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September 30, 2014

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Washington memo: Rep. Joe Heck’s big week

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U.S. Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., speaks during a Town Hall at Windmill Library in Las Vegas on Tuesday, July 2, 2013.

Amber Phillips, the Sun's Washington correspondent, wraps up the week in politics with Nevada's congressional delegation.

Rep. Joe Heck, a Republican representing Henderson and Boulder City, probably had the Nevada delegation’s most successful week in Congress after one of his initiatives made it into a jobs-training package that looks set to pass both chambers in Congress.

The Senate on Wednesday passed a jobs-training bill that in part adds more flexibility on who can serve on local boards that determine where federal money for job-training programs should go. Heck’s proposal that made it into the Senate bill allows for more employers and less government officials to serve on the board than the current law requires.

The House of Representatives approved the legislation in March but has to vote one more time on the Senate version. If the House approves the entire package, which includes Heck’s proposal, it will go on to President Barack Obama for his signature.

Nevada lawmakers leading fight to extend unemployment benefits

Nevada lawmakers spent much of this week in Washington trying to revive federal unemployment benefits for America’s long-term unemployed. Lawmakers such as Sen. Dean Heller, a Republican, and Rep. Steven Horsford, a Democrat representing North Las Vegas, and Rep. Dina Titus, a Las Vegas Democrat, are leading the charge in Congress to restart the program that Congress let expire in December. They reintroduced legislation in their respective chambers.

Although the unemployment rate in Nevada is improving, lawmakers said that doesn’t tell the entire story. Horsford said he represents entire rural counties where the unemployment rate is still in double digits. Democratic leaders in both chambers support this renewed push, but its chances are slim of getting through the Republican-controlled House of Representatives. Making matters worse, it’s not even clear whether the Democratic-controlled Senate will vote on Heller’s bill before the August recess.

Heller, Heck take on mussels

Heller also teamed up with Heck to halt the spreading of a particularly stubborn freshwater mussel they say is terrorizing Nevada lakes.

Heller and Heck introduced legislation in their respective chambers to speed up the bureaucratic federal process to get the quagga mussels recognized as invasive. The mussels spread by attaching to recreational boats, and the lawmakers’ bills would allow for better inspections of boats crossing state lines or entering federal lands.

Heller’s team said the species is one of the greatest threats to Lake Tahoe and Lake Mead.

“By infiltrating new habitats and ecosystems and then multiplying at an alarming rate, quagga mussels quickly become nuisances and are extremely difficult to remove,” he said in a statement.

On one-year anniversary of DOMA ruling, Titus pushes for more LGBT equality

It’s fair to say Titus is one of Nevada’s biggest supporters for LGBT rights, especially when it comes to lesbian and gay military servicemembers.

The Las Vegas Democrat has put her name behind numerous initiatives to make it easier for legally married same-sex couples to be recognized for military burial rights and for veteran perks like federal homeowner loans. Congress has yet to vote on her legislation. That means there’s still much work to be done, she noted, even as she celebrated this week’s one-year anniversary of the Supreme Court ruling against the Defense of Marriage Act, or DOMA. The ruling forced federal agencies to recognize legally same-sex married couples.

“We celebrate the progress we have made for LGBT equality, but more importantly we must recommit to ending the injustice that remains,” Titus said Thursday on the House floor.

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