ASSEMBLY DISTRICT 4 – MELISSA LAUGHTER
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Assembly District 4 is located in the Las Vegas valley. There are two candidates in this Primary race: Melissa Laughter and Incumbent Michele Fiore. They both responded to this interview.
1. Give a brief summation of your professional and political background.
I currently work for Litigation Document Group; we provide litigation support services to law firms and attorneys in Nevada. Prior to my current position, I worked for Yellow Book yellow pages for six years. I collaborated with local business owners to help them create advertising campaigns to grow their businesses. I have had a paralegal degree from UNLV since 2004, but I decided I like getting out into the community and meeting/helping the business owners that make Las Vegas such a great city to live, work, and play in, so I have never formally used it.
2. Define your district – geographic boundaries, demographic makeup, and political balance.
District 4 is a perfect blend of city and rural (by Vegas standards) areas. We have master planned communities, but we also have a great deal of horse properties. The southern boundary is comprised of primarily Cheyenne and Lone Mountain, with the eastern boundary encompassing the Los Prados golf community at Decatur. The northern boundary is comprised of Ann Rd. and runs north along Rancho Dr. Our western boundary is pretty much the hump over to Pahrump along with a northern section of Hualapai. The demographic of district 4 is varied much like the rest of Las Vegas—there are a lot of families and kids. The political balance currently among registered voters is approximately 500 more Democrats registered than Republicans.
3. If this is your first time running for office (or this position), why are you running for this position? If you are an incumbent, what have been your top accomplishments as a legislator?
This is my first time running for a public office, but I having been waiting to be formally involved in politics for quite some time. Now that my daughter is in college, it is perfect timing for me. I love my state, city, and community and want to be involved directly with determining the direction that Nevada goes in the future—I want to keep Nevada a great place for all of us to live.
4. What makes you more qualified to serve in this position than your opponent?
I have been involved in politics in some form or another for as long as I can remember—it is a passion of mine. I have worked on many local campaigns such as Jon Porter, John Ensign, and was a senate district leader for George W. Bush’s 2004 campaign. I am finishing up my bachelor’s degree in political science with a minor in history at UNLV. I have a dream of going to law school, but we’ll have to wait and see what pans out. One of my “hobbies” is current events and most specifically politics. I read incessantly to keep myself well educated on both sides of the issues that society is trying to come to terms with. I have been actively involved with many service projects through my church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints; through my church I have learned to have a commitment to my community—we are encouraged and provided many opportunities to give back to the places we call home. If I make it to law school, I plan on Constitutional law being one of my primary focuses. I am dedicated to the principals and intent that our Founding Fathers had when, after many struggles, they hammered out the revered document that has served our country so well for over 200 years. I feel that a qualified candidate for any political office should have a love and knowledge of our country, its history and where our future lies. A good candidate should be involved and up to date on as many issues as possible that affect his community. I’m qualified to serve because I love my country, my state, my city and I stay involved in my community and educate myself on the issues we all face, and want the best outcome to keep Nevada one of the greatest states in the nation—I’m not looking for fame or fortune, but rather to serve my community.
5. There is a well-publicized, on-going philosophical split among many in the Republican Party. Describe your political philosophy in relation to this ‘moderate’ conservative versus ‘tea party’ conservative divide.
I don’t subscribe to either of those terms. I am a traditional Republican. I let my dedication to the long-standing ideals of the Republican party be my guiding light. Fifty years ago I would have been considered just “conservative;” it is only by today’s standards that the term has somehow morphed into one having to choose between being identified as a moderate or a tea-party participant. This division in philosophy is not good for the projected longevity of our party. I will not be pigeon-holed by a label of one or the other. I believe in less government, more focus on family, less taxes and less regulation in order for people to live happy, productive lives. That doesn’t mean that we aren’t interested in being good stewards of our environment or being understanding and compassionate to our fellow countrymen.
6. What do you see as the three most important issues related to your district?
I think the top issues that relate to my district also relate to most Nevadans; we need more jobs, we need to improve our schools and the curriculum that is offered, and we need to stabilize our housing market, so more families stop feeling the pinch of trying to decide whether to buy groceries or pay the power bill or the mortgage.
7. What do you see as the top three legislative priorities?
Taxes, Taxes and Education…we need to relieve Nevadans of some of the current tax burdens, whether that’s an increased gas tax or paying taxes on Amazon purchases—there are only so many nickels that can be squeezed out of a dollar, so while a few cents here or a few cents there may not seem like much, it all adds up and takes from the operating cash of a household. It is beyond time that we come up with some real solutions for our children’s education. Having raised a daughter here who attended Nevada public schools, I see many opportunities for improvement. Nevada has continued to slip in the national ranking of schools/education amongst all the states. One bright point, being at the bottom leaves us nowhere to go, but up.
8. What is your position in regards to the taxes imposed in 2009 that were to ‘sunset’ in 2011, but were re-approved by the 2011 and 2013 legislature?
My position on most taxes is to reduce or repeal. We all understand that some taxes are necessary for the maintenance of a state, city, county, etc. But, as any household knows when the budget is tight, the first thing to do is look to see where expenses can be cut. We need to evaluate where we can cut or utilize public funds more efficiently. Lately, the only answer we hear is more taxes; this is not a remedy, but rather a Band-Aid for poor budgeting and management of the public’s money.
9. Describe how you would address improving the performance of Nevada’s public schools.
Clearly what we are doing now is not working. We have a low graduation rate and fall in the bottom of the national rankings amongst states. Historically, throwing more money into the education system has not changed the results. We need to explore some innovative ideas for teaching our children the necessary fundamental skills that will help them succeed in college and then life. We need to have teachers that are qualified and compensated for the excellence that they bring to a classroom. This is an issue that I feel will strongly affect the potential attraction of bringing top-notch industries or companies to Nevada. Why would a major corporation want to set up shop here if their children can’t get one of the best educations in the country?
10. To what degree should the State support Charter Schools and those students opting to attend a school outside their district?
First we need to look at the goal. The goal is for children to succeed in their educational curriculum. If charter schools offer an alternative to families whose children don’t perform well in a traditional school environment, or want more focused lesson plans, why wouldn’t we support that path? We should not hold back a child who can be more educationally successful in an alternate teaching environment. Parents should be the architects of their children’s education and the State should provide the building materials. The state already knows that moving children from one school to another makes a difference; many states, Nevada included, routinely bus children from an underperforming school in the “bad area” of town to a better performing school in the “good area” of town.
11. The State Legislature has found innovative ways to circumvent the state law banning the passing down of unfunded mandates to local governing entities. What is your position in regards to using such actions to fund state needs?
Clearly this is not the best way to govern. Playing a game of find the “loophole” is not the intent or purpose of passing laws. Our legislators need to do a better job of writing bills that are clear and executable. If one has to be innovative to circumvent a law—that is a bad and ineffective law. The correct and best course of action is to amend or repeal the law.
12. Describe your position in regards to Nevada’s Right to Work law and unionization of State employees.
I support Nevada’s “Right to Work” laws. Employers and employees should have the right to decide whether or not the work relationship is mutually beneficial, and if not, to be able to terminate that relationship without penalty. There are plenty of attorneys practicing employment law, which protects both the employee as well as the employer in the event of misconduct. I have yet to find a need for a union in a 21st century society. We have more than enough laws available to protect all parties involved in the employee, employer relationship. I find it especially problematic when state employees want to unionize. When one works for the state, one works for the people of that state. The people have a rightful expectation to have the best and most qualified people fulfilling the state’s duties. If there is an employee that is not up to par, then the people should not be held hostage to keeping that employee just because they have a union that comes in and forces their continued employment. If we use the example of the air traffic controllers strike during the Reagan presidency, we see that the people can be harmed or inconvenienced in their daily routines when a union determines they are going to strike. Reagan made the right decision in saying, “get back to work or get fired.” The public suffered less harm due to Reagan’s decisive actions.
13. What is your position in regards to increasing Nevada’s minimum wage?
I do not support increasing the minimum wage. Allowing the market to determine what is a fair wage is more efficient. If an auto shop only offers its mechanics $20 bucks an hour when all the other auto shops are paying $50 bucks an hour, no one is going to want to work at the underpaying auto shop. That auto shop would have a hard time keeping customers as their work quality would be sub-par to the shops that are paying for qualified mechanics. Eventually that shop would go out of business—problem solved. A better regulation would be to penalize an industry, let’s continue with the auto shop example, if they collude to ALL pay a low wage. The idea is to keep a competitive environment. Consumers and employees both benefit when there is competition in the market.
14. Do you believe the gaming and mining industries pay ‘their fair share’ in contributing to the state’s economy? Explain.
I think that the idea of “fair share” is ambiguous and changes with each person’s perspective. If we want a casino or mining company to contribute more to the state’s economy, we should give them opportunities to do so by providing tax relief incentives (as an example) for let’s say, building a community center, or improving a vacant lot, or providing a meal program for the homeless. People are happy to give when they feel like they receive a benefit in return. When we force people to give, we create animosity and stall progress. You can lead a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.
15. In 1979 Nevada passed a bill legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes. It was repealed eight years later (1987). What is your position in regards to Nevada once again legalizing the use of marijuana for medical purposes? Legalizing the sale of marijuana, period?
The passing of the legalization of marijuana does not bode well for the well-being of our society. The term “medical” marijuana is laughable. If it’s medical, then it needs to be dispensed from a legitimate, regulated pharmacy just like any other medication. The fact that someone named, “Dr. Reefer” can get you a medical marijuana card does not lend credibility to the argument that people need this medically. We do not need pot shops popping up like 7-Eleven’s. Prior to the passing of this law there were dozens of hydroponic stores in the valley that sold all of the supplies for growing one’s own pot. I assure you, the majority of their clientele were not growing hydroponic vegetables. I don’t have a problem with people wanting to use it for legitimate medical purposes; I have a major problem with how they are going to obtain it. Consumers should have to go to a pharmacy and have a consult with a pharmacist just like with every other prescription. Consumers should be professionally advised of the consequences of mixing marijuana with other drugs, just like everyone who picks up a prescription at a pharmacy already is. Furthermore, the legalization is not going to cut down on street dealers. A street dealer is not going to wake up one day and say to himself, “well, they’ve legalized pot, so I think I’ll go apply at McDonald’s for a job.” The dealer, not being regulated by the same standards as the legitimate pot shops, will undercut the price of the shops, or start cutting it with other hallucinogenics, or find another method to replace his lost illegal revenue stream. Normalizing the use of pot in the view of our youth is not a good start to trying to improve the education system in our state.
16. What is your view of the implementation of the Affordable Care Act in Nevada?
Obama Care has been a major debacle. It was a huge mistake to become the first state with a Republican governor to implement state exchanges. Why bother spending all the taxpayer’s money joining in with the other states fighting for the repeal of it, only to be one of the first to admit defeat and jump onboard with state exchanges. Our state exchange was even inferior to the national exchange, if that’s even possible. I have only one position on Obama Care…repeal, repeal, repeal. To use the American public to implement universal healthcare, when politicians could have just as easily required insurance providers to offer affordable plans, only goes to show that this is not about healthcare, it is about control and manipulation of the American public and their votes in keeping certain people in office/power.
17. Define you position on fracking and other means of oil exploration in Nevada. Do you support coal fired plants?
Nevada should explore every effort to increase production of any form of energy which provides consumers with cheaper, cleaner energy/fuel options. Additional resources of energy in Nevada would help create jobs. I would support coal-fired plants provided that safety measures are taken, so they are not harmful to the health of Nevadans or our desert.
18. In efforts to bring new businesses to Nevada, the Catalyst Fund was established. This is funded by state tax dollars. The Governor’s Office of Economic Development receives and then votes on applications from businesses and, through local governmental entities, subsidizes those selected. What is your position in regards to the Catalyst Fund? Do you have other ideas to encourage new businesses to locate in Nevada?
I believe Nevada has a great potential to draw new businesses into our state, thereby creating new jobs. One of the quickest ways to invite new businesses into Nevada is to offer financial incentives. Those incentives could be in the form of tax breaks or long-term (100 years for example) free leases on undeveloped land in exchange for putting up a store or factory and then giving them the option to buy that land once they have turned a profit. I would love to see an IKEA, as an example, come into the valley with one of these enticements. One of our biggest potentials for growth of business and jobs lies in getting our land released from the federal government (BLM) back into the control of the state. With over 86% of our land mass being under control of the federal government, we don’t have the full force of state’s rights and we are being cut out of the opportunity to utilize that land for development like other states.
19. Do you support “campus carry” legislation allowing licensed CCW permit holders over the age of 21 to carry their weapons on Nevada college and university campuses? Would you extend the same right to secondary school campuses?
I am currently taking classes at UNLV and have had to walk across a dark campus late at night. It is not a comforting or safe feeling to hear someone behind me and have to continually check over my shoulder as I hurriedly walk to the parking lot that is located so far away from the campus that it takes at least 10-15 minutes to get to the closest parking structure. Maryland Parkway, which runs the length of the east side of the campus, has many vagrants that like to hang out, so it’s not exactly the safest place. I have witnessed on many occasions, people who did not belong on the campus in the capacity of student or teacher going through trash cans, or soliciting students. I absolutely support the right to campus carry and believe that the Constitution of the United States already affords us that right via the Second Amendment. The Constitution trumps campus policy.
20. If there is any issue that you are concerned about that has not been addressed in this interview, this is your opportunity to address it:
This interview was pretty thorough and while I have other ideas for the continued improvement of Nevada, I think my answers give the voters a good idea of who I am and where I stand. And, voters are always welcome to contact me directly via e-mail, Facebook, cell, etc. to ask any further questions they may have.