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August 1, 2014

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Candidates find consensus on health care, retirement at forum

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Kyle B. Hansen

Candidates Allison Herr, right, and Ellen Spiegel listen to Dan Briggs address the audience at Monday’s candidate forum at the Paseo Verde Library.

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About 45 people came to the Paseo Verde Library to hear from six candidates for State Assembly and Senate Monday afternoon. The candidates were split into two panels, each of which spent about an hour answering questions from a moderator and from the audience.

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Lynn Stewart, left, and Joe Heck, right, listen as Sean Fellows speaks at a candidate forum Monday at the Paseo Verde Library.

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Despite the battle between Republicans and Democrats, candidates for state Legislature from both parties seemed to agree Monday on issues that interest Nevada’s retired public employees.

The candidates found little to debate at a forum at Henderson’s Paseo Verde Library -– most likely because no one had an opponent in attendance to argue with.

Only six of the 15 candidates for state Legislative races in Henderson showed up. On the Republican side, present were Senate District 5 incumbent Joe Heck, Assembly District 29 candidate Sean Fellows and incumbent District 22 Assemblyman Lynn Stewart. For the Democrats, Assembly District 20 candidate Dan Briggs, Assembly District 21 candidate Ellen Spiegel and Assembly District 23 candidate Allison Herr showed up.

“I, like you, have been getting my PERS (Public Employee Retirement System) check at the end of each month, and I don’t want anybody touching it,” said Stewart, a retired Boulder City High School teacher.

The other five candidates agreed with him, saying public employees were promised benefits for retirement and the state should not break its contract with them. Candidates generally agreed the current funds should be left alone and changes should only affect future employees.

All of the candidates said the state shouldn't take funds from the Public Employee Retirement System to pay for other programs. They also agreed the state shouldn't cut funding to education. And the candidates all said health care was a top priority.

Their messages were aimed at the nearly 45 people in attendance, most of whom were members of Retired Public Employees of Nevada. RPEN sponsored the event in conjunction with Henderson Public Libraries.

While the two-hour discussion focused on retirement benefits and health care, the candidates also were asked about budget cuts, education and transportation.

“There’s nothing partisan about health care,” Fellows said. “There’s nothing partisan about transportation.”

“It shows the recognition by both Republicans and Democrats of the services public employees give,” said Clark County Public Administrator John Cahill, a member of the association. “I always enjoy these events. The candidates are more upfront and more relaxed.”

The association of retirees lobbies the state government on behalf of its 9,000 members and works to educate the public about issues faced by people who retire from careers working for state and local governments, said Henderson chapter president Joyce Nies. As a nonprofit educational organization, the group doesn't endorse candidates.

“One of our functions is to monitor what happens to the retirement system,” Nies said. “We invited these candidates so we could see what their views are and so we can make good decisions on Election Day.”

The association held a similar event Monday in Reno.

Marty Bibb, the group’s executive director, said the candidates all seemed well informed and concerned about the issues the group is interested in.

The association sponsored a similar event two years ago. President Jimmy Carter made an appearance on behalf of his son, who was running for U.S. Senate.

“I think the very same interest and concern on behalf of retirees was expressed today,” Bibb said. “The numbers were just a little smaller, which we can understand.”

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