To Sen. Dean Heller, the Affordable Care Act is to be scorned. So, if everyday citizens must comply with the new health care law, he believes everyone in Congress and policymakers should have a taste of the same medical plans.
Consequently, the Nevada Republican was not happy when the government’s human resources agency set out an interpretation a few weeks ago that lawmakers and only certain Capitol Hill staffers must enroll for insurance that will be offered by health exchanges set up by the law.
“This is a missed opportunity for the Office of Personnel Management to ensure that all congressional staff play by the same rules as the American taxpayer,” Heller said in a letter to the agency’s acting director, Elaine Kaplan, on Wednesday.
Interpreting a part of the law that was inserted by Republicans, the management office’s new regulation sets out that lawmakers must enroll in what has become better known as “Obamacare,” as well as aides who work on their personal staffs.
The management office directive does not appear to cover staff members who work for House and Senate committees, and those who are employed in leadership offices, such as some who work for Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada. They could continue to be enrolled for federal employee insurance.
About 11,400 personal staff aides work on Capitol Hill, according to Vital Statistics on Congress. About 2,200 work for committees, and another 400 are employed in leadership offices.
Heller is the sole co-sponsor of a bill introduced in May by Sen. David Vitter, R-La., that would explicitly extend Obamacare to all congressional staffers, the president, vice president and executive branch political appointees. There has been no action on the bill.
Heller called on management office to revise its rules.
“By no means should those who wrote this massive health care law be exempt from health care exchanges,” he told Kaplan. “If every American must be subject to Obamacare, then all members of Congress and their staff, you and all political appointees, must be included in this onerous mandate as well.”
NO THREAT IN UNION GAS TAX RESOLUTION
The Nevada State AFL-CIO has passed a resolution supporting Clark County’s proposed fuel tax increase for road construction projects.
The umbrella organization for a variety of unions did that without promising to endorse any county commissioners, who will vote on the measure Tuesday.
The proposal would tie fuel tax increases to the rate of inflation, raising the tax by about 3 cents a gallon for each of the next three years.
Potential repercussions for commissioners who don’t support the proposal made its way into one preliminary draft of the resolution, which stated that the organization “will not endorse any Commissioner who votes against the implementation of the fuel tax indexing that is so badly needed to provide the resources necessary to repair our roads.”
That politically charged language wound up on the cutting room floor and didn’t make its way into the final, approved resolution.
The adopted resolution lists the benefits of the fuel tax, which include safer travel, reduced congestion and thousands of construction jobs for the state. In its resolution, the Nevada State AFL-CIO says it is “strongly urging” commissioners to support the measure. Endorsements aren’t mentioned.
“The long story short is that the actual resolution that was passed is simply to urge the commissioners to vote on it,” said Anthony DeAngelo, a spokesman for the union.
DeAngelo said it passed unanimously with broad support from all groups, such as building trades and culinary unions. The final version was the only one that received a vote last week, he said, adding that a lot of drafts were floating around.
Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak was more comfortable with the approved resolution than the earlier draft that mentioned endorsements.
“The first one, I think, crossed the line,” he said. “The second one is much more, I think, reasonable than the first one.”
SIGN OF GOP FRACTURE
Another sign that the Nevada Republican Party remains fractured along ideological lines surfaced last week when Lisa Krasner formally announced a run for the Reno Assembly district now held by GOP lawmaker Randy Kirner.
This makes yet another race where a Republican incumbent will have to survive a primary battle before moving on to the general election next year.
Earlier this summer, Carl Bunce, who ran Ron Paul’s 2012 presidential campaign in Nevada, said he plans to challenge state Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, in his Senate District 5 in the GOP primary.
Bunce’s brother, Richard, said he will challenge fellow Republican and Assemblyman Lynn Stewart in his Henderson District 22.
Costly primary battles could make it tougher for Republicans to gain ground in the Nevada Legislature. Democrats now have an 11-10 majority in the state Senate, and a 27-15 majority in the Assembly.
Krasner describes herself as a community activist, former Reno city parks commissioner and instructor at both the University of Phoenix and Truckee Meadows Community College.
Krasner said she decided to run because Nevada’s state government is not living within its means as Nevada families must do.
“I will fight for Nevada’s hardworking taxpayers and job creators, and I won’t support additional tax increases,” she said.
Krasner was accompanied by former GOP Gov. Jim Gibbons when she met with Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, earlier this month.
Kirner was first elected to the seat in 2010 and won re-election in 2012. He is running for a third term.
Kirner was one of 35 members of the Assembly, including several GOP colleagues, who voted to extend a package of taxes into the current budget to help fund education and other programs. The tax extension was backed by GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval.
Kirner notes on his website that the Retail Association of Nevada gave him the second highest score among all members of the Assembly.
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