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August 20, 2014

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Dina Titus, Joe Heck say the choice between them is clear

Congressional candidates Dina Titus and Joe Heck say the contrast between them is clear.

“We are not trying to be each other,” Democratic incumbent Titus said. “We have stark ideological differences,” Republican challenger Heck said.

Indeed, the candidates’ legislative records — both represented Southern Nevada in the state Senate — show distinct philosophical differences

Titus tended to favor environmental causes as a senator, while Heck, a doctor, focused on health care and business.

Both voted for legislative pay raises, and supported proposals to keep property taxes stable.

The Sun examined the candidates’ records and compiled a list of bills that highlight their different perspectives:

TITUS

Ring around the valley: In 1997, Titus proposed adopting a boundary around Las Vegas beyond which development would be prohibited. Las Vegas’ population was on its way to nearly doubling, traffic and pollution were on the rise, and Titus wanted to focus growth within the urban core. The measure gained wide public support, but died in a Senate committee.

Tax freeze: Titus pushed for a property tax freeze during the housing boom of the mid-2000s as homeowners saw bills skyrocket. The measure was defeated by a coalition of Democrats and Republicans, but Titus is credited with helping to spearhead the debate that led to a 3 percent property tax cap for homeowners.

Tax increases: Titus voted in 2003 in favor of tax increases for business payrolls, banks and gaming. It was an effort to broaden the state’s tax base and raise more than $800 million over two years. At the request of Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn, Titus supported the bill, as did the majority of Republican and Democratic legislators.

Red Rock: Titus sponsored a bill in 2003 that gave special protection to land near the Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area. It aimed at keeping high-density and new commercial development away. The bill passed both houses unanimously and was signed by the governor.

Renewable energy: Titus regularly sponsored and supported legislation promoting renewable energy, including a bill that provided tax breaks to renewable energy companies and a bill that required the state’s utilities to acquire renewable energy as part of the power they sell to customers.

Pay raise: Titus voted in 1989 to increase the legislative pension from $25 to $100 a month, a vote in which she joined the majority of the Legislature. A freshman lawmaker, Titus was not vested in the pension system at the time. The measure was repealed shortly after it passed in response to public complaints, and Titus again voted with the majority to repeal the increase.

HECK

Death penalty: Heck voted in 2005 against a bill to outlaw the death penalty for those younger than 18. The bill passed the Senate 15-6. Consideration of the bill was compelled by a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Canadian drugs: Heck took a leading role in passing a law authorizing the state Board of Pharmacy to certify some Canadian pharmacies as eligible to fill prescriptions for Nevada residents. The Canadian government enforces price controls so Nevadans can save as much as 50 percent when buying brand-name drugs. The bill required pharmacies to ship only those drugs approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Bank taxes: Heck sponsored a Republican-backed bill in 2007 to reduce the amount of taxes banks pay. Heck and other supporters argued that banks were unfairly hit by a 2003 tax increase and were forced to pass costs on to customers. The bill died.

Illegal immigrants: Heck introduced legislation that would have prohibited illegal immigrants from receiving financial aid for education, including the state’s Millennium Scholarship. Heck’s proposal evolved into a law that requires students seeking Millennium Scholarships to sign an affidavit declaring they are citizens or plan to file for legal status.

Property taxes: Heck supported Titus’ 2005 proposal to freeze assessed values on homes to keep property taxes stable. He also favored capping property taxes at the level of inflation.

Pay raise: Heck voted in 2005 in favor of a constitutional amendment to raise legislators’ salaries by 28 percent, from about $28,000 to $36,180. The bill passed 16-5, with five Democrats, including Titus, opposed.

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