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Nevada elected officials speak on 2024 election, A’s stadium legislation from 2023 sessions

Three people are sitting at separate tables on a stage. One is speaking toward a microphone.
Maria Palma
/
KUNR Public Radio
KUNR’s Pints & Purple Politics event on Wednesday, June 14, in Reno, Nev., was moderated by Lucia Starbuck (from right) and featured Nevada Secretary of State Francisco Aguilar and Treasurer Zach Conine.

KUNR held its third Pints & Purple Politics event tied to the 2023 Nevada Legislative Session on Wednesday at Reno Little Theater.

Purple Politics Nevada host Lucia Starbuck moderated the conversation with two of Nevada’s top Democrats: Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar and Treasurer Zach Conine. This week’s episode of Purple Politics Nevada recaps the event.

Click here for a transcript of the audio story.


Episode Overview

The 120-day legislative session adjourned on June 5. Both offices had backed bills that have now been signed into law, with others still awaiting action from the governor.

The Secretary of State’s office is preparing for the 2024 election. Election worker safety has been top of mind over the last few election cycles – something Aguilar pledged to address on the campaign trail. It is now a felony to harass or intimidate election workers with the intent of interfering with an election.

“Our elections only work because of volunteers and election workers. It’s the person working in the back room to make sure all the supplies are there for the people going out to work polls. It’s the poll workers sitting at the table registering people, assisting them in the process. And 80% percent of our election workers and volunteers are women. It is now a felony in Nevada to harass or intimidate election workers,” Aguilar said.

Another goal of Aguilar’s is to ensure equal access to the ballot box. Last election, the Yomba Shoshone Tribe faced challenges when trying to get a polling site for Election Day. Senate Bill 327, which is currently sitting on Gov. Joe Lombardo’s desk, would require counties to provide a polling place and drop-off box for early voting and Election Day on tribal reservations upfront instead of having tribes request them.

“It’ll flip so that they have to opt-out. So the counties will have to do it from the very beginning. However, some of our rural counties struggle because it is a fiscal issue, and it’s my responsibility as Secretary of State to give them the support they need and provide that access,” Aguilar said.

The Treasurer’s office worked on legislation aimed at increasing the number of health care workers in the state. The governor signed a bill creating a loan repayment program for professions such as doctors, dentists and mental health care providers who work in underserved areas. They can receive up to $120,000 over five years.

“There are other professionals that we want to add in later on, if there’s still dollars available, like physical therapists and school nurses,” Conine said.

After a week-long special session ending on June 14, lawmakers passed the bill to provide $380 million in public financing for a new Oakland Athletics stadium in Las Vegas. But not before amendments were added to require stricter contributions to the community and at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave for employees by at least 55% of their regular wage in order to qualify for the tax abatements.

Lombardo signed the bill on June 15.

“In southern Nevada, we have created what is probably the best money extraction machine, and that is how we pay for pretty much how we pay for everything: how we pay for schools, affordable housing, free lunches for students, which we should keep going forever,” Conine said.

Listen to this week’s episode of Purple Politics Nevada with Lucia Starbuck to hear more highlights from the two statewide elected officials about the bills they backed that survived the legislative session and what comes next.

As a note of disclosure, the Nevada State Treasurer’s office is a business sponsor of KUNR.


Transcript

(UPBEAT JAZZ MUSIC BEGINS)

LUCIA STARBUCK, HOST: Welcome to this week’s episode of Purple Politics Nevada. I’m your host, Lucia Starbuck. The name reflects the fact that Nevada isn’t red or blue — it’s both.

KUNR held its third Pints and Purple Politics event earlier this week. I moderated the discussion with Democratic Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar and Treasurer Zach Conine. If you missed it, we have you covered – here are some highlights.

(UPBEAT JAZZ MUSIC ENDS, AUDIO FROM LIVE EVENT BEGINS)

STARBUCK: Secretary Aguilar, the 2024 election is right around the corner – if you don’t consider it has started already. One thing that’s come up in the past few election cycles: concerns about election worker safety. Talk about your bill to protect those folks.

CISCO AGUILAR: Our elections only work because of the volunteers and election workers. It’s the person working in the back room to make sure all the supplies are there for the people going out to work polls. It’s the poll workers sitting at the table registering people, assisting them in the process. And 80% of our election workers and volunteers are women. It is now a felony in Nevada to harass or intimidate election workers.

STARBUCK: Last election, there were concerns that some Native communities didn’t have equal access to the ballot box. How will you make sure that doesn’t happen this election?

AGUILAR: Well, fingers crossed, and hopefully, the governor understands the importance. It’ll flip the dynamic for tribes to be able to have a polling site. Right now, tribes have to make a request to their local county clerk. It’ll flip so that they have to opt-out. So the counties will have to do it from the very beginning.

However, some of our rural counties struggle because it is a fiscal issue, and it’s my responsibility as Secretary of State to give them the support they need and provide that access.

STARBUCK: The last few election cycles, the results weren’t available night of; that’s probably not gonna happen again this election. What do you have to say to folks?

AGUILAR: Not if I have anything to do with it, and I have to go kicking and screaming to the Washoe County Commission and the Clark County Commission.

We found out that Washoe County had about 97% of its ballots on hand on election [night]. Clark had 94% of its ballots. They did not have the capacity to process all those ballots. We have to give the counties resources to build the capacity to count every ballot they have on election night because Nevadans deserve to know the results.

We are a deep purple state. We will never be able to call every race because we want to make sure what we’re doing [is] accurate, but we can do a better job of processing them. Clark County needs to go to 24-hour ballot counting.

STARBUCK: Treasurer Conine, one bill you worked on this session would provide loan repayments for health care workers. How would this program work?

ZACH CONINE: AB 45 was signed by the governor. We did a listening tour, and one of the things we heard over and over again, there was just a dearth of medical providers all over the state.

And so we looked at different programs, and we came up with one that would give up to $120,000 of loan forgiveness to medical providers to help pay down their student loans. And they have to stay here for five years.

And we know with a lot of these programs, the provider gets the money upfront, and then life changes, right? They move somewhere else, and then the state has to try and get it back, and we didn’t really wanna be in that business. So, each year, they get back one-fifth of the dollars.

STARBUCK: What professions are included in this program, and why focus on those?

CONINE: We focused on the ones where we have the largest issue in the state. So mental health providers, women’s health care providers, doctors, registered nurses. Now, there are other professionals that we want to add in later on, if there’s still dollars available, like physical therapists [and] school nurses.

STARBUCK: You also worked on a bill that would allow teachers to get some of their tuition reimbursed. Walk us through what that would do.

CONINE: AB 428, which is still in the governor’s desk, will create programs in high schools to identify people that want to be teachers so that they can start learning about what it’s like to be a teacher and getting credits towards college.

Then it will basically hand them off to the system of higher education to get a teaching degree. And then after that, if they become a licensed teacher and they work for three years, each year, they’ll get a third of their tuition and fees paid off. At the end of this program, they’re coming out completely debt-free as teachers licensed in the state.

STARBUCK: On the A’s deal, why should the state provide public financing for a large corporation? There’s a lot of questions about, like, why not put those resources somewhere else?

CONINE: So when I got involved in this thing, it was more than half a billion dollars in government support. There were no labor protections, or fewer labor protections. And the final deal that was reached is $200 million less.

Let’s talk about the Raiders’ deal. The Raiders’ deal has exceeded projections. It has hired less people in the construction job, but those people have made more money. It has brought tens of millions of dollars, will bring hundreds of millions of dollars in tax revenue to the state. And it’s brought Taylor Swift here.

In southern Nevada, we have created what is probably the best money extraction machine, and that is how we pay for pretty much how we pay for everything: how we pay for schools, affordable housing, free lunches for students, which we should keep going forever. It’s how we pay for things.

(AUDIO FROM LIVE EVENT ENDS, UPBEAT JAZZ MUSIC BEGINS)

STARBUCK: That was Nevada Democratic Treasurer Zach Conine and Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar at KUNR’s third Pints and Purple Politics event at Reno Little Theater. I’m Lucia Starbuck, and you’ve been listening to Purple Politics Nevada.

(UPBEAT JAZZ MUSIC BEGINS)

KALEB ROEDEL, OUTRO: As a note of disclosure, the Nevada State Treasurer’s office is a business sponsor of KUNR.

The theme song, “Vibe Ace” by Kevin MacLeod, is licensed under Creative Commons and was edited for this episode.

Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning political journalist and the host of KUNR’s monthly show <i>Purple Politics Nevada</i>. She is passionate about reporting during election season, attending community events, and talking to people about the issues that matter most to them.
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Purple Politics Nevada is produced by KUNR’s Lucia Starbuck. Vicki Adame is the show’s editor, and Crystal Willis is the digital editor. Zoe Malen designed the show’s logo.