Archive for July, 2010

Nevadans Now Being Notified Of Reactivation Of Extended Federal Jobless Benefits

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 2:20 pm July 30th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevadans who are eligible to have their jobless benefits reactivated can expect letters by next week with instructions, the Nevada Department of Employment, Training & Rehabilitation (DETR) said today.

The agency began mailing letters Thursday to individuals whose Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) claims are being reinstated following action by Congress last week to extend federal unemployment benefits through November.

One unemployed Nevadan who was happy to hear the news is Carol Tidd of Las Vegas, who saw her unemployment benefits stop in early June. She expects to be eligible retroactively for the extended benefits.

“I’m glad they finally started moving on it,” she said. “It is very important. We’ve been able to keep a roof over our heads and the basics.”

Tidd said she has applied for over 100 jobs so far without success. She has been out of work since January. Her last job was with a gaming company.

The unemployment rate in Las Vegas was 14.5 percent in June.

“I have the education, I’ve got an MBA,” she said. “It is frustrating. I’d rather be employed than have unemployment.”

The agency’s unemployment telephone claim centers will also be open on Saturdays to assist with the anticipated overload of callers filing claims and requesting prior weeks of unemployment benefits, said Cindy Jones, DETR deputy director and Employment Security Division administrator.

“We continue to carefully stage our computer systems to ensure their ability to handle the accurate processing of claims,” she said. “It is important that claimants follow instructions mailed to them. With the cooperation of eligible benefit recipients, we can ensure their benefits are paid as quickly as possible.”

The call centers will be open on July 31, Aug. 7 and Aug. 14 from 8 a.m. until 2:30 p.m.

“With the unemployment rate soaring to 14.2 percent, the number of Nevadans seeking benefits continues to be high,” Jones said. “There are now over 88,000 people receiving regular unemployment benefits, and another 40,000 plus who may be eligible for the various types of federally paid extensions recently reactivated by approved legislation.”

Callers are urged to be prepared when making a request for the prior weekly claims to be filed. The following are some tips to remember:

- If you have worked since you stopped receiving your extended benefits, be sure to have all your employment information ready when calling. This includes your most recent two employers.

- You will be asked to certify that you have been seeking work and available to accept work for the weeks you are requesting payment.

- Once your past weekly claims have been processed, you will be able to file your next weekly claim by telephone or on-line at www.expressclaim.org.

- Nevada Unemployment Insurance Telephone Claim Center Telephone Numbers are: Northern Nevada – (775) 684-0350, Southern Nevada – (702) 486-0350, rural Nevada and out-of-state – (888) 890-8211.

Updates with general information can be obtained at www.nvdetr.org.

GOP Sec of State Candidate Lauer Charged

By Elizabeth Crum | 1:24 pm July 30th, 2010

Update (Nov. 3, 2011): The battery charges against Rob Lauer were dismissed this week.

Update (Jan. 22, 2011): Former Nevada secretary of state candidate Rob Lauer has filed a libel and defamation lawsuit against the woman who had accused him of battery. At issue are some of her statements made to the media and to me (and that were subsequently included in blog posts on this website).

Note: The headline of this blog post has been edited to remove the words “With Assault”. Lauer was accused of assault by Von Tobel in her characterizations of the incident, but he was not formally charged with assault (by the strict legal definition). And as noted above, the case was dismissed in November.

Remember this story about Secretary of State candidate Rob Lauer allegedly assaulting Las Vegas local Jennifer Von Tobel at the now infamous First Friday Nevada Happy Hour at Stoney’s on the south Las Vegas strip last month?

David McGrath Schwartz writes that according to police, surveillance video from Stoney’s confirmed Von Tobel’s account of the event and a criminal complaint has now been filed against Lauer for misdemeanor battery.  His court date is August 24.

Memory refresher if you have forgotten the details:

Lauer was accused of manhandling Jennifer Von Tobel who, we discovered later, is (1) a professional political fundraiser and (2) suffers from a weakened physical condition as a result of having multiple sclerosis.  Lauer flatly denied the allegations, saying he was just showing Von Tobel some sweet self defense moves from his glory days as a military police officer.

In a police report filed later that night, Von Tobel claimed she got a sprained wrist and inflamed shoulder that forced her to wear a sling as a result of the assault.  Lauer also filed a police report, claiming Von Tobel (1) was drunk and (2) grabbed his right buttock and put him in a headlock and then challenged him to demonstrate a reverse wrist lock.

(A police spokeswoman says that case has been suspended.)

A few days after the incident, Lauer pestered Von Tobel at an event they were both attending, and she promptly filed a restraining order against him.  Fast forward to today.

Convicted or not, I’d say Mr. Lauer’s shot at the Secretary of State’s office is, as it ever was, slim to none.

And Slim is at off at military summer camp working on his sweet moves.

Latest Poll: 95% of Nevadans Think Well of Themselves

By Elizabeth Crum | 10:51 am July 30th, 2010

In April the LVRJ‘s pollster, Mason-Dixon, asked where Nevadans get their news.  You can read all the stats in the story, but my favorite Q&A was at the very end:

A majority consider themselves well informed, 52 percent, while 43 percent consider themselves somewhat informed.

Would love to know how the subjective meanings of “well” and “somewhat” translates into actual factual informed-ness in and among our citizenry.

Of course, Dear Readers, each and every one of you are exceptions to my skepticism.

Nevada GOP Official Blasts Reid For Ad Claiming To Have Saved Teacher’s Job With Stimulus Funds

By Sean Whaley | 5:05 am July 30th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Former Nevada governor and state Republican Committeeman Bob List yesterday called on Sen. Harry Reid to stop running a television ad claiming to have saved a school teacher’s job with federal stimulus funds.

List, in a conference call with media representatives, said the ad is false and attempts to divert attention from Reid’s failure to help bring Nevada out of a major recession.

“He didn’t save her job at all,” List said. “That is a false statement. He should acknowledge it and the ad should come down.”

Reid should focus on Nevada’s record high and nation-leading unemployment rate, which hit 14.2 percent in June, List said.

“The reality is, since the stimulus package was adopted on Feb. 18 of last year, 60,000 additional people in the private sector have lost their jobs in Nevada,” he said. “We now have nearly 200,000 people out of work here and you’d think that he might be addressing that problem instead of making a false claim and a boast of saving this teacher’s job when in fact he didn’t.”

The Reid campaign rejected List’s claims as uninformed and questioned GOP challenger Sharron Angle’s commitment to education.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal on Wednesday published a story about the ad, saying the teacher in question did not have her job saved from the stimulus funding approved by Congress and the President last year because the school at which she worked did not receive any recovery money.

The 30-second ad shows Ronzone Elementary School teacher Bridget Zick of Las Vegas talking about the fear of losing her job and how Reid saved Nevada teaching jobs.

The story prompted a strong response from Reid campaign spokesman Jon Summers, who criticized the Review-Journal story for being, “erroneous and reckless.”

The claim that the school didn’t get any recovery funds, “fundamentally misunderstands the nature of disbursement of the stimulus dollars and the way educators’ jobs were saved,” he said.

“The reality is that stimulus funds were distributed by district, and the Clark County School District received funds that saved an estimated 1,400 jobs,” Summers said.

Thomas Mitchell, editor of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, said: “We stand by the fairness of our news reporting.”

List defended the Review-Journal story as accurate and said it is Reid who has historically over time distorted facts and misrepresented reality.

Assemblyman Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, also weighed in on the dispute as a member of the Ways and Means Committee and former president of the Nevada State PTA.

“What is missing from this discussion is this: If we hadn’t received the federal stimulus funds we had three choices left, which was fire 3,500 teachers, raise taxes, or a combination of the two,” he said. “It really is that simple. The funds Nevada received avoided a huge layoff, or an equally huge tax increase. Whether Bridget Zick would have been one of the 3,500 would not have mattered to the parents whose children were no longer being taught by 3,499 other teachers.”

Reid campaign spokesman Kelly Steele said in response to List’s comments: “It’s simply irrefutable that 3,500 education workers weren’t laid off because of stimulus funding that Sen. Reid was instrumental in securing.

“The fact that Mr. List appears to have even less understanding of how stimulus funds are distributed than the shoddy journalism he cites in the Review-Journal is disappointing, but not surprising since he’s advocating for Sharron Angle, who opposes all public education funding and believes we should abolish the Department of Education.”

List said Reid should focus on Nevada’s record-setting unemployment rate.

False claims by Reid aren’t helping, he said.

“This guy would take credit for the fact that Hoover Dam hasn’t washed out if he thought he could get away with it,” List said.

Reid is locked in a battle with Angle in his bid for another term in the Senate. The race is one of the mostly closely watched contests in the nation.

___

Audio clips:

Bob List says Nevada has lost jobs since stimulus funding was approved:

072910List1 :32 fact he didn’t.”

List says Nevada faces major economic crisis under Reid’s watch:

072910List2 :13 away with it.”

List says Reid has not used his power to help Nevada:

072910List3 :27 his power effectively.”

Entire List statement:

072910List4 5:00

To B or Not to Be

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:03 pm July 29th, 2010

The anonymous Nevada blogger at Reid-B-Gone – self described on her About page as a wife, mother, activist and Republican who is not a big fan of Harry Reid – is upset that former state senator Bob Beers has started up a sales website called Reid-Be-Gone that peddles spray bottles, t-shirts, buttons and stickers sporting the words “Reid Be Gone” along with “VOTE’M OUT – Stops Socialism at its Roots!”

From her blog:

True fact! Former State Senator Bob Beers has opened an online store called Reid-Be-Gone. Get it? See the extra “e”? [If you want to visit, navigate to reid-be-gone.com. No links from here.]

Reid-B-Gone is a nice name, except it is taken. It is mine and I’ve been using it since November 2009. Adding an “e” and calling it your own original idea doesn’t exactly cut it.

This blog is the original Reid-B-Gone and Bob Beers is the copycat, the Johnny-come-lately, the arrogant establishment politician picking on the little guy.

Mr. Beers is well aware I don’t want him to use my blog name for his store. He maintains that I will just have to get used to it, because if he can’t sell his stuff using my blog name, then Harry Reid has already won.

I see no difference between Bob Beers calling his online store Reid-Be-Gone and Scott Ashjian calling his new party Tea Party of Nevada.

So here we are in this unfortunate place: I’m asking readers to stand in solidarity with the original Reid-B-Gone by not purchasing from Bob Beers store.

Stay tuned for updates.

So unhappy with Beers is Miss B that in addition to calling for a boycott of his similarly named store, she has gone to the trouble of producing this short YouTube video entitled “Robot Republican Infighting Theatre – VegasVoter vs. Bob Beers” starring, yes, two robots representing Miss B and Mr. Be, er, Beers.

This is where I run out of words and just marvel at the inhabitants of the world in which we live.

It really is a wonderful life.

Nevada Legislature Strikes Deal With Firm To Complete Portion Of Study

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 6:54 pm July 29th, 2010

CARSON CITY – The Nevada Legislature has reached agreement with a firm hired to help analyze the state’s revenue structure to complete a portion of the project.

The agreement reached with Moody’s Analytics requires the firm to finish the Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group portion of the contract by Sept. 15. It will require more work by the firm and two more meetings of the Vision Stakeholder Group, but the payment will remain at the initial bid of just under $100,000.

Lorne Malkiewich, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said the other piece of the contract, a tax study, was cancelled.

“We cancelled the tax study portion, as it was too far behind schedule to allow completion in a timely manner,” he said. “We will pay nothing for any work they’ve already done on that portion.”

The company had been sent a notice of default for failing to complete the contracted work for a total cost of $253,000. A report was due July 1.

The firm produced a draft report that was rejected in May by the Vision Stakeholder Group, a panel of 19 Nevada residents appointed by the Legislature to assist in the overall revenue study. The group’s charge was to produce a document highlighting what the group wanted Nevada to look like over the next several years.

The draft report included a discussion on taxes but did not include any specific recommendations.

Lawmakers are facing a revenue shortfall in the next budget that could total as much as $3.5 billion. The shortfall could mean huge cuts to state programs and education without new revenue. A collection of temporary tax hikes approved by the Legislature in 2009 to balance the current budget are set to expire next June 30.

The study was sought by some lawmakers for guidance on how to deal with the state’s ongoing budget crisis.

Federal Appeals Court Upholds Nevada Laws Limiting Brothel Advertising

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 5:48 pm July 29th, 2010

CARSON CITY – The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals today upheld Nevada state laws that limit brothel advertising, ruling to deny a petition for rehearing filed by the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.

“I am glad to see that, once again, common sense has prevailed,” said Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto. “This state has had restrictions on brothel advertising for 40 years. Nevada should have the right to have reasonable limitations on this type of activity.”

The petition for rehearing was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union after a decision by the 9th Circuit Court in March to reverse a lower court’s decision. The laws had been challenged on free speech grounds.

The laws prohibit brothel advertising in counties where prostitution is illegal. The laws also prohibit brothel advertising in theaters and on streets and public highways.

In its March decision, the appeals court wrote: “Nevada has, uniquely for this country, delineated a more nuanced boundary [than total criminalization of prostitution], but still seeks to closely confine the sale of sex acts, geographically . . . and through the advertising restrictions.”

“We are pleased that the court has acknowledged our state’s policies and our laws were upheld,” Masto said.

George Flint, representing the Nevada Brothel Owners’ Association, said brothel owners generally have not sought to widely advertise even with the lower court ruling in their favor. Most owners did not push the issue, he said.

Only one brothel was part of the legal challenge, Flint said.

“The truth is I don’t have a real lot of heartburn about the issue one way or the other,” he said. “I’m rather proud of the fact that the members, except for one or two of them, have been very low key even during that period of time before the 9th circuit heard the issue and we had the freedom to go ahead and advertise.”

There won’t be a lot of disappointment in the industry with the ruling being upheld even though legalized prostitution is suffering from the recession just like all other businesses, he said.

Audio clip:

George Flint of Brothel Owner’s Association says the ruling isn’t a big disappointment:

072910Flint :19 ahead and advertise.”

Gov. Gibbons Makes Appointments To State Medical Board, Tahoe Planning Agency

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 5:06 pm July 29th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons today appointed his chief of staff to serve on a panel that oversees planning and environmental issues at Lake Tahoe.

Robin Reedy, a resident of Douglas County which includes a portion of Lake Tahoe, was appointed to the governing board of the Tahoe Regional Planning Agency (TRPA). The seat on the 15-member board, which includes representatives from both Nevada and California, had been held by Donna Ruthe, who in turn was appointed to the Nevada State Board of Medical Examiners by Gibbons.

Reedy said she lived for a time at Lake Tahoe and is familiar with the work of the organization so serving on the board won’t require a big learning curve. She also has a background in finance.

“I saw the impact the TRPA could have, both good and bad,” Reedy said.

With a new governor coming into office in January, anyone appointed to the position could be replaced in just a few months time, she said.

Reedy has worked for the state for 20 years, starting as an account clerk in the Treasurer’s Office while Bob Miller was governor. She was appointed to the position of chief of staff by Gibbons in July 2009. Reedy has a bachelor of science degree in business administration from California State University-Chico.

Ruthe, a Las Vegas real estate executive, is a long-time Nevada resident known for her work with a number of charitable organizations, including Opportunity Village and the Ronald McDonald House. She is also a past-president of the Greater Las Vegas Association of Realtors. She will join the Board of Medical Examiners in August.

Ruthe resigned her position on the TRPA so she could devote her time to the medical board. She will take the seat held by Rene West, who has resigned from the board effective Aug. 15.

Gibbons also reappointed Van Hefner to the medical board. Hefner has served on the board since mid-2008.

The Board of Medical Examiners is charged with ensuring that only well-qualified, competent physicians, physician assistants and respiratory therapists receive licenses to practice in Nevada.

Gibbons lost his re-election bid in the June GOP primary and will leave office in January.

Audio clip:

Robin Reedy on her qualifications for the appointment:

072910Reedy :20 the average person.”

Nevada’s New Tax Amnesty Program Brings In $3.4 Million So Far

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 5:17 pm July 28th, 2010

CARSON CITY – A new tax amnesty program initiated July 1 by the Nevada Department of Taxation has brought in $3.4 million in previously uncollected revenue through Tuesday, with just over two more months to go.

Dino DiCianno, executive director of the state tax agency, said about $2.7 million of the total collected so far is sales taxes, another $500,000 is modified business taxes and the remainder is smaller amounts covering liquor, live entertainment, tobacco, business licenses and other levies included in the amnesty.

DiCianno said about $1.2 million in penalty and interest charges associated with the tax payments have been waived as part of the amnesty program.

The amnesty program, which will run for three months, was approved by the Legislature in a special session in February as a way to help close an $800 million gap in the general fund budget.

The amnesty, which will allow taxpayers to pay taxes owed without any interest or penalties, is projected to bring in an estimated $10 million to the cash-strapped state general fund.

The total tax generated so far will not all flow to the state’s general fund. Some of the tax revenue will go to support public schools and local governments.

A previous amnesty authorized by Gov. Jim Gibbons in 2008 brought in more than $27 million. It only covered sales and use taxes, business license fees and modified business taxes.

The new amnesty program, as approved in Assembly Bill 6 of the 2010 special session, is broader, including cigarette taxes, liquor taxes, insurance premium taxes and other levies.

The one-time amnesty is for businesses and individuals who owe taxes that were due before July 1, 2010 and have not been paid. The program will allow penalty and interest to be waived provided the outstanding tax debt is paid in full during the amnesty period.

Certain restrictions apply to taxpayers who have already entered into settlement agreements or offers in compromise with the Nevada Department of Taxation.

Clark County Benefitting From Federal Strategy To Enhance Identification, Removal Of Criminal Aliens

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 3:26 pm July 27th, 2010

Today U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) began using a new biometric information sharing capability in Clark County that helps federal immigration officials identify aliens, both lawfully and unlawfully present in the United States, who are booked into local law enforcement custody for a crime.

The capability is part of Secure Communities, ICE’s comprehensive strategy to improve and modernize the identification and removal of criminal aliens from the U.S.

Previously, fingerprint-based biometric records taken of individuals charged with a crime and booked into local custody were checked for criminal history information against the Department of Justice’s (DOJ) Integrated Automated Fingerprint Identification System (IAFIS).

Now, through enhanced information sharing between the DOJ and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), that fingerprint information will be automatically checked against both the FBI criminal history records in IAFIS and the biometrics-based immigration records in DHS’s Automated Biometric Identification System (IDENT).

If fingerprints match those of someone in DHS’s biometric system, the new automated process notifies ICE, enabling federal authorities to prioritize immigration enforcement action against individuals who are potentially deportable based on their criminal convictions. Top priority is given to criminal aliens who pose the greatest threat to public safety, such as those convicted of major drug offenses, murder, rape, robbery and kidnapping.

“The Secure Communities strategy provides ICE with an effective tool to identify criminal aliens in local custody,” said Secure Communities Executive Director David Venturella. “Enhancing public safety is at the core of ICE’s mission. Our goal is to use biometric information sharing to remove criminal aliens, preventing them from being released back into the community, with little or no additional burden on our law enforcement partners.”

With the expansion of Secure Communities to Clark County, the biometric information sharing capability is now being used in more than 450 jurisdictions in 25 states. Clark County is the second jurisdiction in Nevada to gain this capability. Secure Communities was activated in Washoe County earlier this month. ICE expects to make it available in jurisdictions nationwide by 2013.

Since its inception in October 2008, Secure Communities has led to the deportation of more than 9,800 criminal aliens nationwide who had convictions for Level 1 crimes, such as murder, rape and kidnapping. Additionally, the biometric information sharing capability has resulted in the removal of more than 24,800 criminal aliens convicted of Level 2 and 3 crimes, including burglary and serious property crimes, which account for the majority of crimes committed by aliens.

The IDENT system is maintained by DHS’s US-VISIT program and IAFIS is maintained by the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services (CJIS).

“US VISIT is proud to support ICE, helping provide decision makers with comprehensive, reliable information when and where they need it,” said US-VISIT Director Robert Mocny. “By enhancing the interoperability of DHS’s and the FBI’s biometric systems, we are able to give federal, state and local decision makers information that helps them better protect our communities and our nation.”

“Under this plan, ICE will be utilizing FBI system enhancements that allow improved information sharing at the state and local law enforcement level based on positive identification of incarcerated criminal aliens,” said Daniel D. Roberts, assistant director of the FBI’s CJIS Division. “Additionally, ICE and the FBI are working together to take advantage of the strong relationships already forged between the FBI and state and local law enforcement necessary to assist ICE in achieving its goals.”

Nevada ACLU Seeks Records About FBI Collection Of Racial And Ethnic Data

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 2:59 pm July 27th, 2010

CARSON CITY –  The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada today asked the FBI’s Las Vegas field office to turn over records related to the agency’s collection and use of race and ethnicity data in local communities.

According to a 2008 operations guide, FBI agents have the authority to collect information about and map so-called “ethnic-oriented” businesses, behaviors, lifestyle characteristics and cultural traditions in communities with concentrated ethnic populations.

While some racial and ethnic data collection by some agencies might be helpful in lessening discrimination, the FBI’s attempt to collect and map demographic data using race-based criteria for targeting purposes invites unconstitutional racial profiling by law enforcement, says the ACLU. Across the country, the ACLU has questioned this practice.

“Government targeting of specific communities for investigation based on supposed racial and ethnic behaviors raises serious civil liberties concerns,” said Maggie McLetchie, interim Southern Program Director of the ACLU of Nevada. “We hope that the coordinated efforts of ACLU affiliates across the nation will bring the full extent of the FBI’s racial data gathering and mapping to light.”

The FBI’s power to collect, use, and map racial and ethnic data in order to assist the FBI’s “domain awareness” and “intelligence analysis” activities is described in the 2008 FBI Domestic Intelligence and Operations Guide (DIOG). The FBI released the DIOG in heavily redacted form in September 2009, but a less-censored version was not made public until January of this year in response to a lawsuit filed by Muslim advocates. Although the DIOG has been in effect for more than a year and a half, very little information is available to the public about how the FBI has implemented this authority.

“The public deserves to know about a race-based domestic intelligence program with such troubling implications for civil rights and civil liberties,” said Melissa Goodman, staff attorney with the ACLU National Security Project. “We hope that the coordinated efforts of ACLU affiliates across the nation will finally bring this important information to light so that the American people can know the extent of the FBI’s racial data gathering and mapping practices and whether the agency is abusing its authority.”

ACLU affiliate offices across the nation today filed coordinated Freedom of Information Act requests to uncover records about the FBI’s collection and use of racial and ethnicity data from their local FBI field offices.

Nevada’s Taxable Sales Edge Down In May After Rare Up Month in April

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 2:30 pm July 27th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s taxable sales fell 1.9 percent in May over May 2009, a decline following April which saw the first positive month for the economic indicator in 20 months, the state Department of Taxation reported today.

May statewide taxable sales totaled $3.1 billion compared to $3.2 billion in May 2009.

Taxable sales are down just over 11 percent so far for the 2010 fiscal year, which ended June 30. One more month of collections, from June, must still be reported for the year.

Clark County taxable sales were down 1.4 percent in May to $2.3 billion, while Washoe County sales were off by 3.8 percent and totaled $425 million.

The largest increases in statewide taxable sales were seen in the categories of accommodations, up 23 percent; clothing and clothing accessories stores, up 10.7 percent; electronics and appliance stores, up 15.8 percent; professional scientific and technical services, up 19.3 percent; and telecommunications, up 14 percent.

Home furniture and furnishings also saw an increase in May, up 6.2 percent over May 2009.

Other major taxable sales categories were down in May, including the construction industry classification by 31.6 percent;, merchant wholesalers- durable goods, off 11.1 percent; motor vehicles and parts dealers, down 1.7 percent; general merchandise stores, off 0.3 percent; and food and beverage stores, down 7.2 percent. Bars and restaurants were down 0.7 percent.

Twelve of Nevada’s 17 counties recorded a decrease in taxable sales for May 2010 compared to May 2009. Esmeralda, Eureka, Lincoln, Pershing and White Pine counties recorded positive taxable sales for the period.

Gross revenue collections from sales and use taxes amounted to $248 million for May 2010 which represents a 3.3 percent increase compared to May 2009, and a 5.8 percent decrease for the eleven months of fiscal year 2010. Of this amount, approximately $2.7 million was collected under an amnesty program.

Compared to the January 2010 Economic Forum projections, the general fund portion of the sales and use taxes is 3.2 percent, or $21.5 million, above the forecast for the first 11 months of fiscal year 2010.

Gov. Jim Gibbons said Nevada’s taxable sales reports are showing signs of improvement, with six successive months of positive or single-digit declines after more than a year of double-digit declines.

“This administration remains committed to addressing these challenges by streamlining operations, improving customer services and maximizing the use of taxpayer dollars,” he said.

Nevada Loses Out In Race To Top Funds for Education

By Sean Whaley | 1:40 pm July 27th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada failed to make the cut today in its quest to win as much as $175 million in competitive federal funds to improve student achievement, but the details of why won’t be known until next month.

The failure to make the cut occurred even though Gov. Jim Gibbons created a blue ribbon panel to oversee the application process and the state hired a consultant to help finalize Nevada’s grant application.

Nineteen of 36 states made the cut in this, the second round of a competition for a share of the Race to the Top funds. Nevada did not compete in the first round earlier this year.

There was some political bickering over whether Nevada should have applied in the first round, with Democrats pushing for the submission of an application and Gibbons calling such a move premature. Only two states were awarded funds in the first round.

Ray Bacon, a member of the Blue Ribbon Education Reform Task Force and executive director of the Nevada Manufacturers Association, said those working on the Nevada application were aware that the state would score poorly for efforts already under way to improve student achievement.

Members of the panel were hoping the honesty of Nevada’s grant application, which acknowledged serious problems with the state’s educational system, would have helped the state make the cut, he said.

“We haven’t done anything in years,” Bacon said. “We thought the other parts were strong enough that they would pull it up and we might get the benefit of the doubt.”

The expenditure of $40,000 to hire a consultant to help finalize Nevada’s application was worthwhile because it radically improved the final document, he said.

Bacon said he is surprised at some of the states that were successful, including California, New Jersey, Hawaii and South Carolina.

“A lot of them I was expecting,” he said. “I would be surprised if there isn’t grant money given to Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts. Those were clearly pretty damn good applications the first time around.”

Bacon said the state could still benefit from the funding effort if there is a third round of the competition. Another option is to take the application to private foundations to see if there is interest in funding some elements of the plan, he said.

The application will also be a focus of the upcoming Nevada Legislature, where education reform and student achievement will be a top concern, he said.

“I’m disappointed but I think it is going to make this next legislative session considerably more interesting,” Bacon said. “There is nobody in the state who doesn’t recognize we need to make some changes and they have to be pretty damn drastic.”

One issue that became clear in the application process is that no one is in charge of public education in Nevada, he said.

“We’re going to come out of this with someone being in charge,” Bacon said.

Gibbons said the task force will continue in its efforts to improve student achievement even without Nevada making it into the Race to the Top finalists.

“We appreciate the opportunity the Race to the Top competition gave us to take a long, hard and much overdue look at educating Nevada’s children,” he said. “The time is now to modernize the way we deliver education in our schools, both to secure the future of our children and grandchildren and to develop an educated and skilled workforce necessary to diversify our economy and generate economic recovery and prosperity. Education is the intellectual infrastructure for Nevada’s future.”

Among the recommendations set forth in Nevada’s Promise are five specifically-targeted objectives to be accomplished by 2014:

  • increasing the graduation rate to 85 percent;
  • reducing the achievement gap for African American and Hispanic students;
  • increasing the number of graduates enrolling in post-secondary institutions both in-state or out-of-state by 50 percent;
  • increasing student achievement percentages of students proficient or advanced on the NAEP fourth-grade mathematics (from 32 percent to 50 percent) and eighth-grade mathematics (from 25 percent to 50 percent); and
  • increasing student achievement percentages of students proficient or advanced on the NAEP fourth-grade reading (from 24 percent to 50 percent) and eighth-grade reading (from 22 percent to 50 percent).

U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan announced the finalists at an event today in Washington, DC.

“As you know, we have $3.4 billion to distribute under Race to the Top – which should be enough to fund up to about 12 states,” he said. “But as I have said many times before, this isn’t just about the money. This is about working together and putting the needs of children ahead of everyone else.

“This entire process has moved the nation and advanced education reform,” Duncan said. “Children are the big winners here because we have all learned so much more about how to find common ground around the things that we know will make a difference in the classroom.”

In a letter to governors, Duncan congratulated the winners, and applauded others for applying for a share of the grant funds and encouraged the states to continue to work on education reform.

A total of 46 states and the District of Columbia applied for either the first or second rounds or both.

The 19 finalists in this second round are: Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Illinois, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and South Carolina.

The award winners, as well as the complete scorecards for all applicants, will be made public later this year.

___

audio clips:

Ray Bacon says Nevada’s application was weak on existing reform efforts:

072710Bacon1 :21 of the doubt.”

Bacon says Nevada won’t know details of why the application did not make the cut until next month:

072710Bacon2 :15 that in detail.”

Bacon says the application can be used to pursue private foundation funding:

072710Bacon3 :23 on specific parts.”

Glimmer Of Hope For Tax Revenues, Looming Challenges In Next Budget Cycle

By Sean Whaley | 8:04 am July 27th, 2010

CARSON CITY – The major funding gaps Nevada and other states have been forced to address in their current budgets will continue in the next cycle even as tax revenues finally begin to show signs of life, a national report released today says.

Signs of “delicate” revenue improvement will be offset by the loss of federal stimulus funds, posing ongoing challenges to lawmakers in 2011 and beyond, says the report from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL).

“State Budget Update: July 2010 (Preliminary Report)” presents the organization’s latest look at the state fiscal situation. Based on data collected from legislative fiscal directors in late June and early July, the report provides complete or partial information on 49 states, including Nevada.

States faced a collective budget gap of at least $83.9 billion during enactment of their Fiscal Year 2011 budgets, according to the report. The aggregate figure is slightly less than the original forecast made in NCSL March State Budget Update, which was $89 billion. More gaps are expected in the next two years.

Nevada had the largest percentage gap of any state for fiscal year 2011 that began July 1 of $1.8 billion, or 45 percent of its general fund budget, according to the report.

The Nevada Legislature filled the gap with program cuts and $780 million in new taxes, most of which will sunset after this budget cycle unless extended by lawmakers next year.

In Nevada, the Legislature also had to meet in special session in February to cut the previously approved two-year budget to reflect even lower revenues than projected just nine months previously. A total of $800 million in cuts and targeted fee increases were approved to balance the spending plan, which had already seen significant reductions imposed during the regular 2009 legislative session.

“State lawmakers are going to need extra stamina to push through this next round of budget challenges,” says William Pound, executive director of NCSL. “It will be a long march before state revenues return to their pre-recession levels, not to mention other hurdles lawmakers have to clear.”

The report’s conclusions come as no surprise to Nevada officials.

Nevada Assemblyman Tom Grady, R-Yerington, a member of the Ways and Means Committee, said the challenges facing the state next session are enormous. Lyon County, which Grady represents, is seeing unemployment of more than 18 percent, he said.

“I think it is going to be extremely painful,” Grady said. “We’ve got some real tough decisions that we’re going to have to make in the 2011 Legislature.”

The entire budget will have to be reviewed line by line, Grady said.

One bit of good news for Nevada is that the overall rate of decline in the two major general fund sources, gaming and sales taxes, appears to have slowed. It is expected that actual collections for the fourth quarter for a majority of the general fund revenue sources will be at or above the forecasted amount, according to the report.

Nevada state Budget Director Andrew Clinger reported earlier this month that state revenues are now projected to come in at about $100 million more than estimated by the end of the 2011 fiscal year on June 30, 2011.

This additional revenue will help Nevada deal with the loss of $88.5 million in federal revenues that had been counted on by the Legislature from an extension of enhanced Medicaid funding. The report shows that at least 25 states assumed an extension of this enhanced FMAP funding for their 2011 budgets. It now appears the extension will not be approved by Congress.

“For the first time in a long time we’re seeing some slight improvement in the state revenue situation,” said Corina Eckl, NCSL’s fiscal program director. “But glimmers of improvement are tarnished by looming problems.”

Those problems include the loss of federal stimulus funds, which total nearly $2.2 billion in the current Nevada budget but which will not continue in the new spending plan.

“States are in a tenuous fiscal position, teetering between delicate revenue improvement and the end of the federal stimulus funds,” Eckl says.

The upcoming two year budget, which the Nevada Legislature will begin to address in February, remains a challenge, according to the report. Nevada did not provide a forecast for a budget gap in the next two fiscal years, but the report shows the state is already in fiscal trouble.

Gov. Jim Gibbons requested that agencies reduce their already reduced 2011 appropriations by 10 percent when calculating their budget requests for 2012 and 2013.

“Even with those reductions, total general fund agency requests would total approximately $5.95 billion for the 2011-2013 biennium,” the report says.

But revenues expected for the two years are expected to total only about $5 billion, or nearly $1 billion less, than the initial budget instructions would require in spending.

Without a forecast, the precise size of the budget gap facing Nevada for the next two years remains uncertain, but it will be significant. Gibbons estimated in early June the difference between spending requirements and revenues will be $3.4 billion.

Nevada’s actual spending and revenue collections for Fiscal Year 2010, which ended June 30, won’t be known for several months. Revenues for the year are not yet complete, and agencies have 60 days after the close of the year to finalize spending totals.

Nevada’s revenue estimates for the coming two years will be forecasted by the Economic Forum, a panel of appointed private sector fiscal experts, late in 2010.

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audio clips:

Assemblyman Tom Grady on budget challenge in 2011 session:

072610Grady1 :27 the 2011 Legislature.”

Grady says balancing the budget won’t be easy:

072610Grady2 :8 and Means meeting.”

New Effort Under Way In Nevada To Establish Secret Ballot Requirement In Unionization Votes

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 3:25 pm July 26th, 2010

CARSON CITY – A group seeking to mandate the use of secret ballots in all elections involving union representation has filed an initiative petition to make such a requirement the law in Nevada.

The proposal to amend Nevada state law was filed July 15 with the Secretary of State’s office and lists Steve Wark of Las Vegas as the state chairman of the Save Our Secret Ballot effort.

The group had filed a similar initiative petition proposal in February seeking to amend the state Constitution to implement the secret ballot requirement, but no signatures of registered voters were turned in to qualify the measure by a June deadline.

The latest effort seeks to amend state law rather than the constitution. If the group can gather just over 97,000 signatures by a Nov. 9 deadline, the proposal would go to the 2011 Legislature for its consideration. If the Legislature failed to enact the change within 40 days, it would go to the voters in 2012.

The description of effect for the initiative says it “would recognize the fundamental right to vote by secret ballot in all elections for employee representation. Secret ballot elections will provide employees the right to vote in privacy to determine majority support for a labor union.”

Under current Nevada law, if the responsible governmental administrative agency has a good faith doubt about the majority support of a labor union in a local government workplace, it can order a secret ballot election.

Under federal law governing private-sector employees, if 30 percent or more of the employees request a secret ballot election, then the responsible federal administrative agency must hold one. This initiative would require a secret ballot election in every case.

Even with Nevada approval, the petition notes that a change in federal law would be required for it to be binding in the private-sector workplace.