Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt has been taking a page from his grandfather’s playbook in recent weeks touring various communities in the state with some of his staff and conducting townhall meetings with concerned citizens in what he calls “AG for a Day.”
He says the idea is a homage to grandfather Paul Laxalt’s practice of touring the state with his cabinet and staff members while governor. The senior Laxalt called it his “Capital for a Day” tour.
A couple of weeks ago Adam Laxalt crisscrossed Northern Nevada and this week he has been meeting constituents across Southern Nevada.
“Our goal has been to try to bring our office to the people …” he explained in a recent interview. “I think government is best that is closest to the people, and so for us to get out there and make sure we are up to date on what is on everyone’s mind. It’s been very successful in that respect.”
Laxalt said one of the most common concerns expressed to him and his staff has been about federal government overreach when it comes to regulations and restrictions. To address this he has created a solicitor general office in his agency, which is essentially the state’s lawyer.
That office, he said, has been able to work very aggressively to create some federal-state boundaries and bring Nevada to the negotiation table on some of the big issues.
“People are pretty excited that this office has been active in that federalism space and working hard to try to give our local economy and some of our most important sectors some space to survive in some cases and ideally to be able to grow and thrive down the road,” Laxalt said. “We’re working very hard to do the best we can with our limited resources.”
The attorney general’s office is the lead plaintiff in a federal lawsuit against the Interior Department and its Bureau of Land Management over land use restrictions being imposed on agriculture, mining, oil and gas and recreation in the name of protecting greater sage grouse habitat.
Laxalt has argued that the BLM’s sage grouse protection efforts blatantly disregard the input of Nevada experts and stakeholders in violation of federal law.
The attorney general’s office also has been actively involved in the waters of the United States (WOTUS) rules that were being promulgated by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to wrest control of every stream, ditch, wetland or muddy spot that might eventually spill a few drops of water into any rivulet, even though water rights have always been under the purview of the states.
Laxalt joined 22 other attorneys general in filing an amicus brief in this case. A couple of months ago the U.S. Supreme Court ruled the current regulations are too broad, but there is more legal wrangling to come.
In addition to the battle over sage grouse and water, Laxalt joined other attorneys general to challenge the president’s executive order granting amnesty to millions of illegal immigrants with U.S. citizen children. A recent 4-4 U.S. Supreme Court ruling put the executive order on hold for now.
His office also has worked with Elko County in its attempts to keep open a road in the Jarbidge Wilderness area and with a church fighting for water rights in Nye County.
Laxalt said he and his staffers have also fielded questions about his office’s program to help military personnel, the first of its kind in the nation, as well as efforts to stem domestic violence, fraud and Open Meeting Law violations.
“I think that attorneys general across the country have been what we like to call the last line of defense and, as we face the coming months of the close of this administration, typically presidents take their lame duck status gracefully and slow down on the way out,” Laxalt observed, “but this president and his administration has signaled that they’re going to crank up the rule making process and try to change as many rules as possible. So attorneys general are standing ready to prevent any of these rules that have not gone through the proper rule making process or that we think are outside of their legal jurisdiction.”
A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.