Archive for April, 2010

Should Nevada Adopt the Iowa Model: Budgeting for Outcomes via Empowerment-Based Charter Agencies?

By Elizabeth Crum | 4:33 pm April 30th, 2010

And speaking of former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack — see my previous post — he got a fond mention in a recent piece about budget reform by fiscal policy analyst, Geoff Lawrence, over at NPRI.

Lawrence has been tackling the issues of the state’s mounting budget challenges in his columns, and in this one he suggests Nevada ought to move from a “baseline budgeting” to results-based approach such as Budgeting for Outcomes (BFO).  Apparently it was successfully done by Governor Vilsack (a Democrat) via the creation of something called “charter agencies.”  Read on:

An inevitable obstacle to this approach, however, will be the resistance to change that inheres within bureaucratic cultures. To transition Nevada’s agencies from a rigid focus on process to a focus on producing meaningful, cost-effective results, something more will be needed — something that can positively impact the culture within government.

Former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack developed a method for accomplishing this very task. He established voluntary “charter agencies,” under a concept similar to the empowerment model for public schools. Program directors could have more flexibility and control over available resources, but at the price of increased accountability.

Vilsack’s budget staff offered individual state agencies the option of volunteering as charter agencies. Participating agencies agreed to receive fewer General Fund dollars but, in exchange, agency directors were granted all the finance powers that previously resided in the departments of Information Technology, Personnel and Purchasing.

Thus, charter-agency directors received direct control over agency resources and were freed to allocate those resources toward what they saw as their best use. No longer did they first have to gain other agencies’ approval — a process that can severely hamstring a director’s ability to respond to changing circumstances. The charter-agencies directors gained the freedom to add or reduce personnel, negotiate wages, and purchase new software programs, vehicles or other goods and services at will.

The price of this extra freedom, however, is increased accountability. Charter agencies are expected to produce quantifiable results. In Iowa, charter agency directors are required to meet with the governor at the outset of each fiscal year to develop an “annual performance agreement.” The agreement outlines “measurable organization and individual goals for the director in key operational areas” and defines the metrics used to evaluate performance. In order for the director to retain charter agency powers, the agency must achieve the goals outlined in the performance agreement.

In Iowa, charter agencies have vastly outperformed their previous track records as non-charter agencies. The Department of Natural Resources reduced the average turnaround time for permit applications from 187 days to 30 days. The Department of Corrections reduced the probation failure rate by 17 percent. The Veterans Home, a long-term care facility, reduced the fraction of patients experiencing moderate to severe pain by half. The Department of Revenue increased the number of personal income tax filings completed within 45 days from 75 percent to 94 percent.

Lawrence says all this occurred while the state realized General Fund savings.  And that an additional benefit of Iowa’s brand of charter agencies is that they are contractually immune from (always unpopular) across-the-board budget cuts.  And that they can retain up to half of all funds in their account and pay out bonuses to highly productive workers if they wish. In other words, there is an incentive for agency efficiency and thrift while still yielding savings to the General Fund.

Apparently charter agencies have been recognized with an Innovations in American Government Award from Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government and have enjoyed bi-partisan support in states where they have been implemented.

I’m not a fiscal policy expert, but I can’t think of a downside to this.  Can you?

Please post Comments if you have questions or comments, especially if are a subject expert (but either way).

Chickens for Checkups TV Ad & Patriot Majority PAC

By Elizabeth Crum | 3:29 pm April 30th, 2010

Was curious, so looked for info on the 527 (PAC) Patriot Majority that is up with the “Chickens for Checkups” TV ad mentioned in my earlier post on Sue Lowden.

You can glance over a summary page of the PAC on CampaignMoney.com.

Craig Varoga, a principal with the political consulting firm Independent Strategies and partner at Varoga & Associates, is the founder of Patriot Majority (established in October 2009). Varoga is a strategist who, among other things, managed former Iowa governor Tom Vilsack’s presidential campaign and served as national field director for retired Four Star General Wesley Clark.  During the ’90s, he served as communications director to Harry Reid and managed various campaigns including the victories of Texas Congressman Ken Bentsen (1994) and two Houston mayors.

(Sidebar:  Here is one of Patriot Majority’s web-based email campaigns titled “The Tea Party is Over” and calling on supporters to “say no to the dangerous extremism that threatens to tear our country apart.”  The page header includes a photo of an angry looking Sarah Palin.)

Here is their expenditure info as well as the list of recent (2010) donors from OpenSecrets.org (with the two entities with Nevada ties in bold text):

Rank Contributor Total
1 Service Employees Intl Union Local 1199 $235,125
2 Sheet Metal Workers Union $80,000
3 Zuffa LLC $75,000
3 Newmont Mining $75,000
5 National Education Assn $40,000
6 Harrah’s Operating Co $37,500
7 Ironworkers Union $25,000
7 Teamsters Union $25,000
9 Carpenters & Joiners Union/New England $10,000
9 IBEW Local 103 $10,000
11 Eastern Massachusetts Bricklayer People’ $5,000
12 Elevator Constructors Local 4 $1,000
13 Communications Workers Of America $0

We all know who Harrah’s is.

Newmont is one of the world’s largest gold producers with active mines all over the world including here in Nevada.  They are the only gold company listed on the S&P 500. Here’s the Nevada info page on their corporate website as well as their management team.

(History:  Newmont discovered gold in Carlin, Nevada — just west of Elko — in 1962 and opened its first mill in 1965 under the name Carlin Gold Mining Company.  In 1986 they went public as Newmont with the sale of five million shares for $47.5M.  The “Carlin Trend” was the largest 20th century gold strike in North America.)

A Few Lowden Updates

By Elizabeth Crum | 11:24 am April 30th, 2010

Item #1, a funny comment and hot tip about the latest rage in chicken games from Sebelius:

Wait, what? Senate hopeful Sue Lowden is still talking about bartering for health care? You know, the Chinese have a saying, “When you’re in a hole, stop digging before you hit a huge pocket of hot liquid magma and incinerate any hope you ever had of becoming a U.S. senator!” That’s how that goes, right?

And, inevitably, the Harry Reid campaign has launched a chickens for checkups Facebook game.

Item #2, as Flashed by Ralston this morning:

Patriot Majority ad uses regular folks deriding Bartergate

Here’s the script:

“(Sue Lowden) In the olden days our grandparents they would bring a chicken to the doctor. (Man#1) I don’t know how the docs would feel about me bringing a chicken into the doctor’s office, right. (Woman #1) Can this doctor take this chicken to a gas station? To a grocery store? (Woman #2) I think it’s a little out of touch. (Man#2) Totally fantasy land. (Man #3) Sounds like a joke. (Woman #1) Can he pay his mortgage with it? (Man#2) She is divorced from the reality that most people live. [Chyron-‘Sue Lowden’s Chicken for Checkups?’] (Man#1) No I don’t think so.”

Here’s the ad:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PPorK5Bvi9E

And Lowden goes on the attack against Harry Reid w/op-ed in Politico defending Bartergate but using the majority leader as a foil:

http://dyn.politico.com/printstory.cfm?uuid=4F662F9B-18FE-70B2-A8D8A3111F2E2F63

It’s a pretty good op-ed qua campaign missive.  If you are a Lowden fan, you will wish she had written it weeks ago.

Item #3, a WaPo op-ed.  About which I have a question, the same one Tweeted by Ralston yesterday. When did Team Lowden send out a statement suggesting she had meant to say “haggle” instead of “barter” and explaining that the idea was to offer to pay in cash if medical providers would agree to lower the price…?  The author of the WaPo piece says that happened — but if so, I guess I (and every journalist in Nevada) missed it.

Item #4, from TPM, a story about how Cornyn and the NRSC are confident of scooping up a number of Senate seats this fall.  I find the story notable because Lowden is one of five likely challengers pictured on a U.S. map graphic in the left side bar, but she is not included in the text.  Why does Cornyn fail to mention her?  Or the reporter fail to ask?

Item #5, from The Plumline, a post about Team Tark circulating an email including the first chicken-related slam from a primary opponent.  It comes in the form of a video (provided in the post if you haven’t yet seen it) and is wrapped in an email posing a question voters have every right to ask and have answered:  “…is Sue Lowden prepared to run against Harry Reid?” This question is the reason “Bartergate” is a lot more than a seemingly endless opportunity for clever headlines featuring chicken puns.  Those who are rabid to defeat Harry Reid are desperate to do so under any circumstances and most of them are going to pull the lever for the candidate they believe can run the most solid campaign and has the best chance to send him sailing back to Searchlight.  Lowden’s messaging problem is also a voter confidence problem, and that’s why it matters.


Voters to Remain in Dark About Campaign Contributions

By Sean Whaley | 6:05 am April 30th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevadans who intend to vote early in the primary and general elections this year will likely find themselves in the dark on the question of who has contributed to the campaigns of the candidates.

Despite efforts in past legislative sessions to improve the transparency of campaign contributions received by candidates, lawmakers have failed to make meaningful reforms to the reporting process.

The 2009 Legislature failed to approve efforts by Secretary of State Ross Miller to improve the reporting process by requiring electronic filing of the campaign reports. Electronic reporting would allow the creation of a searchable database to analyze who is contributing and in what amounts to the candidates.

Mandating electronic reporting for most candidates was supported in the Assembly but was amended out of Assembly Bill 82 by the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee in the final days of the session.

A look through reports now on file with the secretary of state’s office show that many are hand-written and difficult to read.

Another proposal to make the information more voter-friendly by requiring earlier reporting also failed.

Miller had proposed last session that candidates report individual contributions in excess of $1,000 to his office within a few days of receipt starting 40 days before the primary and general elections. The information would then have been posted on the SOS website and available for voters to review before casting their ballots, especially those voting early, as nearly 60 percent did in the 2008 election.

For the primary, early voting begins May 22, but the campaign contribution and expense reports are not due until June 1. And because candidates can send in their reports by certified mail on the June 1 due date, the release of the information to the public can be delayed even further.

The same scenario will occur with the Nov. 2 general election, with the second round of reports due Oct. 26. Early voting begins Oct. 16.

The proposal – which also covered expenditures and multiple contributions from a single individual exceeding $1,000 – was discussed in committee but never actually made it into any version of AB82.

Miller said the campaign contribution and expense information available on his agency’s website consistently gets an F grade because of this lack of transparency.

The F grade was awarded in 2008 by the Campaign Disclosure Project in large part because the reports are not searchable.

“We need to put it into some type of format the public can use,” Miller said. “A 100-page handwritten report is not useful.”

Miller said he will try again to push for more transparency in 2011 if he is re-elected to another term as secretary of state.

In the meantime many voters will not have the information available this election year unless candidates take it upon themselves to voluntarily report their contributions on their own websites.

The 40th day before the June 8 primary is today.

Reactions from a handful of candidates on the idea of voluntary reporting vary; some say a voluntary posting of information is unworkable because it could give opponents an advantage if they did not participate as well. One lawmaker, however, suggested it could work to a candidate’s advantage.

Several other candidates contacted for the story did not return phone calls.

Miller, acknowledging that he has taken the lead on seeking reforms to the reporting process, said he will make his contributions public ahead of the general election on his website. Miller does not have a primary.

Miller said he will do so even though it may put him at a disadvantage by giving his opponents information about his campaign than he will not have from them. So starting 40 days before the general election, he will post all contributions in excess of $1,000 within 72 hours of receipt to his website for voters to view if they choose to do so.

“If it puts me at a disadvantage, we’ll see,” he said.

Republican governor candidate Mike Montandon said if elected to the job, he will push for reforms to make campaign reports more transparent for the public. Ironically, Montandon said he files his reports electronically in a format that would allow for searches. But the data is then converted into an unsearchable file for posting on the secretary of state’s website.

“This one is a slam dunk,” he said. “It’s common sense. I’m a freedom of speech person. I don’t believe there should be restrictions on who spends what on a campaign, but the information should be totally transparent.”

But Montandon said he would not post such data on his campaign website unless every candidate did the same, citing a disadvantage if his opponents could review his donor list without him having access to their information as well.

Gov. Jim Gibbons, one of three major GOP candidates seeking the governor’s seat, said he has no problems reporting his contributions, but questioned whether he would have the staff available to make such updates.

“We do not have individuals who are directed to work 100 percent of the time on the website or be data input people,” he said. “I don’t have a problem with openness.”

Democratic governor candidate Rory Reid would support more openness and transparency in the campaign contribution and expense reporting process, but he has no plans for early reporting in this election, said his spokesman Mike Trask. Reid has already put out a plan for changes he would make to ensure state government is more ethical and open, changes which he has already implemented as Clark County Commission chairman, he said.

“Reporting early would be problematic for a variety of reasons, the most obvious being the issue of fairness,” Trask said. “We’re going to file the report when we are legally required to do so as we are certain other candidates will do as well.”

Rob Lauer, the Republican candidate for secretary of state, said he supports reporting contribution information so voters can have access to it, but suggested the process needs to be ongoing so that the information does not generate undue momentum for those who receive a lot of financial support.

“I’m not sure I want to see campaign contribution reports affect the way people vote,” he said.

Rather than require reporting of large contributions beginning 40 days before an election, Lauer said transparency concerns could be addressed by requiring the information to be reported within 72 hours, regardless of when the money was received in an election cycle.

Ongoing contribution reporting would help get away from the “horse race” mentality, he said.

Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, said he has no problem with reporting his donations, but said for many legislative races the financial support is relatively modest.

“Most of my contributions are $100, $500 or $1,000,” he said. “You can look at my past reports to see who is contributing to my campaign.”

Stewart said Democrats get a lot of their money from labor unions, Republicans get a lot from the business community and the gaming industry supports candidates of both parties.

“There are no surprises, really,” he said.

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, said he would like to see the secretary of state’s office set up a process where candidates could voluntarily report their contributions using the guidelines and have them posted on the SOS website.

Candidates who choose to voluntarily post their contribution information might get a favorable response from voters for making the information public, he said

“I don’t think it would put a candidate at a disadvantage,” Goedhart said. “Voters are tired of business as usual.”

Passing legislation to require the reporting of such information would be fine as well, he said. But in the meantime, there is no reason why candidates could not do so on their own.

“Anything that adds transparency would be fine with me,” he said.

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said he supports the earlier reporting language proposed by Miller in the 2009 session, but suggested a voluntary process whereby candidates would post the information on their own websites would not be practical. One candidate might post the information prominently while another would bury it on the website. It would also require voters to seek out each candidate’s website, he said.

An alternative would be to have the secretary of state’s office set up a system that would be uniform for candidates who wanted to provide the information. But it is unlikely that many candidates would voluntarily report because of a concern their opponents would not do the same, he said.

Transparency is critical but not likely to occur without legislation, Segerblom said.

The electronic filing requirement would not have been in place for this election cycle anyway. AB 82 was amended by the Assembly Elections, Procedures, Ethics and Constitutional Amendments Committee to have the requirement take effect in January of 2011.

AB82 passed the Assembly 23-18 on May 21 with the electronic filing requirement in place. It provided an exemption for a candidate who did not have access to a computer and limited the requirement to candidates who collected more than $10,000.

Stewart said he voted no on the bill because of other sections dealing with voter registration changes, not because of the electronic contribution reporting requirement.

But the bill, which contained numerous other provisions relating to election law, was then amended May 30 by the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee to delete the electronic reporting requirement. Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, made the motion to delete the provision. Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, voted no. Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, abstained, according to the committee minutes.

The bill then passed the Senate on a 16-5 vote.

Ultimately none of the provisions of AB82 survived because the Legislature ran out of time before taking final action on the measure.

Numerous state assembly and senate candidates contacted for their comments on the issue did not return calls.

Face to Face: Brandon Hall and Bob List Talk Health Care, Harry Reid and Sue Lowden

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:28 pm April 29th, 2010

(This post was updated at 6:51 AM on 4/30/10)

A few quick notes from F2F tonight:

Harry Reid campaign boss Brandon Hall explained their new campaign ads:  three stories that show how health care reform helps “hundreds of thousands of Nevadans.”

When challenged on the bill’s unpopularity in Nevada, Hall named individual pieces of the bill that are actually well-liked and cited a Research 2000 poll that shows disapproval at less than the Rasmussen numbers.

List referred to the three ads as “trying to put a mask on this pig.”  (I thought the usual saying included lipstick? But maybe more cover-up is needed than a few swipes to the snout of Revlon Fire Engine Red.)

Ralston challenged List (and, by association, the Republican establishment) on the common characterization of health care reform as a “government takeover” and observed that the Democrats lost the health care “messaging war” in part because the GOP insisted on constantly enlisting it even though it isn’t true.

List said “it is true” and defended the label on the basis that the bill forces people to purchase insurance via congressional mandates and takes away the choice of the individual.

“Congress is part of government, last time I checked,” said List.

As for whether Reid’s pro-health care form ads are a good idea, Hall says he thinks so.  And says it puts the Republicans at a disadvantage to have to run on a platform of repeal against specific measures that are popular (like help with prescription drugs (I utterly refuse to say “closing the doughnut hole”) and policy-drop loopholes).

List agreed it will be tough to repeal the bill while bemoaning the $500M that will be pulled from Medicare and the run-up of our national debt.

As for the elephant, er, giant chicken in the room, List had the following things to say about Sue Lowden (following a quote from The Hill saying she has been a victim of national ridicule to the point that her rivals may have a chance to seize the nomination) and whether or not he (List) has heard from concerned Republicans inside the beltway:

“I have had such calls.”

“The fact is that people have always been able to negotiate in this country; it is part of our free enterprise system.  That’s what she was talking about.”

“The reality is it is much ado about very little.”

“When you compare this to some of the statements, the outrageous statements, like “the war is lost,” that are substantive and important…”

“The whole thing is a distraction from the real campaign issues.”

“It’s being played up.”

“People are having fun with it.”

“It’s gonna blow over.”

My three cents:

It’s not gonna blow over.  They are going to pound on this and ridicule Lowden from now ’til Kingdom Come. And it’s too late for her to “walk it back” (which, as Brandon Hall helpfully pointed out, she had numerous chances to do) so she just has to sit there and take it like a man.

The anticipated pounding was/is confirmed by this post-show Flash from Ralston:

Sources confirm that the Patriot Majority, one of the most active independent advocacy groups in the nation, begins a substantial, statewide buy Friday against GOP U.S. Senate frontrunner Sue Lowden.

Anyone want to guess the line of attack? Cluck three times if you think you know.

Bartergate is about to get a lot of play on the airwaves. My guess of the approach: Ridicule

Just a guess. No wonder national and local GOP folks are so worried.

Remember I told you about this group, fronted by a former Reid spokesman: http://www.patriotmajority.us/home

They have a lot of money and my guess is this is not a dipping-our-toes-in-the-water campaign but a cannonball that will cause a serious splash in the race. If the Democrats can try to defeat (or at least rough up) Brian Sandoval in the gubernatorial primary, I suppose they can try to do the same to Lowden in the Senate race.

Hold on to your butt feathers, Dear Readers…

In his closing segment, Ralston revisited the issue of the health care messaging war.

“How many times have you heard the obnoxious phrase — I mentioned this earlier — “government takeover”?  So Reid knows he has to pierce the misinformation and try to sell the law,” said Ralston.

“Many of the individual parts of the legislation are popular…  By using regular folks to sell these aspects, Reid hopes he can turn some heads.  No, the ads are not likely to move his poll numbers right away, but I doubt he expects they will.  It may, however, energize the Democratic base he badly needs to get out in November to have any chance of survival.”

Mike Montandon’s New Media Dreamin’

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:01 pm April 29th, 2010

Is he crazy like a fox? Or just crazy? That was the gist of a series of questions I posed to Mike Montandon today during a NNB-hosted conference call with a few bloggers and reporters.

Acknowledging that his 6-point lead over Rory Reid in a head-to-head is “attributable to Rory’s apparent lack of popularity” and that he still has a tall hill to climb in the primary, Montandon nevertheless reiterated what underdogs always do:

“I believe I can win.”

Belief may be what gets him through the night, but how to turn nice dreams into election night upsets?  Recent polls have Montandon pulling only 7% on June 8th while Sandoval’s 39% is a widening of his previous lead over Gibbons who is now down to just 25%.

“The thing is, that new slogan — “the only electable conservative” — is not just a slogan, it’s true.  And it’s what I’m starting to hear on the campaign trail,” said the former mayor.

“People are saying to me, we do not disagree with Gibbons and his principles, but we will not vote for him again,” he said. “So I’m gaining there.”

As for Sandoval, he’s coming off a few pretty bad weeks and Montandon thinks his avoidance of public forums as well as his decision to skip tomorrow night’s debate is a mistake at a time when Gibbons is bleeding supporters.

“I will be there,” said Montandon. “I show up everywhere. And I talk to everyone.”

In the absence of deep campaign coffers, Montandon said he is using the same on-the-ground tactics he’s enlisted in past campaigns along with various “new media” strategies including lots of Google ads, a presence on FaceBook and Twitter and the use of web videos and interactive web tools to collect data and drive traffic.

“We have the largest web presence of the three candidates by far,” he said. “And we have used those tools to ID likely primary voters and assemble a very large mailing list of supporters.  Large enough, that if they all show up on election day, I win.”

Waxing skeptical, I asked Montandon how he can seriously say he is positioned to pull off an upset of that magnitude.

“You know, one of my fondest memories is in 1997, sitting with friends, watching the voter returns…the polls going in showing me losing by 9%, and me winning by 11%,” he said.

Great story, but he’s not down by just nine.  He’s off the lead by 32% with less than six weeks to go.  What’s the road from former Nor’town Mayor to Miracle Mike?

New media tools, showing up and consistency on issues, says he.

And he does seem to have that last one down:  While Gibbons waffles and Sandoval wavers, voters know (or could know, if they paid attention) where Montandon stands on taxes, jobs, education, Yucca, guns, abortion and traditional marriage.  And his positions for the most part do pass the conservative smell test.

So while Gibbons stumbles and Sandoval fights off the flying monkeys hurtling down from the turrets of Dan Hart’s IE committee, Montandon says he will keep on keepin’ on down the yellow-brick road to Oz:  back and forth between the rurals and Clark County, in and out of meet-and-greets and small group gatherings, his email sign-up sheets in tow.

But is new media really the poor candidate’s war chest?  Can Montandon’s small but scrappy tech team use Google tools and goofy YouTube ads to actually pull off a victory?  Or at least convince voters he is less embarrassing than Gibbons and finish with a second place ribbon?

“Well, they will either be rock stars, or they will have to go out and work for a living,” joked Montandon.

“Look, four years ago you would not have even stood a chance in a campaign without big money,” he said.  “New media allows us to have a better chance.  It really will be a bellwether.”

In 40 days we’ll see whether the bell tolls for he.

Team Lowden Calls in Ex-Senator Maurice Washington to Help Answer Tarkanian’s “Be Honest” Radio Ad

By Elizabeth Crum | 2:57 pm April 29th, 2010

How do you split an already split political hair?  By conference call with invited media, of course.

Team Lowden today assembled a handful of journalists to hear former state senator Maurice Washington explain what really went on in a state senate committee 15 years ago re: SB 408, an abortion parental notification bill.  The call was in response to Danny Tarkanian’s latest radio ad which questions an earlier campaign claim by Lowden that she authored the bill.

The part of Tark’s ad in question:

“Why can’t former state senator Sue Lowden just be honest about her abortion record? She told voters she authored a parental notification bill in the state legislature. The problem is, she didn’t. State records show clearly that Sue Lowden did not author a parental notification bill…”

(Here is the the ad audio:  Tark2010 – Radio – 12 Be Honest)

And the op-ed in which Lowden stated that she authored the bill (back in November):

“I was also one of the original architects of Nevada’s Charter School law and the author of legislation requiring parental notification for parents of children seeking abortions.”

And the language on the issues page of her website which currently reads as follows:

“Finally, as a state senator, I voted for and worked to pass parental notification legislation that required parents to be involved in the decisions of their minor children regarding pregnancy.”

So:

Washington started off the call by stating, “I want to correct the record regarding SB 408 in response to an ad by Danny Tarkanian that indicates Sue Lowden did not sponsor the bill.”

Washington went on to explain that although he had done a BDR (bill draft request) for the bill, he had then asked Lowden for her help and she had subsequently advised him to do a committee introduction and then helped him move the bill along.

“If it had not been for Sue Lowden’s leadership, advice and tenacity on that bill, it probably would have died in committee,” said Washington.

When challenged on the fact that Lowden did not, in fact, either author or sponsor the bill — because the bill was sponsored by the entire membership of the committee — Washington said it was done that way because the bill was so controversial, but he insisted that Lowden was largely responsible for getting the bill to the Senate floor for a vote.

“If Sue had not take this bill under her wing, it would not have made it out of committee,” he said.

When pressed further on the committee sponsorship issue and asked whether it would not also be correct to say that all the Democrats on the committee were authors and/or sponsors, Washington essentially repeated his prior remarks.

Strategist and political adviser Dan Burdish, who was also on the call, said frankly, “There is not a legislator up there that authors anything,” reminding us (lest we had forgotten) that the LCB (Legislative Counsel Bureau) is the actual “author” of all bills in order to make sure all legal standards are met.

Burdish indicated that as Washington had been a freshman legislator, he had gone to Lowden to carry the water on the bill and they worked together with the LCB to write it.

When asked if Team Lowden wasn’t just splitting hairs on the issues of authorship and sponsorship and support, Burdish said, “Maybe so. But if we are splitting hairs, then Tarkanian’s campaign is splitting hairs with their ad.”

Lawmakers Question State Treasurer’s Office Over Financial Health of Millennium Scholarship Fund

By Sean Whaley | 1:45 pm April 29th, 2010

CARSON CITY – When the Legislature adjourned its special session to balance the budget on March 1, lawmakers went home believing they had ensured the financial viability of the Millennium Scholarship program through 2014.

But the program, hit by declining tobacco settlement revenues and the diversion of financial support to help fill a more than $800 million budget shortfall, remains in jeopardy.

The Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee was told today the proposal to use $2 million per year over two years from the College Savings Programs managed by the state treasurer’s office to shore up the scholarship was not approved by the College Savings Programs Board.

Instead, the five-member board approved $200,000 in support for the scholarship program, enough to keep it running only through fiscal year 2011.

Some lawmakers said they were under the impression from Nevada State Treasurer Kate Marshall at the special session that the $4 million would be transferred to the fund. It is legally permissible to transfer funds from the College Savings Programs, which are paid for by families investing in the plans, to the scholarship, which is funded through various state revenues including tobacco settlement funds.

“I can tell you that it was represented during the special session that we were going to have that money transferred and that’s why many of us agreed because we thought the Millennium Scholarship would be solvent, that it was represented by the treasurer’s office that there was the ability to move the money and that it would be solvent,” said Assemblywoman Heidi Gansert, R-Reno.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, agreed with Gansert that it was represented to lawmakers the money would be transferred to keep the scholarship solvent through 2014.

“That was our expectation and I am sorry the board did not agree with that approach,” he said.

Horsford asked the treasurer’s office to keep lawmakers informed on the financial projections for the scholarship fund so they can be prepared to take action.

“We need to know now where the shortfalls may be so that we can start formulating options for next session,” he said.

Steve George, chief of staff to Marshall, said the college savings board was “vehemently” opposed to the transfer because of concerns about the scholarship’s future. Approving the $200,000 ensures that students receiving the scholarship will get the money next year, he said.

The Legislature in the 2011 session will have to address the future of the scholarship program, George said.

“When it was brought up there was a lot of heated discussion about it and they just weren’t going to go down that path,” he said.

Marshall, who has been criticized by her Republican opponent on the issue, is one of five members of the board, and it was made clear to lawmakers that the full board would have to approve the $2 million transfer, George said.

Minutes of the March 18 meeting of the board show that Marshall said the college savings plan fund could afford to make the $2 million transfer.

Steve Martin, the GOP treasurer candidate and a Las Vegas certified public accountant, criticized Marshall for what he said was her failure to apprise lawmakers of the true financial status of the scholarship program.

Martin said in a campaign statement the scholarship fund is in far greater financial jeopardy than Marshall told lawmakers at the special session. Martin is also a former state controller.

It appears the Millennium Scholarship is approximately $1.6 million short of funding and could be $3.4 million short of projections by June, 2011, he said.

According to Martin, the reason for the shortfall comes from the fact that the tobacco settlement that funds most of the scholarship saw its annual April payment to Nevada come in 10 percent less than projected. If the April 2011 payment is approximately the same as this year, a $3.4 million shortfall will occur before June 2011, he said.

“Why are these true potential deficits finding the light of day only after the special session?” Martin asked.

“Had this shortage been openly and publicly highlighted by Marshall the Legislature may have acted differently,” he said.

The Gov. Guinn Millennium Scholarship program was proposed by former Gov. Kenny Guinn and approved by the 1999 Legislature.

The scholarship, which ranges from $40 to $80 per college credit hour depending on the college attended, is available only to students attending one of the campuses of the Nevada System of Higher Education. The scholarship limit is $10,000.

Students must qualify by earning a high enough grade point average in high school. Students must also maintain a minimum GPA while in college to continue receiving the scholarship.

Harry Reid TV Ads

By Elizabeth Crum | 11:24 am April 29th, 2010

Ralston has (all 3 of) them posted for your viewing pleasure.   Come back and drop Comments about them if you wish…

Latest Rasmussen #s on US Senate

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:38 am April 29th, 2010

Here’s the poll.

Snippets and comments:

– Harry Reid’s support still at around 40%

With TV ads hitting this week, we’ll see if Reid can gain some points.

–Reid unfavorables at 47% with favorables at 23%

– Lowden v. Reid match-up = 52-39%

– Lowden is viewed very favorably by 15% of Nevada voters and very unfavorably by 19%

Hm!  Unfavorables there are up a bit.  Due to Bartergate and the media’s obsession with chicken puns, no doubt.

– Tarkanian v. Reid = 51-41%

– 19% have a very favorable opinion of Tarkanian, while 15% regard him very unfavorably

– Angle v. Reid = 48-40%

– Angles very favorables are at 9% with very unfavorables at 11%

Tea Party Express is raising money and now up with ads for her, so we’ll see what happens.

– 53% of Nevadans favor health care reform repeal (national #s are at 58%) while 44% oppose

– 57% of Nevada voters favor immigration legislation like AZ’s while 31% oppose

– 60% of voters in the state say America is overtaxed, compared to 66% of voters nationwide

Correction: Tea Party Express Says $500 Angle Donors Up to 60-ish

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:38 am April 29th, 2010

The Tea Party Express informs me that the 33 $500 donors I reported last night is an old number.  At last count they were up to 60-ish.  Their goal is 100.

NYT Op Ed: Red, Blue, and Broke

By Elizabeth Crum | 7:03 am April 29th, 2010

My first read this morning.

The writer’s obvious bias aside (she IS an Op Ed writer), I doubt anything that follows today will top it for Funny.

And Nevada is mentioned, so don’t miss it.

The Goose and the Gander, Part… I’ve Lost Track

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:33 pm April 28th, 2010

Anjeanette Damon of INP at the RGJ found that Governor Gibbons, too, listed his main (state) office phone number on his declaration of candidacy.

Earlier this month, the NV GOP filed ethics complaints against (Democrats) Sec of State Ross Miller and Treasurer Kate Marshall, who had provided their office phone numbers on their candidate declarations.

The two complaints were based on the claim that it’s against the law to use state resources for campaign activities.

Which it is.

AD’s closer:  “No ethics complaint has been filed by the governor’s party against him.”

This is the problem with these things, peeps.  You really shouldn’t go around filing complaints and sending out strongly worded press releases against members of the other party if you are not willing to do the same when someone on your own team screws up.

Or, I guess you can, but then you just look silly.

And, more importantly, the voters get disgusted with “politics as usual.”

What’s a brand new state party executive director to do?

Angle Ads, In Case You Missed ‘Em

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:14 pm April 28th, 2010

Forgot to post this link to the page where you can check out the two TV and one radio ad(s) for Sharron Angle, to be paid for by the Tea Party Express (TPE) political arm/PAC.

TPE has been doing an Independent Expenditure fundraising drive for Angle’s campaign all week.  Been getting updates re: their effort to find 100 supporters to contribute $500.  At last count, I think they had 33 “great patriots” who had responded(!)

1,000 Bonus Points for Funny, Creative Fundraising Email

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:39 pm April 28th, 2010

Maybe I’m biased because I think Seinfeld was one of the best sitcoms Ever. But still, this is amusing and deserves kudos, from the Rory Reid campaign:

YADDA, YADDA, YADDA

What’s a tastier treat than a muffin top, more comfortable than a mansierre, and more topical than a coffee table book about coffee tables?

Seeing Jerry Seinfeld, live!

Don’t miss this amazing opportunity – it’ll be like Festivus!

Join the 20/10 Club today to get in on the drawing!

TONIGHT at midnight, we’ll draw the names of TWO lucky winners to join Rory and Cindy at Jerry Seinfeld’s Caesars Palace show this Friday night! Each of our two winners will get a pair of tickets to the show.

To get in on the drawing, all you have to do is join the 20/10 Club – our grassroots fundraising effort that lets YOU own a piece of Rory’s campaign for the governor’s office. It’s just $20 a month through November, and it will go a long way to carry Rory to victory!

If you’re our lucky winner, we’ll call to let you know. We’ll also announce the winner on Rory’s Facebook page.

Thanks in advance for joining our grassroots effort. Rory is the only candidate who will stand up for education and set Nevada on the path to a better future. Your help will make all the difference in this important campaign.

Good luck!

PS – The clock is ticking! Remember, you must sign up before midnight tonight or it’s NO SOUP FOR YOU!

The Soup Nazi!  Loved that one.