Nevada NewsMakers

News - June 5, 2018 - by Ray Hagar

By Ray Hagar

Nevada Newsmakers

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Chris Giunchigliani said on Nevada Newsmakers Tuesday she wants to get Nevada's gaming industry involved with the state's new school safety committee.

Giunchigliani said the gaming industry is well versed in technology for safety and security and that its knowledge would be helpful for Nevada schools as they grapple with the heavy responsibility of preventing school shootings.

Gov. Sandoval commissioned the school safety committee earlier this year, in the wake of the Parkland, Fla., high school shooting where 17 people were killed.

"(Las Vegas) Metro (police) is smart about this but I would say gaming is probably the best," Giunchigliani said. "They've got the eyes in the sky. They know how to look at that technology. So hopefully they are part of that (school safety) committee. If not, I would like to get them involved in that. I think there is a better way to get to where we want by being more strategic in the use of technology."

The school-safety committee is expected to have its recommendations to Sandoval by Aug. 1. It will be up to the next governor, who takes office Jan. 1, 2019, to carry out any of the committee's recommendations.

"They just added a teacher," Giunchigliani said of the committee. "A teacher wasn't even on there."

Yet Giunchigliani, a former president of the state teachers' union, praised committee chairman Dale Erquiaga, Sandoval's former superintendent of Nevada schools, for focusing on two issues: school safety and students' well-being.

"I know they had a panel of students that came in (at committee's May meeting) and the students had two different types of recommendations, one of safety and one of emotional needs," she said. "And so Dale Erquiaga, who is heading that up, actually split them into two work groups, so we can also look at social workers needs, mental health components and behavioral counseling.

"School safety is two different pieces and I commend them for looking at it," she said. "I do think there are things you can do with design. Many of our schools have fences but not all of them ... you also have to look at fire codes. You want to make sure you don't make the kids hostages in the building if a fire breaks out."

Giunchigliani, who is a current Clark County commissioner and former Las Vegas assemblywoman, also said she would like to see the Nevada Legislature meet every year instead of the current way of meeting every other year.

She said she supports a plan where the Legislature would still meet for a 120-day session every other year but also meet for a 60-day session in election years.

"If you passed a law and it had unintended consequences, like the opioid bill, you can make those fixes (in a 60-day session) so you don't have the harm continuing," Giunchigliani said. "It also allows you to predict your (budget) numbers correctly and point out where you might want to allocate additional revenue."

Nevada could still have a "citizens Legislature" meeting each year and downplayed the issue of lawmakers getting time off from work to attend annual sessions.

"In my mind, we would still have a citizens' Legislature. I don't think that is the bigger issue right now," Giunchigliani said.

She also wants to raise Nevada's per-pupil education spending to the national average. Yet that could cost plenty, since the national average is $11,700 per student and Nevada currently spends about $8,960 per student -- one of the lowest rates in the nation, according to various outlets.

Reaching the national average on per-pupil funding would be a gradual process because it would be a steep climb, she said.

"I don't know what the cost would actually be, but if our goal is to establish that, you've got to make a pathway there,"
Giunchigliani said.

She would like all revenues from Nevada's legalized marijuana industry to go to education. Education currently receives a portion of the 15 percent wholesale tax on marijuana but funding from the 10-percent retail tax goes to the state's rainy day fund.

"We have an obligation and that obligation is to find the money," she said.

Yet she is not in favor of lowering the revenue threshold so more businesses would pay the Commerce Tax. That gross receipts tax, approved in the 2015 Legislature, is currently paid by Nevada's largest businesses and earns the state about $400 million per two-year budget cycle.

"I do not want to do anything that harms anybody, whether it is working families or small businesses. So until I see that budget, where the priorities were put into play and where the savings could come, I don't want to scare anybody that way. I want to be realistic on how you deal with it."

She then took a dig at Republican gubernatorial front-runner Adam Laxalt.

"I do commend Gov. Sandoval for (supporting) the Commerce Tax and I do call on Adam Laxalt to overturn his willingness to get rid of that. That is a $400 million shortfall if he gets rid of that, so I don't believe in that, either."