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The Irrepressible Debbie Smith

After all, tomorrow is another day!

— “Gone with the Wind” (1939)

The irrepressible Scarlett O’Hara was never one to let cruel turns of fate keep her down.

Neither is Debbie Smith.

Diagnosed with a brain tumor, the veteran Sparks lawmaker and President of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), is fighting to return to the Session and resume her legislative duties.

No Northern Nevada community leader took more to heart the brutal murder of Brianna Denison than did Debbie Smith. Tirelessly carrying the torch of justice on behalf of the slain coed’s family, Debbie went about the unglamorous work of ensuring that greater good grew out of the worst of evils.

She singlehandedly shepherded through the Nevada Legislature “Brianna’s Law” (SB 243), requiring the collection of DNA samples from all individuals arrested on felony charges.

The literal life-saving legislation is something I was privileged to co-sponsor. This Session’s lawmakers would do well to note that Debbie shared that honor unselfishly with a member of the other political party in the other political house.

It’s said that playing sports builds character. If so, then engaging in politics reveals it. In Debbie Smith, you see a person of character whether you believe in her politics or not.

The 78th Session has begun with more than its share of drama and discord. Wisdom can be drawn from the example of the former PTA mom from Sparks. Her personal challenges make our current political dilemmas pale in comparison.

Maybe her trials will help us rise to the occasion, as Debbie herself so often has.


There is no truth to the rumor… That there will not be epic battles this legislative session or that they will not come early on. Today in Senate Government Affairs, Senators Becky Harris and Ben Kieckhefer will be presenting SB 119, a bill enabling school districts to extend general obligation bonds for another 10 years. The measure also exempts prevailing [union] wage requirements on all K-12 and Higher Ed building projects.

The first part, extending the bonding capacity of school districts to deal with their capital and maintenance needs, will make some conservatives mad. (Remember the Northern Nevada reaction to AB 46 in Washoe County?) The second part of the bill—exempting prevailing wage on public works-like projects for schools—is likely to turn out every union official west of the Mississippi.

Epic? You bet. This afternoon’s committee hearing in Room 2135 will pit two ideological sides of the coin against one other on one of the most contentious political issues of our times. That issue is more money for schools vs. less money for unions and their members.

Today, we will see the first of many fights that could come right out of film “Braveheart,” with armies of lobbyists lined up on both sides of the education battlefield. Prediction:  You will be witnessing a scene sure to be reenacted many times over in the months ahead at the Nevada Legislature.

Neither conservatives nor the unions will be happy with SB 119. Does that mean that it may actually be the kind of legislation that is good all the way around, in the context of a better education system in Nevada?

I believe so.

Finally, there is no truth to the rumor… That freshman Assemblyman Derek Armstrong is not up to the task of chairing the Assembly Taxation Committee. The former Marine and UNLV Boyd Law School grad opened yesterday’s committee hearing with a serious “let’s get down to business” approach that had the veterans on the committee sitting up straight in the aging leather chairs Nevada taxpayers have provided.

Armstrong, a tax attorney, is chairing the committee after the previous Chairwoman was removed — in part for not paying her own taxes.

A lot is “on the board” for that committee. A lot is on the line as well for schools, lawmakers, and Nevada taxpayers. Stay tuned for fireworks in Taxation.

Let’s just hope they all occur before July 4th.