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April 30, 2017

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How GOP control in D.C. affects us in Nevada

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Associated Press file

GOP leaders House Speaker John Boehner, left, and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell meet with the press Jan. 15 at the GOP retreat in Hershey, Pa. Republicans have gained control of the House and Senate, but neither has a veto-proof majority.

Not yet a month into the new Republican-controlled Congress, Washington is consumed with national debates over whether to approve the Keystone XL Pipeline and what to do about Islamic militancy overseas. ¶ But percolating just below the surface are proposals that could have a more direct impact on Nevada. From nuclear waste to Internet gaming, here’s a look at four.

Nuclear waste

A new Congress means another attempt to store the nation’s nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain. Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., says he will introduce a bill to get the ball rolling on creating a nuclear repository at Yucca, about 90 miles north of Las Vegas. What’s different this time is that Republicans control Congress.

A bipartisan group of House lawmakers voted last year to approve funding for research into the feasibility of storing the nation’s nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain, and two energy leaders in the Republican-controlled Senate, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and James Inhofe of Oklahoma, have said nuclear waste is on their agenda.

Members of Nevada’s delegation, led by Democratic leader Sen. Harry Reid, however, vow to do everything they can to stop the project. President Barack Obama also has said he won’t support it.

Crumbling roads

For all the tasks facing government, the problem of repairing potholes is becoming increasingly urgent.

America’s highways are in bad shape, and the federal fund that repairs roads and bridges is expected to go bust in May. Congress isn’t sure how to pave the funding hole and probably won’t make any big moves, such as raising the gas tax. Much more likely is a quick fix: using general funds to pay the bills.

In Nevada, transportation officials worry that could portend delays and more damage, such as the September wipeout of portions of Interstate 15 near Moapa after heavy rains.

Reps. Dina Titus and Cresent Hardy both sit on the House transportation committee and say refinancing the Highway Trust Fund is a priority. Both also hope to build an interstate between Phoenix and Las Vegas.

Obama’s immigration changes

The agency that handles immigration and security could run out of money next month if Congress can’t move from its impasse over Obama’s immigration actions.

Republicans voted to stop funding for Obama’s unilateral immigration reforms, which allow millions of undocumented immigrants and some of their parents to avoid deportation. The rollbacks come in a $40 billion spending bill for the Department of Homeland Security, but they’re a nonstarter for Senate Democrats and Obama.

The fight over how to fund the agency puts into question the future of much of Nevada’s undocumented immigrant population, including almost half in Clark County who could qualify for deportation relief under Obama’s plans.

Internet gaming

As the 113th Congress came to a close in December, a proposal to ban most forms of online gambling seemed to have a real chance of sneaking through the finish line.

The Restoration of America’s Wire Act was introduced in both chambers, and gaming analysts unofficially tied it to Las Vegas Sands CEO and Republican mega-donor Sheldon Adelson, who is an avid opponent of expanding gaming’s online reach.

The debate could ignite this year as well.

On a related issue, the Washington-based American Gaming Association is pushing for a crackdown on illegal gaming and hopes to make that an issue when the Senate looks at Obama’s pick for attorney general.

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