Indy Briefs | The Latest News -- Cortez Masto says no to Kelly; lawmakers to march on Saturday; bill will allow self-driving cabs without backup driver; state readies Plan B if Faraday falls through

Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto voted against confirming retired Marine Gen. John Kelly as the new head of the Department of Homeland Security.

Cortez Masto and 10 other Senate Democrats voted Friday against confirming Kelly, a retired four-star general whom President Donald Trump nominated to the position in December. Republican Sen. Dean Heller voted to confirm Kelly.

In a statement released after the vote, Cortez Masto said she could not in “good conscience” vote to confirm Kelly without guarantees that he would protect programs that protect undocumented immigrants brought to the country as children from deportation.

“The person in charge of enforcing our immigration policies must be committed to protecting DACA and the hardworking families that are American in all but paper,” she said in the statement. “General Kelly has done nothing to indicate that he will do this and therefore is the wrong person to lead the Department of Homeland Security.”

Cortez Masto earlier voted with the vast majority of senators to confirm retired Marine Gen. James Mattis as the new Secretary of Defense. The only vote against Mattis was cast by New York Democratic Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand.

Cortez Masto’s office has previously announced her opposition to several of Trump’s Cabinet nominees, including Attorney General nominee Jeff Sessions and  Secretary of Education nominee Betsy DeVos. Her office announced that she would support Secretary of Transportation nominee Elaine Chao last week.

----Riley Snyder

Dem lawmakers to march

A handful of Democratic legislators will join community members Saturday at women’s marches planned in Las Vegas and Reno.

The events are in solidarity with the thousands of people expected to attend the Women’s March on Washington, D.C, happening the same day. The mission statement of that march and its sister events across the nation is this: “We stand together in solidarity with our partners and children for the protection of our rights, our safety, our health, and our families — recognizing that our vibrant and diverse communities are the strength of our country.”

Officials from the Nevada Assembly Democratic Caucus said Assembly members Dina Neal, Lesley Cohen, Nelson Araujo and Richard Carillo will be participating in the downtown Las Vegas march, which starts at 11 a.m. in the Llama Lot at 152 N. 9th St. The group will march a half-mile south to the Federal Courthouse, 333 S. Las Vegas Blvd., where community leaders will give short speeches. Congresswoman Dina Titus also plans to attend and speak at the Las Vegas march. So, too, do state Sens. Yvanna Cancela and Pat Spearman.

In Reno, Assembly members Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod and Mike Sprinkle will join a march that begins at 9 a.m. at the Federal Courthouse, 400 S. Virginia St.

The Nevada Independent  plans to cover the marches in Reno and Las Vegas.

----Jackie Valley

New bill would allow driverless cars

Cabs, Uber and Lyft cars in Nevada could soon be driving themselves under a new bill proposed by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

The measure, called AB69, “provides a pathway for full implementation of autonomous vehicles in Nevada -- from testing to deployment -- for personal and commercial use.”

The state was the first to legally allow testing of autonomous vehicles on state roads when the Legislature passed a bill in 2011, but the law requires a human operator who is able to take immediate control of the car if the self-driving technology fails.

Under the new proposal, vehicles could drive themselves on Nevada roads without human operators or with just passengers inside.

The technology is already in use in places like Pittsburgh, where self-driving Ubers were picking up passengers in September but had a “safety driver” behind the wheel to take over in bad weather or other adverse conditions.

Gov. Brian Sandoval is intent on keeping Nevada at the forefront of autonomous technologies and has ridden in some self-driving cars himself -- he took the inaugural ride in an autonomous Freightliner truck in 2015. He insists that Nevada isn’t falling behind just because autonomous cabs are up and running in other states.

“I’m not going to say we’re first,” he said on Thursday, “but we’re certainly part of the lead pack in terms of developing the regulation and operation of autonomous vehicles.”

Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison asked whether the taxi industry is ready for autonomous vehicles displacing human drivers. Steve Hill of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development acknowledged the coming disruption but said companies can’t fight it and argued that it underscores the need for the kinds of job retraining programs his office is developing.

“The companies all know this is coming,” he said about taxi firms. “They want to be a part of it.”

---- Michelle Rindels

New tax proposal prepares for possible Faraday fail

State officials are preparing for the possibility that Faraday Future’s grand plans for a $1 billion electric car factory in North Las Vegas will fall through.

The Governor’s Office of Economic Development will ask legislators this spring to restructure a tax deal they approved in a special session in 2015 so it doesn’t rely so much on Faraday succeeding. The existing arrangement calls for about $120 million in water, rail and road improvements at the Apex Industrial Park to be paid off in part with the margin of new tax revenue that Faraday was expected to generate.

“Given some of the activity around Faraday in the last six months or so, we think it’s unwise,” said GOED chief Steve Hill of the so-called tax increment area. “We would not recommend that the bonds with the Faraday portion be based primarily on Faraday being able to generate enough tax revenue to make those bonds.”

The proposed new arrangement is more conservative. It would put a levy on all property owners, including Faraday, within a “Special Improvement District” in the Apex area.

If the property owners can’t pay the tax, the land itself is collateral. Faraday has already purchased the land that its factory is supposed to occupy.

When the deal between Nevada and Faraday was first unveiled, the startup predicted it might bring a car to market as early as 2017. Faraday showed off a production car earlier this month at the Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, but work stoppages and little progress beyond grading at the factory site suggest a rocky road for the company.

“The issue is putting up the building and going vertical. We’ll wait to see what happens but the state isn’t out any money that I’m aware of,” said Gov. Brian Sandoval, referring to a deal that doesn’t allow Faraday to claim tax abatement money until it invests $1 billion in the project.

“Do I wish they made more progress by now? Absolutely yes,” he said Thursday after a GOED board meeting. “I want them to succeed because if they succeed that means thousands of jobs for people in North Las Vegas.”

----Michelle Rindels

This story has been updated to reflect Rep. Titus' participation in the march.  And then again to add the state senators.