Bryan makes 11th tour |

Bryan makes 11th tour

by Linda Hiller

It’s a grueling trip, but someone has to make it. Leave it to Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., who, at 62, thinks nothing of working long days touring Nevada to see what his rural constituents are thinking about.

“A lot of times, I think the people in rural areas get the sense that we’ve forgotten them, and I can understand that,” he said. “Nevada has changed a lot from its roots as a rural, agricultural state and now, 90 percent of the people live in an urban setting – in Las Vegas or Reno.”

Since being elected to the United States Senate in 1988, Bryan has made the trip every year.

“This is my 11th annual rural Nevada tour,” he said on a stop at The Record-Courier Wednesday. “I’ve got one more to go before I fade off into the sunset.”

Bryan announced this year that he will not seek a third term as U.S. senator. Though many residents who he talks to during the rural tour want to acknowledge their disappointment with this decision, Bryan wants to talk about what he’s done so far this year and what he can do in the 16 months left of his term.

n Santini-Burton Act: little-known. Reflecting on the 1997 Tahoe Presidential Summit, Bryan said a phenomenon has been ongoing since the 1980s which has received little publicity for reasons that elude him.

“The Santini-Burton legislation, which was enacted in the 1980s, provides monies from the sale of BLM land in Las Vegas directly to Lake Tahoe for the purchase of environmentally sensitive land,” he said. “Right now, there are 3,500 acres of land for sale next to McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, and when this goes through, there will be approximately $50 million going to buy land at Lake Tahoe. This is very significant for Tahoe.”

We don’t want their waste. Another issue at the top of Bryan’s list is fighting the nuclear industry in its attempt to make Nevada a dumping ground. He said he’s confident that whoever follows him into the Senate in 2001 will continue to oppose bringing nuclear waste to Nevada for disposal – an issue that has crossed all partisan lines with state politicians thus far.

“We cannot stop fighting this, for the surest way to get nuclear waste into Nevada is to fold,” he said. “The great majority of Nevadans oppose having nuclear waste stored in our state, and this is bipartisan opposition – it’s as big in Northern Nevada as it is in Southern Nevada.”

Bryan said an insidious proposition almost sneaked in the back door of the state recently, but for a valiant presidential veto.

“Most Nevadans haven’t heard about the most diabolical plan on the part of the nuclear industry, which involves what they called ‘interim storage’ of nuclear waste at the Nevada Test Site,” he said. “We recently got the nuclear industry to back off trying to get interim storage here, which is a big victory for the state. The keystone to that was the presidential veto. In the Senate, we have 35 votes to sustain the veto, and only two of those are Republican votes, so the next president is going to be key to continuing to fight that.”

Bryan said Gore is the only presidential candidate so far to commit to continuing to oppose nuclear waste coming to Nevada.

“The important question we have to ask the other candidates is, ‘If a temporary facility is proposed for Nevada, as president would you veto it?’ The Nevada Test Site is an area as big as Rhode Island, yet it’s right in Las Vegas,” he said. “Yucca Mountain is also plagued by a number of problems, and the nuclear industry knows it. For example, the proposed transportation routes for the waste are not being disclosed by the industry, which, if they were, would certainly involve every community on the route to stand up and protest. Nobody in the country wants the stuff, and it is an agenda item with the Republicans in Washington, so we must continue to fight it.”

New grampa talking. Bryan spoke of many national and local issues when he spoke to community business leaders at the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce luncheon Wednesday. On his mind was the recent birth of his third grandchild this year, and what he can leave for these babies who will carry his genes into the next century.

“I think of little Will, Allison and Conner, and wonder what kind of legacy we’re leaving for them,” he said.

Eliminating the national debt is the most important thing we can do, he said, as well as securing Social Security so it doesn’t get depleted by the baby boomers around 2024.

Bryan also spoke of the need for regulations to prohibit banks and other financial institutions from selling information to third parties, something that can be done legally without informing the customer.

“This really frosts me – there is no law prohibiting banks and other financial institutions from selling depositor information to private parties. The public doesn’t know this,” he said. “US Bank, which has branches in Nevada, is currently under litigation for selling depositor information, including credit card account numbers, to third party telemarketers. Theoretically, a telemarketer calling to solicit you on the phone can know more about your financial details than you do. We’re fighting this.”

Bryan also authored the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act this year. The idea for the bill came about when Bryan learned that many child-friendly Internet sites – Disney, Nickelodeon; seemingly benign, G-rated sites – were asking children questions that they had no business asking.

“We found out that about 90 percent of these sites asked personal questions and only 1 percent of the sites asked for parental permission to answer the questions,” he said.

Things change. While Bryan doesn’t want to begin to reminisce about his senatorial career just yet, he did reflect on some of the changes he’s seen in Washington, D.C., since he first arrived more than a decade ago.

“It has changed quite a bit since I got there,” he said. “It is now more partisan, and things now are more confrontational. What is sad is that there is less appreciation for the institution – the institutional respect is unraveling. It’s a different breed of cat coming to office now, and there is a lot of pressure for more and more money during campaigns – that isn’t good.”

Bryan said some of the older politicians still interact socially as friends though their politics differ – Sen. Edward Kennedy, D-Mass., and Sen. Orrin Hatch, R-Utah, and Sen. Robert Byrd, D-W.Va. and Ted Stevens, R-Alaska – but that kind of relationship is rare among the younger senators.