Archive for December, 2009

Gibbons Says Nevada Airports Safe for Travelers, Criticizes Obama Administration for Failing to Prevent Terrorist Attack

By Sean Whaley | 1:50 pm December 30th, 2009

RENO – Gov. Jim Gibbons said air travelers should feel safe passing through Nevada’s two major airports despite last week’s attempted terrorist attack at Detroit, but he also strongly criticized the Obama Administration for failing to take proper actions to head off the failed attempt to blow up an airplane.

He also called on the administration’s Homeland Security Chief, Janet Napolitano, to resign.

Gibbons made his comments during a tour of the Reno-Tahoe International Airport, where he reviewed safety and security procedures including a demonstration of the facility’s bomb sniffing dog teams.

“I want to assure the people of Nevada, and those coming to Nevada, that our airports, Reno-Tahoe as well as the Las Vegas airport, have gone to extraordinary lengths to ensure that the traveling public is safe here,” Gibbons said.

But he also said the Obama Administration failed the traveling public by not “connecting the dots” to prevent suspected terrorist Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab from boarding Northwest Flight 253 on Christmas day. Abdulmutallab is suspected of attempting to detonate an explosive device in his underwear on the approach to the Detroit airport.

“They had the information available to them,” Gibbons said. “Then they tried to comfort the public by saying the system worked. When you have a failure like that, it’s not working.

“I think it is a result of this administration going back to treating terrorism like a crime, waiting until the act has been committed,” he said. “It’s failed the public. They need to take steps to show the public that they’ve taken the action to correct that. They need to make sure this never happens again.”

On the tour, Brian Kulpin, director of marketing and public affairs for the Reno airport, said those traveling through the facility will see an increased security presence as a result of the failed bombing attempt.

The airport is one of about 80 across the U.S. that has a canine explosive detection team, he said. The dog and police officer teams spent a lot of time examining cargo, but they can detect explosives on a passenger passing by as well.

The tour did not include all security areas, such as the baggage handling system. Gibbons said he has seen those areas but would not comment on any security procedures.

Kulpin said the airport’s new $63 million baggage handling system unveiled in November is so advanced for screening that other airport officials are coming to see it in operation.

The Reno airport is the 62nd busiest airport in the U.S. with nearly four million passengers passing through each year.

Gibbons and the media in attendance did get to see the airport’s $4.6 million Emergency Operations Center, which was relocated out of the main terminal area for enhanced security in 2006. Cameras showed various areas of the terminal and airport tarmac.

After the tour, Gibbons said he does not advocate the use of profiling passengers by race or ethnicity to detect terrorists as is done in some other countries. Using a terrorist profile, which would look at an individual’s associations and other factors, is appropriate, he said.

Preliminary Estimates by State Demographer Show Nevada Lost Population in 2009

By Sean Whaley | 11:42 am December 30th, 2009

CARSON CITY – For the first time in decades, Nevada’s population actually declined from one year to the next, dropping 1 percent from 2008 to 2009, according to preliminary estimates prepared by the Nevada State Demographer’s Office.

The estimates, which have not been finalized, show the state population on July 1, 2009 was 2,711,663, a decline of just over 27,000 residents for a 1 percent population decline compared to July 1, 2008.

The estimate is derived using different factors than those used by the U.S. Census Bureau, which may account for the differing estimates. The U.S. Censure Bureau last week reported Nevada’s population rose by 1 percent in the same time frame.

Because differing methods are used to make the estimates, the state demographer’s estimate shows about 70,000 more people residing in Nevada than the Census Bureau, 2.71 million compared to 2.64 million.

The preliminary population numbers were first reported by News Carson City, a Carson City-based news and information website.

The statewide decline comes after a 0.8 percent increase from 2007 to 2008, and a 3.6 percent increase from 2006 to 2007, showing the effects of the recession on the state of Nevada.

The census report from last week said Nevada actually experienced a negative net migration of domestic residents into the state during the year, which means more people left the state than moved here. The 27,000 population increase was attributed to births by Nevada residents and by an increase in international migration.

According to the state demographer’s preliminary estimates, Clark County lost more than 15,000 residents over the year for a 0.8 percent decline in population to 1,952,040.

The report, which is expected to be released in final form next month following any appeals by local government entities, shows Laughlin’s population declined by nearly 10 percent to 7,914 residents.

Some Clark County communities experienced growth, however, including Mesquite, which saw its population grow by 4.7 percent to 20,677 residents.

Washoe County saw a decline of 1.7 percent to 416,632 residents.

Even the fast-growing town of Pahrump in Nye County saw a population decline of 1.6 percent to 38,247, according to the estimates.

As further evidence Nevada may be experiencing an unprecedented population decline, the November report from the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation cited people leaving the state as a reason the unemployment rate actually declined compared to October. According to the report, Nevada’s labor force contracted for the second month in a row in November, falling by 1.5 percent, meaning roughly 13,900 workers either left the state or were too discouraged to seek employment.

The state demographer estimates are used for a variety of purposes including revenue distribution between the cities and towns. The Nevada State Demographer’s office is funded by the Nevada Department of Taxation and is responsible for conducting annual population estimates for Nevada’s counties, cities, and towns.

Yerington National Guard Rec Center Gets Holiday Makeover Courtesy of First Friday Reno and Local Lawmaker

By Sean Whaley | 12:22 pm December 29th, 2009

CARSON CITY – When the 80 members of Yerington’s L Troop of the 1st Squadron 221st Cavalry return from their one-year mission to Afghanistan in April, they will have a surprise waiting for them in addition to what will undoubtedly be a joyous homecoming with family and friends.

Rec center's old sofa classifed as "Early American Basement"

Rec center's old sofa classifed as "Early American Basement"

Having heard that the furniture in the troop’s Yerington recreation room dated from the 1970s and was described as “early American basement,” a group called First Friday Reno and Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, decided to do something about it.

Paul Jackson, organizer of the monthly conservative and libertarian social event called First Friday, said $1,400 was raised selling raffle tickets to win one of three firearms.

The money was then used to refurnish the rec room with new furniture from RC Willey Home Furnishings.

Included in the project was a 60-inch HD TV.

Jackson said RC Willey helped out in a big way by discounting the items. The fundraiser also generated $200 for the unit’s Family Readiness Group.

The furniture and television were delivered Dec. 22, just in time for Christmas.

60" big screen TV is delivered

60" big screen TV is delivered

“We just wanted to make their lives a bit easier when they get back here,” Settelmeyer said. “We all appreciate their sacrifice. No amount of money can repay them for their service. All we can do is good deeds.”

“The guys deserve it,” Jackson said. “When you’re spending time somewhere, you need a place to relax, write a letter, get on the computer or watch some TV.”

Most of the guardsmen and women assigned to the Yerington troop come from Carson City, Dayton, Reno, Sparks, Fallon and Fernley.

Those on deployment are serving in Laghman Province in southeast Afghanistan. They are providing security for a reconstruction team and are conducting combat and infantry missions.

Service men test out the new furniture and TV

Service men test out the new furniture and TV

The First Friday Reno event this month will be held Jan. 8 because of the New Year’s Holiday.

It will be at Harrah’s Reno Hotel & Casino in the Sapphire Lounge starting at 5:30 p.m.

Nevada Supreme Court Justice Ron Parraguirre to Head Court in 2010

By Sean Whaley | 5:00 pm December 28th, 2009
CARSON CITY – Nevada Supreme Court Justice Ron Parraguirre will take over as the new chief justice of the seven-member court in 2010.

The chief justice is the administrative head of the judicial branch and the public voice of the Supreme Court. The chief justice also oversees the direction of the judiciary’s activities. A majority vote of the full court, however, is required to take any major action.

Parraguirre takes over from Chief Justice James Hardesty, who served as the court’s liaison to the Nevada Legislature during the 2009 session. Hardesty won approval from the Legislature for nine new district court judges in Clark County and one in Washoe County. The cost of the new jurists will be paid for through fees rather than general fund dollars.

Hardesty also was instrumental in implementing a Foreclosure Mediation Program, at no cost to taxpayers, to assist Nevada homeowners deal with the foreclosure crisis.

“In today’s hard economic times, the court has managed to keep the wheels of justice turning and the doors open for business,” Hardesty said. “In addition to cutting the court’s budget, we reverted more than $2 million for fiscal year 2009 to the state general fund.”

Parraguirre was elected to the Supreme Court in 2004.

Both Parraguirre and Hardesty have announced they intend to seek new terms on the court in 2010.

Citizens Panel Appointees Ask for Patience as They Consider Nevada’s Vision for the Future

By Sean Whaley | 4:21 pm December 28th, 2009
CARSON CITY – As lawmakers prepare to study the state’s revenue structure and develop a long-term vision for Nevada’s future, several members of a citizens panel appointed to assist in the process agree on two points: Give us a chance before you pass judgment on our effort, and don’t put our work on a shelf.

“It’s tough to criticize something that hasn’t happened yet,” said Boyd Martin of Boyd Martin Construction, who is representing the Las Vegas Chapter of the Associated General Contractors on the 19-member panel. “I hope the panel will be effective; that the time will be well spent. I want our results to have some meaning.”

Marsha Irvin, chancellor of the Andre Agassi College Preparatory Academy in Las Vegas, said the task of identifying what the state’s quality of life should look like in the next 5 to 20 years is of monumental importance.

An educator for 32 years, Irvin said: “I’m going into the process with the perspective of being very open minded.”

It is premature to suggest what, if any, recommendations regarding a tax increase will come from the group, she said. The first task is to examine where Nevada is now, where it should be and then set out to bring that vision to reality, Irvin said.

The panel will work closely with Moody’s Analytics, a contractor hired by the Legislature to perform the study of the state’s revenue structure at a cost of $253,000. The contractor has until July 1 to complete its review.

The Nevada News Bureau interviewed a half dozen members of the “Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group” to get their views on the challenging job ahead. The members were appointed last month by the Legislature. The panel will meet for the first time on January 8, 2010.

While the panel has yet to meet, its makeup has been criticized by some Republican lawmakers for having too many representatives of interests that consume tax revenue as opposed to those that produce tax revenue. There is also a belief by some critics, including Gov. Jim Gibbons, that a recommendation for a tax increase from the panel is a forgone conclusion.

Panel member Alan Feldman, senior vice president of public affairs for the state’s largest private employer, MGM Mirage, said criticism of the panel’s work is welcome as long as it comes from those willing to participate in finding solutions to the state’s challenges.

“Nothing is going to easy about this,” he said. “I’m not approaching it from a certain political point of view.”

But don’t play Monday morning quarterback, Feldman said.

“As a representative of the largest employer in the state, as a parent, as a member of this commission, we cannot under any circumstances let our educational system continue on the way it is,” he said.

Which is not to say there aren’t efficiencies that can be implemented, Feldman said.

Donald Snyder, who serves as the volunteer chairman of the board of the Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas and who is a former president of the Boyd Gaming Corp., said he is optimistic the panel can produce a report of value for use by lawmakers and the governor.

“I think this type of process is difficult even under the best of circumstances,” he said. “But if ever there was a time we need to take a long-term look, now is the time to do it.”

Snyder said the charge to the panel can only be accomplished with the public and private sectors working together to put their best thoughts forward for consideration by the group.

“If it is just another exercise in a study that will go nowhere, I will be really disappointed,” he said.

Rene Cantú Jr., vice president of multicultural affairs for Nevada State College and representing the Latin Chamber of Commerce on the panel, said Nevada needs to get away from its boom and bust cycles. Expanding the diversity of the state’s employment base would help to accomplish that goal.

“There needs to be some sort of method of stabilizing our funding for schools and roads,” he said. “I don’t believe throwing money at public education will improve our schools. We must spend smartly. But we have to spend if we want a good quality of life.”

Denise Tanata Ashby, executive director of the Nevada Institute for Children’s Research and Policy at UNLV, said as a panel member she will reach out to as many people and points of view as possible.

Previous studies of Nevada’s tax structure have not been very successful, but Tanata Ashby believes this time might be different.

“We’re looking at a different climate right now,’ she said. “I hope there we can put some solid recommendations together that are going to improve Nevada.”

Tanata Ashby said it is time to gain some ground in Nevada’s poor rankings on issues affecting children. This doesn’t necessarily mean a tax increase, but possibly a realignment of where tax dollars are being spent, she said.

While Nevada cannot expect to move into first place in quality of life rankings overnight, progress needs to be made, Ashby said.

“We are all taxpayers ourselves,” she said. “But at some point, everybody has to contribute if we want that vision of Nevada that we have.”

State Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, has said he believes the panel is well represented by business and other varied interests throughout the state.

But state Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, in comments made after the panel was named last month, said he believes the outcome of the review will be a call for higher taxes since only six of the 19 are in the “taxpayer” category.

A review of the voter registration of the members of the panel shows that 12 are Democrats, five are Republicans and two are nonpartisan.

To critics of the panel‘s composition, it is a further sign that the end result of the review will be a preordained call for higher taxes.

Townsend said the next Legislature already faces the challenge of how to fill a multi-billion dollar gap in the budget before considering additional spending on public education or other quality of life issues.

“Not to criticize the contractor, but the problem is no one will admit that the society we want, we can’t afford,” he said. “We want everyone to have health care, jobs and educational opportunities. That’s great. But who is going to pay for that?”

Nevada Supreme Court Says Juror Questionnaires in Criminal Proceedings are Presumptively Public Records

By Sean Whaley | 1:16 pm December 24th, 2009

CARSON CITY – The Nevada Supreme Court today ruled that questionnaires used to pick juries in criminal court proceedings are “presumptively” subject to public disclosure barring some finding that doing so could jeopardize a defendant’s right to a fair trial.

The ruling is the result of an effort by the Las Vegas Review-Journal and The Associated Press to obtain the questionnaires used to seat a jury in the O.J. Simpson robbery trial in Las Vegas in 2008.

The court ruled on the matter even though the trial is over and Simpson was found guilty of the kidnapping and armed robbery of two sports memorabilia dealers at the Palace Station in 2007. Simpson is now serving a minimum nine-year prison term.

The court noted that the issue is likely to rise again in a future criminal proceeding.

The Review-Journal and The Associated Press sought access to a copy of the blank juror questionnaire before juror questioning by the attorneys in the case commenced, and access to the completed questionnaires of the jurors and alternates who were ultimately selected to serve as members of the jury.

Clark County District Judge Jackie Glass denied the request by the media to intervene in her decision to keep the juror information confidential.

After the jury was seated and sworn, the district court permitted the press to access the blank juror questionnaire and juror questionnaires with some information redacted were released after the trial.

But the Supreme Court, in a 6-0 decision, said Glass needed to make specific findings before rejecting the media request to have access to the juror information but did not do so.

The court said Glass failed to “articulate specific findings that would defeat the First Amendment’s presumption of openness.”

The court ordered the release of all blank and completed juror questionnaires to the media organizations.

Governor Gibbons Makes Appointment to Public Utilities Commission

By Sean Whaley | 1:14 pm December 24th, 2009

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons today announced the appointment of Alaina Burtenshaw to the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada.

Burtenshaw is presently legal counsel for regulatory operations staff at the agency. She has been an employee of the PUCN since 1992. Prior to that Burtenshaw worked for the Hilbrecht and Associates law firm in Las Vegas.

Burtenshaw is a resident of Pahrump, and received her undergraduate degree in history at Idaho State University and her law degree from the Ross McCollum College of Law at the University of Nebraska.

Burtenshaw will replace Jo Anne Kelly on the PUCN.

The agency’s mission is to enable universal access to affordable, efficient, safe and reliable utility service in Nevada by ensuring that all of its decisions are based on a fair and impartial examination of the evidence, as well as exhaustive investigation.

The commission balances the interest of customers and shareholders of public utilities by providing utilities with the opportunity to earn a fair return on their investments while providing customers with just and reasonable rates.

The PUCN consists of three commissioners appointed by the governor for terms of four years. Qualified appointees must have at least two years of experience in one or more of the following fields: accounting, business administration, finance or economics, administrative law, or professional engineering.

Gibbons Will Ask Nevada Attorney General to Weigh in on Constitutionality of Reid Health Care Bill

By Sean Whaley | 4:47 pm December 23rd, 2009
CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons said today he will ask the state attorney general to review the health care legislation scheduled for a vote tomorrow in the U.S. Senate to determine if it violates the U.S. Constitution by forcing everyone to have health insurance.

Gibbons said governors in several states have asked their legal advisors to perform such a review. Earlier today, the bill survived a challenges by Republican Senators led by Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., seeking an examination of the bill because of the constitutionality question on the health insurance mandate.

In addition to seeking the review, Gibbons continued to attack the measure pushed by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., for “handing out billions of dollars in taxpayer financed ‘inducements’ to muster the votes needed to pass his health care package.”

Gibbons also responded to a comment by Reid spokesman Jon Summers made earlier this week that he should read the legislation before criticizing it.

“We have read the bill and that’s exactly what troubles us,” Gibbons said. “Sen. Reid keeps saying his enticements to other senators to coerce them to support his bill are just compromise and politics as usual. But if any citizen used these tactics in day-to-day business deals, they would be led away in handcuffs and charged with bribery.”

Summers responded: “Jim Gibbons has made it very clear that his plan is to continue using taxpayer dollars to fund political hits on Sen. Reid by parroting the national Republican Party’s talking points.

“As the governor of a state with the second highest rate of uninsured in the country, this self-proclaimed fiscal conservative thinks it’s fine for taxpayers to foot the bill for people whose only option to see a doctor is in the emergency room.”

Summers also said: “Gibbons would rather 24,000 small businesses not receive the tax credit Sen. Reid included to help make it more affordable for them to provide insurance to their employees. And while Nevada families are scraping to get by, he thinks it’s better for them to miss out on a $1,600 savings on their insurance premiums.”

Gibbons said the Senate version of the health care legislation will cost state taxpayers $613 million over six years beginning in 2014 when a three-year federal payment to cover the cost of an increased Medicaid caseload goes away.

Gibbons said after a review of the legislation, “It is clear that many businesses will find it more profitable to pay a federal penalty and end the health insurance they provide to their employees. Those working families will be forced onto Nevada Medicaid. This, alone, will make the state Medicaid enrollment bulge beyond affordable capacity. This will also cut off health insurance many Nevadans presently enjoy.”

October Taxable Sales Continue Year-Long Double-Digit Slump

By Sean Whaley | 3:47 pm December 23rd, 2009
CARSON CITY – Nevada’s statewide taxable sales continued to generate dismal numbers in October, plunging 17.8 percent compared to the same month in 2008, a report released today by the Department of Taxation shows.

Consumers purchased $3.1 billion worth of taxable goods in October, compared to $3.7 billion in October 2008. For the first four months of the fiscal year, taxable sales are off by 19.7 percent.

It was the 12th consecutive month of double-digit declines in the economic indicator.

The report did nothing to alleviate concerns about the health of the state budget and the likelihood that a special legislative session will be needed to deal with the drop in state tax revenues, which were off by $67 million prior to the release of the October numbers.

Sales and use tax collections are now $18 million below what was forecasted for the first four months of the 2010 fiscal year. Sales and use taxes make up a big share of the state general fund budget.

“The release of taxable sales and revenue collection data for the month of October continue to illustrate the effects of high unemployment rates, cautious consumer spending and an overall decline in business activity,” Gov. Jim Gibbons said. “My administration will continue our efforts to encourage increased tourism, promote business growth, expansion, and diversity within this state, and raise consumer confidence to better prepare Nevada for the future.”

Taxable sales were down 19 percent in Clark County and 10.5 percent in Washoe County and were down in 15 of the state’s 17 counties. Only Humboldt and Storey counties posted gains.

Of the major taxable sales categories, only clothing and accessories stores posted a positive number, up 4.2 percent over October 2008.

The single largest category, bars and restaurants, which in September had showed an increase, was down again in October by 8.9 percent.

Home furniture and furnishings were off by 19.3 percent, motor vehicle and parts dealers were down 14.1 percent and the construction industry classification was off by 39 percent.

Gibbons is expected to decide on whether to call a special session in late January, after the Economic Forum, a panel of private industry fiscal experts, weighs in on revenue forecasts for the remainder of the two years of the budget.

Gibbons has asked state agencies to submit by plans by early next month showing what budget cuts of 6 percent to 10 percent would mean to their programs and services.

Nevada’s Population Growth Slows, Fourth Congressional Seat Still Likely

By Sean Whaley | 12:28 pm December 23rd, 2009
CARSON CITY – Nevada’s once red-hot population growth slowed significantly this year compared to 2008, expanding by just over 27,000 residents to 2.64 million, according to an estimate released today by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The grown rate from July 1, 2008 to July 1 this year was only 1 percent, a far cry from years past when Nevada grew annually by 3 percent or more and frequently Nevada led the nation in growth. From 2007 to 2008, Nevada added 48,000 residents for a 1.9 percent growth rate. The previous year saw a 3 percent growth rate.

Despite the slowing growth rate, Nevada would gain a fourth Congressional seat based on the July 1 estimates according to several different analyses. But it will be the actual 2010 census count, which will be released about this time next year, that will determine if Nevada gains another seat.

Katrina Wengert, a demographer with the U.S. Census Bureau, said the agency does not make such calculations.

“We hope our estimates are right in line with census 2010, but we don’t know what is going to happen,” she said. “We do know growth in Nevada has slowed quite a bit. It is definitely a change for Nevada, which was a fast grower for many years. It has potential implications for 2010.”

Nevada State Demographer Jeff Hardcastle said the state is unlikely to see a return anytime soon to the strong growth rate it experienced for much of the past six decades.

“The next two years, given the national and international economies, will see slow growth or at least fairly flat for us,” he said.

Most of Nevada’s growth in the latest census estimate is due to births, not migration into the state, Hardcastle said.

Nevada’s growth for much of the 1990s was the state’s gaming economy, which faced little competition, he said. Low housing prices and plenty of available land and water continued the pattern.

“That’s all changed,” Hardcastle said.

According to the Census Bureau estimates, Texas gained more people than any other state between July 1, 2008, and July 1, 2009 with 478,000 new residents, followed by followed by California with 381,000, North Carolina with 134,000, Georgia with 131,000 and Florida with 114,000.

“This is the final set of Census Bureau state population estimates that will be published before the official 2010 Census population counts to be released next December,” said Census Bureau Director Robert Groves. “We are focused now on ensuring we get a complete and accurate count in 2010. The census counts will not only determine how many U.S. House seats each state will have but will also be used as the benchmark for future population estimates.”

Wyoming showed the largest percentage growth: its population climbed 2.12 percent to 544,270 between July 1, 2008, and July 1, 2009. Utah was next largest, growing 2.10 percent to 2.8 million. Texas ranked third, as its population climbed 1.97 percent to 24.8 million, with Colorado next at 1.81 percent to 5 million.

The only three states to lose population over the period were Michigan, -0.33 percent, Maine, -0.11 percent and Rhode Island, -0.03 percent.

Other highlights:

- Net domestic migration has slowed dramatically in many states in the South and West, including Nevada, Arizona, Idaho, North Carolina, South Carolina and Montana.

- Several states have negative net domestic migration, which means more people are moving out than moving in. Florida and Nevada, which earlier in the decade had net inflows, are now experiencing new outflows. Nevada’s population grew because of births and international migration into the state.

- The nation’s population as of July 1, 2009, was 307 million, an increase of 0.86 percent since July 1, 2008.

Sparks Assemblyman Says He Won’t Run for Open State Senate Seat

By Sean Whaley | 4:04 pm December 22nd, 2009
CARSON CITY – Long time state Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, said today he has decided against running for the open Senate 2 seat in Washoe County.

Anderson, who has served in the Assembly since 1991, said he was seriously considering a run for the seat that is being vacated by Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, because of term limits. Anderson himself is being termed out of his Assembly 31 seat after his term ends next year.

But Anderson said after giving it some careful thought, he decided he would be unable to commit the amount of time needed to do the job well.

“It takes a huge amount of reading to stay on top of everything,” he said. “I actually read the bills I vote on. I just don’t feel I would be able to meet what I consider to be the responsibilities of the job.”

As a result, Anderson will be leaving political elective office next year.

The decision leaves at least one Democratic candidate still seeking the office. Gary Schmidt, a 35-year Nevada resident who served a term on the Washoe County Board of Equalization, is an announced candidate for the Senate 2 seat. Schmidt ran unsuccessfully for the Washoe County Commission District 4 seat in 2008.

On the Republican side, Assemblyman Don Gustavson of Sparks, who serves in District 32, has announced his candidacy for the Senate seat.

Anderson said he has been told that Washoe County District 4 Commissioner Robert Larkin is also interested in running for the seat as a GOP candidate, but Larkin could not be reached for comment on his plans.

Anderson is one of a number of lawmakers who is being forced from office due to voter-approved term limits. The 2010 elections are the first year the limits are taking effect and 17 of 63 lawmakers are termed out of office. Some have announced plans to seek other legislative seats.

Anderson, a retired teacher, said he never regretted his decision to serve in the Assembly for 10 sessions. He served as chairman of the powerful Judiciary Committee for much of that time.

He may yet reprise his role as a legislator if, as he anticipates, Gov. Jim Gibbons calls a special session of the Legislature in late January or early February to deal with the budget shortfall and other pressing issues.

NDOT Christmas Miracle: I-15 North Construction Project To Be Completed Early

By Sean Whaley | 3:42 pm December 22nd, 2009
CARSON CITY – The Nevada Department of Transportation is delivering an early Christmas present to Las Vegas motorists on Thursday with substantial completion of the Interstate 15 design-build north project.

Ramps to and from I-15 at Lake Mead Boulevard will be opened to traffic.

The ramp openings will mark the opening of all significant traffic movements on the $240 million project that made improvements to the I-15 corridor from the I-15/US 95 “Spaghetti Bowl” interchanges to Craig Road in North Las Vegas.

The project’s purpose is to relieve congestion and improve traffic flow in the I-15 corridor in response to continued growth in the Las Vegas Valley.

The first design build project for NDOT, built by North Corridor Constructors, will still have some minor lane closures throughout the month of January as crews put final touches to the project.

The project originally scheduled for completion in the fall of 2010 was completed 10 months early.

“Much of the credit for the early completion goes to the motorists who drive I-15 regularly,” said Mary Martini, NDOT’s District 1 District Engineer. “Those who found personal alternate routes to avoid the congestion made our construction efforts more productive, allowing the project to be completed well ahead of schedule.”

Gibbons, Reid Spokesman Trade Barbs on Federal Health Care Legislation

By Sean Whaley | 5:36 pm December 21st, 2009

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons today launched another attack on what he calls the health care “reform” legislation pushed by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, saying the measure will cost Nevada residents $613 million a year in additional state taxes.

A Reid spokesman countered that Gibbons should read the bill before commenting on the legislation.

Gibbons said the legislation, which passed the U.S. Senate in a late-night vote on Sunday, “will neither promote good health in Nevada nor reform our current health care system.”

“Sen. Reid is wishing Nevadans a Merry Christmas with a smile on his face and a knife in our backs,” he said.

The $613 million is what the state will have to pay out of its general fund for the expansion of the state Medicaid program after three years when federal coverage for the expanded caseload ends, according to the Gibbons administration.

“Nevadans will also pay more than $1.5 billion through increased federal income taxes, Gibbons said. “This irresponsible legislation will bankrupt the state of Nevada and leave every working Nevada family out in the cold in the New Year.”

Reid spokesman Jon Summers replied: “Based on how Jim Gibbons has run this state, whatever he is against is probably good for Nevada. Instead of using his official office to parrot national Republican talking points the governor may want to take some time to actually read the legislation that is posted online and was even read on the Senate Floor for him on Saturday.“

Summers said the bill lowers premiums for Nevadans by as much as $1,600 a year, provides tax credits for 24,000 Nevada businesses, extends the life of Medicare by nearly a decade, and provides access to health care for more than half a million uninsured Nevadans.

But Gibbons said Reid’s health care measure will subject Americans to unwanted changes to their health coverage and increase their taxes. Reid is also ignoring the 56 percent of Nevadans who oppose the measure, a number Gibbons said is growing every day.

“Sen. Reid needs to look at the damage his health care plan will do to Nevada and stop pandering to special interests and his political friends,” he said. “Reid and his Democrat supporters are playing games with implementation dates and hiding harmful cuts to vulnerable senior citizens, all the while pretending the average taxpayer will not end up holding the bag.”

Gibbons also criticized Reid for including language in the bill to benefit Nebraska and its Medicaid program in an effort to secure the 60 votes needed to move the legislation forward.

“Maybe he should move to Nebraska where he can do less harm to Nevada,” Gibbons said.

Gibbons, Lawmakers Meet to Discuss Budget in First “Open Door” Session

By Sean Whaley | 2:40 pm December 21st, 2009

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons and nine state lawmakers from both political parties spent about an hour today informally discussing potential solutions to the state’s budget shortfall, including a discussion of state employee furloughs versus pay reductions.

The first “open door” meeting proposed by Gibbons to discuss solutions to a current $67 million shortfall in the state general fund budget was productive, according to two of the lawmakers who attended.

The meeting was not open to the general public, and it disbanded before an invitation to the media to attend the last 15 minutes of the get-together could be accommodated.

Gibbons left to attend another engagement after about an hour of discussion.

Gibbons spokesman Dan Burns said the governor appreciated the open dialogue with the five Democrats and four Republicans and said there was agreement to continue the meetings on a regular basis.

“The important thing was to have a starting point for a dialogue, which seemed to go very well today,” he said. “The second thing is, make sure your dialogue includes the exchange of ideas. Everyone got a chance to speak.”

Burns said the furlough and pay reduction discussion came up because not all state employees are now being required to take a furlough day as required by the 2009 Legislature to help balance the budget. Key correctional positions are exempted, for example, creating an inequity with other state employees, he said.

Gibbons had proposed a straight pay cut for all employees instead.

“It is not fair to have a certain segment that doesn’t have to take a furlough or some sort of pay reduction, and a certain segment that does,” Burns said.

Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, who attended the meeting via videoconference from Las Vegas, said he welcomed the chance to talk directly with Gibbons.

“I needed the opportunity to lobby him to have a special session in order to clear the decks so we can get the Race to the Top money,” he said.

Some lawmakers have called on Gibbons to quickly call a special session so a Nevada law prohibiting the state from receiving the federal stimulus funds to improve student achievement can be repealed and an application can be submitted next month.

Gibbons has so far rejected the call for an early special session, saying Nevada is better off applying for the second round of funding in June.

Coffin said he also pushed for a legislative change at a special session to allow the state to use $160 million in borrowed funds to help get through this fiscal year rather than next year. Only $30 million in the loan from a local government investment pool can be used this year without the change.

Some lawmakers have proposed accessing the borrowed funds now rather than making immediate budget cuts to balance the budget.

Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, said the meeting provided good interaction.

“It opened a line of communication which is good to see,” he said. “There have been times when the Legislature and the executive branch have not talked that much.”

Settelmeyer said he agrees that it is better to wait to call a special session so that the Race to the Top issue and the budget problems can all be addressed at the same time.

Settelmeyer said he is concerned about the inequities in the application of the one-day-a-month furlough requirement. The fact that the furloughs do not apply to all employees equally was an unintended consequence the legislation failed to recognize, he said.

Settelmeyer said he would rather see staff prepare a list of all the new programs approved by the Legislature over the past 10 years so they can be evaluated as to whether they are necessary.

“Are they all necessary or are there some programs we could do without?” he asked. “I don’t want to see any more cuts to state employee salaries across-the-board.”

Other lawmakers attending the meeting included Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas; Assemblyman Tom Grady, R-Yerington; Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka; Assemblyman John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas; Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson; Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, and Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson.

Action Needed Soon to End U.S. Dependence on Oil, UNR Professor Tells Reno Audience

By Sean Whaley | 4:11 pm December 18th, 2009

RENO – If the United States does not begin to wean itself from its dependence on oil within the next several years, limited supply and increasing demand by countries like China and India could spell economic disaster, a UNR professor said today.

The grim scenario was presented by UNR adjunct professor John Anthony Scire to the National Security Forum, an informal group that meets regularly to learn about international issues affecting the United States. Scire, who has a doctoral degree in political science, presented his talk, called Global Energy Insecurity: Oil Dependency and National Security, to about 100 members of the group.

About 4.7 billion barrels out of the 7.1 billion we use annually comes from other countries, some of which are unstable and do not care for us, he said.

Motor fuels account for 65 percent of the oil consumption in the U.S., and that demand is expected to increase by 30 percent by 2030, Scire said. And world demand for oil is expected to grow by 57 percent by the same date, he said.

This despite the fact that global peak oil production may be only two decades away or even sooner, Scire said. All the major oil fields are believed to have been discovered already, he said.

The net result of this collection of facts is that oil dependent countries such as the U.S. are vulnerable to economic catastrophe. The entire country, from agribusiness to the delivery of all goods and services, is dependent on oil, he said.

Action needs to be taken now, years before peak production is reached, to avoid potentially severe economic consequences, Scire said.

“If peak oil is tomorrow, where is the United States going to be,” he said. “Well, we’re going to become impoverished relative to a lot of other countries.”

But problems could emerge even sooner, Scire said. Before last year’s economic collapse, demand for oil exceeded supply, pushing prices up to such levels that the national and world economies were severely affected, Scire said.

Other countries that compete with us, such as Germany and Japan, are already far ahead on eliminating oil dependence, which makes the U.S. less competitive, he said.

Military consequences include huge expenditures to protect oil producing countries and routes and the increased likelihood of conflict over the limited supplies, Scire said. The military is the single largest user of petroleum products in the U.S., he said.

We also end up supporting repressive regimes because we need their oil, he said. This results in disaffected residents of these countries targeting the U.S. because of this support, Scire said.

Heavier reliance on natural gas or coal are options, but supplies of these natural resources are limited as well, Scire said. Nuclear power production needs to be a part of the solution to ending this dependence, he said.

But a major shift to plug-in and hybrid vehicles would greatly reduce our oil dependence and is an attractive option, he said. Other options include increasing vehicle efficiency, an expansion of mass transportation and smarter urban planning to reduce our reliance on vehicles, Scire said.

“Dr. Scire’s presentation illustrated the harsh fact that oil production has likely peaked, but demand will increase significantly in the absence of serious efforts to wean ourselves off our addiction to oil,” said event organizer Ty Cobb. “What concerns me is that our friends in Europe and Asia are even more dependent on imports to quench their oil requirements. This will likely lead to increased conflicts over access to dwindling sources.”