District 36 Assemblyman Gregory Hafen II, R-Pahrump, returned home from Carson City this week and told constituents at a virtual town hall meeting that he’ll continue to push for voter-ID laws, solar farm regulations, and that he’ll fight against tax breaks for large energy projects that primarily benefit Californians.
By Brent Schanding, Pahrump Valley Times, June 23, 2023
District 36 Assemblyman Gregory Hafen II, R-Pahrump, returned home from Carson City earlier this week and told constituents at a virtual town hall meeting that he’ll continue to push for voter-ID laws, solar farm regulations, and that he’ll fight against tax breaks for large energy projects that primarily benefit Californians.
On Tuesday, Hafen said his third legislative session under new Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo was “definitely different” than those in the past.
“The last two sessions were under Sisolak and frankly that was miserable,” he said of the former Democrat governor’s leadership style.
Hafen says he regularly met with members of Lombardo’s administration during the 120-day regular session – and two special-called sessions — to focus on passing meaningful legislation.
“I would meet with the governor’s staff — if not daily, almost daily — talking about policy and looking at the budget,” he said. “It really made me feel I was there and able to do some good.”
That communication was key, he said, to how Nevada lawmakers were able to cut through red tape this session and pass unprecedented school-safety measures, a crime-reduction act and other legislation aimed at modernizing state government.
Nevada lawmakers also approved a historic spending budget for schools this session that will inject about $2.2 billion into education initiatives in the coming years.
Hafen says it will make all the difference for students here in Nye County, which consistently ranks as one of the lowest-performing districts in Nevada and the nation.
Before he assumed office in 2018, Hafen said Nye County schools allocated just $7,000 in annual spending to educate each pupil.
Beginning in 2025, he said that spending will jump to $11,500 per pupil in Nye County.
“That is a huge increase,” Hafen said. “That money is going to go directly into the classrooms to help the teachers with their salaries …to get right down to the students.”
While the figure is still much lower than the national average of $17,013 spent to educate each pupil in America in 2020, the extra spending could help Nevada catch up with the rest of the country after slipping from 45th to 49th for education attainment under Gov. Sisolak.
Hafen added that he was pleased on the progress lawmakers made this session toward implementing charter schools in Nevada.
Hafen told constituents on Tuesday that it “feels good to come back to Pahrump” knowing that his time in Carson City was productive. But he cited some partisan upsets during the session.
“We didn’t win everything,” Hafen acknowledged.
Voter ID reform
Most notably, Hafen said he was disappointed that his Assembly Bill 88, which would have required identification for Nevada voters at the polls and increase penalties for those who commit voter fraud among other things, failed to gain traction.
“We didn’t get voter ID,” Hafen said, noting that it was one of his top priorities this session.
He blamed state Democrats for not giving AB88 a fair hearing, saying the controlling party pushed a national agenda and voter-ID reform was simply not up for consideration this year.
“They weren’t having it,” Hafen said.
However, a similar voter-ID bill could resurface in the Assembly’s next session, Hafen hinted. A measure also could be placed on a future ballot referendum for Nevada voters to decide.
“That fight’s not over yet,” Hafen said. “Our goal in the interim is to get more Republicans and conservatives elected so we have a better shot of getting these priorities passed.”
Solar farm regulations
Hafen also couldn’t get approval for a bill he sponsored to regulate solar farms in Nevada.
Assembly Bill 419 would have ended tax abatements for solar companies that operate here unless they supply 100 percent of their power to Nevadans.
“Frankly, I am sick and tired of subsidizing California in any way, shape or form,” Hafen said, noting that many large power projects are more beneficial to our neighboring state. “I just don’t see why it is we’re going to give tax abatements to these companies so they can go and sell their power to California.”
Hafen said he’ll work with local leaders to push for similar restrictions in Nye County, which has attracted interest from dozens of solar companies hoping to develop in our deserts.
“These are our public lands — but we’re now closing them [to develop energy projects],” Hafen said. “And for what? To give tax credits to California?”
Initially, a number of Nevada Democrats broadly supported Hafen’s solar farm bill. AB 419 was also backed by a number of county commissions in the state. But there was a huge “about-face” and Hafen’s measure failed to even make it out of committee for a full floor vote.
“I have a feeling that has to do with the ‘swamp’ working their back channels to kill it,” Hafen said. “There was a specific industry that did not want that bill to go through because they like their tax credits and all the things that go along with it.”
Hafen said he plans to revive his solar farm bill in a future session.
“I’m not done fighting for that one,” he said.
New A’s stadium in Las Vegas
Hafen voted against the controversial Senate Bill 1 in a special-called session. The measure was approved and now allows for up to $380 million in funding for a new Las Vegas baseball stadium to relocate the Oakland Athletics there.
“I’m not even going to consider additional tax credits,” Hafen said, noting that the tax credits Nevada offers to lure Hollywood film productions here have largely been a loss for our state.
Assurances for transgender patients
Hafen said one of the biggest disappointments this session was the passage of Senate Bill 163, which requires certain health insurance to cover treatment of certain conditions relating to gender dysphoria and gender incongruence. Its Democratic sponsors argued the legislation helps protect gender-affirming care for transgender patients.
“I was adamantly opposed to this bill,” Hafen said.
While state lawmakers largely found that insurance often already covers these procedures, SB163 clarified that minors in Nevada need permission from their parents or guardians before undergoing gender-affirming operations. It’s a detail state law did not expressly address before, according to some lawmakers.
“Now, children can’t just go out and get these surgeries without parental consent,” Hafen said.
Hafen said he was surprised the governor did not veto SB163, especially since Lombardo notoriously vetoed a record-breaking 75 other bills this legislative session.
“But you don’t win them all when you’re in a super minority,” Hafen said, noting that despite a change in the governor’s mansion, Democrats largely still have a political stronghold in Carson City.
Contact Editor Brent Schanding at [email protected]