Virgil Getto Interview, 2 of 2
Oral History Item Type Metadata
Churchill County Oral History Project
a second interview with
September 24, 1997
This interview was transcribed by Glenda Price; edited by Norma Morgan; final by Pat Boden; index by Gracie Viera; supervised by Myrl Nygren, Director of the Oral History Project, Churchill County Museum.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this interview are those of the interviewer and interviewee and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of Churchill County Museum or any of its employees.
Interview with Senator Virgil Getto
LaVOY: This is Marian Hennen LaVoy of the Churchill County Museum's Oral History Project interviewing Senator Virgil Getto at my home 4325 Schurz Highway, Fallon. This interview will be Virgil's second interview, and it will be on his years as an assemblyman and as a senator. The date is September 24, 1997. Good afternoon, Virgil.
GETTO: Good afternoon, Marian.
LaVOY: Just a quick question. I know that you have been interviewed before, and I have read your very fine interview, but I want to ask you for this session what prompted you to go into politics?
GETTO: To give you a little bit of background about the progression of my life, I guess I was a sickly young boy, and when I got to high school, I had a breakdown again of the illness that I'd had which was a nervous illness, I was backward. I had an inferiority complex being an Italian and being sick. There was an ag teacher that was a wonderful man. A man that really related to children. His name was Mr. [L.C.] Schank. Mr. Schank took me under his wing. He encouraged me. He worked with me. He encouraged me to get involved in public speaking. I had outstanding ag projects, and he just brought me out. So by the time I was a sophomore, instead of being the backward kid, I was becoming the leader in my class. By the time I was a senior I had already been elected chapter president. I was elected the state president of Future Farmers [of America] ,I was elected 4-H state president, all during this period, and then he really supported me and encouraged me, and I was elected student body president. From that point then he encouraged me to run for a national office of the Future Farmers of America which I thought was way beyond my reach, but he worked with me and kept encouraging me. I ran, and I was elected a national officer of Future Farmers of America.
LaVOY: What office?
GETTO: I was student secretary. There were four vice-presidents, a president, and a secretary. So I represented the Pacific region. At that time I got to travel to all the fifteen states and go to their conventions. I met a lot of young, wonderful people, a lot of wonderful adults, so it was a wonderful opportunity for me and something I've been grateful for forever. I mentioned many, many times that my parents and Mr. Schank, I can give them the credit for whatever I did.
LaVOY: Well, that is an amazing story. What prompted you to go into politics?
GETTO: From that point, I graduated from high school, and I had an opportunity because of my Future Farmer activities to go to Montana State. It was a period during the [Second World] War, and there was hardly any housing, and the state advisor of Montana said, "If you'll come up to school here, I'll let you stay in our home." Then I had the other side. My father was a lot older than I was. He was forty years old when I was born. He was sixty then and had a dairy farm. It was the War. He couldn't get any help, so he said, "It's crossroads. If you want to stay and help, we'll continue to farm. If you don't, we'll sell the farm, and you can go to college." So, that was a very, very difficult decision. Even more so because it was during the War, I felt like I should be going to the War or help my father or go to college.
LaVOY: You could not be accepted for War service because of being the only son of a farmer. Is that correct?
GETTO: Right. I was 2-C classification because we had a dairy, and we were producing milk. Imagine at that time, we were producing milk in a crude way for the air base out here. A fellow by the name of [Vincent] VreNon had a small processing plant here. We sold the milk to him, and then he provided the milk for the air base, so it was a direct connection.
GETTO: So, then, I had decided to stay on the farm, so I became a farmer. Being very ambitious again, I just buried myself on the farm. I forgot all about my political desires or whatever qualifications I had as a politician. I just farmed almost a hundred per cent. At that time, I purchased two additional farms to what my father had, and I really got into it. Got married when I was twenty-four, and then we had four children. I didn't do hardly anything political. The only thing I did political was our dairy association.
LaVOY: I just want to ask you something. You mentioned that you married. What was your wife's maiden name?
GETTO: My first wife was Barbara Mason, and she lived in Hazen. She was a farmer's daughter.
LaVOY: And the names of your four children?
GETTO: They're Michael--was the oldest. Andrea is the second and first girl, and then David who is the second boy. He lives in Los Angeles now, and Marlea. Marlea was our baby.
LaVOY: So, you had the four children and were tied down, not only with the farm, but, with a family.
GETTO: Right. I worked awfully hard. I worked sometimes sixteen, eighteen hours a day, but always tried to find some time on Sundays to do something with our children. One of the activities we had was boating. We just really enjoyed Lahontan Dam. All the children learned to water ski. I water skied. We did a lot of that, and I hunted. Other than that I buried myself in farming.
LaVOY: What crops did you raise?
GETTO: Well, we had the dairy. From that crude dairy we had, we developed and we built a grade-A barn. In 1949, remember Christmas Eve, the first night we put the cows in the barn, and it was just a nightmare. We worked practically all night getting these cows. They wouldn't go in the barn because it was totally different. We milked in an old barn, and this was cement all brand new. Then I got involved in the dairy business, and we just kept expanding our business till we got it up to almost three hundred cows.
LaVOY: Your mentioning the cows wouldn't go into the barn, are you saying that you had the mechanical milkers in that barn?
GETTO: Yes. Everything was new in the barn. Mechanical, and even then, it was old compared to now. It was a crude barn, too. It still has stanchions. We had twelve cows. We brought them and put them in the stanchions, and then we milked in between, but it was cemented nice and easy to wash. And the milk at that time, I carried the milk and talk about hard work. We milked eighty to a hundred cows and I had to carry all of their milk into a hallway, go up three or four steps, and dump it into a vat. Then the milk ran down over an iced aerator that cooled the milk, and ran into cans. Then we had to pick the cans up and stick them into a cold box. We'd stack them up one on top of the other, so that was very hard work. I was telling the boy that works for me, I said, "You talk about hard work." The fellow, and there were two of or three people that I can think of that were truck drivers for the [dairy] association picking up milk would pick up these ten-gallon cans of milk which were almost a hundred pounds and have to lift them clear up on the truck and then a lot of times stack them up on top of each other. That was grueling work.
LaVOY: Prior to getting your new plant, how many cows did you have to milk every day?
GETTO: We milked about forty a day, and then we immediately jumped to about eighty. Then within a short while it was in the hundreds, and, finally, like I said, each year we progressed and got up to three hundred cows.
LaVOY: Your ranch was not large enough to hold that many cattle so you bought two more?
GETTO: Right. We bought hay, and then I bought two ranches.
LaVOY: And where were they?
GETTO: Well, actually, over the time, I bought more than that, but I bought one which was very unhandy. I was so anxious to get some additional land, and there was the farm that Mrs. Lil Mendonca and her husband own now. It's in Union District, and the way I came about buying this farm was, I had a real estate friend here who was an LDS member and very honest I thought. He came to me, and he said, "I've got the hottest deal for you. You can really make some money on this farm." I went out and looked at it with him, and there was weeds five to six feet tall. The whole place. It had been abandoned. I said, "What! What I can do with this?" He said, "Well, you know, if you want to work, and you got a little money, you can make a good farm out of this." So, I had the soil tested, and it was quite good land, so I jumped in. In fact, I put in cement boxes 'cause they were all wooden boxes, and re-did the ditches, and without laser leveling--we just did atlas leveling. But within a year I had the whole place-- I had it all planted into alfalfa. Then the next year, I bought . . .
LaVOY: Next to the Mendonca place?
GETTO: I can't think of the family that owned it. Anyway, they had split the place already. What happened--this is an interesting story. There was a lady in Hazen-this is a bit of history if somebody hasn't brought it up--had a dairy in Hazen. The dairy where Medlock's is now. Right as you make the corner there, there's a Holstein dairy. She had a dairy, and she just had married recently, the second time, I guess. And what she married was a scoundrel because she got very ill, was in a hospital, and not expected to live, and he sold the cows. These are mortgaged cows he sold, and the cows were sold to a broker by the name of Musgrave who was kind of a gypo buyer-seller, and he turned around and sold them to the people that owned this farm. Then, of course, the lady survived, and when she came out of the hospital, the guy had absconded with the money. So she sued to get the cows back because they had purchased all of these cows. Well, this became a historical case because the cows went back and forth. All parties on each end went broke, and the attorney, think, got the ranch. What was left of the cows finally, they went back not to either one of the owners, but to a separate party that took care of the cows. In the meantime, we're still going to court, but anyway they were totally lost, so the person that owned the farm I had went bankrupt. So he split off about forty or sixty acres and then sold the other part, the one I bought. So, then, the second year I bought the other party's better land and put it back together. Put the original place together again.
LaVOY: So, how many acres were there?
GETTO: There were a hundred and twenty, I think. It was a nice farm. And I hauled the hay. Oh, boy! I used to come down there and swath hay. It was so unhandy. At that time we chopped the hay, so I had these big covered wagons, so I chopped the hay and then pulled them home with a pickup and unloaded them. I don't know how I ever did that.
LaVOY: Did you unload them by hand?
GETTO: Oh, we had a conveyor, but just taking them home and being down there and chopping. I always remember, one of my favorite hired hands was Mike Mackedon. He'll tell you about it many times. He helped me a lot haying, and then the high school principal, Lou Hirschman, pulled wagons for me in the summertime. And I had my own farms to farm at the same time and milking cows. When I started, I milked the cows, then I got a helper, so I'd get up at three o'clock in the morning, milk the cows, go in and have breakfast, go out and work all day, come home five, six thirty, seven o'clock, milk the cows again, feed them, go to bed, so it was very hard to have enough time for my family. But somehow I took time on weekends to go, like I said, a lot of boating and hunting.
LaVOY: How long were you able to keep all of this up?
GETTO: Until I--I just didn't think about anything else. Just my family and my farming and trying to get ahead and pay off my bills until 1964. The fall of 1964, I got depressed.
LaVOY: I can see why.
GETTO: Oh, man, I hit the bottom, and I said, "Something's wrong." So, I got a little professional help and realized that I had a yearning in politics. A yearning to work with people, and I had buried it. Just buried it, and doing all that, it ruined my marriage.
LaVOY: I'm sorry to hear that.
GETTO: Yeah, we just grew apart. My first wife, she got into some things that I didn't agree with because we didn't have that close family . . . In the beginning when the children were little, we really were very close and everything, and we just grew apart. She got into Scientology and some things that I just didn't agree with. So that's what happened there. So, anyway, in 1965, I decided I'd get involved with PTA [Parent-Teacher Association] since I had to get going with something, and I was involved in my dairy association. I was a member of the board of directors in the Associated Nevada Dairymen.
LaVOY: Weren't you one of the people that started that association?
GETTO: Yeah. We worked together. I started in the beginning. It started more in--I think there was an association in Gardnerville. Settlemeyers and some of those people really started, and then we started an association. We joined with it. I can tell you how it came about. There was a crunch in the price of milk. There was an over supply of milk for the market, so the two or three creameries, were cutting the price. I even heard comments that, "Those dairymen'll have to sell their milk to us regardless of what we cut the price to." So, they started to slash the price, and we were helpless. So, we realized that we were helpless, so we said, "The heck, we're going to form an association." So, we pulled together and formed and association, and then we went and bargained with the creameries.
LaVOY: Now the association, by saying "we," do you mean the dairymen?
GETTO: The dairymen.
LaVOY: The dairymen from Gardnerville, Fallon?
GETTO: Yeah. No, well, first it was Fallon, and Gardnerville did their own, then we pulled together, but there were a few dairymen that didn't come in. Some of the bigger ones, and we debated, and we thought, "Well, they can break us", so we just decided, "The hell with them, we'll go ahead anyway and let the chips fall where they may." Well, they didn't break us. We were able to survive, and we got a contract with the creameries 'cause the creameries knew that these people couldn't provide them with enough milk. They had to buy milk from us, so then we got contracts. With these yearly contracts, they couldn't just slash the price anytime they wanted to. Then from that point we went to the legislature. That was before I went to the legislature. That was my first experience in the legislature. I went to the Legislature lobbying for a dairy commission to help regulate prices on milk. To stabilize prices, mainly. Of course there were those, and there are still those that say, "Why should we have a marketing commission for the dairy industry when we don't have it for others? The cattlemen never got one." Our argument, always the same, is that we are a small business compared to California, and if we don't survive, you'll be depending on California milk to come in here, and you've lost a tremendous industry in this state. Just think, they're out trying to bring business in from the same--here is a business that's paying taxes, and dairymen for the amount of land they have, they handle a lot of money in a year. They hire people, the taxes, the feed, everything. It's a big industry in a way. Now, you have dairy businesses with eleven hundred cows. I think we have three in Fallon already with about eleven hundred cows each. That's pretty good size. They ship a tanker.
LaVOY: Do they belong to the dairymen's association?
GETTO: Olsons, I know, 'cause Petey's the local president, and Alegre does. He's eleven hundred cows, and I think what used to be Bar Bell. What do they call them now? Fallon Crest? I'm sure that they belong to them, so they strengthened the association. And that was the only way we could survive, so we went to the legislature and asked for the dairy commission, and they shot us down at first. I'll always remember that Pete Echeverria--you know him. He's old now. He was a very colorful, very intelligent attorney, and we had the other attorney for the association. We couldn't hire anybody that would cost very much, so we hired Meade Dixon, who later became quite a famous attorney, and he was Harrah's attorney.
LaVOY: Corporate attorney?
GETTO: Yeah. He was his corporate attorney, and, of course, the poor guy died. Pete Echeverria shot him down so fast before the Legislature. Well, he didn't have any experience, and Pete was representing Safeway.
LaVOY: Oh, I see.
GETTO: Man, the other corporations were shooting the dairymen down. (laughing)
LaVOY: And, of course, Pete coming from Ely would know all about agriculture.
GETTO: Yeah. Well, he would do the inside. And he was so colorful, he just . . . When I think back of listening to him and then listening to Meade Dixon, it was pretty dull at that time. He had the facts and everything, but he didn't come across. So, we didn't give up. We went back to the next session, and we got a dairymen commission.
LaVOY: So, that would have been the session of 1960?
GETTO: No, it'd be the session of 1965. In 1965, like I said, decided I'd get involved in something, so I joined PTA. My wife and I did, and they elected me president of PTA. (laughing) So, I enjoyed that, and I really got into it.
LaVOY: How many children did you have in school at that time?
GETTO: They were all in school.
LaVOY: All four.
GETTO: Yeah. Marlea was just starting. So, then, at the end of my term as PTA president, two or three people came to me, and said, "Why don't you run for the legislature? We need a Republican." They were Republicans, of course, that came.
LaVOY: Who was the assemblyman at that time?
GETTO: Eric Palludan who was very popular. He was a good businessman. He was my friend. (laughing) And I said, "I can't do that." They said, "Well, you sure can. We need you." I said, "Oh, well, it just doesn't seem like I could do that. I can't beat Eric Palludan." I didn't have the confidence at the time, but had encouragement by several other people, then I . .
LaVOY: Who were some of the people that encouraged you?
GETTO: Lattin. Bill Lattin and Dick. A lot of the members of Farm Bureau and Cattlemen's Association. They were all encouraging me to run. So, I thought it over, and I thought, "Well, I guess it's good experience. I'll give it a go."
LaVOY: I bet you were frightened to death.
GETTO: I was to start with, but when I got going I just got caught up in it, and Eric made the mistake of his life. He didn't even think I was any opposition so he and his wife went to Denmark during the campaign time, so I was out . . . Boy! When I decided I was going to run, I was banging doors and going every place that anybody wanted to hear me, I'd go, (laughing) and I beat him bad. So, the next time, I guess he felt real bad about it, and he wanted to get back, so he ran against me the second time, but I didn't lay down. I went out and out worked him again.
LaVOY: So, your first session then was in . .
GETTO: 1967. Let me tell you, I had never been really involved in legislature except the time that I went to listen to the dairy commission. I didn't even know too much about it. When I went over I was so green, and [Bill] Swackhammer, he was the old pro. He was the Speaker just the session before, and he'd been there for a lot of years.
LaVOY: He was from Battle Mountain and was a rural representative, too.
GETTO: He was a rural representative. So, the bill I cut my teeth on--this is going to be a little bit lengthy--but I think it's an interesting story. It tells a little about what happens in the legislature which a lot of people really don't realize, but I was learning. I was eager, listening, and I was trying to get involved in everything, and one day I heard a bill introduced to regulate, put it into the statutes, the butterfat content of ice cream. "My God!" I said. "What's going on here? This is ridiculous." I talked to the state people. It was regulated by the health department, and they'd hold hearings, trying to fluctuate to meet the market. It was a special interest bill. One of the big, big dairy co-ops, had contacted the dairymen in Moapa [Nevada]. He was a second-term legislator, and he was a dairyman, and he sponsored this bill. Then there was an insurance man by the name of Marvin White that was just pushing the heck out of it that I felt must have gotten a big contribution from this. So, anyway, I thought this was the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard. We have, how many thousands of commodities in the stores that we eat, are we going to regulate in the statutes everything that we do? I thought it was the most special dumb bill, so I went to Joe Vianni who was a good friend from Hawthorne. Joe was an Italian immigrant, and he was one of the greatest guys. He never made a speech on the floor of the assembly, but he was so well respected and so well liked that when he went around late in the mornings--he was always there early in the morning, he'd go around, and if he had a bill he was talking about, he'd get his commitments. He'd say, "When I get twenty-one votes, I quit." He says, "If I got twenty-one good votes." Secure votes. He said, "I never make a speech." He always tell me, "You talka too much." (laughing)
GETTO: Well, anyway, I had gone to Joe and got his promise that he'd help me defeat this bill, and the way to defeat it was, I learned right away, if it gets on the floor, you'll never stop it, but there's seven members on the agricultural commission. All you got to have is four votes, and it's dead. So, I said, "I got yours. I got three more, so I got them." Well, one morning I came into the legislature, and this Marvin White, this insurance man, was sitting in there. He said, "Hey, Virg, come here." "What do you want, Marv?" "Well," he said, "I just want to be a friend of yours, and I want to caution you, you getting involved in this ice cream bill, and you are a dairyman, and you rely on". . Anderson Dairy in Las Vegas that then bought the plant up here that I was selling to, and he said, "You know, you're liable to find yourself out on the street." I said, "Marv, are you threatening me?" He said, "No, no, I'm just trying to be a friend to you, but I'd sure pull off that bill." Since he was a co-sponsor, I thought, "Oh, yeah?" That got my dander up a little bit, so we used to hold hearings in a room that was smaller than this. Honest to God, it was smaller than this [dining room, fourteen by fifteen feet]. We'd have the table with the legislators sitting, and the other people had to stand around. The next morning, Joe Dini going to was the chairman of this agriculture committee and somebody made the remark we were holding the hearing on the bill, and somebody made the remark that, "Hey, Virg, I heard you got threatened over this ice cream bill," and without thinking--again, see, I didn't have smarts or the expertise--I said, "Yeah, that darn Marv did." Boy! he jumped up, and he said, "You liar." And I jumped up, and I was ready to poke him in the face. Joe Dini saw all this going on, and he said, "I move we pass the bill out without recommendation." Just like that, and I, "What?" Well, he had the vote his way, so those four votes went the other way, and the bill passed. Went out on the floor. So, I went to Joe later, and I said, "My God, Joe, you really upset me. Here I am thinking you're my friend and everything." He says, "Do you know what I did for I just saved you headlines in the newspaper. Tomorrow would have been "Dairyman and insurance man get in a fist fight over milk bill," and you're the special interest guy. Instead of him being the bad guy, I would be the bad guy.
LaVOY: Oh, for heaven's sake.
GETTO: So, anyway, the ironical ending to this story is that Marvin's wife then got elected to the senate. That bill did go out and I think it passed. I think we have that in the statutes today.
LaVOY: There can only be a certain percentage of milk fat.
GETTO: Yeah. It has to be the same as the federal market around us. Our dairymen, people were saying that Nevada's different. We got a gambling industry. They didn't have it all over then, so we can have a special ice cream. A little bit better or even lower, but let our people regulate it. Well, it didn't happen that way. So, anyway, Marv gets elected to the senate. Then he introduces a special interest bill on some type of franchised chicken dinners. A real low grade of franchised chicken in the state, and he made a deal with the governor, if you can imagine.
LaVOY: Who was the governor?
GETTO: Paul Laxalt. We had branded that bill the “Sick Chicken” Bill. So anyway, I told Paul “Paul, what are you doing supporting this Sick Chicken bill?” Cause he said “Verg, what are you gonna do with that bill?” And I said “I’m gonna kill it if I can” He said “I’d like you to pass it.” I said “I’m *not* gonna pass it. Unless it gets four votes, you know it’s the democratic process.” So anyway, Paul said “Well…” And I said “Well, why are you doing this? He’s a Democrat.” And then Paul opened by eyes again. He said “Well, we only have one. We need a Democrat, another vote in the senate to pass a bill.” His top bill was… that I can’t remember what it was. It was something that was a new innovation in the state. And it was his number one bill that he wanted to pass, and he didn’t have the votes to pass it. So he got a commitment from Marv to support him if he would help with the chicken. So I told the governor, I said, “you’re okay. You’ve fulfilled your obligation. You tried to help get this bill passed. You can get the other votes, but you’re not going to get mine. You tried to help, you tried to convince me, but you didn’t convince me.” So they tried in every way, and what happened was that even a Mormon friend of his who was an attorney I thought highly of, he was supporting the bill until he really looked at the bill and realized what was going on. Then he fell off, so they lost the vote right there. Then Keith Ashworth- Keith was from Las Vegas and also an LDS member – and he came to me. He was the one that alerted me about what this bill did. What happened then was they, instead of gaining votes, they were dropping off as they found out how bad this bill was. Well, that bill was so important to Marv White that he resigned from his senate seat and left the state so he could go with the franchise someplace else.
LaVOY: Oh, for heaven's sake.
GETTO: That’s how important that bill was. I didn’t even realize it was that important. I knew it was a bad bill, but for him to resign right in the middle of his [term] – he had two more years to go and he resigned and left.
LaVOY: Who was he replaced by?
GETTO: I can’t remember. He was replaced by a Democrat, but I can’t remember who it was. Probably Eileen Brookwin maybe or… I’m not sure. No, it couldn’t have been Eileen, because she was elected the same time I was. And then something else that happened during my first tenure in the legislature was we had very few women. It was a wonderful experience for me to work with the women and a black that I respected very highly. I didn't know any blacks here in Fallon. We had never been exposed to these people, and yet it was a very wonderful experience. Woodrow Wilson was the legislator, We used to have long talks, so I learned a lot. We had so many humorous things. Maybe I could write a little book about the humorous things that happened at legislature, but I want to tell one. There was a fellow by name of Len Harris. Maybe you knew him. Did you know Len?
GETTO: Well, Len was a people's man. I don't know as he was ever a great mayor, but he was the mayor of Reno and then he ran for the senate. Len liked to party. He'd party at night, and the next day he just couldn't hardly cut it, so what happened was that there was a bill introduced to merge Reno and Sparks. Well, you know that's a war. Every time they try to merge these two cities, there's a war. What Len used to do, and I watched it. He did it with the ice cream bill. He gets in a hot spot, he'd have somebody call him to go to the telephone so he'd miss the vote, so in this particular bill--the bill wasn't really up for a vote. It was on the board, but it hadn't come to its turn. Well, here's Len. He's got his head down. He's sleeping on his desk, and--I can still picture it today--the assembly, to those that can never remember the old assembly, there was an opening about twelve feet wide and there was a moveable white pillar on one side and one on the other, and there was a chain between. It was called the Bar of the Assembly. The Sergeant at Arms would have unhook this chain to let anybody in or out. Even the legislators had to go through this chain. So, Len is asleep, supposedly. I'm sure he was asleep. He was dozing, and we were voting. Somebody pokes Len in the side and says, "Hey, Len, the merger bill is up."
LaVOY: And it wasn't.
GETTO: And it wasn't, and he jumped up and ran to try to get through the Bar of the Assembly, and he didn't get it unhooked, and the guard didn't unhook it, and so he fell over the chain and then the two pillars fell on top of him, and he was rolling around on the floor with . . . (laughing) this actually happened.
GETTO: Oh, wow. I can always remember that. You talk about a man that was embarrassed. (laughing)
LaVOY: I bet he could have killed the man.
GETTO: Oh, man. Oh, boy. Well, then, with my ice cream bill, he took a walk. No, he didn't. I knew that he was on the other side. I had polled the votes and everything. Oh, and Swackhammer was against me on that ice cream bill, too. He was involved in it, so by then Len had committed to vote for the other side, and he really had a telephone call during this time when the vote came. Of course, I lost the bill, and then Len comes walking back in. I said, "You dirty rat. You took a walk." He says, "God, no! I didn't! I really didn't!" I said, "You did, too." Anyway, I found out later that he did have a telephone call. He was so notorious for that, that whenever he did it, even if it was legitimate, you'd think that he did it. That's one of the most humorous things I can remember is him falling on the floor.
GETTO: Oh, and the other one that I'd like to get into this history because I'm sure--I've heard the story told many times, but I don't know if it's ever gotten into history. This Brian Hafen who was the fellow who introduced the ice cream bill, has done real well since then, I'll say. His dairy business has grown by leaps and bounds. He may have even sold it. In the old building there was no air conditioning, so up in the upper story, and the windows were big windows, and there was a fire escape, so you went out the window on the fire escape. We were voting, I think it was the sales tax issue. Either that or the abortion bill. One or the other, and I can't remember for sure, but both of them were very controversial. We'd all would of liked to have taken a walk, so we're voting. In the old building they call your name, you vote by voice, and there's a pause between each one. Just before we get to Hafen, we hear this clatter, bang, and we look over. There's no Hafen. He'd jumped out the window. (laughing) And what happened then, was real serious. He thought it would be pretty funny, and it was really serious because the Legislature came to a halt. They had a call of the House, they sent the policemen out. The two policemen brought him back in and set him down. It was very embarrassing, and, you know, that defeated him. He was from Mesquite. The Mesquite paper said, "Mesquite Mosquito Jumps Out Window to Avoid the Vote." (laughing) He never came back. His brother was elected many, many times, but Brian, in a little town like that, showed that he was avoiding a vote.
LaVOY : (laughing) You can't do that. Something that I just want to clarify in my own mind. Our representatives were by each county, weren't they?
GETTO: No, the assemblymen were by population, but the population at that time broke out just exactly so that Churchill County had one assemblyman. Now [Joe] Dini had to represent Lyon County and Storey County.
LaVOY: Who was the senator for Churchill County?
GETTO: Our senator was Carl Dodge.
LaVOY: Oh, I see. So there were seventeen senators?
GETTO: Right. Seventeen senators.
LaVOY: And then, how many assemblymen at that time?
GETTO: There're sixty-three now, and at that time there were fifty-seven. Right. And then when I came in, they raised it to sixty, and then it went to sixty-three.
LaVOY: This was your first session in 1965?
GETTO: 1967. I served my term--oh, wait, I left part of my political life out. At the end of 1966, I finished my four years as a school board member. 1962 is when I was PTA president, and then I became a school board member, and I served on the school board for four years, and then my last year on the school board was when I announced that I would run for the assembly. Now, I have to tell one more really amusing thing that was sort of a kickoff to my legislature. Graduation night at Churchill County High School.
LaVOY: That would have been 196 . .
GETTO: 1966. 'Cause it was June of 1966. In November I got elected to the legislature, so I'm on the school board, and we're having graduation, and they have this platform. In fact, they still use it. Sits out on the football field, but this was inside the gym, and the platform's about as high as this table which is about thirty-four inches high, and it was three feet from the back wall. They had a very boring graduation. The speaker did not make it. He got sick or something, so they had the Superintendent of Public Instruction at the last minute, and it was not a good speech, so everybody was bored. When they finally came to presenting the diplomas, just like they do now, they come up one side, walk across, get their diploma, and go off the other side. The school board was seated across the back of this platform, and they're almost walking on our feet, and, unconsciously, I kept scooting back right in the middle of giving out these diplomas. It was hot and everybody was going like this, and I went right over backwards.
LaVOY: Oh, no!
GETTO: And it brought the house down. I mean, the people laughed. They just couldn't believe it. (laughing)
LaVOY: And your back was broken, and you couldn't get up. (laughing)
GETTO: I was so embarrassed, I didn't know what to do, and I turned beet red, so I went under the table for a while. I almost pulled Mrs. [Della] Oats with me. She was seated at my left. You know how you will naturally grab, and I grabbed for her, and then I let go, and I kept going.
LaVOY: Oh, no.
GETTO: That was so embarrassing. Lou Hirschman was the principal who was presenting the scholarships as they came up. He and I were really good friends, and I had just announced that I was running for the legislature, and he says, "Boy, what some people won't do for recognition." Oh, wow!
LaVOY: (laughing) Did you have to climb back?
GETTO: I had to climb.
LaVOY: You didn't go around to the stairs?
GETTO: No, I just pulled myself up and got up and climbed up.
LaVOY: Limping all the way. (laughing)
GETTO: Oh, I was just red as a beet. So, that was my great introduction into going into the higher politics.
LaVOY: (laughing) Excuse me for laughing, but I think that's so funny.
GETTO: It was.
LaVOY: With your first session with these different things that you have told us, didn't you have something to do with the water right transfers in that first session?
GETTO: No, that's a later session.
LaVOY: You've finished your two years from 1967 to 1969.
LaVOY: Do you have anything else from that period that you would like to tell about?
GETTO: I could tell about the 1969 session. I was really interested in our . .
LaVOY: Excuse me just a minute. Who ran against you for the 1969 session? Was that Palludan?
LaVOY: And you defeated him.
GETTO: Yes. Like I said, I was interested in a bill that had been introduced prior to that that I just didn't know which way to go on, was ERA [Equal Rights Amendment]. It was a women's rights bill, but I had a gut feeling that the majority of the population would not support that. I had no other way to measure except talking to people and so forth, so I stayed with my gut feeling and I voted against the bill. But then I felt that if there is discrimination against women that we should root it out and correct it. First of all, one reason I was against ERA because the national, once that was passed, you're stuck with it, and there were a lot of questions about it. In fact, the legislature voted it down many times, and then what we did--I'm not certain whether it was 1969 or 1971, but we did put a measure on the ballot--I'm sure many people remember that--to verify which way. It was not a mandatory measure. It was just a straw vote to see how the people felt, and they shot it down two to one. It never came up again during my tenure. I don't know if it will again. Anyway, I felt strongly about discrimination against women as well as blacks or any of our people, so I sponsored a bill that created a study of the statutes. I think it took more than two years, but I think it was probably over a four-year period 'cause that's a lot of work to go through all the statutes to see where there's discrimination against women. And that bill passed. My co-sponsors which I had great support was Mary Gojack, a Democrat, and Sue Wagner and Jean Ford. They were all outstanding women, so that bill passed and the study did go on, and it brought forth a cleansing of our statutes. So that's one issue I remember, and there was a lot of other bills those years, but I can't remember them right offhand.
LaVOY: Then you had to run again in 1971. Who was your opponent then?
GETTO: I think it was Bill Deal, and he's the one that scared me. Bill Deal was a school teacher here first, and then he had his own real estate business, and I think he may have had an insurance business, too. He was really popular, and I was concerned about him, but that session then I had to run in Lovelock, too, which was an equalizer for me because I knew quite a few people in Lovelock. I did a lot of work. That's one thing that I always tried to pride myself in that whenever I was going to do something, I did the best I could. I knew that he had to go door-to-door, and I did a lot of this valley, practically all of the town, and a lot of the outlying areas door-to-door. Then I went over to Lovelock and did that, too.
LaVOY: By that time they had changed the makeup of legislature, and so then you represented Pershing and Churchill?
GETTO: That was the year that they changed the legislature and changed the population figures. Every first session in a decade they do that, so that was the year, 1971, and I ran until 1980 in Lovelock, and then in 1981, we took away Pershing, and had a four-county. We had Churchill, Lander, part of Eureka, and White Pine. It's the same thing as Marcia [deBraga] has now.
LaVOY: So, you had to go to all those places later.
LaVOY: But, in 1971, it was just Pershing and here.
GETTO: One of the episodes that I was kind of pleased about that I guess ensured my election in White Pine was the year that I ran in White Pine that I didn't have any opposition, so I didn't have to go campaigning. I put some signs up over there and so forth, but then after the election, I went around door-to-door over there. The people really appreciated that. They talked about different things, and like they weren't taken for granted.
LaVOY: I think at that time people were more interested in who was representing them.
GETTO: Well, we were a little smaller. This growth in Las Vegas has changed our legislature. The philosophy, the whole thing's been changed by this tremendous growth because they're practically all new people.
LaVOY: Yes, from out of state.
GETTO: Yeah, they're out of state.
LaVOY: Continuing on with you, then in 1973, do you remember who ran against you?
GETTO: I think that maybe Bill might have again, but I know that Mark Miller was an opponent.
LaVOY: Oh, Mark Miller was your opponent?
LaVOY: When Deal didn't get it one year, then his partner ran against you in 1973?
LaVOY: Oh, I see. In going through all of these legislative papers, something that I was very interested in, and, of course, it died in the Senate Finance Committee, but you wanted to set up a State Ethics Commission in 1973.
LaVOY: What was the reason for that?
GETTO: Same reason they have now is to keep the ethics of legislators aboveboard and, I think, give the confidence to the people that there's some commission or some board that they can go to if they think that one of their elected officials is not doing the right thing.
LaVOY: Well, after having one jump out the window and the other one fall over a post, I can understand that, it's interesting to me that at that time it was defeated by the senate. Went through the assembly.
GETTO: The senate has defeated many, what do I want to say, progressive measures that usually start in the assembly because of the numbers, and you have to think about the old boys that are in the senate, and they're slow to change their ways.
LaVOY: And the young bucks are coming up.
GETTO: Yeah, and the young people have new ideas.
LaVOY: That's very true. It's still going on today.
GETTO: Still going on. A good example of that is that, I bet they have re-sponsored a bill to change the bi-annual sessions to annual sessions way back before I left there, probably fifteen years ago, it's never made it through the Senate. This year finally [Bill] Raggio saw the handwriting on the wall, and he allowed a measure to go through that the people have to vote on which I think is good. Let them decide if they want annual sessions or not. Because what happened--you know why the senate was so gun-shy of that measure is that they had annual sessions one time. They said they would shorten them. They went on just as long, so the people went to the ballot again and changed it back.
LaVOY: Wonder how it'll turn out this time?
GETTO: We'll see. Yeah, because there's a lot of bad publicity about the Legislature.
LaVOY: Well, it seems like they have quite a good reason for it, because it seems to me they have all these little flittery bills come through first and the real meaty problems they wait for the last and then they hurry like ants and pass them without really giving them the proper consideration. Of course that’s only my opinion. Now, we're back in 1973. I notice that you did a lot of work for the dairy farms. A bill that you put on exempts the dairy farms and dairy product plants and frozen dessert plants from the definition of a food establishment. What was that?
GETTO: I can't remember the reason for that.
LaVOY: And then another thing--this one you lost--but you wanted to increase the length of time that milk samples must be retained by the milk tester. What was the reason for that?
GETTO: For any discrepancies. If there's an argument over what the milk tests. The dairyman gets paid by the test that's taken at the plant, and if I didn't agree with what the butterfat test was given, at least if he kept it long enough I could have an independent tester test that. But if they throw it away, you have no way to come back. It was requested by me and the dairymen.
LaVOY: That died in the agricultural committee. Do you have any reason?
GETTO: Well, as I recall in some sessions, our agriculture committee were people that were not agriculturally oriented. We had a few people on there that just didn't understand.
LaVOY: And then I notice another bill that you had, you repealed the provision relating to the definition of pasteurized milk or cream. Would you speak to that?
GETTO: That was a bill requested by the industry. Did it pass? I don't remember.
LaVOY: Yes, it did.
GETTO: Some of these bills, what they are are actually keeping legislation up with the scientific handling of products, and I'm sure that this one was needed, and, so, the industry came forth and requested it. They saw that it was needed. I don't know why that other one didn't pass.
LaVOY: Well, it's been a good number of years, and I can understand your not remembering. Then you went into some work requiring branding and marking of livestock grazed on open range. How did you happen to bring that one up?
GETTO: The Cattlemen's Association.
LaVOY: Asked you to do it?
GETTO: Yeah. Most legislation is requested by some group. There are very few bills that I could say that were my innovations.
LaVOY: I can understand why that would be your cattle people who would want the branding, and that did pass.
LaVOY: Then, another thing that you were on was Assembly Bill 127. It extended immunity from tort liability to ambulance drivers in attendance.
GETTO: Um-hum. And the reason for that was that we with our suit-conscious nation and population is that if people want to be taken care of or be helped on the street or in an emergency that we need to protect those people somewhat that are providing this care. At that time we had one doctor here, and he said, "I can't touch babies. I won't deliver any babies. I can't do any of this stuff because I don't have the backup staff that the Reno hospitals have, and, yet, I'm under the same penalty and the same liability as they are." So I tried to get some immunity for these doctors. The attorneys just killed it.
LaVOY: But, the one for the emergency care, the ambulance people, passed.
GETTO: Yeah. Because it was not affecting doctors so much as it . . . and, see, the ambulance, that is care out on the road, too.
LaVOY: That's being a good samaritan besides.
GETTO: Right. Both. I tried to get the good samaritan law passed for doctors.
LaVOY: But it didn't pass.
GETTO: See, 'cause the doctor had a good argument. "I don't have all the backup and all the modern technology that they have in Reno, yet I have to respond out here." You know, he'd lose his license if he walks away from somebody.
LaVOY: Tell me, who delivered babies at that time?
GETTO: Most of them went to Reno. You bet.
LaVOY: Were there any midwives?
GETTO: I don't remember, really. There was a time here it was really crucial. I don't think there were hardly any babies delivered. [end of tape 1] I don't recall of any midwives, although I think there were. I know that the doctors that delivered babies here at the time was very limited, and if there were any, there were darn few because most of the expectant mothers were running to Reno. That has certainly changed today.
LaVOY: You were on the group that designated our official state animal. Will you tell me something about that?
GETTO: The way that happened is--I can't remember if I sponsored the bill. I don't think we sponsored the bill, but we did support it. It was an interesting process because Floyd Lamb was, of course, in the Legislature, so they named the state animal the Lamb Bill because he was pushing for this bill. During my tenure we had a state flower, I think the sagebrush, the state bird, and we even changed the state flag.
LaVOY: Yes, I'm coming to that.
LaVOY: But, this one, the state animal, the big horn sheep.
GETTO: Was Lamb.
LaVOY: He was a Senator, wasn't he?
LaVOY: Your assembly people--there was yourself and Broadbent, Hickey, Molly Ashworth, and May were the ones that presented it as Assembly Bill 139. Why was the big horn sheep selected?
GETTO: Because, I think, it's probably more common in our state. We could say the elk, but there aren't that many elk. The mule deer could have been, but mule deer are quite prevalent in many, many states, so it's an animal that's fairly rare, and, yet, it's pretty common in our state. And then there was a lot of joking about Lamb. (laughing) He wanted to have the sheep named after him, and he didn't even sponsor it.
LaVOY: Well, he may have sponsored it in the senate, I don't know.
GETTO: I don't think he did.
LaVOY: I can see big horn sheep and then Lamb. So that's how it ties together. I missed that at first. Then another thing that you wanted to have done, and it didn't pass, was publishing the names of juveniles and of their parents after a previous adjudication of offense. What is your feeling on that still?
GETTO: I still feel the same. Say, fourteen years and above, their names should be published a second time. The first time, no, but if you've got a kid that's headed for real trouble, he should be treated as an adult. And you see this happening now. We're seeing more and more teenagers being tried as adults because they're doing adult things. They're committing adult crimes, and that's why I pushed that bill.
LaVOY: 1973 just wasn't the year to do that. People were not fed up enough, yet, with the juvenile crime, and I don't think that juvenile delinquency was as bad then.
LaVOY: As it is now, either.
GETTO: It was very rare to have a murder committed by a teenager or by a juvenile, but it's not too rare now.
LaVOY: You know, people have taken care of children for a long time in foster homes. What was that under the jurisdiction of? Because I see that you said the bill that you passed which was [AB]187 put foster homes under the exclusive licensing authority of the welfare division of the Department of Health, Welfare, and Rehabilitation? Where was it prior to that?
GETTO: I can't remember that. It was probably under Human Resources. This bill was probably requested by the agencies, too. The welfare department handles the care of children that have no parents and, also, the people that have no real support, so I think it falls more in line that the Welfare Department is probably better equipped to oversee the foster care program than the other.
LaVOY: That's really understandable. Also, you did a lot with water work, too, and I notice that your Assembly Bill 132 required the State Engineer to complete comprehensive water resource plan prior to the 1975 session of Legislature, so it's very obvious you were going to run again.
GETTO: Yes. Yes, and I think, as I recall, that Joe Dini was the prime sponsor of that bill. Dini did a lot of--I'm not sure about this, but I know he was a sponsor of many of the water bills, and he and I worked very closely together. We worked with a great deal of common interest in water bills, and I was chairman of the agricultural committee many times, and he was sometimes before he became Speaker.
LaVOY: You also created a channel clearance fund. Will you speak to that?
GETTO: Yes. In fact, I think I was the sponsor of that bill. Dini worked with me very closely on that one. It was to try and have some responsibility of the state in cleaning up channels. The problem is that we never really got enough money into it to make it really worthwhile. The priority for state money is too heavy on other sides, and we just couldn't get enough. I think it was a fifty thousand dollar appropriation that went in there. But, it did help. The cleaning of the river that's happened in the Carson River here--last year not this year--was part of that money. I felt that we should do more in that respect because of the fact that the Carson River comes down through Gardnerville and some places are pretty bad, and here it's deplorable. One of these days there's going to be a tragic happening here with this river down below my place. It is just clogged and some houses are going to get really destroyed.
LaVOY: By Carson Estates there?
GETTO: No, past Carson Estates. Past my place. Down below Bafford bridge. That river's just going through, and I think that with another fifty thousand we probably could have cleaned that river. The problem is the encroachment, again, of the federal government. You can't do anything in that river without the Corps of Engineers sanctioning it and surveying it. I mean, if you want to clean this little bit, they have to survey it. You can't move. Instead, in nineteen, oh, boy, way back. Forties? I can't remember what year we had the flood. Probably forties, fifties, somewhere in there, they just put two huge Caterpillers in the river, and they cleaned it from one end to the end. Just went back and forth like this. We can't even do it now because some homes have lawns clear down in the river.
LaVOY: Well, just looking back through my notes, I noticed that you were the prime person for the water resource plan.
GETTO: And that was the plan, again, that mandated the state engineer with his engineers to do a water--which they didn't have any plan in this northern part of the state or any part of the state overall plan on what to do with our water systems.
LaVOY: Well, they probably didn't have enough water until just recently and that's why they have no plans. Another thing that you did that I thought was very interesting, and I why did you have them change the procedure for making semi-monthly payments of salaries to county officers and employees. That passed and everything, and I wondered why you brought that one up.
GETTO: Changing it to semi?
GETTO: It was a request of the, I'm sure, of the County Association.
LaVOY: Instead of once a month?
LaVOY: Probably because people couldn't manage their money for thirty days, but they could for fifteen days.
GETTO: That's right.
LaVOY: And now is it still semi-monthly?
GETTO: I'm sure. Well, I'm sure they haven't changed it. It wouldn't go back the other way. But now, school teachers, now Pat, she only got paid once a month. I'm going to find out--that's a good question--if it's still the same. [note: as of 2020, county employees are paid biweekly]
LaVOY: It was Assembly bill 332.
GETTO: Um-hum. But it passed, right?
LaVOY: It passed, and it became effective in April of 1973.
GETTO: That's twenty-four years ago.
LaVOY: And another one that you sponsored--this is getting away from the meat of the water bills and the dairy bills and all that, you were the chief sponsor that provided you don't need a casket for delivery of a dead body for cremation, and what brought that on?
GETTO: Well, because I think it was actually a reduction of cost. You know, when you have to have a casket and all that to go up and be cremated, I thought that was ridiculous. I really felt strong about that one.
LaVOY: And I imagine that you had the ire of all the morticians in the state.
GETTO: (laughing) Oh, yeah. It just doesn't make sense to build a casket and everything. If it was just a wooden box, I guess it's all right, but you're still looking at money. They're going to cremate them. Just put them in a cloth sack and take them up.
LaVOY: [laughing] well I don’t think it’s a cloth sack, Virgil, I think it’s a little more than that! But, it's interesting that you would bring that up and go against a very strong mortuary industry.
GETTO: Yeah, but I had some awful strong arguments. You can't argue against the fact that it's a ripoff. They backed off because it is a ripoff.
LaVOY: I think I remember how upset Mac [Ed] McCaffrey was. He owns a series of funeral homes in Reno. I remember that we had just returned to Reno, and he was very upset about that.
GETTO: Oh, really!
LaVOY: And I didn't know at the time that you were one of those that pulled the rug out from under him on that one.
GETTO: And especially in Reno, my gosh, they just got to take them down the street.
LaVOY: Another thing that has been controversial for a long, long time, and there were seven of you that brought it up, but it's still boiling and boiling. It's permitting zoning restrictions for adult bookstores or adult motion pictures. That's still being fought.
GETTO: I don't think it'll ever be solved because you have the one faction of free speech, and then you have the other faction of people with morals. If there is a place for those things, they should never be where they're close to schools or businesses. I would hate to have one of those next door to my business.
LaVOY: This was back in 1973, and the zoning restriction passed. Just recently I read about an adult bookstore that was going up some place in Reno, and they were fighting that still in the city council. Why would they bring it to the city council if the state had already . . .
GETTO: Well, because the state has, it's a minimal, but the cities can go beyond that. They can make tougher restrictions, and I'm sure that many of these towns have stronger restrictions.
LaVOY: And then another that you presented was to create a state rural housing authority. Explain to me what a state rural housing authority is.
GETTO: Here you have a state housing authority which gets loans and sets up housing projects, but we didn't have a rural. I sponsored one that set up the rural housing authority. I felt that we should have separate ones. I think that the smaller communities would get a lot more attention by having their own separate rural housing authority than have it just a spin-off of the other one. I had a lot of support on it, and I think it's done a lot of good.
LaVOY: Would that bill cover the bringing in of all of these apartments for low-income people and whatnot? Does that affect that, or is that something else?
GETTO: This is more for financing and setting up projects, but we have some private entities that have provided all these low-income houses as long as the city gives them the license. I don't really particularly care for that too much. I don't know how you feel, but we're bringing in people--we have enough people in Churchill County. You know, we're growing steadily, and it's a good solid base, but then you have a lot of these people being brought in just because they built a home for them, and then they get subsidized. So they come to Fallon, and they really don't bring anything to our economy. Maybe the humanitarian aspect of it, maybe it's good because these people get to live in a decent community.
LaVOY: Well, I can certainly see that, however, I can't quite see that the state subsidizes the rent.
GETTO: Some of those are, I mean all the way. You talk about subsidizing, and that's not only those apartments. They subsidize a lot of other rents that I think the country could save a lot of money because I believe they're totally wrong in what they're doing. They're putting people into homes that no way they could afford if they were working. I mean, if they were working at a decent job, they could not afford that place.
LaVOY: Well, that's certainly one way to look at it.
GETTO: I think that they should go more for the really lower income housing where these people could live in very modest homes.
LaVOY: Moving on from that, you have three bills that you had co-sponsored and they died in committee. One was to establish a university educational accountability program. That met a sad death.
GETTO: Yeah. That's a tiger to try to tackle.
LaVOY: Who would you have opposing you on that besides the regents?
GETTO: Well, you'd have the regents and probably the professors.
LaVOY: The president of the university.
GETTO: I can't condemn our universities because they're wonderful institutions, but I think they could be improved. So many of our professors when they get their tenure--you know, they produce like heck until they get their tenure. There are some that are exceptions, but there are a good many of them that just level off and don't do as good.
LaVOY: And another thing was that you wanted to have an appropriation for installing an electronic voting system in the legislative building. Now, this is in 1973, and it was defeated.
GETTO: They weren't ready for it, I guess. (laughing)
LaVOY: You still did the old hand voting.
GETTO: That's right. The senate, I'm sure, liked that--no, there was twenty-one senators, and they liked that. The closeness in the voice and everything. And now, they have gone from that point--the legislature last session went crazy, or the session before. The first building cost, I think, seven million to build, and they just spent twenty million on an addition. Something's haywire, I think.
LaVOY: And didn't they put computers at everyone's desk?
GETTO: Yeah. But they enlarged the building. Look, they went from the same number of legislators. I know we have more work, but one thing it does, it really destroys the concept that with computers you can condense. In probably 1987, all we had was the main building, and we had the same number of legislators we have now. Then they bought the big building across the street where their attorneys [Attorney General's office] are all over there now. They added that to the complex, and now, they built this humongous--I mean, it overshadows the old building some twenty million dollars worth. Carl Dodge, I'm sure, would really rant and rave over this because of the fact that he never even had an office. He said?"' can do my work at my desk," and he turned out a lot of legislation. He was a good thinker, but he didn't need a secretary or an office. Now everybody's got an office and secretary plus I don't know what else.
LaVOY: It's interesting that in twenty-four years that it would change with them refusing to install an electronic voting system to what it is today.
GETTO: But, that, again, is the influx of the change of legislators.
LaVOY: Even the attitude.
GETTO: But, even the senate has changed, and they still have a lot of the old timers there.
LaVOY: Another thing that you brought up in 1973 was that if somebody belonged to the Public Employees Retirement System, I guess they were unable to get their retirement if they became ineligible for it, and you had this bill that required a refund of their contributions.
GETTO: Oh, let me explain that. That's not exactly what you're thinking. I had a lady that worked for me, and she was a good soul. She worked for the hospital as a nurse's aide, and she worked several years. She did as much work as a full-time employee, but she's on call, so she never received any benefits. They never held any money out of her check, and I thought that was horrible. This woman put in ten years. Never got a damned thing, so I sponsored this bill that mandated the employer to hold out the amount of money they retained from the employee. Then they would have to match it and send it to PERS. So, if the person at the end of the year does not qualify for the number of hours to be a full-time employee that year, they mail back the money that they kept out of their check, and they don't have to put in to match it.
LaVOY: Oh, I see.
GETTO: But what used to happen was that these people would work, and they never knew whether they would have enough hours that year to qualify. Come the end of the year, they say, "Yeah, you qualify. Where's your money?" "I don't have it." So they never got any retirement.
GETTO: Those people, a lot of them, they were living so close to the bone that they just didn't have the money to pay into the retirement. This way they hold out the money, and if they qualify then they have to match it and give it to PERS, and these people get retirement.
LaVOY: Oh, I see.
GETTO: It was a wonderful thing for this woman because she only got maybe four hundred dollars a month, but that's what she got on top of Social Security.
LaVOY: She could survive on that.
GETTO: She wouldn't have had nothing. [tape cuts out]
LaVOY: We're back up into about 1975. Who ran against you in 1975? Do you remember?
GETTO: No. I think it was--his father was the manager of Penney's. Anyway, he ran against me, and he was really a kook, and then he also ran against Carl Dodge at another time. Ran against him for the senate seat.
LaVOY: But, you can't remember what his name was?
GETTO: I don't think that was 1975, though, because when he ran against me, we were in Lovelock. Although there were several years that I had no opponents.
LaVOY: Probably 1975 was one of those years. Now, in 1975, you brought up a bill that died in the Commerce Committee. It was about beverage containers. Can you tell me about that?
GETTO: Yes. This was a bill that I felt very strongly about. I had visited Vermont and Oregon, both states. Both of them had a bottle bill, and both of them really served the purpose. They were conservation bills. They saved our resources and it cleaned up the areas. I saw kids in Vermont going after coke cans down in the ditch. You don't see that around here. So, I sponsored this bill, and I think at the same time Cliff Young sponsored one in the senate. I was amazed--well, I shouldn't have been amazed, but I was--at the resources that industry threw against us. They brought in their top lawyers, top lobbying people, and they shot the bill down. I want to tell you--this is another one-and these legislators that I talk about should not have been there, but this is another really bad apple. I'm trying to save something of this bill, and so I go to a little guy from Las Vegas who's a second termer, and I said, "You're in the commerce committee, and I need your vote. I need one vote to save of this whole bill, just save the part that will outlaw the pull tabs 'cause they throw those all over." He said, "I can't do that. I've been promised two cases of Grand Marnier if I kill this bill."
LaVOY: Oh, for heaven's sake!
GETTO: And he was a lousy bum. He never came back to legislature, but that's the kind of bum that was there, and I thought, "My God! You're going to sell out for two cases of Grand Marnier."
LaVOY: That's just hard to believe.
GETTO: It happened. And then this man--he was a smart cookie-he got tied up with… what was it Laetril? Remember the stuff you take for…
LaVOY: For cancer, made of apricot seeds?
GETTO: Yeah. Some corporation or somebody that had a lot of money that was trying to push this in Nevada, and he got it pushed through the legislature, I think, and then he went to work for them. He never came back to legislature.
LaVOY: Well, he made a great deal of money.
GETTO: Oh, I'm sure he did.
LaVOY: Well, that's a shame that beverage container bill has never passed.
GETTO: But, let me say one thing. I sponsored it two sessions and it was the beginning of our recycling legislation. From that sprang the recycling which I, again, was a sponsor, and I pushed very strongly because I felt, I guess, being from an Italian immigrant family that saved everything, I can't get over the way this country throws away so much of our resources. Just think of what we could do, and we're getting there now.
Finally, it's taken all these years. We just saw on television that they're going to be making a car frame or body out of plastic sacks. In other words, recycled plastic
LaVOY: Well, for years they have been making beautiful park benches and tables out of milk cartons.
GETTO: Beautiful! That's right. And they can do it. It may cost a little bit more, and I think a lot of that is an excuse because I think that there are innovations if they really want to go after it to use a recyclable product that they can do it just as cheap or cheaper than using up our natural resources. The same thing with our petroleum industry. I'm sure there are other energies out there that could run a car, but until we run out of this fuel they will never do it.
LaVOY: Another thing that you brought up was about imposing restrictions on smoking in public places. I imagine that caused a lot of problems.
GETTO: (laughing) Yeah, it did at the time. I'm a former smoker and when I quit it was just like taking the biggest cross off my back. Smoking's a horrible thing and drinking, too. I don't think you can smoke moderately. You can drink moderately.
LaVOY: Social drinking.
GETTO: A glass of wine at night. Boy, when you smoke, it just gets to you. So, I felt strongly about it. At the first session we didn't get it done, right? Did it pass?
LaVOY: I think it did.
GETTO: Did it? I couldn't remember.
LaVOY: AB 17. I'll look it up for you.
GETTO: Oh, yeah. I think so.
LaVOY: And then you also were very interested for tax exemptions for the concrete-lined ditches and headgates. Is that still in effect?
GETTO: Yes. And the reason I was so interested, number one, of course, it helps the farmers, but the second thing it does, it conserves water. And since water is our most precious natural resources in the state of Nevada, and I firmly believe that the money that the federal government has contributed to matching money from the farmers is good. The reason for this bill being so worthwhile is the fact that, as I said, it saves water, it's an asset to the farmer, an asset to the community to save this water, and it's a great incentive. The biggest incentive, of course, is the one the government is taking away now which I think is ridiculous. I think that our two senators and congressmen have made a big mistake in not continuing to match money for cement ditches or irrigation practices, even the laser leveling because it's just a tremendous water saver. And then to go along with that is the theory that if you save water here then you can take it away, but don't take it away and make the farmer try to save it. Let them save it first 'cause they have a right to x number of acre feet. In fact, I strongly feel the other way. I feel that if the farmer can, if I'm allowed three and a half acre feet per acres, and I had a hundred acres, it'd be three hundred and fifty acre feet of water, that if I could irrigate a hundred and twenty acres with that same water I should be allowed to do that, but the federal government is saying no. But there are other states that allow that. So, if you want to go back to the way California's done on many issues is that and if you want to spend the money. Like a city would like to put innovations of saving water for an irrigation district, whatever they save then they can get it. This is just an incentive for farmers to put in cement ditches and save water.
LaVOY: You are also very interested in fish and game laws, and I notice that you were one that said that you needed to have safety classes for people for hunting. Do you care to speak to that?
GETTO: Well, there's not too much to say except the fact that I think that's a very good practice because so many of these young people the parents won't show them really the safety practice. Maybe they don't even know the safety practices that they should take this class, and I think it saves lives and also saves the maiming of our wildlife.
LaVOY: I noticed that you had one here that I was just curious about that prohibited camping or recreational activities within a certain distance of a water pocket that could be used for birds and animals. What do you mean by a water pocket?
GETTO: Waterhole or a spring where game come and drink. This was a bill that was brought to me from the Fish and Game. It's a good practice. Why do people have to go sleep right on a waterhole? They can be away so many feet.
LaVOY: So, in other words, if I would go out camping and I would camp by a waterhole
GETTO: You could be cited.
LaVOY: I could be cited for that. Oh, I see. I wondered about that.
GETTO: It'd be more educational to tell people what the law is that they don't go out and camp right by a waterhole. A stream is different. A stream you've got water flowing a long ways and you can camp all along. On the desert if there's a waterhole and it's the only one there, and you go sleep right on it or camp on it, then you could be cited.
LaVOY: Oh, I see, what that is. You memorialized the U.S. Department of Interior and the Stillwater Life Refuge. What does that mean?
GETTO: I memorialized them? I don't remember that.
LaVOY: This memorializing that I'm asking about, I noticed that it was AJR 17. What does that stand for?
GETTO: AJR is Assembly Joint Resolution. A resolution can be many things, and then it has to be accepted by the senate. It's an assembly resolution ratified by the senate. Most of the time it's a resolution asking congress or the senate or assembly or the President or admonishing county commissions. It's like a recommendation or an asking. This one in particular is asking congress, memorializing congress in the United States Department of Interior to declare preservation. In other words, asking them to make one of their priorities the preservation of the Stillwater Wildlife Management District.
LaVOY: Oh, I see. And did that pass?
GETTO: Yeah. It did.
LaVOY: Something else came up that was ACR. What does ACR stand for?
GETTO: It's an Assembly Concurrent Resolution.
LaVOY: I notice one of them that you had was memorializing Laura Mills.
GETTO: Yes. It's a concurrent resolution that the assembly pass resolutions and the senate could concur. It's in a different area. It's more dealing with families and people and so forth.
LaVOY: I notice you had done the same thing for the Future Farmers of America.
GETTO: Right. And a resolution for the Boy Scouts.
LaVOY: It's honoring them and recognizing them. I notice that there was a current resolution number eight which was directing a legislative commission to study sexual discrimination in Nevada law. Did you have your date mixed up when you first did this?
GETTO: Yes. Not having the days and numbers in front of me, I knew that I had done that, and that's the resolution that I spoke to in the beginning with Assemblyman Gojack and Sue Wagner and Jean Ford.
LaVOY: That was in 1975?
LaVOY: Did you continue on with your being a member of legislature?
GETTO: After I finished the 1975 session, I came home--my son had gotten out of college--and I realized that we had to either expand or sell out or whatever. It was a big decision time, so I decided to expand. We doubled our dairy herd, and we built numerous new corrals and put in a harvest stores, storage silo, and just did a lot of work in those two years. Really nice corrals, so when it came time, it was about in the spring of 1976 when it was time to file for re-election, I just realized that I couldn't do what I was trying to accomplish and campaign, run for re-election. I became so disturbed about it that I actually got sick, so I thought the only solution was to step out, and I fully intended to end my legislative career there. Then what happened, we accomplished all the things we were going to accomplish, and my son was able to take over at the time, and people came to me and ask me to run again.
LaVOY: Excuse me, who took your place?
GETTO: John Serpa. So, I said, "Well, John's doing a good job, and I really don't want to run against him," but they kept pressuring me. Of course, the party's always important. One thing about party politics that maybe people really don't understand is there's got to be some loyalty to your party. I felt that the party had helped me a lot. They didn't help me monetarily, maybe a little from the state party, but from the support of the party and the organization so you feel like you owe something back. When the party really came to me, and said, "We need you in the legislature. We feel we've lost a Republican." And I was a strong voice at that time because I had a lot of experience, and I think I had a pretty good record, so they talked me into running. As I said before, I'm a hard campaigner, and when they decide to run, it's hard to beat somebody that's an incumbent and did a pretty good job. The only real advantage I had with John. John was probably a good legislator, but he was not a good politician. He had crossed [Governor] Mike O'Callaghan quite severely. You don't do that with a governor. You may not support him, but you don't take him on and call him names. So, anyway, when I went over accidentally to Carson City I had a couple of foreign exchange students from Australia. In fact, one of them was just here. She just came back to see us twenty years later. She said, "Gee, I sure would like to meet the governor." And I said, "We'll call him up and see what we can do." So called Mike--and I was a good friend of Mike's--and his secretary said, "He's booked up." I said, "Well, you've got to find time some way. These kids are leaving in a week." Mike gets on the phone, and he says, "You get over here six o'clock in the morning." So, we did it. We were there at six o'clock, and he was there.
LaVOY: That meant the kids and you had to get up, what at four?
GETTO: Yeah. Quite early. Four o'clock.
LaVOY: To get over there
GETTO: Six o'clock.
LaVOY: Did you meet him at the mansion?
GETTO: Yeah. Met him at the mansion, and he spent a full hour with these kids. Can you imagine the governor spending an hour with a couple of kids?
LaVOY: From Australia.
GETTO: From Australia. They asked every question. He really did impress those kids. That was one that did my heart good, too. So, before I walked out from that meeting, Mike grabbed my arm. He says, "Aren't you going to run for the legislature?" I said, "I'm in the wrong party. What are you talking about?" He said, "I want you to run." I said, "Oh, yeah. You going to support me?" (laughing) He said, "Well, I'll do it my way," and he did.
LaVOY: So, then you went back into the legislature in what year?
GETTO: In 1979. I was out 1977 and went back in 1979.
LaVOY: Then you were an assemblyman in 1979 to 1980.
GETTO: Oh, I forgot one part of my career which was sort of a highlight is I was minority leader in 1975, and the interesting part of that is that Joe Dini was the majority leader, and I was the minority leader, and we had roomed together. We shared a room, and so we discussed things. (laughing) We never got into any verbal battles on the floor of the legislature.
LaVOY: Oh, that is interesting. Now, I don't know whether I have been able to do much research on this 1979, but wasn't that something about revenue on slot machines going to education? [cut where Getto looks at bill]
GETTO: After looking at the bill, I do recall the bill. The staff of the legislature had done a study that showed that there was certain categories of slot machines that they felt were not contributing revenue in the same percentage as others, so we put on an additional tax on these certain slot machines, and that was to go to education.
LaVOY: Like what slot machines would that be?
GETTO: See, slot machines are taxed by numbers. In other words, if you have a thousand, you pay one type of tax or if you have five thousand you pay a different tax and on down. I can't remember if it's a hundred or two hundred, whatever number it was, was just not paying up to--in fact, it was emphasized that they were really avoiding some taxes.
LaVOY: So that was one of the main things.
GETTO: That was one of the main things to even out on them and find additional revenue for the schools.
LaVOY: You're finishing from 1979 to 1981, then I notice you became a senator. What prompted that?
GETTO: Well, I was very comfortable in the assembly. Always was. I think I work better in the assembly, but because of the challenges in there. You have forty-two assemblymen. You really have to work to make a mark at all. To me the assembly was challenging. The senate, it was more prestige. We had to work all right, but I just felt that there wasn't the exchange, the comradeship that there was in the assembly. So, anyway, when Carl Dodge retired, or he took an appointment to the Gaming Commission in the state of Nevada--I think it was Governor [Robert] List that appointed him--left his seat vacant for two years. What the law does is that--let's see, there would be four counties. The county commissioners of the four counties he represented would appoint a new senator, so again the party came to me and said, "We'd like you to run for Senate." I really didn't want to do it, but they really pressured me, so I took that appointment. It was only for two years. Then what happened, it was reapportionment year again, and the seat that Carl or I would have had was wiped out in the reapportionment 'cause we lost a seat in the rural counties and one went to Clark County. So, when I finished that two years of the senate term, I didn't have a place to run.
LaVOY: That was in 1981.
GETTO: 1981, so in 1982, I ran for the assembly again.
LaVOY: Oh! Let me get this straight. In 1979, you were a senator.
GETTO: 1979 to 1981.
LaVOY: And then in 1981, there was reapportionment.
GETTO: Wiped the seat out.
LaVOY: And then you ran for?
GETTO: Assembly again.
LaVOY: And who did you run against? Who had taken your seat?
GETTO: I think that's the year I didn't have any opposition. Oh, I remember. The fellow that was appointed to the assembly was from Lovelock, and Mike McGinniss and he, in other words, Lyon County and Churchill supported Mike, and Storey County and Pershing County appointed the other fellow. I can't remember his name. It was a deadlock, so they drew a name out of the hat, and Mike lost.
LaVOY: To the other man.
GETTO: So, he was only there for one term, and then he decided he wouldn't run against me. When I said I would run, he didn't run.
LaVOY: So, in then in 1981, you were an assemblyman again.
GETTO: No, 1983. See, I served in the 1981 session as a senator. From 1979 to 1981. Ended in 1981. Then in 1983, I ran for the assembly. But in 1979, I was an assemblyman. In 1981, I was a senator. 1983, I was an assemblyman again.
LaVOY: Oh, that's jumping back and forth, I must say. (laughing)
GETTO: Oh, you don't know my great claim to fame? I have a record for the number of years I was a freshman. I was a freshman when I got elected. I was freshman in 1979. I was a freshman in 1981, and I was freshman in 1983, and a freshman in 1993. Five times.
LaVOY: Oh, for heaven's sakes! Do you have a plaque to that effect or anything?
GETTO: (laughing) Well, they made a lot of comments about it. I don't know if they gave me a plaque or not. Maybe they did.
LaVOY: In 1981, that's when you did some work on getting equipment for the Fallon campus of the Western Nevada Community College. Will you speak to that?
GETTO: I'd like to speak a little more even than that. We're going to go clear back to my beginning session, and I had a very strong interest in community colleges. I took a trip to Oregon. They were way ahead of us on community college, and I was so impressed with their community colleges that I came home all fired up, really interested in community colleges. Well, it took a long time for evolvement of the community colleges, and Elko had the first community college on their own. Some of the citizens contributed fifty thousand dollars and started a small community college. Probably in 1971, 1972, [Governor] Paul Laxalt called a special session for [Lake] Tahoe. We had a critical problem at Tahoe, and he called a special session. The Elko people came with a proposal for a community college. They had the community college started and had done a lot of work, and the legislature felt very strongly that they shouldn't appropriate money in a special session like that. The revenue wasn't there, so they told Elko people we'll give you the name and call you the Northern Nevada Community College, and this'll be the start of the community college. So, when they left, Paul Laxalt was able to convince Howard Hughes to fund the college for $250,000. That started the community college. That was the biggest chore in my life, and I thought, "Boy, we're started." When they came with the community college bills, I was very strong and supportive. I then- I was not the sponsor, but I was the instigator of the Fallon Community College. Carl Dodge and I. It was done in a capital improvement bill, not by a private-sponsored bill. In this year, then, when they needed some funding, I just sponsored a bill for some additional funding. I, also, was very instrumental in the second and third part of the building of the campus.
LaVOY: Well, I know in 1981, it was $59,019 for equipment for the Fallon campus. Was that for computers, and things like that?
LaVOY: The first building had already been built.
GETTO: Yeah, but it was again from Carl Dodge and I-
LaVOY: From your getting it started.
GETTO: Yeah. We had to propose it to the legislature. I remember we went to a hearing and all talking to get our campus going because we were in competition with other communities. Winnemucca wanted one. Tonopah wanted one, but we were very lucky to get that campus at the time because after that there were no more rural campuses built for a long time.
LaVOY: Who was the first dean here?
GETTO: I think Elliot Lima was the first dean here, and then I think that Michele [Dondero]--I'm almost sure because everybody thought that Michele was going to get to be the dean, and they hired this other fellow.
LaVOY: From Montana.
GETTO: Yeah, and he was only here a few years, and then Michele finally got it. So that's the way it went, because I know that Michele was Elliot Lima's assistant. She was second in command when he was appointed.
LaVOY: I notice that in 1983--now you would have been a . .
GETTO: An assemblyman.
LaVOY: In 1983, you proposed a separate board of regents for the community college, but that sure got shot down, didn't it?
GETTO: It sure did. There's varying opinions about that because there's some that feel that if we have one group of board of regents that they'll have to be more considerate of both the colleges and so forth, but, on the other hand, I think that the University certainly has more power and more prestige, and they're going to be influencing the board of regents more than the community colleges. I would really like to have seen the community colleges have their own board of regents. The other argument for what we have now is that it should be more efficient by having all just under one, but I don't know about that.
LaVOY: During that 1983 session, you, also, sponsored legislation to set up a committee to oversee the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency, but the governor vetoed that.
LaVOY: And for what reason?
GETTO: Many of the legislators felt that TRPA was not doing the job protecting the property owners. They just didn't seem to be doing the right thing. Especially with California and Nevada trying to work this thing out, so we felt that they ought to be shaken up a little or put another board over them or something. They're still having problems. It's a very difficult entity to have work perfectly because you have two states, two major ends to the Lake, and you have a funding problem, and you have states that may feel different about environment. It's a real problem. And then the fact that practically all the effluent has to go out of there, the basin, which protects the Lake. But, then, that creates another problem.
LaVOY: Well, it's just interesting that the governor would veto both of those.
GETTO: Well, because he was protecting his TRPA.
LaVOY: Wasn't lawyer Tom Cooke, what was his appointment on that when it first started?
GETTO: I don't know. I knew several of the appointees on it. The other thing is--see, a lot of those people are his appointments, and it would be a slap in the face to him, I guess if you shook it up.
LaVOY: Probably is. Something that came up during that 1983 session that really was of interest to me was when [Bill] Bilyeu brought up the issue of the bonds to finance the construction of a dam and park on the south fork of the Humboldt River in Elko County, and I notice that you were right there with that. That goes again with your conservation attitude.
GETTO: We had quite a struggle there. It was finally passed, but I think it was pared down to something. The biggest problem we had was . . .
LaVOY: They have come back twice for it I noticed in later years, but that was the first one.
GETTO: We had a problem with Las Vegas. They just drug it out and drug it out. They weren't quite ready for it. Bilyeu was trying to get the money ahead. They had a problem. They ran into putting their footing down into the thing. They ran into a fissure, and, boy, they took so much more money.
LaVOY: Yes, but now you should see that lake. It is absolutely beautiful, and the campground around it is just tremendous.
GETTO: Ah. Isn't that wonderful?
LaVOY: It was interesting to see that you were one of the people that were on the initial appropriations for that.
GETTO: I'm glad that it turned out to be such a nice thing.
LaVOY: But, something that died that came up, and I notice that you were one of the sponsors for it, what state park did they want to name after Joe Dini? Joe Dini, Junior.
LaVOY: That's your friend?
GETTO: Yes. He had done so much work. He's been the single person that's done more work in the legislature than anybody I know. There was a park in Dayton that we thought would give him some credit, some notoriety in the fact that he did work to get the park, and I don't know what the politics were behind that that killed it. I'm sure that it died in senate.
LaVOY: Here this one that you had sponsored has put up such a beautiful lake and such a beautiful campground, and then a little dinky park in Dayton is defeated. And that's something else that you brought up. John Marvel, I think, was the prime person to bring it up, but you were number two on the list, was reducing the salaries of legislators. And of course that- [end of tape 2]
GETTO: That bill was sort of a tongue-in-cheek bill, but salary bills and retirement bills in legislature are always very controversial. There are those that sincerely feel that legislators are underpaid, and there are those that are very frightened about being defeated in legislature because of showing that their main interest is their salary. That's where we are with the legislature, and over the years there have been some very stupid things done. One of them was the three hundred percent retirement increase which was recalled. Not recalled. The legislature went back because of the ill reception by the people. They went back into session and recalled the bill which is not really fair to the legislators. Legislators put in a lot of time, and over the years, they just don't meet six months every other year and go home and forget it. You're on call all the time. People call you, and you have go to meetings, so there's no real end to it. What the Legislature should have done, and, of course, this is hindsight, I felt they should have put in like a two percent or whatever increase state employees get in retirement should have been corresponding to the legislators, but they never did it. They are always afraid to have the press attack them, so it's been about sixteen or eighteen years that their retirement's never changed. If a senator puts in twenty years, the retirement he gets is ridiculous, but it's not going to be taken care of. But, even raising the salary, I think that what brought this bill on was probably somebody put in a bill for a salary increase that would not have been accepted by the public, so we threw this bill in as a .
LaVOY: There were sixteen of you that threw this bill in. (laughing)
GETTO: Yes. (laughing) Sixteen out of forty.
LaVOY: Reducing the salary. So that explains that then for me. All right, then, something else that you did. It was a joint resolution in AJR that I don't think it's in effect even yet. You called upon congress to repeal a law requiring withholding tax on interest and dividends. That still has not . . .
GETTO: No, never been. There are a lot of resolutions that the legislatures--well, I shouldn't say a lot--they just don't send them off by the dozens, but the ones that the body as a whole feel strongly about are sent to congress and, hopefully, that they are looked at and considered, but it's not too many that really get considered. I often wondered if it was worth our time and energy that we spend, but still if we get one now and then considered, it's worth it. I think these resolutions should have more effect because this is the voice of the people of the states. This is roots. We're a lot closer to the voters and people than congress is, and I think we should have more weight.
LaVOY: In 1985, you were still an assemblyman.
LaVOY: And I notice that you were on a bill for additional bonds for the dam on the South Fork.
GETTO: Um-hum. Again.
LaVOY: And I guess that's the last time they asked for money, wasn't it?
LaVOY: Finally completed the dam eventually.
GETTO: I'm so pleased to hear from you that it's such a wonderful reservoir.
LaVOY: Oh, it is. It's a beautiful lake.
GETTO: We fought for that. I mean, that goal went way back. My first years in legislature we were talking about South Fork Dam.
LaVOY: My oldest son as a little boy fished all along that creek with his grandfather when it was the Tomeras ranch, and, now, to come out and see it, he can't believe it. Just can't believe it, but it's beautiful. That was a real good bill that you helped pass. In 1985, I notice that you wanted inspection of waste carrying vehicles that were coming through the state of Nevada. Can you speak to that?
GETTO: Yes. There were many of us that felt strong about that because of the nuclear waste and other wastes that are coming through our state. There are trucks that are sealed, and they go through here, and nobody knows what's in them. We knew that we probably wouldn't get that bill passed, but, at least,--I can't remember if we got it passed or not, but, at least, it spotlights, and it tells the congress again that it's irresponsible to send laden vehicles across our state without any . We don't even know what's in it.
LaVOY: That bill did die.
GETTO: That's what I thought.
LaVOY: That was Assembly Bill 442. Another thing that you were responsible for, there were five of you that brought this one up, was appropriating money to the Desert Research for seeding clouds.
GETTO: Oh, yes. Joe Dini and I were very active in that one. I was, I think, on every cloud seeding piece of legislation we introduced except when I got in the senate. The reason for that is that it helps our snowpack in the mountains which eventually brings water down to our communities, so Reno and Yerington and Lovelock were all interested in--well, Lovelock is from a different watershed--but, that was very beneficial to us. The D.R.I. got quite proficient with that.
LaVOY: Yes. In fact, I believe that Senator [Sue] Wagner's husband was killed doing cloud seeding.
GETTO: Yes, that's right. That was a very sad day when that happened.
LaVOY: They're still doing it.
LaVOY: And do you feel that it is a tremendous or a partial asset?
GETTO: I think that on years like last year's it's not that much, but on dry years it's a tremendous asset. You know, when your percentages can be, it doesn't have to take too much to be a pretty good percentage when you have hardly any water.
LaVOY: That's very true. I'm just going to regress for just a moment. I notice that you had a bill which, going back to this contamination of these trucks coming through with their waste, there was one bill that I simply didn't understand. It regulates the disposal of liquid waste by injection through a well. What does that mean?
GETTO: They can pump it down.
LaVOY: By "they," you mean who?
GETTO: Whatever entity, under inspection, could pump liquid waste back down into the ground.
LaVOY: Wouldn't that affect the water table?
GETTO: That'd have to be studied, too. It'd have to be an area . . . let's say, for an example, it were contaminated liquid waste and you went down here where our dump is [Lovelock Highway], and that underground is all contaminated, and they pump it down there, but you wouldn't want to pump it into our aquifer around here.
LaVOY: Oh, so it could only be injected into a contaminated area.
GETTO: Yes. I think that one thing that helped, and I think it was because of the geothermal. See, geothermal, now, they take the steam or whatever out of the ground and use it in the plant, and then they can pump it back down, and this law would have allowed that.
GETTO: Because, see, once that water comes out and it's splashed or something, it's contaminated according to the definition, so then they pump it back down.
LaVOY: Your speaking of geothermal, during your years as an assemblyman, did the geothermal people come to you to the assembly for permission to do these geothermal wells?
GETTO: To change the laws if the laws weren't adequate, and that's one of them right there to allow them to pump the water back down. Now, let me tell you something right there about geothermal. I can't remember which year. Probably 1979, Joe Dini was asked to go to Israel to inspect geothermal plants and solar plants. For some reason he couldn't go, so they called me on the spur of the moment. I had less than seven days to get everything in order so I could go, and they hosted it. They paid for the whole thing. Didn't cost our state anything.
LaVOY: How interesting!
GETTO: As a partial result of that is our plants here that we have now because I saw the plants over there. They're very unique. They make a unit as big as this part of the house here [fourteen by fifteen feet]. It's one unit. They just bring the whole thing and set it in. They can set numerous units like that. There's a geothermal plant in Reno that has seventeen or eighteen of these units just setting one alongside the other.
LaVOY: Oh, that's the one down on South Virginia by the old hot springs. And you saw all these things?
GETTO: I saw all these things in Israel. I saw their solar energy, and I think we're just now getting the effects of the solar energy around Las Vegas. My last session in the legislature, I supported strongly a measure to give them a tax break when they're putting in these. A big expense is the installation of these plants. It makes so much sense. We've got more sun than practically any place. Why shouldn't we be harnessing the sun? Even if it costs a little bit more. You know, blend it in with the other. Ormat which was a company I went to visit in Israel, that's their plant down here.
LaVOY: The one in Dixie Valley?
GETTO: No. The one in Stillwater, and there's one in Soda Lake. They've got two. They've already sold them, but it was Ormat when they started.
LaVOY: And that was from Israel?
GETTO: Yes. And they have the same - those units are there from Israel.
LaVOY: Oh! And they've sold them since.
GETTO: Mike, my son, works for them, but I can't tell you the name of the company.
LaVOY: But, they are still generating enough energy. To whom do they sell that energy?
GETTO: Sierra Pacific. Sierra Pacific is forced to take it by federal legislation. If the federal legislation had not been passed, they would be dead.
LaVOY: Now with this de-regulation of utilities . .
GETTO: Boy, I don't know what's gonna happen. (laughing)
LaVOY: How will that affect them?
GETTO: I don't know. Then they'll have to compete. I don't know.
LaVOY: I understand that the geothermal well in Dixie Valley sends all of its electricity to Los Angeles.
GETTO: Yeah. Right.
LaVOY: But these local ones are all for this area here.
GETTO: Right. I think the one in Dixie Valley may be, the plant is an Israel plant, too. I mean the equipment. I don't know about . . . actually Ormat, the company that handles these in Israel is the one that's bought these two wells, or put the two wells in.
LaVOY: You, as an Italian boy from the little town of Fallon, how did you react to your life in Israel?
GETTO: I enjoyed it. There was only one thing that bothered me.
LaVOY: Who took you around in Israel?
GETTO: Government officials. People from Israel.
LaVOY: To all of their plants?
GETTO: Oh, yes, and also the tour of the . . . I felt very humbled. You know, the Wall [the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem] and the places where Jesus went to and all that. It was very rewarding to me. I want to take Pat there someday.
LaVOY: So, you had personal feelings about being there. That's very nice. How long were you there?
GETTO: Two weeks.
LaVOY: That's certainly a good length of time. Sort of getting away from this, one other thing that I noticed that you were very active in, and some passed and some didn't, was you wanted to start work programs for recipients of welfare.
LaVOY: And I notice that those always died in committee. How come?
GETTO: I can't tell you, except for special interest groups again. It was a result of my following former Governor and former President Reagan's work program in California. I just couldn't believe that we couldn't come up with some program to have our welfare recipients work. Some of the people that killed the bill, one of them I couldn't believe because he was a good friend of mine and a good friend of yours is Father [Caesar] Caviglia. He came to legislature, and he is a very well respected politician, I should say-
LaVOY: From the State Highway Commission?
GETTO: Yeah. He's very well respected, and he came and spoke strongly against the bill. Father Caviglia had a few words. I said, "Father!" He says, "Well, it's disgraceful, and it's demeaning to make people work for minimum wage." I said, "Father, where do people start? If they haven't been earning anything, do you think they ought to start at the top? While they're learning or getting an education or whatever we can do for them, they should start at minimum wage. Our young people do." And then the welfare people themselves came, and they have an organization.
LaVOY: Very strong one.
GETTO: And shot it down. Ruby Duncan. You ever heard of her? She's (laughing) something else.
LaVOY: And another thing that I noticed kept getting shot down that you were trying to do, too, was give awards for victims of crime, and every one that you brought up, and there were 264, 265, 266, and 267 and maybe more were all shot down.
GETTO: Yeah, we were just ahead of our times. Like the teenager being treated as an adult, that's coming to be. Just ahead of our time.
LaVOY: Well, but that speaks well for you. You were a good representative. Of course, you're always interested in anything that is historical, museum oriented, or anything like that, and I know that you were responsible for the appropriations for the White Pine Historical Railroad Foundation.
GETTO: That's right. I sponsored that, too.
LaVOY: And that's going great guns, too. Even if one of the trains did run away a year or so ago and come crashing some place, but that's very admirable.
GETTO: (laughing) Another project along the same lines, that I felt strong about was the history of the our state, so I helped sponsor a bill--that had to be in 1981--when Senator Horn was chairman of a sub-committee study, and we did a study. We came up with this bill that would be a funding of the state. In other words, it would have to go on taxes, twenty million dollars to restore our historical sites and buildings. Oh, I felt so strongly about that. I did get some money for Lincoln County. Caliente. They have a railroad station that is an old Spanish style, and it's going to fall down. It's a beautiful building. I was able to get fifty thousand for them to just stabilize it until we can get some money and then with this other bill. Well, what happened, we got the bill passed. Senator Horn died of cancer, so he couldn't come back, 'cause he and I were really pushing this thing. The Supreme Court decided that twenty million dollars was unconstitutional because of the tax limitation on our state evaluation. I think it's two percent now.
LaVOY: Now, this is the Nevada Supreme Court?
GETTO: Right. So, I think the legislature, since my time, have come back. I know one year they appropriated two million, and I don't know what they did this last time.
LaVOY: One thing that you did that I wondered about, it provided for retro-session of all jurisdiction over land occupied by the Ely Shoshone tribe. What is that?
GETTO: Oh, the tribe came to me, and I felt that they should have . . .
LaVOY: What is a retro-session?
GETTO: Well, reverting, I think, or making sure that their land is their land. I can't remember. It's been two years, and I don't remember what else it did, but it was something that didn't affect anybody else.
LaVOY: It was their tribal land out in the middle of nowhere probably.
LaVOY: Oh, I see. I just wondered what that was. Then I noticed that two things that you urged--this was an AJR--you urged congress to designate Fallon as a landing for the space shuttle.
GETTO: Yeah. (laughing)
LaVOY: And that died a sad death. You, also, urged congress to provide strict control of wild horses and burros, and that died a sad death.
GETTO: I couldn't get that through. Can I tell my own story right there?
GETTO: I'm not sure if it was my last session 1991 or 1989, Senator Dina Titus, Dr. Titus, sponsored a bill that would have made it a felony to kill a mustang. She lobbied all of those senators. I guess they got tired of talking to her or whatever, and all said, "Yes, they'd vote with her," and even Dean Rhoads.
LaVOY: I can't believe that.
GETTO: He had a reason for it. I thought it was deplorable, and I got up and I made quite a talk on it. I said, "It's almost ironical to think that you can kill our national bird, and it's only a gross misdemeanor. You can kill that beautiful marvelous elk. It's only a gross misdemeanor. You can kill that ferocious mountain lion, and it's only a gross misdemeanor. In some cases you can even kill a person, and it's only a gross misdemeanor, but now if you kill a mustang, we'll make it a felony. There's something wrong here." They took a vote, and I was the only no. (laughing) Everybody else voted yes. She had those votes tied up so . . . John Marvel and I went down to the assembly. The bill went from the senate to the assembly, and they had a hearing down there, so both of us testified. I gave the same pitch as I did in the senate, and it killed the bill.
LaVOY: Oh, really.
GETTO: I said, "Boy, those people had some sense." (laughing) Yeah, killed it.
LaVOY: Well, it shows you that lobbying certainly pays off.
GETTO: Speaking out on issues.
LaVOY: The squeaky wheel always gets grease, you know.
GETTO: Another issue, when I was chairman of the natural resources in the senate, Marcia [deRraga] was in the assembly, she came with a bill that would have outlawed trapping. We had several trappers come in, and then we had a few, I call them hoity-toity, people that had no reality about what life is about. So this young man came in, and he had a number two trap, and he said, "People portray this animal as having so much pain when he gets caught in a trap. I'll snap this trap on my hand which surely is as sensitive as a coyote's leg. I leave it on here the full time of the hearing," which was all afternoon. He never winced once. It didn't hurt him. He said, "It doesn't hurt after that initial bang. The blood circulation is shut off." Oh, these other people, the environmentalists just thought it was horrible, so I asked the lady, "Lady, now you brought forth quite a testimony against trapping and how cruel and painful it is. Have you ever followed a trapper? Have you ever made the route with a trapper to check his traps?" 'cause she was saying, "They leave these animals." She says, "No, I haven't." I said, "How can you speak to it, then?" She just shut up. They don't. They read the newspaper. They see magazines with one picture. Of course, it's a certain element of people that think the world is all cream and peaches and roses, but look at wildlife itself. The most cruel thing you can see is these lions killing these deer and so forth. Tear them apart, eat them alive, but that's all right. So, anyway, in legislature, you deal with all types of thinking and all types of people.
LaVOY: That's very true. In 1987, you were still assemblyman, weren't you?
LaVOY: And, at that time, you were the sponsor for designating the black fire opal as the state precious gemstone and the turquoise as the state's semi-precious stone. What prompted that?
GETTO: The rock and gem organizations came to me, said, "These are the stones we think should be our state stones, and would you sponsor the bill?" I thought, "Well, who else should be more knowledgeable than you people", so I did.
LaVOY: Oh. I knew the turquoise was our stone, but I didn't realize that the fire opal was the precious stone.
GETTO: I didn't either until they brought it forth.
LaVOY: And at that same year you also designated parts of U.S. Highway 50 as the Loneliest Road in America. So, are you responsible for all these signs on the bumper stickers?
GETTO: Not for the signs, but how that came about is Ely came up with the idea of the Loneliest Road, and I thought it was a real good program. They didn't even ask me to do this. I thought, "Boy, why don't we get markers along the highway designating the Loneliest Road in America, and it passed." That day I was real busy when they put up the first one and dedicated it all. Our present governor came out--he was lieutenant governor, then. He took the glory for the signs.
LaVOY: Oh, Governor Miller. (laughing) But you were the one that.
GETTO: I got the idea. That's one bill that I really thought of the idea. They've got the highway designated as the Loneliest, why don't we have these markers along the road, and I got the appropriation, and we put them up.
LaVOY: Oh, gosh, that is just wonderful. I know that you tried to get an additional judge in the Third Judicial District, and it died. Where's the Third Judicial District?
GETTO: It's Ely. Well, I know I tried to get a judge for Ely. What year was that?
GETTO: Might have been for that Third District.
LaVOY: Of course, it died in the judiciary. Then, evidently, your bill 399 makes appropriations to the State Public Works Board for the design of the new Supreme Court and State Library and Archives.
GETTO: I was one of the co-sponsors for that.
LaVOY: And those are certainly two beautiful buildings. Something else that you were defeated about was the suspending the license of an attorney convicted of crime or something.
GETTO: I got to tell about that. That's another place that we really see the injustices of our legislature. I had read about other states, how many states have a bill like that, that if an attorney is convicted of a felony that he'd lose his license until he serves his time. And, like other professions, you get a teacher that gets a felony, they lose their license until they've served their time or they're clean. Most professional people, that's the law. So I, naive, I shouldn't have been naive, I wasn't thinking about it. I just got the bill and drafted it, [tape cut] and I said, "This is like apple pie and motherhood," so I just thought, "I'll sponsor the bill and when it comes in, go in and testify, and it'll pass. This is one of the areas we’ve got to clean up." So, I never gave it much thought or anything. The bill was processed. I introduced it, and I never had a hearing for a long time. "What's going on?" So, finally I was notified that it's going to be heard, and I went in and I testified about the bill. I had newspaper clippings. The chairman was very nice. He was an attorney. I hadn't thought about it. There were only three attorneys on that judiciary committee. Three out of eleven. So, I thought, "This is going to pass. These guys are not all attorneys." I never thought about what was going to happen, so the chairman was very nice. He says, "Yeah, this bill should really be considered," so he appoints one of the attorneys as a chairman of the subcommittee and the other attorney with him and then John Marvel, a freshman rancher. You know, first time in the legislature. (laughing) The bill never saw daylight again. They took care of it.
GETTO: If the bill had been a really important piece of legislation that could have affected the people of our state, I probably could have taken some other means. I could have gone to the press or the television. Maybe the press wouldn't even print it. I don't know, but know I think I could have gone on television and made the committee bring it out, but they just sat on it, and it was never seen again.
LaVOY: (laughing) Another thing that you brought up was reduction of the size of classes in the lower grades. How did you happen to come up on that?
GETTO: Fortunately I was appointed to an interim study committee. I think we had about seven or eight members, and we held hearing all over the state in different school districts trying to find some way to improve our education system. We sponsored several bills. Some of them never made it because the teachers' union was opposed to them, but the teachers' union supported this bill. It was a very fine piece of legislation. It's a very expensive one. You're talking into two, three hundred million dollar area, but I think it will pay off in the long run. I don't know at this time how far up the classes we should reduce class sizes. Let me say that there was diverse opinion in the fact that there may have been another way to do this. This one I thought of myself, my work. Instead of cutting all the classes to fifteen to one in three grades is maybe making them twenty to one, and then take out the slower students and give them real like one to one, one to two, a lot of that. Maybe that would have been effective because the brighter students are going to get it. The only way you slow them down is to take away the material. They really go after it. The intermediates will do fairly well, but it's these down here that really need the attention. I'm still not sure that maybe that was the better way because now you have fifteen students the teacher has to spend a lot of time with the ones in the lower ends of the class, and maybe we're losing some of the top ones, but again, that contradicts what I said a minute ago, the fact that the bright ones are going to make it anyway.
LaVOY: Something that I wonder about is they're combining many of the classes with thirty children and two teachers. I don’t think that’s a good idea.
GETTO: Yeah. It wasn't intended at the time.
LaVOY: That's what has resulted.
GETTO: But you know why that's happened is we've thrust this onto the school districts, and some of the school districts don't have the capital to build the additional rooms, so the way they're doing it is putting the same number of kids with two teachers. I don't think it's as good as one teacher with fifteen children.
LaVOY: No. Then going on, one of the ACR's [Assembly Concurrent Resolution], this was in 1987, directed state agencies to cooperate with efforts to develop Laughlin.
GETTO: Well, Laughlin has developed much since then. It may have been directing the agencies because Laughlin may have felt that they're not getting the help from the state agencies.
LaVOY: Oh, I see.
GETTO: So you mandate them to give them the same attention percentage wise as they're giving other places.
LaVOY: That accounts for that. Then another one that died in legislative counsel that you brought up was the constitutional amendment to declare English as the official language of Nevada.
GETTO: Yeah, there's my pet. That's my pet peeve.
LaVOY: And I bet you just got killed on that one.
GETTO: That's my pet peeve. I just felt so bad that . . . I just feel strongly that we should have one official language. You can have all the languages you want, but one official language, and I sponsored that bill. I didn't have enough help, and I didn't realize I was going to have the opposition. You can't believe what happened the day I went into that hearing room to speak for my bill.
LaVOY: I think I can.
GETTO: The hearing room was jammed pack full and the people standing all around and all mostly Hispanic and Asian. There were people like judges, a district judge, attorneys, all different professions. Just shot me down and said it was discriminatory. It was not needed. I just went out with my tail between my legs. (laughing) What I did finally after they tore the bill apart, and I could see the committee just folding. You know, my friends are on the committee, and they were just . . . 'cause the judge and some of these attorneys are very clever, and they shot the bill down, and I said, "I'm not going to let it be killed like that. I want to withdraw my bill."
LaVOY: I can understand with your parents coming from Italy. They spoke Italian in the home, but they had to learn English, and the same way with those of us whose parents came from other countries.
GETTO: Sure. Sure, and they learned.
LaVOY: Yes. And if you're going to go live in France, you've got to learn the language.
GETTO: And the other thing is, we've got to have an official language. What does it hurt? See, the fear that these people have is that if we make English the only language that they're going to lose some benefits, you know, the poor people, because they're not English speaking. The bill doesn't do that. I thought, and I don't know where I heard this, I thought this last time, that they had a bill that was going to be on the ballot. That's what I'd like to see. Put it on the ballot. I think we may still have enough people that would vote for English, but they didn't even come out with it.
LaVOY: At least it was a good try. And I notice that you offered a joint resolution to select Nevada as the site of the atomic particle accelerator, and, of course, that died. I think it was Texas that got it, was it?
GETTO: Yeah. Would have been a great asset to Nevada, and we had the space.
LaVOY: You finished your eighty-seventh session. I noticed that you became senator then. How did that happen?
GETTO: Well, Senator Ken Redelsberger decided that he was going to move out of the state. He, through a clever piece of legislation, became wealthy.
LaVOY: Oh! Oh!
GETTO: He was a real estate developer, and he sponsored a bill that put zoning in Pahrump. Pahrump is in Nye County, and Tonopah is the county seat. It was really a maverick bill which was taken to court, but it took two or three years for it to get through court. It was declared unconstitutional. In the meantime, he had parlayed parcels into I don't how many lots he had which he could sell lots under a subdivision plan. And what it did, it immediately made the land in Pahrump a lot more expensive. The lots that are dividable which is like Fallon. You used to could have come in here and go out here in the desert and buy ten acres for a couple thousand dollars, but as soon as they put zoning, you can't do that. I mean, the land went shht, like that. So it made him wealthy, and he sold out to a big international corporation before the Supreme Court made the decision. (laughing)
LaVOY: Oh. And what was their decision?
GETTO: They decided it was unconstitutional, but it's already been done. They couldn't go back and tear out all the . . What had already been done is done. They couldn't go further.
LaVOY: So anybody that had built houses . .
GETTO: Or had their subdivision planned and been accepted by the county and everything . . .
LaVOY: They could go ahead, but nothing further.
GETTO: Nothing further 'cause it's against the county. So, anyway, Ken was pretty sharp. And so when he said, "I'm not running anymore," I didn't want to run for the senate. I really didn't want to. I had a lot in Tahoe that I bought thirty years ago with the plans that someday I'd build a house on it, so I had started. We had to go through so many things. California had sued. We had our parcel ready to go, and the attorney general of California got a moratorium on the TRPA. New stuff could not be built, so there I was stuck with a foundation on my lot and not being able to build. So, when they announced that I should run for the senate, I said, "I don't want to do it," but they convinced me again. The Party had supported me, and I had some obligations to the Party. The importance of it was that the senate just had that twenty-one vote, and if they lost that one seat to a Democrat, it would turn over. They had discussed it and decided I was the person most likely to be elected in this large a district, so they finally convinced me to run, and I had to put off my house building. That was a real experience because my philosophy of going door-to-door, I mean, that is one large--it's half of the state. It's fifty-six thousand square miles. I think the state's a hundred and ten, hundred and eight, something like that. My daughter, she kind of got bummed out, so I said, "Come on and campaign with me for two or three months." We went door-to-door.
LaVOY: Which daughter?
GETTO: Marlea. We went to the little mining towns. (laughing) It was an experience.
LaVOY: The counties you hit were?
GETTO: Churchill, half of Lander, and part of Eureka, White Pine County, Lincoln County, Nye County, and Mineral County.
LaVOY: My goodness!
GETTO: That's takes you right next door to Las Vegas. Pahrump was the most educational. (laughing) You can't campaign in Pahrump 'cause houses are like a mile apart, two miles apart. You can't walk from one house to another. The only thing if I'd had a four-wheeler I probably could have run around.
LaVOY: Who was running against you at that time.
GETTO: A lady from Pahrump, and Pahrump had a pretty good-sized population. The fact that White Pine is so strongly Democrat it was scary as far as my getting elected. She was a county commissioner. She was well-known, in Pahrump and, of course, well-known in Tonopah and somewhat in Ely, but I beat her pretty good, but I worked hard.
LaVOY: I think you're a hard worker anyway. I noticed as a senator one of the first things you did was to increase the amount of exemptions for homesteaders.
GETTO: Yes, to protect the widows and people that . .
LaVOY: What did you increase it from?
GETTO: It was fifty thousand to seventy-five, I think.
LaVOY: Another thing, here you are again, you were appropriating money for the Nevada State Railroad Museum for facility improvements.
GETTO: Yup. I can't remember if that one passed.
LaVOY: Yes, it did.
GETTO: Oh, good.
LaVOY: Then another thing of interest you had an appropriation for mobile classrooms for the Nevada Girls Training Center. Is that down in . . .
GETTO: Lincoln County.
LaVOY: Jean. Is that where that is?
GETTO: No, it's in Caliente.
LaVOY: They didn't have enough classrooms?
GETTO: Yeah. Can I break in here and tell you another experience? Somewhere we missed the prison committee that I was on.
LaVOY: I didn't see that anywhere.
GETTO: I was on a prison study committee, and there were seven members. We studied the prisons of the state. We traveled lots of states. Oklahoma, Colorado, Utah, Washington to get the idea of best prisons.
LaVOY: Oh, I think Sue Wagner was on that with you, wasn't she?
GETTO: Yeah. We did come up with that White Pine was number one, but the committee was so political. We had to have four votes, and the majority votes to select a site. We had different members of the committee pulling different ways. John Marvel was pulling for Wells and Lovelock which we did put one in Lovelock, so the night before the hearing, I was really nervous. I said, "Boy, I don't know if we have the votes." I was really batting for Ely. They needed it, so I called my friend, Lawrence Jacobsen. He was on the committee. I said, "Jake, how you going to vote?" This was in the morning. I couldn't catch him at night, so it was just before the meeting I finally caught him, and he said, "Well, you know, Lincoln County, they're really poor down there. I think I'm going to vote for Lincoln County." I said, "Jake, you can't do that." See, I wasn't in the senate then, so I didn't represent Lincoln County.
GETTO: Jake had admitted in public several times that he owed me for being the Speaker. It was my vote that got him the speakership. I stuck with him on the Speaker. Then when he went to the senate, there were only five Republican senators, and he wanted to be minority leader. That's the year I was in the senate, and there was Bill Raggio and Sue Wagner. I can't remember the name of the other senator who's not there anymore and Jake. Well, Jake had the senator I can't remember his name, and Raggio wanted to be minority leader, and he had Sue. So, I'm in the middle. Jake says, "I want your vote." I said, "Okay, you got it," so he got to be minority leader. So, when I said, "Jake, you have publicly admitted that you were the Speaker because of me and you were also the minority leader because of me. I've never asked him you for a darn thing, but I'm going to ask you now. I want you to vote for Ely." He said, "You got it." And he even spoke for me then, so we came to the vote. One vote, we got. So Ely got the prison, and then we decided later about Lovelock. That was the second pick.
GETTO: Then we decided to put the women's prison in Caliente, and my last--this took so long. They had to do the planning and what have you. Oh, going back, the majority of the committee decided to do those things, then it went before the finance committee which is the money committee of the assembly and the money committee of the senate. They voted the majority of it. In fact, a hundred percent that time, and then both bodies of the legislature voted that these three prisons were going to go in these three places. McCallister who was from Las Vegas, a hot-shot attorney, was the chairman of the ways and means committee. The last session of the legislature, he turns that thing around and gets the votes in the assembly, and he hornswoggled the senators, I guess, changes the location to Las Vegas. Moved that women's prison to Las Vegas. The people in Caliente haven't got anything. They are so poor there, and they were really banking on this prison being additional income and asset. Just took it away from them.
LaVOY: Where is it going to be in Las Vegas?
GETTO: I don't know. It's not real close, but it'll be down there some place. I never have followed it that far.
LaVOY: There's a prison at Jean, but what is that? Medium security?
LaVOY: For women.
GETTO: Yeah. I know where Jean's is. It may be women now, but it used to be a male prison, and then there's one about twenty-five miles north of Las Vegas.
Practically right on the highway.
LaVOY: Oh, at Indian Springs.
GETTO: Right. There's a pretty big one there, and now they'll have a women's prison some place else.
LaVOY: Down in Las Vegas. Well, one person can certainly . .
GETTO: Well, it's not the one. It's just the fact that when Las Vegas votes, and he's chairman of Ways and Means, he's got some weight.
LaVOY: Well, I should say so. That's really something. Something else that I noticed that you brought forward, died in government affairs. You wanted to prohibit legislators from receiving honorariums.
LaVOY: What happened to that? (laughing)
GETTO: You know what happened to that. (laughing) It went into a committee, and all it takes is a little over half of the committee. I just couldn't believe, and I still don't believe that state legislators should receive honorariums. We're not congressman. In fact, I don't think they should receive them.
LaVOY: No, I don't either. Then you had another one that was indefinitely postponed. You had a bill to provide for reclamation of land after mining.
GETTO: Yeah. (laughing) It took care of that.
LaVOY: That was just indefinitely postponed.
GETTO: That's right.
LaVOY: Have they done anything about that since you've been out?
GETTO: I think there's been some progress made, but not a great deal.
LaVOY: And then another one that you brought up that did pass was to authorize the state engineer to grant temporary changes, diversion of the use of water.
GETTO: Yeah, that's the one I was telling you about.
LaVOY: Would you speak to that?
GETTO: Yes, that's a bill that's so important to our area and even in Lyon County and will be a great asset in the future is to be able to transfer water you have to appeal to the state engineer, and it's not a very expensive proposal to transfer the water from this point. In other words, this headgate to another parcel of land, but only for one year, and you can only do it three years in a row. It certainly helps in drought situations. I think it will help in the future, maybe, instead of a farmer selling his water that he might lease his water out for a few years.
LaVOY: Until he needs it again.
GETTO: You know what else I think, Marian, I think it could be used as a, we haven't cleared the hurdle as far as we can release that upstream, but if that comes then instead of them buying the water--and it's gone once they buy it--but if they could just like take a drought year, if the farmer could transfer his water, especially in the Truckee before it gets there, they can keep it up there. The farmer could just lay idle if he gets enough to compensate him for doing that, and it helps him and the shortage here where they don't have to have all the water that they need. They have a lot of excess water because of the years that they don't need it. It goes into Pyramid Lake.
LaVOY: That water question is a sticky one. I notice that you also requested the Western State Water Council to study inter-regional transfer of water. What is that?
GETTO: Inter-regional would be like moving water from Las Vegas to here. Regions like this. It might be a real benefit, for instance, to Clark County if they could buy water upstream, say, on the Colorado or on a different river. See, they can even trade it.
LaVOY: Aren't they having a big lawsuit with White Pine because they said they wanted White Pine water?
GETTO: Yeah. We were so mad. Talk about being mad at somebody. The legislature was furious with the fact that they went out very silently and filed on all the additional water in White Pine, Lincoln, and Nye County. So, if there's any water that's not appropriated, in other words, if there's some excess water there, they're first.
LaVOY: That doesn't seem quite cricket.
GETTO: It isn't. Especially on a little community like Ely. How are they going to grow if all their excess water is taken?
LaVOY: Another thing that you brought up--it was an SCR.
GETTO: Senate Concurrent Resolution.
LaVOY: You urged the University to address the problem of acceptance of credits earned at community colleges.
LaVOY: That has been a real sticky wicket.
LaVOY: You want to talk about that?
GETTO: Yes. Even before that, Assemblyman Sedway and I really felt strongly about transfer credits at the University, and we had admonished the University at that time. Well, then, even in my last session, they still had not taken care of that situation. The whole problem is really the professors, but the administration is not taking care of it. The professor, he says, "I don't want to give them credit for this." He can call his shots. The ironical thing is that there have been cases where the same professor taught at the community college and taught at the university and wouldn't accept the credits.
LaVOY: Well, that's been one of the big problems here at the community college, but I think that just this past year they have that partially ironed out.
GETTO: They've had a lot of criticism.
LaVOY: Because there was so much criticism, and I know the board of advisors sent letters to all the regents saying that they felt that if a class is identical to one at the university that the university should grant the community college full credit. But the university, that's holding its turf, I guess.
GETTO: Yeah. That's it. [tape cut] I was instrumental in helping start our medical school. I really felt strongly about Nevada having a medical school because of the limitation of our capable students of going to school in other communities, and then the fact that it was during the period when our rural areas had hardly any doctors, and they couldn't foresee any doctors coming to them because of the need and growth of the other communities. It's changed now, but at that time it was pretty bad, so a resolution was introduced in the senate to do a feasibility study for a two-year medical school, and that resolution was squashed. So, the proponent came to the assembly and we really worked it. I felt so strongly about it, and we worked like heck, and we finally got a resolution started in the assembly and passed it handily and then when it went to the senate, we were lobbyists then. We went over and really twisted our senators' (laughing) ears and worked on it, and it finally passed both houses and became a bill and it started a feasibility study. I think there, too, that there was some Howard Hughes money that helped the study, and then the next session we got started with a two-year medical school, and I think they went along for about four years. After that we saw the need for a four-year, full-fledged medical school, and it's a great school.
LaVOY: Oh, it's going great now.
GETTO: Doing great. Wonderful. Of course, since then they've had a lot of grants and a lot of endowments that have really helped the school. I'm proud of it.
LaVOY: I can understand why you would be very proud of that.
GETTO: Talking about the medical school, we'll go on, we missed one thing that was amusing in a way. Dean Dougherty, dean of the medical school, came to me. I was in the assembly so it had to be probably in 1987, and he said, "Would you sponsor a bill for me?" I said, "Well, what is it?" He said, "Well, it's going to be controversial." "I'm not afraid of that." So he handed me this bill which allows for the medical school to acquire five hundred dogs for research, and it sounded good, so I said, "Well, I'll do everything I can to help you." So, I went around and I got twenty-seven co-sponsors in the assembly. When the bill finally came to be known the press got a hold of it. It received the most calls and the most letters of any bill in history of the state of Nevada.
LaVOY: People opposed to that.
GETTO: Cruelty, and they branded me as a cruel man. You can't believe. I just finally had to tell my secretary, "You can't just be on that phone all that day. Let the receptionist take the calls and just write them down," but I never realized I ran into a buzz saw. What happened is all my fellow legislators all fell off like flies. Just fell off in every direction, (laughing) and there I was standing alone with this bill, and I told Dean, "I'm going to quit." I got nasty letters. There were articles in the Carson paper about what a mean man I was. Then, when I held a hearing on the bill, the protestors came in with big banners and so forth. I stopped the hearing, and I told the guards to remove them. Either put the banners down or get out, and there were cat calls. I had a psychiatrist doctor that I knew quite well, Don Molde. I made a stupid remark. You know, how you get sometimes, with all this confusion and pressure, I said, "You know, this is not so bad. If I was man's best friend, I would be very happy to give my life for my best friend." (laughing) Oh, gees! So Molde came in, and he said, "I can't believe you, Mr. Getto. I've known you all these years, and you're such a cruel man." [end of tape 3]
GETTO: Then he made the ridiculous comment after giving his speech against the bill, he said, "You know, every dog should have a right to decide how it dies." Then I came up and said, "That's as ridiculous a statement as I made. I think if we just try to be reasonable and research what saves human beings." Well, anyway, after all of the hearings and all of the publicity, I couldn't get anybody to support me anymore. They all just backed away. I apologized to the dean that I couldn't do a better job, but I couldn't get the bill passed, and it is something that's really needed. They put to sleep, at that time I don’t know about that, 37,000 dogs and cats a year, and all we were asking was five hundred. I even amended the bill. I kept amending the bill to try to meet their objections. I amended the bill so that the person would have to bring the dog in and sign a paper that it was all right to do research, and they wouldn't go for that, so the bill died.
LaVOY: Amazing. Absolutely amazing.
GETTO: And yet we have children and people that could certainly be helped by research. Look what's happened so far. Some of the wonderful things that have come out of research with animals. And they're not cruel to the animals. They use every precautionary measure to be gentle with the animals as they work on them. They put them to sleep most of the time.
LaVOY: Well, that is . . . I don't know what to say. You really took a beating on that.
GETTO: Oh, boy, did I!
LaVOY: In 1991, you ran for senate again. Did you have opposition then?
GETTO: In 1991 I didn't run. 1989 I ran, and that was a four-year term. The election was 1989, and I served until the end of 1991, and then I stepped down.
LaVOY: So, in 1991, you were one of the proponents to change the design of the state flag. What was the change?
GETTO: I can't remember. It was a significant change because we have the plow and the . . . I can't remember. It didn't change the flag completely.
LaVOY: It was just the design.
GETTO: The design inside. I should remember that.
LaVOY: And then Senate bill 413--I'm sure you were very proud of. It increased the number of district judges for the Seventh Judicial District.
GETTO: I can tell a story about that. That's the one I want to tell. When we got the prison for Ely, and the prison was built, all of the legislators knew that we were going to have another judge down there because the prisoners are first on any lawsuits. They get heard first, so civil suits have to wait in line. So, the people in Ely came to me in that session and said, "We need another judge. People are waiting a year, year and a half on the docket." I even had a mother come with a child. She says, "My child can't be taken care of because I can't move from that venue and can't get into court." So, I introduced the bill, and I never gave it a thought. I thought, "Well, this is apple pie and motherhood. Just a matter of procedure."
GETTO: So, the session goes along, and I never hear anything about my bill, and I kind of forgot about it. Then it gets along towards the end of the session, and I am really concerned. I said, "Well, what happened to the bill?" So I go to Dina Titus, and she says, "How are you going to vote on the governor's hazardous waste transportation?" I said, "What's that got to do with my bill? I didn't come in here to trade votes." I was kind of angry. She said, "Well, I don't know. How bad do you want your bill?" So, I went out mad, and she wouldn't bring it up again, so I told Ernie Adler. He's a Democrat, but he's a friend. I said, "Ernie, when Dina's working bills,"--they do a certain day that they go through all the bills, I said, "When she brings up 413--I have enough votes in the committee, all you got to do is make a motion to do pass." So, he did it. The bill come out, and boy! It was close to the end of the session, so I hustled it through the senate. First of all, Lawrence Jacobsen did not want the judge appointment. He said, "I'll support your bill, but you got to wait until election." I thought, "Well, we can take care of this in the assembly and come back." This is using politics again.
GETTO: The assembly agreed with me, so we passed the bill down there. They amended it to make it two years before. So, the last thing, I mean, I am sweating this bill like you can't believe. I said, "I promised these people. They got to have a judge." So, the last day the bill is still over in the assembly. So, in the evening it finally comes over. I've been tracing this bill. I thought it went to the Finance Committee, so I went up to Finance Committee because that was the last committee it came out of. First it went to Judiciary, then to Finance because it's got money tied to it. I went up there, and they said, "Yeah, the bill's over here, but we haven't got it." I said, "Where in the heck is this bill? What is it? Some big secret or something?" Then I went down to the secretary's desk. She's a good friend, and I know her real well. I said, "Do you know where 413 is?" She whispers to me, "Dina Titus has got it." I said, "Oh, no!" So, I was so furious. I always tried to keep my cool. That's why I decided I'm getting too old. I was just furious. I was mumbling to myself and cussing. I went walking down the hall, and I, "God damned bitch," and a lady heard me. She ran to Dina and told her that I called her a bitch. So I thought, "Well, what am I going to do now?" So, I went to the majority leader, knew him real well, and said, "John, you got to help me with this bill. It's not a matter of politics. These people gotta have a judge." He said, "Well, the first thing you gotta do is go apologize to Dina Titus." "Okay, I'll do that." So, I went and apologized to her and told her I was really sorry, and that I should never do anything like this. Totally my fault. So, she said, "Well, I accept your apology." She calls the committee together and killed the bill.
LaVOY: She killed the bill!
GETTO: So, I thought, "Well, I'm in deep, deep trouble now. What I can do? Oh, I know what I'm going to do. I'm going to run down to the assembly which I know the chairman real good down there, get him to call his committee together, bring up the bill, and just strip the amendment off of it, and it'll be a different bill in the assembly. It'll be the original so I won't have to go back to the senate, so the one down there will be false." And he did that. He called his committee together. They removed their amendment, and the bill passed. It was two years late, but they got a bill.
LaVOY: For heavens sake.
GETTO: That's what I had to go through to get one bill. I was so angry that . . .
LaVOY: I can see why you decided to retire. (laughing) That just is petty.
GETTO: Yeah, real pettiness. Well, there were a couple . . she was angry with me because I didn't do her bills personally. She had another bill that made it a gross misdemeanor to eat cats or dogs. I was chairman of the committee at that time, and she came and testified. I said, "Well, Dina, is it really that big of a problem? Is it that many people that we got to put some more people in prison because they ate a cat or a dog? It is an ethnic dish in some places, you know. I eat spaghetti." (laughing) I didn't kill the damn bill. The committee did. They voted against the bill, but she held it against me. Just stuff like that. .
LaVOY: That's very interesting because she's so powerful right now.
GETTO: Oh, it's scary. Thank goodness, I'm not there anymore, but I fear for the rural counties. She does not care for the rural counties. When she first came to the Senate, there were Lawrence Jacobsen, Dean Rhodes and me. She said, "I just can't stand this type of rural mentality." Like we're all a bunch of idiots.
LaVOY: Well, that's just too bad. I also notice that you had brought up a bill for the right of certain relatives of a child in matters involved in custody and visitation. What was that about?
GETTO: I think that's the one that's called grandparents' rights. I sponsored the bill that gives grandparents certain rights. If the parent is not able to be the legal guardian the grandparents have rights to come in. They can come and sue, whatever. The reason I felt so strongly about that is--oh, not only that. There was a case here in Fallon, for an example, that the parents of the children was being prosecuted for molesting the children, I think, and the Welfare Department came in, took those children, and they scattered them all over for a long time until he was exonerated. He was exonerated! And the grandparents lived right down the road. That to me is a waste of the tax money in the first place, and it's a real hardship on those children. The damage that must have done is . . . I had other testimony, too, that many times the welfare department would take children and not consider the grandparents. They should be considered as foster parents or guardians in the meantime. It was just to give grandparents more rights.
LaVOY: I imagine that many grandparents were very happy with you for having brought that up. Then another thing that you did that has just come up in the paper fairly recently, it was an SCR that it was to study the options for transferring Indian Lakes from the government to the state or local government, and I know that when I was on the park commission we wanted to accept it, but [Churchill] County said that they couldn't take it. Now the City of Fallon is accepting Indian Lakes, but I don't know what's come of that.
GETTO: I don't think they've accomplished anything, yet. That's one of my really pet issues. I'd send everyone back to legislature another time to get that in. Oh, I know a bill. I sponsored a bill that appropriated seventy-two million dollars for acquisition of water and water rights and waterways. SB-5. Probably 1989 session.
LaVOY: What was it?
GETTO: It's a statewide bond issue. I've been really upset with the Fish and Wildlife and the State Parks Commission that they were supposed to acquire water for Churchill County, for one thing, and I always thought that there's five million dollars for water acquisition, and I kept thinking that Indian Lakes would be a natural because it's there. As they sell off these water rights, there won't be any water down there. I really felt strongly. Oh, it must have been 1981. It was a major piece of legislation, and it took some work. I had to convince Clark County. That was my own bill to start with. When I brought it in, I got two or three senators from Clark County to join me. We finally had to include money for Clark County. That's why the bill grew. It was twenty-five million to start with. It passed, and it's being used. Washoe County got a chunk of it, too.
LaVOY: Thinking of water and all of that, I noticed that you were also one of those that was the father--or should we call it that--designating Lahontan cutthroat trout as the official state fish.
GETTO: Yeah. (laughing)
LaVOY: You were on that one, too. So, actually, most all of our state . . .
GETTO: State wildlife symbols, I was co-sponsor.
LaVOY: I think that's very nice. I notice that you, also, helped to get more money for Northern Nevada Community College at Elko. Well, you've just done so many things, and we've covered so many of them, that I just don't know quite where to go from here. I know one thing. SJR-37 you supported the study of the development of an international trade center in Nevada, and that's going great guns.
GETTO: That would be a tremendous asset to Nevada if we can get that going.
LaVOY: You're thinking about an actual center?
LaVOY: But now we have these people that travel all over as representatives to bring business to Nevada. In fact,
didn't you go to China on one of those trips?
GETTO: Um-hum. Well, we can finish this, and then I can talk about some of the committees I served on.
LaVOY: All right. I think we've pretty well covered the bulk of the bills that I thought were particularly interesting.
GETTO: There's another bill that I feel strongly about and proud that I was part of it. The DUI [Driving Under the Influence] bill. We passed the first one in the assembly, and then it was not quite good enough, so when I was in the Senate in 1981, we amended that bill and made it a stronger bill. What was ironical--and this is kind of political crap, when I was in the assembly, I wanted to amend the present bill that we had because I felt that it was too restrictive. Like Ely and some of these rural towns do not have the cells to keep people in, so I thought it would be better to be up to the judge. You know, they could work so many hours a week, wear inmate clothes, and be punished in that way rather than put them in jail.
GETTO: Well, the original supporter of the DUI lost two children to a drunk driver at two different times, and she was almost rabid about making it stronger and stronger and stronger which I understood. I fought for this amendment on this bill, and she was opposed to it. She felt to stick them in jail and make them suffer in jail. On the bill, it was a vote, and the amendments are voice vote, so when my bill was voted on, I missed it by one vote. I had my nose a little bit out of joint, and so when the amended bill came up, I just voted no without thinking. So, then the senate brings a bill over just exactly like mine practically, which would have amended the other one, but it was an amendment vote. We sent the bill to the senate. The senate amended it and sent it back, and we had to ratify it. In other words, agree with the amendment. What the senate amendment did was what I was trying to do originally, so I voted yes on the amended version, but it was a voice vote. Wasn't recorded, so when came the next election, she branded me as one of the four worst legislators as far as DUIs and took a full-page ad out in the Reno paper, and here I was one of them, and here I had worked so hard to do it. So, when I was in Senate in 1981, we re-did the bill and made it stronger. I don't think they got it on this time, did they, .08? I got to ask Mike McGinniss. They've been trying to do that. That was a very good feeling for me to be able to support this because I had a personal life involvement. I was driving with my son to town in 1960, and just about half a mile from town on the curve, this was broad daylight, I looked up. I saw this pickup. First I thought it was going the other way, and then I realized it was coming right straight at me. It was on the curve like this, so I thought, "Well, he's going to see me, and he's going to cut over any time," and he didn't. I just started to cut over, and he rolled me back seventy feet. Almost killed my son and really banged me up quite bad. Both of them were so drunk. They threw them out of a bar.
LaVOY: And they got in the car?
GETTO: And they got in the car and were driving to Lovelock. Oh. They couldn't even . . . One of them died finally, and that's why I think almost everybody felt strongly. But I took a lot of abuse on that bill. I came home from the legislature, and I used to stop in the bar just to joke with the guys. Walked in there and here's two or three guys I knew drunk. They were drunks. Professional men, but they were drunks. Every night they'd go get drunk, and they called me every name under the sun, and I said, "Look, I'm not legislating your drinking. You can drink all you want, but just don't get in the damned car and drive." Boy, I ran into several like that. And it's those people that the legislation is for.
LaVOY: Well, I don't think I would have skin quite that thick.
GETTO: (laughing) Well, you have to.
LaVOY: (laughing) So, then what made you decide that it was time to retire?
GETTO: My wife, Pat [Stark]. She didn't make me resign. I realized that I wanted to spend some time with Pat. I'm getting fairly old and that we won't have much time to travel. We really want to travel some and enjoy each other. Pat's been teaching and spent a lot of her energy teaching, and we haven't had a lot of time together and thought it was time, plus the fact that some of these incidents in legislature I realized that I can't be as effective as I used to if I'm going to blow up like that.
LaVOY: Did Pat enjoy going to legislative functions?
GETTO: Some, but she never came over too much. There are some features about the legislature that are not good. Not so much anymore. They don't drink like they used to, but fourteen, fifteen years ago, there was still quite a bit of drinking, and she didn't enjoy that at all. The Ways and Means chairmen, most of them, they're okay people until they get to be chairman of Ways and Means and then they become gods, and they're arrogant, and that was the feature she really didn't like. A couple of guys over there that had been chairmen of Ways and Means--now, Raggio's not. He's strong, but he's not really arrogant. And John Marvel was one of the first assemblyman at the time I served that didn't become arrogant. And I think the man it is now – he’s a black man – are fine, but some of them…Those are the decisions, and my health. That's about that time that I started to have this horrible back problem, and then I had a knee problem and a prostate problem. Well, the prostate problem I already had. I just realized that I gotta smell the roses while I'm still able to smell. (laughing)
LaVOY: That's so. I imagine the party was very upset having you decide to retire.
GETTO: They were somewhat upset, but the fact is that I said to the party and to Mike McGinniss that I will not retire now unless you run for senate. Mike's doing a good job. He's a very fine young man, and I feel like I'm well replaced, but I wouldn't have retired then if Mike had said, "No, I don't want to do it." But he was just like I was. He didn't want to leave the assembly. Now that he's there, I think he probably enjoys it. I wasn't there long enough to really get to like the senate.
LaVOY: I'm sure in all the years that there were some people that you remember. The name of a woman, I believe she was Nancy Gomes' sister, Leola Armstrong. I notice that she just has recently retired.
GETTO: I knew Leola. She was there for many, many years. She was there the first time I served, I think, in the senate, but not the second time. She retired from the legislature quite a while ago, and then she retired from the position she was in..
LaVOY: Were you there when Nancy Gomes was there?
GETTO: Yes. I served with Nancy Games.
LaVOY: She died very tragically from cancer. Who were some of the other memorable people that you just happen to think of?
GETTO: Our own local was Carl Dodge. Jim Gibson is a person that will always live on in my memory because of his strength. He was a very strong person, very knowledgeable, very intelligent, and, yet, very human. He helped me with a lot of bills.
Oh, I've got to tell about this bill. My first piece of legislation that I did for my people that I got accomplished that I felt good about is the volunteer retirement. When I went to legislature they never got a retirement. Volunteers could put twenty, thirty years in and never get a nickel, so that's the bill I went over. I wanted to get that bill for these retirees. Not only ours, but all the rural counties, so I had (laughing) one heck of a time getting that bill because the director of PERS [Public Employees Retirement System], our retirement system, was against it. He had been like the lord over this. He'd been the director for I don't know how many years, and he said, "It's an invasion of people's money. Can't do it." I said, "It is not! All you do is the CDs will pay in accordance whatever the employers pay, and they get a little retirement." "No." He fought me and fought me. I finally got it past the assembly because I worked well with them and the people helped me. This was my freshman year. So, then I go over--I didn't even know Jim Gibson, and boy! This guy was mad then. He was after me. He was going to kill the bill. So, I went and I finally sat down with Jim Gibson, and we talked. I told him the situation in the rural counties. I said, "Do you know the value that these firemen provide with no revenue, no money, and what it would cost us if we had to replace the volunteer fire department? Just think of the times that they get up in the middle of the night or run out, risk their lives for the public and get nothing." He listened and listened and he said, "Well, we'll do a little study and I'll come back and let you know." So, he worked on it and did a study, and it was feasible with paying in like I said, and he supported me, and we got it passed. That was the first bill that I did for anybody.
LaVOY: And that was to get retirement for . .
GETTO: Volunteer firemen. And I think Fallon was the first city to take advantage of it.
LaVOY: Are volunteer firemen paid?
LaVOY: How many years do they have to serve before they can get retirement?
GETTO: It'd be five years now, but used to be twenty years.
LaVOY: When you first brought it up, if they had twenty years in then they could get a retirement.
GETTO: Yeah, now we went from three hundred a month, and I think the max now is up six hundred a month.
LaVOY: That's still not very much.
GETTO: For what they do.
LaVOY: For getting up out of bed in the middle of the night.
GETTO: Oh, and risking their lives.
LaVOY: That's true.
GETTO: So, I had just remembered that bill. That was my first victory in the legislature.
LaVOY: Very first one.
GETTO: That was in 1967.
LaVOY: Now that you have retired, do you keep close track of what's going on?
GETTO: No. No, I have a lot of nostalgia. I went over there a couple of times. It bothers me. Sometimes I phone legislators, but I figure Mike'll handle our end real well and Lawrence Jacobsen can handle the other end. If there's something in particular, I'll call them.
LaVOY: I remember meeting a gentleman at your home that was legislator from New Jersey, I believe. that you went to China with.
GETTO: Oh. Okay.
LaVOY: That was on a trade commission of some sort, wasn't it?
GETTO: Yeah. A group of legislators was on a trade commission, and we traveled China. It was very educational for me, and, of course, we did, I think, a lot for the United States. Look what's happening now with China. Not just myself, but it's been different groups of legislators going over and acquainting the Chinese. I hope that we're careful enough not to get too involved with China. I think right now we're being hurt somewhat by China, but in the long run maybe as our economy comes up we'll be able to trade evenly, but right now it's a deficit for us. China. We are, what did I hear the other day, thirty-four billion dollars of trade with China.
LaVOY: A trade deficit of that?
GETTO: Yeah. What do we send China? They can't buy hardly anything.
LaVOY: They have no money.
GETTO: The only people that can buy is the government, but the people have nothing. Twenty, thirty dollars a month. They live in hovels. But they're producing a lot for us. You can't hardly buy clothes or sweaters that are not made in China.
LaVOY: Everything seems to be.
GETTO: Yeah. And the materials. And now they're getting into other things. I think the biggest threat they are is to Japan.
LaVOY: You mentioned you went to Israel and you went to China. Did you go on any other trips?
GETTO: Taiwan. My first trade trip was to Taiwan, and we met with all the city officials, and we met the president of Taiwan at that time. Traveled Taiwan from one end of the other. It was a very fine trip. It was just about the time that President Nixon made open trade with China, and the Taiwanese were mad. They were really angry. I think there's a terrible threat right now with Taiwan, but who knows.
LaVOY: Well, with China just having taken over Hong Kong, and
I think in two years they're going to take over Macao, and that leaves just Taiwan with something to worry about.
GETTO: They're a very free enterprise country. Very aggressive. Boy, some of the grain elevators. They do not have much land to farm, but they're a very, very aggressive people. The leading shipbuilders, I couldn't believe the docks that they had, and they were re-building these huge, huge old battleships from all countries. They were leaders in that. They had a lot of people of working. They had whole cities of people just working the docks.
LaVOY: Amazing. [end of tape 4 side A]
GETTO: Some of the committees that I served on, would have been on in between sessions. I was very active in committees because I felt that's the way to really keep up with what's going on. These are not all the committees, but some of the major committees I served on. I was a member of the Legislative Commission two different terms. Mike McGinniss is serving the first time now as a member of the Legislative Commission. The Commission hears all the proposed legislation for the next session, and they deal with the workings of the legislature. The committee that I really liked I was a member of the Public Lands Committee, and the Public Lands Committee is rural oriented. We would go to Washington, D.C. twice a year and lobby our congressmen about land issues. It was a good committee. I just saw an article now that some of the women have objected--in fact, Dina Titus was one of the objectors--that there aren't any women on this committee, so she got herself on the committee. There's another lady that was with her. Another committee that gave me a lot of insight was the Legislative Nuclear Waste Study Committee, and that committee was funded by a tax on nuclear energy. I mean, all of the money didn't come to us, but there was a spinoff from that, so legislatures, I imagine, in all the states have, or at least the states that are affected by nuclear waste have committees like this. I was fortunate to travel to Norfolk, Virginia, and the east coast several times and visit some of the storage areas, and, of course, several times down here to our Yucca Mountain. I went down the tunnel in Yucca Mountain to the proposed storage that they're making there. It's fourteen hundred feet down.
LaVOY: Do you think that Nevada will get the storage?
GETTO: I think so.
LaVOY: Everyone back east that has anything to do with Congress all say that it will . . .
GETTO: You know what I think should be done? I think that all the places where nuclear waste is accumulated, I think it should be stored right there. In Norfolk, they showed us these huge casks, and the walls about that thick, and they're sitting outside and a big fence around them. Everybody can see them, and they're monitored continuously as far as radioactive leakage. To me that's where they should store them. If they'll stay there for a thousand years, and everybody knows they're there. Just stay away from it. But that being monitored constantly is a . . . and then you don't have to transport. Transportation is going to be the big, I think, the big issue. I think once it's stored, well, but, boy, you put that on the road and you think of how many thousands of trips it's going to be. It may be just the one or two accidents. I feel that they ought to store it where it is.
LaVOY: And I tell you, one of the foreign countries . .
GETTO: France, is it?
LaVOY: I don't know whether it's France or which one has put the huge containers down in the ocean, and they're afraid they're starting to leak. That's not the place for them.
GETTO: No, I don't think they should be there. I think they should be open so they can monitor them constantly. If they start leaking down there in the ocean, man! Yeah, I read where they're storing them in the ocean. Maybe their reasoning is that the ocean's so big that it'll be diluted.
LaVOY: It's not, though. What other committees were you on?
GETTO: I think that's about it as far as the major committees. The Legislative Commission is a real important one. Oh, I was on the--I already said the Education Study Committee. That was a very important committee, and I learned a lot. It was a very good committee that took a lot of time. I think Marcia deBraga is on that committee now.
LaVOY: With you being on that land committee, what is your feeling on the BLM trading land to developers in the Las Vegas area?
GETTO: Oh, I'm really opposed to it. I think that it's a round about diversion of what our laws are. If they want to buy it, why don't they buy it outright? What it's doing, it's helping some big boys. Like Hammie Kent's place that was sold. They could go out and buy private land, but they can't because there isn't any available. When we went back to Washington, many times we would tell our congressmen that why don't they release more federal land for private sale around Las Vegas, around all of these cities. All of the cities are landlocked, boy, it's like trying to get something out of nothing because they don't want to let go of that land. Just a little bit at a time, just a little bit at a time, and that's what drives that land up. It's so scarce that it becomes very expensive. It's ridiculous with the trade to have somebody else come in here and buy this which is pulling the wool over somebody's eyes, and then they trade it to the BLM or Fish and Wildlife. Doesn't that seem like a hoodwink or a mockery?
LaVOY: It does to me.
GETTO: Why don't they do things up front? If a major conservancy's going to buy that Hammie Kent's land, well, then buy it. Not have the hotel come down here and buy it and then trade it to the federal government and in turn they trade for the Fish and Wildlife.
LaVOY: No, it just doesn't seem proper. Now that you have retired and you're settled down, do you and Pat have any plans for any large trips any place?
GETTO: No. We're just going to the east coast right now. We went to Italy in January. I would like to take Pat to Australia. We know some people there and possibly to China again. If I can stand it. (laughing) The traveling really gets to me, but I hope I get in better shape.
LaVOY: Well, I certainly hope you do, too, and this has been a most interesting interview. On behalf of the Museum, I want to thank you for the interview.
GETTO: You're very welcome, and I enjoyed it very much. You did a lot of research. You're the one that made this interesting.
LaVOY: Thank you.