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May 4, 2015

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Horsford, Heck press for Las Vegas counterterrorism funding in House budget

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Nevada’s pro-tourism representatives in D.C. made the case on Wednesday that Las Vegas should continue to receive the most counterterrorism funding possible.

Nevada lawmakers made their pitch to the House of Representatives, as they tried to persuade their colleagues to expand the list of cities eligible for extra funding under the Department of Homeland Security’s Urban Areas Security Initiative.

But their effort, an amendment from Nevada Reps. Joe Heck and Steven Horsford to expand the list of UASI eligible cities to include Las Vegas and nine other, failed by a vote of 268-156.

Under the House of Representatives’ funding plan for next year, UASI money to increase terrorism-related emergency preparedness and disaster response capability is distributed among the 25 highest-risk cities for terrorist activity, according to a DHS risk analysis.

But Las Vegas, which has received UASI funding in years past, didn’t make the top 25 for next year.

“I can tell you that Las Vegas, which holds more high-profile, highly attended events than any city in the country, is worthy of the funding,” said Heck, who blamed Sin City’s omission on a new calculation that undercounted the elements that make Las Vegas vulnerable, such as closely-clustered buildings and large tourist populations.

“This is not an issue of budget cuts, it’s an issue of prioritization,” Horsford said, complaining that the Homeland Security's calculations were “faulty policy that completely ignores major international tourist destinations and the threat posed to them.”

The list of cities that would miss the cut-off under the House bill includes Orlando, Fla., home of DisneyWorld, and New Orleans, the epicenter of Mardi Gras, and with mid-size metro areas such as Kansas City, Mo., and Riverside, Calif.

By moving money around, Heck and Horsford sought to free up $22 million under the bill to award UASI grants to the next 10 cities on DHS’s risk list in the coming fiscal year.

But not all members of the Nevada delegation agreed with the approach because Heck and Horsford’s amendment didn’t guarantee how much of the money Las Vegas would receive.

“There’s no guarantee that additional cities like Las Vegas will receive any increased funding under the amendment,” Nevada Rep. Dina Titus, whose district includes the Las Vegas Strip, complained Wednesday afternoon. The DHS risk matrix, she argued, needs to be amended to reflect that Las Vegas is a high-risk city.

“Despite increases in components of our risk profile, Las Vegas actually slipped in DHS risk rankings,” Titus said. “This is not good planning and should be remedied immediately.”

Nonetheless, Titus voted for the amendment.

Nevada’s delegation is expected to seek other means of securing UASI funding before the appropriations for fiscal 2014 are finalized. Between the start of the program and fiscal 2012, Las Vegas and its surrounding areas received almost $70 million in UASI grant money.

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  1. Three of our four congress critters voted for the funding. I would like to know how Mark Amodai voted on it.

    Las Vegas is one of the largest tourist destinations on the planet, and certainly in the United States. To be left off the funding list makes no sense to me.

    Both of our Senators should make their wishes clear as well on this issue.