Archive for November, 2011

Nevada Labor Union Seriously Considering Ballot Initiative To Put Tax Increase For Education To Voters

By Sean Whaley | 4:19 pm November 16th, 2011

(Updated to reflect the different requirements to place a measure on the Nevada ballot.)


CARSON CITY – A Nevada labor union leader said today his organization is “looking seriously” at launching a ballot initiative to put a tax hike to increase funding for education to the voters, possibly as early as the 2012 general election.

Graphic from Free Software Foundation via Wikimedia Commons.

“We are looking seriously at this process because the legislative process is an impossible one,” said Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO. “With the two-thirds requirement in the constitution, what in effect that does – it has the minority control the majority wishes. You cannot solve the problem at the Legislature alone without some help from the people.”

Nevada has a two-thirds vote requirement in the Legislature to raise taxes or fees.

Thompson said Nevada needs more tax revenue to properly fund education, which in turn would help in the diversification of the state economy and lead to the creation of jobs.

In an interview with Jim Rogers today on KRNV Channel 4 in Reno on the “Inside Nevada” segment of the noon news, Thompson cited a September poll by the Retail Association of Nevada showing public support for raising taxes if the money is spent on education.

“And I think the solution is, do it by the people, that way the Legislature doesn’t have as much wiggle room, and put the money toward education,” he said.

Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO.

The survey of Nevada voters by the Retail Association of Nevada actually showed that 57 percent would prefer to raise taxes rather than see further cuts in spending to education and health care. Sixty-four percent also said higher taxes would lead to job losses, however.

Other polls conducted in Nevada over the years have often shown voter support for specific types of tax increases, such as those imposed on gaming or on alcohol and cigarettes. Voters have typically not favored increases in the sales tax or property tax.

Asked to comment on a potential tax ballot initiative, Nevada state Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said the issue properly belongs in the Legislature.

“I don’t think there are very many people in the state that believe that tax policy should be through ballot initiative,” he said. “We can talk about it now, we should be talking about it now, between now and next February (2013). But it is the job of the Legislature to make those decisions.”

The Nevada Legislature will convene again in 2013.

Ballot measures are not always well thought out and often cause more problems than they solve, Roberson said.

State Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas.

“We all want to have more revenue and more funding for education,” he said. “Education and job creation are the two biggest issues facing the state. This state is certainly at a crossroads. We have got to reform education but we all know we need to fund education better.”

Roberson said he and his Senate Republican colleagues would be happy to sit down with Thompson, as well as with legislative Democrats, to discuss and work toward an acceptable solution regarding tax policy and tax reform.

“But I don’t think a ballot initiative to raise taxes is the answer,” he said.

Rogers, the owner of KRNV and several other television stations in the West, said during the interview he would support such an initiative as well.

In a telephone interview with the Nevada News Bureau, Thompson said details of a proposed voter initiative have not been finalized. A petition could take the form either of an amendment to the state constitution or a less restrictive change to state law to increase taxes, he said. No decision has been on which taxes would be proposed for hikes, Thompson said.

He acknowledged that getting a measure qualified for the ballot is difficult given the likely legal challenges and the signature collection effort itself.

A voter initiative to amend the state constitution would need 72,352 valid signatures collected by June 19, 2012 to have it placed on the November 2012 general election ballot. It would have to be approved by voters twice, in 2012 and 2014, to take effect.

Changing state law would require the same number of signatures to be collected by Nov. 13, 2012. The initiative petition would go to the Legislature in 2013. If lawmakers did not enact the proposal, it would go to the voters in 2014.

The AFL-CIO has had success in getting measures on the ballot before, including a constitutional amendment raising Nevada’s minimum wage.

“People are fed up,” Thompson said. “We have the lowest spending on education in the nation and we have the highest unemployment with no solution to these problems in sight, and we have a total dependency on a single industry for paying our bills.”


Audio clips:

AFL-CIO chief Danny Thompson says the union is seriously considering putting a tax hike before the voters:

111611Thompson1 :25 from the people.”

Thompson says Nevada needs to spend more on education to help diversify the economy:

111611Thompson2 :19 paying our bills.”

Nevada state Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, says it is the job of the Legislature to set tax policy:

111611Roberson1 :31 make those decisions.”

Roberson says it is clear to everyone that education needs more funding:

11611Roberson2 : 20 fund education better.”



Nevada Saves $6.3 Million In Successful Bond Sale, Holds On To AA Credit Rating

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 12:35 pm November 16th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Nevada Treasurer Kate Marshall announced today that her office has completed a series of bond sales that will net the state a total face value of $149.4 million, with $32 million going for capital improvement projects and the remaining $117 million to be used for the refunding of existing state obligations.

Nevada State Treasurer Kate Marshall.

“Nevada taxpayers saved $6.3 million as a result of a successful new marketing and investor outreach program,” Marshall said.  “We personally met with potential investors, provided an ‘internet roadshow’ and developed a specific State of Nevada bond sale website to generate greater interest in the market for Nevada bonds.

“In addition, Nevada maintained its ‘AA’ credit rating, which is critical during these trying economic times, as it saves the state and its taxpayers millions of dollars in borrowing costs,” she said. “In keeping the state’s ‘AA’ credit rating, the rating agencies relied upon Nevada’s ‘strong and prudent financial management’ as a key component for preserving our present credit rating.”

All three rating agencies – Fitch, Moody’s and Standard & Poor’s – kept Nevada’s credit outlook as “stable.”

In all, six bond series were included in the sale. The capital improvement project funding will be provided to state agencies for construction projects, including the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to fund safe drinking water projects. The savings achieved through the refundings will be used to increase the state’s bond reserves.

Tarkanian Runs RoboPoll, Mulls Run in NV-04

By Elizabeth Crum | 10:28 am November 16th, 2011

Update/correction:  Danny Tarkanian did not commission this poll.

Strategic National has conducted a (very) small-sample robopoll in NV04.

In a primary match up against state Sen. Barabara Cegavske, Tarkanian is ahead 54 percent to 8 percent. (Chalk most of this margin up to Tarkanian’s advantage based on name recognition — but it means that Cegavske would have to work hard and spend a significant amount of money in a primary race against him. I’m sure Tarkanian is hoping this poll will discourage her.)

In a match-up against a generic Democrat, the poll says Tarkanian wins 44 percent to 29 percent with this group of (303) likely voters. Undecideds were at 27 percent. Based on the cross tabs of the survey (see below) — assuming all respondents affiliated with a party went with the candidate of their own party — independent and third party voters leaned Tarkanian’s way.

Cegavske beat the generic Democrat 37 to 33 percent with 30 percent undecided.

Tarkanian is at 33 percent very favorable/favorable, 52 percent neutral, and 10 percent unfavorable in the poll.

Cegavske is at 13 percent very favorable/unfavorable, 74 percent neutral, 8 percent unfavorable (which again just means that most respondents don’t know her).

The breakdown of the respondents was 54.5% Female and 45.5% Male.  Partisan registration was 45.5% Democrat, 33.0% Republican, and 21.5% Independent or 3rd Party.  The survey has a Margin of Error of +/- 5.63%, at a 95% Confidence Interval.

Tarkanian told me last night that he would likely make a decision over Thanksgiving weekend, so we will probably know by the end of the month or early December.

In past conversations with me, Tarkanian has said he feels that if he does not run for Congress this cycle, he will lose valuable momentum and the name-recognition advantage leftover from the 2010 U.S. Senate primary race. He acknowledges, too, that this is likely his “last shot” after unsuccessful runs for the state Legislature, Secretary of State and U.S. Senate.

Part of Tarkanian’s calculus is his belief that there will be much higher Republican than Democratic turnout, especially in the rural parts of that (new) district, and also that he can win over a majority of independents. He also claims that updated precinct reports he’s seen show active Democratic voters have dropped from 42,400 to around 28,000 in that district.

Re: his relationship with Cegavske, Tarkanian spoke warmly of her, said they are “very close” and that she has “been like a mentor” to him. I’m guessing that if he jumps in, he hopes she’ll change her mind about running (remember, candidate filing is not until March).

As for his wife’s position as Nevada Republican Party chair and whether that will be a problem should he choose to run, Tarkanian said it “clearly isn’t a conflict” because the party does not endorse in primaries. Not sure everyone in the central committee will see it that way…

Also, in the presidential race, the survey shows:

Gingrich at 31 percent

Cain at 22 percent

Romney at 21

Paul at 9

Perry at 3



Las Vegas Attorney Readies Nevada For U.S. Supreme Court Review Of Federal Health Care Law

By Sean Whaley | 2:43 pm November 15th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The Las Vegas attorney representing Nevada in the 26-state challenge to the new federal health care law says the case is critically important because of the mandate for people to purchase health insurance.

“Never before in our nation’s history has the federal government required its citizens to purchase a product or service as a condition of citizenship in this country,” said Mark Hutchison, who is representing Nevada without charge in the case. “This case is of high importance to all Nevadans, because if the federal government can require us to purchase health insurance, then they can require us to purchase anything they choose.”

Hutchison, in a statement issued Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, said the initial written briefs are due Dec. 29. Oral arguments are expected to be in March. The court will issue a decision in the case before its term expires at the end of June 2012.

U.S. Supreme Court.

First appointed by Gov. Jim Gibbons, and then re-affirmed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, Hutchison was named to serve as lead special counsel for the state when Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto declined to represent the state in the federal litigation.

In addition to the 26 states, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) is a party to the challenge.

Randi Thompson, Nevada state director for the NFIB, said in a statement Monday: “This act is already increasing the cost of health care on Nevadans, increasing costs to Nevada taxpayers for Medicaid and Medicare coverage, and causing business owners to even drop coverage for their employees. Health care needs to be more accessible and affordable, but this act is not the way to reach that goal.”

Others also weighed in on the decision.

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer issued this statement: “Earlier this year, the Obama Administration asked the Supreme Court to consider legal challenges to the health reform law and we are pleased the court has agreed to hear this case.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, one million more young Americans have health insurance, women are getting mammograms and preventive services without paying an extra penny out of their own pocket and insurance companies have to spend more of your premiums on health care instead of advertising and bonuses. We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and are confident the Supreme Court will agree,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said in a statement: “Nevada families and businesses are already struggling in this current economic environment, and the president’s job killing health care law is making a difficult situation worse. The law’s excessive taxes, expensive regulations and questionable constitutionality are stripping businesses of the certainty they need to hire at a time when Nevadans and the rest of the country are desperate for jobs.

“While the Supreme Court considers this case, the president should work with Congress to find real solutions to health care reform so the excessive mandates in this law do not add to our national debt or hurt our struggling economy,” he said.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement: “Families, seniors and small businesses in Nevada and across the country are reaping the benefits of health insurance reform. Prescription drug costs for seniors are falling as the Medicare ‘donut hole’ closes, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, and business owners are taking advantage of tax breaks.

“Just last week, a conservative judge appointed by President Reagan ruled that this legislation is constitutional, and I am confident the high court will do the same,” he said.

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said in a statement: “I believe that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and it is my hope that the Supreme Court will overturn it. Already, during my short time in Congress, I voted to repeal a provision of the president’s health care law that raised eligibility for Medicaid far beyond the intended poverty level. This correction is estimated to save taxpayers at least $13 billion over 10 years.

“I eagerly await the court’s decision and from there we’ll be able to assess the path for repealing what amounts to government control of 16 percent of our economy,” he said.

A number of federal courts have weighed in on the law with sometimes contradictory rulings on the constitutionality of the law and the individual mandate. President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law in March 2010.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided to use the case filed by the states, including Nevada, and the NFIB, to determine the constitutionality of the law.

Nevada and the other states challenged the law in federal court in the Northern District of Florida. U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson ruled in the states’ favor and declared the individual mandate in the federal health care law unconstitutional. He declared the entire law unconstitutional without the mandate.

The 11th U.S. District Court Appeals then upheld Vinson’s ruling on the individual mandate but said the rest of the law could stand.

The U.S. Supreme Court will now take up the issues of whether the individual mandate is constitutional and whether the entire law is unconstitutional if the individual mandate is unlawful.

The individual mandate requires all U.S. citizens and residents to purchase health insurance from a private company or face government-imposed penalties enforced by the Internal Revenue Service.

“We are pleased that the highest court in the country will make a final decision about the constitutional fate of the healthcare legislation,” Hutchison said. “The states are confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will determine that the law is unconstitutional.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval Makes First Formal Tribal Appointment To Cabinet

By Sean Whaley | 1:50 pm November 15th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval today appointed Ted Quasula, chairman of the Nevada Indian Commission, to serve as a member of his cabinet. According to tribal representatives and State Archives, the appointment marks the first time in Nevada history that tribes will have formal representation at the cabinet level.

Sandoval announced the appointment while speaking at the annual conference of the Inter-Tribal Council of Nevada.

Ted Quasula.

“I am honored that Ted has agreed to serve on my cabinet,” Sandoval said. “As chairman of the Nevada Indian Commission, Ted will bring a needed and important voice to my cabinet.”

A resident of Henderson and a member of the Hualapai Tribe of northern Arizona , Quasula is currently general manager of the Grand Canyon Skywalk.

Quasula served for 26 years in the U.S. Department of the Interior, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Office of Law Enforcement Services, rising through the ranks from field criminal investigator to director of the national program.

Quasula was the chief of police for the Las Vegas Paiute Tribe from 2003 to 2007 and was appointed to the Indian Law and Order Commission in 2011 by President Obama. A graduate of the National Academy of the FBI and the John F. Kennedy School of Government Program for Senior Executives at Harvard University , Quasula holds a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in police science and administration from Northern Arizona University.

The Nevada Indian Commission was created in 1965 to study matters affecting the social and economic welfare and well being of American Indians residing in Nevada, including matters and problems relating to Indian affairs and to federal and state control, responsibility, policy and operations affecting the tribes.

In addition to the Indian Commission, Sandoval’s cabinet consists of the 19 departments in state government, the lieutenant governor and the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Gov. Sandoval Announces Supply Drive For Troops

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 11:59 am November 15th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval has announced he is holding a supply drive for Nevada troops this month. Items are being collected at Sandoval’s offices in the capitol in Carson City and at the Grant Sawyer Building in Las Vegas.

“This summer I was honored and privileged to travel to Iraq, Afghanistan and Kuwait and meet with our brave men and women,” Sandoval said. “After learning that supplies are much needed, we decided to hold a drive for our troops.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval met with members of the 442nd Signal Corps. in Bagram, Afghanistan in August.

The drive is looking particularly for donations of DVDs, energy bars, foot powder, razors, calling cards, instant coffee, wipes, chap stick and video games.

“Our fellow Nevadans and Americans are putting themselves in harm’s way every day,” Sandoval said. “Through this drive, we are hoping to send them something to bring home a little closer. I encourage all Nevadans to participate.”

Donations will be accepted through Dec. 2.  The offices are open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sandoval’s Las Vegas office is located at 555 E. Washington Ave., Suite 5100.

Blue Star Mothers both north and south will assist in the packing and shipping of collected supplies.

Economic Diversification Report Provides Roadmap For Nevada Job Creation

By Sean Whaley | 6:43 pm November 14th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A report outlining how Nevada can grow and diversify its economy says much more could be done now in the areas of health and medical services, and that clean energy and aerospace/defense are emerging sectors that could bring skilled jobs to the state.

The report, a joint effort by the Brookings Institution and the Stanford Research Institute, now known as SRI International, was presented today to Gov. Brian Sandoval and the other members of the Board of Economic Development, a new panel created with bipartisan support from the 2011 Legislature.

It identifies seven economic sectors, some already in existence such as gaming and tourism, and some emerging such as clean energy, where Nevada should focus its efforts.

Sandoval has made job creation his top priority as governor, and said the report should help the state direct its economic diversification efforts in more targeted ways. In an interview in September, Sandoval said Nevada can’t take a “shotgun” approach to economic development, but instead must focus on those areas that can produce the desired result of economic diversification and job production.

Steve Hill, executive director of the Governor’s Office on Economic Development, said the study is “meant to inform Nevadans, and inform our office, as we work to develop a state plan, a state plan we will now begin to work on.”

State Economic Development official Steve Hill comments on the new report, as Gov. Brian Sandoval, Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and Secretary of State Ross Miller listen. / Nevada News Bureau.

“We obviously have a sense of urgency in the state right now,” he said.

The report, titled “Unify/Regionalize/Diversify: An Economic Agenda for Nevada,” notes that the state has lost nearly 170,000 jobs since the recession began in December 2007. Nevada continues to have the highest unemployment rate in the nation.

An overview of the research was presented to the board by Bruce Katz, vice president of the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution.

“There is much work to do,” he said. “Fortunately we believe AB449, which you signed into law over the summer, sets the frame for a new kind of economic development operating system for the state. And what our report, our agenda, has tried to do, is help put you on a path to a different kind of economic growth.

“Obviously more innovative growth, more balanced growth so you’re not subject to the same volatility that you were during the recession, and growth that is more globally engaged, so you can take advantage of rising global demand, particularly in emerging nations,” Katz said.

Bruce Katz, vice president of the Metropolitan Policy Program of the Brookings Institution, speaks at the Board of Economic Development meeting today. / Nevada News Bureau.

Nevada in the past has lacked an overarching strategy for economic diversification, he said.

“Nevada doesn’t lack for assets and opportunities, but it needs to do a better job of aligning diverse efforts, supporting creative initiatives in the regions, and putting in place a platform of innovation efforts, global outreach, and workforce upgrading on which regional clusters and sectors can grow,” said Mark Muro, a senior fellow at the Metropolitan Policy Program at Brookings and the lead author of the report. “That’s why we are calling this agenda “Unify/Regionalize/Diversify.”

The health and medical services sector was identified as under-performing in Nevada. Nationally this sector has a 9 percent share of employment, but represents only 5.9 percent of employment in Nevada.

Emerging industries Nevada should focus on are business information technology ecosystems, clean energy, logistics and operations and aerospace and defense, the report says.

The report also highlights ways Nevada can capitalize on its existing core industries of tourism, gaming and employment and mining, materials and manufacturing.

Southern Nevada, for example, is the global hub of the gaming industry, and it has the potential to develop in the areas of online gaming, among other opportunities, the report says.

Sandoval last week announced that he will be convening the Gaming Policy Committee as part of an effort to preserve Nevada’s leadership role in gaming given the changing technology, including the potential of online gaming.

Audio clips:

State Economic official Steve Hill says the report will now allow Nevada to develop a plan to capitalize on its findings:

111411Hill :31 look at it.”

Bruce Katz with The Brookings Institution says the report will help Nevada diversify its economy in new ways:

1111411Katz1 :21 of economic growth.”

Katz says the plan will allow for more balanced growth:

111411Katz2 :15 in emerging nations.”

$280,000 NDOT Contract Put On Hold After Concerns Raised By Gov. Sandoval, Transportation Board Members

By Sean Whaley | 2:34 pm November 14th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A 23-month, $280,000 contract approved by the Nevada Department of Transportation for a private sector individual to work as a liaison between the agency and contractors seeking work has been put on hold because of concerns expressed by Gov. Brian Sandoval and other members of the NDOT Board of Directors.

The contract with William “Buzz” Harris to serve as an ombudsman between the agency and bidders on contracts was approved by the agency in September, but NDOT Director Susan Martinovich said it will be put on hold while concerns raised today at the board meeting are resolved.

The board was told the $280,000 is the amount that can be spent on the services provided by Harris from August through June 2013, but is not guaranteed. Harris, who was selected after a request for proposals was issued by the agency, would be paid $100 an hour under the contract, which would include most of his expenses.

Courtesy of NDOT.

But Sandoval, who serves as chairman of the NDOT Board of Directors, noted the potential contract cost is well in excess of what even he earns as governor.

Other members of the board also raised questions about the contract, including Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, who said such positions are usually filled internally by an agency rather that bringing in someone from the outside.

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, also a member of the board, asked for information about who submitted proposals for the contract.

“My understanding is historically and traditionally an ombudsman position is contained within the respective department, and that person would have an encyclopedic knowledge of the operation,” Sandoval said. “With an external ombudsman, that person will in turn have to get a hold of somebody who is within the office to perhaps respond to those questions.”

There are a lot of unanswered questions that need to be answered in regard to the contract, including the cost, he said.

Harris is a former assistant executive director at the Nevada Associated General Contractors.

Assistant Transportation Director Richard Nelson, said the purpose of the contract is to provide a problem solver and facilitator for contractors seeking to do business with the agency. Harris has a good working knowledge of both the contracting business and NDOT, he said.

Reporting on the success of the program to NDOT is part of the contract as well, Nelson said.

“There is a lot of nuance to dealing with the department,” he said. “And a lot of times these new contractors don’t know what questions they should be asking. And we don’t want to see any contractor go under because they get balled up in the bureaucracy.”


Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says he has concerns with the nature of the contract in addition to the cost:

111411Sandoval :23 to those questions.”

Assistant Transportation Director Richard Nelson, said the purpose of the contract is to provide a problem solver and facilitator for contractors:

111411Nelson :18 should be asking.”



New Nevada License Plate For Women Veterans Unveiled At Ceremony Today

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 3:34 pm November 11th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A new license plate honoring women veterans was unveiled today as part of Veterans Day ceremonies at the Boulder City Veterans Home.

The new plate was created by legislation sponsored by Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, D-Las Vegas, who said he brought the idea forward at the request of a group of women who had served in the military. The plate is expected to be available beginning Dec. 7.

“This is an excellent way to pay tribute to the women who have sacrificed so much for their country, but who are still often overlooked when we find ways to express our gratitude to our veterans,” Anderson said.

Woman Veteran license plate.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, Anderson and other lawmakers unveiled the plate.

Money raised from the sales of the plates will be used to provide services to Nevada veterans.



State Sen. Barbara Cegavske Announces Run For Congress In New District 4

By Sean Whaley | 4:59 pm November 10th, 2011

CARSON CITY – State Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, made it official today, announcing she will run for congress in the new District 4 in northern Clark and much of rural Nevada.

“I am running for Congress because I believe we can fix the serious problems facing Nevada and our country,” Cegavske said. “Our state leads the nation in unemployment and foreclosures and for far too long Washington politicians have been out of touch. Nevada voters have my word that I will work every day to get government out of the business of punishing our job creators and in the business of protecting and preserving Social Security and Medicare for our seniors.”

Cegavske said her campaign will focus on solutions.

“We can improve our economy and get people back to work if we send people to Congress who are committed to sound fiscal policy, sensible tax policy and regulatory reform,” she said. “I am committed to protecting and preserving Social Security and Medicare for our senior citizens and for future generations.”

Cegavske, representing Clark District 8 in the senate, is in the middle of her last four-year term in the upper house. She will be termed out of office in 2014.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas.

Cegavske is the second Republican to announce for the new district, created because of Nevada’s population increase reported in the 2010 census.

Las Vegas businessman Dan Schwartz also plans to run for the seat.

Two Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, and Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, have announced they are seeking the seat as well and will face off in a primary.

The district has a healthy Democrat voter registration edge, 45.9 percent to 33.2 percent Republican. Nonpartisan voters make up 15.5 percent of the district with the remaining 5.4 percent minor party registrations.

Cegavske said she will formally announce her campaign for congress in January with a trip to all counties in the district. The district includes parts of Clark and Lyon Counties and all of Esmeralda, Lincoln, Mineral, Nye and White Pine counties.

Cegavske began her legislative career in the Assembly in 1997, serving through 2001. She was elected to the Senate in 2002.

Nevada Now Offering Fallen Military License Plate To Families Of War Dead

By Sean Whaley | 11:55 am November 10th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles announced today that a new license plate honoring fallen military personnel who died of injuries while on active duty is now available to family members.

Fallen Military license plate.

The Fallen Military license plate, authorized in the 2011 legislative session by Senate Bill 154, is now available at all Department of Motor Vehicles offices. The license plate is available to family members of someone who died as a result of injuries sustained while on active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States “…whether or not the person had been discharged from military service at the time of his or her death.”

A family member  may apply for up to two sets of Fallen Military license plates. A family member means a widow, widower, parent, stepparent, grandparent, child, stepchild, sibling, half sibling or step-sibling.

A copy of the Form DD1300 “Report of Casualty,” a death certificate indicating a service related illness, or other documentation indicating the veteran died as a result of injuries sustained while on active duty must be submitted to the Department of Motor Vehicles.

No fees other than applicable registration and license fees and Governmental Services Taxes are assessed for the issuance or renewal of a standard Fallen Military license plate.  Fallen Military license plates are available for non-commercial vehicles, motorcycles and trailers.

Fallen Military license plates are not available as personalized license plates.


State Panel Begins Work On Creating Uniform Education Data Reporting System

By Sean Whaley | 3:48 pm November 9th, 2011

CARSON CITY – It’s hard to know how well Nevada’s public school and college students are doing if there is no uniform and reliable data to view their performance over time.

Gov. Brian Sandoval is working to change that.

He issued an executive order Oct. 7 asking a state education panel to take the necessary steps to create a system to track students through their school years, following in the steps of other states as part of an overarching effort to reform education and improve student performance in Nevada.

That group, the P-16 Council, met today to begin the process of creating a usable data system to track student performance from early childhood education through college.

The council was created to help coordinate education efforts in Nevada from preschool through post-secondary levels and has the authority to address the data information system for public school students.

In introductory remarks to the council, which includes lawmakers, educators, parents and business representatives, Sandoval said he wants Nevada to create a data system that will put it on a par with states that have successfully accomplished the task, including Florida, Maine, Connecticut and Washington.

The information, including performance measures of educators, is critical to moving Nevada forward in student achievement, he said.

A new panel, called the Teachers and Leaders Council, was created as a result of legislation passed in the 2011 session, Sandoval said. It is charged with developing a statewide performance evaluation system for administrators and classroom teachers. Half of the evaluation must be based on student data, which is why the charge to the P-16 Council is so important, he said.

“This is a historical moment, this is really a crossroads in the state of Nevada and we have some great opportunities to really improve the delivery of education in this state,” Sandoval said.

“There is going to be a huge challenge for all of you,” he said. “You have all the resources of this administration to assist you.”

State Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, elected chairwoman of the 11-member council, said she has been working for years to create a reliable data system for public education in Nevada. It has been frustrating though, to see the money spent on different systems that have failed to generate the necessary information, she said.

Right now there is no collaboration or coordination between school districts or with higher education, Cegavske said.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, left, and Judy Osgood, policy adviser to Gov. Brian Sandoval, discuss issues at the P-16 Council meeting today. / Nevada News Bureau.

“When you look at other states, Florida, when you look at what they are able to collect and the information they are able to provide, it is just incredible,” she said. “It’s so exciting. And that’s where we need to be and we need to get there.”

In a three-plus hour meeting, the council reviewed the current status of data collection efforts, which started with a system called SMART, or Statewide Management of Automated Records Transfer, approved by the Nevada Legislature in 1995. After millions of dollars had been spent on developing the system, lawmakers in 2003 pulled the plug on the project.

The Nevada Department of Education beginning in 2007 developed a new system called SAIN, or System of Accountability Information for Nevada, with a $6 million federal grant. It has longitudinal student data from 2005 to the present, including enrollment, attendance, discipline, course completion and graduation, among other data elements.

The SAIN system has nine of 10 essential data elements, the department said in its presentation, but many issues remain with the database, the council was told.

Erin Cranor, a member of the council representing elementary and secondary education, said Nevada should identify what has already been done in other states that can be used as a starting point.

The council will meet again Jan. 11. A first progress report is due to Sandoval by Feb. 1. It is to complete its work by Aug. 1, 2012.


Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says Nevada is at a historic moment to achieve major education reform:

110911Sandoval :10 in this state.”

Sen. Barbara Cegavske says Nevada needs a student data system like Florida’s:

110911Cegavske :11 to get there.”

September Gaming Win Down 5.9 Percent Statewide, Baccarat To Blame

By Sean Whaley | 1:13 pm November 9th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s gaming win declined 5.9 percent statewide in September over the same month in 2010, with casinos bringing in nearly $54 million less from gamblers, the state Gaming Control Board reported today.

Nevada casinos won nearly $864 million, but nearly every market was down compared to September 2010. Las Vegas Strip casinos brought in $491 million, down 5.7 percent over the same month in the prior year.

One exception was Washoe County, which posted a modest 0.23 percent gain over September 2010.

The report was a disappointment because there were special events in Las Vegas that lured visitors, including a major fight, and the reporting period also had an extra Friday compared to September 2010, said Gaming Control Board analyst Michael Lawton.

Floyd Mayweather Jr. won the Sept. 17 fight against Victor Ortiz at the MGM Grand.

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority today reported visitor volume increased 5.5 percent in September to 3.29 million. It was the 19th consecutive month of visitor increases.

As usual, baccarat, the card game played by high rollers on the Las Vegas Strip, played a major role in the monthly gaming revenue report.

Despite being the third best September ever for baccarat win at $81.9 million, revenues were down 36.2 percent over September 2010.

“Historically that is a very strong September,” Lawton said of the baccarat win.

Without baccarat factored in, the state win was down only 0.95 percent in September, he said.

Another hit on the monthly revenues came in the sports books, which brought in $20.1 million, down 44.2 percent from September 2010.

For the first three months of the 2011-2012 fiscal year that began July 1, gaming revenues statewide total $2.6 billion, 3.1 percent below the same period in the previous fiscal year.

Gaming tax collections total $199.5 million so far this year, 5.5 percent below the $211 million collected in the same period last fiscal year.


Audio clips:

Nevada gaming analyst Michael Lawton says baccarat was down 36.2 percent:

110911Lawton1 :09 or $46.4 million.”

Lawton says baccarat played a role in the disappointing September revenue report:

110911Lawton2 :11 down $53.8 million.”

State Agrees To Pay $25 Million For Seven Acres Needed For Las Vegas Road Project

By Sean Whaley | 4:55 pm November 8th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A state panel today agreed to pay $25 million to settle an eminent domain lawsuit over seven acres of land in the path of a state Department of Transportation road improvement project in Las Vegas.

The Board of Examiners approved the settlement with Wall Street Nevada LLC to allow Project Neon, a $1.2 billion improvement plan for Interstate 15 from Sahara Avenue to the Spaghetti Bowl, to proceed.

Susan Martinovich, director of the Department of Transportation, said the project will be done in phases because of the cost. Depending on funding, the project could take until 2030 to complete.

The property near Charleston Boulevard was purchased by the company in 2006 for $21.4 million, said Mike Chapman, an attorney in private practice working on the case on behalf of the state. The property owners had sought as much as $35 million, he said.

Attorney Mike Chapman discusses the $25 million settlement at the Board of Examiners today. / Nevada News Bureau.

“If we reach this settlement, does that buy eternal peace in terms of litigation associated with this piece of property?” asked Gov. Brian Sandoval, a member of the board. “Do we have certainty, now, with regard to that property?”

Chapman said every effort has been made to build closure into the settlement agreement, including a full release from the Wall Street owners.

The city of Las Vegas is expected to participate in the settlement, but the amount is not yet known, he said.

Sandoval and Secretary of Ross Miller voted to approve the settlement.

“This is the best settlement that we could negotiate at the time, and weighing all of the risks with the benefits we think it does tilt in favor of recommending a settlement,” Chapman said in response to a question from Miller. “And so that is why we have presented it to the client, this board, and also the folks at NDOT, for their consideration.”


Audio clip:

Attorney Mike Chapman says the $25 million settlement is the best that could be negotiated:

110811Chapman :22 for their consideration.”

State Board Authorizes First Contract With Former Employee As Required Under New Law

By Sean Whaley | 3:19 pm November 8th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The state Board of Examiners today authorized the Agency for Nuclear Projects to hire a former employee in a contract position to help continue the fight against Yucca Mountain.

Approval from the board, made up of Gov. Brian Sandoval, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller, is now required for such agreements with current or former state employees as a result of a new law approved by the 2011 Legislature.

The law was passed after a legislative audit found numerous concerns with current and former state employees being hired as contractors to work for state agencies, sometimes at a much higher rate of pay. Many of the contracts were not clearly disclosed by state agencies.

The board, which met without Masto, approved the request from the agency to enter into a contract to hire Joe Strolin, its former acting executive director and Planning Division administrator. The actual contract, which will come to the board at its next meeting, is for one year at a cost of $50,000.

Bob Halstead, executive director of the nuclear projects agency, told the board that Nevada faces a serious threat to revive Yucca Mountain as a high-level repository for nuclear waste. The qualifications of Strolin will serve the agency well in its preparation to fight this effort, he said.

Nuclear Projects Executive Director Bob Halstead testifies today at the Board of Examiners. / Nevada News Bureau.

“I understand the intent of the Legislature to set a high bar for the approval of these types of exceptional requests,” Halstead said. “We have a situation where we have an extreme need, we have an individual with unique capabilities and experience, and it will help us within a difficult budget.”

The Yucca Mountain repository has been declared dead after President Obama pulled the plug on the project in 2010.

But Halstead said there are numerous forces that want the Yucca Mountain project to be revived and a critical time in this fight will begin in January. One battlefront is a federal lawsuit by the states of Washington and South Carolina to reactivate the licensing process for Yucca Mountain, he said.

“On the one hand, I don’t want to come before you and say that Yucca Mountain is alive again,” Halstead told Sandoval. “But our job is to keep Yucca Mountain dead, and there is a serious effort on the part of a number of parties to resume the licensing process. That is why it is important for Nevada to maintain its vigilance, both through the Agency for Nuclear Projects in your office, and through the attorney general’s office.”

Sandoval said Halstead made a compelling argument to hire Strolin, and the board voted to approve the request.

The new rules prohibit a current state employee from being hired under contract by a state agency unless approved by the Board of Examiners. The same approval is required of a former state employee who has not been out of state employment for at least two years.

Such contracts can only be approved if certain circumstances are found to exist, including situations where a short-term or unusual economic circumstance exists for an agency requiring such employment.

The legislative audit identified 250 current and former employees providing services to the state. These employees were paid a total of $11.6 million during fiscal years 2008 and 2009, the years covered by the review.


Audio clips:

Nuclear Projects Executive Director Bob Halstead says he understands the legislative intent of the new law:

110811Halstead1 :22 a difficult budget.”

Halstead says Strolin’s expertise is important for the fight against Yucca Mountain:

110811Halstead2 :28 attorney general’s office.”