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Southern Nevada political, business leaders lay out priorities for 2017 Legislature

Continued investment in the UNLV School of Medicine, property tax reform and regionalizing mental health services are among the priorities Southern Nevada lawmakers plan to push for during the 2017 Nevada Legislature session.

Southern Nevada lawmakers convened in downtown Las Vegas Thursday with local government and business leaders for the Southern Nevada Forum, a session created a few years ago to shape a cohesive group of priorities to push for the region before legislators leave for Carson City. The effort marked a change from a more fractured approach in the past that yielded fewer legislative success for the region, despite the majority of Nevada lawmakers hailing from the southern part of the state.

“What we found around the state: everyone else was organized, they had a plan, they knew what they needed, and here we were in southern Nevada — fighting each other, fighting our friends and we came home with zero,” Clark County Commissioner Marilyn Kirkpatrick said.

About 30 legislative priorities were laid out in the roughly hourlong forum, ranging from developing an infrastructure fund to create shovel-ready sites for large-scale industrial development to backing a $17 million increase to the UNLV School of Medicine’s base budget, allocating more money for early childhood education and pushing for more Southern Nevada seats on state boards and commissions.

Hugh Anderson, Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce’s government affairs committee chairman, urged the crowd to maintain their enthusiasm through the end of the legislative session.

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman asked lawmakers to keep Medicaid reimbursement rates at the forefront of their priorities, which she argued was key to continuing to grow the local medical community. One legislative priority for health care is raising reimbursement rates and mandating the recalculation of base reimbursement rates for providers.

An infrastructure “bank” would be a designated funding source that can be used and replenished for large-scale infrastructure projects and pushing to make Nevada more competitive for federal funds and better track federal grants are other priorities going into the session.

Higher education, K-12 education and workforce development continue to be prime concerns, and advocating for the Silver State Opportunity Grant to become a permanent program, providing reciprocity with teachers who are relocating to Nevada and are licensed in other states to bolster recruitment and supporting a health sciences building at the College of Southern Nevada’s Henderson campus.

The 2017 Nevada Legislature session begins Feb. 6.

Contact Jamie Munks at jmunks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0340. Find @JamieMunksRJ on Twitter.

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