So-called ‘pork’ bills passed in final hours | NevadaAppeal.com

So-called ‘pork’ bills passed in final hours

Two bills with more than a faint odor of bacon arrived in the Legislature on Monday just four hours before adjournment.

But they were far smaller, at just $10 million apiece, than in most previous legislative sessions. Two years ago, for example, there was nearly $36 million in the special-projects list.

While the Senate doled its funding out to a wide variety of charitable and individual projects, the Assembly concentrated its money on programs for children, the homeless and groups for the needy.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, and Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, pointed out that all the projects have value to the public and the communities in which they are located. Such appropriations are often referred to as “pork” because they are written, in part, to help bolster the popularity of lawmakers by providing services in their districts.

Both bills were passed out before the close of the session, a week after passage of the governor’s list of “special projects,” which totaled $23.9 million.

On the Assembly list, a $1 million grant will go to Interim Finance Committee for allocation to local governments to provide alternatives for the homeless.

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Another $1 million will be used by the Department of Business and Industry to provide grants encouraging employer-assisted housing programs. Thirty-five thousand dollars will capitalize a revolving fund to make loans to minority businesses. A $200,000 grant will establish a Web site registry dealing with health care.

Two audits are funded: $175,000 will pay for an independent audit of agencies which provide child welfare services, and a like amount for an auditor to serve as the child welfare specialist. In addition, $400,000 will fund operational expenses for the Women’s Research Institute and the National Education for Women’s Leadership Program at then University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

And $500,000 will help the uninsured find health insurance.

The largest single amount on the Senate list is $1.2 million to the Nevada Alliance of Boys & Girls Clubs and the Nevada Public Education Association. After that is the $1 million appropriation to Opportunity Village in Las Vegas for vocational training, employment and social recreation services for the mentally disabled.

Also on the list is $500,000 to begin planning the Truckee Meadows Community College Spanish Springs campus. Lawmakers had to provide at least planning money for that facility to prevent land worth several million dollars from reverting to ownership of the developer on July 1. The appropriation is contingent on the university matching the donation and the developer extending the title-transfer deadline.

Rural lawmakers convinced leadership to put in another $500,000 to recruit and expand commercial air service in the state. Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, testified there is no longer a direct flight from Reno to Elko. He said it has cost him as much as $1,200 to fly from Elko to Salt Lake and then to either Reno or Las Vegas.

There are a more than 70 projects on the two lists.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.

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