Archive for October, 2011

Opponents of Groundwater Pumping Plan Presenting Their Case to State Engineer

By Sean Whaley | 4:12 pm October 31st, 2011

CARSON CITY – Opponents of a proposal by the Southern Nevada Water Authority to pipe rural Nevada groundwater south to quench the thirst of Las Vegas got their chance to argue against the project today before State Engineer Jason King.

The hearings began Sept. 26 and are scheduled to run through Nov. 18. The water authority made its case to tap the rural groundwater supplies over the first several weeks of hearings.

Opponents, including Utah officials, the Great Basin Water Network and the Confederated Tribes of the Goshute Reservation, have been given through Nov. 15 to make their arguments that the request for 125,976-acre feet of groundwater in Delamar, Dry Lake, Cave and Spring Valleys would harm the environment and economic viability of rural Nevada and Utah.

Much of the hearing today focused on concerns by Utah officials that tapping the groundwater from southern Spring Valley in Nevada would adversely affect water resources in the adjoining southern Snake Valley that straddles the Nevada-Utah state line.

Hugh Hurlow, a senior scientist with the Ground Water & Paleontology Program for the Utah Geological Survey and a witness for Millard and Juab counties in Utah opposed to the applications, testified that his analysis shows that pumping from southern Spring Valley could potentially cause groundwater levels to decline in the Snake Valley because of the interbasin flow that now occurs from west to east.

Hugh Hurlow, a witness for the opposition to the Southern Nevada Water Authority groundwater project, testifies today. / Nevada News Bureau.

The flow from southern Spring Valley to the southern Snake Valley is estimated at between 4,000-acre-feet to 33,000-acre-feet per year, he said in his testimony.

Using the lower range of the estimates for his calculations, Hurlow said he estimates that between 10 percent and 25 percent of the southern Snake Valley groundwater comes from the interbasin flow from the west from southern Spring Valley.

This would adversely affect well levels and springs in the southern Snake Valley which is already under stress due to agricultural and other uses, he said.

“So that is why I think that a reduction of the interbasin flow from Spring Valley to Snake Valley could have adverse effects to the groundwater system in Snake Valley,” Hurlow said in response to questioning from Mark Ward, the attorney representing the Utah counties in the proceedings.

Utah attorney Mark Ward presented the Utah county case against the water project today. / Nevada News Bureau.

He also argued that if water rights are granted, that a proposed monitoring system include test wells in Utah that would need to be operated for several decades to track any changes in groundwater levels and flow.

Attorney Paul Taggart, representing the water authority in the hearing, noted that the agency has asked the state engineer to include such a monitoring program if water rights applications are granted.

He also cited two studies suggesting the interbasin flow is no more than 4,000-acre-feet annually. Only one study suggests the flow is greater than 12,000-acre-feet, Taggart said.

Pat Mulroy, general manager of the authority, said in opening arguments in September that the plan to acquire unappropriated groundwater rights in rural Nevada to supplement Southern Nevada’s supply of Colorado River water is essential to the economic future of the region.

Southern Nevada needs to ensure it has a diverse supply of water for that time in the not-so-distant future when the states sharing the Colorado River basin fully use their allotments, she said. The river is over-appropriated and a prolonged drought could create a shortage in coming years, Mulroy said.

Opponents argue that more conservation and the pursuit of desalinization plants would be better alternatives to taking the groundwater.

Mulroy said the agency has taken aggressive steps to improve conservation efforts, including a turf reduction program, and that environmental issues make the desalinization option unlikely to become available in the near term.

Even if the water applications are granted, it would be at least 10 years before construction of a pipeline costing an estimated $7 billion would move forward, Mulroy said.

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Audio clips:

Hugh Hurlow, a senior scientist with the Ground Water & Paleontology Program for the Utah Geological Survey, says Spring Valley groundwater flows into the Snake Valley:

103111Hurlow1 :29 southern Snake Valley.”

Hurlow says about 10 percent to 25 percent of the southern Snake Valley water comes from the Spring Valley to the west:

103111Hurlow2 :25 southern Snake Valley.”

Hurlow says that is why there could be adverse impacts on the southern Snake Valley:

103111Hurlow3 :14 in Snake Valley.

Southern Nevada Water Authority attorney Paul Taggart says most studies show smaller amounts of interbasin transfer:

103111Taggart :23 these prior studies.”

 

 

Regulation Allowing Firearms In State Parks Wins Lawmaker Approval

By Sean Whaley | 2:00 am October 31st, 2011

CARSON CITY – A regulation eliminating a prohibition on carrying firearms in state parks has been approved by the Legislative Commission.

The regulation still prohibits the discharge of a firearm in a state park with some limited exceptions, such as designated target shooting areas.

But a provision included in the original draft regulation to specifically recognize the right to self defense in a state park was not part of the final changes approved Wednesday by the panel of state lawmakers.

A state lawmaker who supported the regulation said the ability to use a weapon for self defense is covered elsewhere in state law, however.

Statutory changes were mandated in Assembly Bill 282, a pro-gun omnibus measure that passed with bipartisan support during the 2011 legislative session.

The ban had also been the subject of a federal lawsuit.

Valley of Fire State Park. / Courtesy: Nevada Division of State Parks.

Steve Silva, senior law enforcement specialist for the Division of State Parks, told the Legislative Commission that much of the public comment concerned a desire to include, “an affirmative acknowledgement of the right to self defense.”

But the language was removed from the regulation when it was returned from the Legislative Counsel Bureau, he said.

The wording was supported by some who testified at a public hearing on the regulation on Oct. 12, particularly from concealed weapons instructors who argued that not including self defense language would cause confusion in teaching their classes, Silva said.

It did not end up being a part of the regulation, however, he said.

“I’ve been with the division for just short of 32 years,” Silva said. “In that entire period we’ve never prosecuted somebody for utilizing a firearm in self defense.”

Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, said in a phone interview Friday that the right to self defense is provided for elsewhere in Nevada law, and that it was not needed as part of the state parks regulation.

“That was my concern as well and that’s why I pulled the regulation during Legislative Commission . . . to have it reviewed by us,” he said. “Because it kind of perplexed me that, yes you can carry a gun on a state park however you cannot discharge it.”

But Settelmeyer said it is covered elsewhere allowing the discharge of a weapon to protect one’s self or another.

“You don’t have a right to walk down the center of the street and discharge a weapon, but you do to save your life,” he said.

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Audio clips:

Steve Silva, senior law enforcement specialist for the Division of State Parks, says language about using a firearm in self defense was removed by LCB staff from the regulation:

103111Silva1 :19 language was removed.”

Silva says the Parks Division has not prosecuted anyone for using a firearm in self defense for nearly 32 years:

103111Silva2 :14 in self defense.”

Sen. James Settelmeyer says the right to self defense is guaranteed elsewhere in state law:

103111Settelmeyer :35 save your life.”

Nevada Day Parade In Carson City

By Sean Whaley | 3:28 pm October 29th, 2011

Here are a few photos from today’s Nevada Day parade in Carson City, held every year to celebrate the state’s admission into the union on Oct. 31, 1864.

 

Gimme 5. / Nevada News Bureau.

 

1st Nevada Cavalry Company. / Nevada News Bureau.

Miss United States All World Beauties. / Nevada News Bureau.

 

Douglas High School drill team. / Nevada News Bureau.

 

McQueen High School Army JROTC, Reno. / Nevada News Bureau.

Reno High School mascot. / Nevada News Bureau.

 

The Pau-Wa-Lu Middle School band from Douglas County performed Disney music. / Nevada News Bureau.

 

Dancers with the Pinkerton Ballet Theatre wave to the crowd. / Nevada News Bureau.

New Federal Report Shows Broader Unemployment Measure High But Holding Steady In Nevada

By Sean Whaley | 12:04 pm October 28th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A broader measure of Nevada’s unemployment picture, including those who have given up looking for work, showed no change through the third quarter of 2011, holding at 23.3 percent, a federal report released today shows.

The quarterly report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, showing data through Sept. 30, mirrors the status of Nevada’s official jobless rate for September, which also remained steady at 13.4 percent from August.

The report shows a state-by-state unemployment measure that encompasses discouraged workers and those who are working part time even though they would like full-time employment. When these individuals are counted, the unemployment rate is much higher than the official rate released each month nationally and by the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

Nevada again ranked worst among the states at 23.3 percent in the report, which covers 12 months of data. Nevada also has the highest official unemployment rate among the states.

Occupy Wall Street protestor. / Photo: David Shankbone via Wikimedia Commons.

The national rate in the quarterly report improved slightly to 16.2 percent from 16.3 percent through June 30, 2011.

California was again in second place in the report at 21.6 percent, also a slight improvement from the 21.8 percent reported through June 30.

Nevada and California are the only two states in the nation with a rate above 20 percent.

The “Alternative Measures of Labor Underutilization for States, Fourth Quarter of 2010 through Third Quarter of 2011 Averages,” shows six different jobless rates using different measures. The broadest definition, U-6, includes “discouraged workers,” defined as people who want work but who had not searched for work in the previous four weeks because they believed no jobs were available to them. It also includes “marginally attached” workers, defined as those who had not looked for work in the previous four weeks for any reason.

Finally the measure includes those employed part-time for economic reasons, defined as those working less than 35 hours per week who want to work full time, are available to do so, and gave an economic reason – their hours had been cut back or they were unable to find a full-time job – for working part time. These individuals are sometimes referred to as involuntary part-time workers.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics notes that this broader definition of unemployment is based on relatively small sample sizes at the state level.

While Nevada’s official jobless rate held steady in September, Bill Anderson, chief economist for the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, noted some modest signs of improvement in the monthly report released Oct. 21.

While still in the double digits, the 13.4 percent official jobless rate is below the 14.9 percent reported for Nevada in September 2010.

Nevada’s battered economy was a focus of the visit by President Obama to Las Vegas on Monday. Nevada’s high jobless and home foreclosure rates are expected to be major issues in the 2012 general election.

Carson District Judge Signs Off On New Political Boundaries, Making Only Minor Changes To Special Master Maps

By Sean Whaley | 2:58 pm October 27th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Carson City District Judge James Todd Russell approved a set of maps outlining Nevada’s new political boundaries today, making only modest changes to the lines drawn by a panel of three court-appointed special masters.

Russell, who ended up in charge of the redistricting process after legislative Democrats and Republicans could not come to an agreement in the 2011 session, signed off on the four congressional districts as proposed and made minor changes to several state Senate seats to correct what he said was an irregularly shaped state Senate 8 seat now held by Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas.

The changes to Senate 8 also resulted in modest changes in the percentage of Democrats and Republicans in Senate District 9 held by Sen. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, Senate District 6 held by Sen. Allison Copening, D-Las Vegas, and a new Senate 18 district created in Clark County with the population shift from northern and rural Nevada to the south.

Democrat attorney Marc Elias, left, and Republican attorney Mark Hutchison look over the new maps in Carson City District Court today. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau

Russell also changed the proposed boundaries of Assembly Districts 34 and 37 in Clark County to return Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, to his District 34. Horne had moved and was unintentionally drawn out of his district.

Russell made the changes after consulting this week with the special masters in advance of today’s hearing.

Attorneys for Democrats and Republicans reserved judgment on whether they will appeal the new political boundaries, required as a result of the 2010 Census, after reviewing the changes. The new political boundaries could potentially be challenged both to the Nevada Supreme Court and the federal courts.

Republican Party attorney Mark Hutchison had argued for changes to Senate seats 6, 8 and 9 to make them more competitive for Republicans, but Russell made only minor changes to the districts.

Democrat Party Attorney Marc Elias had asked for no changes to the maps drawn by Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover, Las Vegas attorney Thomas Sheets and former legislative Research Director Bob Erickson.

Elias said he could propose a laundry list of changes to the maps to improve Democrat political changes in the 2012 election, but that absent any serious errors that needed fixing, the political demands of the two parties should not be accommodated by Russell.

Russell said he tried to address the concerns of rural Nevada, which saw a Senate district drawn all the way into Clark County to reflect the population shift, but could find no way to do so. He noted that both the redistricting plans proposed by Republicans and Democrats moved the district into Clark County as well. The map as drawn by the special masters encompasses less of Clark County than the plans proposed by the parties, Russell said.

“We tried to accommodate these people . . . but there’s no way to work it out,” he said.

The rural district could have been kept whole only if the Legislature had voted to expand its size from the current 21 Senate and 42 Assembly seats, but it did not do so. The state constitution allows the Legislature to be expanded to as many as 75 seats in total.

The congressional maps, which include a new fourth seat due to Nevada’s population growth over the past decade compared to other states, has a central urban Las Vegas District 1 that is 42.8 percent Hispanic.

“I think overall we can live with the congressional maps, particularly based on the court’s decision to accept the special masters’ finding that there was no white block voting that precluded minorities from being elected or choosing candidates of their choice,” Hutchison said.

Elias said he does not believe the new congressional districts violate the federal Voting Rights Act and so no federal court challenge looks likely.

“It doesn’t seem to me that there is any basis at this point for a federal court action,” he said. “We’ve said, literally from the first day here, that the Voting Rights Act does not compel the creation of a majority-minority congressional district.”

Russell said he also considered the idea of returning the redistricting process to the Legislature in a special session, but rejected the idea. A two-week special session would have cost about $550,000, he said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval is the only one with the authority to call a special session of the Legislature, and he had previously rejected the idea, saying he had confidence in the court process to resolve the impasse.

Russell also found that the districts as drawn do not violate the federal Voting Rights Act.

The Nevada Supreme Court still has a hearing scheduled for next month on the issue of whether the Legislature has the responsibility to draw the state’s new political boundaries, not the courts.

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Audio clips:

GOP attorney Mark Hutchison says Republicans can lives with the new congressional districts:

102711Hutchison :15 of their choice.”

Democrat attorney Marc Elias says he does not believe there are federal issues with the new districts:

102711Elias :16 majority-minority congressional district.”

Wednesday Political Round-Up

By Elizabeth Crum | 7:21 pm October 26th, 2011

Some snippets and blurbs from the week so far for your enjoyment, Dear Readers:

Presidential Race

Magellan Strategies this week released an autodial poll of 673 likely Nevada GOP caucus goers. Results:

Mitt Romney – 38%

Herman Cain – 26%

Newt Gingrich – 16%

Ron Paul – 7%

Rick Perry – 5%

Michele Bachman – 2%

Rick Santorum & Jon Huntsman – 1%

Other – 1%

Also interesting, the Favorable/Unfavorable ratios from the poll:

Cain	  69%	 19%
Romney	  67%	 23%
Gingrich  63%	 26%
Bachmann  41%	 45%
Santorum  28%	 43%
Paul	  32%	 51%
Perry	  25%	 58%
Huntsman  13%	 57%
NV GOP Caucuses

The Union Leader in New Hampshire couldn’t resist one more jab at Nevada (via OpEd), but they got one thing wrong. According to NV Republican Party chair Amy Tarkanian, when the executive board voted to set the caucus date for Feb. 14, they were not aware of NH’s statute requiring that no other contests be held for seven days after their first-in-the-nation primary. Tarkanian quipped in a phone conversation this week, “That would have been nice to know.”

And just in case you were in a coma over the weekend, the NV GOP caucus date was moved to Feb. 4.

Senate Seats

Public Policy Polling says Rep. Shelley Berkley has moved into a tie with Sen. Dean Heller in the Nevada Senate race at 45%. In PPP’s last poll, in late July, Heller led 46-43.

Three dozen political action committees must believe it’s going to be close, because they have hedged their bets and given money to both Berkley and Heller in 2011, reports Ralston.

Politico writes a story on Sen. Harry Reid’s loyalty to the President.

YouTube Campaigns

Expect anti-Obama/Berkley/Reid videos like this one from the National Republican Senatorial Committee from (and the rest of Team GOP) for the next 12 months. (Black helicopters = nice touch.)

And expect lots of anti-Heller videos like this one from the Nevada Democratic Party and Team D.

And ads like this one from American Crossroads (aka Karl Rove, Inc.), who is apparently making a play for the Hispanic vote in Nevada (and I am sure elsewhere).

Congressional Races

Dina Titus talks to the Sun about her possible primary race against…someone.

Titus may well end up facing off with Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, in the 1st Congressional District, where she lives. It is is a heavily Democratic district with 43 percent Latino population, which would seem to favor Kihuen, but Titus is well-known and will be (as she confidently asserts) a formidable candidate.

State Sens. John Lee and Steven Horsford, both D-North Las Vegas, live in the brand spanking new 4th Congressional District. Horsford, the Democratic majority leader for the past four years, has the clear advantage in the match-up with Lee, who is a conservative Democrat.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, will be campaigning against Rep. Joe Heck, R-Las Vegas, in the 3rd Congressional District. Titus lost to Heck by less than 2,000 votes in 2010, but after the redistricting maps are finalized the lines and demographics will be different.

As for the 2nd District, newly elected Rep. Mark Amodei has yet to hear about a challenge, although Sharron Angle’s name keeps (inevitably) popping up as a possible primary opponent.

Ray Hagar has the run-down on Amodei’s staff hires.

Miscellaneous

Gov. Sandoval and staff sing “Home Means Nevada” in honor of Nevada Day.

Just what we need: a political reality show.

Halloween decorations are up in the Secretary of State’s Scare’s office. Ross Miller reports that this one is scaring the kids.

Also, the Governor’s mansion looks ready to go.

 

Legislative Panel Agrees To Review New Public Records Policy

By Sean Whaley | 4:43 pm October 26th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A panel of lawmakers agreed today to review its new policy on responding to public records requests after concerns were raised by the ACLU of Nevada.

Rebecca Gasca, legislative and policy director for the organization, told the Legislative Commission today that the new policy says that those seeking public records from the Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB) need to explain why they want the information when making requests.

The policy, adopted in August, improperly shifts the burden to the person requesting the public records to show that the need for the information is stronger than any public policy interest in keeping the information confidential, she said.

Gasca had already sent a letter to the commission from ACLU General Counsel Allen Lichtenstein explaining the concerns with the new policy in detail.

Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, a member of the commission, asked that the new policy be reviewed at its next meeting.

Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, called today for a review of the new public records policy. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

“We did kind of, as I recall, went through it kind of quickly,” he said. “And there is some verbiage in it that I think we probably ought to review to see if it is a little too vague and a little too open ended.”

Gasca said the new policy would incorrectly apply a Nevada Supreme Court ruling in Donrey of Nevada v. Bradshaw and impose a “balancing test” to determine if the public interest in disclosing the information outweighs the public interest served by not releasing the information.

The balancing test referenced in the court case applied to requests for criminal information, not general public records requests, she said.

“The policy of LCB that you passed at the last commission meeting actually broadly expands upon that and specifically states that requestors need to put in why they are requesting something so the LCB can balance those interests,” Gasca said.

While there was a comment from LCB Director Lorne Malkiewich that the new requirement will not be used as a basis for denying requests, this statement of intent was not included in the new policy, she said.

Concerns about the new policy have also previously been expressed by Barry Smith, executive director of the Nevada Press Association.

In response to the ACLU letter, Malkiewich said the new policy, “was not proposed in an effort to restrict public access, but rather to reflect the state of the law and allow us to continue our practice of prompt, complete response to requests for public records.”

“In summary, the policy that I proposed and the Legislative Commission adopted does not conflict with state law; it reflects what the Nevada Supreme Court has recognized to be the state of the law,” he said. “We will not reject a request for failure to include such a statement, but a clear explanation of a particular public interest may tip the balance in favor of disclosure of a document that might not otherwise be disclosed.”

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Audio clips:

ACLU representative Rebecca Gasca said the new legislative public records policy needs to be revisited:

102611Gasca :23 Nevada Supreme Court.”

Assemblyman Ira Hansen called for a review of the new policy:

102611Hansen :10 too open ended.”

Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei Named To House Natural Resources Committee

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 11:34 am October 26th, 2011

CARSON CITY – House Natural Resources Committee Chairman Doc Hastings, R-Wa., today announced that Nevada Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., is the newest member of the panel.

“I’m pleased that the newest member of the Republican majority – Rep. Mark Amodei – will be joining the Natural Resources Committee,” Hastings said. “Mark’s sprawling Nevada congressional district is comprised of large portions of public lands and his knowledge of western land issues is a welcome addition to the committee. Committee Republicans welcome Mark and are looking forward to working with him to create jobs and keep America’s public lands and waterways open and accessible for all forms of use.”

This is Amodei’s third and final committee assignment in addition to the Judiciary and Veterans Affairs committees.

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.

“With our vast mineral wealth and expansive public lands, a seat on the House Natural Resources Committee is important for Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District,” Amodei said. “How best to leverage those resources for job creation and economic growth, while preserving the uniqueness of our landscape and our way of life, is a top priority.”

The House Natural Resources Committee considers legislation about American energy production, mineral lands and mining, fisheries and wildlife, public lands, oceans, Native Americans, irrigation and reclamation.

Additionally, Republicans on the House Natural Resources Committee are working on a wide range of important issues, including increasing America’s economic competitiveness and creating new jobs.

Amodei, a Carson City resident, was elected to the District 2 seat in a special election in September. He replaces Dean Heller, who was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Nevada Taxable Sales Show Gains In August

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 10:31 am October 26th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s economy continued to show some signs of improvement in August, with taxable sales rising by 5.7 percent over August 2010, a report released today shows.

The report from the Nevada Department of Taxation also shows a 5.2 percent increase in taxable sales in the first two months of fiscal year 2012 that began July 1.

Clark County posted a 3.5 percent increase, while Washoe County showed a 2.1 percent gain.

Major categories showing increases in August included motor vehicle and parts dealers, up 11.4 percent; food and beverage stores, up 4.1 percent; furniture and home furnishings, up 9.4 percent, and bars and restaurants, up 5.7 percent.

But the construction industry continued to lag in the report, showing a 5 percent decline in taxable sales compared to August 2010. General merchandise stores were also down, by 0.6 percent.

Purse shopping. / Photo: Ben Schumin via Wikimedia Commons.

Fifteen of 17 Nevada counties reported an increase in taxable sales in August. Only Lincoln and Lyon counties reported year-over-year declines.

The state general fund share of the taxes generated from taxable sales is about $1.5 million above the forecast for the first two months of the fiscal year.

Reno Businessman Speaks Out As New Effort Launched To Fight Excessive Regulations

By Sean Whaley | 3:51 pm October 25th, 2011

RENO – Businessman Raymond Pezonella said today he knew the burden of complying with government regulations had hit a new level of absurdity after an all-day audit resulted in an $8.99 gas tax charge to his company because of a trip to California that his workers had failed to record.

“This took two of my people all day long,” he said. “That guy tied up my conference room all day to do this document.”

Reno businessman Raymond Pezonella says regulations are becoming an increasingly burdensome part of his business. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

In another recent encounter with the regulatory process, Pezonella said he was visited by a federal employee who wanted to inspect gauges used by his company for soils testing because they contain a small amount of a radioactive element that potentially could be a homeland security concern.

But safety did not appear to be the main concern during the visit by the representative of the U.S. Department of Transportation, Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, Office of Hazardous Materials Enforcement, he said. Instead, his firm was fined $480 for failing to provide a proper shipping name. He was assessed another $1,400 for failing to maintain a package document.

Pezonella said he fought the fines and ended up paying $150. The state had just reviewed his business and gave him a top rating, he said.

The anecdotes point out the increasing regulatory burden placed on small business, he said.

“The biggest change is the attitude,” Pezonella said. “I think at one time people were working together. Governmental people were here, but they were here to help. Now they seem like they’ve taken an attitude well, every time they step on your door, they’re here not to help you but to figure some way to fine you for something you did wrong.

“I think it’s them against us,” he said. “Is it revenue generating? What is it for?”

Pezonella, in businesses for 35 years, offered himself up as an example of a businessman facing an increasing level or regulation and a more adversarial relationship with federal agencies as part of a project of the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) called Small Businesses for Sensible Regulations.

Small Businesses for Sensible Regulations was launched nationally this summer and has since grown to nearly 1,000 members, with 170 of those in Nevada.

The national effort is focused on protecting small businesses and American jobs from the impacts of regulations recently proposed by the Obama administration, said Randi Thompson, NFIB state director.

“Continual regulations that are hurting small business are only going to delay any kind of recovery in this recession,” she said. “I’m not saying all government regulations are bad. We’re just saying there has to be a sensible balance here.”

The average small business spends about 20 hours a week to comply with federal regulations, not counting state or local rules, Thompson said.

There are 4,000 new federal regulations in the pipeline, she said.

Streamlining regulations to encourage job growth is a major topic both nationally and in Nevada, which has the highest unemployment rate in the country.

Gov. Brian Sandoval last month sent a letter to President Obama seeking to ease the permitting process for mining development in the state to help create jobs. U.S. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., elected to congress last month in a special election, said one of his first objectives was to meet with the U.S. Bureau of Land Management on the issue of land use regulations.

Even President Obama has vowed to ease the regulatory burden on business.

Thompson said there have been a few successes in stopping the implementation of some regulations, such as a proposed federal change to require farm equipment drivers to have commercial driver’s licenses.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has denied it was considering such a regulation.

But while the Obama administration has announced an effort to reduce the regulatory burden, new regulations are being adopted at a rate of 10 a week, Thompson said.

While the intent of many of the regulations is good, Pezonella said they are being implemented at an ever-growing rate, requiring about 40 hours a month now to deal with in his business.

“They make them faster than I can read them,” he said.

Pezonella said he visits Washington, DC, and meets with his elected representatives every year to raise the concerns of excessive regulation, but nothing seems to change.

“I don’t think they have control over some of these departments,” Pezonella said. “I think they call but it doesn’t matter to these guys. They go do their own thing.”

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Audio clips:

Reno businessman Raymond Pezonella says government officials used to be helpful:

102511Pezonella1 :21 you did wrong.”

Pezonella says he would like to know why federal officials have become so adversarial:

102511Pezonella2 :14 is it for?”

NFIB State Director Randi Thompson says overly burdensome regulations will delay the country’s economic recovery:

102511Thompson1 :06 in this recession.”

Thompson says all regulations aren’t bad, but there needs to be some balance:

102511Thompson2 :09 in the pipeline.”

 

Nevada Republican Party Opposes Emergency High Court Intervention In Court-Run Redistricting Process

By Sean Whaley | 7:26 pm October 24th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Attorneys for the Nevada Republican Party today filed a brief with the Nevada Supreme Court opposing Secretary of State Ross Miller’s emergency petition seeking to intervene on the question of the authority of the courts to decide the state’s political boundaries instead of the Legislature.

The Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for Nov. 14 on questions raised by Miller on whether it is the responsibility of the Legislature to draw the political boundaries, not the courts.

In a brief in opposition to Miller, Republican Party attorney Mark Hutchison called the petition moot since the special masters appointed by Carson City District Judge James Todd Russell worked quickly to submit proposed maps redrawing the state’s congressional and legislative districts.

Special redistricting masters, from left, Bob Erickson, Thomas Sheets and Alan Glover. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

“In short, the District Court action is proceeding apace, and the court will be in a position to issue final plans during, and perhaps even before, the beginning of November 2011,” the filing says. “This timeline provides ample time for any appeal to be heard and decided by this court well in advance of upcoming election deadlines. As such, petitioner’s original grounds for seeking this writ effectively are moot in light of subsequent events and, for this and other reasons set forth more fully below, the emergency petition should be denied.”

Russell will hold a hearing Thursday to consider the maps submitted Oct. 14 by the three special masters.

Hutchison, in a late filing by the deadline today to the proposed political districts submitted by the special masters, identified a few concerns in the proposed maps.

“Despite the special masters’ largely successful performance of their duties, the court has charged the parties to identify any legal errors with the proposed maps. Legal errors do exist in the current maps, but they are few,” the filing said.

One concern cited by Hutchison is the Senate District 8 seat now held by Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas. He argues in the filing the district is irregularly shaped and not compact.

There is also a concern cited about Senate District 6, now held by Sen. Allison Copening, D-Las Vegas, as drawn favoring Democrats where it has historically been a Republican seat.

Following two public hearings on Oct. 10 and 11, the court-appointed special masters filed their proposed maps three days later. Before the maps were filed Oct. 14, Hutchison issued a statement that said the party had faith in the panel to submit fair maps.

“Creating fair districts for both elected legislators and the public has been the goal of the Republicans since the beginning of the 2011 legislative session,” the statement said.

As to Miller’s underlying argument that it is the Legislature’s duty to perform the redistricting process, Hutchison said in his filing with the Supreme Court that he agrees the Nevada constitution entrusts the task of redistricting to the Legislature, but that, “if the Legislature fails to fulfill its duty, it may be incumbent upon other branches of government to remedy the situation.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval thus far has rejected any suggestion that he call a special session of the Legislature to resolve the redistricting issue. The Democrat-controlled Legislature passed two redistricting plans during the 2011 legislative session, but both were vetoed by the Republican governor who cited concerns that they violated the federal Voting Rights Act.

Obama to Talk Home Refinancing in Las Vegas Following Romney’s Controversial Foreclosure Remarks

By Elizabeth Crum | 11:46 am October 24th, 2011

LAS VEGAS – President Obama will today announce he is expanding a federal aid program to allow more homeowners to refinance their mortgages at today’s low interest rates, said White House officials this morning.

The Federal Housing Finance Agency’s announcement on changes to the Home Affordable Refinance Program (HARP) includes enabling borrowers who are current on payments to refinance their mortgages regardless of the value of their homes, said  HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan and Director of the National Economic Council Gene B. Sperling on a White House conference call.

Under the previous program’s guidelines mortgage restructuring was available only to homeowners owing no more than 125 percent of their property’s present appraised value, a restriction that prevented homeowners in hard hit states such as Nevada and California from getting relief.

The revised federal program would also reduce the number of homeowner-paid appraisals during the refinance process, reduce the cost of title insurance and lien processing, and even possibly reduce closing costs in states hardest hit by the mortgage crisis, including Nevada.

The economic and political impact of the new housing initiative is iffy in light of the high foreclosure rate and 13.4 percent unemployment rate in Nevada.

The state continues to lead the country in distressed property rates, according to RealtyTrac’s most recent U.S. Foreclosure Market Report. Additionally, Las Vegas has five times the foreclosure rate of the national average in metropolitan areas with populations of at least 200,000.

The housing issue will likely be an oft-used political football in Nevada between now and the November elections.

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney caused a stir last week when he suggested home foreclosures should be allowed to “hit the bottom” to help the housing industry recover.

In an interview published Tuesday ahead of the CNN presidential debate, Romney told Las Vegas Review Journal‘s editorial board he thinks the foreclosure crisis can best be ended by allowing banks to proceed against homeowners who have defaulted on their mortgages. New investors could then buy and rent out those homes until the market adjusted, he said.

“As to what to do for the housing industry specifically and are there things that you can do to encourage housing: One is, don’t try to stop the foreclosure process. Let it run its course and hit the bottom,” Romney said.

Democrats are criticizing Romney as being callous and out of touch with middle class Americans.

“Mitt Romney’s message to Nevada homeowners struggling to pay their mortgage bills is simple: You’re on your own, so step aside,” President Barack Obama’s reelection campaign spokesman, Ben LaBolt, said in a statement last week.

Sen. Harry Reid also chimed in. “Nevada has the highest foreclosure rate in America, and it has for almost three years. And here’s what Mitt Romney said: He would just let them hit rock bottom,” Reid said during a press conference in Washington D.C. “I don’t know what’s more graphic than that, in how we have different views of what the world should be like than our Republican friends.”

Obama is also expected to talk about his jobs initiatives when he speaks to a struggling East Las Vegas neighborhood this afternoon.

The president has been urging Congress to pass portions of the American Jobs Act, a $477 billion package of tax cuts and new federal spending aimed primarily at creating or saving public sector jobs.

Obama is also today holding a campaign fundraiser at Bellagio.

White House officials said Obama this week will be announcing a number of executive actions on the economy during a Western states tour that includes southern California and Colorado.

GOP Rejects Same-Day Registration for Caucuses

By Elizabeth Crum | 11:48 am October 22nd, 2011

As first reported by me (Thursday on Twitter), the embattled state GOP caved to pressure and scuttled the “same-day registration” discussion panel it had planned for Saturday’s central committee meeting at the Venetian Hotel.

Numerous party execs and elected officials (who declined to be named lest their voice mailboxes be bombarded with further protests) lamented the situation but said they were unable to convince concerned members that ineligible voters, Democrats and/or union members would not show up en masse and use on-site registration to interfere with the Republican caucuses.

Despite removal of the controversial topic from the agenda and the fervent prayers of state party officials that it would not come up, a motion was still made from the floor to never, ever, EVER talk about same-day registration again. Ever. For reals.

Sen. Dean Heller said Friday he was disappointed, believing same-day registration could have boosted GOP voter rolls by tens of thousands, as it did for Democrats in 2008.

Nevada Republican Party Chairwoman Amy Tarkanian and other state and county GOP leaders will now be left to register voters the good old-fashioned way.

One Clark County Republican Party leader with whom I spoke wondered whether the same whipped-up activists who vehemently opposed same-day registration will “get off their duffs and assist” with registration efforts.

Nevada Caucus Moved to February 4

By Elizabeth Crum | 11:22 am October 22nd, 2011

By a loud and nearly unanimous voice vote following explanatory remarks by RNC Committeeman and former Gov. Bob List, the Nevada Republican Party Central Committee this morning voted to move Nevada’s caucus from January 14 to February 4.

Jobless Rate Holds Steady, But Improving In Some Sectors

By Sean Whaley | 12:48 pm October 21st, 2011

CARSON CITY – The September jobs report released today contained some hints of economic life in recession-battered Nevada, even though the unemployment rate held steady at a double-digit 13.4 percent rate from August.

While still tops in the nation in unemployment, Nevada saw a decline in the jobless rate in the Las Vegas area, to 13.6 percent from 14.3 percent in August. The Reno-Sparks and Carson City areas also saw declines.

While Nevada’s seasonally adjusted jobless rate remained unchanged after three months of increases, it is well below the 14.9 percent rate reported in September 2010, according to the report released by the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.

Nevada also saw some job growth in September over August, adding 10,000 jobs, although most were seasonal. When seasonality is factored in, the state gained 1,800 jobs.

“This month, it appears the unemployment rate is stabilizing and that job growth is outpacing job losses,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said. “While this is a good sign for our economy, we must continue to look for ways to spur job creation and offer job retraining to Nevada’s workforce.”

Californians who lost jobs due to freeze. / Photo courtesy of FEMA.

Bill Anderson, chief economist for the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, said: “In months past I’ve talked about signs of stability and an economy that is essentially moving sideways. But now I think there are some definite signs of improvement, albeit modest improvement; I don’t want to overstate its significance.

“By far we’re not out of the woods yet,” he said. “Our job levels are still down by about 175,000 from where they were at the beginning of the recession. But we are starting to see some signs of pockets of improvement.”

Those pockets include the tourism industry, and they are starting to translate into new jobs in some employment sectors, Anderson said.

Bill Anderson, chief economist for the state Research and Analysis Bureau.

Nevada’s statewide rate is adjusted for seasonality. The local rates are not. The seasonal adjustment process takes into account normal and predictable fluctuations in labor market activity due to such reoccurring factors as changes in the weather, the beginning and end of the academic year and the timing of holidays in estimating the unemployment rate.

Employment is up in seven of the eleven major industry groups compared to the same month in 2010. It is significant improvement from two years ago when only one industry, education and health services registered employment growth.

In recent months, the construction industry has shown some signs of life. In September, the industry added employment for the fifth consecutive month. The addition of 1,600 new jobs pushed September’s employment estimate 200 jobs higher than the same month last year. It marks the first time in nearly five years that the construction industry posted an over-the-year increase.

While a positive sign overall, it is too early to tell if the shift marks a turning point in the industry’s fortunes. Expectations for a strong turnaround are generally low given continued trouble in housing and commercial development, but it is a positive development none the less, the report says.

Other sectors adding jobs include the professional and business services industry, which added 1,300 jobs in September and is up 6,500 or 4.8 percent from the same month last year. Leisure and hospitality held steady at 321,200, but in the last year the industry added 11,300 jobs, a 3.6 percent increase.

The public sector saw some job growth from August due primarily to the start of the new school year, but in the past 12 months, state, local and federal government has collectively lost 5,100 jobs, a decline of 3.3 percent.

State government has lost 1,600 jobs compared to September 2010, and local government, including teachers, has lost 3,600 jobs. The federal government added 100 jobs over the year.

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Audio clips:

State economist Bill Anderson says the September jobs report shows some signs of improvement:

102111Anderson1 :17 overstate its significance.”

But Anderson says Nevada has a long way to go to recover from the job losses of the great recession:

102111Anderson2 :13 pockets of improvement.”