About Last Week: Veterans home funding comes through, Sandoval calls for sporting events commission
Editor’s note: Seven days. Never enough hours.
Stacks of paperwork at the office and piles of laundry at home. It’s a never-ending cycle, which makes it difficult to stay on top of the endless news nuggets flowing from the White House, state capital, local government and business community. We get it — and we’re in the news business.
Enter “About Last Week.” This is our way of bringing news-hungry but time-strapped readers up to speed on happenings that may have flown under the radar. Our promise: We’ll keep it brief.
Our hope: You’ll read (or skim) and keep checking back every Monday.
So, without further ado, here are some noteworthy things that happened in Nevada last week.
Veterans home money approved
After the project spent years on a waiting list, Nevada will be getting reimbursed by the federal government for its investment in building a 96-bed veterans nursing home in Sparks.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs will be providing $33.5 million toward the $47 million home currently under construction. The Legislature’s decision in 2015 to put up $14.1 million for the project bumped it up from number 94 to 63 on the federal government’s priority list, and the project’s most recent position was number 50 on the list.
“The home is desperately needed in Northern Nevada and so, during the last legislative session, I put $33.5 million into the state budget with the knowledge that we would be reimbursed, in order to begin construction,” Sandoval said in a statement. “I am pleased reimbursement will happen this year.”
He thanked Nevada’s Republican senator in particular for ensuring an update to a prioritization formula that helped move the nursing home up in the funding queue.
“The rule change that ensured the home was funded this year was made possible by the hard work of all Nevada’s congressional delegation, particularly Senator Dean Heller,” Sandoval said.
The governor wants construction to be completed on the home before he leaves office in January.
— Michelle Rindels
Governor calls for group focused on attracting major sporting events to Las Vegas
Gov. Brian Sandoval is calling for a commission exclusively focused on attracting major sporting events to the Las Vegas area.
Sandoval announced Wednesday that he’d signed an executive order creating the Southern Nevada Sporting Event Committee and left open the possibility of the Legislature establishing a permanent Sports Committee. The group will examine the requirements for major sporting events, which facilities might suit them and transportation considerations.
“I was excited to hear that Las Vegas is one of five finalists under consideration to host the NFL Draft in 2019 or 2020,” he said in a statement, pointing out that Las Vegas now has a professional hockey and women’s basketball team, as well as a United Soccer League, a Triple-A baseball team and soon, the Raiders football team. “With the new Nevada and the existence of these teams in Las Vegas, additional opportunities to attract major sporting events and associated activities to our state are arising, especially with the addition of the new stadium. As such, I believe it is prudent for the Sporting Event Committee to examine the possibilities and report back to me and the Legislature on what’s possible and how Nevada might secure new and bigger sporting events.”
The group will include representatives from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, the Stadium Authority board, the City of Las Vegas, the Clark County Commission, the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, the Nevada System of Higher Education, professional sports teams based in Nevada or committed to locating in Nevada, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, the Nevada Resort Association and any others deemed necessary by the governor.
The committee is required to hold its first meeting by July 1 and to submit a report to the governor and the Legislative Commission on or before December 31, 2018.
— Michelle Rindels
Clark County sets May hearing for controversial pot shop ‘moratorium’
Southern Nevada’s largest government body will decide next month whether to implement a proposed rule that would effectively create a stay on the opening of additional recreational marijuana dispensaries.
Clark County commissioners briefly introduced a proposed ordinance on Tuesday requiring any new recreational marijuana dispensaries to be colocated with a medical dispensary and set a vote on the proposal for a commission meeting on May 15.
After an earlier attempt at a similar policy was dropped in December, Commissioner Susan Brager brought back the idea of requiring new recreational dispensaries have a medical component, which would create a de facto moratorium as the state isn’t issuing additional medical marijuana licenses. Brager said she wanted the county to slow down on accepting new dispensaries and thought the existing dispensaries were already “meeting the needs of everyone.”
County officials estimate that they will allocate 10 additional recreational marijuana licenses if and when state tax officials open up another round of recreational dispensary license applications this year, based on the county’s population and the number of dispensaries already in the county.
— Riley Snyder
Cortez Masto may introduce bill cracking down on illegal robocalls
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is considering introducing legislation that would stiffen penalties against illegal robocallers by making their activities a criminal offense.
At a hearing on robocalls convened by the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee Wednesday, Cortez Masto said she was concerned that robocallers see fines as just the cost of doing business.
“For this reason, I’m looking to introduce legislation to include criminal penalties, or criminal enforcement,” she said at the hearing.
Under current law, the Federal Communications Commission and Federal Trade Commission can impose civil charges and fines on people and companies who break telemarketing laws, but not criminal charges. Criminal convictions could include jail time.
Lois Greisman of the Federal Trade Commission said that she agreed that stiffer penalties could help deter bad actors. “There are limitations to civil law enforcement,” she said at the hearing. “We’re committed to working with our criminal colleagues to get greater deterrent effect.”
Kevin Rupy, who is vice president of law and policy at the United States Telecom Association, said he believes there are sufficient laws to deter illegal robocalls. “The civil enforcement authority that the FCC and FTC have is effective,” Rupy said. “My sense is that there are sufficient or existing statutes on the books.”
— Humberto Sanchez
Kihuen calls on Appropriations Committee to fund Nevada transportation and housing priorities
Rep. Ruben Kihuen Wednesday called on a House spending panel to help advance the Interstate-11 project, which will connect Las Vegas and Phoenix and ultimately stretch from Canada to Mexico. He also called for the panel to fund affordable housing programs important to the state.
“I-11 is critical for the state of Nevada and I ask that this subcommittee make this major infrastructure program a reality and reject any proposals to toll our nation’s highways and bridges,” Kihuen said during his appearance Wednesday before the House Appropriations Committee’s Transportation, Housing and Urban Development Subcommittee.
His comments came after President Donald Trump’s fiscal 2019 budget blueprint proposed an infrastructure plan that would provide $200 billion in federal funding that would be leveraged into $1.5 trillion in infrastructure investment, through partnerships with the private sector that could include tolling.
Trump’s budget also proposed getting rid of the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery (TIGER) program, which Kihuen urged the panel not to do.
“These TIGER grants are a valuable funding tool for state and local governments and have provided millions of dollars for the state of Nevada over the year,” Kihuen said.
The panel chairman, Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart of Florida, told Kihuen that he intends to keep the program and noted that it received a $1 billion increase in fiscal 2018, more than the previous year, despite calls from Trump to zero out the program.
Kihuen also called on the panel to continue to “fully fund” the Department of Housing and Urban Development’s (HUD) housing choice voucher program, which provides aid to low-income families, the elderly and the disabled. The White House requested $41.2 billion for fiscal 2019, a one percent increase over the previous year.
Specifically, the Nevada congressman called on the panel to protect HUD’s Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) program, which Trump’s budget has sought to eliminate. CDBG provides communities with funds to address a wide range of community development, including building affordable housing.
“For Nevada, this will mean a loss of nearly $20 million in funding,” Kihuen said.
— Humberto Sanchez