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September 22, 2017

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Top 3 issues where Nevada parties diverge on legislative priorities

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Lance Iversen / AP

Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, shown Feb. 6, helped unveiled the Democrats’ Nevada Blueprint on Thursday. Many Nevadans still feel that “government does not work for regular people and that in the past, the government was too focused on the rich and powerful,” he said.

Nevada Democrats unveiled priorities for the 2017 Legislature in what they called the Nevada Blueprint on Thursday, contrasting their goals with two documents the Republicans released in the past week.

The Republican Assembly leadership released a similar document on Thursday, called Battle Born Priorities, a little more than a week after Senate Republicans released a plan titled A Pathway Forward for All Nevadans.

Each document is filled with glowing promises and attractive images of desert landscapes and Nevadans at work. But it’s the details beneath the colorful images that highlight the differences between the approaches of Nevada’s Republican and Democratic legislators.

Education

The biggest difference between the parties here is school choice and Gov. Brian Sandoval’s Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). Both the Senate and Assembly Republican documents call for full funding of ESAs.

The Nevada Blueprint also calls for school choice but only within the public school system, via magnet schools, career and technical academies, expanded open enrollment and charter schools.

The Democratic plan also calls for increased funding for public education from a tax on recreational marijuana sales. Sandoval made a similar proposal in his State of the State address, calling for a 10 percent excise tax on recreational marijuana sales to support his budget.

The governor earmarked $60 million for ESAs in his proposed budget, which is currently being reviewed by the Legislature.

Aside from ESAs, in both documents, Republicans promised to support the changes made to education in the 2015 legislative session when the Republicans were in the majority.

The Democratic Blueprint denotes more specific plans for higher education than either Republican document. It calls for a college debt-refinancing program, tuition caps at community colleges, funding for vocational training and the expansion of the Teach Nevada scholarship, which rewards students who promise to become Nevada teachers.

The economy

As to be expected, the Democratic and Republican plans differ significantly when it comes to the economy. In the Nevada Blueprint, the focus is on jobs; support for business is couched in the context of how it helps workers.

For example, the Nevada Blueprint proposes holding companies accountable for the job-creating promises they make when accepting tax incentives, helping Nevada businesses get state contracts and offering tax credits to companies that cover employee child care costs.

Both Republican plans, conversely, focus on making Nevada more attractive to businesses, by reducing red tape, improving infrastructure and keeping taxes low. Employment is mentioned as a byproduct of making Nevada more business friendly.

However, both the Democratic Blueprint and Senate’s Pathway documents address startups: The Blueprint talks about providing small-business incubators, while the Pathway mentions creating an environment that supports “startup communities.”

Health care

Mentioned under a section called “Security,” the Nevada Blueprint of the Democrats talks about creating an earned sick leave program — allowing employees to take a day off when family members are ill — forcing health insurance companies to cover preventive care, and addressing cognitive and palliative care for seniors.

The Republican Assembly plan is vague about health care, generally promising to expand access. The Senate Pathway document is more specific, mentioning increased funding for UNLV’s medical school and expanding the telehealth network. The Democratic blueprint also mentioned funding UNLV’s medical school, but in the larger context of higher education.

Other differences

Public lands: The Nevada Blueprint calls for state lands to be in “public hands” while both Republican documents call for transferring federal land to Nevadans.

Senior fraud: Both the Democratic Blueprint and the Senate Republican Pathway documents mention senior fraud as an issue. The Assembly Republican document does not.

Equal pay, wage theft and exploitation: Only the Nevada Blueprint talks about these worker issues.

Voting: The Blueprint calls for free, fair and accessible voting. The Pathway promotes a voter ID law and transparency for political contributions.

Illegal immigration: While immigration is the purview of the federal government, the issue already has been raised repeatedly in the Legislature. Recently, Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, announced he will introduce a bill that would “eliminate state funding for local governments that willfully ignore federal law and operate as a sanctuary jurisdiction.”

However, neither Republican document mentions immigration. In the Nevada Blueprint, the Democratic caucus promised to protect all Nevadans from discrimination, even those who are in the U.S. illegally.

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