first time in state history, Nevada placed a representative in the Little League World Series with a group of 12-year-olds from Mountain Ridge Little League. They advanced all the way to the U.S. championship game, falling one game short of facing South Korea for the title in August.

Year-after-year, Nevada lawmakers – with the goading of unions — have stressed the need to diversify the state’s economy. In September, they put their money — a lot of money — where their mouths are, agreeing to a $1.3 billion tax-incentive package for electric-car manufacturer Tesla Motors to open a massive battery plant east of Reno.

After months of speculation, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval told the people of Nevada their home is the future home of the world’s largest lithium-ion battery factory. Then the Nevada Legislature held a special session to make the billion-dollar incentive deal legal, and many lawmakers have said preparing for the influx of new residents could make Tesla a major focus of the 2015 legislative session.

Sandoval projects the plant, which is scheduled to open in two to three years, will create 22,000 jobs for the state.

Around the same time that the Sandoval announced the Tesla deal, state authorities are attempting to the ride-share program, “Uber,” from operating in Nevada. The Nevada Attorney General’s Office, working on behalf of the Transportation Authority, sought injunctions in Washoe and Clark counties as well as Carson City were the company was operating.

The situation has stalled in court.

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled termed-out Reno City Council Members can’t run for Mayor, which led to the largest primary race in Reno’s history and a game of lawmaker musical chairs. Hillary Schieve’s win opened up a council seat, filled by David Bobzien, which opened up a Nevada Assembly seat that has yet to be filled.

After firing Washoe County School Police Chief Mike Mieras, reportedly unrelated questions arose about Pedro Martinez’s professional background. School Board Trustees decided, behind closed doors, to relieve Martinez of his duty, leading to public outrage over the lack of transparency and eventually to school board president Barbara Clark being ousted by 65 percent of voters in the general election.

Nevada voters rejected an initiative to impose a two-percent tax on businesses making $1 million annually to raise money to fund schools in a state near the bottom nationwide in per-pupil spending. Backers of the initiative were largely funded by unions including the Nevada State Education Association.

Re-elected, Sandoval led a GOP sweep of all six statewide offices: Mark Hutchison as Lieutenant Governor, Adam Laxalt as Attorney General, Barbara Cegavske as Secretary of State, Dan Schwartz as Treasurer and Ron Knecht as Controller. Republican Cresent Hardy will join incumbents Joe Heck and Mark Amodei in Congress.

Shortly after the November elections it was learned that even with the state’s entire “rainy day” fund, Nevada will see a budget shortfall of more than $61 million – this means the possibility of higher taxes. Sandoval plans unveil his budget proposal in the State of the State address set for January 15, 2015.

Eight Nevada lands bills, including one that promises to create about 800 high-paying jobs, passed the U.S. House in early December. The Lyon County Economic Development and Conservation Act would transfer about 10,000 acres owned by the Bureau of Land Management to the city of Yerington to allow for expansion of the Nevada Copper mine at Pumpkin Hollow.

An industrial park and recreation areas would also be developed. The copper operation is projected to produce more than 800 construction and mining jobs and 4,400 indirect jobs.

On December 19, Obama signed the bill into law.

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