Archive for September, 2010

New ‘Piglet Book’ Cites Wasteful Spending By Nevada State And Local Government Agencies

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 5:27 pm September 30th, 2010

Nevada’s state and local governments have wasted millions of taxpayer dollars over the past two years through lavish and wasteful spending – in some cases by outright theft – according to a new study from the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) and Citizens Against Government Waste (CAGW).

The report, titled “The Nevada Piglet Book 2010” and authored by NPRI fiscal policy analyst Geoffrey Lawrence, details what he calls numerous examples of government waste over the past two years, including credit-card abuse, a sweetheart land deal for a former Las Vegas city councilman and local governments spending millions of dollars to lobby the state legislature.

“Contrary to the cries over the past two years that all levels of Nevada government have been ‘cut to the bone,’ this report reveals that government waste and inefficiencies are widespread,” Lawrence said. “What’s worse is that the millions of dollars in waste revealed in this report are likely just the tip of the iceberg.”

The study’s findings resulted from hundreds of public records requests to state and local governments and a review of dozens of city, county and state audits. The study reveals that many wasteful practices that NPRI documented previously in “The Nevada Piglet Book 2008” continue even today – despite politicians’ pledges to be more responsible with public money.

Among the questionable spending identified in the report are high public employee salaries and benefits, particularly for many firefighters who work in Southern Nevada, the failure of several agencies to perform their assigned tasks and inappropriate purchases by individual public employees.

The report also highlights the costs incurred by local governments to lobby the Legislature. During the 2009 session, Nevada local governments spent $3.2 million to lobby lawmakers in Carson City over a four-month period, including $951,324 spent by county governments, $1,061,473 spent by cities, and $509,337 spent by school districts. Special districts, such as the Southern Nevada Water Authority, also spent $618,191 on lobbying.

Erik Pappa, director of public communications for Clark County, said in response that county has changed its practices regarding lobbying the Legislature.

“We are no longer using paid lobbyists,” he said. “We rely upon county staff to provide information to state legislators.”

Lawrence said government agencies need to be more transparent.

“Until all levels of government become more transparent and put their spending checkbooks online for citizens to examine, as other states already have done, this type of waste will continue,” he said.

Lawrence noted that since the Texas Comptroller’s Office began putting itemized expenditure data online in 2007, Texas taxpayers have realized $51 million in cost savings simply by identifying areas of wasteful or inefficient spending.

The state of Nevada has posted much of its spending information for public review.

“The Nevada Piglet Book 2010 barely scratches the surface of the mountain of taxpayer dollars wasted by Nevada’s state and local government bureaucracies,” said Tom Schatz, president of Citizens Against Government Waste. “Nevadans deserve a more fiscally responsible and transparent state government. From sweetheart deals for local politicians to exorbitant salaries for government employees, there is plenty of fat that can be trimmed.”

The Nevada Policy Research Institute is a free-market think tank that seeks private solutions to public challenges facing Nevada, the West and the nation. Citizens Against Government Waste is a Washington, D.C.-based non-profit organization dedicated to eliminating waste, mismanagement and inefficiency in government.

Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons Gets ‘B’ Grade From Cato Institute For Stance Against Tax Hikes

By Sean Whaley | 12:56 pm September 30th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons has received a “B” grade from the Cato Institute for his performance in dealing with Nevada’s major budget and fiscal challenges over the past two years.

“Nevada is enduring tough economic times and government tax collections have fallen substantially,” the Cato Institute said in its 10th biennial fiscal report card of the nation’s governors. “Gov. Gibbons has generally refused to increase taxes to make up for the shortfall because that would make the economic situation even worse.”

The Cato Institute said: “In proposing spending cuts rather than tax increases to balance the budget, Gibbons noted: ‘It is not the role of the state government to put people out of work.’ ”

“He said the government would be ‘piling on’ the difficulty that citizens and businesses are already having if it raised taxes,” the report card says. “Gibbons has proposed business tax cuts and opposed and vetoed numerous tax increases. In 2009, he vetoed a big increase in sales and payroll taxes, but the Legislature overrode his veto. Gibbons has supported some modest tax increases, but he seems to understand that broad-based increases would damage the state’s pro-enterprise environment.”

In a statement, Gibbons spokesman Dan Burns said the governor is proud of his record against raising taxes and opposing new taxes. He is also proud to have kept that promise he made to voters four years ago.

“It’s easy to say you won’t raise taxes,” Gibbons said, “Many people talk the talk. I am proud that I have walked the walk and stood up for the working families of Nevada.”

The report card calculated data on the taxing and spending habits of 45 of the nation’s 50 governors between 2008 to August 2010. The governors are scored from 0 to 100 on seven separate taxing and spending variables. The scores are aggregated and converted to letter grades, A to F.

Gibbons received a score of 61. Only seven governors had higher scores with the highest, a 74, going to Republican Gov. Mark Sanford of South Carolina.

The three other governors awarded an “A” in the report card were Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, Tim Pawlenty of Minnesota and Joe Manchin of West Virginia. Manchin is the only Democrat to get an “A” grade.

Seven governors were awarded an “F”: Ted Kulongoski of Oregon, David Paterson of New York, Jodi Rell of Connecticut, Pat Quinn of Illinois, Jim Doyle of Wisconsin, Bill Ritter of Colorado and Chris Gregoire of Washington. All except Rell are Democrats.

The report notes that many states raised taxes even though the federal government “showered them with billions of dollars of added funding in last year’s ‘stimulus’ bill.”

The Cato Institute describes itself as a public policy research organization dedicated to the principles of individual liberty, limited government, free markets and peace. Its scholars and analysts conduct independent, nonpartisan research on a wide range of policy issues.

State Lawmaker Plans To Continue Mission In 2011 To Combat Child Prostitution In Nevada

By Sean Whaley | 6:24 pm September 29th, 2010

CARSON CITY – State Assemblyman John Hambrick has requested four bills for the 2011 session to continue with his mission of eliminating child prostitution in Nevada.

Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, won unanimous support for a bill in 2009 providing for civil penalties of up to $500,000 against those convicted of human trafficking of minor children. Funds collected under the provisions of Assembly Bill 380 can be used to provide care to those minors exploited for sexual purposes.

Hambrick now wants to extend that effort next session by increasing sentences for those involved in such crimes, including those who purchase the sexual services of an underage child, and allowing victims to clear their criminal records under certain conditions so they can go on to productive lives.

“Human trafficking is one of those things our parents would not have discussed in ‘polite’ society,” Hambrick said. “But the time has come to open the windows. We – all of us – must wake up and realize that Las Vegas is the national capital for human trafficking. Men come to our community and ‘buy’ the bodies of girls, some as young as 11 years old. This battle has to be fought and won.”

Las Vegas was identified in 2009 by the FBI as one of 14 cities around the country with high rates of child prostitution. Additionally, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department handled 150 cases of child prostitution in 2008 alone.

Hambrick said he was made aware of the situation after retiring to Las Vegas and getting involved in politics. Hambrick said he was skeptical at first, but soon learned the truth of how severe the problem is in Southern Nevada.

“Las Vegas is leading the country in this horrendous crime,” he said.

Hambrick said he has yet to see results from AB380, which took effect Oct. 1, 2009, because the last major prosecution for this crime was handled by federal officials.

Hambrick said Judge William Voy, a juvenile court judge in Clark County, wants to establish safe houses for the victims of these crimes. The new law could have generated some funding for the project if the federal prosecution had been handled at the state level instead, he said.

The civil penalties may seem large, but those engaged in his human trafficking make vast amounts of money, he said.

In testimony in support of AB380 in 2009, Las Vegas Police Sgt. Victor Vigna said that in a recent case his unit handled, a panderer had $400,000 in cash in his house.

Going after the money is the only way to bring a halt to child prostitution, Hambrick said.

Hambrick saw strong support for his 2009 measure.

Lois Lee, founder and president of Children of the Night, a Los Angeles organization dedicated to helping child prostitution victims, testified in support: “A.B. 380 is an obvious step in the right direction to begin to address the plight of young people – women and girls – who are victimized by prostitution and have nowhere to turn for help.”

Lee said Hambrick’s new proposals have merit as well. The concern is whether they will be applied equally to all offenders by law enforcement. Such laws have frequently been used nationally to target specific groups including women, minorities and homosexuals, she said.

“I think the intent of his legislation is excellent,” Lee said. “My concern is will it be enforced in the spirit that the Assemblyman wrote it.”

Hambrick’s new measures would:

-          Clarify that the crime of involuntary servitude can also include subjecting another person to commercial sex acts (similar to human trafficking under federal law).

-          Increase criminal and civil penalties for pimps and buyers. It would allow for jail time for someone convicted of either crime to increase to seven years minimum and 20 years maximum. It would also increase fines to as high as $50,000.

-          Allow for staggered penalties for buyers. The younger the victim, the more time a buyer would be required to serve. It would allow for the possibility of a life sentence with parole eligibility after 10 years in prison.

-          Allow a victim to start with a clean slate by petitioning a court to vacate convictions if certain conditions are met.

Audio clips:

Assemblyman John Hambrick said he did not realize the magnitude of the problem:

092910Hambrick1 :30 this horrendous crime.”

Hambrick said one of his new proposals would give victims a fresh start:

092910Hambrick2 :11 would be gone.”

Lois Lee, founder and president of Children of the Night, says the intent is excellent but such laws must be enforced fairly:

092910Lee :09 Assemblyman wrote it.”

Nevada Poverty Rate Increases in 2009, Remains Lower Than Most Other States

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 11:51 am September 29th, 2010

CARSON CITY – The percentage of people living in poverty in Nevada increased to 12.4 percent in 2009 from 11.6 percent in 2008, the U.S. Census Bureau reported this week.

A total of 321,940 Nevadans were estimated to be living below the poverty level in 2009, an increase of more than 25,000 from the prior year, according to the census data.

The national poverty rate was estimated at 14.3 percent in 2009, up a full percentage point from 2008. Nearly 43 million people nationwide are living in poverty.

Nevada’s poverty rate is lower than many other states, according to the data. Nineteen states had lower poverty rates than Nevada.

 

Map Of Poverty Rates Nationwide

Only five states had estimated poverty rates lower than 10 percent – Alaska, Connecticut, Maryland, New Hampshire and New Jersey. On the other side of the distribution, five states had estimated poverty rates at or above 17 percent in 2009 – Alabama, Arkansas, Kentucky, Mississippi and West Virginia.

Poverty rates ranged from a low of 8.5 percent in New Hampshire to a high of 21.9 percent in Mississippi.

State Lawmaker To File Campaign Report Before Early Voting, Challenges Other Candidates To Do The Same

By Sean Whaley | 3:40 pm September 28th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada state Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, said today he will voluntarily file his campaign contribution and expense report before early voting begins to give the public adequate time to review the information.

Goedhart, who is running for re-election, said he is joining with Secretary of State Ross Miller in filing his report well ahead of the deadline now in state law.

Miller announced earlier this month he would voluntarily file early and electronically in support of legislation he will seek next session to improve public access to the information contained in the reports. Miller said he will also file a report four days before the general election detailing any contributions received by his campaign in excess of $1,000 after the initial report filing.

Campaign reports from candidates are not due now until Oct. 26, 10 days after early voting begins and only a few days before the Nov. 2 general election.

“There are legitimate concerns surrounding the disclosure of the identities of donors to political campaigns, especially when incumbent legislators are in a position to threaten, either subtly or overtly, retaliation against citizens who contribute to an opposing candidate,” Goedhart said.

“However, if the law requires disclosure, then such disclosure should be done in a timely fashion that provides voters the information they need to make an informed decision at the ballot box before they vote,” he said. “If we’re going to have early voting, then we need to have early disclosure.”

In addition to filing his report before early voting begins Oct. 16, Goedhart said he will also report contributions of $100 or more on his campaign website within 48 hours of receipt through election day.

He challenged other candidates to file early as well.

“We’re never going to get government to be fiscally responsible if we are not transparent and accountable,” Goedhart said.

Audio clips:

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart says he will report his contributions ahead of early voting and update the information through election day:

092810Goedhart1 :17 $100 or more.”

Goedhart says transparency will lead to fiscal responsibility:

092810Goedhart2 :05 transparent and accountable.”

Goedhart says reporting law must reflect popularity of early voting:

092810Goedhart3 :12 reality of voting.”

Nevada Treasurer’s Office Announces Fee Reduction For College Savings Program

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 3:26 pm September 28th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada Treasurer Kate Marshall announced today that one of the major college savings plans programs administered by her office has agreed to cut its fees to account owners by more than 40 percent.

The Vanguard 529 College Savings Plan, one of the state’s direct-sold plans, is slicing its fees for age-based options from 44 basis points (0.44 percent) to 25 basis points (0.25 percent) starting Oct. 15. Expenses on the plan’s 19 other individual portfolios are also being reduced.  The Vanguard 529 Plan is now one of the lowest priced college savings plans available.

The fee reduction is expected to result in a savings to The Vanguard 529 College Savings Plan account owners of about $8.5 million annually.

“This is great news for families working hard to save for their children’s future college education costs, as the significant lowering of fees for Vanguard 529 College Savings Plan account owners will assist families in saving for a better tomorrow for their children,” Marshall said.

It is the fourth college savings plan fee reduction announced by the Treasurer’s Office in the past 18 months.

Vanguard Chairman and CEO Bill McNabb said: “Low costs are among the largest contributors to a portfolio’s long-term success. We’re pleased to help lower costs for Vanguard 529 College Savings Plan investors.”

The Vanguard 529 College Savings Plan has assets of over $4.5 billion dollars, with some 170,000 account owners nationwide, including 2,300 Nevada families.

Nevada Attorney General To Hold Statewide Domestic Violence Fatality Review Summit

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 12:18 pm September 28th, 2010

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto will hold the first statewide Domestic Violence Fatality Review Summit in Las Vegas on Friday, bringing together over 120 people from around the state to address the issue of domestic violence deaths in Nevada.

The summit will take place at the Suncoast Hotel Casino, 9090 Alta Drive, from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.

“I am sad to report that  this year, Nevada ranks No. 1 in the U.S. for women murdered by men,” Masto said. “Last year, Nevada ranked No. 5 according to the Violence Policy Center. We need to address these statistics and improve our system responses to domestic violence victims in order to save lives.”

Speakers at the summit will include Masto; Neil Websdale, director of the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative and a professor of criminology at Northern Arizona University;  Matthew Dale, executive director, Office of Victim Services, Department of Justice and a senior consultant to the National Domestic Violence Fatality Review Initiative; Chief Jerald Monahan, Apache Junction, Ariz., Police Department; and representatives from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, Reno Police Department, Department of Public Safety, Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence, Department of Health and Human Services, and the Clark County Coroner’s Office.

The summit will also launch the Attorney General’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month, created in 1987 to promote increased rights and services for domestic violence victims; to educate the public about the crisis of domestic violence and the prevalence of this epidemic in Nevada; and to encourage involvement and support from our community for domestic violence victims and those who serve them.

For more information on the summit, contact Kareen Prentice at 775.688.1872

Business Group Sees Tax Hike On Horizon, Opposes Idea Of Major Overhaul Of Nevada Revenue Structure

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 11:04 am September 28th, 2010

CARSON CITY – The head of Nevada’s Retail Association says a tax increase will likely be needed to balance the state budget next year, and expanding the sales tax to include at least some services is one place to look.

But Mary Lau, president and chief executive officer of the Retail Association of Nevada, said it is not the time for Nevada policymakers to look at a major revamping of the state’s tax structure.

“To try to switch an entire tax system, I will agree with the people that were polled, it is not the time to do an entire tax restructuring or anything else because guess what, the other states that have those other programs are equally in trouble,” she said.

Lau made her comments during an interview Monday with Jon Ralston on the Face To Face television program. She was interviewed following the Retail Association’s release of a poll conducted on behalf of the group looking at Nevada political races and the public’s views on issues including whether taxes should be increased.

The poll was conducted by Public Opinion Strategies pollster Glen Bolger.

The poll shows that only 1 percent of those interviewed support a tax increase on small business, 5 percent support a tax increase on large businesses, 11 percent on casinos, 5 percent on mining companies, 12 percent on the rich and 1 percent on the middle class. Seventeen percent said taxes should be raised on everyone.

Support for raising taxes on everyone was lower than in previous polls however.

Lau said the change is a reflection of the current economy.

“A reflection of we don’t have a job, we don’t have any money therefore how are we going to pay,” she said.

Lau said a tax increase, even if it is only the continuation of a package of revenues hiked by the Legislature in 2009 and scheduled to sunset on June 30, 2011, is likely. The state budget cannot be balanced without a tax increase, she said.

There are areas the state hasn’t taxed, such as services, Lau said. An examination of tax abatements and exclusions the Legislature has put in place over the years is also needed, she said.

Both major party candidates for governor have rejected the idea of tax increases to balance the state budget, although many legislative leaders have said new revenues will likely be necessary.

Lau agreed that a discussion of taxes won’t come until after the Legislature first looks at reforms and efficiencies in state spending.

Audio clips:

Retail Association Chief Mary Lau says now is not the time to revamp Nevada’s tax structure:

092810Lau1 :12 equally in trouble.”

Lau says the economy has dampened public support for a tax increase:

092810Lau2 :11 to sound bites.”

Lau says taxing services and eliminating exemptions is one place for Legislature to look for new revenue:

092810Lau3 :05 of the services.”

State Attorney General Defends Record, Denies Playing Politics Under Fire from Opponents

By Sean Whaley | 3:55 pm September 27th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Catherine Cortez Masto points to a number of accomplishments in her first term as attorney general, from reducing methamphetamine production in Nevada to cracking down on mortgage fraud, all while having to live with major budget cuts and fewer staff.

Masto, a Democrat running for a second term, faces Republican attorney Travis Barrick and Las Vegas attorney Joel Hansen, who is running as the Independent American Party candidate, in the Nov. 2 general election.

Both Barrick and Hansen criticize Masto for two controversies in her first term: her misguided and unsuccessful effort to prosecute Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki , a Republican, for allegedly misusing college savings funds while state treasurer, and her decision not to follow Gov. Jim Gibbons’ directive to file a lawsuit challenging the federal health care law.

Both candidates question whether Masto has let politics play a role in her decisions as attorney general, a claim she denies.

Masto said people do try to play politics with such cases but that her office does not engage in such conduct.

“It never will be,” she said. “I will always look at it from a legal perspective, what’s the best interest for the state of Nevada; the people I represent.”

Barrick, who went to law school late in life, said many of Masto’s priorities are laudable but that she is failing to pursue other important initiatives as the top law enforcement officer of the state, such as improving the safety of the state prison system, which is dangerous for both correctional officers and inmates, and protecting mining and ranching interests from legal attacks by environmentalists.

Hansen, who says he has more experience than both of the other candidates combined, said as attorney general he would file a “friend of the court” brief in defense of Arizona’s new immigration law. Hansen said he would also push for a similar law in Nevada and if it was challenged, file a counterclaim against the federal government seeking compensation for Nevada for the costs of providing services to illegal immigrants.

Hansen has already filed a private class action lawsuit against the federal health care law, arguing it violates the individual constitutional rights of Nevada residents.

“It wouldn’t be business as usual with me in there,” he said.

Masto is leading in a poll done for the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week. It shows Masto with 37 percent to 27 percent for Barrick. “Another party” candidate gets 3 percent in the poll and 22 percent are undecided.

Masto said one of the top issues she pursued upon being elected was methamphetamine production.

“Methamphetamine was a number one issue for us because we led the nation in first time use, both for our kids and our adults,” she said. “From my perspective we’ve done a phenomenal to address it.”

Masto said she worked with the Legislature in 2007 to put the common medicines used in the drug production behind the counter of pharmacies, which led to a huge drop in the number of labs manufacturing the drug in Nevada.

Masto acknowledges that one result of that successful effort has been to see more of the drug smuggled into the U.S. from Mexico. But Masto said she is working with her counterparts in several Mexican states to address the drug importation issue, along with other important cross-border concerns including weapons trafficking, money laundering and human trafficking.

The efforts have produced results, as seen by the higher price and lower quality of meth found in Nevada, she said.

Now that meth use is under some control, a new threat is young people looking through the family medicine cabinets for drugs. As a result, Masto said the state and local governments are offering prescription drug roundups to collect and properly dispose of unneeded medications.

Masto said she is also working to address domestic violence, consumer fraud, especially for senior citizens, those who prey on families who face foreclosure, and Medicaid fraud, among many other issues.

With domestic violence, Nevada now leads the nation in the number of women murdered per capita as a result of domestic violence, she said. A gun is the weapon of choice in most of these cases, Masto said.

The state recently received a federal grant to perform a review of domestic violence fatalities with the goal of learning how to address the issue, Masto said. It will be a collaborative effort involving law enforcement, treatment providers, elected officials and others, she said.  As chairwoman of the Domestic Violence Prevention Council, Masto said the state workers with the batterers as well to try to stem the violence.

“We’re doing all this with less,” she said.

Her employees are taking unpaid furloughs, but they also come in after hours to get their work done without being paid overtime, Masto said.

Masto said she has reached out to work with law enforcement and other groups involved in the various issues pursued by her office as a way of stretching scare resources even further. As a result, every major law enforcement agency in the state has endorsed her campaign, she said.

Masto has faced a few controversies in her first term as the top law enforcement office in the state overseeing the state’s largest law firm. Masto and Gibbons, a Republican, faced off over whether the state should sue over the new federal health care reform law.

Masto declined to intervene, saying the challenges under way did not require Nevada’s involvement and her office’s scarce resources could be devoted to other pressing issues. Gibbons went ahead independently to sue over the health care law.

Masto also took some pointed criticisms for pursuing the case against Krolicki, which was thrown out by a Clark County judge last year. Krolicki had been facing criminal charges regarding the expenditure of funds for a college savings program. Krolicki denied any wrongdoing and said the failed prosecution was politically motivated. Krolicki is running for a second term as lieutenant governor.

Regarding the health care challenge, Masto said she is a firm believer in states’ rights and has defended them, but her office has to pick and choose where to spend scarce resources.

“We have the highest unemployment rate, highest bankruptcy, highest foreclosure, these people are concerned, rightfully so, about how they are going to survive and keep food on the table,” she said. “So from my perspective if I have the ability to assist them in some form or fashion that is where I’m going to focus.”

The health care and Krolicki issues, along with Masto’s decision not to investigate former state nuclear projects director Bob Loux over a salary controversy, are the reasons cited by Barrick for running against Masto.

Masto, citing a conflict of interest, turned the Loux investigation over to the Washoe County Sheriff for investigation in September 2008. No results have yet been reported.

Barrick, who worked as a contractor for many years before going back to school and eventually earning a law degree, said he filed for the race because he did not see a conservative seeking to challenge Masto.

Barrick said his campaign is about bringing integrity to the job.

“One of the knocks on my candidacy is that I am a relative newcomer to Nevada politics,” he said. “My response to that was, the other side of that is, I don’t owe anybody any favors at all. You can see that just in the campaign contributions I have not received.”

While contributions are limited, Barrick said he defeated a GOP opponent in the primary who outspent him four to one, suggesting money in itself doesn’t decide who will win an election.

While supporting those goals Masto is pursuing, Barrick said he is concerned about the issues that are not getting the attention they deserve.

“I think the prison system is a mess,” he said.

Since the attorney general is a member of the Board of Prison Commissioners, Barrick said he would work to create a safer environment in the state’s prisons.

“My conscience will not allow me as a Nevada citizen to stand by and allow our prisons system to be barbaric both to the correctional officers and to the inmates,” he said.

Barrick said he also has questions about a controversial labor commissioner ruling in support of a tip pooling policy instituted by Wynn Resorts to include supervisors.

“The rich and powerful in this state are being given a pass on bad acts,” he said.

Hansen said he believes Masto’s priorities as attorney general have been misguided. In particular, she was obligated to file a lawsuit challenging the health care law when asked to do so by Gov. Jim Gibbons.

“So she violated her duty,” he said. “She had no right to say no. I filed a private class action lawsuit because she failed to file one.”

Hansen said he would also seek to follow the lead of the Ohio attorney general, who sued several major Wall Street firms on behalf of the investors of the state and won a $1 billion settlement from American International Group, Inc. (AIG) and lesser amounts from other firms.

“What was our attorney general doing with her time while the Ohio attorney general was getting $1 billion for Ohio,” Hansen asked. “Well what she was doing is going after Brian Krolicki and getting thrown out of court because it was groundless. That’s what she did. That’s what she did for Nevada.”

Hansen said as attorney general he would also undertake a review of the various local gun laws in the state, particularly the requirement in Clark County that handgun owners register their weapons, to ensure their constitutionality. Hansen would then challenge any that violate the Second Amendment.

“I’m the most qualified and experienced candidate in this race,” he said. “And I don’t think anyone can deny that. That’s the truth.”

___

Audio clips:

Masto says she has worked to combat methamphetamine abuse in her first term:

092410Masto1 :19 a phenomenal job.”

Masto says she has worked directly with her Mexican counterparts to fight drug trafficking:

092410Masto2 :18 of our countries.”

Masto says she works collaboratively with law enforcement and others to make scarce resources go further:

092410Masto3 :27 find the solutions.”

Masto says she has focused on the issues that mean most to Nevadans:

092410Masto4 :17 going to focus.”

GOP AG candidate Travis Barrick says he has integrity and owes no one any favors:

092410Barrick1 :24 have not received.”

Barrick says Masto not working on important issues:

092410Barrick2 :13 of Prison Commissioners.”

Barrick says he would tackle prison problems as attorney general:

092410Barrick3 :17 other for it.”

Barrick says miners and ranchers aren’t being represented:

092410Barrick4 :09 are being represented.”

IAP AG candidate Joel Hansen says he has already challenged health care law on his own:

092410Hansen1 :47 way we want.”

Hansen says he would emulate Ohio AG and seek damages from Wall Street for Nevada investors:

092410Hansen2 :36 know about it.”

Hansen says Masto wasted time on Krolicki prosecution instead of recouping money lost by Nevada investors:

092410Hansen3 :17 did for Nevada.”

Hansen says he is the most qualified candidate:

092410Hansen4 :17 that’s the truth.”

GOP Congressional Candidate Joe Heck Admits Race Will Be Close, Reaches Out To Undecided Voters

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 2:58 pm September 27th, 2010

Republican Congressional candidate Joe Heck said today he expects the race between him and incumbent Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., to be decided by no more than 2 percentage points in the November general election.

Heck, a physician and former state lawmaker who served with Titus in the Nevada Senate, said on the Nevada NewsMakers television program today: “It’s going to be a neck and neck race.”

“So we’re working hard on the folks that we need to reach out to, the undecideds, the nonpartisans, we’re doing well in those groups, and we think that is what is going to carry us to victory on Nov.2,” he said.

Heck said he does not know if the Tea Party Express will back his campaign, but that anything the group does to energize Nevada voters will benefit him in the Congressional District 3 race against Titus, who is completing her first term.

“Anything that movement does to energize the conservative vote to turn out will have a trickledown effect in CD3,” he said.

Polls show the two candidates in a statistical tie. The race is considered a key to which party will control Congress following the mid-term election.

Heck said the federal health care law has some positive elements, such as requiring coverage for preexisting conditions, but that too much of it is flawed. An example is the requirement for younger healthier people to pay substantially more for coverage to support older participants with more costly medical conditions, he said.

“There is $1 billion in this bill appropriated to the federal government for the cost of implementation of the bill,” he said. “So any bill that is going to cost $1 billion to implement certainly has some flaws.”

Heck said if he is elected to Congress his approach to the health care law will be to repair those good sections that have flaws, repeal unworkable elements and replace those parts that are good in concept but that need more realistic solutions.

Heck, who has been criticized by Titus backers for a vote in the Nevada Senate in 2007 to oppose requiring health insurance companies to cover a new cervical cancer drug, said the statements ignore his real legislative record in support of reforms to improve access to health care. There were concerns about potential side effects from the drug, he said.

“They want to pick one vote on one issue and try to make it seem I was against women in heath care when actually I was standing up for women in health care,” he said.

Heck said mandated coverages drive up the cost of health insurance and Nevada has a high number of mandates already.

Audio clips:

Republican Congressional District 3 candidate Joe Heck says his race against Titus will be close:

092710Heck1 :14 on Nov. 2.”

Heck says any Tea Party Express efforts in Nevada will help him in his race:

092710Heck2 :22  on Nov. 2.”

Heck says the new federal health care law has flaws:

092710Heck3 :09 has some flaws.”

Heck says he worked in the state Legislature to improve access to health care:

092710Heck4 :07 in health care.”

Incumbent State Treasurer Kate Marshall Down Five Points to GOP Challenger Steve Miller

By Elizabeth Crum | 6:05 am September 26th, 2010

In case you missed it, check out the latest Mason-Dixon poll results in the state treasurer’s race. Incumbent Kate Marshall is now down by five points to Republican opponent Steve Martin.

Attribute it to what you will–Marshall’s surprise disclosure of the sad state of the Millenium scholarship fund; her questionable use of taxpayer dollars to promote herself in radio ads; the fact that she and the rest of the Democrat incumbents are just generally disliked by voters this year; or the fact that her opponent’s name is “Steve Martin“–but it looks like Marshall may be in trouble at the polls.

Our own Sean Whaley wrote a sum-up of the race and various (disputed) issues this week. You can read it here.

State Treasurer, GOP Challenger Argue Over Facts and Figures

By Sean Whaley | 8:05 am September 24th, 2010

(Updated at 12:40 p.m. on Sept. 25, 2010, to reflect new poll results showing challenger Steve Martin ahead of incumbent Kate Marshall.)

CARSON CITY – The loss of millions of dollars in an investment made by the state Treasurer’s Office in 2008 when the Lehman Brothers financial firm failed in the midst of an historic national economic crisis has become a campaign issue for Treasurer Kate Marshall as she seeks a second term in office.

Republican opponent Steve Martin says Marshall did not heed warning signs about the collapse of one of the nation’s largest financial investment firms and has not fully disclosed the effect of the company’s filing for bankruptcy on the state’s finances.

Martin said Marshall’s lack of experience in financial matters has been displayed in her first term, and she has not been as transparent as she should have been about the activities of her office and the programs she oversees.

“My biggest issue, and it even includes the Lehman Brothers loss, is the overall lack of transparency and financial accountability in that office right now,” he said.

Marshall says Martin has his facts wrong in suggesting that her office ignored warning signs of the Lehman collapse or that she failed to disclose the effect of the collapse on Nevada after it happened.

Nevada’s $50 million investment in Lehman, made through Wachovia on behalf of the state, was said by the advisers to be “100 percent good” immediately before Lehman filed for bankruptcy on Sept. 15, 2008, she said.

“Lehman was rated A the day it went down,” Marshall said. “I wish I had a crystal ball; I did not. I don’t know of anybody who knew before it went down, that’s kind of why it was such a big crisis.”

States overall lost $3 billion in the company’s failure. Nevada is now in line with other creditors seeking compensation for their losses.

But even with the Lehman Brothers loss, Marshall said she made money for the state that year.

“That year we actually showed a net gain,” she said. “So at the end of the year, even with that loss, I added $55 million to the state’s coffers.

“Was it horrible, yes,” Marshall said. “The entire country reached a precipice, and the entire country just about financially collapsed. Did Nevada feel part of it, absolutely. Is Nevada still feeling part of  this financial collapse in our economy, absolutely. Do I think I showed stewardship and leadership and was able to manage us through that crisis? You betcha, you betcha.”

Marshall, a Reno attorney in private practice who had not run for public office prior to seeking the treasurer position in 2006, said she has helped guide the state through the worst national fiscal crisis in decades, including keeping one of the best credit ratings for any state in the nation. Marshall said she would like to continue to do so for another four years.

Martin, who served for a time as Nevada State Controller as a Gov. Kenny Guinn appointee, is a Las Vegas certified public accountant who also serves on the Board of Finance, a panel that oversees the investment policies of the Treasurer’s office.

The most recent poll on the race, conducted just this week on behalf of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, shows Martin ahead of Marshall with 37 percent of the vote, Marshall with 32 percent and 19 percent undecided.

Martin said he will ensure the treasurer’s office is completely transparent if he wins in November. The Lehman Brothers failure is just one example of Marshall’s failure to be completely transparent and forthcoming about the operations of her office, he said.

Martin cites as evidence of his criticism a legislative budget hearing for her office about five months after the Lehman bankruptcy filing.

“She was quizzed during the budget hearings in February 09 at the Ways and Means and it was like a shock to everybody, not only to Republicans but Democrats just across the board,” he said.

He cites a 47-page treasurer’s office financial report released in October 2009 that made no mention of the Lehman loss. The report says in its introduction it will provide a detailed explanation of what happened in the office, Martin said.

“That is a material item and has to be referenced in there and should be totally explained as to what went on; it wasn’t,” he said. “That is not transparency.”

Marshall said Martin has his facts wrong on the transparency claim as well.

“I was on TV and in a newspaper article within 24 hours identifying the loss,” she said.

Her office produced copies of two television news reports dated Sept. 16 and 17, 2008, citing Marshall announcing how the collapse of Lehman Brothers could cost the state as much as $12 million of its $50 million investment.

She also did a lengthy interview on Jon Ralston’s television interview program Face To Face on Dec. 18, 2008.

Marshall said the Lehman loss is also included in the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR) prepared by the state Controller’s office.

The amount the state expects to recoup from the Lehman loss has been a moving target. Marshall told the Legislature in February 2009 the return might be half of the original investment. The state has recovered none of the $50 million yet.

Martin said the most recent estimate for recovery from the Lehman loss that he is aware of is only nine cents on the dollar, or less than $5 million.

Martin also cites Marshall’s plan for writing off the loss from the Lehman investment as an example of not being transparent.

Marshall is spreading the loss of income to several dozen different agencies and programs over 4.5 years. She said the plan, which was reviewed by the Board of Finance in July 2009 – before Martin was appointed – was approved both by state Budget Director Andrew Clinger and the Legislature.

But Martin says the financial loss to many programs, including the Millennium Scholarship, has not been fully explained to everyone involved. He cites an email sent to the treasurer’s office on June 10 this year from a budget analyst asking why interest payments were not being received for one of the programs, the remediation trust fund account.

The treasurer’s office responded and explained the situation was the result of the Lehman loss but Martin says it is evidence that the plan has not been well publicized.

“Now if a budget analyst doesn’t understand what is going on, and they work directly in that area, how can we say that the information is public knowledge and has gotten out,” Martin asked.

Martin asked for a special Board of Finance meeting to discuss the issue but the treasurer’s office received an attorney general’s opinion saying it was not appropriate for discussion.

Martin said such an action does not equate to a transparent treasurer’s office.

He said over 170 agencies and programs are being financially affected by the loss of income from the Lehman collapse, including more than $600,000 to the financially strapped Millennium Scholarship.

“All of these are just glossed over and not publicized,” he said.

But Marshall said Martin approved the plan to cover the Lehman loss as a member of the Board of Finance when he voted to approve the quarterly financial statements. Spreading the loss out over time has meant less of an impact on the different agencies and programs dependent on the funds.

“He has seen this for a year and only decided two months before the election that he was going to vote against it,” she said. “It has been in front of him for quite a while.”

Martin acknowledges the votes but said the information was in the “fine print” in the reports, and that his ongoing research efforts have led to his concerns in recent months.

Martin says the transparency issue is also found in Marshall’s questionable oversight of the Millennium Scholarship program. He has criticized Marshall for what he says is her failure to provide an accurate financial assessment of the health of the scholarship to lawmakers earlier this year.

The scholarship, named after the late Gov. Kenny Guinn, is available to qualified Nevada high school graduates. The Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee in August transferred funds from a separate college savings program into the scholarship to keep it solvent through the current school year but it faces a bleak future.

The shortfall was created in part when the Legislature decided to divert funding sources used for the scholarship to help fill a shortfall in the general fund and the College Savings Plans Board opted not to use other revenues to keep the scholarship solvent. The situation worsened when the annual tobacco settlement fund payment to Nevada, the main source of the scholarship, came in lower than expected in April, primarily because people are smoking less.

Martin noted that both Assemblywoman Heidi Gansert, R-Reno, and Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, in April questioned the treasurer’s office about the shortfall and Marshall’s statements to the Legislature in February that the scholarship fund would remain solvent through 2014.

Marshall said lawmakers were given the best information available from her office about the financial status of the scholarship, and in a letter to the governor and Legislature she warned that taking nearly $28 million in funding from the program over three years to balance the state budget would put it at risk.

Martin said he first suggested the program would be short by $3.9 million in the current year, long before a new analysis by the treasurer’s office actually showed a $4.2 million shortfall.

Martin said he has the experience Marshall lacks to run the office. Marshall can rely on expert advice, “but if you don’t understand the background and everything else from a finical standpoint you don’t know if you are getting good advice or bad advice.”

Marshall said in her nearly four years as treasurer, she has worked to reduce costs by renegotiating contracts and taking other actions to spend less. This has resulted in savings that the Legislature has been able to use to help overcome ongoing budget deficits, she said.

“I have been able to identify funds for them to help them bridge the gap and get them through the latest hump,” Marshall said.

The office has also made great strides in helping Nevada parents save for college, including one program that will match savings up to $300 a year for parents with eligible incomes, she said.

“It doesn’t get any better than that,” Marshall said.

___

Audio clips:

Nevada Treasurer candidate Steve Martin says Treasurer Marshall has shown a lack of financial accountability and transparency in her first term:

092310Martin1 :23 office right now.”

Marshall says an adviser told her the Lehman investment was safe and that there was no hint of a problem:

092310Marshall1 :32 a big crisis.”

Marshall says even with the Lehman loss she made money for the state:

092310Marshall3 :10 the state’s coffers.”

Marshall says she showed leadership in the Lehman crisis:

092310Marshall4 :26 betcha, you betcha.”

Martin says lawmakers were surprised to hear of the loss five months after the fact:

092310Martin2 :17 across the board.”

Martin says Marshall did not disclose the Lehman loss in her annual report:

092310Martin3 :12 I would have.”

Marshall says she disclosed the Lehman loss within 24 hours:

092310Marshall6 :11 at that time.”

Martin says Marshall has failed to be transparent about how the Lehman loss is being absorbed by state agencies:

092310Martin4 :19 and not publicized.”

Marshall says Martin approved the plan to absorb the loss:

092310Marshall2 :19 against it, OK.”

Nevada Insurers Stop Offering Child-Only Policies Due to Uncertainty Over Federal Health Care Law

By Sean Whaley | 2:05 am September 24th, 2010

CARSON CITY – A Nevada insurance broker today said families seeking health care coverage for a child only can no longer purchase such policies because of uncertainty over the effects of the national health care reform law.

Phil Randazzo, chief executive officer of Nevada Benefits Corp. said uncertainty about how the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will affect these types of polices has led the companies offering health care coverage in Nevada to independently decide to no longer offer such coverage.

Nevada Benefits is one of the state’s leading brokerages of individual and group medical and life insurance.

“What happened was that children now are allowed to purchase health care insurance with no preexisting conditions,” Randazzo said. “Which sounds good, but the problem is the insurance companies don’t know how to underwrite that or handle that because it is an unknown.”

Regulations have not yet been generated for insurance companies to know the ramifications of the change, he said.

Elements of the federal health care law, including provisions prohibiting insurance companies from turning down children with preexisting conditions, took effect today. Other states have seen the same effect as companies decide to no longer offer the policies.

“The insurance companies made a business decision, which I totally understand, to not offer child only insurance policies,” Randazzo said. “So now if you live in Nevada, and you want to buy insurance for your child, you can’t buy one.”

One alternative would be for parents to cover their children under a health plan offered by an employer, he said.

Randazzo said the situation “is a big mess.” Nevada’s Congressional delegation has been contacted but is unaware of how this situation will be resolved, he said.

Randazzo said he is now turning down such coverage requests because he can longer sell such policies.

Ethan Rome, executive director of the liberal group Health Care for America Now (HCAN), issued a statement criticizing the decision of the insurance companies to drop the coverage.

“The latest announcement by the insurance companies that they won’t cover kids is immoral, and to blame their appalling behavior on the new law is patently dishonest,” he said. “Instead, they should reverse their actions immediately and follow the spirit of the law, instead of exploiting loopholes.”

Nevada is one of several states challenging the constitutionality of the health care law.

___

Audio clips:

Phil Randazzo said child-only insurance policies are no longer available in Nevada due to the new health care law:

092310Randazzo1 :18 been put out.”

Randazzo said insurance companies had to make a business decision:

092310Randazzo2 :13 can’t buy one.”

Randazzo describes the situation as a big mess:

092310Randazzo3 :18 vote right now.”

Nevada Secretary Of State Says Overseas Voters Benefitting From New Technology

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 1:46 pm September 22nd, 2010

CARSON CITY – With less than four weeks to go before early voting begins for the Nov. 2 general election, military and civilian voters located overseas are already taking advantage of a new online system that verifies their marked ballots have been received by local election officials.

Secretary of State Ross Miller partnered with the Nevada Office of Veteran’s Services to get state legislation passed in 2009 that allows certain residents of the state to register to vote and request absentee ballots by fax or by email.

Once downloaded, completed, and scanned, the ballots can also be returned electronically. The legislation was pursued after a national study found that a high percentage of absentee ballots sent by mail from military and civilian voters overseas were not received in time to be counted.

Congress subsequently adopted similar legislation that also includes a requirement that states provide a mechanism to allow voters to verify their marked absentee ballots have been received. The provisions apply to all uniformed voters and civilian voters who are overseas at election time.

Uniformed and overseas voters can now go to the Election Center and use My Voter File to verify that their ballot has been received by their local election official.

“This is another in a series of efforts by my office to make sure all Nevadans who are serving their country outside of their home state can access the electoral process regardless of where they are at election time,” Miller said. “It’s inexcusable in this technological age to let anyone’s vote go uncounted because of distance and I’m very pleased to hear that many Nevadans away from home are already taking advantage of this new tool.”

Local elections officials began mailing, faxing, and emailing absentee ballots to uniformed and overseas civilians voters last week. The deadline for all Nevadans to register to vote electronically or by mail is Oct. 2. The deadline to register in person at a county clerk or registrar’s office is Oct. 12.

Early voting begins Oct. 16.

Full-Time RVer Finds Voter Residency Rules Will Keep Him From Casting Nevada Ballot

By Sean Whaley | 5:05 am September 22nd, 2010

CARSON CITY – Long-time Nevada resident Art Cooke says he is now officially a disenfranchised voter.

After voting in every primary and general election in Carson City for a decade, Cooke sold his Bodie Drive home and became a full-time recreational vehicle resident upon retirement five years ago. Cooke and his wife Rita spend time out-of-state every year, wintering in Yuma, Ariz. and visiting other states in their luxury recreational vehicle.

He has voted in every Carson City election even as a full time RVer, including the June primary, but a recent decision has put his ability to vote in Nevada in the Nov. 2 general election in doubt.

Cooke said he has a mail delivery address in Carson City, all of his vehicles are registered in Nevada, he has a small business in Carson City and his driver’s license is from Nevada. But because he resides in RV parks when he returns to Carson, where utilities and other associated costs are paid as part of the fee, Cooke said he has no utility bill or other satisfactory proof of his physical address to satisfy Nevada’s voter residency requirements.

A voter must show proof of residency at a physical address for 30 days prior to election day to be able to cast a ballot.

Without a specific physical address to provide to Nevada election officials, Cooke has been informed he can no longer vote in Nevada except for president every four years.

“Even if you are homeless in Nevada you must have a physical address,” said Cooke, reached while traveling in Ohio. “I guess as a U.S. citizen and an Army veteran of the Vietnam War I no longer have the right to vote.

“It looks like that I just won’t be able to vote any longer,” he said.

Cooke said he has contacted the ACLU which is now looking into the issue on his behalf.

Carson City Clerk Alan Glover confirmed Cooke’s situation, saying the residency issue has become more common as more people opt to live full time in their recreational vehicles upon retirement.

“We get at least a dozen of these every election,” he said.

Glover said he is sympathetic to Cooke’s dilemma, but that the residency requirements to vote are clear. The proof of residency requirement is part of the Help America Vote Act signed into law in 2002, he said.

“It is especially hard on RVers,” Glover said. “They no longer have a residence within the county, in our case Carson City, therefore they are not entitled to vote in Carson City.”

It is also an issue for the homeless, particularly in Clark County, he said.

Glover said one solution for Cooke would be to establish a residence at an RV park in the city 30 days before the election and register to vote at the address. A rent receipt would be sufficient proof to vote, he said.

Cooke said he did not expect to be back in Carson until just before election day.

Glover said others in similar situations who have family in Carson or another Nevada community will use that residence as their own for purposes of registering to vote, filing taxes and other such activities.

A business address or a drop box for mail is not sufficient for proof of residency for voting, he said.

Glover said the residency requirement has come about because of situations where people have tried to vote in elections where they are not legal residents. Federal officials removed several hundred RVers from the vote rolls in Nye County a few years ago because they were not legal residents in the county and were not eligible to vote, he said.

Rebecca Gasca, public advocate for the ACLU of Nevada, said the residency issue emerged as a major concern in the 2008 election because the foreclosure crisis was forcing many Nevadans out of their homes. The concern prompted Secretary of State Ross Miller to issue a news release saying foreclosed residents who had not changed their addresses still had the right to vote.

Gasca said there are remedies depending on the individual circumstances, such as a homeless person using a shelter as a permanent address.

Given the fact that Nevada’s population is highly mobile, some of the residency issues could be resolved if Nevada followed the lead of some other states and allowed for same day registration right through election day, Gasca said. There would still have to be an intent by the voter to follow the residency requirements, she said.

The ACLU has an acute interest in the issue and will be watching as voting gets under way in the general election starting next month, Gasca said.

Cooke said his problems began when he was called for jury duty. He came back to Carson from Yuma to report and found the case had been resolved. Court officials then said they would remove him from the jury selection list since he was traveling out of state. About two weeks later he received a letter from Carson City election officials saying he was no longer considered to be a resident of the state.

Information Cooke then provided to prove his residency was deemed insufficient for voting purposes.

Cooke was told he would only be allowed to vote for president every four years using a “no fixed address” ballot.

Cooke said he believes the decision is a violation of his constitutional rights, and that he should at least be able to cast ballots for the Nevada statewide races and the federal races.

“I’ve never missed an election,” he said. “This is going to be a tough one.”

Cooke said he planned to vote for Sharron Angle in the hotly contested U.S. Senate race.

“I told the Angle campaign I sure hope you don’t miss it by one vote,” he said.

___

Audio clips:

Art Cooke says he at least should be able to vote in the federal contests:

092110Cooke1 :19 they said no.”

Carson Clerk Alan Glover says state residency laws are particularly hard on RVers:

092110Glover1 :23 they have options.”

Glover says he has sympathy but law is clear:

092110Glover3 :08 with them, so.”