Archive for March, 2012

Nevada’s Jobless Rate Shrinks Again In February But News Not All Good

By Sean Whaley | 11:27 am March 30th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s unemployment rate fell four-tenths of a percentage point in February to a seasonally adjusted 12.3 percent, but the news is not all positive, a state agency reported today.

Bill Anderson, chief economist with the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR), said an argument can be made that the forces behind the drop in the jobless rate were signs of weakness.

This month’s drop in the unemployment rate was driven by a fall in the labor force, as roughly 6,500 workers gave up looking for work.

“This does represent the sixth consecutive month in which the jobless rate has declined, we’re now down to 12.3 percent off of a record high of 14 percent,” he said. “But because it is such a modest kind of recovery, we’re going to see bumps along the way. And I would argue that that February report sort of qualifies as one of those bumps in the road.”

Nevada’s Recession Scorecard:  Unemployment Rate:

(Source: Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation.)

Monthly estimates from the employer survey show a relatively sharp drop in nonfarm payroll employment. Total employment fell by 12,800 in February on a seasonally adjusted basis, and is down 600 jobs or – 0.1 percent, over-the-year. Despite weak job numbers in February, employment levels are up 7,700 through the first two months of 2012 over the same period a year ago, and by about 14,200 in the private sector.

Despite the weaknesses in the report, that fact that the jobless rate has declined in each of the last six months is a positive development, Anderson said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval welcomed the news of the decline in the state’s jobless rate.

“The latest decline in our unemployment rate indicates our economic indicators are headed in the right direction, but this month’s figures are also a reminder that we must continue to strive for job growth in every sector in this fragile economic recovery,” he said. “We are fighting on every front to help businesses create 50,000 jobs by the end of 2014. Statistics from 2011 indicate more than 10,000 jobs were added, so we still have work to do.”

Non-seasonally adjusted unemployment rates, which allow for intra-state comparisons, fell significantly in Nevada and in its sub-state areas. The improvement is due to changes typical of the season.

Unemployment rates in the metro-areas of the state all declined. In both the Las Vegas and Reno-Sparks areas, the unemployment rate fell from 13 percent to 12.2 percent in February.  Carson City’s unemployment rate declined by eight-tenths of a percentage point as well, falling from 13.5 percent in January to 12.7 percent in February. The unemployment rate in the Elko micropolitan (includes Elko and Eureka counties) area fell by seven-tenths to 6.7 percent.

Nevada’s 12.3 percent rate compares to 8.3 percent nationally.

Anderson said the softness in the February report will merit monitoring, “it is important to keep in mind that it comes on the heels of several months of more encouraging news, and we continue to believe that Nevada is on the mend.

“Against a backdrop of stable-to-declining unemployment insurance claims, expanding taxable sales, an uptrend in gaming win, and growing visitor volume, we look for Nevada’s labor market fundamentals to slowly improve,” he said.

“Our initial claims for unemployment insurance have been trending down for about 27 months,” Anderson said. “Right now they are about half of the level that they were at the peak of the recession. So we’re starting to see some definite signs of economic recovery, it’s just not filtering into the labor market quite as much, especially on the jobs front.”


Audio clips:

DETR Chief Economist Bill Anderson says the February report is a “bump in the road” for Nevada’s gradual economic recovery:

033012Anderson1 :24 in the road.”

Anderson says there are signs of recovery but that the jobs front is lagging:

033012Anderson2 :25 the jobs front.”



Taxable Sales Post Modest But Broad 4.8 Percent Gain In January

By Sean Whaley | 4:14 pm March 29th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s taxable sales climbed 4.8 percent in January to $3.15 billion, with increases in all major consumer categories except construction, the state Department of Taxation reported today.

It was the 19th month of taxable sales increases in Nevada and brought the increase for the fiscal year 2012 to date to 7.2 percent. Taxable sales increased by 6.1 percent in Washoe County and 3.5 percent in Clark County in January.

The biggest increases were seen in clothing and clothing accessory stores, up 12.8 percent; motor vehicle and parts dealers, up 8.1 percent; utilities, up 80.7 percent; bars and restaurants, up 2.4 percent; and merchant wholesalers-durable goods, up 8.2 percent.

Construction remained the weak link, down 17 percent in January over January 2011.

Bryan Wachter, director of government affairs for the Retail Association of Nevada, said the report provides more evidence that Nevada’s economy is on the mend. Nineteen months of increases is a great trend, not only for retailers but for the state as a whole, he said.

“We saw an increase in 15 of the 17 counties as well as in most categories,” Wachter said. “We’re not seeing sales tax increases in just general merchandise or just food, we’re seeing it across the board.

“We’ll be excited when construction can start matching those trends, but for now the fact that we’re posting gains in large purchases as well as small purchases – for instance we’re seeing gains in car purchases as well as general merchandise – that is something we feel is positive and a great trend moving forward,” he said.

The optimism is expected to carry forward through the spring.

The association earlier this week reported that Nevada consumers are projected to spend upwards of $290 million on holiday meals, gifts, candy, spring clothing and decorations, flowers and greeting cards to help celebrate the upcoming Easter holiday, which falls on April 8 this year.

Peeps. / Photo by Evan-Amos via Wikimedia Commons.

The annual Easter spending survey, commissioned by the National Retail Federation (NRF), reported an increase in average spending per person of 11 percent in 2012 ($145.28) compared to last year ($131.04). The NRF attributes the rise to both unseasonably warm weather conditions in many parts of the country and improving consumer confidence levels.

Mary Lau, president of the Retail Association of Nevada, noted that Easter falls more than two weeks earlier than it did last year.

“Because Easter falls on vastly different calendar dates every year, the Easter displays in stores are a good reminder to consumers that the holiday is approaching and that it is time to start preparing to celebrate with family and friends,” she said.

Audio clips:

Bryan Wachter, director of government affairs for the Retail Association of Nevada, says the January taxable sales increase was broad based:

032912Wachter4 :27 across the board.”

Wachter says until construction recovers, gains in small and large categories is a great trend:

032912Wachter2 :21 trend moving forward.”

Wachter says the association expects an increase in Easter discretionary purchases:

032912Wachter3 :30 excited about that.”


Legislative Commission OKs Laughlin Incorporation Vote But Lawmakers Could Reject Cityhood In 2013

By Sean Whaley | 3:42 pm March 29th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The Legislative Commission voted today to let the residents of Laughlin decide in June on whether they will become Nevada’s next incorporated city.

The 10-2 vote by the panel imposed several conditions, however, including a review by the 2013 Legislature that could delay any incorporation from the July 1, 2013 target date or overrule a favorable vote entirely if it determines it is not financially feasible. Two studies have presented conflicting data on whether it would be financially feasible for the town of about 7,500 on the Colorado River to become a city.

Laughlin. / Photo by Stan Shebs via Wikimedia Commons.

Laughlin is much larger in population than Mesquite, the last city to incorporate in Southern Nevada, in 1984. Mesquite had about 1,200 residents when it incorporated.

The last city to incorporate in Nevada was Fernley, east of Reno, in 2001.

The vote for moving the process forward was 10-2, with Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, and Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, voting no.

The additional conditions were included to ensure there would be enough votes on the 12-member commission, comprised of six Republicans and six Democrats, to support moving the incorporation process forward.

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said during a discussion of the issue that it was the only way she would support a vote in Laughlin on incorporation.

“I don’t know why for once we can’t do something in a bipartisan manner to help the process move along but yet have a fallback so that we can put that horse back in the gate,” she said.

Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, who heard the Laughlin incorporation bill in his Government Affairs Committee in the 2011 session and supports giving residents the chance to vote on the issue, said the additional protections would allow the vote to go forward. He presented them to the commission as a way to gain support for a vote by Laughlin residents.

“I think it’s going to be one of the more remarkable pieces of legislation for the whole state of Nevada,” he said in testifying before the panel. “But if it doesn’t work this will fall under its own weight, and it’s just the way it’s going to be. And you and I will decertify this community.”

The commission also wants voters to know that there is the potential for their taxes to rise if incorporation moves forward, and so sought to have the pro and con arguments that will be published with the ballot language include that information. The ballot information would also be published in the newspaper to ensure transparency.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said Laughlin residents are likely already aware of the potential tax implications of incorporation.

“I get the idea, although I don’t necessarily agree with it; I understand the concerns that we need to publish so that the folks in Laughlin understand this may require a tax increase,” he said.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, who also serves as chairman of the commission, said the panel has a fiduciary duty to ensure incorporation is feasible because if a city fails, the financial consequences could be borne by the state as a whole.

The conditions will tighten the process and provide greater guarantees to the public and the state, he said.


Audio clips:

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick said the additional requirements would ensure transparency and gain lawmaker support for a Laughlin vote:

032912Kirkpatrick :12 in the gate.”

Sen. John Lee said the 2013 Legislature will decertify a Laughlin incorporation if necessary:

032912Lee :15 decertify this community.”

Sen. Michael Roberson said Laughlin residents already know their taxes could go up under incorporation:

032912Roberson :15 aware of that.”

Sen. Steven Horsford said lawmakers have a fiduciary responsibility to make sure Laughlin can succeed as a city:

032912Horsford :21 those local governments.”



Carson Freeway Dispute That Has Cost NV $6 Million In Legal Fees Proposed For Settlement At $13.6 Million

By Sean Whaley | 11:40 am March 29th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A lengthy legal dispute with the contractor who built the first phase of the Carson City freeway bypass has been recommended for settlement at a cost to the state of nearly $14 million.

The Nevada Department of Transportation is recommending that the Board of Examiners approve the mediated settlement with Ames Construction at its meeting Tuesday.

The $13.6 million proposed settlement is far less than the $40 million sought by the company.

Carson City bypass. / Photo courtesy of NDOT.

The protracted dispute over the work became controversial when some members of the state Transportation Board, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, questioned the legal fees and expenses incurred in defending against the lawsuit that have totaled $6 million.

Despite the concerns, the board in January approved an updated contract with the legal firm of Watt, Tieder, Hoffar & Fitzgerald to take the case to mediation in February and bring the total legal costs to the $6 million figure.

The rates charged by the legal firm’s attorneys are as high as $340 an hour for the senior partner, but members of the board were told the rates were not excessive and had not changed since the dispute first began in 2008. The total costs include expert witnesses.

The February mediation led to the proposed settlement that the Board of Examiners, made up of Sandoval, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller, will review at the meeting.

In a summary of the proposal, it says: “Both parties desire to avoid the cost and inconvenience of continued litigation and mutually settle any and all claims without admission of liability or fault.”

The $70 million contract for the first 3.5-miles of freeway bypass was awarded to Ames in 2003. The segment of the freeway opened in February 2006.



Nevada Personal Income Rose 4.1 Percent In 2011, Ranking 47th Among States

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 11:31 am March 28th, 2012

CARSON CITY – State personal income rose an average 5.1 percent in 2011 after rising 3.7 percent in 2010, according to estimates released today by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

State personal income growth ranged from 3.4 percent in Maine to 8.1 percent in North Dakota.

Nevada saw personal income growth of 4.1 percent, ranking the state 47th in the percentage change from 2010.

U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis.

Inflation, as measured by the national price index for personal consumption expenditures, increased to 2.5 percent in 2011 from 1.8 percent in 2010.

Per capita personal income nationally increased by 4.3 percent in 2011 over 2010, after rising 2.8 percent in 2010. Across states, per capita personal income growth ranged from 2.9 percent in Alaska to 6.7 percent in North Dakota.

Nevada saw per capita personal income growth of 3.3 percent to $38,173. The percentage change from 2010 to 2011 again placed Nevada 47th among states.

Personal income is the income received by all persons from all sources. Per capita personal income is personal income divided by population.

Earnings, which grew an average 4.4 percent in 2011, recovered their pre-recession levels and reached new peaks in 45 states. Earnings in Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, and Oklahoma are still below peaks reached in 2007 or 2008. The 3 percent earnings growth in Nevada in 2011 followed three consecutive years of decline.

The report also showed a slight population increase in Nevada from 2010 to 2011, to 2.72 million for a 0.7 percent increase. The state ranked 24th in terms of the percentage increase in population.

Nevada Think Tank Files Notice Of Appeal With Supreme Court In Separation Of Powers Case

By Sean Whaley | 11:16 am March 27th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A conservative Nevada think tank today filed its notice of appeal to the state Supreme Court in its separation of powers case challenging the ability of state lawmakers to also work in public sector jobs.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation filed the notice in Pojunis v. State of Nevada, et al. – a case which it says could fully restore the separation-of-powers clause found in Article 3, Section 1, of Nevada’s constitution.

Attorney Joseph Becker, left, and his client William Pojunis, take questions after filing a separation of powers complaint against Sen. Mo Denis in November. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

The lawsuit was filed in November 2011 against Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, who at the time also worked as a computer technician with the state Public Utilities Commission. Denis left state employment to work in the private sector about the same time and a Carson District judge dismissed the action for being moot.

Joseph Becker, chief legal officer and director of CJCL, said the case should proceed despite Denis leaving public sector employment, arguing the important legal principle should be reviewed by the courts.

“. . . we believe strongly that this case meets the ‘Public Interest’ exception to the mootness doctrine and should be allowed to proceed,” he said.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of Las Vegas resident William Pojunis on Nov. 30, 2011. Pojunis said at the time he was unemployed and was qualified for Denis’ position and wanted to apply for the job.

In his district court filing seeking dismissal, Denis’ attorney said case law shows that Nevada courts only decide “cases that present live controversies.”

“Courts will not retain jurisdiction where ‘a live controversy becomes moot by the occurrence of subsequent events,’ and ‘will not make legal determinations that cannot affect the outcome of the case,’ ” said Denis attorney Bradley Schrager.

Legislative Commission Sets Thursday Vote For Laughlin Incorporation Question

By Sean Whaley | 11:53 am March 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The Legislative Commission has scheduled a meeting Thursday to consider the question of whether Laughlin residents should get the chance to vote on incorporating their community.

A number of Laughlin residents have asked the commission to support allowing a vote to go forward on the question in June.

Laughlin. / Photo by Stan Shebs via Wikimedia Commons.

Several state lawmakers, including the three Republican state senators who are members of the commission, asked Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, to take up the incorporation matter after it was tabled at a commission meeting last month.

Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, also asked the commission to take up the issue.

In an interview earlier this month, Lee said Laughlin is much larger in population than Mesquite, the last city to incorporate in Nevada in 1984. Mesquite had about 1,200 residents when it incorporated, while Laughlin’s population is about 7,500.

“I feel they have every right to pick up their flag and charge forward,” he said. “They’ve jumped through all the hurdles, and even if they get a vote to incorporate, if they financially cannot do it they just won’t be able to. But at least this moves it forward to give these patriots down there a chance to build their own community.”

Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, who sponsored the legislation allowing for consideration of incorporation, said earlier this month he supports giving Laughlin residents a chance to decide their future.

“Myself, I think it is fiscally feasible and I think that the citizens of Laughlin deserve to have the right to have that presented to them in such a way that they say, ‘we want to have this level of service and pay this much money in taxes’ and present it that way and say, OK, we want it or we don’t,” he said. “And that is what this is about.”

Dave Floodman, president of the nonprofit Laughlin Economic Development Corporation, said there was bipartisan support in the Nevada Legislature in 2011 to allow consideration of the incorporation question. SB262 passed unanimously in the Assembly and by a 16-5 vote in the Senate.

While a feasibility study of the incorporation prepared by the Nevada Department of Taxation found incorporation was not feasible, a separate study by a reputable California company and commissioned by his group found that it would be feasible, he said.

The two reviews differed on the cost of providing police and fire protection, Floodman said.

“Our position is that the two different scenarios should be decided by the people in Laughlin,” he said.

There was some suggestion by Hardy that the Laughlin question was tied to a completely separate issue involving a regulation sought by Secretary of State Ross Miller to allow him to assess a $200 annual fee on many home-based businesses that was also in front of the Legislative Commission on Feb. 15.

An official close to Senate Democrats denied there was any link.

But the issue became moot with approval of the Miller regulation by the Legislative Commission’s Subcommittee to Review Regulations earlier this month. The panel voted 4-2 on party lines with Democrats in support, to approve the regulation, which has now taken effect.

The Clark County Commission previously voted to reject a vote on the Laughlin city hood question.

House Ethics Committee Extends Probe Of Rep. Shelley Berkley

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 12:17 pm March 23rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – The House of Representative’s Ethics Committee said today it is extending a probe of Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and will announce its course of action by July 9.

“The committee notes that the mere fact of a referral or an extension, and the mandatory disclosure of such an extension and the name of the subject of the matter, does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred, or reflect any judgment on behalf of the committee,” a statement from the panel’s chairman and ranking member said.

News of the extension was reported by Las Vegas Sun columnist Jon Ralston, who also quotes a Berkley spokeswoman who said in part: “The Nevada Republican Party filed a complaint against Congresswoman Berkley. As the committee reviews this complaint, they will determine that Congresswoman Shelley Berkley’s only concern is for the well being of Nevada’s patients.”

The complaint, prompted by a New York Times report, involves allegations that Berkley used her position to help her husband’s medical practice.

In response to the House Ethics announcement, National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Communications Director Brian Walsh said in part: “The news that the House Ethics Committee is extending their investigation of embattled Congresswoman Shelley Berkley is not surprising given what appears to be a pattern of ethical questions that have surrounded her activities over the years.”

Berkley is a candidate for the U.S. Senate.

The allegations are also described in a report released Thursday by Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW), in its new report Family Affair, detailing what the group says is evidence of how members of the House of Representatives use their positions to financially benefit their families. The report identified 248 House members who used their positions to financially benefit themselves or family members.

The CREW report also briefly mentioned Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., for receiving $10,710 for travel and other expenses from his campaign committee in the 2010 election cycle.



Nevada Legislature Posts Recruitment Brochure For New Director

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 11:06 am March 23rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – Do you have what it takes to become the next director of the Nevada’s Legislative Counsel Bureau?

The state Legislature’s website has a recruitment brochure posted for the $138,000-a-year job as lawmakers seek a replacement for Lorne Malkiewich, who is retiring from the Legislative Counsel Bureau after more than 30 years.

Malkiewich, who has served as the director of the LCB for more than 18 years, will leave for a new job following his last day April 2.

The brochure describes the ideal candidate as, “a leader who is decisive, credible, trustworthy, and result-oriented. The ideal candidate must have exceptional analytical skills and strong political acumen.

“The director must be able to inspire loyalty from within the LCB, to be trusted by the legislators, and to represent the LCB and the Nevada Legislature to the media and the general public. The director must be customer-service oriented and be able to anticipate the needs of both the Legislature and the LCB.”

An advanced degree is required for the job.

The deadline to apply is April 16.

Lorne Malkiewich Leaving Legislative Service After Three Decades

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 3:59 pm March 20th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Lorne Malkiewich, who has served as the director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau for the past 18 years, will retire from the position on April 2.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported today that he will become chief operating officer for the National Council of Juvenile and Family Court Judges in Reno beginning April 4.

Lorne Malkiewich.

Malkiewich has been with the Legislative Counsel Bureau for more than 30 years.

“Lorne has been an important asset to the Nevada Legislature and the state of Nevada for many years,” said Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas. “His leadership of the Legislative Counsel Bureau and his expertise on legislative issues and the legislative process will be sorely missed.”

“During his tenure with the LCB, Lorne has provided a steady hand during times of dramatic change – through budget crises, term limits, changes in leadership and policy debates,” said Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas. “We wish him the best of luck in his next endeavor.”

An interim director will be named while the Legislature’s Committee to Consult with the Director continues its search for a permanent replacement.

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

State Apprenticeship Council Meeting Cancelled For Lack Of Quorum

By Sean Whaley | 3:09 pm March 20th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A meeting of the State Apprenticeship Council was cancelled today because of a lack of a quorum, and the chairman of the panel said the appointed members will be surveyed to ensure they can commit to attending the quarterly meetings.

The council, which had a lengthy agenda published and noticed, with staff from the state Labor Commissioner present at the teleconferenced meeting between the capital and Las Vegas, had to adjourn without taking any action because two members representing the employer community on the seven-member panel, were not present.

Photo from FEMA via Wikimedia Commons.

Kevin Christensen, a Las Vegas attorney and chairman of the council representing the general public, said the meeting could have been rescheduled if members had advised him they would be unable to attend.

Rebecca Massingill with NV Energy and Dana Wiggins with the Las Vegas chapter of the Associated General Contractors were not present for the meeting. Neither could be reached for comment.

Minutes show Massingill did not attend the December 2011 Apprenticeship Council meeting either.

Christensen said that rules for the council require at least two of three appointees of both employers and employees be present to establish a quorum to conduct business. So even though there were five members of the council present, there was no quorum.

“We’ve struggled to establish a quorum a couple of times during the last year, and maybe two years, and I don’t know what the personal circumstances are of those who are not here today,” he said today before cancelling the meeting.

Christensen asked that the council members be surveyed by staff to ensure they can commit to attending the meetings, which are set in advance.

“And if they can’t make that commitment then we would ask the labor commissioner to replace,” he said. “I believe we have basis for replacement for cause for failure to appear if that’s a continuing issue, and it has been.

“Because this is a waste of public time and money,” he said. “Had we known there wouldn’t be a majority we could have cancelled this meeting and rescheduled to another date.”

The State Apprenticeship Council was established to administer the apprenticeship laws and regulations of the State of Nevada. The next meeting is set for May 10, when the items on today’s agenda will be taken up. The seven members are appointed by the state labor commissioner, and are paid $80 a meeting.


Audio clips:

Apprenticeship Council Chairman Kevin Christensen says the meeting could have been rescheduled if members had indicated they could not attend:

032012Christensen1 :13 to another date.”

Christensen says council members will be surveyed to ensure they can attend the four meetings a year:

032012Christensen2 :38 it has been.”



Nevada Fares Poorly In New Corruption, Transparency Ranking By National Group

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 9:00 am March 20th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada received a D- and ranked 42nd among states for anti-corruption and government transparency efforts, according to a new report from State Integrity Investigation.

Nevada rated poorly in a number of areas, including grades of F for state pension fund management, lobbying disclosure and internal auditing, grades of D for public access to information and legislative accountability and a C- for executive accountability.

Among the Nevada findings in the months-long probe, a collaboration of the Center for Public Integrity, Global Integrity and Public Radio International, are:

- Lobbyists can operate year round, but their networking and hospitality are tracked for a narrow window of time – just right before, during and right after legislative sessions.

- Nevada Legislature has exempted itself from open-meeting laws.

The Nevada report by Joan Whitely says: “The state’s legislative framework factors heavily in that poor grade. Since part-time lawmakers must earn a living through other jobs, all face potential conflicts when proposed laws touch their sources of income.

“Other gaps in ethics protection – from flimsy lobbying reporting requirements to a huge loophole in the state’s open meeting law to unlimited gifts allowed for public officials – further erode accountability.”

The national report says that no states earned an A grade in the months-long probe. Only five states earned  a B grade: New Jersey, Connecticut, Washington, California, and Nebraska. Nineteen states got C’s and 18 received D’s. Eight states earned F’s: Michigan, North Dakota, South Carolina, Maine, Virginia, Wyoming, South Dakota, and Georgia.

Former Nevada Political Candidate Wins Defamation Case But Judgment May Be Vacated

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 4:17 pm March 19th, 2012

Rob Lauer, a Henderson resident and 2010 GOP candidate for Secretary of State, won a defamation lawsuit last week when a woman who claimed he injured her at a Las Vegas social event failed to respond.

Lauer, who said he has been forced to live with the allegations since being charged with battery following the incident involving Jennifer Von Tobel at a bar in June 2010, is now seeking $50,000 in damages.

Rob Lauer.

An attorney for Von Tobel said today, however, that he expects that the default judgment will be overturned because the lawsuit was not properly served on his client.

The misdemeanor battery charge was dismissed in November 2011, but Lauer said the allegations made it difficult for him to run a campaign against Democrat incumbent Secretary of State Ross Miller in the 2010 general election. Miller won a second term.

Lauer filed his civil defamation complaint against Von Tobel in Clark County District Court in January of this year.

Lauer said about his legal victory: “After suffering under a cloud of suspicion for over a year and a half, caused by falsehoods spread by Jennifer Von Tobel, a criminal court judge found me not guilty this past November and now a civil court has found Jennifer Von Tobel guilty of defamation, liable and slander.

“Jennifer Von Tobel intentionally exaggerated and misrepresented facts to the media that were found by the criminal court to be false and a civil court to be lies,” he said. “The facts are now clear and I look forward to moving on with more productive and positive things in my life.”

Lauer said he gave Von Tobel more than 50 days to respond to his lawsuit.

Lauer denied he ever harmed Von Tobel, saying he was demonstrating self-defense moves to her at a First Friday event at the bar.

But Von Tobel’s attorney, Gus Flangas, said the lawsuit was served on a former residence of Von Tobel’s and that she never received proper notice.

Papers were being filed in District Court seeking to overturn the default judgment based on that fact, he said. Von Tobel had not used the address at which the papers were served for some time, Flangas said.

“I’m quite confident it will be overturned on two grounds: One, the service was faulty; and two, courts prefer to decide matters on the merits,” he said.


State Sen. Greg Brower Criticizes His Opponent For ‘Quitting’ On Her Constituents

By Sean Whaley | 2:21 pm March 19th, 2012

CARSON CITY – State Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, today criticized his Democratic challenger for “quitting” on her constituents when she resigned her Senate seat in mid-term and then filed to run against him.

Brower is running for election to a full four-year term in what is now Washoe District 15 after the state’s legislative districts were redrawn following the 2010 census. Former state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, who was in the middle of a four-year term in what is now Senate District 13, formerly Washoe Senate 1, resigned from office when she moved into District 15. She then filed for election to the Senate 15 seat.

Filing for public office ended Friday and it didn’t take long for the campaign season to begin.

In an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, Brower said: “It was a little surprising; I guess they couldn’t find a candidate to run against me and so partisan politics, I guess, prevails once again and so an incumbent moves to make sure I have a tough race.”

State Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

But it is a strong Republican district, one that GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval won by almost 20 points two years ago, he said.

The district has 28,002 Republican and 26,511 Democrat active voters as of February. There are also 10,957 nonpartisan voters.

The race is viewed as one of five state Senate contests that could determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the 21-member Senate in 2013. Democrats currently have an 11-10 edge.

Brower said Leslie was serving on several important committees in this interim period before the 2013 legislative session, including the Interim Finance Committee, the Legislative Commission and the Legislative Commission’s Audit Subcommittee.

“It’s a strange way to do public service by resigning and basically quitting on the folks you represent,” he said. “But the interim, as you know, has a lot of activity with respect to interim committees, and Sheila, frankly, served on a couple of important committees that she no longer serves on now because of her resignation. And that’s not good for Washoe County.”

Brower said he has worked well with Leslie on Washoe County issues.

“And the fact that she has just taken herself away from all of that interim activity, the Interim Finance Committee, the Legislative Commission, and other important committees, I don’t think speaks well to her commitment to the folks in Washoe County.”

Former Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

Leslie, asked to respond to his comments, said by email: “I understand Senator Brower’s frustration that I moved and am going to give him a competitive race when he was hoping for an easy election. I resigned my seat in Senate District 1 because I believed it was required when I moved out of that district by about a mile. I followed the rules. It was not an easy decision, but I believe it was the ethical decision.

“Now that we both live in Senate District 15, we’ll be able to present our constituents with a clear choice between someone who is committed to funding education and essential services and someone who chose to vote the extreme Tea Party-line to ensure he had the right kind of record for a Congressional primary,” Leslie said. “I think the voters will know who is really committed to the citizens of Washoe County.”

Brower was appointed to the Senate seat to replace the late Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, who resigned before the start of the 2011 session. Brower refused to speculate on his political future beyond 2012 when asked if he was considering a run for Nevada attorney general. Democrat Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto will be termed out of office in 2014.

“I am 100 percent focused on getting elected to this Senate seat,” he said.

When asked by host Sam Shad if he would commit to a full four-year term in the Senate, Brower said: “I can’t predict the future, Sam, I just don’t know what is going to happen. I’m just not even going to think beyond 2012.”

Brower also defended Sandoval for his announcement last week that he would continue a package of expiring tax increases into the 2013-15 budget to avoid any further budget cuts to education. Brower voted against continuing the 2009 taxes in the 2011 session even though Sandoval supported the decision as a compromise to finalize the current budget.

“I think what the governor is trying to do is move this state forward,” he said. “And that means leadership on real issues like the budget. And I think that’s what we saw last week and that’s what we’re going to continue to see. And to the extent this governor is going to take a leadership role in moving this state forward, I stand solidly behind him.”


Audio clips:

Sen. Greg Brower says Sheila Leslie quit on her constituents:

031912Brower1 :17 for Washoe County.”

Brower says her resignation makes him question her commitment to the residents of Washoe County:

031912Brower2 :20 in Washoe County.”

Brower says he stands behind Gov. Brian Sandoval’s decision to extend a tax package into the next budget to avoid cuts to education:

031912Brower3 :20 solidly behind him.”


Nevada 2012 Political Races Crystallize As Candidate Filing Period Ends

By Sean Whaley | 5:42 pm March 16th, 2012

(Updated to reflect that one of the Senate races in play is District 18, not District 19.)

CARSON CITY – After months of prognostications and political maneuvering, Nevada’s 2012 election season crystallized today as the state’s two-week filing period for public office came to a close.

Next up: A June 12 primary followed by the Nov. 6 general election, which will see a lengthy ballot topped by the presidential race, a competitive U.S. Senate race and four congressional contests.

Also at stake is control of the state Legislature, particularly the state Senate, where Democrats have a razor thin 11-10 majority.

Nevada is a battleground state in the presidential contest, a state President Obama won in 2008. Turnout for the presidential race is expected to have a major impact on “down ballot” races.

As evidence of Nevada’s importance, President Obama is making another trip to Southern Nevada on Wednesday to tour a Boulder City solar facility.

A number of minor party and independent candidates are vying for a number of elective offices as well.

The U.S. Senate race will see primaries for both parties, with incumbent Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., facing a handful of challengers. Heller was appointed to the Senate in May by Gov. Brian Sandoval to fill the vacancy created by the resignation of John Ensign.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who is challenging Heller for the seat, also faces several Democrat challengers.

In the 1st Congressional District in urban Las Vegas, where former Democrat Rep. Dina Titus is viewed as the favorite to succeed Berkley, there are no other filed Democrats. Several Republicans have filed for the seat as well.

In the 2nd Congressional District, Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., who won the seat in a special election in September 2011, is also the favorite to win a full term. He has no GOP opponents. Several Democrats have also filed for the seat.

In the 3rd Congressional District, Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., faces a challenge from Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas. Heck is seeking a second term. Other candidates representing both parties have also filed.

In the 4th Congressional District, created by Nevada’s population increase based on the 2010 census, Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, is the only Democrat, while a crowded field of Republicans, including state Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, and Danny Tarkanian, have filed.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.

Twelve state Senate seats are in play in the 2012 elections, and Democrats and Republicans expect a fierce battle to win control of the 21-member body.

There are several Senate races that could affect the balance of power, and the two major parties have already picked their candidates in most of the contests:

- Senate District 5, where former Henderson city councilman Steve Kirk, a Republican, faces Democrat and former state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse. Republican Annette Teijeiro is also a candidate in the race.

- Senate District 6, where GOP attorney Mark Hutchison is facing businessman and Democrat Benny Yerushalmi. Thomas Welsh is also a Democrat in the race.

- Senate District 9, where Republican Mari Nakashima St. Martin faces Democrat Justin Jones. Brent Jones is also a GOP candidate, and Frederick Conquest has filed as a Democrat.

- Senate District 15, where incumbent Greg Brower, R-Reno, faces former state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, who resigned her Senate 13 seat to challenge the attorney who was appointed to fill out the term of the late Sen. Bill Raggio.

- Senate District 18, where Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, faces Democrats Kelli Ross and Donna Schlemmer. The Democrat Senate caucus has not yet endorsed in this race. Assemblyman Richard McArthur, R-Las Vegas, and Republican Conrad Vergara, have also filed.

Early today, a number of state senate candidates were unopposed. By 5 p.m., however, showing how competitive the two parties are, every race had at least two candidates.

The Assembly is less likely to see a switch away from Democrat control.

While Assembly Republicans see an opportunity to make gains on Democrats in the 2012 general election, they have an uphill battle with only 16 of 42 seats currently.

A few Assembly incumbents ended up running unopposed, including Republicans Ira Hansen in District 32, Pat Hickey in District 25, Tom Grady in District 38 and John Ellison in District 33, all of which are in northern Nevada.

In Clark County, Democrats Marilyn Kirkpatrick in District 1, Harvey Munford in District 6, Oliva Diaz in District 11, Richard Carillo in District 18, and Republican  John Hambrick in District 2, also face no opponents.

More than 230 candidates filed for various offices in Clark County.

Dozens more filed with the Secretary of State, Washoe County and with election officials in the other counties around the state.

One potential candidate who opted not to run is Republican Sharron Angle, a former member of the state Assembly who ran against U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., in 2010.

Instead Angle announced on her website that she is going to produce a documentary on voter fraud, a statement that prompted a response from Secretary of State Ross Miller, who oversaw the 2010 Nevada general election where Reid handily beat Angle.

“Our multi-jurisdictional Election Integrity Task Force has always aggressively investigated any leads and successfully prosecuted election law violations,” Miller said in response to media requests for comment. “However, we can’t send out our investigators until we have basic information about what crime may have been committed, when it happened and who may have been involved. The unsupported fraud claims on Ms. Angle’s campaign website don’t give us enough information to even open up a case file.