Governor Brian Sandoval is turning over some of his national duties as he enters the home stretch of his tenure.
John L. Smith said that in New Mexico over the weekend, he turned over reins of the National Governors' Association to Montana Governor Steve Bullock, a Democrat.
That transition wasn't the main topic at the conference, Smith said. Instead, most governors are worried about trade.
"One of the big topics was the potential damage that a trade war would create with the Trump administration really making a lot of noise and ruffling feathers in Canada, Mexico and elsewhere and especially China. So many states’ economies are interwoven with international trade,” he said.
Smith said Nevada has a lot of trade ties around the world and Nevadans have businesses that are based in other countries. He said all of that is built on relationships and "built on a certain level of mature leadership coming from Washington that encourages those relationships rather than seems to be more incendiary as we’re experiencing lately."
Another important topic at the conference was the opioid crisis, Smith said.
“Governors are really taking it upon themselves to do what the federal government has been really slow to do and that is to focus on the issue, to go after the corporate offenders and to at some point litigate them,” he said.
Smith pointed out that besides the horrific human toll the epidemic has had there has been an enormous cost to state and local budgets for first responders and other services.
The Western Governors Conference wasn't the only thing on Smith's mind. He also interested in a new report on congressional leadership PACs.
In a column in the Nevada Independent, Smith explains how the PACs work. They are supposed to raise funds for senators and representatives; however, the money can also be expensed out to raise more money.
“You’ve got these senators and members of the House going on essentially junkets to fundraise, spending a lot of money on some very nice restaurants, very nice entertainment, the best hotel rooms and travel costs and things like that in the name of supposedly fundraising for someone else, makes it sound kind of selfless, in reality what you’ve got is a party that never ends,” he said.
The report shows thousands have been spent in Las Vegas hotels, restaurants and showrooms. And both parties are involved.
On the death of handicapper Russ Culver:
"Russ Culver was one of the brains of the industry certainly from the 80s through the late 90s"
Smith noted that Culver was so good at the sports books pick 'em contests that he put out his own betting line that became syndicated.
He also ran sports books at major casinos.
Smith said Culver was one of the individuals that carried the industry forward.
“They might have been corporate by name it was really the strength of their intellects and integrities that made sports betting what it is today”
On the deadly shooting at a Mormon church in Fallon:
“To drive to Fallon is to experience a different Nevada. Certainly outside Las Vegas” he said.
The small community outside of Reno is mostly built on the Air Force base and farming.
Smith says it has "almost a Midwestern feel" with school and church as central pillars of the community.
He said the shooting "would shock the community" and put it on its heels - at least for a while.
John L. Smith, reporter, contributor to State of Nevada
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