(Nancy Dallas) – Ellie Lopez-Bowlan is running for Assembly District 26 in Washoe County. A Reno nurse practitioner and former Reno Gazette-Journal columnist, Ellie holds a master’s of science degree from the University of Nevada, Reno. She served as President of the Mt. Rose Republican Women.
Earlier this year she was appointed to the National Museum of the American Latino Commission by Senator Mitch McConnell; and, appointed for a second term by Governor Gibbons to the Nevada Academy of Health. In addition to serving on numerous local boards, she has served on four governor-appointed ones, including the State Board of Nursing, the Nevada Academy of Health, and the Governor’s Maternal and Child Health Advisory Board.
Ellie participated in the following e-interview with Nevada News Bureau contributing reporter Nancy Dallas.
While you have been rather deeply involved with assisting political candidates and fundraising for several years, this is your first run for an elected office. Why did you decide to run for the State Assembly?
I have devoted a great deal of my time to serving on boards in an attempt to make our state a better place for everyone. In the 18 years that I have lived in Nevada, I have served on over 30 local boards and 4 governor-appointed.
I decided to run for the assembly because I felt that the vast experience that I gained by working with others to address challenges in our state and local communities will serve me well in the legislature. I can get the job done while working with people who may have varying views. I have a proven history of bringing people together, even under difficult circumstances.
When I first accepted the presidency for the Mt. Rose Republican Women’s club, the board was dejected after someone had sent disparaging letters about our board to most elected officials in the state. Despite this smear campaign, I encouraged the group to focus on our goals, work hard, and continue to recruit members. Under my direction the club grew from 32 members to 82, and we won four awards for being the fastest growing club in the state in 2008.
This is just one example of my hard work and dedication to our Republican candidates, causes and values.
Do you have a ‘campaign team’ and a ‘game plan’ in place?
Yes, I have a campaign team in place. I am working with political consultant Robert Uithoven, and I have formed a group called “Team Ellie” (comprised of friends, neighbors, graphic designers, and community leaders).
While grassroots efforts are of significant importance, I am also using email, Facebook, and Twitter. The time has come for candidates to use various methods to communicate with the people in their district. I intend to utilize all of these methods.
I particularly enjoy meeting with various members of my community and will not lose touch of the importance of face-to-face interactions. In the winter, we will be holding weekly “Fireside chats” in different precinct homes. This will allow me to fully understand the needs of individuals from all of the 118 precincts in my district.
How much money do you intend to commit to this campaign? Will you be putting your own money into your effort? How much?
The amount of money needed to run this campaign will vary depending on the number of opponents in the primary. Estimates spent by past candidates range from $10,000 to $150,000. While one does not want to be seen as “buying the election,” I have been advised by others who have run for office, that lending the campaign money early on may be necessary. I am prepared to do so.
Recently, a good friend reminded me that “George Washington won the battle with little food, little clothing for the soldiers, but armed with a belief in our American values”!
Will you put a limit on the amount of personal funding you will invest?
I think that the more money the constituents in my district put into my race, the more I would also put in. If I do not gain the support of the public, I do not want to buy my election.
What personal attributes do you think would best serve you as a newcomer to the State Legislature?
1) Ability to work with others – As stated earlier, I have learned to work with others and get the work done in spite of varying views. While I will not compromise on my principles of low taxes, limited government and personal freedom, I know that the state deals with many other issues where we can work together (public/private partnerships come to mind).
2) Great listener – As a family nurse practitioner, I have learned to listen to people. I am frequently told by people in my district that they truly appreciate that I ask them about their concerns rather than me lecture them on what I think is right for them.
3) Ability to articulate my views without offending others – As a writer that had her own column in the Reno Gazette Journal for five years, I have a great ability to articulate my view points in a manner that is effective to those have read my views. I was recently invited to write a chapter in the, 6th edition of a book, entitled, Policy and Politics in Nursing and Health Care. The book has won 11 American Journal of Nursing Book of the Year awards, and is used widely in all levels of nursing programs across the country. I think that this speaks volumes to the ability to present my views.
4) Believe in hard work – I grew up in a family that never shied away form hard work. My father worked in the oil rigging field; my mother bartered for my piano lessons (she ironed clothes for my instructor), and my brother would volunteer to drive people to the voting stations. I learned early on that hard work would produce results and that earning a living is much more rewarding than receiving government bail-out.
5) I have set high standards for my work – Through college I belonged to the Golden Key Honor Society; in graduate school I was voted the Outstanding Graduate Student by Sigma Theta Tau, an international nursing honor society, and in 2006 I was awarded the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners State Award for Excellence.
What will be your three (3) major campaign issues? Explain your position on each.
1) Creating jobs in Nevada is of primary concern to me.
I have witnessed a change in the dynamics of job security in Nevada. The casino industry which has been one of the major employers in the state has seen a drop in revenue. This problem started after the events of September 11, and then came massive consolidations in the industry through mergers and take-overs, and then the recession.
We must keep gaming taxes low or each of the surviving corporate entities will leave Nevada. With gaming being legal in so many jurisdictions around America and throughout the world, gaming entities have no other reason to remain headquartered here if we cannot offer them the best deal so that they can invest capital here and create jobs.
But we need much more than gaming to survive in Nevada. I want a diversified economy where we can attract new industries with a low and stable tax base and a quality of life for workers.
2) Control growing government and exercise fiscal responsibility – We need to adhere to the “tightening the belt rule”. In a failing economy, we cannot afford to create new programs. We must focus on strengthening existing programs that work, and eliminate those that are redundant or simply provide little or no public benefit.
We need to begin to use measuring tools and guidelines to evaluate programs and systems to examine their efficacy. We need to help those making decisions with our tax dollars understand that it is our money being used whether it came to the state from state and local taxes, or it came from the federal government…it is our money. Every program in this state should abide by strict transparency rules. We also need to examine the recommendations that were made by the Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission.
3) Education – Nevada is ranked as having one of the worst education attainment statistics. Not only do we have the highest dropout rates in the country, we also have one of the worst graduation rates in postsecondary education achievements. I think one of the best ways to address this problem is to provide more choices for parents and students, more empowerment schools to give parents and principals’ flexibility to decide budgeting and curriculum decisions, and we must also reward good teachers with higher pay as both a way to recruit and retain our best and brightest instructors.
Our statistics are quite shocking, and doing nothing but simply throw more money at public education is not the answer. High School- Only 47% of kids who enter 9th grade will go on to graduate from 12th grade. These figures are alarming and shameful. I would like to see programs and public service announcements that tell the children the facts:
A recent study by Boston’s Northeastern University Center for Labor Studies reported that the mean average earning capacity of a 24 year old high school drop out is around $8,358 a year! Additionally only about 60 percent are employed. Yet, in comparison, the wages for a 24 year old or younger person with a Bachelor’s degree is $24,797.
Secondary Education – We need to examine why the attainment of students at this level is so low (even with reduced tuition). One theory is that students need better preparation at the K-12 level. Another is that we need to make our colleges and universities more user-friendly for the students and help the system work better to help some students enter two year colleges before going into the four year university.
Many candidates say we should eliminate certain government programs without specifying which ones. Exactly which government programs do you believe are redundant or provide insufficient public benefit and should be eliminated?
1) I advocated and testified for the establishment of an office of Minority Health in Nevada. The office was supposed to bring in federal dollars to assist the State Health Division in implementing health programs for minority populations (who sometimes have disproportionate rates of certain illnesses such as hypertension, diabetes, and AIDS). The office was established, but I do not believe that it has brought in any federal dollars, as first intended. If this is the case, then this is one office that could be eliminated and the work absorbed by the State Health Division.
2) The SAGE Commission recommended the closure of the Nevada State Prison in Carson City. This facility was built in 1862 and costs 19 million dollars to run annually. It houses medium security prisoners and the “lines of sight” require more staff per inmate to operate than the newer prisons. Prisoners and staff could be sent to other prisons. There were other recommendations in this report such as partial closure of the prison.
3) Shifting costs from the state general funds – saving money for the state does not always require closing facilities but shifting funds. For example, the Nevada Youth Training Center at Elko is a high- school-like detention facility that has been funded from the general state fund through the Child and Family Services Division. Other Child and Family Services Division detention facilities are supported by local school districts.
Do you believe Nevada places enough emphasis on high school and post high school vocational education? If not, what would you propose?
I do not believe that Nevada places enough emphasis on high school and post high school vocational education. In the past, Nevadans could rely on the casino industry and mining to enjoy a middle class lifestyle, even if they did not have a high school education. With an evolving competitive work market, Nevadans need to examine the way they looked at education.
A high school education should be promoted as a basis for learning fundamental skills. Additionally, we need to examine Vocational Education Training (VET) at the secondary education level that is combined with an apprenticeship program for students that choose to do this.
Vocational studies are no longer limited to those of plumbers and welders and no longer have the stigma of limiting people to remain in “blue collar” careers. In today’s evolving markets, VET students can learn skills in very marketable areas such as in retail, cosmetics, tourism, and information technology.
Many countries like Germany have VET programs that are supported by shared responsibility from associations, unions, local industries, and the state.
Nevada will be facing some major budget decisions in the 2011 Legislative session. What would be your priorities in balancing a budget that is projected to be in deficit approximately $2 billion?
First of all, we need to attract businesses to Nevada that will create jobs by employing from within the state or bring employees that will strengthen our economy.
Secondly, we need to examine the findings of cost savings that were presented to the Governor by the Spending and Government Efficiency (SAGE) Commission). Their recommendations included savings by the DMV, the state retirement system, prison system, education, and many more.
We need to plan ahead and stop living from legislative session to legislative session. When the state ever finds itself with a surplus (like it did a few years ago when we received DMV rebates) we need to invest those funds instead of using the method that the Democrats use, “if there is money in the bank, spend it”.
Once elected, I will look forward to addressing our state budget based on the numbers as they exist at the time. Too often, people in the media and various interest groups use budget shortfall numbers that are based on calculations of routine “roll-up” costs of each department and agency. I think that is an irresponsible way of looking at our budget.
This recession has been horrible for our economy and our citizens. There should be no “routine” roll-up costs of government – including pay raises, COLAs and any other budget increases. The taxpayers have gone through a very rough time – and the state must be responsive and our state elected officials should not expect taxpayers to go along with “business as usual” when it comes to budgeting our tax dollars.
If budget deficits remain, would you support the laying off of state employees? If so, what departments would be your priorities for cuts?
Laying-off anyone is a very difficult thing to do whether the person works at the state level or the private sector. We need to examine other options first.
For example, we could propose a four-day work week for non essential employees.
We can limit overtime and offer 80 percent work loads to some employees.
We need to limit state employee travel. Every time that I am flying to Las Vegas I encounter many state employees traveling back and forth. Many of us use conference calling, the internet, and the telephone for discussions.
We need to examine how departments schedule vacation time, etc. Last year, we learned that some firemen in the state were not efficient in scheduling vacations and then their peers were left using overtime to cover these vacations.
I think that legislators are not the only ones that need to decide what cuts should be made. Every department head and employee should be held accountable as well.
What do you perceive to be the most important issues facing your district?
Since my district covers 118 precincts, the issues vary from one precinct to another other.
In discussing these issues with some of the constituents, I have learned that many are worried about their skyrocketing property taxes. While house values have dropped significantly, their taxes remain the same or have increased. In one precinct made up of many retirees, their concerns are about their shrinking retirement funds and the instability of the stock market. In yet another precinct with younger constituents, they worry about job security.
Most agree that they would like to see responsible government in Nevada and keeping taxes and spending in check.
Where do you stand in regards to schools of choice, charter schools, and school vouchers? Assuming you support these programs in concept, as a State Assemblyman to what degree would you support state funding of them?
I feel that it is important to listen to the voices of the people of Nevada.
Choice – In a study released in January of 2008 (Nevada Policy Research Institute) a majority of Nevadans reported that they were not satisfied with the public education system. In the age group of 36-55, 60 percent rated the public school system “poor” or “fair”. Nevadans want choices when it comes to their children’s education
Charter schools – The study also reported that Nevadans overwhelmingly prefer private or charter schools.
School Vouchers – 54% of Nevadans stated that they were in favor of school vouchers that would assist them with the school of their choice. I support the concept that Nevadans receive assistance from the taxes that they pay for use in schools of their choice.
I think in the area of K-12, the state needs to help fund these programs at the same rate per student that it does public education.
You have been a very active and outspoken advocate for the Hispanic community. Exactly how would Latino families benefit from a school voucher program?
Many argue that only select students from higher income families benefit from vouchers for private schools. In reality, it would assist students from low income families. In the past vouchers have been used by foundations or corporations to sponsor these children. Hispanic students would benefit just like other students.
How would you address improving the performance of Nevada’s public school population?
We need to encourage greater participation by parents in their children’s education.
The Parent Teacher Associations had it right when they invited parents to meetings. However, times have changed; parents are busy trying to make a living, and students need great encouragement to stay in school. We need to get creative when inviting parents to participate in their children’s education.
We need a method for evaluating teacher performance.
In 2003, Nevada added a state law that prohibits the use of student test score results to evaluate teacher performance. We need to change this. If we do not do this, we are left with only one measurement of teacher performance and that is the fact that less than 50 percent of high school students graduate. I do not think that this would reflect well on our teachers.
Additionally, Nevada lost stimulus money because we did not have a teacher evaluation method in place.
You have a professional nursing background. The nurse’s union is advocating a mandated nurse to patient ratio. What is your view in regards to this issue?
1. In regards to the nurse’s union: The reasons that nurses ask for mandating nurse-to-patient ratios are first, to improve patient safety; and secondly, to enhance the working conditions for nurses in acute care settings.
In examining what is currently happening in hospitals, we need to look at what has occurred over time.
The New England Public Policy Center and the Massachusetts Health Policy Forum published a report on Nurse-to-Patient Ratios (2005) when that state examined this issue. The report stated that since the 1990s when hospitals began to implement managed care reform, we see only the sickest patients admitted.
Reimbursement policies and incentives encourage patients to go home early; thus, only those that are in the acute phases of their illnesses or injures remain. The report stated that patients in hospitals are sicker than they were 15 years ago.
Yet, patient assignments to nurses have not kept up with these changes. Nurses are expected to manage the same amount of patients that they did years ago when many of these patients were in better health. Nurses want to ensure that these very sick patients receive the care that they pay for and deserve.
In examining the working conditions for nurses, obviously they have drastically changed. With an increase in acuity of most of their patients, the nurses are over-worked and are left feeling frustrated.
Additionally, hospitals have now hired more and more ancillary staff that has less training and the burden falls on the nurses to train and over see these people. Many nurses have left the profession and many are choosing different careers.
Establishing patient-nurse-ratios based on acuities of the patient’s illness, would help to solve these problems. Less patient deaths would occur and maybe we could retain and recruit the nurses that we need.
2. In our last legislative session, AB 121 was passed which is a Safe Staffing bill. This was accomplished after an override of a veto by the governor.
As a condition of licensing, this law requires that health care facilities (hospitals in counties with a population of 100,000 more and greater than 70 beds) establish a staffing committee comprised of 50% direct care nurses who will develop staffing plans in conjunction with management.
A written report must be submitted to the Director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau (even years) and the Legislative Committee on Healthcare (odd years). The plans will be flexible enough to accommodate for changes in patients, staff, unit design, technology etc.
As a legislator, what would you propose doing to encourage bringing greater diversity to Nevada’s economy?
While Gaming and Mining will continue to employ a great deal of our population, we need to attract businesses that focus on alternative energy, technology, biotech, and sciences. Nevada Gaming, which once dominated the market on this business, has experienced competition from other states, the internet, and foreign countries. We need to diversify our economic sources.
What enticements would you support to bring such industries to Nevada?
Nevada has a tax structure that stands out compared to other states. These incentives should be promoted to bring businesses to the state: They include:
• No Corporate income tax
• No estate tax
• No personal income tax
• No franchise tax on income
• No unitary or gift tax
• Competitive sales and property taxes
• Minimal Employer Payroll tax of 0.63% (deductions allowed for employer paid health insurance)
However, while doing this we need to work with our education systems to ensure that we fix some serious problems. With our high school dropout rates and low graduation rates from post-secondary schools, we will not be able to meet the demands of the companies that we are trying to attract.
How would you address concerns in regards to Nevada’s illegal immigrant population?
We cannot tolerate illegal entry into the U.S. and into Nevada.
A Pew Hispanic Center research study (released April 2009) found that Nevada topped the nation in the percentage of illegal immigrant workers. The group estimated that there were about 170,000 illegal immigrant workers in the state or approximately 12.2 percent of its workforce (more than twice the national average of 5.4 percent)!
We need to enforce existing federal laws that penalize the employer for knowingly hiring illegal immigrants, but we also need to help employers find the information that they need to determine if a person is a legal resident.
In a poll conducted of 501 Nevadans by Zogby (January 2009), 83 percent of Nevadans stated that they thought Congress needed to reauthorize the E-Verify program to help employers check the status of a prospective employee.
State tuition support of in-state students at Nevada’s two universities ranks far above the national average. Would you support reducing this support in an effort to reduce budget deficits?
The problem is much bigger than simply reducing support for affordable tuition or giving more funds to these institutions. We need to examine why we have one of the lowest post-graduation rates in the nation when we offer above average tuition support. Obviously, we are missing something.
One study that examined these problems recommended that funding for colleges and universities be based on attainment and graduation rates of students. We need a better educated population to attract more businesses to Nevada.
Currently, Nevada’s universities are subsidized by taxpayers at a higher percentage than any other state’s university system in the nation. Rather than UNLV and UNR being subsidized nearly 80 percent by taxpayers and 20 percent by tuition, grants and private dollars, we should make it a goal to reverse those numbers so that taxpayers subsidize less than half of the total higher education funding.
Our state’s Constitution clearly defines K-12 public education as a right to every child in Nevada. Higher education is a privilege, not a right … and we need to understand and treat it as such.
What do you see as the best means of providing sustainable, affordable energy to Nevada?
We need to continue to support the development of the various energy sources in Nevada. We need to implement a strong energy policy that provides Nevadans with dependable, cost-effective, and clean energy supplies and provides jobs for the citizens.
That means allowing for the construction of new power plants (both fossil fuel and renewable sources) and the necessary transmission lines to transport the energy without radical, Washington-based environmental groups preventing us from providing stable, domestic energy security for our citizens.
Some of the energy sources that are being used or are being developed include:
Geothermal – projects already in use include: Beowawe, Brady, Soda Lake 1 and 2, Steamboat Hills. In development the projects include: Carson Lake Basin, Faulkner, Grass Valley, and Salt Wells.
Wind – China Mountain is under development
Hydro – in service are projects like: Fleish, Hooper Truckee Carson, Verdi, and Washoe
Biomass/Methane – projects in service include: Sierra Pacific Industries and Reclamation Facility
Solar – in service projects include: Las Vegas Valley Water District, Nellis AFB Solar Star, and Nevada Solar One
Waste Heat Recovery – The Good Springs project is under development
I notice that in discussing alternative energy options you didn’t mention nuclear energy. Ely recently expressed interest in becoming the home of a new nuclear power plant. What is your position on nuclear power as an alternative energy source in Nevada?
I am a strong proponent of nuclear energy. Additionally, Nevada needs to examine renewable energy sources to include this form of energy. The state spends $6 billion importing energy each year.
A study by UNLV for the Renewable Energy and Energy Conservation Task Force estimated that if the state generated just 7 percent of its electricity from instate sources, it could create more than 2,500 jobs and generate $310 million in revenue each year. If it generates 15 percent of its energy, it can create 5,000 jobs and $665 million annually.
At the heart of whether Ely can house a nuclear power plant were some requirements presented at a presentation in Ely by U.S. Nuclear Energy Foundation Director Gary Duarte. He noted that for the project to move forward in Ely, there were some requirements:
• The project developers need 500-1,000 acres of “affordable, seismically stable land that is away from the nearest airport, school, historic site or environmentally sensitive area”.
• The project requires a minimum of 25,000 acre feet of water per year (nearly 8.5 billion gallons per year).
While many tout nuclear energy as “clean energy”, we cannot ignore the fact that nuclear power plants produce radioactive waste that takes thousands of years to decompose. Countries like Japan and France, who rely on Nuclear power plants for their energy sources, have not solved their long-term nuclear waste problems.
The Nevada State Office of Energy Report, 2008 Status of Energy, submitted to the Governor and legislators is a good source for understanding Nevada’s short term and long term demands for energy use.
What is your position in regards to the state spending $500,000 to fund an independent tax study of the State’s tax structure by an outside expert; and, appointment by the Interim Finance Committee (IFC) of a 19 member “Nevada Vision Stakeholders Group” to study how the state is preparing for its future?
Why do we need the taxpayer-funded stakeholders group when we had the SAGE Commission and their reports? I don’t think we need to keep creating more taxpayer-funded groups that appear to have an agenda of raising our taxes further.
Do you support Nevada’s Right-to Work law? Should Nevada State employees be allowed to unionize?
I fully support Nevada’s Right to Work law.
This law was influenced by the Taft-Hartley Act (1947) which prohibits unions from making it mandatory that employees join a union and pay dues to be employed in a facility. Otherwise, a “closed shop” environment would exist which many feel infringes on the Constitutional right to freedom of association. Additionally, forcing workers to relinquish a part of their hard earned paycheck in order to work treads on a citizen’s right of property ownership.
Nevadans deserve the right to choose. Unions will argue that employees receiving the benefits of their advocacy should pay dues which could be designated to other entities, especially if the employee has religious objections or simply does not believe in unions. However, we must enforce and protect our Right to Work law in Nevada.
Nevada state employees like employees of other businesses, have a right to make a choice as to whether they unionize or not.
Is there an issue I have not addressed that you would like to expound upon?
We need to improve the growing health concerns of the citizens of Nevada: Encourage prevention education and utilize some of the SAGE Commission recommendations to recover matching funds for programs
• NV ranked 50th in the nation with only 46.8% of its children who received medical and dental preventative care.
• NV ranked 51st with only 66.3% of Adults who had a usual source of care (DC was included in the count)
• NV ranked 51st with 38.5% of adults reporting poor mental health
• NV ranked 48th with 751 (per 100,000) Violent Crime rate
Attract healthcare providers to Nevada: 1. Offer deferred student loan options to nursing and medical students if they remain n Nevada for a number of years after graduation. 2. Promote Nevada as a state that has Tort Reform
• Registered Nurses -NV ranked 49th with only 600 RNs (per 100,000 population)
• Primary Care Physicians – NV ranked 46th with 85.3 MDs (per 100,000)
• Dentists -NV ranked 47th with 43 dentists (per 100,000)
• Psychiatrists – NV ranked 46th with 7 (per 100,000)
• Pediatricians – NV ranked 43rd with 56 per 100,000