The Man vs. the Man: Will Local Authorities Be Booted From Burning Man?

by Whatsblem the Pro

Big doings in the Nevada State Assembly! The website of the Washoe County Republican Party reports:

BOB-ZI! BOB-ZI! BOB-ZI! Photo: David Bobzien

BOB-ZI! BOB-ZI! BOB-ZI! Photo: David Bobzien

“Earlier this morning, the Chamber supported AB 374 in the Assembly Government Affairs Committee. This bill, pushed by Assemblyman David Bobzien, came about because of threats by some rural counties to start charging local permitting fees and increasing costs for the Burning Man festival that comes to the Black Rock Desert every summer. This bill would prohibit any local government from interfering with a federally-licensed event on federal land. We strongly support this concept because of the enormous positive economic impact that Burning Man attendees have on our region.”

AB 374 began life as a different bill, introduced by Nevada Senator Pete Goicoechea and State Assemblyman John Ellison, intended to allow grazing in Federal fire restoration areas as a means of limiting the growth of cheat grass, which creates repeat fire hazards. Under the leadership of Bobzien, that bill was amended with some canny provisions aimed at getting the State and County authorities’ hands out of Burning Man’s pocket.

Assemblyman Bobzien – who also sponsored AB 304, a previous bill that clarified and simplified permitting for fire performers – had this to say on the subject:

“I for one prefer to keep politics away from Burning Man. My own experiences on the playa are thankfully partisan-free, and AB304, a bill that enjoyed broad-based support from Democrats, Republicans and Governor Sandoval, was a true example of non-partisan problem solving to help constituents. And by the way, these are constituents who are part of a culture with economic importance in northern Nevada- it’s estimated that the Burning Man festival alone pumps $15 million into the local economy every year.”

As AB 374 has gained support, the authors of the original bill have moved to distance themselves from it, and now openly oppose it. Goicoechea and Ellison expressed their opposition to AB 374 during a conference call last Friday.

“If you have an outdoor activity on public lands of over 1,000 people, then the county has no involvement or enforcement on that activity at all,” said Goicoechea. “It all goes to the Feds. We’re not prepared or ready to let our police powers go. Technically they’d be on the hook for all the emergency services but wouldn’t have the ability to enforce any of their laws or public safeties. It’s just another intrusion into the County and the State’s rights when it comes to any type of enforcements on public lands.”

Pete Goicoechea and John Ellison - Photo: R. Dalton

Pete Goicoechea and John Ellison – Photo: R. Dalton

John Ellison agreed, noting that the bill as rewritten will have an affect on the ability of every County in the State of Nevada to regulate large festivals held on Federal soil. “If we open Pandora’s box and we allow this to happen, this could be on every event on public lands,” he said.

The full text of AB 374 can be found at the Nevada State Legislature’s website.

In an unrelated story, astronomers report that the stars over Nevada have spontaneously rearranged themselves to read “FYD PETE & JOHN.” Authorities at NASA were unavailable for comment.

9 comments on “The Man vs. the Man: Will Local Authorities Be Booted From Burning Man?

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  7. Thank you for your coverage of AB 374. However, I need to clear up two misconceptions of the bill, one found in the article, the other from the opponents quoted.

    1) I’m not sure where the statement “AB 374 began life as a different bill, introduced by Nevada Senator Pete Goicoechea and State Assemblyman John Ellison, intended to allow grazing in Federal fire restoration areas as a means of limiting the growth of cheat grass” came from. While I wish I were that skillful of a legislator to pull such a move, the fact of the matter is AB 374 has only ever been my bill, introduced to address the special use ordinance issue. Perhaps this confusion arises from an AB 374 in a prior session?

    2) “‘If you have an outdoor activity on public lands of over 1,000 people, then the county has no involvement or enforcement on that activity at all,’ said Goicoechea.” While I have deep respect for Senator Goicoechea, this is a flagrant misrepresentation of the what the bill does. As stated in the hearing, the cost-recovery in place for local law enforcement presence at the event would remain under the bill, and is completely appropriate. What is inappropriate however, is Pershing County writing up an “invoice,” with an unsupported and undocumented “cost” figure, and sending Burning Man a bill- the effect of the local ordinance.

    Thanks again for getting the word out about this important bill.

    • Thank you for clearing that up, Assemblyman.

      The confusion regarding AB 374′s origins stem from comments made by Goicoechea and Ellison. Apparently they think you reworded and added to their cheat grass grazing bill to create AB 374.

  8. Pingback: Nevada State Legislature poised to take regulation of Burning Man away from state and local cops | CfpDir.com

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