Legislature good to rural counties
Douglas County’s lobbyist described successes and threats from the Nevada Legislature at the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce’s Wednesday luncheon in Genoa.
Mary Walker, lobbyist for Carson City, Douglas, Storey, Lyon counties, said of the 1,100 bills introduced at the legislature they monitored 440 on the counties’ behalf.
Walker and husband Steven have been lobbyists for the counties for 15 years.
“Counties are a creature of the state,” she told the chamber. “Each of the counties separately doesn’t have a lot of clout compared to Clark County.”
Walker said most of the bills that the rural counties supported were passed and most of the ones they found detrimental were amended or killed.
She said Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget helped restore some of the $120 million the Legislature shifted from the county to the state budgets.
“The governor put in language that reversed that and put in a cap on long-term care for indigents,” Walker said.
One of the key battles in the Legislature involved efforts by Clark County lawmakers to redistribute state funding.
“Clark was looking for ways to stop funding the rural counties. Fortunately, the Legislature approved holding the rurals harmless. Douglas County was able to retain $5 million.”
Another bill in the Legislature would have altered the panel that determines how state transportation dollars are spent.
At present that panel consists of the state’s constitutional officers and another person.
“They wanted to change the board to a nonelected board that consists of eight people from Clark County, two from Washoe County and one to represent the rest of the state,” Walker said. “The final bill gave Southern Nevada one more vote.”
A bill introduced in response to an incident at a Southern Nevada event that would have required urban ambulance service at events was amended to exclude rural counties.
“The cost of providing that level of ambulance service would have harmed a lot of events we have here,” she said.
She said the next 18 months will be devoted to studies ranging from federal land transfers to funding of the state’s community colleges.
“They’re talking about the counties picking up funding for the community colleges,” she said. “With the counties having to do fire and police services and then the community colleges, that would be a disaster.”
Walker said that Douglas County was well represented by Assemblyman Jim Wheeler and Sen. James Settelmeyer.
“Settelmeyer led the rural caucus and was a leader in the Senate,” she said. “He was a real classy guy, when others were falling apart.”