Rain, Arabia and an airport name highlight busy sixth week of Nevada Legislature

CARSON CITY – Nevada lawmakers are a third of the way through the 120-day legislative session, following a week that shined a spotlight on a freshman assemblywoman, gave encouragement to rooftop rain collectors and sparked lively discussion over the name of the international airport in Las Vegas.

Arabian ties

Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod found herself in the glare when the Review-Journal reported she works on behalf of Saudi Arabia to oppose a federal law that allows U.S. terrorism victims and families to sue other nations.

The Las Vegas Democrat resigned the next day from Organized Karma, a Las Vegas consulting firm. U.S. Department of Justice disclosure records show Organized Karma is a subcontractor for Qorvis MLSGroup, a public relations firm that does advocacy work for Saudi Arabia.

In announcing her resignation from the group, Bilbray-Axelrod said questions about her employment were “distracting and unfair” to her constituents, adding that she regrets “any unintended consequences” she may have caused while at Organized Karma.

Let it rain

Soon it may be perfectly legal to put those raindrops that fall on your roof to good use. A Senate committee passed Senate Bill 74, which, among other things, would remove any doubt about the legality of rain barrels.

Current law is mum on the practice of using rain barrels, though precipitation is considered a prior-appropriated right because it helps recharge groundwater, which is appropriated by water rights. The same bill recognizes the use of guzzlers in remote areas to capture precipitation for wildlife.

The bill now moves to the Senate floor. A similar bill is pending in the Assembly.

What’s in a name?

Lawmakers debated the legacies of two prominent Nevada politicians, with the name of Las Vegas’ international airport possibly hanging in the balance.

Senate Bill 174, sponsored by Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, would rename McCarran International Airport as Harry Reid Las Vegas International Airport after the former Democratic leader who retired last year after serving 30 years in the U.S. Senate.

The airport is currently named after the late U.S. Sen. Pat McCarran, a Democrat who died in 1954 of a heart attack after giving a speech in Hawthorne.

McCarran’s reputation has been called into question by some who point out comments and references they say are racist and anti-Semitic. Reid himself called for McCarran’s name to be removed from the airport in 2012.

But some critics of the change said Reid’s legacy is nothing to herald.

“Former Senator Harry Reid’s legacy is one of bitterness, anger, petulance, divisive political maneuvering, and pure partisanship,” Republican Assembly Minority Leader Paul Anderson said in a statement.

No action was taken on the bill Friday by the Senate Government Affairs Committee.

Motor Voter

Get a driver’s license and get registered to vote? That’s the idea behind a citizen initiative that received final legislative approval last week. Now it’s up to Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval to decide if he’ll sign it, allow it to become law without his signature or veto it and let voters have the final say in the 2018 election.

The Automatic Voter Registration Initiative, or IP1, would amend Nevada law to require the Department of Motor Vehicles to automatically transmit information to the secretary of state and county clerks to register people whenever they obtain, renew or change an address on a driver’s license or identification card at a DMV office.

Supporters say it will increase voter participation. Critics counter the law is not needed and could lead to voter fraud.

The measure passed the Senate and Assembly along party lines, with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed.

Contact Sandra Chereb at schereb@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-3821. Follow @SandraChereb on Twitter.