On the issues: Nevada’s top governor candidates


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These are the front runners in the Democratic and Republican primaries for Nevada governor.
Brian Duggan/RGJ

Governor front-runners clash over stadium, education and Yucca

*Editor’s note: This story was updated to reflect additional context regarding Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s school safety summit and his position on enacting work requirements for Medicaid recipients in Nevada.

Nevada’s upcoming governor’s election is shaping up to be historic.

Longtime Clark County Commissioners Chris Giunchigliani and Steve Sisolak are both seen as real possibilities to become the state’s first Democratic governor in three decades. Giunchigliani, if elected, would also be the state’s first female governor.

The favorites on the Republican side, Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt and state Treasurer Dan Schwartz, present primary voters with a chance to send the first state treasurer, or second Laxalt, to the governor’s mansion.

Only two of the four front-runners vying to replace outgoing Gov. Brian Sandoval can survive a primary election scheduled for June 12. Early voting starts May 26.

With a month to go before voters can cast a ballot, here’s where the top candidates stand on the state’s marquee issues.

Take our quiz: Which governor candidate are you most like based on the issues? 

 

Guns

Fraught discussions over gun control policies only became more rancorous in the months since gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire into a crowd at the Route 91 Harvest music festival on the Las Vegas Strip.

The Oct. 1 shooting left 58 people dead and 851 others wounded. It also generated countless scores of new inquiries about Question 1 — a long-stalled statewide expansion of gun background checks first approved by voters in 2016.

Laxalt said there’s nothing he can do to legally enforce the initiative if elected to the state’s highest office, citing the FBI’s refusal to carry out additional checks specified under the initiative.

He has said he would consider legislation banning bump stocks — a modification Paddock used that allows a semiautomatic weapons to fire faster.

Laxalt went on to say he believes the controversial gun add-ons will be regulated at the federal level, “which should adequately resolve this issue.”

In March, he told the RGJ he’d like to see more cops in Nevada schools after a school safety summit he staged with Nevada police. Ideas discussed during that summit included training for active shooters, school security, how police can better share information and how to better predict threats to schools. 

After school safety summit, Laxalt did not volunteer further details on the recommendation to put more cops in schools and declined to say when his office planned to release a school safety report.  

Schwartz told the Reno Gazette Journal he would seek to enforce the gun background check initiative. As did Giunchigliani and Sisolak.

Schwartz favors funding for arming and training school resource officers to patrol the schools.  He does not support allowing Nevada cities and counties to ban bump stocks, saying, “We cannot live in a state where something goes from legal to illegal when you cross Charleston (Boulevard) into North Las Vegas.”

Both Giunchigliani and Sisolak have backed a ban on bump stocks, assault weapons and high capacity magazines. Neither supports arming teachers.

Education

Laxalt said he’d be willing to consider changes to the state’s decades-old school funding formula.

His eight-point education platform made no mention of proposed tweaks to the oft-criticized method for divvying up school funding, one both Sisolak and Giunchigliani have pledged to revise.

Schwartz did not rule out making such changes but prioritized them behind an effort to repeal the state’s commerce tax, a key part of Sandoval’s sweeping, multimillion-dollar 2015 education reforms.

He plans to replace the lost revenue — expected to be about $380 million over the next two fiscal years — by pulling some $750 million in public subsidies away from the Las Vegas Raiders’ future stadium.

Laxalt, too, wants to do away with the Sandoval-backed commerce tax, but said he would rely on marijuana taxes and government cost-cutting to make up the school funding gap.

Both Republicans are outspoken proponents of expanding the state’s besieged education savings account program, which lets parents tap into state funds to send their kids to private schools.

Sisolak, a former member of the Nevada Board of Regents, and Giunchigliani, a former special education teacher, would prefer to see those dollars stay in public schools.

Giunchigliani said private schools shouldn’t get any public funding and promised to preserve the commerce tax. She also bemoaned Sisolak’s support for using hotel room tax revenues to help fund the Raiders stadium — dollars she said should have gone to education. 

Sisolak pointed to funds from a 2009 room tax and recreational marijuana revenues as possibly under-tapped sources of school funding. He, too, would like to keep the commerce tax.

Economic development

Sisolak and Giunchigliani have major differences when it comes to the Oakland Raiders’ controversial move to Las Vegas.

Sisolak, a committed backer of the $2 billion taxpayer-subsidized stadium that finally lured the team to Sin City, testified in support of the project in front of the state Legislature.

He reaffirmed that commitment early this month, joining five other Clark County commissioners to OK a nine-figure public subsidy for the 65,000-seat stadium near the Las Vegas Strip.

Giunchigliani, who cast the lone vote against thefunding package, has long opposed putting taxpayer dollars toward the project — a move she sees as little more than a giveaway to wealthy NFL owners.

Schwartz has similarly strong feelings about the undertaking. He has threatened, if elected, to shut down roads surrounding the stadium in a bid to force Raiders’ owners back to the bargaining table.

Laxalt, who counts casino mogul and former stadium financier Sheldon Adelson among his top campaign donors, hasn’t taken a public position for or against the stadium.

He did not directly answer a question about whether Nevada had doled out too many economic development incentives in recent years, such as a famed $1.3 billion package of tax breaks for Tesla’s behemoth Gigafactory in Storey County.

Laxalt did say he favored a more free-market approach to bringing business to the state, one “where government doesn’t get involved in picking the winners and losers.”

Giunchigliani fears Nevada may be doing too much to help large corporations, such as Tesla, but not enough to support mom-and-pop local businesses. Sisolak applauded Sandoval’s efforts to diversify the state’s economy, but said there are “multiple ways to go about that.”

Affordable housing

Nevada’s next governor will take over a state faced with skyrocketing rents and a rapidly rising homeless population fed by a growing shortage of low-income housing units.

But none of the front-runners for the state’s top job have offered a comprehensive platform of policies to address those issues.

Giunchigliani, in a November interview with the RGJ, counted inclusionary zoning — which would require developers to add a certain percentage of rent-restricted units to new market-rate housing projects — among the policy prescriptions she would consider. She was the only one of the four front-runners to say, unequivocally, that Nevada should spend more of its own money to address affordable housing.

In addition to inclusionary zoning, Sisolak said he would look into density bonuses that let builders develop more units in exchange for adding affordable housing to projects. He said the state needs to make it easier for developers to more quickly build houses by streamlining the construction permitting and approval process.

Schwartz suggested easing developers’ burden by bringing more skilled contractors to Nevada and expanding the state’s existing affordable housing bond program.

Laxalt said he was open to exploring ways to make it easier for developers to build new housing, but didn’t say which specific proposals he favored.

 

Health care 

None of the top four governor hopefuls have said they would roll back Medicaid coverage first extended to more than 200,000 of Nevada’s poorest residents in 2012.

Sisolak and Giunchigliani said they would look to further expand that coverage, if possible, by supporting a Medicaid buy-in bill similar to the one vetoed by Sandoval last year. 

Laxalt has said he would consider imposing work requirements on Medicaid recipients, as Kentucky’s Republican Gov. Matt Bevin recently announced he would do in his state.

Asked if he would impose similar restrictions on Medicaid and other forms of social welfare, Schwartz said only that the state should ensure food stamps are not fraudulently obtained.

Abortion

Schwartz also said that state and federal dollars should not be used to fund abortions except in cases where rape, incest or another type of crime has been committed.

Laxalt did not directly answer a question about funding for Planned Parenthood, saying only that it was an issue for federal representatives to address.

Laxalt also did not directly respond to a question about whether abortions should always be legally available, explaining that was an “extremist phrasing of the issue.” He said he was against both partial-birth and late-term abortions.

Sisolak in January said reproductive health decisions should be left between a woman and her doctor, though he’s said in the past he was undecided on the question of whether government funding should be provided to medical facilities that provide abortions.

Sisolak told the RGJ he would not “legislate against a woman’s right to choose” and said Planned Parenthood should continue to receive funding.

Giunchigliani is pro-choice and a member of Planned Parenthood. She supports continued funding for the abortion rights group.

Marijuana

Both top Democratic governor hopefuls helped spearhead efforts to research and regulate the statewide use of marijuana.

Sisolak pledged to protect Nevada’s voter-approved decriminalization of the drug against threats from the federal government. Giunchigliani went a step further, telling the RGJ marijuana should be decriminalized nationwide. She also pledged, if elected, to commute the sentences of non-violent individuals in jail for possession of marijuana.

Schwartz agreed pot should be legalized at the federal level.

Laxalt opposed Nevada voters’ decision to approve recreational pot use in 2016 and did not directly answer a question about whether it should be legal at the federal level.

Immigration

Laxalt in 2015 signed on to a lawsuit opposing then-President Barack Obama’s executive order to expand the now-defunct Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which delayed the deportation of individuals brought to the U.S. illegally as children.

He also joined a suit that sought to punish self-declared “sanctuary cities” — municipalities where officials have said they will not help federal authorities enforce immigration laws.

No such cities exist in the state, but that hasn’t stopped lieutenant governor candidate and state Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, from pursuing a constitutional amendment that would make local sanctuary declarations illegal.

Laxalt did not directly answer a question about whether he supported that effort. He has been a vocal opponent of allowing sanctuary cities in Nevada and said he would vigorously oppose sanctuary declarations if elected governor. 

Schwartz has dismissed the topic as dog whistling. Audio obtained by the RGJ shows he told a Hispanics in Politics audience in April that sanctuary cities were not an issue in the state and that the phrase was being used as a “code word for something else.”

Schwartz said the state should not coddle criminals who have crossed the border. He supports an “all-of-the-above” border strategy, up to and including one that features Trump’s much-discussed border wall, as well as a path to citizenship for some immigrants in exchange for military or community service.

Giunchigliani and Sisolak both support comprehensive immigration reform that provides a path to citizenship for those brought here illegally by their parents.

Yucca Mountain and public lands

Schwartz and Laxalt also split on the ever-testy topic of Yucca Mountain.

Laxalt, a Trump supporter, has vowed to battle the president’s efforts to restart the licensing process at the long-stalled nuclear waste dump about 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas.

Schwartz favors a discussion on the topic “rather than just saying ‘no.’”

He, like Laxalt, wants to see the federal government cede some of its control over the roughly 50 million acres it oversees in Nevada.

Giunchigliani and Sisolak oppose using Yucca as a nuclear dump site.

They both balked at the prospect of the state taking over lands now owned by the federal government.

#MeToo Movement

Laxalt, as attorney general, led the charge to put an end to the state’s backlog of sexual assault kits. He’s also been a vocal advocate for laws to combat sex trafficking and crack down on paroled sex offenders.

Laxalt said the state has measures in place to address workplace sexual misconduct and that he strongly supports those measures. He said he would carefully review current safeguards against misconduct among elected officials.

Such policies have moved to the political foreground since the start of the #MeToo movement, a social media-driven wave of support for thousands of victims who came forward with sexual misconduct allegations that rocked Hollywood, the media, politics 

Schwartz did not specify what measures he thought should be taken to combat workplace sexual misconduct, but said the state should “certainly take the issue seriously and develop standards to safeguard all our citizens.”

Sisolak said more needs to be done to prevent confidentiality clauses in legal settlements from acting as a gag order against victims. He said elected officials should never be allowed to use taxpayer dollars to settle such claims.

Giunchigliani said Nevada should ban the use of non-disclosure agreements and expand a Clark County proposal she introduced for reporting harassment in government.

Read or Share this story: https://www.rgj.com/story/news/politics/2018/04/23/nevada-governor-how-laxalt-schwartz-sisolak-giunchigliani-feel-guns-pot-more/513051002/



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February Was The Most Lucrative Month Of Marijuana Tax In Nevada


LAS VEGAS, NV – The state of Nevada has already collected 83 percent of its projected tax revenue from marijuana for the 2017-18 fiscal year. Numbers continue to soar past projections in the first year of legalized adult-use cannabis in the state; never more so than in February – the most recent and lucrative of the first eight reported months.

According to the Nevada Department of Taxation, over $35 million in February recreational sales yielded $3.54 million from a 10 percent tax. Wholesale production across the state brought in an additional $2.4 million from a 15 percent tax. The $5.95 million in tax revenue reported by the state is the highest single-month total since recreational use became legal in Nevada in July, 1 2017.

Since that date, dispensaries have sold over $263 million of adult-use cannabis and Nevada has collected $41.88 million in tax revenue, putting the state on the doorstep of its $50.32 million projection with four months still left in the fiscal year.

Cumulative tax revenue collected by the state of Nevada for the 2017-18 fiscal year through a 10 percent retail tax and 15 percent wholesale tax

Most of the marijuana sold for recreational use for the rest of the 2017-18 fiscal year will be a bonus for the state. Projections called for $26.48 million in tax revenue from a 10 percent tax on recreational sales. As of February, $26.37 million was collected.

“The Retail Marijuana Tax has come in significantly above projections each month, though we see some fluctuation from month to month in the dollar amount,” said Bill Anderson, Executive Director of the Nevada Department of Taxation.

All of the $26.37 million generated so far has been put into the state’s Rainy Day Fund, the department said.

Total tax revenue (in millions) generated by the state of Nevada for the 2017-18 fiscal year from a 10 percent tax on retail marijuana sale

The fiscal year called for $23.84 million in tax revenue from wholesale cultivation. As of February, $15.51 was collected.

“The trend we are seeing is that the Wholesale Marijuana Tax is tracking slightly above projections and is showing steady growth each month,” Anderson said.

The money collected from this tax first reimburses the Department of Taxation for operational costs, with $5 million allocated to reimburse local governments for their costs. The remainder will be put in the Distributive School Account.

In April, the state distributed $5 million in tax money to local governments . Each county government in Nevada received $88,235,29. Additionally, several Clark County municipalities received payments. According to documents, the city of Las Vegas received $826,438.72, Henderson received $392,585.42, North Las Vegas received $317,687.01, and Mesquite received $27,204.69

Total tax revenue (in millions) collected by the state of Nevada for the 2017-18 fiscal year from a 15 percent wholesale tax on marijuana cultivation

“The overall revenue picture is strong and, if it continues the path it is currently on, we can expect to see end-of-year revenue totals that substantially exceed expectations.”

The money is coming from the 316 registered licensees across the state. The Nevada Department of Taxation has issued 115 for cultivation facilities, 80 for production facilities, 61 for retail stores, 34 for distributors, and nine labs.

Image via Shutterstock. Graphs provided by Nevada Department of Taxation

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