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Congressman Steven Horsford (NV-4), visited Mesquite to gather input from local officials on Gold Butte and other issues. Photo by Barbara Ellestad.
"It's been a busy first 100 days," Congressman Steven Horsford (NV-4) said in a face-to-face interview with the Mesquite Citizen Journal, Sunday, April 21.
He was in Mesquite to visit with local elected officials and Mesquite Chamber of Commerce representatives.
Horsford filed his first legislative bill Thursday, April 18, bringing the Lyon County Economic Development and Conservation Act before the House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Public Lands and Environmental Regulation (HR-696) for an initial hearing.
"There are a number of public lands bills that will benefit a number of projects throughout the State of Nevada," Horsford said as he discussed one of them close to Mesquite-Gold Butte. Although not formally proposed yet, the area south of Mesquite and Bunkerville has been batted around as a possible National Conservation Area with and without Wilderness.
The bill that he filed, commonly called the Yerington Land Act, is one of six that involve land projects in the Fourth Congressional District that he represents. "The Lyon County Land Bill will allow the City of Yerington to buy, at fair market value, about 10,000 acres for commercial and economic development including a copper mine," Horsford explained.
He estimated 2,000 to 3,000 jobs could be created in association with the economic development. Lyon County has one of the highest unemployment rates in the State.
The Land Act will also create 48,000 acres of wilderness area, known as the Wovoka Wilderness Area.
Horsford explained he met with local Mesquite leaders to determine "where we are on Gold Butte and discuss the process I would like to see going forward."
"I would like to see a process that's transparent, that allows everyone to have input, and allows us to work from what the legislation would actually propose."
He said that will create "a framework for people to react to rather than just concepts. Unfortunately, I think that's where we've been in the past."
He explained that he will take the input he received from his Mesquite discussions back to Washington D.C. and talk to other Nevada Congressional representatives on "how we can proceed on legislation affecting Gold Butte."
"It's my intent that anyone, and everyone who wants to have input will have an opportunity to do so," Horsford said about some constituency groups who feel they've been left out of prior discussions on the Gold Butte issue. "I believe we have to be inclusive and that every stakeholder should have input. We should try to work together and reach a consensus."
Having said that, Horsford followed up with caution saying "I recognize we may not be able to agree on every aspect or provision. I will do everything I can as we move forward that that's what we will have."
On several occasions Mesquite Mayor Mark Wier has proposed adding a boat dock ramp on the Mesquite side of Lake Mead as a possible economic development boost for the City.
"The Mayor and I talked about that today," Horsford remarked. "I did a flyover of the area about a month ago. Having seen it from that vantage point, I understand it's a vast area. I think we need to do a better job of explaining what parts of the area fall under various government agencies."
He explained that a possible boat dock on the Lake's shoreline would be under the purview of the U.S. National Park Service. "That is very different from Wilderness or Conservation. All those are individual components that may ultimately get rolled into one Bill. We need to understand how many jobs that (boat dock) would create and what the economic development effect would be for all the areas."
"We want to make sure we position any project in Gold Butte for the benefit of this local community from a tourism aspect. That's a big part of this community's economy," Horsford added.
want to balance the conservation interests in Gold Butte. I believe there's a way to do that. I want the process to be open and transparent so we can hear from everybody. But ultimately we need to get to the place where everyone sees the value of this project together," Horsford concluded.
When the discussion turned to the recently hot topic of gun control legislative measures, Horsford began with "I believe that any gun legislation has to respect the right of law-abiding citizens to be able to possess firearms under the Second Amendment. I will do everything I can to respect that right."
He added that any Legislation concerning gun control measures has to respect the right of individuals to protect themselves in their homes.
"I recognize that in my District in particular, we have a diversity of opinions on what should be done and to whom. What type of guns should be included in legislation," he asked rhetorically.
"Where I am (on the issue) is where two-thirds of the American people are which is a belief that at a minimum we should have background checks" for all people purchasing guns. He believes the checks are necessary to prevent violent criminals in particular from being able to access guns. That would carry over to mentally ill people also in his opinion.
He added that "87 percent of Nevadans support background checks. Many of them are members of the NRA (National Rifle Association). At a minimum, that is something that is a common sense measure that we should be able to reach bipartisan agreement on in order to move forward with some level of safety for our communities."
"We also need to consider more mental health support, particularly in the State of Nevada that is woefully under-resourced in mental health services," Horsford said.
He spoke about the recent murder of two children in Las Vegas by their mother who later committed suicide. "That wasn't a gun. That was a knife. Clearly there was something wrong mentally" with the mother, he remarked.
"We should have better resources in place to help people who are going through that level of mental illness to prevent that type of violence. My heart goes out to those involved in that situation like (it does for) the families of Sandy Hook (school shooting in Connecticut)," he said.
He committed himself to work harder on increasing federal funding to Nevada mental health programs saying the state doesn't get its fair share of federal dollars to begin with.
Horsford explained that Nevadans only get 70 cents back for every dollar they send to the federal government. "I'm not a defender of every federal agency or program. I am a defender of my constituents who rely on services from the federal government. Mental health care is one of those areas that we can do a better job on getting support to the State."
"But the State also needs to do its job in properly funding and resourcing support for individuals and families," he added.
Talking about his first 100 days as a freshman Congressman, Horsford said "I am very honored. I'm a kid who grew up here in Nevada who never planned to be in an elected office let alone a member of Congress."
"We are working extremely hard to represent our District," he said about his staff. "As a freshman member (of Congress) I am hitting the ground running and trying to deliver for my constituents."
He added that he is co-chairing a task force on immigration and "I'm very focused on getting a comprehensive immigration reform bill passed that protects our families and helps us address our education and work force needs. I'm very hopeful we'll get something done."
"Washington D.C. is a different place. Congress operates under different rules. I don't always agree or understand the process but I'm honored to represent my constituents who sent me there," he concluded.