The U.S. senator likes to tell the story of growing up in dusty Searchlight where prostitutes were as common as Joshua trees.
“The No. 1 industry when I grew up during the war was not mining. The No. 1 industry was prostitution,” Reid, D-Nev., said the other day, recalling that at one point Searchlight had 13 legal brothels.
His mother took in laundry from the brothels, he said.
Reid, 74, told the story on Thursday during the monthly luncheon of the Asian Chamber of Commerce at the Gold Coast off the Strip.
The Senate majority leader didn’t bring up the topic. Instead, he was asked by a member of the audience what ever happened to his call for the Nevada Legislature to outlaw prostitution in the state. Now, it’s legal in eight rural counties and not in those that are big population centers such as Clark County and Washoe County.
In 2011, Reid said in a speech to the Legislature it’s time for Nevadans to have “an adult conversation” about ending prostitution because legal brothels hurt the state’s reputation.
He argued that businesses seeking to move to the Silver State are sometimes reluctant because of its legal prostitution (not to mention gambling and a poor education system.)
Reid said last week he still feels the same way, but Nevada lawmakers seem reluctant to broach the idea.
“I believe it has hindered economic development in the state,” Reid told the chamber.
“The Legislature, they’re all a bunch of cowards,” Reid said. “They were afraid to do anything about it.”
At the time, most lawmakers said they were dealing with a major budget crisis and didn’t have time to spend on debating whether to outlaw prostitution. Others said it’s a local issue for each of Nevada’s 17 counties to determine — a position Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval took, saying, “It’s up to the counties to decide if they want it or not.”
Three years later, there’s no indication lawmakers are moving to close legal brothels any time soon.