On Politics: ‘No’ on Nevada Question 3 (opinion)
State ballot propositions are almost always measures that their backers couldn’t get through the Legislature so instead of being decided by those whom we elect to examine all sides of an issue they are crammed onto an already overcrowded ballot.
Their backers and opponents then buy air time and media space to convince voters that a simple “yes” or “no” vote will solve all of the state’s problems so don’t waste time reading them.
Backers of Question 3 say it would lead to creation of a free market of multiple suppliers of electricity, driving rates down and giving consumers and businesses choices of plans best suited to their needs. Opponents say deregulation would eliminate the Public Utility Commission’s control of electricity prices and drive Nevadans back to kerosene lamps.
Your sample ballot has arguments in favor and arguments against. Those in favor begin by saying: “Nevada has some of the highest electricity rates in the West.” Those opposed say: “Nevada’s average electricity rates are 20 percent lower than the U.S. generally.” Big help!
The next step in evaluating a ballot question is “follow the money” — examine who wants it passed, who is against it and what their campaign spending is. The main proponents of Nevada Question 3 are casinos and the data company Switch. The sole opponent is Warren Buffet’s NV Energy which is bankrolling a $30 million campaign to scuttle the measure. No pro-Question 3 group has filed a contribution report as of yet.
The next inquiry is what big names are for and against it. Since Question 3 would amend Nevada’s Constitution it must pass twice. In the 2016 election it was supported by Gov. Sandoval, Sen. Heller and Congressman Amodei; NV Energy was neutral. Voters overwhelmingly approved the measure.
Fast forward two years and Sandoval, Heller and Amodei are now “studying it.” Former Sen. Harry Reid and GOP gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt are in favor. Former State Sen. Randolph Townsend and former Pennsylvania Public Utility Commissioner John Hanger have both written articles in the Reno Gazette Journal supporting Question 3; but former Harrah’s Chair Phil Satre and the Reno Sparks Chamber of Commerce authored articles opposing it. NV Energy is wildly opposed this time and has cobbled together a number of nonprofits who agree.
The Reno Gazette Journal reports that independent energy experts are steering clear of forecasting the effect of Question 3 on utility rates. They further report that the state of Nevada has said that it cannot predict the effect of the measure on state and local governments. What’s a voter to do?
To the rescue comes the Guinn Institute, a politically neutral Las Vegas think tank named after popular former Gov. Kenny Guinn. In a 111-page study the Guinn Institute analyzed Question 3 from as many ways possible and concluded, based on experiences of other states, the effect of deregulation on energy prices depends on so many variables it’s impossible to forecast the result in Nevada.
By and large other state deregulation has required temporary price controls to protect consumers and businesses, which makes any comparisons difficult. Guinn Institute concluded:“The experiences of other states suggest that (deregulation) is a complex and prolonged process that will take time, and only after electric choice is realized fully would Nevadans be able to determine if (deregulation) was the right path.”
In short we have to do it to find out if it’s good or bad for consumers. My take: No on Question 3.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates. He has served on the Washoe County and Nevada State GOP Central committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.