Indy DC Download: U.S. House annual spending bills include $97 million for 55 Nevada projects
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Nevada’s four House lawmakers stand to receive $97 million for 55 projects in the dozen fiscal year 2023 spending bills approved by the House Appropriations Committee.
That figure and those projects may change with input from the Senate later this year. The Senate Appropriations Committee has not yet marked up any of its annual spending measures. The full House will take up the bills later this month. The projects would get the funds after both chambers approve compromise bills and the president signs them into law. In recent years, that hasn’t happened until well after the end of the fiscal year on Sept. 30. Last year’s bills weren’t finished until March.
Highlights from the projects include $6 million requested by Rep. Steven Horsford (D-NV), the largest amount awarded among Nevada’s House lawmakers, to build erosion control structures for the Las Vegas Wash, a 12-mile channel that connects the Las Vegas Valley with Lake Mead, the area’s primary source of drinking water.
Most of the Nevada-directed funds were included in the six bills approved Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday on party-line votes. The other six measures were cleared by the committee earlier in June.
Rep. Mark Amodei (R-NV), a member of the committee, said in a recent interview that he opposed the bills because the legislation was drafted by Democrats, who hold the majority in the House and fund Democratic priorities.
The Democrats “are writing the bills and we're voting ‘no’ on all of them,” Amodei said in a recent interview. “And then when they come to the [House] floor, it will probably be the same way.”
Amodei added that he hopes negotiations with the Senate will change the bills enough so they can win his vote, which is what happened with the previous year's bills.
One of Amodei's priorities last year was the inclusion of the Hyde amendment, which bans using federal funds for abortions. The provision honors former Rep. Henry Hyde (R-IL). Senate Republican negotiators managed to include that provision, one reason Amodei backed the final omnibus package.
The House GOP sought to add a Hyde amendment and other abortion-restriction provisions to some of the fiscal year 2023 measures, but Democrats, including Rep. Susie Lee (D-NV), who also serves on the committee, blocked them.
In light of the recent Supreme Court decision revoking a constitutional right to an abortion, Lee gave a speech on the importance of abortion rights during the debate on the bill funding the State Department. The GOP tried to add an amendment that would block foreign aid from being used to fund abortions.
“I personally support a woman's right to choose. The Nevadans I represent support a right to choose and the vast majority of Americans support a woman's right to choose,” Lee said. “I think we will all do everything in our power to ensure that, in the wake of the Supreme Court's radical decision, and, in the wake of this extreme amendment, that we will protect that right no matter where someone lives.”
She also spoke out against an amendment proposed, then withdrawn, by Rep. Henry Cuellar (D-TX) to the Department of Energy (DOE) budget that would prevent spending federal funds on building privately owned, temporary nuclear waste storage facilities. Lee argued that the amendment would limit the DOE as it works to find a location to construct temporary facilities.
“This amendment would completely derail the progress that has been made towards these alternatives,” Lee said, adding the DOE has heard from more than 200 locations that want to host facilities.
The DOE has pursued temporary nuclear waste storage instead of building a repository at Yucca Mountain, outside of Las Vegas, which was designated as the permanent site to store nuclear waste in 1987. Lee reiterated her opposition to the never-completed Yucca project and added that she supports the DOE's current efforts to find a temporary storage spot with the local community's consent.
Fiscal year 2023 is the second year Congress has allowed for member-directed spending in the appropriations process — also known as earmarks and community project funding — since Congress banned the practice in 2011.
The $97 million for 55 projects is an initial marker that appropriators will reconcile with the Senate's spending requests.
The spending measures would fund the budget of the Departments of Transportation (DOT), Labor (DOL), Health and Human Services (HHS), Commerce (DOC), Justice (DOJ) and Interior (DOI), among other agencies.
Nevada’s House lawmakers would receive $37.3 million for 13 transportation projects, $25.3 million for 18 projects under the purview of the DOL and HHS, $19 million for seven DOI projects and $11.77 million for 11 DOC and DOJ-related projects.
The Nevada Republican would receive the highest total funding of the state's House members, $32.2 million for 15 projects under the bills. The largest amount — $4.36 million — would go toward a wastewater treatment plant dewatering press. Amodei sought $5 million for the project.
Used to separate liquids from solids, the press would help Fallon's wastewater treatment plant process the biosolids generated at the plant. The project would also decrease the number of biosolids, allow the city to eliminate some of its wastewater treatment lagoons and enable the city to manage and operate its plan with the anticipated growth of the city.
Amodei would receive $14 million for five transportation projects. One project in Washoe would receive $4 million for preliminary engineering, design and environmental impact studies to rebuild a 3.7-mile segment of Lemmon Drive between Fleetwood Drive to Ramsey Way above the 100-year flood plain. The project would also improve safety in the area's historically disadvantaged communities, construct dedicated bike lanes and a separated multi-use path, and widen Lemmon Drive from Fleetwood Drive to Palace Drive.
Lee would get the second-highest funding level under the House bills, $26.6 million for 15 projects.
Those include $5 million, the second-highest amount for a single Nevada project, for the improvements to the Henderson Interstate 515 and Interstate 11 interchange. The project would address existing roadway deficiencies at the Henderson interchange and surrounding roadways and provide transportation improvements to serve existing and future growth areas. The interchange was constructed between 2004 and 2006 and improvements are needed to accommodate increased demand and ensure traffic safety.
Lee also secured $3 million for the Southern Nevada Water Authority's septic conversion program. The program covers up to 85 percent of the costs of converting from a septic system to a sewer connection, which can total between $20,000 to $200,000. Homes on septic systems consume six times the amount of water consumed by homes connected to a sewer system in the Las Vegas Valley.
Horsford would get $21 million for 14 projects, including $6 million for the Las Vegas Wash.
Other projects funded by Horsford's appropriations request include expanding the Grover C. Dils Medical Center in Caliente. Among other things, the center would increase its acute rooms from four to six, including adding negative-pressure rooms to accommodate infectious diseases or COVID-19 cases. In long-term care, the facility would move from 16- to 20-bed, single occupancy.
Horsford also secured $2.5 million for WestCare Nevada, a Henderson-based nonprofit providing substance use disorder treatment across the state. WestCare plans to construct transitional housing units for 84 women and their children in Las Vegas.
Rep. Dina Titus (D-NV) would receive $17 million for 11 projects, including $3.57 million for the Regional Transportation Commission (RTC) of Southern Nevada to install a pedestrian detection and collision avoidance system on more than 350 transit vehicles.
The system will also enable the RTC to collect alert data that will help identify areas of conflict between pedestrians or cyclists and vehicles and identify additional infrastructure improvement needs, such as median fencing, bicycle lanes, wider sidewalks or improved pedestrian crossings.
Titus also sought $2 million for the Clark County Water Reclamation District, a wastewater treatment agency. The project would fund the removal of old water lines, including obsolete asbestos-containing pipes, the installation of new water lines, meters and valves, and associated construction activities.
For a full rundown of the measures the delegates supported or opposed this week, check out The Nevada Independent’s congressional vote tracker and other information below.