H.R. 1612: Intermountain West Corridor Development Act of 2015 (Companion Senate bill S.842)
Sponsor: Rep. Paul A. Gosar (R-AZ)
Synopsis: The Intermountain West Corridor Development Act of 2015 extends the future Interstate 11 (I-11) beyond the Las Vegas–Phoenix region to connect the Mexico–U.S. shipping ports in Southern Arizona through Northern Nevada to existing interstate networks that reach the Canadian border.
The MAP-21 Surface Transportation Authorization Act officially designated an Interstate route connecting Phoenix and Las Vegas—the largest metropolitan areas in the nation that are not connected via interstate.
Reps. Cresent Hardy (R-NV) and Gosar were joined by Reps. Dina Titus (D-NV) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-AZ) in introducing this bipartisan legislation. A bipartisan companion version of this bill was introduced in the Senate by Nevada Senators Heller and Reid, and Arizona Senators McCain and Flake.
Action: H.R. 1612 was introduced to House on 3/25/15. Referred to the Subcommittee on Highways and Transit on 3/26/15. Senate bill S.842 was read twice and referred to the Committee on Environment and Public Works (3/24/15).
Sponsor Comments: “With an additional 32 million people expected to be added to the population by 2030, the Intermountain region, which includes Arizona and Nevada, has established itself to be the fastest-growing area in the entire country,” Gosar said. “In order for western states and communities to capitalize on this promising new growth, we must have timely and efficient infrastructure.
“Connecting American businesses and communities to a fully integrated international transportation system will create jobs and provide an economic boon to the West. Furthermore, the success of this powerful corridor will strengthen the invaluable relationship between Nevada and Arizona for many years to come,” Gosar added.
Jessica’s Take: The Intermountain West Corridor is intended, when it is complete, to connect all the way to Reno’s I-80, continuing up to eventually connect to Canada. Connecting Nevada’s two largest cities to Phoenix, a major Southwestern hub, should be a huge economic boon to the state, enabling us to increase interstate commerce and boost tourism, thanks to more direct transportation routes that improve travel times and safety. With distribution and logistics being primary drivers of the Nevada economy, the new I-11 can have a significant multiplying effect, thanks to connections to major trade hubs and transcontinental railways and roads. The fact that this bill has bipartisan support from Senators Reid and Heller indicates the positive impacts this bill could have. I think the only drawback for this bill is its lack of discussion regarding funding, but a last-minute Heller amendment encourages Congress to provide additional funding to construction for “high-priority corridors,” which would include this one.
H.R. 468 – Enhancing Services for Runaway and Homeless Victims of Youth Trafficking Act of 2015
Sponsor: Rep. Joe Heck, (R-NV)
Synopsis: Amends the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act with respect to grants to states, localities, and private entities to carry out research, evaluation, demonstration, and service projects regarding activities designed to increase knowledge concerning, and to improve services for, runaway youth and homeless youth.
Requires the Secretary of Health and Human Services to give priority to proposed projects relating to staff training in:
the behavioral and emotional effects of severe forms of trafficking in persons and sex trafficking, responding to youth who are showing effects of severe forms of trafficking in persons and sex trafficking, and agency-wide strategies for working with runaway and homeless youth who are victims of trafficking.
Extends the Secretary’s authority to make grants to nonprofit private agencies for the purpose of providing street-based services to runaway and homeless, and street youth, who have been subjected to, or are at risk of being subjected to, sexual abuse, prostitution, or sexual exploitation.
Extends the scope of such grants also to street-based services to runaway and homeless, and street youth, who have been subjected to, or are at risk of being subjected to, severe forms of trafficking in persons and sex trafficking.
Action: Passed/agreed to in House (1/26/15): On motion to suspend the rules and pass the bill Agreed to by voice vote. Received in Senate on 1/27/15, read twice, and referred to the Committee on the Judiciary
Sponsor Comments: “Las Vegas’ status as a major national and international travel destination make it a target for individuals who engage in human trafficking,” said Heck. “And our young people are among the most vulnerable to become victims. This bill will help us meet our moral obligation to end these reprehensible crimes and offer support to the victims. I applaud my House colleagues for once again supporting this important bill, and urge the Senate to finally take action on these important issues.”
Jessica’s Take: This bill is part of a series of bills aimed at preventing sex trafficking and helping its victims. This bill introduced by Nevada’s Joe Heck is intended to improve the support offered to runaway and homeless youths who have been victims of sex trafficking. Despite it seeming like the stuff of action movies, the FBI reports that sex trafficking is the fastest-growing segment of organized crime, and as many as 300,000 American youth are at risk of becoming victims. Las Vegas and, to a lesser extent, Reno and other parts of Nevada, are at high risk for such activity, due to the nature of our tourism and “what happens here stays here” philosophy. This bill, by necessity, calls for increased funding by the Health and Human Services Department, which may be a hard sell, but the fact that it has passed the House bodes well.
H.R. 1364 – Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act
Sponsor: Reps. Dina Titus (D-NV) and Joe Heck (R-NV) (companion Senate bill S. 691)
Synopsis: This bill prohibits the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from authorizing construction of a nuclear waste repository unless the Secretary of Energy has entered into an agreement to host the repository with the following entities:
the governor of the state in which the repository is proposed to be located,each affected unit of local government,any unit of general local government contiguous to the affected unit if spent nuclear fuel or high-level radioactive waste will be transported through that unit of general localgovernment for disposal at the repository, and each affected Indian tribe.Furthermore, any agreement to host the repository must meet the following conditions:
it must be written and signed by all parties,it must be binding on the parties, andit shall not be amended or revoked except by mutual agreement of the parties.Action: Referred to Subcommittee on Environment and the Economy on 3/20/15
Sponsor Comments: According to a statement released by Dina Titus, this bill is regarding the DOE’s announcement of a new strategy for the disposal of high-level defense and commercial nuclear waste. The strategy recommends a consent-based approach and allows for different disposal pathways for defense and commercial waste. “I applaud this decision by the Administration, and urge my colleagues in Congress to support the bipartisan, commonsense Nuclear Waste Informed Consent Act, which would codify a consent-based process for the siting of nuclear waste depositories. No community should have waste pushed on them by the federal government without having a say,” said Titus.
Jessica’s Take: There are few hot-button issues to Nevada that rival Yucca Mountain, the once-proposed, now-dormant nuclear waste repository. Some, including most recently Southern Nevada Rep. Cresent Hardy, say could be a huge economic benefit to the state and is worth taking another look at, while others, including Senator Reid, strongly oppose it for potential environmental and health dangers. The president’s position has been to look elsewhere and away from Yucca. But in March, with Obama’s request that the Department of Energy develop separate repositories for waste developed at nuclear power plants and Cold War radioactive materials, the amount of repositories needed (and the increasing ease with which it can be done) has reignited interest in Yucca and other areas. Titus and Heck are getting out in front of it by introducing H.R. 1364, ensuring that Nevada does indeed have the right to say no, which frankly makes sense. The DOE has indicated that it is seeking “willing” hosts, and it doesn’t seem likely that this bill will meet much opposition.