Guest commentary by Assemblyman Chris Edwards (R-AD19)
The 79th Legislative session is upon us. State legislators across Nevada are preparing to go to Carson City to promote a variety of potential solutions to the concerns our constituents have shared with us. We are also preparing for a winter that looks to be more brutal than the last.
I’ve met with many constituents in the past few months. Their concerns revolve around jobs and the economy, education reforms, property taxes, veteran issues and sensible government. I will support and defend their desires in all these matters.
In the last two special sessions, the legislature approved the Faraday project and the Stadium/Convention Center project. Each of these projects will ease the unemployment for thousands of Nevadans and create opportunities for future jobs. Unfortunately, these initiatives are not a complete solution.
Though our state economy is improving, it is not yet recovered. I will aggressively support job creating legislation, which is often a matter of getting government out of the way of businesses. I will also support efforts to reduce the costs and administrative burden of starting and growing businesses throughout the state. There is also a need to examine the licensing requirements for independent professionals who are hampered in their ability to earn an income by excessive and unnecessary regulatory expenses. These entrepreneurs contribute greatly to the service economy and should be able to operate with greater freedom.
In the 78th Legislative session, we approved a wide variety of education reforms and opportunities. The deconsolidation plan of the Clark County School District has already been approved. I believe it may be at risk as some seek to slow it down and strangle it though bureaucratic stagnation.
The Education Savings Account program is the most advanced school choice effort in the nation. Critics and enemies of the reform may try to undermine, delay, diminish or eliminate it. This program offers so much help to many thousands of parents, and hope to many thousands of students, that I will aggressively defend it. Governor Sandoval has also pledged to “go to the mat” for ESA’s and I informed him that he will not go there alone.
The Achievement School District plan is also under attack. It makes no sense to oppose the state Department of Education from relieving the districts of the worst performing schools they manage. Only school bureaucrats, foolhardy administrators and perhaps the School Board Trustees would be foolish enough to reject help on a problem they have failed to solve in 30 years. There will likely be some challenges to preserving other great educational opportunities such as Gifted and Talented School programs, Opportunity Scholarships, Career Technical Education, dual credit programs and Advanced Placement courses.
At the college level, I anticipate considerable time and committee hearings dedicated to work force development, vocational training and career technical education. I hope to see more resources provided to the community colleges and Nevada State College. As the economy improves, we will need the community colleges to provide the trained workers. The really good news is that I have met with both President Bart Patterson of Nevada State College and President Mike Richards of CSN and they are both highly motivated to meet the needs. I’m sure the other community colleges are similarly prepared.
There are rumors and rumblings that some cities and counties may seek to eliminate or raise the property tax caps that limit any annual property tax on residential homes to three percent (and commercial property to eight percent). I will adamantly oppose any attempts to raise or eliminate this important safeguard.
To date, there are 21 draft bills to address a variety of veterans’ issues. I will support them! In fact, I have already reached out to all the veterans in the legislature to form a new Veterans Caucus that will promote, advocate, track and advance veteran legislation sent to the Governor for his signature. I am completely confident he will be willing to sign.
It is important to ensure that public funds are spent wisely. I submitted legislation to create an Office of the Inspector General with the mission of minimizing waste, fraud and abuse anywhere public funds are expended. This is long overdue. Inspector Generals normally recover 20 times as much public funding as they cost, and even more by deterring others from committing waste, fraud and abuse. I have already reached across the aisle to garner support for this effort, which should be a non-partisan matter.
As a member of Ways and Means (Budget Committee), I will be on the lookout for ways to save money and avoid additional costs wherever possible. Even as more revenues come into the state coffers, I feel a very serious obligation to spend on only what we need, not just what 63 legislators can dream up. And some can dream up some doozies.
As many of you know, I am very disappointed by the way the Obama administration truncated the proper process of designating national monuments when it unilaterally used its pen to cordon off Gold Butte. There was no need to go to the most restrictive category, especially when so many Nevadans desire more access to public lands. The real problem was that the Feds were not doing their job of managing the area as they should. The solution is not to cordon off 300,000 acres. The administration did the wrong thing and did it the wrong way.
I have submitted a bill seeking Congress to reform the Antiquities Act to be more inclusive of the local population’s desires and to require the federal government to provide a state an amount of federal land (acre for acre) for any future designations. That seems much more fair and sensible.
Every session offers opportunities to help our state and communities. I will support sensible policies, programs and reforms. I will also continue to remind the urban legislators to always remember the rural communities in their proposed legislation. It is an honor to represent the good people of Assembly District 19 and I thank you for the opportunity.
And finally, if you come to Carson City while the legislature is in session, please stop by my office on the third floor (Rm #3134). If there is a floor session, I would enjoy having you join me on the Floor to watch the action from (literally) the front row! My office phone number is 775-684-8857.