Indy Briefs | The Latest News: School breakfast program continues to expand; Reno narrows list of candidates to replace former City Manager Andrew Clinger; Assembly Dems take on Trump, Gorsuch

School breakfast program continues to expand

More children in Nevada are getting breakfast at school after lawmakers approved expanding the “Breakfast After the Bell” program in 2015.

Nevada Department of Agriculture Director Jim Barbee said that schools served up nearly twice as many breakfasts in the 2015-16 school year compared to the previous year, or more than 3 million more.

The bill, which was publicly supported by Gov. Brian Sandoval and his wife, Kathleen, ahead of the 2015 session, requires any Nevada school with a 70 percent or greater population of students who qualify for free or reduced lunch to provide breakfast after the school day begins. The legislation also set aside $2 million in grant funds to help pay for expanded breakfast services.

Kathleen Sandoval was a vocal proponent of the measure, testifying in bill hearings

Democratic state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, a former teacher, said she supportive of the bill but was concerned that difficult-to-open food containers were cutting into class instruction time for younger children, and that some children were starting the day with a “sugar high.”

Barbee said that decisions on specific breakfast items were left up to the schools, but that his department would work with school districts to address those concerns.

--- Riley Snyder

Reno narrows list of candidates to replace former City Manager Andrew Clinger

Reno staff have whittled down a list of candidates to replace former City Manager Andrew Clinger.

Finalists who are are expected to be interviewed by the Council are Thomas Barwin, Ricky Horst, Mark Scott, James Twombly and Assistant Clark County Manager Sabra Smith Newby.

The Council is scheduled to discuss the list of candidates at a meeting on Feb. 8.

Clinger was forced out of his job in September amid allegations of sexual harassment but was later cleared. He was hired in January as a "senior adviser" to Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Assembly Democrats revive same-sex marriage battle after Gorsuch pick

Democratic Assemblyman Nelson Araujo said at a press conference Wednesday in Carson City that he plans to introduce legislation codifying same-sex marriage in the Nevada Constitution over concerns with President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Neil Gorsuch.

Efforts to remove language in the state constitution defining marriage as between a man and a woman became moot when a federal appeals court struck down the provision in 2014 and when the Supreme Court struck down similar bans nationwide in 2015.

Any amendment to the state constitution requires approval in two consecutive legislative sessions and then approval by a majority of voters, but Araujo said ensuring the legality of same-sex marriage was necessary because concerns over Gorsuch’s “comments and policies that have countered the will of the LGBTQ community.”

“We have a responsibility to ensure that our Nevada Constitution reflects the will of the people,” he said. “And so while it’s a five-year process, I think it’s a process worth taking.”

Fellow Democratic Assemblyman Justin Watkins said he plans to introduce a joint resolution asking the U.S. Senate to “properly” vet  Gorsuch on his position on abortion, despite the judge having “no direct history to review.”

Araujo said that state-level Democrats were planning similar resolutions and other events pegged to national political events over the 120-day legislative session, and said he didn’t think it would interfere with their other legislative duties.

“I think the one thing that’s worth sacrificing right now is sleep,” he said. “I’m personally committed to spending as much time as I humanly can to ensure that we pass as many proactive measures as we are able to do so.”

--- Riley Snyder

Roberson fires back at Ford's stadium backup plan

Republican Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson is criticizing his Democratic counterpart for proposing what he calls a “seemingly random” backup plan for creating construction jobs if a Las Vegas NFL stadium doesn’t materialize.

Ford said on Tuesday that if a stadium financing plan doesn’t come to pass “in a timely fashion,” Senate Democrats will introduce a bill that would create an infrastructure bank to fund construction projects in Southern Nevada. Extra revenue from a hotel tax increase authorized by Nevada lawmakers would flow into the bank, although Ford says the measure wouldn’t interfere with plans to build a UNLV stadium and expand the Las Vegas Convention Center.

Roberson told The Nevada Independent Wednesday that "Ford's idea doesn't appear to hold much thought behind it” and questioned whether it had consensus support from major resort companies whose customers pay the extra hotel tax.

“I would advise that we continue to see this process of obtaining an NFL team through to a successful conclusion rather than proposing seemingly random ideas to start spending room tax money that we currently don't have and without the consensus of support from our tourism industry," Roberson said in a statement.

Lawmakers authorized a tax increase in October that would provide $750 million in public funding toward a $1.9 billion stadium that would house the Raiders. Democrats were divided over the deal, but backers within the party justified their support by pointing to the estimated 25,000 construction jobs expected to come from the stadium and a convention center expansion.

The stadium project’s future is now in question after casino magnate Sheldon Adelson, who was supposed to put $650 million toward the deal, announced Monday that he was walking away from it.
-- Michelle Rindels

Lawmaker questions need for WiFi at state parks

At least one state lawmaker is questioning a proposal to extend WiFi capacity in state parks.

Democratic Assemblywoman Heidi Swank asked leadership of the state’s Department of Conservation on Tuesday why their budget request including extended WiFi capacity at several state parks. Swank said she thought more accessible Internet went against what she and many others enjoyed about state parks.

“Not having the WiFi is a good thing,” she said.

Department Director Bradley Crowell said he personally agreed, but that access to WiFi was one of the most requested features from visitors. He said that it could be implemented so that it was only available in certain parts of the park, and that park goers felt safer in more rural parks when they had WiFi access.

Parks being considered for a WiFi upgrade include Berlin-Ichthyosaur, Echo Canyon, Elgin Schoolhouse, Rye Patch, Spring Valley, Valley of Fire, Washoe Lake and Wild Horse.

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget called for the creation of two new state parks and roughly $15 million in ongoing and one-shot costs.

Parks being considered for a WiFi upgrade include Berlin-Ichthyosaur, Echo Canyon, Elgin Schoolhouse, Rye Patch, Spring Valley, Valley of Fire, Washoe Lake and Wild Horse.

--- Riley Snyder

Museums could get fiscal lift from special license plate fees

The agency that manages state museums wants lawmakers to extend fees for license plates celebrating the state’s 150th anniversary.

Peter Barton, the acting administrator for the Nevada Division of Museums and History, told lawmakers at a budget committee meeting on Wednesday that the agency was supporting legislation to extend fees on custom license plates celebrating the state’s sesquicentennial anniversary.

The bill, SB37, would extend a $20 renewal fee on specialty license plates that would otherwise not be extended. Barton said about 24,000 of the license plates have been issued.

Proceeds from the fee extension would be split between the Division of Museums and History and the Division of State Parks. A fiscal note on the bill estimates that continuing the fee would generate $445,000 in the next fiscal year.

Barton said the funds would go toward expanding programs serving handicapped individuals or non-English language speakers.

--- Riley Snyder