Nevada Hot Buttons

Rural health care
Set aside party politics and face life-and-death needs

Our rural hospitals are underfunded and failing. Health care coverage options continue to dwindle. Rural health resources might have disappeared altogether by now if not for extraordinary action by our state government.

Does anyone seriously believe that our health care system, including prescription drug coverage, is the best it could be in terms of cost, care and convenience? Maybe members of Congress and Medicare beneficiaries. Not many others. Health cost horror stories abound right here in Nevada.

A country as rich as the United States can and should ensure that quality, affordable health care is available everywhere. Not just in major population centers. Not just for certain people who work certain jobs for certain employers. If nothing else, Congress can help remote areas by allocating funds for telemedicine services.

The first step toward health care reform is to set aside party rivalries and devise a comprehensive plan to provide affordable care everywhere. The poster child for partisanship, Mark Amodei, did all he could elect an ignorant egomaniac of a president obsessed with killing a program, Obamacare, that extended affordable care to millions. In the president’s warped view, Obamacare had to go because his predecessor created it.

As your congressman, I’ll work with members of any party and vote for any plan – Democrat or Republican, Obamacare or a replacement – that makes quality health care more affordable and more widely available, particularly in rural areas.

Public land
Preserve, protect and defend for the common good

The federal government owns roughly 85 percent of the land in Nevada. That means Congress can exert a great deal of influence over any potential land development.

Public lands should be, and long have been, managed for multiple uses. The vast stark wilderness that gives our state its character must be preserved for future generations. Public land should also never be sacrificed for the short-term profits of the political donor class.

At the same time, natural resources managed responsibly can help address pressing human needs. For instance, communities like Reno that are experiencing a housing affordability crisis should be able to apply for allocations of adjacent public land for use in environmentally responsible, affordably priced housing development.

It is never easy to balance competing interests. Our state is blessed to have the highest percentage of land held in public trust. That’s a distinction to cherish and preserve.

Education
Invest to make schools a strength of our state

Nevada ranks 50th, second-worst, ahead of only New Mexico, on the Chance for Success Index contained in the latest Quality Counts annual report card on school quality from Education Week. (The list has 51 entries because it includes the District of Columbia.)

Anchoring the state to the bottom of the education barrel were separate rankings that show Nevada last in postsecondary participation and in parent education. No surprise there. Nevada has never enjoyed a strong tradition of college attendance.

The good news is that the state’s traditionally abysmal high school graduation rate has been climbing for years and last year reached a record high of 83 percent.

The bad news is that Nevada still ranks 47th in per-pupil spending on education.

It was long said that education wasn’t a priority in Nevada because one didn’t need a college degree to deal blackjack. But in an era of increasing regional and national competition for gaming (think online legalized sports wagering), even that calculous no longer applies.

For our state’s economic diversification to continue, we need to invest more in education and monitor the performance of that investment. Schools must work for both the most- and the least-advantaged students in our state.

That’s a hard job, and it cannot be done on a meager budget.

Federal appropriations contribute a small fraction of Nevada’s education spending, and only about 3 percent of the federal budget goes to education. That means today’s Nevadans will have to look to themselves to reverse a pattern of longtime neglect.

Our country was founded on the principle that people’s destinies are not determined by the class they are born into. Millions of immigrant success stories illustrate how free public education can be the engine of social mobility.

Washington can help by offering matching grants to states like ours that have traditionally lagged in education but are now, with a new majority in charge, willing to raise their level of support.

Education should always be a high national priority. A better-educated citizenry means a better-prepared workforce and an electorate more likely to make responsible decisions at the ballot box.