Archive for October, 2010

Dem Mailer Attacks GOP Candidate for State Treasurer

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:20 pm October 31st, 2010

This rather nasty mailer from the state Democratic party was received at some Nevada households this weekend, two days before the elections in a race the latest Mason-Dixon poll says is tied 39-39 percent:

Here is a close up of the text:


And:

You can read our e-interview with Steve Martin on the front page here.

Treasurer Marshall did not respond to our interview request.

Drop your comments below.

A Day Late

By Elizabeth Crum | 2:23 pm October 30th, 2010

A Sharron Angle flyer encouraging early voting arrives in my mailbox one day too late:

I never vote early, anyhow, Dear Readers.

Lots of people did, though, and here’s where we stand.

Oops!

As I was typing, Secretary of State Ross Miller just Tweeted these statewide early voting totals, excluding Eureka County:

Dems:  162,774

GOP:  156,150

(That puts the GOP down by just 6,624 votes statewide)

Other:  60,665

Key factors going into Tuesday:

– enthusiasm and turnout by both parties, i.e. whether or not the GOP can overcome the Dems’ 60,000 edge in voter registration

– how the nonpartisan voters break (Angle needs them )

– how many Rs Angle loses to Reid, “none,” or third party candidates

– how many Ds Reid loses to Angle (she claims they exist), “none,” or third party candidates

It’s almost over, Dear Readers.

Nevada’s “Actual” Unemployment Rate Hit 22.3% In Third Quarter

By Sean Whaley | 2:05 pm October 29th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s “actual” unemployment rate in the third quarter of 2010 increased to 22.3 percent from 21.5 percent in the second quarter, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported today.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics report shows a much worse unemployment situation in Nevada and nationally because it includes workers who are too discouraged to seek employment and have given up searching, and workers employed part time for economic reasons.

The number is generated as a three-month average every quarter.

The monthly unemployment report for Nevada for September, released a week ago, showed the state’s jobless rate at 14.4 percent, unchanged from August and still the highest in the nation. But the monthly jobless report underestimates the number of unemployed because it only estimates unemployed workers who are actively seeking employment.

In citing the Bureau of Labor Statistics data when the July Nevada jobless rate was reported, the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) said: “Despite the historic run up in the unemployment rate, the reality of the recession’s impacts on Nevada’s workforce is much worse than presented.

“Use of the alternative measure of unemployment for research purposes is limited since the information is only available for the past five years, so comparisons to past recessions is not possible,” DETR reported. “But, from a policy perspective, the actual unemployment rate presents a more complete picture of what is currently occurring in the economy.”

Stacey Standish, a press information officer for the Bureau of Labor Statistics, said the numbers for the quarterly report are generated from a survey of 60,000 households nationwide. The 22.3 percent rate for Nevada, which is 16.8 percent nationally, includes part-time workers who want to work full time, and discouraged workers who have not actively sought employment over the past year, she said.

Nevada is tops in the nation in the Labor Statistics report, followed by California at 22.1 percent and Michigan at 21.3 percent.

The grim data comes out just days before the Nov. 2 general election, where the economy and jobs have been the major focus of candidates.

The state’s record high unemployment rate, combined with Congressional approval last year of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which is aimed at reducing the national jobless rate, have become major campaign issues in the Nevada Senate race between Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., and GOP challenger Sharron Angle.

The effectiveness of the stimulus spending also came up in a recent debate between Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., and GOP challenger Joe Heck in the Congressional 3 race. Heck called the stimulus bill a failure at generating jobs. Titus said the state’s unemployment rate would be much worse without the jobs created through the stimulus legislation.

Both Reid and Titus are locked in dead-heat races with their opponents.

Some of the stimulus projects have also been criticized as being wasteful, including a tree planting project in Clark County first reported by the Nevada News Bureau that made a GOP list of the top 100 worst projects nationwide.

The majority of the nearly $2.5 billion stimulus funds received by the Nevada have not gone to job creating projects. The money has spent on Medicaid caseloads and jobless benefits as specified in the legislation. Three jobless related programs alone account for nearly $1.3 billion in total spending in Nevada.

The federal stimulus reporting website shows 9,300 jobs created in Nevada from the stimulus funding through June 30.

The September 2010 Nevada unemployment report showed a total of just over 1.1 million jobs in the state, nearly 24,000 fewer jobs than in September 2009.

State Parties Fight Hard Over High Stakes Senate Seats

By Sean Whaley | 4:34 pm October 28th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Senate Democrats are running a slate of candidates across the state in the hopes of winning a 14-seat, veto-proof majority for the upcoming 2011 session.

But Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said he does not expect it to happen, and he has not discounted the possibility of the GOP winning the majority.

“It looks much more promising to me now than when we began this campaign,” he said. “We may have some surprises.”

Alisa Nave, executive director of the Nevada Senate Democrats, said the goal has been to recruit and support a quality group of candidates who can get to work immediately in Carson City, not win a supermajority.

“We want to elect good people to office who can continue what we started two years ago,” she said. “Nevada faces many challenges. No one caucus can solve our problems alone.”

But Republicans say Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, has made no secret of the fact he wants a veto-proof Democratic majority in 2011.

For Democrats to end up with 14 members, they need to hang on to the Clark 5 seat held by freshman Democrat incumbent Joyce Woodhouse, defeat long-time Republican Barbara Cegavske in the Clark 8 seat and win the open Clark 9 seat formerly held by Republican Dennis Nolan.

Republicans, for their part, are trying to gain ground on the Democrats, who took over the majority in the state Senate in the 2009 session for the first time since 1991. They are seeking to defeat Woodhouse, hold on to Cegavske’s seat and win the open seat to cut the margin for Democrats to only one.

Woodhouse is facing Republican Michael Roberson, Cegavske is facing Democrat Tammy Peterson and Republican Elizabeth Halseth is facing Democrat Benny Yerushalmi in the open Clark Senate 9 seat.

Halseth said the conciliatory words from Senate Democrats may have more to do with polls showing Republicans doing well in several races, including her own, than out of any desire to seek bipartisan cooperation in the 2011 session.

While Halseth said she has not seen poll results for her race, contributions to her campaign have increased in recent days, suggesting her numbers are good.

“I’m very hopeful,” she said. “Our three races are very important. The Democrats are certainly not holding anything back.”

Registration Edge May Not Matter in Anti-Incumbent Year

Democrats have a 12-9 edge right now and they have a registration edge in all three Southern Nevada districts, although the margins in two are thin and nonpartisan voters will play a role in all three races.

Clark 5 has a registration edge for Democrats of 46,910 to 45,280 for Republicans with just over 19,000 nonpartisans, according to statistics from the secretary of state’s office. Clark 8 has 19,352 Democrats, 18,899 Republicans and 7,674 nonpartisan voters. Clark 9 has 55,120 Democrats, 51,899 Republicans and 23,721 nonpartisans.

Other races potentially are in play as well.

Raggio said he believes the race in Washoe 1 to replace Democrat Bernice Mathews is in play despite the heavy Democratic voter registration edge. Democratic Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie is facing Republican and Sparks City Councilman Phil Salerno in the race.

Democrats have nearly 18,000 voters in the district compared to just under 8,700 Republicans, with another 6,257 nonpartisans.

“I’m not sure party registration means a hell of a lot,” Raggio said. “There is an anti-incumbency feeling. There are a lot of independents. It’s not going to be the Democratic tsunami that it was two years ago.”

Nave said Democrats are also seeking victory in the open seat in Clark 12 formerly held by Republican Warren Hardy and the open Washoe 2 seat held by outgoing Republican Maurice Washington. Democrat Aaron Ford, an attorney and former high school math teacher, is facing Republican Assemblyman Joe Hardy, a physician in the Clark 12 race, while Democrat Allison Edwards, also a former teacher, is facing GOP Assemblyman Don Gustavson.

Veto-proof Two House Supermajority at Stake

With Democrats expecting to maintain their majority in the Assembly, the battle for control in the Senate has taken on added significance.

Assembly Democrats now have a veto-proof 28-14 edge over Republicans and they are trying to hold on to and even build on that significant advantage. Republicans are seeking to hold on to their current number and pick up at least one more seat to take away the supermajority.

The 2011 session will see debates over taxes and the budget, as well as the redrawing of state legislative district boundaries. Both Democrats and Republicans will have to live with any redistricting plan for a decade, making control of the Legislature even more critical for both parties.

If Democrats gain a two-thirds majority in both houses, they will also have the power to override the vetoes of seven bills by outgoing Gov. Jim Gibbons, including a measure giving state employees some bargaining rights on non-economic issues. The bills were vetoed after the end of the 2009 session and will return to lawmakers next year.

Assembly Bill 395 would let state employees bargain over working conditions. Another vetoed measure, Senate Bill 376, would expand the scope of projects to be considered by the state labor commissioner in setting prevailing wage rates, a change that Gibbons said would increase the cost of county public works projects.

If Democrats win a supermajority in both houses, it would also make it difficult for Brian Sandoval, the Republican candidate for governor favored to win over Democrat Rory Reid, to pursue his agenda.

Cegavske said it is critical for Republicans to win seats to ensure cooperation and compromise.

“You want a balance,” she said. “I see extreme partisanship in the Senate now and that’s not good for the people of Nevada.”

Raggio said Senate Republicans must be relevant in the critical redistricting debate. Republicans will be seeking an expansion of the size of the Legislature to ensure continued representation in northern and rural Nevada, he said.

While there is Democratic opposition in Southern Nevada to expanding the Legislature, Raggio said it is one of those key demands that will require agreement before other issues will be decided.

Attack Ads, Negative Mailers Flood Key Districts

The state Senate races are being fiercely contested.

Woodhouse and Roberson recently participated in a televised debate, discussing attack ads and the budget.

Cegavske, who is facing a challenge from Peterson, an attorney, said she has been the focus of numerous attacks in the mail from the Democratic Party, but in a recent interview indicated she would not be responding in kind.

“I’m taking the high road,” Cegavske said. “Voters want to hear what the candidate is going to do, what their vision is for the state. The number one issue is the economy and jobs. Voters want to know what I can do to help bring business to the state, not tell them how bad somebody is.”

Cegavske, a former small business owner, said raising taxes as many legislative leaders have suggested, won’t help small business. The state needs to live within its means, not build a budget then raise taxes to support it, she said.

Nevada needs to bring in companies that will give Nevadans jobs, Cegavske said. The Legislature can offer incentives to get firms to relocate, she said.

Peterson did not return calls seeking comment.

Nolan lost in the Republican primary to Halseth, a small business owner who is facing Yerushalmi, who runs the family business in Las Vegas.

Halseth said she is seeing a number of attack ads in her campaign as well, but is focusing on her own qualifications.

“I’m not trashing my opponent,” she said. “People are tired of hit pieces, they want solutions. That’s what we’re focusing on.”

Yerushalmi did not return calls seeking comment.

Assembly Democratic Caucus Campaign Report Provokes GOP Criticism, Response From Majority Leader

By Sean Whaley | 7:33 am October 28th, 2010

CARSON CITY – The state Assembly’s Democratic Caucus failed to disclose more than $120,000 in donations from its own members earlier this year, but a Democratic leader says they weren’t legally required to do so.

A dozen Assembly Democrats chipped in the funds in the first five months of this year, according to a review of the individual lawmakers’ campaign expenditure reports. But the donations weren’t disclosed by the caucus on its June 1 financial filing to the state.

Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said the donations were made to reimburse the caucus for salaries of legislators’ staff and to pay the legislators’ dues in the caucus.

“All we have to report is our contributions,” he said. “To be more transparent, we should report everything but we’re not required to do it by law.”

He cited a 1998 legal interpretation from the secretary of state that said that the donations count as reimbursements and aren’t contributions required to be reported by the caucus.

The Nevada News Bureau was not able to immediately obtain a copy of the interpretation.

Oceguera said he has decided to change that policy, effective immediately, to report expenses as well.

The initial explanation was questioned, however, by Nevada State Republican Party Chairman Mark Amodei, an attorney and former state Senator from Carson City.

When told Assembly Democrats have an interpretation from the secretary of state’s office that was the basis for their reporting decisions, Amodei said: “That statement bears no resemblance to the applicable statutes.”

Nevada revised statutes on campaign practices do not use the word reimbursement, he said.

“If it’s an expense, it’s an expense,” he said. “There is no ethics opinion out there that says reimbursements don’t count. This caucus does not have a real strong track record looking back at what has occurred in recent history, when you see what members have used their campaign funds for.”

Outgoing Assemblywoman Kathy McClain, D-Las Vegas, agreed earlier this year to make a $7,276 personal contribution to Safe Nest, a Las Vegas nonprofit supporting abused women, to cover the cost of the contribution she had made in 2009 to the Public Employees Retirement System from her campaign fund. The donation resolved a complaint filed with the secretary of state’s office that she inappropriately used campaign funds to pay for her Clark County retirement contributions while serving as a lawmaker.

Amodei said the real question is why the caucus felt the need to seek an advisory opinion on the issue in the first place.

Oceguera forwarded an email from Tuesday, a day before an inquiry was made about the caucus campaign report, saying he wants the operating expenses disclosed in the future. He directed staff to file an amended report for the second reporting period listing all operating expenses and to ensure future reports include the information as well. The filing deadline for the second report was Tuesday.

“Each caucus member has met the requirements for reporting as has the caucus,” Oceguera said. “However, I believe the caucus can do more, and should. We will file the amended reports quickly, beginning with an amendment to the October 26th report which I expect to have soon.

“I want to emphasize that are in full compliance, and always have been,” he said. “I believe we can go above and beyond that compliance in the public interest, and I’ve directed that we do so.”

Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, said as a member of the Elections, Procedures, Ethics and Constitutional Amendments Committee for two sessions, he frequently heard calls for more openness in the reporting process.

“Unfortunately, it seems actions are much different than words,” he said.

Settelmeyer, who is running for a seat in the state Senate, said the Assembly Democratic Caucus reports signed by Oceguera clearly are incomplete.

“We’re all trying to be more transparent,” he said. “Obviously, even with the current rules we have, we lack some transparency.”

The campaign reports show that members of the Assembly Democratic caucus reported their caucus expenses on their campaign reports, but the expenses are not reflected on the caucus reports.

Oceguera, for example, reported three payments this year to the Assembly Democratic Caucus totaling more than $31,000 that were not reported on the caucus report. The payments were recorded on Oceguera’s campaign contribution and expense report filed June 1 as employee and miscellaneous expenses.

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, contributed $10,548 to the caucus according to her campaign contribution and expense report. Again, the expenditure by the candidate was not reported as a contribution by the caucus.

Ten other Assembly Democrats made similar payments identified as campaign expenses, all of which they identified on their reports but none of which were reported by the caucus.

The unreported contributions from lawmakers total more than $122,000.

The first 2010 caucus report did reflect nearly $110,000 in contributions from other individuals and entities, and was signed by Oceguera on May 31.

The caucus’ 2009 annual report covering activity during the off-election year shows a similar situation, with nearly $90,000 in payments from Assembly Democrats not included. Again, Oceguera and other Assembly Democrats reported expenses to the caucus that were not reported as contributions on the caucus annual report.

A review of the dates of the 2009 contributions shows that over $17,000 was sent by lawmakers to their caucus during a blackout period when the organization cannot accept contributions.

Members of the Legislature as well as their political caucuses are prohibited from accepting contributions starting 30 days before a regular legislative session to 30 days after the end of a session according to Nevada law.

Oceguera said because the expenses identified by lawmakers are reimbursements, they do not fall under the contribution prohibitions.

Contributions or expenses in excess of $100 must be reported by candidates and caucuses as well as political action committees.

The reporting issues have come up just as candidates are in the final days of the hotly contested 2010 campaign. Assembly Democrats are trying to keep their 28-14 supermajority, while Republicans are seeking enough seats to take away their two-thirds edge.

Las Vegas City Manager Says Management Not Subject to Same Hours and Pay Reduction, Forced Furloughs as City Workers

By Elizabeth Crum | 7:14 am October 28th, 2010

At least one City of Las Vegas union member is not too happy this week, evidenced by my receipt of a rather pointed email which had attached to it an email sent Tuesday to executive/salaried city employees by city manager Betsy Fretwell.

You may recall that recently the Las Vegas City Employee Association agreed to a 38 hour work week with a two hour reduction in pay. In addition, forced furloughs during Christmas week dictated that city employees cannot take leave in order to make up the loss in pay.

In the email below, the city manager appears to deliver to the executive staff the good news that city management will not be subject to the same two hour reduction in pay as hourly city employees. Fretwell also informs management they may use leave to cover the  holiday furlough days if they so choose.

Here is the first page of the email containing the information above:

LV City email to execs 10 26 10

Big Race Blurbs

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:16 pm October 27th, 2010

A few recent items of interest in the three big races from the Nevada page of Battle ’10, where I know many (but not all) of you have been following me since August, Dear Readers:

Senate

  • The expected GOP surge started Monday and continued yesterday. Will it continue?
  • The attorney for the Sharron Angle campaign says she is gathering details in preparation for a complaint to the Secretary of State’s office regarding alleged shennanigans related to voting and polling locations. Will it have teeth?
  • Secretary of State Ross Miller had a press conference today to address all the recent concerns and allegations, including those listed in a 44-page document from the Nevada Republican party. Will this quiet the calls for investigations?
  • Even if this is true, voters can change their choices on voting machines before they advance to the next screen. They can also review and change their votes before they cast their final ballots. (Make sure you review your votes!)
  • Sharron Angle sent flowers and a thank you note to Joy Behar after remarks made ABC’s “The View.”
  • John McCain will join Sharron Angle at a get-out-the-vote rally at the Orleans in Las Vegas this Friday night. Michael Reagan and actor Jon Voight will also be there.
  • The AFL-CIO has been lending a hand to Harry Reid.
  • Who is sending anonymous mailers supporting Scott Ashjian?
  • If you missed Newt Gingrich’s recent visit, we’ve got some good (short) video clips.

House

  • The Joe Heck campaign said the most recent television ad from Team Titus means she is getting desperate.
  • A source inside the Heck campaign today suggested that Dr. Heck would be glad to discuss the matters raised in the ad if his accusers were willing to sign away their HIPPA (medical privacy) rights. As it stands, he is unable to defend himself because he is prohibited from doing so by law.
  • A little bird told me Sheriff Gillispie was none too happy about the ad, either.

Gov

  • Rory and Sandoval debated last night. Both candidates did well and there were some good zingers. Sandoval finally gave voters something on his intentions for the budget — namely, roll back to 2007 spending — but one cannot call it a “plan.” Rory is the man with the plan. One that will soon be collecting dust, the way the polls are looking.

For those who have asked (complained, chided), yes, I’ll be getting back into the swing of things here at the blog — recently rebranded as E!!Politics, as you can see up top — so please check back soon.

And please make sure you are catching my political segments on Channel 13 Action News every Tuesday and Friday at 6:20-ish. We’ll be doing an elections special this Friday at 8 p.m. as well.

Nevada Secretary Of State Says No Evidence Of Vote Fraud

By Sean Whaley | 11:06 am October 27th, 2010

RENO – Secretary of State Ross Miller said today there have been no complaints filed with his office about suspicious voter activity despite email rumors and media accounts that at least some electronic voting machines are pre-programmed to support U.S. Senate candidate Harry Reid, D-NV.

Miller, holding the first of two media briefings on the allegations, urged anyone seeing a violation of election or voting law to file a formal complaint with his office so it can be investigated.

“I know that tensions are running high this election and that emotions are running very strong, but I want to set the record straight,” he said. “This is the entire reason that we have formed the Election Integrity Task Force in 2008. I’m not going to stand for any fraud or intimidation at the polling place, but nor will I stand idly by and listen to rumors and innuendos undermine the integrity of our electoral process.”

Miller said several allegations have been raised as early voting is set to conclude ahead of Election Day on Nov. 2, none of which have been substantiated.

The most shocking allegation came Tuesday from Boulder City resident Joyce Ferrara, who complained to Fox news in Las Vegas that when she went to vote for GOP U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle, Reid’s name was already checked on the electronic voting machine.

Miller said he first heard of the allegation via a Google alert from Fox news, and subsequently on the Drudge Report. Miller said the voter did not contact his office but went directly to Fox5 News.

Miller said it is “technically impossible” for someone to pre-program software in Nevada’s voting machines because it is not a centralized process. The election is carried out by the 17 county election officials, he said.

While it possible for a voter to inadvertently select a candidate, it is not possible for the machine to automatically select a candidate, Miller said. The electronic voting machine has a verification screen at the end of the process so the voter can see who was selected. Only then is the vote cast, he said.

It is irresponsible and unfortunate that such claims are being made because it undermines the public’s confidence in the electoral process, Miller said.

Other claims in the run-up to Nevada’s election include that voters are being compensated to cast their ballots. The task force has not received any complaint of that occurring and neither has the FBI, Miller said.

The basis of these claims is rumor and innuendo, he said.

“We want the public to come forward,” Miller said. “If someone is compensating somebody by giving a Starbucks card in order to vote for Harry Reid, we want to know about it because that is a violation of state law and a violation of federal law.”

Voters can be given something of value to generally encourage them to vote under Nevada law, he said.

Miller said his office is investigating one formal 44-page complaint filed Tuesday by the Nevada Republican Party regarding differences in the number of votes cast on the machines and the paper voting logs. A secretary of state attorney outside the elections division is doing the investigation.

These differences occur every election cycle and are usually due to common elections procedures, he said. The numbers are always reconciled and all votes that are actually cast are counted, Miller said.

“That said, we’re taking these issues very seriously,” he said.

A final report of the investigation into the issue will be made available to the public.

Washoe County Registrar of Voters Dan Burk said voters have a role in the process as well. If they have a question or concern in the middle of the voting process they need to tell the poll workers right away.

“If they don’t let us know and they go ahead and cast their ballot, there is no way we can assist them,” he said.

Miller said election complaints can be filed on the secretary of state’s website main page in the lower left-hand corner by clicking on the Election Integrity Task Force Badge.

Audio clips:

Secretary of State Ross Miller says despite rumors and news reports, there is no evidence of vote fraud in the Nevada election:

101710Miller1 :28 our electoral process.”

Miller urges the public to come forward if they have evidence of attempts to buy votes:

102710Miller2 :12 of federal law.”

Nevada Stimulus Spending Is Election Focus But Effectiveness In Dispute

By Sean Whaley | 1:51 pm October 25th, 2010

CARSON CITY – The question of how well the Gibbons administration has done in quickly and efficiently deploying Nevada’s share of stimulus dollars is difficult to quantify.

Gibbons, a Republican who is leaving office in January, was criticized by Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., in a debate Wednesday for failing to move quickly to spend stimulus dollars. Titus said the bottleneck was not at the federal level, but at the state level. Congress specifically chose to put the money into existing programs to get it moving quickly to create jobs, she said.

Gibbons defended his handling of the nearly $2.5 billion in stimulus funds awarded to the state so far, saying: “The stimulus funds awarded to Nevada were spent and are being spent as expeditiously as possible in order to create as many new jobs as possible.”

Nevada’s American Recovery and Reinvestment Act website shows the state has actually received and spent about $2 billion of the total awarded through June 30, 2010.

The majority of the stimulus funds received by the state have already been spent not on job creation projects, but on Medicaid caseloads and jobless benefits. Three jobless related programs alone account for nearly $1.3 billion in total spending in Nevada.

Titus is not alone in her criticism of Nevada’s efforts under Gibbons to quickly use stimulus funds to create jobs, especially early on in the process. The act was approved by Congress in February 2009.

In a letter to Gibbons on Oct. 1, 2009, Jim Oberstar, chairman of the House Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure, cited Nevada as a state that was not doing a good job in spending the funds, ranking 47th of 51 based on an analysis of the percentage of recovery act highway formula funds put out to bid, under contract and under way.

Nevada received about $201 million in stimulus funding for road projects.

“I strongly urge you to refocus your efforts to implement the Recovery Act and use the available funds to create and sustain family-wage jobs,” Oberstar said in the letter.

The state Democratic Party criticized Gibbons for the report as well, but Dan Burns, a spokesman for the governor, said in October 2009 the information was inaccurate. He also criticized Nevada Democratic leaders for bringing in stimulus money that put the state 50th per capita for its allocation of funding.

The Nevada Department of Transportation announced in February of 2010 it had obligated its entire stimulus funding a month ahead of schedule. The agency announced in May that stimulus funds will have created or saved 5,600 construction jobs by the end of the year.

The state was also questioned about its slow pace on spending nearly $19 million in stimulus funds for neighborhood weatherization projects. As of November of 2009, the state had spent less than $1 million and risked losing the money.

But the program moved into high gear, and Gibbons announced in May 2010 that the State Office of Energy and the Nevada Housing Division had received letters from the U.S. Department of Energy commending their efforts at quickly and efficiently spending the stimulus funds.

Nevada was identified as one of a small group of states that had 100 percent of its award through the environmental permitting process finished and 75 percent or more of the funds obligated.

“These accomplishments are a testament to your team’s strong planning and management,” U.S. Department of Energy State Energy Program Director Mark Bailey said. “DOE applauds Nevada’s State Energy Office for your success and commends your hard work.”

John Restrepo of the Restrepo Consulting Group in Las Vegas, said the Gibbons administration may have been slow in getting going on spending the stimulus funds, but that the state has probably done as well as any other in getting the money into the economy.

Restrepo, who also serves on the State Economic Forum, a panel charged with predicting Nevada’s tax revenues for the next two years, said for him the bigger issue with the stimulus is whether it was big enough.

“In my humble opinion it was not large enough,” he said. “It was a tepid response in adding employment and addressing the longer term problem of our antiquated infrastructure.”

What can’t be proved conclusively about the stimulus spending is whether the state and national unemployment pictures would be worse without it, Restrepo said. Speaking as an analyst, Restrepo said he believes the recession would have been worse without the funding.

“The stimulus did some of what it was supposed to do,” he said. “We could have done better.”

Nevada State Controller Kim Wallin, a Democrat, said there is no way to compare how Nevada is doing on spending its share of stimulus funds with other states because there are no uniform reporting requirements.

But Wallin, who has some oversight responsibilities for the stimulus spending, does post a weekly report on her website showing the amount received for each project and the amount spent. Some agencies have not moved quickly to spend the money, she said.

The state Energy Program, for example, has been awarded $34.7 million but expended only $16.9 million as of Oct. 15, Wallin said.

A number of wildland fire fuel reduction projects under the direction of the state Department of Agriculture show low expenditures as well, she said.

While some agencies have done a good job of obligating and expending their funds, a number of other programs do not show any significant spending yet, Wallin said.

 “The whole idea of the stimulus was to get the money spent as quickly as possible to create jobs,” she said.

Jim Groth, director of the state Office of Energy, said Nevada is in the top 10 states in terms of expending its energy-related stimulus funds. In addition to the nearly $35 million for a variety of projects and programs, the office received another $9.5 million in energy efficiency and conservation block grant funds, he said.

The state has until April 2012 to spend the money, and it will all be put to use long before that deadline, Groth said.

The projects funded by the stimulus funds, and their progress, are updated weekly on the agency’s website, he said.

The job-creation programs have different deadlines by which the money must be expended and are included on the controller’s stimulus spending webpage. Some deadlines have already expired, while other projects run through 2014.

During the Wednesday debate in the closely watched District 3 race, Republican challenger Joe Heck said the stimulus act is not working nationally or in Nevada, as evidenced by the loss of jobs and high unemployment rate. Nevada leads the nation in unemployment, which remained unchanged at 14.4 percent in September.

The September report, released Friday, shows Nevada had nearly 24,000 fewer jobs than in the same month the year before.

Titus said the situation would be worse without the stimulus spending approved by Congress.

Titus also rejected any suggestion that District 3 has seen only minimal job creation from the stimulus.

The federal stimulus reporting website shows District 3 shortchanged in job creation, reporting only 187 jobs in the three months ending June 30. But that is because most of the state stimulus money flows through the state capital in Carson City, so the jobs are counted in District 2, represented by Dean Heller, R-Nev., who voted against the stimulus bill. The district shows 8,674 jobs created during the same period.

Nevada District 1, represented by Shelley Berkley, showed 439 jobs created.

Nevada Ranks 5th Best Among States For Doing Business, Says Survey Of Executives

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 12:57 pm October 25th, 2010

CARSON CITY – A survey of more than 600 chief executive officers who rated the best and worst states for business in 2010 has scored Nevada highly at fifth place, an improvement of one spot over 2009.

In Chief Executive magazine’s latest annual survey of CEOs for their opinions of the best and worst states for business, Texas placed first and California ranked last.

Business leaders were asked to draw upon their direct experience to rate each state in three general categories: taxation and regulation, quality of workforce and living environment. Within each category respondents graded states in five subcategories, as well as ranking each in terms of its importance to the respondent and how individual states measure up in the magazine’s sixth annual special report.

Nevada received an A- for its taxation and regulation policies and laws, and a B- for its workforce quality and living environment.

Texas fares competitively with Nevada and Delaware in terms of taxation and regulatory environment, but scored best overall, in no small measure because of the perception that its government’s attitude to business is ideal, the magazine reported.

In an interview on the Fox Business channel, Chief Executive magazine Editor-in-Chief, J.P. Donlon said California has ranked last for the past five years. The attitude towards business is worst in California, he said. Many CEOs would pick up and relocate if they could, Donlon said.

Ray Bacon, executive director of the Nevada Manufacturers Association, said the fact that Nevada is maintaining its pro-business image is good news for the state.

“We now have workers available, we have housing available, we have commercial and industrial space available, we have reasonable taxes (although that could change) and we have speedy permitting processes and approvals in most areas,” he said.

The rankings for Texas and California come as no surprise, Bacon said. Texas has created about half of all the new jobs in the nation during this recession, while the attitude of California’s government toward business is legendary, he said.

Election day will be critical to see if Californians wake up or not, Bacon said.

“If they don’t, they will go further into the ditch and keep Nevada in the depths of our recession in the process,” he said.

“We have an education challenge, but the Race to the Top application provides a path to correct our problems in that area if the next governor, Legislature and school districts take serious action to move forward on the implementation even without the federal money,” Bacon said.

Governor Gibbons Honors Soldier Killed In War On Terror – Capitol Flag Lowered Today

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 5:05 am October 23rd, 2010

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons has ordered the flag at the state Capitol Building to be flown at half staff today to honor United States Marine Corps Sgt. Frank Zaehringer III.

Sgt. Zaehringer was killed in Afghanistan on Oct. 11 while conducting combat operations in Helmand province in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. He was assigned to the 2nd Battalion, 9th Marine Regiment, 2nd Marine Division, 1 Marine Expeditionary Force based at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

Sgt. Zaehringer grew up in Reno. He enlisted in the United States Marine Corps in 2005, two years after graduating from Wooster High School. Sgt. Zaehringer leaves behind his wife, Cassie, and two step-daughters and his parents.

“On behalf of the citizens of Nevada and myself, I want to extend our sincere condolences to the family and friends of Sgt. Frank Zaehringer,” Gibbons said. “We will never forget the sacrifice made by Sgt. Zaehringer while he fought to bring freedom and liberty to the world.”

A Memorial Service for Sgt. Zaehringer is scheduled to be held at the Summit Christian Church, in Spanish Springs, on Pyramid Highway, today at 10 a.m.

Titus, Heck Spar Over Attack Ads, Stimulus Bill In Debate

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 9:12 am October 21st, 2010

(Updated at 11:45 a.m. on Oct. 21, 2010, to include Gov. Gibbons comments.)

Questionable attack ads and the role of the federal government in job creation were the top issues in an energized debate Wednesday between Rep. Dina Titus and Republican challenger Joe Heck in one of the most closely watched house races of the Nov. 2 general election.

Titus, D-Nev., was questioned about an ad criticizing Heck, a physician, for failing to support an insurance company mandate to cover a cervical cancer vaccine while serving in the Nevada state Senate. The ad says Heck is, “dangerous to women.”

Titus said she stands by the ad, which came about after Heck opposed a bill requiring insurance companies to provide the vaccine. Heck opposed the coverage as another costly insurance company mandate that would increase the cost of health care.

Heck said also there were concerns about the new vaccine and potential side effects and noted that Titus received a campaign contribution from a group supported partly by the CEO of the company that makes the vaccine after her favorable vote.

Heck was challenged about an ad suggesting that Titus, who supported the health care reform law in her freshman term in the House, voted to provide taxpayer funded Viagra to convicted sex offenders.

Heck said, under the bill, rapists can get the drug and Titus voted for the bill.

In the debate on the  Face To Face television program, host Jon Ralston said the ad is inaccurate and has been denounced as a distortion of reality. He urged both candidates to denounce the two ads.

Both candidates in the 3rd Congressional District race refused to budge from their defense of the ads, which are being run by third party groups and not the candidates themselves.

In the discussion of the ads, Titus also said the group paying for the Heck attack ad is clearly identified but the company running the ad against her on the health care bill, the American Action Network, does not have to disclose its donors.

Titus said the house has passed the Disclose Act to identify such donors and she said Heck opposes the measure.

“As his running mate likes to say, ‘man up’, sign up, put your name on something that you want to say,” she said.

Heck responded that he has had no discussions and taken no position on the Disclose Act.

“The only thing that has been true in the Congresswoman’s commercials are the phrase when she says, ‘I’m Dina Titus and I approve this message’.”

The Heck-Titus race is viewed as key as to which party will control the House of Representatives after the Nov. 2 election. Polls show the race is close.

Titus and Heck, who were colleagues in the Nevada state Senate, also sparred over the stimulus bill approved by Congress in February 2009.

Heck said the economy has gotten worse since the bill was passed, while Titus said the economy would be much worse off without the jobs provided by the $787 billion spending measure.

Titus said the bill has created jobs in Nevada, adding that a staff member with ”your own governor from Nevada,” identified 2,000 teaching jobs that have been saved in Clark County. Titus also criticized Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons and his administration for the slow pace of much of the stimulus spending.

Ralston later replied, “he’s not just my governor, either, by the way, he’s your governor too.”

Titus lost to Gibbons in her bid for governor in 2006.

Gibbons said today in response:  “Again Dina Titus does not know what she is talking about. The stimulus funds awarded to Nevada were spent and are being spent as expeditiously as possible in order to create as many new jobs as possible.

“Dina Titus should be embarrassed that her influence garnered Nevada the distinction of being the state that was awarded the lowest amount of stimulus funds per capita,” he said. “She has done nothing to help Nevada families.”

Heck said his role as a member of Congress would be to craft policy to allow the private sector to create jobs. Heck said President Obama made the same point in September.

Heck said reasonable regulations are appropriate, but some regulations, including those in the new health care law, will burden small business.

Titus said her job as a member of Congress is to create jobs given the terrible state of the economy. Tax breaks, for small businesses in the stimulus bill, for hiring returning veterans and the unemployed, are ways Congress can help create jobs, she said.

Nevada Sen. John Ensign Defends Requests For Stimulus Money He Opposed

By Sean Whaley | 3:31 pm October 20th, 2010

CARSON CITY – U.S. Sen. John Ensign, R-Nev., is defending his decision to seek stimulus money on behalf of constituents and Nevada government entities despite voting against the massive funding measure in February 2009.

The response came after documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity showed several instances where Ensign wrote letters in support of stimulus grant requests despite voting against the $787 billion funding bill.

Jennifer Cooper, press secretary to Ensign, said: “Nevada is at a great disadvantage when it comes to federal funds returning to our state. The stimulus bill passed, and Senator Ensign voted against it because it wasn’t the right way to repair our economy.

“That said, there is a pot of money that has been allocated to states to fund programs, and Senator Ensign fights to get Nevada its fair share,” Cooper said. “He advocated on behalf of these entities, at their request, for federal grants that would have otherwise gone to states that already receive the bulk of these funds.”

The Center for Public Integrity published an article identifying “scores” of Republicans and conservative Democrats who voted against the act and subsequently sent letters supporting requests for funds by private companies and public entities. The letters were sent to the Transportation, Energy and Commerce departments.

The article, titled “Stimulating Hypocrisy: Scores of Recovery Act Opponents Sought Money Out of Public View,” includes links to letters written by members of Congress.

Some have criticized the practice, including Rob Gaudet, national coordinator for Tea Party Patriots, who told the Center for Public Integrity: “The GOP should not be taking this money and spending it regardless of where it came from. They should be fighting against it with every fiber of their elected beings.”

Ensign called the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act a “so-called” stimulus measure when he voted against it.

At the time of his vote, Ensign said in a press release: “Today’s vote is more of the same in Washington – spend, spend, spend. Government has a role to play, but the American people deserve a better effort than this. For Nevada, when you peel back a few layers, this bill is not as beneficial as it first looks, and it will ultimately increase taxes.”

But soon after, he was writing letters seeking those same funds on behalf of constituents.

In a letter dated June 15, 2009, Ensign wrote to U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu in support of a grant application by Altair Nanotechnologies for stimulus funding for its battery technology.

Ensign said the company’s proposal to expand battery production in Reno and Anderson, Indiana, would “directly and indirectly create or save over 330 jobs in locations which have unemployment rates considerably higher than the national average. In these difficult economic times, growing jobs in the United States is vital.”

In a later dated Sept. 10, 2009, Ensign wrote to U.S. Transportation Secretary Raymond LaHood in support of an application by the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada seeking stimulus funds for a rapid transit line.

“The ability to move the community’s two million residents and nearly 40 million visitors is critical to the economic health of the region and the state,” he said.

Ensign also sent letters this past summer in support of applications by the Nevada Hospital Association and the Lyon County School District seeking stimulus funding for broadband technology.

Documents obtained by the Center for Public Integrity also includes correspondence from Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.,  in support of several stimulus funding grant requests for public broadband projects. Reps. Dina Titus, D-Nev., and Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., wrote letters in support of broadband projects as well.

All three representatives voted for the stimulus bill.

There were no letters from Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who also opposed the stimulus bill.

Challengers To Nevada Attorney General Claim Politics In Her Term, Incumbent Says She Makes Decisions On Legal Merits

By Sean Whaley | 9:09 pm October 19th, 2010

A debate today among the three candidates for Nevada attorney general focused on a disputed ad discussing a decades old criminal conviction of the Republican seeking the post and allegations of political favoritism by the incumbent, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto.

An ad being run by Masto about Republican Travis Barrick citing his arrest and jail sentence for “harassing women” was the first topic of conversation for the three candidates appearing on Jon Ralston’s Face To Face television program.

Barrick said the criminal trespassing conviction, which happened two decades ago, was the result of his protesting a California clinic that was performing illegal late-term abortions.

Barrick said he would not back down from his actions, which he said came about because the “rule of law” was being ignored in California by the attorney general and other law enforcement officials.

“It’s a badge of honor for me,” he said.

Masto said Nevada voters deserve to know that Barrick, who is running for the top law enforcement position in the state, has a criminal record and served jail time.

Masto said she has principles and values she upholds every day without violating the law.

“You don’t get to make a decision on who you are going to protect and who you are not going to protect,” she said.

Joel Hansen, the Independent American Party candidate for the position, said Masto’s views on Barrick’s actions contradict her actions when she failed to follow Nevada law by filing a lawsuit against the federal health care reform law when asked to do so by Gov. Jim Gibbons.

“I think it is pretty hypocritical of General Masto to criticize Mr. Barrick when she committed a misdemeanor when she refused to sue on Obamacare after she’d been ordered to do so by the governor,” he said. “The Nevada statute says that she has to file suit if the governor tells her to and it is a misdemeanor if she doesn’t.”

Masto said that as attorney general, she has to evaluate whether to file legal actions, even if requested by the governor as her client. Masto said she evaluates whether to take action on a case based on merit, not politics.

“You have a professional responsibility based on the license as the attorney,” she said. “I’m the attorney in this particular instance. I was elected independently from the governor. You look at the legal merits, that’s what the attorney general does.”

Barrick said:  “The arrogance of her statement to say that that lawsuit has no merit is breathtaking.”

Hansen said he has filed a private class action lawsuit against the healthcare law that identifies numerous violations of the U.S. Constitution.

“It is not frivolous,” he said. “There is nothing frivolous about this. The only thing frivolous is her statement that it is frivolous.”

A federal judge in Florida ruled last week that the lawsuit against the healthcare law filed by 20 states, including Nevada, could proceed.

The debate also touched on Masto’s failed prosecution of Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki for allegedly misusing college savings funds while serving as state Treasurer.

Hansen said the prosecution had the appearance of being politically motivated.

Masto denied any political motivation for the prosecution, which was dismissed by a Clark County district judge late last year.

Audio clips:

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto says voters deserve to know about her opponent’s criminal record:

101910Masto :10 next attorney general.”

GOP Attorney General candidate Travis Barrick says he served his time for trespassing and moved on:

101910Barrick :05 with my life.”

IAP Attorney General candidate Joel Hansen says Masto’s ad against Barrick is hypocritical:

101910Hansen :24 if she doesn’t.”

Nevada Rep. Dean Heller Says Taxes Are His Biggest Concern In Lame Duck Session Of Congress

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 2:38 pm October 19th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said today his biggest concern about a “lame duck” session of Congress following the Nov. 2 general election is the potential for tax increases.

Heller, in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, said with Democrats in control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate despite what happens on election day that, “taxes are my biggest concern.”

“We do not know what we’re going to look like,” he said. “Here we are, less than 100 days out from the end of the year; we do not know what our tax structure is going to look like. And my biggest concern is this lame duck session we’re going to start raising taxes.”

Heller said he is concerned that the Bush tax cuts that are set to expire at the end of the year without action by Congress might not be extended for everyone.

“They are saying the top 2 or 3 percent, that we’re going to let those fade away,” he said. “That’s a huge tax increase on small businesses. Fifty percent of the small businesses in this country are going to be hit with a tax increase at the worst economic situation that we’ve had since the Great Depression and I don’t believe it bodes well.”

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in his debate with GOP opponent Sharron Angle last week that he wants to continue the tax cuts for the middle class, but added there is a large federal deficit that may require the wealthiest Americans to pay more.

In the interview, Heller again declined to say if he will run for the Senate seat now held by John Ensign, R-Nev., in 2012, saying, “we’ll talk about that in about six months.”

On Angle’s campaign and lead in a recent poll, Heller said he is not surprised.

A Rasmussen Reports telephone survey of likely Nevada voters released Monday showed Angle with 50 percent to Reid’s 47 percent. Two percent preferred another candidate in the race, and one percent were undecided. The race is considered a toss-up.

“This thing is going to go down to the wire,” Heller said. “I’ll be watching it like everyone else.”

Audio clips:

Rep. Dean Heller says he is concerned taxes may be increased in lame duck session of Congress:

101910Heller1 :14 start raising taxes.”

Heller says failure to extend tax cuts for all would mean a tax hike for small businesses:

101910Heller2 :18 it bodes well.”