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December 5, 2019

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What Obama said in his State of the Union address that affects Nevadans

State of the Union

Mandel Ngan / AP

President Barack Obama arrives to deliver his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill on Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015, in Washington, D.C.

Tax reforms that take from the rich and give to the poor. Investing in protecting America from climate change. Raising the minimum wage.

Many of the ideas President Barack Obama proposed in his second-to-last State of the Union address on Tuesday have little or no chance of making it through a Republican-dominated Congress.

But not everything the president mentioned needs Congress' approval. Here's what Obama proposed that could immediately affect Nevadans:

Help middle-class buyers afford a home

Six years since the economic crash, the nation's housing market has reversed its downward spiral: foreclosure rates are down, millions of homeowners are out from underwater and home values are rising, even in hard-hit Nevada. But today's still-tight lending market has locked out many middle-class buyers, say senior administration officials.

So Obama announced the Federal Housing Administration will reduce the annual mortgage insurance premiums it charges borrowers by 0.5 percentage point. That will save about $900 for 2 billion first-time homebuyers or those who refinance to an FHA mortgage.

Senior administration officials said the policy will help those with lower down payments who have mortgage insurance.

The president doesn't need Congress to approve these changes for a government agency.

Expand apprenticeships and job-training programs

Obama promises to expand job-training programs for growing fields like information technology, advanced manufacturing and health care.

In 2014, the administration awarded $1 billion in grants for businesses and schools to work together in creating job-training programs; $9.9 million of that went to four colleges in Nevada, including the College of Southern Nevada.

And the president is calling on more businesses in these sectors to improve their job-training programs, including paying for higher education or offering on-the-job training. These moves could help Las Vegas and Nevada diversify its economy.

Encouraging states to develop paid-leave policies

The president also proposed the federal government strengthen penalties for employers who jeopardize workers' health, safety and rights to family and medical leave.

The president would like Congress to pass a bill allowing American workers to earn up to seven days per year of paid sick time — 43 million workers don't have paid sick leave, and America is one of the only developed countries without a national paid leave policy, senior administration officials said.

But in the absence of a bill, Obama is also proposing $2 billion to encourage states to develop their own paid family and medical leave programs. California, New Jersey and Rhode Island have some form of this policy in place.

Senior administration officials stressed that the State of the Union address isn't just about urging Congress to do the president's bidding. In calling for free community college or paid sick leave policies, the president can also motivate states and municipalities to take action on their own.

And giving a shoutout to Tesla

The president also highlighted Tesla, an electric car maker that is building a manufacturing plant in Northern Nevada.

He touted the low gas prices spurred by the domestic energy boom that has oil production at rates unseen in the U.S. since the mid-1970s. It has propelled energy independence and created jobs. But he also applauded Tesla for creating jobs "that didn't exist 10, 20 years ago." He trumpeted wind and solar — all of which have a presence in Nevada.

The president capped his rhetoric on energy by noting that 2014 was the hottest year on record and the 14 of the 15 hottest years on record were in the 21st century.

"I am not a scientist," he said. "But you know what: I know a lot of good scientists at NASA and NOAA and at our major universities."

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