Candidates for Lieutenant Governor Lucy Flores and Mark Hutchison come to the issues — especially education — from diverse ends of the spectrum.
Flores, a Democratic Assemblywoman from Las Vegas, told the League of Women Voters candidate forum Tuesday she understands “the challenges everyday Nevadans face.”
“I have experience with those challenges firsthand,” she said saying her mother left when she was nine and, when she failed every exam on purpose, “no one noticed.”
“I ended up on juvenile parole by 15. By 17, I was a drop out,” she said.
She said she’s now a practicing attorney because, “eventually, I did get some one who made a difference in my life and surprisingly, it was my parole officer.”
She said all children deserve the same access to a high-quality education and “what was done for me should be done for others.”
Hutchison a Republican state senator from Las Vegas, said he’s a third generation Nevadan whose grandfather came to Nevada during the depression. He said his dad worked for Ahern 45 years and he started working at the business when he was 12. He went to law school and built a law practice while raising six children.
“At the end of the day, I have lived the American dream,” he said. “I want to help as many Nevadans as possible live the American dream.”
Both emphasized the importance of education.
“Education is to state government what national defense is to the federal government,” Hutchison said. “It’s the one thing you’d better get right.”
He said in the 2013 session, lawmakers and Gov. Brian Sandoval pumped $50 million into English Language Learner programs.
But Flores quickly pointed out that wasn’t new money.
“What is being referred to as an addition is actually a replacement,” she said. “We’ve cut education a billion dollars but replaced only a quarter of that. I will continue to fight for a real increase in funding.”
Asked whether they support the ballot question removing constitutional protections limiting taxes on the mining industry, Flores said yes, it should be replaced with “a broad-cased, reasonable tax structure so we spread that liability amongst all industries in Nevada.”
Hutchison cautioned the state “not do something that constrains (mining’s) ability to employ Nevadans.” But he did say he voted for putting the question on the ballot.
Both said if the teacher’s tax plan — the margins tax — passes, the state should make sure the money raised goes to education and isn’t diverted elsewhere in the state budget.
Asked about the increased college fees the questioner said are pricing college out of reach for the average student, Hutchison said more competition would help bring prices down. He pointed tovocational schools such as ITT Tech as alternatives for Nevada’s colleges and other ways such as Internet classes.
“We need really to allow people to get into good paying jobs that may or may not be going to college,” he said.
Flores said Nevada hasn’t done a good job of aligning workforce needs withworkforce development. She said despite a longtime shortage of healthcare workers, “only recently did we start expanding our nursing programs.”
Where she said she supports background checks to purchase guns, Hutchison said he saw the bill vetoed by Sandoval as creating a federal gun registry.
Hutchison, Flores disagree over Tesla in Reno debate
During a debate taped Monday for the Nevada Newsmakers television show, Republican candidate for lieutenant governor Mark Hutchison and Democratic opponent Lucy Flores disagreed on issues that are beyond the reach of the office they seek.
The debate is to be shown at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday on KRNV News 4 but eventually will be televised statewide by day’s end.
Hutchison, a state senator from Las Vegas, and Flores, an assemblywoman from Las Vegas, had their sharpest disagreements on the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), the public transparency of the Tesla Motors mega-deal with Nevada and the funding of Northern Nevada infrastructure improvements to deal with the boon expected from the Tesla battery gigafactory.
None of those issues can be directly affected by the role of lieutenant governor. Anything is open in this race because of the speculation that current Gov. Brian Sandoval could run for the U.S. Senate in 2016 against Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.
If Sandoval would defeat Reid, the winner of this lieutenant governor’s race would automatically become Nevada’s next governor. Therefore, many issues have become part of the campaign.
Hutchison was Nevada’s lead counsel in its lawsuit to overturn the federalAffordable Health Care Act in 2012. He lamented its impact on Nevada, despite voting three times as a state senator to implement its provisions in Nevada.
“In terms of providing health care, I supported the governor’s budget that expandedMedicaid,” Hutchison said. “It gives opportunities for those who need it the most to have access to health care,” Hutchison said.
Hutchison added: “Obamacare has not been right for Nevada. We’ve seen prices go up for the government, for patients who are insured. We have seen people kicked off their heath care (plans). And Obamacare, I just don’t think is right for Nevada.”
Flores said she “vehemently” disagreed.
“The fact is we have affordable health care now for so many Nevadans,” Flores said. “You cannot get kicked off your insurance. You can insure your children when they are in college.
“Quite frankly, my father was able to get expanded insurance and save hundreds and hundreds of dollars because he had an urgent medical need,” said Flores, who like Hutchison is a lawyer. “I am very happy that my opponent failed in his attempt to take those benefits away from the people of Nevada (in the Obamacare lawsuit).”
The disagreement over funding of school construction in Washoe County flared up when the candidates were asked about their plans to deal with the infrastructure overload on school, roads and public safety with the Tesla battery gigafactory.
It is set to be built 17 miles east of the Reno-Sparks area at the Tahoe Reno Industrial Center. Many of its 6,000 to 6,500 expected workers will live in Washoe County.
Flores said Hutchison did not support AB46 during the 2013 Legislature – the bill that would have added funding for the Washoe school district’s capital spending to fix its aging inventory of schools. Instead, Assembly Republicans helped steer the issue to the Washoe County Commission, which eventually killed it.
“Unfortunately, my opponent passed on supporting a bill that would have allowed the Washoe school district to improve on their buildings and repair the very old structures of our schools here in Washoe County,” Flores said. “It was incredibly needed, and they (Republicans) punted it to the Washoe County Commission and you can see that it did not occur.”
Flores noted that Tesla will help school funding. The electric car company will give $7.5 million an year to Nevada’s K-12 education over five years, according to its deal with the state.
“Tesla is going to give a certain amount of funds to the schools,” she said. “However, that is not for several years. So we have to deal with (school funding) issues as they come up.”
Hutchison defended moving the Washoe school-renovation funding issue to the county commission. Local issues are best handled by local leaders, he said.
“I am a person who believes that local government ought to solve local issues and I think many of my fellow legislators feel the same way,” Hutchison said.
“If there are issues in Clark County regarding school matters, particularly in school construction and school infrastructure, I think that is best handled by local authorities,” he said. “I see the same thing for Washoe County. Those government entities that are closest to the parents, closest to the issues make the best decisions.”
Flores and Hutchison also clashed over the transparency of the Tesla deal, which includes tax abatements that could reach about $1.3 billion.
Flores noted she was asked by the RGJ Media editorial board what she would have done differently if she were in on the Tesla negotiations from the beginning.
“That package, when it arrived to us at the Legislature, was essentially a done deal,” she said. “We were attempting to do as much as we could to provide transparency, to provide accountability.”
Flores said she would have fought for paying prevailing wages during the construction of the Tesla site.
“Certainly if we could have gotten prevailing wage, that is absolutely something that I would have fought for at the beginning, at the front end certainly not at the back end,” she said.
Flores twice said during the debate she “won’t be a rubber stamp.”
“Just because the governor – or anybody else for that matter – comes in and says ‘This is a great idea, do it,’ we’re not just going to say ‘Yes, fantastic.’ There needs to be a process of accountability,” she said.
Hutchison defended the way Sandoval handled the deal with Tesla.
“We had Texas, California, New Mexico and Arizona all competing (for Tesla),” Hutchison said. “And as a necessity, I can tell you as a business lawyer, a lot of times those business transactions and business discussions are confidential. And if you don’t agree with those terms, they are not going to negotiate with you.
“We got Tesla,” Hutchison said. “And that was the buzz all across the country.”
Many of the infrastructure needs will be solved by “good jobs” and the local taxes that come with them, Hutchison said.
“A good job will solve many of the challenges, in terms of the impact we have on our schools, on our social services and law enforcement,” Hutchison said. “So, good jobs solve a lot of those challenges.”
The only candidate for Nevada Attorney General to show up for the league forum in Carson City was Republican Adam Laxalt. Democrat Ross Miller wasn’t there and didn’t send a representative or statement.
Laxalt said his training and experience as a Naval officer help qualify him for the job of Nevada’s top legal officer. He said that includes service in the Middle East where he worked in detainee operations, the unit setup to handle terrorists in Iraq.
He said one of the things he would do as AG is create a military legal service to support former troops.
He said he would continue Catherine Cortez Masto’s efforts to aggressively attack the growing problem of human trafficking.
“We need to keep on the offensive,” he said.
He said he also would work to fight against invasive federal regulations and support continued efforts to prevent Yucca Mountain from ever opening as a nuclear waste dump.
Congress District 2 candidates spar at Carson City Community Center
Democrat Kristin Spees of Incline Village charged Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., hasn’t done enough in the three years he has been in that office.
“Look at his voting record. Roads and bridges are falling apart. What has he done? What has he done to support our veterans,” she asked.
Amodei said he has moved heavy lands bills as a member of the Public Lands Committee and brought legislation on a number of Nevada issues as a member of Appropriations and the Public Lands committees.
That includes a half dozen lands bills for Nevada including the Yerington Lands Bill and the potential listing of the sage hen as endangered; he said he has been working on those issues for three years.
Amodei said he and his staff “have tried to establish ourselves as people who are work horses, not show horses.”
As for the sage hen, he said, as a member of Appropriations, he managed to insert language delaying potential listing of the bird for another year.
“It’s not the bird that’s in danger; it’s the habitat,” he said. “What happened to the habitat? It burned up. It’s not because of more cows, more sheep, people on dirt bikes.”
Spees said she doesn’t want the land listed “because we lose access to our public lands.”
Independent American Party candidate Janine Hansen agreed the problem is wildfires, not human-caused loss of habitat. She said those fires are the BLM’s fault.
The three aired their views at the a League Of Women Voter’s forum Tuesday night at the Carson City Community Center.
Spees said she has crisscrossed the northern half of the state that makes up District 2 and knows the issues and the needs of its residents. She charged Amodei missed more than twice the number of votes the average congressman did this past year.
Many of those missed votes, however, were held while he was recovering from surgery to repair a detached retina, which he said requires the patient be pretty much immobilized.
On the Affordable Health Care Act, Spees said everyone needs healthcare and, if the law is flawed, “let’s find those problems and solve it. Let’s fix the ACA and not try repeal it.”
“The political reality is for the next 24 months, Affordable Care is not going to be repealed,” said Amodei.
He said Congress needs to do the things it should have done before it was voted into law at 2 a.m. without members having time to read it.
Hansen said the act has raised the cost of medicine for people working in Elko area mines and reduced their benefits.
“What you have with this is socialized medicine,” she said.
All agreed the immigration system needs repairs and now.
Amodei said he’s for reform but a decent bill by a bipartisan group hasn’t made it to a vote.
Hansen said people are “pouring over the border and we need to respond to this crisis and protect America first.”
Spees said it’s necessary “we reform immigration right now.”
She said the number one concern of seniors is social security but the question is how to protect it.
“We can’t privatize Social Security. That’s your retirement,” she said. “What if Goldman-Sachs got a hold of it.”
Amodei said people “need to demand courage from your people (elected officials).”
“If you disagree with what they do, every two years you can fire them,” he said referring to the election cycle for House members.
Hansen said the reason Social Security is in financial trouble is Congress has taken money from the fund repeatedly for other needs.
She said the focus of her campaign is the need to cut taxes and “unconstitutional spending,” promote free enterprise and job creation.
Spees said she is “owned by no one and therefore can vote for the constituents’ best interests.”
Amodei said elections are a personnel session: “We try to make the basis of whether we get elected or not the job you’re doing — if you want a worker, that’s us.”