CARSON CITY, NV - For the first time the Nevada Legislature has approved a measure threatening to withdraw from the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency unless California and the U.S. Congress meets certain demands.
"It is kind of a mixed bag," said Jeff Cowan, Community Liaison for TRPA. "It really is going to open up a real conversation between Nevada and California to hammer out their policy differences which is something that we (as an agency) really can't do."
The demands in Senate Bill 271 are major. Chief among the demands are that the U.S. Congress and California would have to agree that major decisions do not need approval from a majority of members of the board from both states. Also, the Governing Board of TRPA would have to consider economic conditions when amending their regional plan. Congress and California would have 4 and a half years to agree to the terms.
As the law stands now, If these demands aren't met, then Nevada would withdraw from the compact by 2015. However, there is another legislative session before that time and Nevada Legislators could back-track. But until then the measure puts at risk a 415 million dollar 10-year funding bill for the agency that is floating on the floor of congress.
"The federal government would have to switch gears and send the money to some other agencies," Cowan said if the compact were dissolved. The next step is figuring out who will lead potential negotiations between the two states and that is up in the air.
"It seems like so much of what Nevadans want are not things that we (TRPA) have control over," Cowan said.
He says TRPA can not take the lead on hammering out an agreement because these are conflicting policy issues between Nevada and California. Cowan says that the TRPA can only offer information, technical assistance, their buildings and staff to help with any potential meetings, "but as far as scheduling meetings, it is far out of our ability," he said.
The leaders could be the governors of each state or the legislative leaders in committees he says. Another potential leader in the negotiations is Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, who, according to Cowan was very active in amendments to the bill.
For now, in the wake of the decision making waves across Tahoe and the nation, he says it could have been a lot worse. "It is kind of really important to us that Nevada isn't just dropping everything and pulling out."