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On handicapping the Legislature … and the ponies

A short holiday week seems an appropriate time for some short-attention-span commentary:

Ducking on net metering

Legislative leaders are saying the net metering issue is the second most lobbied topic this session. So it should come as no surprise that legislators are eager — unanimously eager in the Senate — to pass the buck to the Public Utilities Commission.

Net metering is the mechanism by which solar users get credit for electricity they sell back onto the grid. And that credit is what makes solar economically viable.

Letting the pros adjudicate a highly technical squabble makes some sense. But ducking on an issue with huge stakes — nothing short of the future of solar energy in Nevada — is just wrong.

Voters and ratepayers deserve nothing short of a public duel at high noon between the interested parties. The solar industry and NV Energy are well versed at working the corridors and are amply funded for the lobbying job. The less well organized ratepayers and conservationists are likely to be left on the outside, wondering why nobody is calling a public hearing.

The Nevada Coalition to Protect Ratepayers is already asking why no legislative committee held a hearing. It’s a valid question.

At some point, Nevada politics needs to come out of the shadows and have meaningful debates in the sunlight. This would be a worthy place to start such a new tradition.

Credit, if any

As the legislative session winds down, a deal on a tax plan and a plan for rejuvenating education seem close at hand.

Sure, the lack of howling by the tea party right suggests they might have one last counterattack planned. That could derail any compromise and render weeks of turmoil meaningless.

A bigger question — and perhaps a bigger threat — would seem to center around the inevitable posturing for credit.

Gov. Brian Sandoval certainly gets high marks for his leadership in rallying support for education reform into a broad coalition, even if his plan to pay for it didn’t survive. And Sen. Michael Roberson deserves a good conduct commendation for marching that ill-fated tax plan through the upper chamber. But what counts more: His loyalty to a bad plan or the bravery of Assembly Republican leaders who challenged both Sandoval loyalists and tea party delegates with a plan that actually made more sense?

Across the aisle, Democrats are desperate to reflect some credit in their direction. Sure, for years they’ve supported raising taxes to fund education improvements but they couldn’t close the deal. That two-thirds vote is so tricky. Would they team with the tea party naysayers to let the proffered compromise fail, only to force a small adjustment that would allow them to save the day on a revote?

As the finish line draws near, let’s hope everybody can maintain focus on the goal. Get it done.

Betting breakdown

Speaking of the finish line, I’d like to say a few words in support of a downtrodden minority — horse race bettors in Nevada.

Yes, I’m one of them. My first job involved ghostwriting columns for a sports editor who favored fast horses and slo gin. I picked up a few things, one of which is an appreciation of beautiful racing venues such as Santa Anita, Del Mar and Saratoga.

This year, when I went to bet the Kentucky Derby, the lines in the casinos were ridiculously long, a tribute to the Mayweather-Pacquiao fight.

But I’m educable. I turned to technology for the Preakness — and found even more frustration. One outfit’s mobile app allows a win bet and some head-to-head props but no doubles, exactas, trifectas. Not even a place bet. Another outfit’s app didn’t know there was a race.

And that’s on a Triple Crown race weekend.

The only choice for a fan looking for regular racing action is to camp out at the casino. The best racing in the world these days is in Hong Kong, late at night Vegas time. Good luck finding that, even in the casino.

Nevada is one of the few state’s that won’t allow national horse race betting websites — the likes of Twin Spires and XPressBet — to take action here. I respect the competitive argument but if local casinos don’t want to service the clientele online, get out of the way and let somebody else do it.

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