Thursday April 20th, 2017

Cortez Masto Remarks at the Nevada State Legislature

“I am not going to stop working hard these next six years in Washington to doing what’s best for Nevada – to grow our economy, create jobs, support our families, and ensure our children grow up in a Nevada that is better and brighter than the one today.”

Carson City, NV – U.S. Senator Catherine Cortez Masto (D-Nev.) addressed the Nevada State Legislature, highlighting her legislative priorities and vision for Nevada’s future. Below are her remarks as prepared for delivery:

It’s great to be back home in Nevada, and in Carson with you all. Thank you to Lt. Governor Hutchison, Senate President Pro-Tem Denis, Speaker Frierson, Majority Leaders Benitez-Thompson and Ford, Minority Leaders Roberson and Anderson, and all the members of the Senate and Assembly, for your service and commitment to Nevada.

I am so proud to be representing the great state of Nevada in the United States Senate and have the opportunity to fight for my home state, just like all of you. Looking around this chamber, it is fantastic to see the different faces, genders, ages, and races – a true reflection of Nevada’s burgeoning diversity. We have embraced this diversity, and we are undoubtedly stronger because of it.

In Nevada, we solve problems for the people of our state, across all levels of government, across all districts and communities, and even across the aisle. You all demonstrate it here in Carson City, and I am committed to doing the same in Washington. I said it on the campaign and I’ll say it again: Washington could use a lesson from Nevada about how to get things done.

We are all here tonight, in this chamber, because we love Nevada. We want to serve our state and see Nevadans succeed – now and in the future. There are many different political opinions and beliefs on how we do this. But I believe that at the end of the day, we are united by our shared goals to put Nevada’s children and families on the path to success. We are united by our shared goals to create jobs, and grow our economy.

In the U.S. Senate I will work to:

  • Ensure our children, families, workers, and communities have a pathway to succeed,
  • Support and promote programs that empower Nevadans and Nevada businesses, and
  • Make certain we are investing in our state and work with you to plan for its future.

And doing this means protecting Americans’ access to safe, affordable healthcare. I have, and will continue to, be a vocal opponent of any efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

Here in Nevada, we have seen the positive impact of the ACA – and it is wrong to undo the law. I commend our Governor for helping nearly 400,000 Nevadans gain access to health insurance under the law – and for standing up and opposing the Administration’s efforts to take away these benefits.

If the ACA is repealed, all Nevada’s communities would suffer. From our rural communities to our city centers, hospitals and providers could be forced to close their doors, cutting communities off from access to care and forcing layoffs. Hospital administrators, nurses, and doctors should not have their jobs on the chopping block, and Nevadans should not be forced to choose between paying their medical bill or putting food on the table.

Instead of repealing the law, we should be looking at ways to improve it. That’s why I have joined with my colleagues in the Senate to call on the administration to focus on ways to continue lowering costs, and expanding access to care, instead of starting from scratch.

I will also continue to stand up for women’s access to safe, affordable healthcare. It’s time that we stop playing politics with women’s health. I am a co-sponsor of the Women’s Health Protection Act, which protects a woman’s constitutional right to choose by preventing laws that target women’s healthcare centers and attempt to drive them to shut their doors.

I also called on the Administration to stand up for women and families and protect funding for Title X Centers – centers that give our rural and low-income communities access to safe and affordable cancer screenings, birth control, family planning, and preventative care. These centers are the solution, not the problem. Thousands of Nevada women rely on these centers – not just in Reno and Las Vegas, but in Fallon, Yerington, Winnemucca, Lovelock, Pahrump, Tonopah – communities all across our state.

We should be focusing on empowering all Nevadans, regardless of gender, race, religion or sexual orientation and work to tear down barriers to their success

  • Like ensuring Nevadans in all industries and jobs are paid a fair, living wage;
  • Making it easier for workers to retire with dignity;
  • Increasing access to job training and workforce development programs;
  • Supporting our families with paid family-, sick-, and medical- leave;
  • Fighting for equality and against discrimination in the workplace, housing and education;
  • And, ensuring women are paid equal to men for the same work.

I want to recognize all of you for making history last month and ratifying the Equal Rights Amendment. And thank you to Pat Spearman, for your tireless leadership and commitment to making that happen. We have come a long way on gender equality, but we can go much further – and I am proud that Nevada is a leader in the continued fight.

As leaders in Nevada, we must do everything possible to continue lifting up all of Nevada’s families. We do this by continuing to embrace our diversity and ensuring that every child and every family has the support and resources necessary to succeed. We cannot afford to divide our communities, and pit neighbor against neighbor. Unfortunately, some in Washington do not see it this way. But I am committed to fighting for what’s right – and will continue to be a voice for immigrants.

I’m proud that my first bill as U.S. Senator was to overturn President Trump’s executive order that targeted our immigrant communities. I have also co-sponsored legislation that would overturn this Administration’s actions for mass deportation, and a ban on Muslims.

It is unacceptable that our immigrants – valuable members of our society and economy – are forced to live in constant fear of being torn apart or being turned away from the country they call home. Like the couple from Henderson who were legal residents of the U.S. and were detained for over 10 hours when returning from their son’s wedding in Iran.

That’s not the America that I was raised in. The America I was raised in recognized that our immigrant communities are essential to our success. That we must embrace diversity to remain strong.

In Nevada alone, tearing apart families and removing undocumented immigrants would cost our state billions – $9.7 billion in economic activity, $4.3 billion in gross state product, and millions in tax revenue – that is millions that could be used to fix our roads, repair our schools, or care for our veterans. We would lose over 45,000 jobs.

And studies have shown that if we bring undocumented workers out of the shadows and put them on a pathway to citizenship, we would reduce the deficit by almost 1 trillion dollars, and increase our GDP by $832 billion…we would see incomes rise for American families by $470 billion, and add hundreds of thousands of jobs.

Again – this is not a partisan issue. Embracing our immigrant communities is a commonsense way to grow our economy, create jobs, and ensure our state – and our country will continue to succeed.

Another issue that I know we all agree on is supporting our veterans. These brave men and women have dedicated their lives to fighting for our country, and we must continue dedicating our efforts to fighting for them.

Our veterans must have timely access to quality care, only possible if the VA system has the funding and resources it needs. And this means ensuring VA has staff necessary to deal with backlog of claims and appeals, NOT being subjected to a blanket-hiring freeze. I joined several colleagues in calling on the Administration to exempt the VA from its government-hiring freeze, to which they complied.

However, the status quo is not enough; our VA needs resources to ensure it has state-of-the-art-technology and high-quality doctors, nurses, and staff. I know my colleagues on both sides of the aisle will join me in prioritizing our veterans in any future budget and legislation. Because we must continue supporting existing programs that grow our communities and our economy.

America is still recovering from the Great Recession. I don’t know if there’s a state where that is more apparent than Nevada.  We have made incredible progress in building our economy back up – but we still have more to do. Now is not the time to be cutting back programs that have made this rebound possible.

I do not and will not support any federal budget that slashes billions from or eliminates programs that have been essential to Nevada’s recovery.

Programs that:

  • Ensure our children can get a quality education regardless of their zip code;
  • Support our active service members, military families, and veterans;
  • Invest in our small businesses, urban, rural and tribal communities;
  • Allow access to affordable housing for our people with disabilities, families and seniors;
  • Make college affordable and prevent our students from graduating with mountains of debt;
  • Invest in our nation’s vital infrastructure;
  • And protect our natural resources, and keep our air and water clean just to name a few.

As a member of the Senate Banking and Housing Committee, I will make sure that Nevada continues to receive funding to maintain our affordable housing programs. We need to be helping our most vulnerable – this includes people with disabilities, seniors, veterans, and low-income families; if we want to have strong students and strong workers, we must make sure they have a roof over their head.

I will also make sure that the protections put in place during the Great Recession are not rolled back, because when Wall Street and the big banks crash the economy, it not only harms consumers, but it endangers our community banks, our credit unions, our small businesses, and  taxpayers, too.  I will fight for rules of the road that not only protect homeowners and taxpayers, but that promote community banks and credit unions to better serve Nevada families and businesses.

This includes Nevada’s small businesses, a vital component of our state’s economy, accounting for 98% of the businesses in our state and creating thousands of new jobs every year. In the Senate, I commit to supporting and working to grow our small business community, especially those owned by women and minorities.

This means ensuring Nevadans who want to start or expand a small business have access to the capital they need to be successful. This means ensuring owners have tools and support, and are taking advantage of federal grants and partnerships available to them. This does not mean slashing the budget for the Small Business Administration, or cutting funds for business community development programs and small business grants, as this Administration has proposed.

I will fight against any budget that threatens our small business community. Because small businesses are essential not only to Nevada’s economy, but America’s economy. And we need to do everything possible to continue supporting them if we want to succeed.

Another avenue of success is by making our state a global leader in renewable energy research, development, and production. As a member of the Senate’s Energy and Natural Resources Committee I will work to ensure that Nevada has the support and resources necessary to do just that.

As you all know Nevada is blessed with an incredible abundance of resources – solar, wind, and geothermal – and we must continue to harness these resources. Investing in green energy will create jobs and prove clean, cheap power for houses and businesses not only in Nevada, but in states across the country.

Last month I attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for the new solar plant on the Moapa Tribal lands in Southern Nevada and on Tuesday a project in Boulder City – the energy from these plants is being used to power homes in Nevada and in California. We need to do more of this.

I am going to push for legislation that increases investments in our green energy production, and incentivizes business owners and homeowners to utilize power from renewable sources. I will also fight to ensure that we continue to fund research in the renewable energy sector.

Clean energy in Nevada has been good for our economy, creating more than 20,000 clean energy jobs – 8,700 in the solar industry alone. Nevada’s clean energy standards and abundant resources have already attracted more than $6 billion in renewable energy investment, but we are positioned to do more. Nevada is at a critical juncture for even greater clean energy sector expansion and innovation, creating jobs and increasing investment. I support this progress and hope to see Nevada leading the charge.

I am also going to continue fighting against cuts or proposals that threaten our public safety and health, and risk our environment and natural resources. This includes not turning our state into a nuclear waste dump. Yucca Mountain is dead, and will continue to remain that way. The Nevada delegation in Washington is committed to fighting any and all efforts to restore Yucca – I know many of you in this room feel the same.

I commend Assemblyman Chris Brooks for leading the opposition charge here in the legislature, and I urge you all to support his resolution. Only by working together will we keep Nevadan’s healthy and safe by preventing dangerous waste from being brought into our state.

Because Nevada is a beautiful state with unique natural lands – we must make sure that natural wonders like Lake Tahoe and Red Rock are able to be enjoyed by future generations. Our public lands are a gift and they need to be preserved and protected for future generations to enjoy. This does not start with cutting back environmental protections that keep our water clean, our air safe, and our lands preserved.

As a member of the Commerce Science Transportation committee, I will push for funding reliability that is essential to Nevada’s infrastructure future. Building and repairing our roads, bridges, runways, rail and smart transportation, are commonsense ways to create jobs and grow our economy – but we need to be doing more. I am going to push for my Democratic and Republican colleagues to come to the table and develop a concrete plan to provide more certainty in our longer-term national infrastructure that works for all areas of the country.

Investing in our transportation system will improve the connectedness of Nevada’s communities – this means increasing access to broadband beyond our urban areas. The internet has become a necessity in today’s society and no Nevadan should be without access, regardless of where they live. I am working to ensure we expand broadband accessibility to all our rural communities.

That is also why another focus of my work in the Senate is innovation. Whether it’s transportation solutions, renewable energy, educating our evolving workforce, or providing the best quality and affordable telecommunication services, we need to continue to be looking toward the future. I will be prioritizing a significant amount of my legislative focus to promote and support Nevada’s emerging industries in the technology, commerce, transportation, and energy sectors. These areas are economic drivers and will only grow stronger – supporting these industries is good for our economy, good for our state, and good for our people.

Finally, my office recently launched a grants department solely dedicated to bringing more federal dollars to Nevada. We will be working closely with Governor Sandoval’s office to ensure Nevada is taking full advantage of all available funding opportunities. I want to thank Governor Sandoval for ensuring Nevada’s state grants department has the necessary funding; our offices will sure we don’t miss out on any chances to bring dollars back home.

But regardless of committee or issue, I am not going to stop working hard these next six years in Washington to doing what’s best for Nevada – to grow our economy, create jobs, support our families, and ensure our children grow up in a Nevada that is better and brighter than the one today.

We know that this is possible – it’s possible by coming together, working with one another, and doing what’s best for our state. That’s something we can all agree on. Thank you again for letting me join you tonight. I look forward to working with all of you in the coming years. Best of luck with the rest of the session! 



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