Now that he has introduced legislation to redesignate swaths of federal land around Gold Butte and Lake Mead, Rep. Steven Horsford is holding meetings in northeastern Clark County to refine and sell it.
The first one is scheduled for 10 a.m. June 22 at the community center in Moapa Valley, where residents have been torn over whether or how public land should be preserved and managed.
Democrat Horsford has sponsored a bill to create a 348,515-acre national conservation area and selected wilderness at Gold Butte, a region of striking desert features and historic artifacts.
The bill also seeks to upgrade 92,000 acres within the Lake Mead National Recreation Area to the status of federally protected wilderness.
It is similar to a land bill Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has introduced. But Horsford, a freshman in a new district, has added sweeteners for the locals, including a tourist center for Mesquite, a new boat ramp on Lake Mead, and an “off vehicle trail” for motorcycle and four-wheel enthusiasts.
Horsford said he wants an open process to further refine the bill, and he is open to more changes. He is trying to play up the bill’s potential to encourage economic development.
Conservationists and backpackers like the bill. But it could be a tough sell, with some residents suspicious about potential loss of local control, judging from some initial reaction.
Gene Houston, chairman of the Moapa Valley Town Advisory Board, told the Moapa Valley Progress last week he wondered how familiar Horsford was with the area.
“You know, the people in these communities have been living with this issue for years,” Houston said. Horsford and his staff “are just now starting out, and this is a pretty volatile issue. Having a public meeting at this point will be like them being in kindergarten and talking to someone who is graduating college. Not much will be accomplished, and it is just going to tick people off.”
— Steve Tetreault
LOBBYIST REPORTING BILL DIES
Former state Sen. Sheila Leslie doesn’t have kind words for her colleagues of either party in the Legislature.
Once again, Democrats and Republicans adjourned without passing a bill that would have required lobbyists to report the expenditures they make on legislators year-round, not only during the February-to-June legislative sessions every other year.
“It’s terrible,” the Reno Democrat said. “The people in the Legislature like it the way it is. They have no reason to change it.”
So, if you see a legislator this weekend dining with a lobbyist in a pricey restaurant in Las Vegas or Reno, it’s a good bet that legislator isn’t picking up the tab. The public will never even know it happened.
Two years ago, Leslie’s Assembly Bill 206 lobbyist reporting measure passed the state Senate 21-0, but died without a vote in the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee.
The same thing happened in the 2013 session. The state Senate passed the lobbyist reporting bill, Senate Bill 203, introduced by Sen. Justin Jones, D-Las Vegas, 21-0. But it once again died without a vote in the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee.
Chairman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, and his committee discussed the bill in a May 9 hearing, but took no action. His committee also discussed a virtually identical Assembly Bill 190. That one also died without a vote. Minutes of the hearing on that bill show that Ohrenschall supported increased transparency, but people such as Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, questioned how one would be able to determine that a legislator was being lobbied, since the dinner might be with an “old friend” who is a retired lobbyist.
But Stacey Shinn, the lobbyist for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, said additional reporting by lobbyists is essential, noting that each fall the Nevada Mining Association invites legislators to its annual meeting at Lake Tahoe.
“When not in session, lobbyists can shower our legislators with meals and drinks without ever having to report a single dime,” she testified. “For example, last year, like every year, the Nevada Mining Association had its annual function at Lake Tahoe. They offered a free golf tournament, poker game, cruise on a 53-foot yacht, parasailing, and a leisurely three-course lunch on deck.”
And they never reported a dime, Shinn added.
Leslie believes that when legislators say they want more transparency, it’s just talk. In reality, she said they would rather not let their constituents know who is buying them meals or drinks, or how much they are spending.
“It will never change,” she said.
— Ed Vogel
LOBBYISTS SPENT $120,000 SO FAR
Speaking of lobbyist spending, the latest figures reported to the Legislative Counsel Bureau show that lobbyists spent $120,030 on legislators during the 2013 session. The figures are through May, so they don’t show the expenditures made during the three days in June before the Legislature adjourned.
Of the total reported, $117,846 was spent on “group events.” These generally are dinners put on by an organization such as the Nevada Taxpayers Association to which every legislator is invited. Usually someone makes a speech on the bills they want approved. It’s more like a banquet atmosphere.
But lobbyists also must report what they spend when they meet with individual legislators outside of group events.
Through May, state Sen. Aaron Ford, D-Las Vegas, was the top recipient of lobbyist largesse. He accepted $380 in meals and entertainment.
Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, was second at $366.
Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, took $215.
Others took lesser amounts in complimentary meals, but eight state senators and 28 Assembly members took nothing, including Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, and Assembly Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas.
— Ed Vogel
Contact Stephens Washington Bureau Chief Steve Tetreault at stetreault @stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Follow him on Twitter @STetreaultDC. Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at email@example.com or 775-687-3901.