Archive for August, 2011

Lawmakers, State Agencies Argue Over Budget Compliance

By Anne Knowles | 7:04 pm August 31st, 2011

Nevada lawmakers today approved money to cover the costs of the upcoming special election, received an update on the progress of the state’s health care insurance exchange and complained repeatedly that state agencies were thumbing their noses at the legislative process.

Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, saw passage of her bill regulating the use of leg hold traps./Nevada News Bureau file photo

The Interim Finance Committee approved more than 100 requests for funds from nearly every state agency, but reprimanded a handful who legislators said were not adhering to budgets passed during the last legislative session.

“This is some of the most blatant disregard of legislative intent that I’ve ever seen,” said Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno. “I hope this doesn’t continue this interim. I know these are tough times, but we must follow the law.”

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, the committee chair, also voiced concern several times that issues before the committee should have been resolved during the budgeting process.

When about $33,000 was requested to hire a consultant to help the Nevada Department of Transportation track the state’s inventory of vacant lands in compliance with Assembly Bill 404, Smith asked Paul Saucedo, NDOT chief right-of-way agent, why NDOT had not submitted a fiscal note delineating the need for that money with the bill.

Smith then almost tabled a request from the Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs (DTCA) because it was found that the department is now using a contract worker to do the work of a job eliminated when the budgets were approved by the legislature.

“This is a budget discussion and should have taken place then,” said Smith.

In the end, the DTCA request for $84,616 in federal National Endowment for the Arts money was approved because the agency would miss a deadline to request the federal grant money if the request was pushed to the committee’s next meeting.

“Let’s move it ahead so as not to lose the federal money,” said Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka. “In the meantime, staff can work with them on this contract employee. We may pay $8,000 for a few months of the employee, but that’s better than losing $84,000.”

The committee was also concerned about a request to transfer about $4.5 million from the budget for the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) to the University of Nevada School of Medicine budget. The university’s goal was to keep the school of medicine budget cuts to a minimum in order to expand the school’s class sizes from 62 medical students to 100 and expand its nursing class from 98 students to 196, said Mark Johnson, UNR president.

Johnson said higher education had made certain programs a higher priority and was trying to maintain them while eliminating some and making others self supporting.

“We wanted a more fair and equitable approach,” said Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas referring to the legislative intent of higher education cuts. “I feel we are going backward by protecting one program at the expense of others.”

Secretary of State Ross Miller / Photo: Nevada News Bureau file photo.

The IFC also approved $539,137 to reimburse counties for costs incurred for the special election in the 2nd congressional district. Secretary of State Ross Miller said counties requested the money since none had budgeted for the special election. He said the money would cover fixed costs and would not be reduced by lower than anticipated turnout.

“This is the minimum amount needed to run it without jeopardizing the integrity of the election,” Miller told the committee.

Miller’s office requested the money from the state’s contingency fund, adding that $6 million the state has in reserve from the federal Help America Vote Act is not intended for special elections.

Lawmakers asked if the some of the money could come from an approximate $340,000 surplus in the Secretary’s office budget. Miller said his office is projecting a deficit, not a surplus and agreed to work with the Legislative Counsel Bureau staff to resolve the discrepancy in the budget projections of his office and the LCB.

The committee also received an update on the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange Nevada is building to meet requirements mandated by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act enacted by Congress.

The Department of Health and Human Services has received $1 million from the federal government for planning the exchange. HHS spent $320,000 in fiscal year 2011 and is rolling over the remainder into the next fiscal year. The department requested about $2.6 million of a $4 million establishment grant from the federal government to create a new agency and to fund four new positions – an executive director, operational officer, grants manager and executive assistant.

During the 2013 legislative session, the state will need to decide how to fund the exchange once federal support for it ends in 2015, said Michael Willden, HHS director.

Willden also said he was meeting with Gov. Brian Sandoval’s office later in the day about possible appointments to the board that will oversee the exchange.  The board will consist of five members appointed by the governor, one member appointed by the state Senate majority leader, and one member chosen by the Assembly speaker.

The IFC also approved a subcommittee’s recommendations yesterday to cut or delay several building and maintenance projects due to budget constraints.


Sandoval Appoints New Taxation Chief

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 3:51 pm August 31st, 2011

CARSON CITY — Gov. Brian Sandoval today announced he has named William Chisel as Director of the Nevada Department of Taxation, effective Monday, September 12th.

“Bill Chisel’s experience as Chief of Internal Audits uniquely prepares him to serve as Director of the Department of Taxation,” Governor Sandoval said in a press release. “Bill has an in-depth understanding of the state’s budget, management and operations and will be able to lead the Department to efficiently collect revenues owed the state, while working closely with the taxpaying businesses who comprise his new customer base. I particularly wanted accounting expertise in this leadership post, so Bill’s credential as a Certified Public Accountant played an important factor in my decision.”

Chris Nielsen, who had been serving as Interim Director, will return to his post as Deputy Director of the Department.

William Chisel, currently Chief of the Division of Internal Audits, assisted in developing the 2012-2013 performance based budget. The governor’s office says Chisel’s recommendations resulted in about $145 million in taxpayer benefits over the last three years and increased the significance of audit findings from $1 to $55 million per year.

Prior to his current position, Chisel was a Senior Auditor at the Nevada Gaming Control Board where he managed the Audit Division’s Northern Nevada research and development department. A graduate of the University of Nevada, Reno, Chisel is also a Certified Public Accountant.

Budget Constraints Cut Into Public Works Projects

By Anne Knowles | 7:07 am August 31st, 2011

A legislative subcommittee decided yesterday to cut or delay several building and maintenance projects due to budget constraints. The Interim Finance Committee (IFC) today will vote whether to approve the recommendations made by the subcommittee.

A plan to retrofit part of High Desert State Prison in Indian Springs to create the Southern Regional Medical Facility was canceled, although Nevada Department of Corrections Director Greg Cox said he may request funding for the facility as well as a long-term care facility in the northern part of the state at the next legislative session.

“We can manage for now,” said Cox. “The long-term care facility would reduce overall medical costs, but we are managing our population quite well through our ‘True Grit’ program, which is a model for other states.”

Parking lots in the state’s capitol complex in Carson City as well as the Bradley Building and the Buildings and Grounds building in Las Vegas will be minimally maintained until they can be replaced because the pavement has deteriorated significantly.

“The idea right now is to make them last through minimal maintenance and come back for removal and replacement,” said Gus Nunez, administrator of the Public Works Division. “We could see those pavements last another five years.”

Nunez explained that pavement deteriorates more quickly as it ages, and the cost of maintaining it then skyrockets unless it is maintained regularly from the start.

“Three or four years ago it looked like we could go in and save it,” said Nunez. “We didn’t catch it in time. Unfortunately, by the time we looked at it and got it into the CIP (capital improvement projects) it was too late.”

Nunez said the lots can be kept safe through patching when needed until they are replaced. He also said that was the first time in his 10 years with the department that parking lots had decayed beyond repair.

The problem may recur, however, as the paving program was not funded when the department’s current budget was approved this legislative session.

“My concern is we try to save money and put off three projects one year and three projects the next and suddenly we have five projects that have to be done for safety reasons and we still don’t have the money,” said Assemblyman Tom Grady, R-Yerington, a member of the subcommittee. “I don’t want this to crash down on us all at once.”

Six completed projects came in more than $993,000 under budget and another eight projects have been bid a total of $11.8 million under their projected budgets. But most of those savings were in money not yet borrowed through bonding. And they came at the expense of contractors.

“We like good news,” said Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, the subcommittee chair. “But was it due to over-projecting or more favorable bids?”

Nunez said the state received 10 to 20 bids per project when as recently as 2007 only three to four contractors would bid a project.

“It dropped prices considerably,” he said.

But Nunez said the number of bidders per project is dropping again, a reflection of more contractors going out of business. This means a likely a return to costlier projects for the state.

“The price of materials and labor keep going up, so the only thing going down is the margins for these businesses,” said Nunez on the subject of contractors being forced to close their doors.

An earlier cancellation of a portion of one project, the installation of a panic alarm system at the Dini-Townsend Hospital in Sparks, allowed almost $84,000 to be transferred to other 2009 projects. That means all those projects, save one, will be fully funded before Nevada issues more bonds this fall.

The IFC will take up these measures and others tomorrow during a 9 a.m. meeting held in the Grant Sawyer building in Las Vegas and the Nevada Legislature in Carson City.

Lawmakers Respond to Poor Marks on Teachers’ Union Report Card

By Anne Knowles | 5:45 am August 30th, 2011

School just started and every Republican state lawmaker has already received a failing grade from Nevada’s teachers’ union.

The Nevada State Education Association (NSEA) has released its 2011 legislative session report card and the 16 Assembly and 11 Senate Republicans all earned an F, according to the statewide association.

“Taking away educators’ rights is not education reform, it’s union-busting,” said the report. “You cannot have proper reform unless the proper funding is in accompaniment. In this regard, the 2011 Legislature came up woefully short.”

But the report didn’t spare either political party.

“NSEA believes this unfortunate outcome lies at the feet of the leadership in both parties, along with Governor Sandoval,” the report says.

Only one Democrat, Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, received a failing mark, while the rest of the members of the Senate Democratic caucus got A or B grades. But more than half the Assembly Democrats fared little better than their Republican colleagues, receiving eight C and seven D grades in total.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, for example, the speaker pro tempore, who is known for her interest in education issues, received a D.

Smith was chairwoman of Assembly Ways and Means, where two major education bills, Assembly Bill 225 and AB 579 originated. AB 225 changed teacher probationary rules and supersedes collective bargaining, while AB 579 funded K-12 education. Smith was also a primary sponsor on two other key bills: AB 222, which created a leadership council to evaluate teacher performance, and AB 229, a broad reform bill.

“I’m disappointed, of course,” said Smith in reaction to her grade. “My whole adult life I’ve worked as an advocate for K-12. I understand the teachers’ union has a job to do, to represent their members on jobs and benefits.  But I’m comfortable with the packages we put forth.”

Republicans lawmakers were less concerned with the report.

“I’m not really as bothered by the failing grade for all the Republicans as I am by the failing grades in our schools,” said Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden.

Settelmeyer said the Republicans were right to work to reform collective bargaining and get rid of the so-called “last in, first out” way of laying-off teachers that protected seniority regardless of performance.

“I think the report shows how out of touch with reality the association is with both the economic situation and the desires of both parents and students,” said Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno.

Kieckhefer said NSEA’s stand on legislation showed it cared more about protecting its adult members than students.

The NSEA disagrees.

“Kids right now are going to school with fewer services and more kids in the classroom,” said Craig Stevens, director of government relations at NSEA. “If they were truly putting kids first, they wouldn’t have done what they did.”

The NSEA says the legislature gutted the budget, cutting $300 million from the previous budget and forcing a 9 percent pay cut on school employees.

In addition, says Stevens, the legislature did nothing to address the state’s budget deficit.

“To truly fix the funding problem we must fix the deficit. They’re going to walk into the next session with a billion dollar hole,” said Stevens. “At least the Democrats came out with a plan to try to fund the budget responsibly. The Republicans made no effort and sat there saying ‘no, no, no.’”

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick (D-North Las Vegas) said she thought lawmakers did the best they could on education measures in light of the challenges of balancing the state budget.

“In my mind, we are sent up to Carson City to make hard choices,” said Kirkpatrick. “And it could have been so much worse. If the taxes that were set to sunset had not been extended, I don’t know that I would have supported deeper cuts — but they were, so we found a way. And I think the reforms were fair.”

The Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI), a conservative think tank based in Las Vegas, characterized the report as misleading, especially on funding issues.

Victor Joecks, communications director for NPRI, said the education budget was cut in a 2010 special session by several hundred million dollars so the budget passed in 2011 actually increased funding slightly.

“It’s a false narrative that flies in the face of reform,” said Joecks of the report.

Joecks said per pupil spending will increase from $5,192 last year to $5,263 this fall and $5,374 in 2012-2013.

He also said that the nine percent cut in teacher pay cited in the report includes contributions teachers will now be making to their Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) accounts. Previously, teachers did not contribute to their retirement accounts.


In Case You Missed It: Political Round Up

By Elizabeth Crum | 11:04 am August 27th, 2011

Here are some blurbs, snippets and links from the last few days in Nevada politics, Dear Readers:

2nd Congressional Special Election

Country music legend Larry Gatlin is doing a radio spot in support of Mark Amodei.

The conservative Washington Examiner gave Amodei a “Dim Bulb” award because of his varying comments about the Ryan plan. They also say he might lose.

The Sierra Club this week endorsed state Treasurer Kate Marshall.

A rural blogger says the Nye County Dems have a chance to win it for Marshall even though there are more registered Republican voters.

Gov. Sandoval supports Amodei in a new TV spot.

Super Pac American Crossroads hearts Amodei. And puts their money ($120,000) where their love is.

After the Marshall campaign forgot to proofread/edit one of their missives and put their political strategy on public display, Hot Air did a write-up of the race with links and video.

Marshall recently touted her success in returning unclaimed property to Nevadans and bolstering the state’s general fund.

U.S. Senate race

Rep. Shelley Berkley this week announced a $1.7 million federal grant for a job training center in Las Vegas.

Rep. Dean Heller told the LVRJ that he thinks voters are “mad at everybody.”

Presidential field

Some states are trying to  jump in front of Nevada in the line-up of early caucus/primary states.

Gov. Sandoval’s name is again mentioned in light of a national ticket.

Nevada Legislature

The Las Vegas Sun‘s David McGrath Schwartz this week noted that the Legislative Commission recessed from a public meeting so they could argue over leadership appointments in private. City councils, county commissions and other Nevada boards are required to follow open meeting laws, which say all discussions (except those related to personnel evaluations and litigation) must occur in public. But state law, written by the Legislature, exempts the Legislature in certain cases.

The Legislative Commission this week approved new campaign reporting forms for Nevada candidates. The forms will be available online in January and now include an “under God” oath long sought by the Independent American Party.

LCB’s Lorne Malkiewich is retiring, citing reasons of timing. The NCSL says replacing experienced, retiring senior staff members was the top challenge reported in a national survey of all legislative staff.


Gov. Sandoval is working even when he is not in Nevada, he says.

Tea Party Express is back. They kicked off their “Reclaim America” tour  in Napa and are in Reno/Sparks today. Sharron Angle is on board, along with other activists.

The chairperson of the Nevada GOP, Amy Tarkanian, has been slamming Tea Party Express (TPX) via Twitter. Among other things she has called TPX “a complete joke” and said they “ruin the whole tea party movement.” She also Tweeted a link to this open letter from a critical Nevada activist-blogger to Tea Party Express participant, Eric Odom.

The effort to recall Las Vegas City Councilman Steve Ross failed. And an effort to recall North Las Vegas Mayor Shari Buck is in the early stages. Sun columnist Jon Ralston had a few choice things to say about Recallmania.



[Update]: Background Check Exemption Status for CCW Holders Granted by ATF

By Anne Knowles | 11:46 am August 26th, 2011

Update: Shortly after this story posted, the ATF published an open letter to Nevada gun owners granting the exemption in question.

Thanks to a letter written by a concerned citizen, Nevada owners of a concealed weapons (CCW) permit may soon be able to purchase more firearms without further background checks and the associated $25 fee.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE, also commonly referred to as ATF) is reviewing legislation passed this last session to determine if Nevada again qualifies for an exemption from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check. If the legislation meets BATFE requirements, the federal agency will issue an open letter to Nevada federal firearms licensees, or dealers, informing them a CCW permit will now suffice for firearm purchases.

For Nevada gun owners, that means they will forego additional background checks and the associated $25 fee charged by the state, as long as they can produce a valid CCW permit when purchasing a firearm.

A BATFE spokeswoman confirmed that the agency is reviewing the Nevada law, but could not say if or when the exemption would be granted.

“All we’re trying to do is talk to the ATF and make sure they have everything they need,” said Frank Adams, executive director of the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association (NSCA) in Mesquite. “We’re expecting an answer shortly. I don’t have a crystal ball.”

The NSCA initially said it would contact BATFE via a formal letter, but at its July meeting the group opted to delay action until its September meeting at the request of the sheriffs of Clark and Washoe counties, said Adams.

“They wanted to study the impact because they anticipate a huge influx of new applications,” he said.

Adams said both counties have suffered tremendous budget cuts.
“We may have to go back to the counties and ask for more money,” he said, to cover the costs of new permit applications. “The fees we collect don’t cover the whole cost. They have to be fiscally concerned. It’s a privileged license being supplemented by taxpayer dollars.”

In the meantime, a private citizen associated with the Stillwater Firearms Association, a Fallon-based advocacy group, sent a letter to the ATF, which contacted him to say it was reviewing the new law passed by the state, according to J.L. Rhodes, legislative action committee chairman for the association.

“They called to say thank you,” said Rhodes.

Rhodes said he called the Nevada Department of Public Safety to see what the holdup was on contacting the ATF to trigger a review and was told that the ATF was already taking action based on the private citizen’s letter.

“It was left up to an individual to send the letter,” said Carrie Herbertson, state liaison for the National Rifle Association, who said the NSCA dragged its feet on the matter. “That’s one powerful letter.”

Nevada lost its exemption from the NICS checks in 2008 when it failed to pass legislation that would have brought the state into compliance. An earlier audit by the BATFE showed that not all of the state’s sheriff offices were conducting proper background checks and that state law did not require the checks on permit renewals.

In 2005, the state’s 17 sheriffs’ offices signed a Memorandum of Understanding saying they would comply with BATFE requirements until legislation could be enacted in the 2007 legislative session, allowing the state to hang onto its exemption until then.

The Nevada legislature, though, failed to pass the needed legislation in 2007 so, in 2008, the BATFE said the state no longer qualified for the exemption.

Since then, CCW permit holders have had to go through a background check for each firearm purchase and, because Nevada acted as a point of contact (POC) and used the state’s criminal records database, had to pay a $25 fee. Background checks conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for states that opt not to be POCs are free.

No action was taken during the 2009 legislative, but this past session Assembly Bill 282 passed. The bill includes the language making the process for initial applications and renewals the same and is expected to satisfy the BATFE’s rules for exemption from the NICS checks. The only thing left is for the BATFE to review the bill, give its stamp of approval and inform dealers that they can now accept CCW permits as an alternative to NICS checks.

But the granting of the NICS exemption may not be the end of the issue. According to the NRA’s Herbertson, at least one Nevada state legislator is looking into why the state charges a $25 fee for the check it will be required to do on initial applications and 5-year renewals even with the exemption.

“The $25 fee is absurd,” said Herbertson, who says that many other so-called POC states charge less. She said she believed the charges for the NICS checks were $2 in Virginia, $7.50 in Utah and $10.50 in Oregon, for example.

Nevada is one of 21 states that act as a POC, according to the BATFE web site. In the rest of the states, dealers go through the FBI for free checks. Herbertson said several states are now trying to back out of their POC status, but this year only Delaware was successful in dropping it.

CD2 Candidates Battle Over Tax Policy, Solutions for the Economy

By Anne Knowles | 7:14 am August 26th, 2011

Helmuth Lehmann and Tim Fasano were caught in the crossfire last night as Mark Amodei and Kate Marshall threw rhetorical punches at one another during an hour-long debate between the four candidates for Nevada’s second congressional district.

Former state Sen. Mark Amodei responds to a question at the debate./Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau

The former state senator and current state treasurer stood on opposite ends of the podium trading jabs about taxes and jobs for much of the live debate held in Reno’s KNPB TV studio and broadcast statewide.

Democratic candidate Marshall proposed offering tax breaks to companies who create jobs and endorsed a so-called infrastructure bank, an idea also promoted by President Barack Obama, which would lend money to private companies to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. She used the topic to chide her Republican opponent.

“It has bipartisan support unless, of course, you signed the tax pledge, then you’re not supportive of that bipartisan piece of legislation,” said Marshall. “In order to come together you have to not box yourself in a corner you can’t sign a tax pledge which has Grover Norquist telling you when and whether you’ll raise taxes.”

Amodei recently re-signed a pledge not to raise taxes if he were elected to Congress, a pledge promulgated by Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington-based advocacy group headed by Grover Norquist.

“I think it signals a willingness to acknowledge the facts. Compromise is not spending 40 cents of every dollar on debt. Compromise is not running up the debt until it equals the GDP, ” said Amodei when asked earlier in the debate whether signing the pledge signaled his unwillingness to compromise. “It’s not being intractable, it’s recognizing we cannot tax your way out of this.”

For his part, Amodei rebuked Marshall for latching onto loan guarantees made to private enterprises by the federal government.

“We need to start telling the people the truth,” said Amodei when asked what he would do to restore confidence in Congress. “How maybe loan guarantees aren’t a good thing. Remember the ones to Chrysler and General Motors?  They cost the taxpayer. Remember the ones to AIG and some of the Wall Street folks.”

Amodei, like Marshall, repeated ideas he’s been touting on the campaign trail to solve the state’s economic woes. He talked about expediting the process for permits to use public lands and, on a national level, suggested a hiring freeze for the federal government.

Amodei said 85 percent of the land in Nevada is publically-owned and should be better utilized for ranching, mining and energy resources in order to create jobs, but permits to use the land can take up to 10 years to acquire.

“The processing times are phenomenally slow to the point where we are de facto closed for business,” said Amodei.

When the candidates were asked when they disagree with their own party, Amodei said his party over the last couple decades has sometimes lacked courage.

“Not having the courage to say we don’t need special healthcare for members of Congress, that we don’t need a special bank for member of Congress,” said Amodei. “There’s a good bunch of people serving there, but the culture has overtaken.”

Nevada State Treasurer Kate Marshall

Marshall said she parts way with the Democratic party on the so-called Bush tax cuts, reductions in the tax rate passed under President George W. Bush that are set to expire at the end of the year.

“I think we need to keep the Bush tax cuts,” said Marshall, saying that small businesses needed the cuts to create jobs.

Only Lehmann, a non-partisan independent, favored letting them expire, but only to raise rates on the wealthy.

The candidates also agreed that they would have not voted to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, but for varying reasons. Lehmann said he is opposed to the balanced budget amendment that was attached to the bill.

“I think it’s a ruse to make people believe that Congress is actually doing something,” said Lehmann.

Fasano, the Independent American Party candidate, said he wouldn’t have voted for it either.

“We have a problem in government and that problem is spending,” said Fasano.

Marshall said she was opposed to the deal because it cut defense spending and Medicare and didn’t close tax loopholes.

“It was the wrong priorities and those are not my priorities,” said Marshall.

Amodei said that he would have voted no because Washington needs to learn spending discipline.

Early voting for the special election to fill vacant seat starts on Saturday. The election is Sept. 13.


LCB’s Malkiewich Prepares to Say Good-Bye, Start Anew

By Anne Knowles | 4:34 pm August 25th, 2011

Lorne Malkiewich, who celebrates 30 years with the Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB) next week, has announced he is leaving before the 2013 legislative session.

LCB Director Lorne Malkiewich / Nevada News Bureau file photo

Malkiewich, the LCB director for the last 18 years, says he wanted to give legislators plenty of notice.

“I didn’t think it was fair to say to them that I will be leaving but I’m not sure when, so I told them I will be leaving before the next session and you’re going to need to appoint a new director,” said Malkiewich.

He said he has applied for a few jobs already.

“I have loved working with the fantastic people here and after 18 years it’s time for a change,” he said. “I’d like to find a new challenge, something that can perhaps make use of some of my knowledge and skills and yet can be a new challenge for me.”

And the time is good for a move, if that’s where a new job takes him, he said.

His wife recently retired as a teacher from the Carson City school district, and both their children are grown. Their daughter recently graduated from New York University and is spending the next year in Spain while their son has a year left studying at the University of Nevada, Reno.

Malkiewich started with the LCB when he was 24 years old, fresh out of law school University of the Pacific McGeorge School of Law in Sacramento.

He said it is interesting how working at the legislature has at times dove-tailed with details of his personal life.

“Your life kind of becomes based on a two year cycle. The ’85 session, that’s when I got married, and children were born during this one, and this is the session we had a 21-21 tie,” said Malkiewich. “They’re all different, they all have their challenges, and certainly we’ve had some incredibly challenging ones in 2009 and 2011. I think the legislature and the staff have done incredible jobs to get done on time in 120 days in both of those sessions.”

Despite the long hours and strain, Malkiewich said it isn’t easy to say goodbye.

“The people here are not only wonderful to work with, they are among the most talented people I’ve ever had the pleasure to work with in my life. That’s one of the things that makes it tough to leave,” he said.

Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, chair of the the Legislative Commission, yesterday paid tribute to Malkiewich during the group’s monthly meeting.

“I’d like to thank him on behalf of the entire legislature for his phenomenal work,” said Horsford.

The Commission to Consult with the Director, a statutory commission of the legislature filled with members of the leadership of both parties and both houses, is in charge of finding Malkiewich’s replacement.


Audio clip

Malkiewich says hard work brings the LCB staff together like a family:

082411Malkiewich1 :27 deal of work.”

Legislative Commission Approves New Reporting and Public Records Policies

By Anne Knowles | 1:56 pm August 24th, 2011

The Legislative Commission today approved new fees for public record requests and a new expense report form for elections as well as appointed members to two dozen committees that meet during the interim.

Sen. Steven Horsford/Photo: Cathleen Allison/

The commission approved a new policy allowing the Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB) to charge a fee for providing public records.

“In the past, the LCB has not charged for public records request, but we’ve gotten some very large document requests,” said Brenda Erdoes, legislative counsel.

The LCB will now charge either the actual cost or, lacking that information, five cents a page after the first five pages and 10 cents a page for color paper.

The policy also allows LCB to charge a “reasonable fee for the extraordinary use of personnel,” in response, Erdoes said, to instances like the one in which the LCB was asked to scan into electronic form four filing cabinets of paper documents.

The policy says the “rate shall be at gross hourly wage or a portion thereof of the lowest compensated individual reasonably available and qualified to respond to the request.”

Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, asked for clarification of other language in the new policy, which reads LCB “shall deny any for information if, on balance, the public interest in nondisclosure outweighs the public interest in disclosure.”

Erdoes cited a case in which a rejected job applicant requested personnel information on the new hire and said that while not all such requests involved personnel issues, the deciding consideration is “public interest as a group versus private interest.”

The commission also approved a new contribution and expense report form presented by Scott Gilles, Deputy Secretary of Elections. The new report, to be used starting in 2012, comes in two forms: one for political action committees (PACs) that advocate passage or defeat of a ballot question, which must report expenses after $1,000, and everyone else, including candidates, who must report expenses above $100.

The new forms are required by Assembly Bill 452, one of several campaign finance reform bills passed by the Nevada Legislature this past session.  The bills came on the heels of the controversy surrounding Rory Reid’s campaign for governor, in which the campaign formed 90 shell PACs to get around campaign contribution limits.

Reform was also prompted by a failing grade for Nevada from Campaign Disclosure Project for the state’s campaign disclosure laws.

The bill made two primary changes to the expense reporting procedure, said Gilles after his testimony before the committee. It added additional deadlines for filing reporting and mandated that all filing be done online. Both changes provide greater transparency, Gilles said, because reports will be filed more often and can be searched online.

The 12-member commission, meeting in both Las Vegas and Carson City via videoconference, also appointed members to both statutory and interim committees as well as several interim studies.

Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed a bill passed this session to fill interim committees with members of existing legislative committees that already oversee the issues pertaining to each committee, requiring the commission to fill the vacated spots.

The commission also approved the budgets for the committees and studies and gave LCB Director Lorne Malkiewich the flexibility to change the budgets going forward.

“All the money has not been allocated,” said Malkiewich, “and I would request that unless something jumps off the page, if one committee needs a lot more or another needs a lot less, that otherwise we adjust budgets at future meetings.”

Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, chair of the committee, paid tribute to Malkiewich, who has said he plans to leave the LCB before the 2013 session and who is about to celebrate 30 years there.

“I’d like to thank him on behalf of the entire legislature for his phenomenal work,” said Horsford.

ICYMI: Mid-Week Political Round Up

By Elizabeth Crum | 1:35 pm August 24th, 2011

This “In Case You Missed It” feature was supposed to be a weekend thing, but I’ve got so many browser tabs open, I guess it is going to be semiweekly. Get caught up, Dear Readers. And comment below.

Special Election (September 13, 2011)

Ralston hosted a televised debate between Kate Marshall and Mark Amodei. Part One. Part Two. Or read our story on it.

KTNV has the early voting locations and schedules in Clark County.

Politico looks at all the lobbed bombs at Obama by the GOP.

A reporter at the conservative news site Washington Examiner writes about how (he thinks) Amodei could lose. Among other things, he cites a Public Policy Polling survey commissioned by DailyKos. Today, the same reporter heaped more coals by writing about Amodei’s changed position on the Ryan budget.

Both Amodei and Marshall tout positive reviews by the National Rifle Association.

The Marshall campaign launched a pretty scathing ad against Amodei. The NRCC continues to run equally scathing ads against Marshall (they have now spent over $500,000 on TV spots). Gloves are definitely off in this race as early voting approaches.

Amodei signed the tax pledge. Again. And American’s for Tax Reform defend the pledge on the subject of loopholes. The issue was raised by Marshall in criticisms of Amodei.

Anjeanette Damon recently questioned Amodei on tax issues on her show To the Point. When he said he had a consistent record on taxes as well as a record consistent with the tax pledge, she asked him if was fair to say he was consistent in his inconsistency.

Ralston discovered (and Tweeted) that this is not, after all, the first special House election in Nevada’s history. D.R. Ashley (R) won his with 3,691 votes back in in 1865. Fun stuff.

U.S. Senate

Political opponents Sen. Heller and Rep. Berkley work together (sorta) on the debt committee issue in D.C.

Rep. Shelley Berkley wants women in Reno to know what she has done for them. Ditto, Native Americans. She is clearly trying to win hearts and minds in northern Nevada.

Berkley spent some time in Carson City this week, too.

Heller commented. He also said he thinks Judge Russell should have disclosed his relationship with Mark Amodei in the CD-2 special election court case.

GOP Presidential Race

Romney is going to roll out his jobs plan in (you guessed it) Nevada on Labor Day weekend. Ann Romney was here this week.

@RalstonFlash Tweeted earlier this week that Rick Perry is talking to Mike Slanker (and I am sure others) about getting a ground game going here.

FiveThirtyEight did some interesting graphics on the GOP field.

Miscellaneous & Sundry

Anjeanette Damon wrote a fun piece on the many mock Twitter accounts in Nevada politics. (Are you following me on Twitter yet, peeps? @elizcrum )

Rep. Joe Heck chimed in on Libya. Earlier in the summer, he introduced a bill to pull the U.S. out of the NATO mission in Libya by cutting off funding.

Heck’s House race next year (we do not yet know who will challenge him) is anticipated to be one of the toughest in the land.

I am hearing there is an effort afoot to recall North Las Vegas Mayor Shari Buck. A group will file the necessary kick-off papers on September 7, if the energy doesn’t fizzle by then.

Sue Lowden recently spoke in Laughlin. She reflected on what she would have done differently in last year’s U.S. Senate primary (“I guess I would have tried harder to win over the vote of the Tea Party group”) and said she does not rule out a future run.

State Sen. Ruben Kihuen spoke to the AFL-CIO in Reno and was on AD’s show this week, but still has not announced that he is running for Congress next year.

You can track the Tweets of Nevada legislators on this page. Bookmark it, maybe.


Secretary of State Cautions Businesses About Deceptive Solicitations

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 11:55 am August 24th, 2011

CARSON CITY — Secretary of State Ross Miller this week issued a warning to Nevada businesses about deceptive letters from companies that purport to be “registered agents,” but in fact are trying to mislead business owners.

The solicitations at first glance appears to be an official notification endorsed by the Secretary of State and notifying businesses that the status of their corporation requires updating, including the payment of filing fees.

File photo of Secretary of State Ross Miller / by Cathleen Allison

Miller says he will use whatever legal remedies are available to stop the deceptive activity.

“We have received and continue to receive complaints from Nevada businesses about this and other solicitations,” said Miller in a press release. “Many come with pre-filled Secretary of State forms, which give the appearance that they may be associated with or approved by the Secretary of State. They are not.”

Miller’s office said the solicitations often request that the business sign a pre-filled, attached form, and send it to the solicitor who will make sure the filing is processed. The business may not know that by doing so, they may have unwittingly changed their registered agent and paid exorbitant fees to do so.

“There are statutes in place to address this kind of activity. My office is empowered to bring action against someone acting as a registered agent if they have engaged in conduct that was intended to defraud or deceive,” said Miller.

Deceptive activity could result in restraining orders and civil penalties against the offenders.

Nevada businesses can check their status by using the Secretary of State’s business search.

The Secretary of State’s office provided an example of a questionable solicitation in its press release.













Heller Says Judge Should Have Disclosed Amodei Business Relationship

By Anne Knowles | 12:30 pm August 23rd, 2011

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nevada, says he wishes the judge who ruled in the second congressional special election case had disclosed business interests he shared with Republican candidate Mark Amodei.

U.S. Senator Dean Heller

“I was as surprised as anybody else when I read that they had had some business dealings together,” said Heller on an appearance on the TV news program Nevada NewsMakers on Monday.  “I think the claim was they were deciding on process, they weren’t deciding on candidates at that time, and I think for that reason Russell decided he didn’t need to recuse himself from the process.”

Carson City District Court Judge James Russell ruled on May 19 on the procedure for the upcoming special election to fill the congressional seat vacated when Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed Heller to the Senate seat left open when John Ensign resigned.

The ruling, which was in response to a Republican party challenge to Secretary of State Ross Miller’s decision that the ballot would be open to numerous party contenders, limited the ballot to single nominees selected by each party’s central committees.

After the ruling,a blog post in the Reno-Gazette Journal revealed that Russell and Amodei, the former state senator chosen by the Republican committee as its candidate for the congressional seat, share a $500 mining claim in Storey County.

Russell later said he did not consider it a conflict.

“In this day and age I think everything, every little thing, needs to come forward. I even think he could have disclosed the relationship and still made the ruling, ” said Heller. “I wish he would have done that, but, again, I know Judge Russell and I’ve known him to be a man of integrity.”

Heller also said he expects his own 2012 election against opponent Rep. Shelley Berkley to be a tough race that will cost between $10 million and $12 million.

“I know that Senator (Harry) Reid wants to keep his majority, wants to keep his leadership post, so he’s going to do everything he can to help my opponent,” said Heller. “I’ve got my hands full.”

Heller said he wasn’t impressed by Berkley’s so-called Jobs Tour, which visited Reno this week, citing Berkley’s vote for the so-called Cap and Trade bill, which he said was estimated to kill 5,000 jobs in her district.

“Your voting record is going speak a lot louder than your little speaking tour,” said Heller.

Heller also said he supported a national e-verify system, similar to one used in Arizona, requiring employers to verify all employees’ immigration status.

He also defended his vote against raising the nation’s debt ceiling.

“The markets were loud and clear on how bad this debt ceiling vote was,” said Heller, referring to the subsequent drop in the stock market. “The bad outweighed the good in this particular piece of legislation.”


County Clerks On Turnout in CD-2 Special: “Most People Don’t Even Know There is an Election Coming Up”

By Elizabeth Crum | 10:44 am August 23rd, 2011

Just how low will voter turnout be in the special election for Nevada’s second congressional district? The consensus of a handful of county clerks is that it is unlikely to exceed 25 percent, could be even lower and/but is really “anybody’s guess”.

“The fact is, most people don’t even know there is an election coming up,” said the Nye County clerk’s office. Other clerks agreed.

One indicator may be the low number of absentee ballots being requested. Douglas County reports around 350 absentee ballots requested to date. Typically, the county has received 1,000-1,500 absentee ballot requests by the time early voting starts.

Although Douglas County is generally known for high turnout numbers, the clerk’s office agreed that “very few people know about this election.”

In Washoe County, where over half the voters eligible to cast ballots in the election reside, about 3,600 absentee ballots have been requested so far. The number is usually closer to 12,000 in a primary and 25,000 in a general election.

The presence of television ads by the candidates’ and national parties may elevate turnout in Washoe County, but even so the clerk’s office estimates it at 25 percent to “the high twenties, even if things heat up.”

Senator James Settelmeyer said he expects turnout in Douglas County to be between 25 and 30 percent, but is not sure the counties “down south” will show as high.

“I have seen the candidates’ campaign signs here and there, and it’s funny, because usually the biggest thing on your sign is your last name. But maybe the candidates’ should have put the election date in giant numbers instead,” laughed Settelmeyer.


Online Sales of School Supplies Could Cut Into Retailers’ Share

By Anne Knowles | 10:20 am August 23rd, 2011

Spending on back-to-school supplies in Nevada will likely remain stagnant this year, but a jump in online sales could reduce the portion of state retailers.

A National Retail Federation (NRF) survey estimates 31.7 percent and 33.4 percent of families with K-12 children and college-aged students, respectively, will be doing most of their back-to-school shopping online. That is up over last year from 30.8 percent and 28.6 percent.

According to the NRF, families with children in K-12 will spend an average of $604 this year, about the same as last year’s $606. Families with college-bound children will spend about $809, a 3.2 percent drop from 2010.

Based on the 2010 U.S. Census, about 335,000 households in Nevada have children in K-12. They are expected to spend about $200 million on school supplies, if national trends hold true in the state, says a report from the Retail Association of Nevada (RAN). That’s an increase of almost 15 percent, but the report warns the rise is due to a jump in estimated population to calculate the spending, not an increase in “real” new residents.

About 148,000 Nevada residents will be enrolled in college this year, accounting for about $120 million in spending on school supplies.

“Families are approaching back-to-school spending this year with discipline, as average spending levels reported per family show no change after increasing 10.5 percent between 2009 and 2010,” said Mary Lau, RAN president in a press release. “In addition, bricks and mortar retailers in Nevada will likely see less of a seasonal uptick as Internet sales continue to gain market share.”

Amodei, Marshall Duel Over Facts, Foreign Policy, Medicare and Taxes

By Anne Knowles | 9:05 pm August 22nd, 2011

State Treasurer Kate Marshall and former state senator Mark Amodei sparred over Medicare reform, campaign ads and even the uprising in Libya in an hour-long debate airing on the statewide news program Face to Face on Monday and Tuesday.

Former Nevada state Sen. and CD2 GOP candidate Mark Amodei.

The two candidates vying for a vacant congressional seat in a special election next month offered starkly different solutions to the nation’s problems, including how to best rein in Medicare spending.

Marshall said the federal government should use its power to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over the price of prescription drugs for seniors, while Amodei said the Medicare eligibility age should be bumped up and the program’s benefits restructured for those 15 years or more from current eligibility.

Amodei said he wanted to reform the program while increasing the reimbursement rate doctors receive for treating Medicare patients.

Jon Ralston, host of Face to Face and the debate moderator, asked the Republican candidate what he would cut if he were not in favor of reducing reimbursement rates for doctors.

“How about a federal hiring freeze?” said Amodei, adding that it was wrong, “to tell people they have a Medicare program when doctors won’t let them in the office because reimbursement rates are too low.”

The Medicare discussion raised the issue of the budget plan put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, which calls for turning Medicare into a program in which seniors are given vouchers to purchase insurance on the private market.

Democratic candidate Marshall said the plan “lacks vision” and actually exacerbates the problem because the cost of private insurance has grown faster than Medicare.

“Medicare is a good bang for your buck if you’re a senior,” said Marshall.

Amodei said he would have voted against the Ryan plan if he had been a member of Congress at the time, but Ralston pointed out that Amodei was quoted in an article on Politico saying the plan was “excellent.”

“I think Mr. Amodei is trying to have it both ways,” said Marshall.

Amodei defended the change in views, saying he had read the Ryan bill since making his earlier statements of support and that it would not work well for his district. He added that the Ryan plan was the only budget plan on the table.

The pair also discussed their dueling campaign ads. A Marshall ad accuses Amodei of being a paid lobbyist while serving in the legislature, when he was employed by the Nevada Mining Association, and also of voting himself a pay raise.

Amodei said he was not employed as a lobbyist nor registered as one in the years in question, and that the bill he voted for that gave legislators a bump in pay meant he made only $7 more per day for 60 days during the 2007 and 2009 legislative sessions. Meanwhile, he said, the state treasurer was given a $17,000 pay raise.

The same bill that gave legislators their pay raise also increased the state treasurer’s salary from $80,000 to $97,000, but Marshall did not take office until after the bill went into effect.

The Marshall ad also accuses Amodei of voting for the largest tax increase in the state’s history, in 2003 when the legislature passed the modified business tax. Amdoei said it was supported by the Chamber of Commerce and the Nevada Tax Association and was necessary to fund the education budget requested by then Gov. Kenny Guinn.

“I’m a solutions guy who deals with the facts and the fact at the time was that was a responsible way to deal with Gov. Guinn’s budget request,” said Amodei. “What we need now is a solutions person who won’t ignore the facts, won’t go in the tank for a political caucus or special interest group and who says we’ve got to bring the federal budget into balance, we’ve got to bring some spending discipline.”

Marshall said she would not have voted for the modified business tax because it penalizes employers for hiring people.

Amodei distanced himself from an ad paid for by the Republican party that showed Marshall saying she had “steered the state with a steady hand,” while flashing grim statistics about Nevada’s unemployment and foreclosure crisis.

Amodei talked about some of his solutions to the state’s fiscal woes, including expediting the permitting process to use federal lands for recreation and resource exploration. Marshall countered, saying she supported what she called streamlined permitting.

Nevada state Treasurer and Democrat CD2 candidate Kate Marshall

Both candidates shied away from answering whether they supported the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s project to import water from rural Nevada.

Marshall said the project wasn’t being done correctly, while Amodei said he supports the process of the state engineer having control and would not, as a federal official, intervene in a state-controlled decision.

Ralston started the debate asking about Libya, where a popular uprising has ousted Muammar el-Qaddafi, with the help of the United States and other countries.

Amodei said the U.S. should now enlarge its embassy there to monitor the situation and determine who is in charge while Marshall said we should first work through an intermediary there, such as a country friendly to both the U.S. and Libya.

“Mr. Amodei shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the Middle East,” said Marshall in the first jab of the debate.

Amdoei responded by saying America needed to discern the situation there for itself and not rely on outsiders.