Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2014

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WEEK IN REVIEW: WASHINGTON D.C.

WASHINGTON - The Senate appearance by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales captivated Washington last week, but local issues still got their 15 minutes of fame.

The House passed a massive water resources bill that may have gone unnoticed except that it was loaded with potential goodies for Nevada.

Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley and Republican Rep. Jon Porter requested $30 million to help pay for a crucial Southern Nevada wastewater pipeline that environmentalists fought last year.

The sewer project is needed to handle population growth that is expected to double the wastewater flowing into Lake Mead over the next 20 years. Environmentalists cried foul last fall when Nevada Sens. Harry Reid and John Ensign tried to set aside money through a public lands sale bill.

Environmentalists said at the time that federal land sales shouldn't pay for Las Vegas sprawl.

The Clean Water Coalition, the government agency building the pipeline, has already hiked sewer fees to help pay for the project, but has repeatedly sought extra money to help with the heavy costs.

The bill also has $5 million that Porter secured to upgrade a Henderson water treatment plant as well as $25 million Rep. Dean Heller hopes to tap into for Truckee River flood control work.

The bill only authorizes the projects, with funding coming down the road.

But with all the extras tacked on for Nevada and virtually every other state, President Bush has been cool to the bill. Though not quite saying he will veto it, the president says the bill is costing more than he budgeted, according to a report in Congress Daily.

Porter also won passage of a bill to transfer federal land that the Nevada Air National Guard needs for a training facility. It opened this month near McCarran International Airport.

Next week Berkley will take center stage at a Ways and Means subcommittee to re introduce her Freedom Through Renewable Energy Expansion Act. The energy bill taps into many of the themes Democrats are looking at to stem the damage from global warming - rolling back subsidies on oil, gas and nuclear companies, tax breaks for renewable energy and a 33 mpg fuel-efficiency standard for automobiles.

One day after Berkley sent around a "Dear Colleague" letter asking for support, she had two dozen signatories. But competition is stiff this year as many energy bills compete for attention.

On another issue vital to Nevada, the House is making rumbles about trying to reverse the ban on Internet gambling that Bush signed into law last year. So Berkley and Porter are poised to re introduce legislation calling for a study to see whether the $12 billion annual industry can be regulated much the way Strip casinos are monitored.

The Nevadans have an ally in Democratic Rep. Barney Frank of Massachusetts, chairman of the House Financial Services Committee. Frank has pledged to take another look at online gaming this session.

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