Nevada lawmakers face criticism at luncheon
The protests inside the meeting room were almost as loud as the chants outside during a Carson City Chamber of Commerce lunch on Wednesday featuring Nevada lawmakers, Republicans Sen. Dean Heller and Rep. Mark Amodei.
About a dozen or so people in the Gold Dust West luncheon continually challenged the two legislators as they spoke, yelling questions about the Affordable Care Act (ACA), immigration and public lands.
In one of the first signs of the disruption to come, the room filled with loud boos when Heller mentioned Dodd-Frank, the bank regulation law passed during the Obama administration that President Donald Trump promised to repeal during his campaign.
“Indoor voices, indoor voices,” Amodei said at one point after he was asked if he would be willing to hold a public town hall during the next congressional recess in April.
Heller touted his tele-town meetings, in which he said he can get 5,000 people on the phone at the same time, but said he would hold an in-person town hall meeting with Amodei if attendees agreed not to applaud and boo.
Amodei and Heller defended their records and said they were not always in agreement with the new administration or their party.
“I think every president has a right to put their cabinet in place, but that doesn’t mean I support all their policies, in the same way I didn’t support all the polices of the Bush White House or the Obama White House,” Heller said. “They’re not always right, but they’re not always wrong.”
Earlier, Heller had said he met with Trump cabinet nominees who were focused on making the economy grow faster, at 3-5 percent rather than the current 1-1.5 percent, and he wanted to lower the corporate tax rate to retain businesses.
Heller said he had worked to keep the investment tax credit and single-handedly saved the solar industry in Nevada, an example he wasn’t in lockstep with the current administration.
Then a woman in the audience yelled out she was a retired librarian and alfalfa farmer in Fallon and no one had paid her to attend the meeting, a reference to accusations made by several Republican politicians that people disrupting events across the country are paid protesters.
“I never said that. Believe it or not, the administration doesn’t check with me before they say things. The party doesn’t check with me,” said Amodei.
Both lawmakers also addressed healthcare.
“From now on Republicans own the healthcare issue. So we’ve agreed on one thing so far,” said Amodei, speaking to his critics in the audience. “The present system is broken.”
As an example, he said he had a dozen insurance sellers in his office last week who said there’s only one provider for 11 counties.
“There is no choice,” said Amodei.
Heller said his goal was to get rid of the 40 percent tax on so-called Cadillac plans that’s part of the ACA.
“It’s not a lack of ideas. The problem is coalescing behind one,” said Heller. “We just put a health secretary in place last week. There’s going to be a legislative fix. Healthcare is going to move forward.”
Both touched briefly on immigration.
Heller said he has long supported immigration reform and just returned from a trip to the border in Texas.
Amodei blamed leadership for the inaction on many issues.
“Congressional leadership on both sides needs some courage,” he said.
Afterward, attendees found the meeting compelling if not always enlightening.
“I thought the dialog was interesting but I’m disappointed people couldn’t be more polite. I was interested in what they had to say,” said Brad Bonkowski, Carson City supervisor and principal, NAI Alliance. “What is wrong with respectful disagreement?”
His former rival for supervisor agreed.
“It’s unfortunate these people insisted on being rude,” said Maurice White.
Sheriff Kenny Furlong stood inside the room for the event, and said beforehand he wanted to show support to Gold Dust West.
“It was lively. It was well done,” said Furlong afterward.
Ronni Hannaman, executive director of the Chamber, said before she introduced the lawmakers the Chamber was apolitical and the event wasn’t a town hall.
Afterward, she was impressed by both the audience and speakers.
“It was very interesting. This is our free speech in action,” she said. “Most interesting of all was how both of our legislators handled this with such humor.”