Las Vegas Sun

May 21, 2019

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L.V. goes to D.C.: Why 100 local leaders are headed to Washington

Put the brakes on Yucca Mountain. Hit the accelerator on Interstate 11.

Those are among the messages that local government, community and business leaders will take to Washington, D.C., next week during the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce’s annual lobbying trip to the nation’s capital.

The chamber says its contingent of more than 100 participants is its biggest ever, which, combined with an agenda that for the most part covers issues critical to the community, is encouraging news for local residents.

First and foremost, given the Trump administration’s signals about reviving the Yucca Mountain nuclear waste repository project, leaders in Washington need to hear that Las Vegas is categorically opposed to efforts to turn our backyard into the nation’s dumping ground for high-level radioactive material.

To the chamber’s credit, the stops include a conversation with Rep. John Shimkus, R-Ill., a longtime proponent of Yucca Mountain. Local residents are counting on the tour’s participants to tell Shimkus that the project would be a disaster in the making for Las Vegas, where thousands of tons of waste would be transported by truck and train on its way to the dumpsite. An accident or a terrorist attack could be catastrophic here, not to mention anywhere along transportation routes that carry waste through 43 other states.

Elected leaders who are taking part in the tour — including Assemblyman Paul Anderson, Clark County Commissioner Larry Brown, Las Vegas City Council members Stavros Anthony and Michele Fiore, Henderson Mayor Debra March — need to be especially strident on this point.

The trip also provides an opportunity to cheerlead for I-11 development between Phoenix and Las Vegas, which carries promise this year given President Donald Trump’s campaign promise to boost infrastructure spending.

Other items on the chamber’s agenda include:

• Expanding the list of countries that are exempt from U.S. travel visa requirements. There currently are 38 countries on the list, most of them in Europe. Expanding the list would boost international tourism.

• Securing more Homeland Security funding for Las Vegas. The city’s risk profile dropped recently, putting $2.9 million in funding at risk, due to the methodology used to assess threat levels.

• Building support for the Marketplace Fairness Act, which would allow states to collect sales tax and use taxes from online retailers that do not have a presence in those states.

• Obtaining more federal grant money.

The agenda is strong, although it’s disappointing it doesn’t include immigration reform and protections, specifically Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Given that MGM Resorts International and Caesars Entertainment both immediately called on Congress to address DACA after the Trump administration announced it was winding down the program, there are both economic and social reasons for Las Vegas leaders to lobby for it. However, a chamber spokeswoman said there would be opportunities to discuss the issue during the various receptions, conversations and special events planned during the week.

Given that there are approximately 13,000 DACA recipients in Nevada, the bulk of them in Las Vegas, and that most of them are in the workforce, the subject should be brought up.

With more than 100 voices, there’s no reason Las Vegas shouldn’t make a lot of noise next week.

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