Water Weight in the Sausage: Inflation Act Drought Amendment Trickles Down Western Residents' Rights and Money

The Partisan Playbook

Congress Budget
AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite

The Senate is working overtime this weekend to pass the $433 billion spending bill known as the Inflation Reduction Act of 2022, introduced by Sen. Joe Manchin (D- W. VA), entertaining a marathon of amendments in the budget reconciliation process. Unlike most legislation passed in the Senate, the reconciliation process doesn’t require a super-majority of sixty votes, but a simple majority of fifty. With the chamber split 50/50 between the parties, Vice President Kamala Harris is anticipated to cast the tie-breaking vote, if the GOP holds strong on party lines.

Earlier this week, moderate Senator from Arizona, Kyrsten Sinema, was the final Democrat hold-out who signaled her support after her revisions to the package were adopted. Aside from changes to the proposed provisions about taxation on certain investment incomes, known as carried interest, Sen. Sinema secured $4 billion in climate change funding for western states faced with droughts.

The reconciliation process is a now-commonplace albeit baffling maneuver to get Democrat centerpiece policies passed by using special parliamentary procedures to short-cut the legislative process… and consensus. In late July, President Joe Biden admitted much of the Act was rebranded Build Back Better agenda items saying,

“Some of you will see a lot of similarities between the beginning — (laughs) — of the Build Back Better initiative.  It’s not all of it, but we’ve moved a long way.”

So, here’s the playbook: Take ideas that were tabled, tell Americans that major congressional spending bills combat inflation, and ram it through a backdoor, partisan process on a Saturday. Indeed, we see a lot of similarities, this ain’t our first reconciliation rodeo. 

Water Weight in the Sausage

FILE - In this undated file photo provided by the Bureau of Reclamation, water rushes from the Glen Canyon Dam near Page, Ariz. Federal officials opened the floodgates at Glen Canyon D

For Western states, if passed, billions of taxpayer dollars will be allocated from the federal government to the municipalities, earmarked to buy private water rights. Wait, has fascism ever been sold to the public on the premise of combatting inflation before? 

In a Friday letter that raises more concern than relief, Family Farm Bureau Executive director Dan Kappen who pushed for the drought provisions wrote,

“Well, the sausage making is wrapped up, and an agreement has been reached on Western Drought provisions that will be proposed for inclusion in the Democrats’ ‘Inflation Reduction Act.’ “

U.S. Senators Catherine Cortez Masto (D-NV), Mark Kelly (D-AZ), and Michael Bennet (D-CO) announced the sausage-making agreement to include $4 billion in funding for the Bureau of Reclamation on Friday. All three Senators are up for re-election in states where water politics are being touted as climate change action to voters. California was not included as a potential recipient of the allocations in the announcement, with their Senators having no statements on the drought provisions.

The Bureau of Reclamation is the entity that announced in May, that they would be withholding water releases from Lake Powell in Utah and Arizona to Lake Mead in Nevada. The man-made reservoir of Lake Mead is the largest in the nation, supplying water to 25 million people and feeding the Hoover Dam, which generates enough electricity for 8 million people annually. Lake Mead was denied 480,000 acre-feet of water, which equates to 156 billion gallons, due to concern that the low water level would cause power-generating turbines to stop working at Lake Powell.

Now, Lake Mead is at its lowest level ever. Las Vegas area residents are hyper-aware of the situation as the third set of human remains was found in the shrinking lake. The Southern Nevada Water Authority sent full-page mailers to residential customers this week urging them to follow watering restrictions, report water waste to generate fines, and apply for rebates to remove turf grass. While voters are continuously bombarded with water-crisis information they aren’t being specifically told that the man-made lake is low because well… we didn’t put water in it. 

Trickle-down Effects

FILE--In this July 21, 2015, file photo, a low flow water emitter irrigates part of the almond trees at the Stewart & Jasper Orchards in Newman, Calif. The U.S. Bureau of Reclamation on

While the federal spending will trickle down to municipalities, local Democrats’ water policies already impact Las Vegas families. The fully Democrat Clark County Commission voted unanimously in July to limit the pool size of new single-family homes to 600 square feet. The water rules do not stop at new construction but impact families who have already purchased their homes as well. Assembly Bill 356, passed by a Democrat legislative majority and signed by Democrat Governor Steve Sisolak last year states:

“the waters of the Colorado River that are distributed by the Southern Nevada Water Authority… may not be used to irrigate nonfunctional turf on any property that is not zoned exclusively for a single-family residence.”

Compliance with the new law is required by 2027, but that hasn’t slowed the fiscal impact on homeowners. Residents of the Sun City Anthem community were blindsided with $12,000 estimated costs from their HOA for removing trees, grass, and other landscaping from the common areas of the subdivision. While the local water authority will pay $3 per sq foot to tear out your lawn, there isn’t compensation for the government taking imposed by this Nevada law.

The attitude toward private property in the Dem-led state becomes clear when you examine their policies regarding how property owners are allowed to use their own homes. On Thursday, Clark County, its Commissioners, and the State of Nevada were sued by short-term rental hosts. The lawsuit’s plaintiffs, part of the Greater Las Vegas Short-Term Rental Association argue the new regulations are unconstitutional saying,

“Where they’re giving themselves power to come to your property, your private property at any time that they want. They want you to shut everything down by 9 pm and you can’t even use your pool at a certain time.”

When Louis Koorndyk, a founder of GLVSTRA and plaintiff in suit, rented out properties for less than 31 days in unincorporated Clark County, he accrued $62,000 in fines and liens.

There was an outright ban on short-term rentals in unincorporated parts of Clark County prior to the passage of AB363. Representatives from Airbnb opposed the original draft of the bill saying it “would essentially ban any meaningful short-term rental activity.”

Clark County responded to the new law by creating a lottery system that will provide less than one percent of more than 12,000 illegally operating rental hosts the opportunity to buy a license… as in paying the county to use their private property.

Lawsuit plaintiffs have found support from local organizations devoted to free market policies. Robert Fellner, Vice President of Nevada Policy Research Institute supports the plaintiff’s lawsuit, telling RedState,

AB363 and the rules preventing people from renting their own homes is a great example of why so many people distrust government.

In a free society, people have the right to do what they want with their own property. There are plenty of laws already on the books that can deal with public nuisances. But rather than enforce those laws, the Clark County Commission has instead chosen to treat property owners as criminals if they dare to rent their homes to someone for less than 31 days. It is unquestionable that such a brazen violation of property rights would have been regarded as unconstitutional by the Framers of the Nevada Constitution, and I hope the lawsuit challenging these laws prevail. Voters should also seek to replace every elected official who voted for these laws at their earliest opportunity.

The answer to a government too incompetent to enforce existing public nuisance laws is better government, not criminalizing law-abiding citizens who wish to use their own property in a peaceful manner.

Authorities in Nevada have shown disregard for private property rights as demonstrated by a series of policies that continue to burden residents with excessive costs and red tape. The extreme Democrat policies already exert a tight fist on locals and the inclusion of drought funding in the Inflation Spending Act signals private water rights are up for government-grabs as the next frontier of liquid gold in the desert.

Update: A fourth set of remains has now been discovered at Lake Mead.

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