Clark County is among the fastest-growing areas in the country. Nevadans’ ingenuity and hard work has driven this development and it will be essential in meeting the economic, educational, and other challenges associated with its growth. I am committed to doing all I can to give Clark County’s local officials, educators, first responders, and health care workers the support they need in improving the quality of life in Clark County.
Housing and Foreclosure PreventionSouthern Nevada continues to suffer from one of the highest foreclosure rates in the country. Thousands of Nevada families have either directly suffered the loss of a home through foreclosure or have been indirectly impacted by severe value depreciation in the area. This crisis demands immediate relief for distressed homeowners along with long term solutions that will prevent the housing downturn from worsening.
To help struggling homeowners all of my offices are taking on housing casework to help homeowners find practical resolutions. I am also working with local organizations to provide Nevadans with additional counseling to help them restructure their mortgage and take advantage of historically low interest rates. You can find more information about upcoming foreclosure prevention workshops here.
To help increase the demand for homes and encourage borrowers to invest in the housing market, I have supported a number of homebuyer tax credits. Experts agree that these credits have helped stimulate home sales, as evidenced by reports of increased home sales in Las Vegas. That is why I helped pass a seven-month extension of the $8,000 first-time homebuyer tax credit extending it to homes purchases before July 1, 2010. This measure also provides a $6,500 “move up” credit to homeowners looking to purchase a new home. While extending the credit is an important tool to help stabilize the housing market, I remain committed to helping Nevadans avoid foreclosure.
For the long-term, I have worked to pass legislation the will ease the downturn and help reform the housing industry in a way that will prevent this crisis from happening again. I urged the Obama Administration to establish a comprehensive foreclosure mitigation program. In response, President Obama implemented the Making Home Affordable program, a three-pronged initiative that tackles the housing crisis with mortgage refinancing, loan modifications, and short sale incentives.
I also shepherded the passage of the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, which expands existing foreclosure prevention programs and provides funds to increase awareness about the housing crisis. Additionally, I led the passage of the Fraud Enforcement and Recovery Act, which updates federal criminal statutes to capture the actors previously outside the scope of existing law, but largely responsible for much of the financial and mortgage fraud that contributed to the current financial crisis. You can learn more about these important pieces of legislation here.
I will continue to work with local organizations to provide Nevadans the help they need while working on the federal level to pass legislation that protects the American Dream of homeownership.
Fighting for Better Health Care
I want to make better health care available to every Nevadan by cutting costs, improving quality, and expanding access. Discussed below are just a few examples of my recent efforts to improve health care in Clark County.
Over 110,000 residents in Clark County now get their prescription coverage from Medicare. I had long supported adding drug coverage to Medicare, so that our seniors can access the affordable medicines they need, but I have been greatly concerned about the deeply flawed Medicare legislation (Public Law 108-173) that created the new Part D benefit being implemented. Throughout the first enrollment period and still today, I continue to hear from beneficiaries who are forced to deal with an unnecessarily complicated program that was written for the powerful special interests -- at the expense of ordinary citizens. That is why I am fighting to enact legislation that would fix the implementation problems, phase out gimmicks like the "donut hole" coverage gap, clean out the Medicare law's billion dollar giveaways to special interests, and allow Medicare to use its massive bargaining power to negotiate bulk discounts on prescription drugs.
On behalf of Clark County's seniors, I will also keep fighting to protect and strengthen Social Security and to fund federal initiatives important to seniors like the Older Americans Act. In 2005, for example, I secured $250,000 to help Senior Lifeline deliver a wide range of social services to seniors. I am also committed to helping protect Nevada's seniors from abuse and exploitation and was pleased to recently secure $75,000 for the SAFE House Domestic Violence Shelter in Southern Nevada to implement an Elderly Abuse Prevention Project.
I am privileged to be able to advocate for federal agencies and programs that have real impact on the health and quality of life of Clark County residents, at all stages of life. For example, the federal Centers for Disease Control (CDC) makes it possible for Nevada to fund the Comprehensive Cancer Control Program, Diabetes Prevention and Control Program, the Nevada Environmental Public Health Tracking System, and the Women's Health Connection free breast and cervical cancer screening program.
Given that Clark County's population is among the fastest growing in the country, one of the most significant challenges facing this region is ensuring an adequate number of health care professionals. That is why I have strongly support initiatives like the Title VII health professions programs and federal grants for nursing education. Recently, I secured $500,000 in federal assistance to support the nursing program at the Community College of Southern Nevada.
As another example, I have been fighting to improve Nevadans' cancer care by securing millions of dollars in federal funding for the Nevada Cancer Institute in Las Vegas. This leading edge cancer center is designed to provide Nevadans close access to certain clinical trials that would otherwise be unavailable in the state.
Expanding Educational Opportunities
As someone whose life was transformed by education, I am strongly committed to providing a high quality education to all of our children. That means ensuring our schools and students have the resources they need to succeed.
Our children deserve great teachers in every classroom. As the fastest-growing state in the nation, Nevada has a tremendous need for additional qualified teachers. I worked to bring Teach for America, a nonprofit group committed to educational equality, and the Clark County School District together to identify a plan of action. I am pleased to say that, as a result, over one hundred new teachers have begun teaching in Clark County schools. This is a great example of how the public sector and private groups can work together to improve our schools.
I also have been working hard to support Clark County School District. I secured funds last year for academic enrichment activities that help prepare students for the Nevada exit exams. I helped provide additional support for intensive reading and mathematics intervention programs for economically disadvantaged students who are below grade level in math and reading. Our children are our future, and we must give them all the support they need to reach their full potential.
Protecting and Improving Our Economic Base
Throughout my career, I have supported policies that have helped to advance gaming in Nevada. As Nevada’s Gaming Commissioner in the late 1970s and early 1980s, I worked to rid the industry of crime, making it more attractive to tourists and Nevadans. As a senator, I have protected casino workers’ tips from increased taxes, worked to repeal industry taxes, and supported programs to train new workers.
New Veterans Administration Hospital
Nevada has one of the fastest growing veterans’ communities in the nation. Today, one in six Nevadans are veterans, and this number will continue to grow in the future. Our soldiers, veterans, and their families deserve nothing but the best from our government, and I am committed to providing them with the level of benefits they have earned.
For years, I have been working to bring a new VA hospital to the Las Vegas Valley. In September 2005, I was able to secure $200 million for the construction of the new VA Hospital. The first construction contract will be awarded in August, 2006. In addition, I am requesting funding for a 120 Bed Nursing Home Care Unit that will be constructed immediately adjacent to the new medical facility.
Lifeblood of Southern Nevada’s Economy: Water
The availability of water in Southern Nevada is fundamental to maintaining a strong economy. I understand that rapid population growth raises concerns for the future of Nevada’s water resources. The rapid development of our communities has dramatically increased demands for infrastructure, such as schools, housing, and roads, as well as for basic resources, such as water. While Nevada has done quite well in meeting the challenges presented by high population growth, the challenge continues in responsibly managing our water resources.
By preventing waste and misuse of our water for non-essential purposes, the entire community can achieve the shared goal of providing all Nevadans enough clean and safe water for drinking and other basic health needs. It may interest you learn that as an advocate for water conservation, I have helped fund innovative projects such as water recycling, which uses non-drinkable water for fountains, golf courses, and similar functions. This helps save supplies of drinkable water for residential use. I also have helped provide for a water bank, which allows Nevada to store excess water in times of abundance or in times of drought.
Another important way to assure Southern Nevada’s water supply is through better management of our in-state resources. As the senior member of the Senate Committee on Appropriations Energy and Water Development Subcommittee, I annually write the funding bill which allocates the federal government’s resources to help assure water supplies. From this position I have provided millions in federal funding to increase the number of water recycling efforts in Clark County – saving precious drinkable water by recycling non-potable water for use in landscaping and water features. I have also helped to fund research and other projects designed to tap the ocean for potable water by expanding desalinization work.
While there is a lot I can do at the federal level to help assure our water supply, each of us individually can make a dramatic impact on the effort. For the last several years, Southern Nevada Water Authority has been working with the public on efforts to install water saving devices and to remove grass. Today, enough grass has been removed in Southern Nevada to stretch a line of grass all the way across the United States from Las Vegas to Washington, D.C. and halfway back. With landscaping consuming roughly 80 percent of Southern Nevada’s water, this simple step has already netted significant water savings. To find out more you can visit the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s website http://www.snwa.com/html/index.html.
Strengthening Law Enforcement
Clark County law enforcement agencies face significant challenges in meeting both the law enforcement needs of a rapidly growing population along additional homeland security demands. I have been disappointed that the Administration has repeatedly proposed to slash federal aid to local law enforcement agencies during these difficult times. Clark County officers are working hard to keep our communities safe. They need more resources, not less.
I have been working with each Nevada agency to ensure their highest priority needs are met. Last year, I secured more than $80 million in grants and other funding for Nevada's law enforcement and homeland security efforts. Most of these funds go to state and local law enforcement officers, fire fighters, and other emergency responders.
I worked for the last two years to pass the Law Enforcement Officers Safety Act, which exempts qualified current and former law enforcement officers from state laws prohibiting the carrying of concealed handguns across state lines. This law ensures that officers who undergo the rigorous training to carry concealed weapons will have their experience recognized in every state. It will make our communities safer by allowing law enforcement officers to effectively fight crime wherever they go, and it will protect officers from criminals who carry a grudge.
Transportation is critical to Clark County’s economy and quality of life, and I am committed to improving our transportation system. This is one reason I have sought positions in the Senate that improve my ability to ensure that Nevada receives more transportation dollars.
As the Senate Majority Leader, I secure millions in funding for Clark County’s transportation priorities each year. For instance, I secured $26.5 million for lane widening on Interstate 15 from US 95 to Apex Road and $25 million from Primm to Sloan. I also successfully directed $50 million to the Hoover Dam Bypass Bridge, which will serve as a secure transportation route for goods and commodities. Finally, I also secured $26.5 million for the Hoover Dam Bypass in Boulder City, which will connect the Hoover Dam Bypass to existing US 93/95/I-515. When completed, this project will create a 4-lane highway between Las Vegas and the Arizona border.
Air travel is also fundamental to supporting Nevada’s tourist and business economy, and I have been fighting to ensure that McCarran International Airport helps speed visitors on their way to and from Las Vegas. In 2005, McCarran International Airport posted its busiest year in 2005 with over 44.3 million arriving and departing passengers. I have also been pleased that I have been able to secure of dollars to fund improvements at McCarran to help accommodate its increasing traffic. I also successfully opposed an effort last year by the Transportation Security Administration to reduce the number of screeners at McCarran, and I am pleased to say that the agency plans to increase the number of screeners over the next two years.
Clark County Public Lands Bill
In 2002, I authored legislation with Senator Ensign to provide a comprehensive public lands management plan for Clark County. This strong bipartisan legislation released wilderness study areas to enhance economic opportunities in Clark County while adding 440,000 acres to the national wilderness system. The measure preserved the beautiful areas that bless southern Nevada by creating the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area and expanding the existing Red Rock National Conservation Area. It also will ensure a clean future for Clark County by establishing the Southern Nevada Litter Cleanup Campaign.
Conserving Our Natural Heritage
Our state has a rich natural heritage that must be protected for the enjoyment of current and future generations of Nevadans. I have been working on a bipartisan basis in the Senate to implement plans that will both preserve Clark County’s precious areas and enhance economic opportunities for local residents.
In 2002, I authored legislation with Senator Ensign to provide a comprehensive public lands management plan for Clark County. It designated over 440,000 acres of wilderness area to help conserve environmentally sensitive land throughout Clark County and released more than 233,000 acres from current wilderness study area status to help promote economic development and access. The final bill was a good compromise measure that will improve the quality of life and promote economic development while enriching and protecting the awe-inspiring places that bless Southern Nevada.
I was able to pass legislation along with Senator Ensign that will help provide for the long-term viability of helicopter tour operators, reduce noise for home owners, and safeguard one of Nevada’s richest petroglyph sites. Our legislation conveyed about a third of a square mile of public land managed by the Bureau of Land Management to Clark County for dedicated use as a heliport. The land is located just south of the Henderson city limits and east of Interstate 15.
The bill will also ensure that flights steer clear of the highest concentrations of sensitive and special cultural resources and minimize the impact on the bighorn sheep and other wildlife that live in the McCullough Mountains. Any helicopter flight originating from and/or landing at this heliport would be required by law to fly no further than 5 miles north of the southernmost boundary of the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area and at least 500 to 1000 feet above ground level while in the NCA.
The legislation also set a $3 per passenger fee for each flight that flies over the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area. Two-thirds of the money collected will be made available for the protection of the cultural, wilderness, and wildlife resources in Nevada. One-third of the funds will be available to the Bureau of Land Management to support operations at the Sloan Canyon National Conservation Area and the Red Rock National Conservation Area. The bill also creates a process through which the conservation fee can be increased by up to 50 percent every ten years to ensure proper funding for high priority projects at Sloan Canyon and throughout Nevada.
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