April 28th, 2017

jessica_santinaCongressional Delegation Legislation Update
Bills From The Hill That Matter To Nevadans
Compiled by Jessica Santina

NEW BILLS

H.R. 521 – Protection from Insurance Exchange Monopolies Act

Sponsor: Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV)

Cosponsors: Reps. Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Tom McClintock (R-CA), Robert Pittenger (R-NC), Trent Franks (R-AZ), Bill Huizenga (R-MI)

Synopsis: This bill amends the Internal Revenue Code to exempt from the requirement to maintain minimum essential health coverage any individual residing in a county with fewer than two health insurance issuers offering qualified health plans on an exchange.

Action: Introduced in House on 1/13/17, and referred to House Committee on Ways and Means

Sponsor Comments: In September 2016, Amodei’s press office released a statement in which he commented on the bill. “President Obama promised his healthcare law would bring Americans ‘more choice,’ ‘more competition,’ and ‘real health care security,’” said Congressman Amodei. “By allowing people who reside in areas with less than two provider options to be exempt from the individual mandate, our bill provides much needed relief to those who have been left with no alternative. Congress must continue to look for real solutions that give Americans increased access to the care they deserve, and this is an example of Congress taking action.”

Jessica’s Take: Amodei, along with former Congressmen Joe Heck and Cresent Hardy, introduced this legislation last September, but with the new congress in place, Amodei has refashioned it with several other Republican representatives. The idea is the same—in the 10 Nevada counties with only one health insurance carrier, or none at all, residents would be exempt from having to pay the IRS penalty for lack of insurance. Amodei says the ACA’s mandate means that the options and affordability guaranteed cannot be provided to these counties’ residents. The all-Republican sponsorship of this bill to a Republican-majority Congress with plenty of negative sentiment surrounding ACA means that this bill might stand a good shot of passing, though it’s also possible the issue may be tabled altogether as Congress works to totally replace the ACA, which might render this issue moot.


H.R. 1330 – Federal Land Invasive Species Control, Prevention, and Management Act

Sponsor: Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV)

Synopsis: A bill to improve the control and management of invasive species that threaten and harm federal land under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of Agriculture and the Secretary of the Interior, and for other purposes. The bill protects from invasive species important natural resources, including soil, vegetation, archaeological sites, water resources, and rare or unique habitats. It calls for the various secretaries to develop strategic plans for the implementation of invasive species programs that will reduce their populations or infested acreages, and they will be required to work with affected states, counties, municipalities, or tribes.

Action: Introduced in House on 3/2/17. Referred to several committees and subcommittes; most recently referred to Subcommittee on Conservation and Forestry on 3/23/17.

Sponsor Comments: Companion Senate bill S. 505 is sponsored by Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman John Barrasso of Wyoming. “Worldwide, invasive species are spreading at an alarming rate,” said Barrasso. “By working together to meet clear reduction targets, we can begin to rein in the spread of invasive species.”

Jessica’s Take: Rep. Amodei has historically spoken out for state’s rights on federal lands. With 87 percent of Nevada land being owned by the federal government, it’s a tightrope to walk considering the majority of Westerners tend to support continued federal stewardship, doubting states’ abilities to properly maintain the land and its resources, according to the Reno Gazette Journal. It’s likely this bill is a step from Amodei to assure his constituents of a pro-environment and responsible stewardship stance. Invasive species can move across public lands at a rate of nearly 4,600 acres a day, says the BLM. It seems like a no-brainer, but a potential conflict lies in the fact that the bill would exclude many invasive species control or management projects from National Environmental Policy Act requirements, meaning that certain measures may negatively affect the environment under federal guidelines.


S. 3438 – A bill to authorize the Secretary of Veterans Affairs to carry out a major medical facility project in Reno, Nevada.

Sponsor: Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)

Co-sponsor: Former Senator Harry Reid (D-NV)

Synopsis: This bill authorizes the Department of Veterans Affairs to carry out major medical facility projects that consist of:

  • seismic, life safety, and utilities upgrades and expansion of clinical services in Reno, Nevada; and
  • seismic corrections to the mental health and community living center in Long Beach, California.

The bill authorizes appropriations for such projects, subject to specified fund limitations.

Action: Introduced in Senate on 9/28/16; Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs discharged by unanimous consent on 11/29/16; Passed/agreed to in Senate: Passed Senate with an amendment by unanimous consent.

Sponsor Comments: Regarding his requested provisions to the Jeff Miller and Richard Blumenthal Veterans Health Care and Benefits Improvement Act of 2016, H.R.6416, a package of legislation intended to support veterans, Heller commented, “One of my most trusted responsibilities as a United States Senator is to serve as the leading voice for veteran population of our state. With over 300,000 veterans calling Nevada home and with my seat on the Senate Committee on Veterans’ Affairs, I will continue to advocate on behalf of our nation’s heroes. These provisions range from addressing the safety and quality of care at the Reno VA Medical Center, to creating a better and more efficient system to handle surges in disability claims so veterans don’t experience a backlog. I’m proud of this work and look forward to seeing the President sign this legislation into law.”

Jessica’s Take: Heller worked with former Senator Reid to get this legislation through and carry out his promise to constituents that he would actively advocate on behalf of veterans. Aside from S. 3438, which ensures construction at the Reno VA Medical Center that will improve the facility’s safety and quality, other provisions include the 21st Century Veterans Benefits Delivery Act (S.1203); The Veterans Small Business Opportunity and Protection Act (S. 296); and the Veterans Affairs Research Transparency Act of 2015 (S. 114), a Heller measure that promotes greater transparency and sharing of research related to veterans. The bill passed without qualms and renovation will begin this year. About 90% of building 1 of the Reno VA Medical Center will be renovated, and the clinic will expand significantly as well, all to the tune of more than $214 million.


S. 3102/H.R. 5752 – Pershing County Economic Development and Conservation Act

Senate Sponsor: Sen. Dean Heller (R-NV)

Senate Co-sponsor: Former Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV)

House Sponsor: Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV)

Synopsis: This bill directs the Department of the Interior to conduct sales or exchanges of eligible lands in Pershing County, Nevada, identified as the “Checkerboard Lands Resolution Area.”

Interior and the county shall jointly select which parcels of eligible land to offer for sale or acre for-acre exchange.

For purposes of acre-for-acre exchanges, Interior shall identify management priority areas within the Checkerboard Lands Resolution Area, including those considered to be:

  • greater sage-grouse habitat;
  • part of an identified wildlife corridor or designated critical habitat;
  • of value for outdoor recreation or public access for hunting, fishing, and other recreational purposes;
  • of significant cultural, historic, ecological, or scenic value; or  of value for improving federal land management.

The bill prescribes requirements for the disposition of proceeds from the sales of lands under this bill.

Interior shall offer for sale and convey to specified qualified entities, for fair market value, the remaining U.S. right, title, and interest in certain lands and interests in the county.

Interior shall convey, without consideration, Unionville Cemetery to the county.

The bill designates specified federal land in Nevada as components of the National Wilderness Preservation System.

The bill releases specified wilderness study areas from further review for designation as wilderness.

Action: Introduced in Senate on 6/28/16, read and referred to Committee on Energy and Natural Resources. Committee hearing held on 9/22/16.

Sponsor Comments: “This proposal is truly driven by the community and will solve public land problems that have plagued Pershing County for decades. It brings a common-sense approach to land development and will move us away from a complicated checkerboard pattern that placed limits on economic innovation. This legislation protects Nevada’s landscape, preserves Nevada’s way of life by defending the freedom of our outdoorsmen, and creates good-paying Nevada jobs for years to come. I look forward to working with Congressman Amodei to have this legislation signed into law,” said Senator Dean Heller.

Jessica’s Take: This bill is the fruition of a decade of work by the entire Nevada delegation to resolve the problem of federal land ownership standing in the way of potential development and land use. With roughly 75 percent of Pershing County being owned by the Bureau of Land Management, much of it in a checkerboard pattern that makes use of significant parcels of land impossible, this bill attempts to resolve the problem by setting forth three provisions:

  • An innovative solution to resolve the complicated land management issue of checkerboard lands, including the disposal and exchange of Bureau of Land Management (BLM) lands in the county for economic development and public purposes.
  • The conservation of certain areas already managed by the BLM land in the county.
  • The release of the selected wilderness study areas, currently managed as by the BLM as wilderness, back into multiple-use.
    Heller is under scrutiny now as the lone Republican senator in a blue state who’s up for reelection. This is one bill—with its concern for environmental protections—that could bolster his popularity, and with the backing of the entire delegation and no real objections (input was solicited from many on the other side of the aisle and from land management sources), this one would appear to stand a good shot of passing, and could be an economic boon to the state.