Archive for May, 2012

GOP Congressional Candidate Danny Tarkanian Says $17 Million Judgment The Result Of Fraud

By Sean Whaley | 9:02 pm May 31st, 2012

CARSON CITY – A leading candidate for the Republican nomination for the 4th Congressional District seat said today a $17 million court judgment again him and his family is the result of fraud and not bad judgment.

Danny Tarkanian, one of several Republicans vying in the June 12 primary to face state Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, in the November general election, said the developer in the transaction took his money and used it for purposes other than developing a project in Anza, Calif.

4th Congressional GOP candidate Danny Tarkanian.

Tarkanian discussed the case on Jon Ralston’s Face To Face television program today. The son of basketball legend Jerry Tarkanian, he is viewed as a favorite in the primary, which includes state Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas.

Tarkanian said his family was misled in the real estate deal, and that it bears no correlation to how he would perform as a member of the House of Representatives. The judgment is the result of a dispute that bankrupted both the original developer, Robert Dyson, and La Jolla Bank, which financed most of the deal.

“He was to use that money to develop the property in Southern California,” Tarkanian said. “He didn’t do that. Instead he used the money for other purposes, including repaying a loan he had with a bank that loaned us the money. We believe there was clear evidence of fraud there.

“We’re just like thousands of other Nevadans around here that are losing their life savings because of unscrupulous acts by banks and others that are involved in that stuff,” he said. “Yes, I feel horrible for my family and I wish we could have done something differently.”

The judgment, entered by a federal judge, comes at a bad time for Tarkanian as voting is underway in the primary.

As reported first by Ralston, the federal judge has ruled that Tarkanian, his parents and siblings owe the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. $17 million for a loan they took from the now-defunct bank that is under federal receivership.

Tarkanian has said he will appeal the judgment, and that it in no way is a reflection of his suitability to serve in the 4th Congressional district.

“I think it is a big stretch to say that because I guy defrauded our family, that that gives me poor judgment,” he said.


Audio clips:

Danny Tarkanian says he and his family were victims of fraud:

053112Tarkian1 :13 of fraud there.”

Tarkanian says his family has been victimized like many Nevada families:

053112Tarkanian2 :11 done something differently.”


GOP Primary Opponents Debate In Fiercely Contested State Senate Nine Race

By Sean Whaley | 8:09 pm May 31st, 2012

CARSON CITY – In the Republican quest to regain control of the state Senate in the 2012 general election, two GOP candidates in a bitter primary traded accusations today in a televised debate.

Whether GOP establishment favorite Mari Nakashima St. Martin or challenger Brent Jones wins the June 12 primary, the fiercely contested primary presents another challenge for Republicans to return to dominance in the state Senate.

GOP Senate 9 candidate Mari Nakashima St. Martin.

The issues aren’t taxes or education reform, but questions of judgment and personal responsibility. The candidates debated on the Face To Face television program.

St. Martin issued a press release raising questions about whether Jones took advantage of a mentally disabled man more than a decade ago by selling him two ostrich eggs for $30,000 to establish an ostrich farm. Jones, in return, has raised questions about St. Martin’s suitability for public office.

Jones’ claim, detailed today by the Las Vegas Sun, characterizes St. Martin as a “party girl,” on a website launched by Republicans United, a new political action committee with which Jones said he is unaffiliated. The site features pictures of St. Martin holding alcoholic drinks and socializing.

St. Martin’s criticism cites a Los Angeles Times article from 2000, which looked into Jones’ transaction with the mentally disabled man to buy the ostrich eggs.

In the debate, St. Martin said her campaign did create a website, called Freinds of Mari St. Martin, focusing on the civil lawsuit filed against Jones and others in order to “vet” the GOP candidates so that “fringe” and “marginal” candidates don’t win the primary and lose to Democrats in the November general election.

Jones has filed a lawsuit alleging defamation, saying the claims are false and defamatory. Jones said St. Martin’s campaign volunteers are telling voters wrongly that he was jailed for the civil case, which was settled.

St. Martin said her campaign is not making such calls. Volunteers are calling voters, she said.

Jones defended the website questioning St. Martin’s suitability for public office.

He also said St. Martin has no business experience, has never met a payroll, and has refused to sign the Taxpayer Protection pledge affirming a stand to reject tax increases.

GOP Senate 9 candidate Brent Jones.

“Those are the issues,” Jones said.

St. Martin downplayed the pictures, saying the characterization of her behavior suggests that young mothers are unqualified and unfit to run for and serve in public office.

St. Martin said she won’t sign any pledge, but that she supports transparency and lower taxes. She did not commit to support or oppose Gov. Brian Sandoval’s plan to extend a collection of tax increases set to expire on June 30, 2013, into the next budget cycle.

Jones said St. Martin’s equivocation on taxes is due to her support from the Senate GOP establishment, specifically Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, who voiced support for Sandoval’s decision to extend the sunsetting taxes into the next budget.

St. Martin said Jones’ comments show that he considers anyone “under the age of 40, and female, basically, is unfit and unqualified for office . . . ”

The Senate 9 District is vacant, with former Sen. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, having resigned from the seat.

The primary battle is draining energy and resources  in a contest that Republicans need to win to take the majority in the 21-member Senate where Democrats now have an 11-10 advantage. The winner will face another Jones, Democrat Justin Jones, who has received financial help from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.


Audio clips:

Senate 9 candidate Brent Jones says St. Martin is unqualified:

053112Jones :08 payroll; absolutely unqualified.”

St. Martin says Jones thinks young women are unqualified for public office:

053112St.Martin :12 the power brokers.”




Former Clark County Commissioner, State Senator Speak Out In Favor Of Laughlin Incorporation

By Sean Whaley | 1:26 pm May 31st, 2012

CARSON CITY – Supporters of making Laughlin the state’s newest incorporated city have sent out YouTube messages favoring the move by former Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury and state Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City.

Early voting is under way for the June 12 primary, which includes the incorporation question for the community on the Colorado River 90 miles south of Las Vegas.

Laughlin. / Photo by Stan Shebs via Wikimedia Commons.

In his YouTube message, Woodbury said Clark County oversight of the area just doesn’t work being so many miles away. The county’s existing small cities, Boulder City and Mesquite, are both doing well with quality services and low taxes, he said.

“There will be plenty of time after the vote to work things out with the county and the state on revenues and the transfer of services,” he said.

In his message, Hardy said Laughlin voters have nothing to fear in supporting incorporation.

“You lose nothing by voting yes, as before the Legislature will allow the incorporation to occur, it will have to be assured that the new city will not only just survive, but have the potential to thrive,” he said.

In sending out the messages of support to Laughlin voters, Dave Floodman, an incorporation proponent and president of the Laughlin Economic Development Corporation, said opponents are using “fear and innuendo” to win support for their position.

“Please make sure that your families, friends, and neighbors understand that there is no risk in voting ‘yes,’ ” he said. “The only risk is to bloated county government spending and the ineffective administration of our community.”

Incorporation opponents could not immediately be reached for comment.


Audio clips:

Former Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury says the county’s other two small incorporated cities are doing well:

053112Woodbury :27 are quite low.”

Sen. Joe Hardy says the Legislature will make sure incorporation works for Laughlin if voters approve creation of a new city:

053112Hardy :13 potential to thrive.”



Campaign Launched Urging Congress To OK Internet Sales Tax Collections – Nevada Delegation Split

By Sean Whaley | 9:14 am May 31st, 2012

CARSON CITY – The National Retail Federation has launched a nationwide 60-day campaign to raise awareness among lawmakers and the public on how what it calls a loophole exempting online sales from sales tax is hurting local communities and job creation.

If Nevada’s five-member Congressional delegation is any indication, the group has its work cut out for it, with three members opposed and two supportive of the idea to allow states to tax online sales.

“Our current sales tax system unfairly favors one set of retailers over another,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Congress is naming winners and losers by its failure to address this issue, and the brick-and-mortar retailers who create jobs across our country want action on this issue now.”

Illustration by Pictofigo via Wikimedia Commons.

The national push, begun earlier this month, comes on the heels of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval’s agreement with Amazon to begin collecting sales taxes on Nevada online purchases beginning Jan. 1, 2014, or sooner if federal legislation is passed to allow states to collect revenues from internet purchases.

The agreement also calls for the state and the Fortune 500 company to work together for immediate enactment of federal legislation that will address the needs of states, retailers and consumers by creating a simplified and equitable framework for sales tax collection.

But members of Nevada’s Congressional delegation are divided on the question.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., have previously said they oppose such legislation, called the “Main Street Fairness Act.”

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., is also opposed.

“We need to ensure that Nevada’s small businesses have the tools they need to grow and create jobs without burdensome taxes and additional red tape,” she said in a statement issued Wednesday. “For this reason, I will continue to support unrestricted Internet sales in Nevada and throughout the U.S.”

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., who participated in a hearing on the issue last year as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday he is open to the idea, depending on the specific wording of a measure that would come up for a vote.

The current system of ignoring Internet sales while collecting sales taxes from local retailers is an “artificial tax administration policy I don’t think anyone approved,” he said. “It just kind of happened. I would sure like to look at something.”

Retailers of all types should be playing on the same field for tax purposes, Amodei said.

A statement from the office of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he also supports giving states the authority to require online retailers to collect their sales tax.

Three Republican candidates seeking the 4th Congressional seat in the 2012 general election recently spoke in favor of such legislation in a debate on the Face To Face television program. Barbara Cegavske, Danny Tarkanian and Dan Schwartz all said they favored such legislation.

Sandoval estimates Nevada will receive between $15 million and $20 million a year under the agreement with Amazon, which mirrors those signed in several other states. Tax revenues to Nevada could total $200 million a year if all online purchases were assessed the state sales tax, he said. Nevada’s sales tax rate varies by county and ranges between 6.85 and 8.1 percent.

Sandoval recently said he pursued the agreement after the online sales tax collection issue was brought to him by the Retail Association of Nevada (RAN), which praised the deal announced in April.

Bryan Wachter, director of Government Affairs for RAN, said the national campaign is aimed at educating the public and policy makers. While “mom and pop” stores on Main Street are required to collect the sales tax, Internet companies have been treated differently, he said.

“Even though they’re both doing the same amount of business for the same customers, they are treated as two different entities and we just think that needs to stop,” Wachter said. “Government should create level playing fields and allow the market to be able to decide what business model works and doesn’t work. And so that’s really the main focus of the E-Fairness campaign, is government should treat everybody the same. Fair is fair.”

The proposals in Congress are asking that states be allowed to decide if they want to collect sales taxes on internet sales, he said. A lot of states have budget problems right now that could be partially addressed with such revenue, Wachter said.

There are a lot of struggling businesses in Nevada that face an additional hurdle because of the sales tax issue, he said.

Shay said the federation will mobilize the retail industry, “so every retailer – regardless of whether they sell their merchandise online, through the mail or in a store on Main Street – can compete on a level playing field. This debate is about local retailers who make major contributions to their local communities being forced to operate in an unfair sales tax environment while out-of-state competitors are handed a huge advantage.”

The campaign includes an online petition that merchants and consumers can sign, a series of videos featuring small retailers talking about the competitive disadvantage they face, and print and online advertising in targeted states and congressional districts.

The sales tax issue was created by a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Quill v. North Dakota that ruled that “remote sellers” – which include Internet, mail-order and “1-800” sellers on radio or television – can only be required to collect sales tax in states where they have a physical presence, such as their headquarters or a store or warehouse.

Shay said the court ruling means that most online sales go untaxed and has placed local retailers at a competitive price disadvantage. It also costs state and local governments an estimated $24 billion a year in tax revenues.

“Retail is retail, be it online or in a store,” he said. “All retailers should compete on a level playing field with the same set of sales tax rules. It is only fair.”


Audio clips:

Bryan Wachter with the Retail Association of Nevada says the two types of businesses are being treated differently and the practice needs to stop:

053012Wachter1 :29 needs to stop.”

Wachter says government should treat everybody the same:

053012Wachter2 :14 Fair is fair.”








Legislative Panel Takes First Step Toward Repealing Antiquated State Laws

By Sean Whaley | 1:32 pm May 30th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Two years ago it was the metric system. Now it’s communists.

The Legislative Commission today took the first step towards repealing several antiquated statutes, including a provision of state law dating to the “Red Scare” days of the 1950s directed at the Communist Party.

The statute, NRS 613.360, is titled “Actions permitted against member of Communist Party or related organization.” It says that an unlawful employment practice “does not include any action or measure taken by an employer, labor organization, joint labor-management committee or employment agency with respect to an individual who is a member of the Communist Party of the United States or of any other organization required to register as a Communist-action or Communist-front organization by final order of the Subversive Activities Control Board pursuant to the Subversive Activities Control Act of 1950.”

Original work by Eureka287, vector work by Lasse Havelund via Wikimedia Commons.

Scott Young, a research analyst for the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said the section was dependent in part upon the federal statute, the Subversive Activities Control Act, the provisions of which have either been struck down by the U.S. Supreme Court or repealed by Congress. As a result, the state law no longer has any force or effect, he said.

It is also known as the McCarran Act for then-Nevada Sen. Pat McCarran, D-Nev.

“This is essentially a relic from the Cold War when there was concern about activities of the Communist Party and undermining freedoms in the West,” Young said.

The statute was one of five provisions recommended for repeal by the 2013 Legislature based on a state law requiring a biennial review of state statutes to look for outdated and antiquated laws. The recommendations were based on the requirements of the law, NRS 220.085, and do not reflect any advocacy by legislative staff.

Another statute recommended for repeal created the Columbia Basin Interstate Compact Commission in 1951. The compact was never adopted by the states of Washington and Oregon, Young said. There is no likelihood the statute will ever become useful, he said. Nevada was originally included because the Owyhee River is a tributary of the Snake River, which in turn is a tributary of the Columbia, Young said.

The Legislative Commission voted to move forward with the bills needed to repeal the obsolete provisions of state law.

“It’s good to get rid of some obsolete statutes,” said commission Chairman Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas.

Two years ago the Legislative Commission agreed to introduce a bill to repeal the statute creating the state’s Advisory Council on the Metric System. The bill was passed in the 2011 legislative session.

The seven-member council was created in 1981 when the federal government was moving forward with a program of getting the states to convert to the metric system. Congress in 1975 passed the Metric Conversion Act to plan for the conversion. That effort was derailed in 1982 when President Ronald Reagan eliminated funding for the conversion effort.


Audio clips:

Legislative analyst Scott Young says the Communist Party law dates to 1950:

053012Young1 :23 Act of 1950.”

Young says the law no longer has any force and effect:

053012Young2 :14 force and effect.”


Richard Combs Named New Director Of Legislative Counsel Bureau

By Sean Whaley | 11:18 am May 30th, 2012

CARSON CITYRichard Combs, most recently an Assembly fiscal analyst and member of the Legislative Counsel Bureau staff since 1994, was unanimously supported today by the Legislative Commission as the new director of the agency.

Combs was also the unanimous choice of the Committee to Consult with the Director, which earlier this month interviewed five finalists for the position.

“It was kind of difficult when you get down to the end because any one of them could have done a great job,” said Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the committee that conducted the interviews. “But I appreciate the committee coming together. It was a unanimous vote.”

New LCB Director Richard Combs.

Denis said Combs has been great to work with on the fiscal side of the agency, and should do equally well as the new director.

Thirty-eight people applied for the job and five, including four employees within the Legislative Counsel Bureau, were interviewed.

Combs succeeds Lorne Malkiewich, who retired as director of the LCB in early April after serving in the position for more than 18 years. The position pays $138,000 a year.

Combs expressed his appreciation to lawmakers for the way they handled the selection process, which was conducted in public.

“Our first order of business is just going to be making sure that the level of service that you have become accustomed to continues for the 2013 session,” he said. “Notwithstanding the retirement of Mr. Malkiewich and my appointment, we’re going to work to make sure that that continues. We do have a few challenges that we’re facing with turnover as has been mentioned. But as Mr. (Assemblyman Marcus) Conklin said I’m very confident that we have talented and dedicated people in the bureau who are willing to step up and fill those roles.”


Audio clips:

Sen. Mo Denis says any of the five finalists could have done a great job as director of the LCB:

053012Denis :22 other side, so.”

New Director Richard Combs says his first order of business is to ensure the high level of service by LCB staff continues in the 2013 session:

053012Combs :28 fill those roles.”


Rural Economic Activity Boosts Nevada Taxable Sales By 7.2 Percent In March

By Sean Whaley | 3:07 pm May 29th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s taxable sales jumped 7.2 percent in March over March 2011, but the state’s two largest urban counties showed more sluggish growth, the state Department of Taxation reported today.

Taxable sales totaled $3.9 billion in March, driven by Nevada’s rural counties where large energy and mining projects helped boost the numbers overall. For the fiscal year to date, statewide taxable sales are up 7.5 percent.

Clark County was up only 1.9 percent in March, and Washoe was up only 3 percent.

But White Pine County posted a 672 percent gain in taxable sales to $161.3 million compared to $20.9 million in March 2011. Several other rural counties associated with mining also showed strong increases, including Elko, up 16.4 percent; Esmeralda, up 50.1 percent; Lincoln, up 74.5 percent; Lyon, up 71.4 percent; and Pershing County, up 41.5 percent.

Fifteen of the state’s 17 counties showed gains in taxable sales in March.

The utilities taxable sales category, which would reflect energy project activity, was up 431.7 percent in March.

State Taxation official Brody Leiser said that without the utilities related purchases in White Pine County, the state as a whole would have been up only about 3 percent in taxable sales in March, a figure closer to the gains reported in Clark and Washoe counties.

A $225 million wind farm project is being built by San Francisco-based Pattern Energy in White Pine County. There is also a major transmission line project being built from the county south to Clark County.

Photo by Leaflet via Wikimedia Commons.

Mining activity around the state has also increased with the high price of gold.

Major taxable sales categories showed mostly gains in March.

The motor vehicles and parts dealers category was up 15.8 percent; building material and garden equipment-supplies was up 34 percent, clothing and clothing accessory stores were up 7.9 percent, and merchant wholesalers-durable goods were up 5.6 percent. Food and beverage stores were up 7.6 percent, furniture and home furnishings were up 11.8 percent, accommodations were up 21.1 percent, and food services and drinking places were up 0.8 percent.

The construction industry continued to be negative, and was down 16.4 percent in March. General merchandise stores were also down in March, by 6.2 percent.


Audio clips:

Brody Leiser of the Tax Department says White Pine activity fueled the March taxable sales increase:

052912Leiser1 :15 and Washoe counties.”:

Leiser says categories related to mining include machinery manufacturing and merchant wholesalers-durable goods:

052912Leiser2 :27 see the activity.”


Gov. Sandoval Announces Departure Of Senior Adviser, Other Staff Changes

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 1:35 pm May 29th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval today announced changes to his staff in his Carson City office, including the departure of Senior Adviser Dale Erquiaga, who will move to Arizona in July to be near his children.

“Dale has been a trusted confidant and invaluable member of my team from the very beginning,” Sandoval said. “As a father myself, I understand the difficulties of being away from your children. I will miss Dale’s insight, experience and wisdom and I thank him for his service to my office and to the people of the state of Nevada. I wish him the very best as he begins the next chapter of his life.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

In other changes, Tyler Klimas, who has served as an agency liaison and in constituent services with Sandoval’s office, has been named manager of Intergovernmental Affairs. He will coordinate legislative issues, manage cabinet communications and meetings and assist with board and commission appointments. Before joining the Governor’s Office, Klimas worked on the governor’s campaign. He holds a bachelor’s degree in political science from UNLV.

“Tyler will be a central clearinghouse for intergovernmental operations within my office,” Sandoval said. “He has been with us from the start and knows how this office must coordinate with state agencies and the other branches of government.”

Lucas Foletta, who has served as the governor’s general counsel, has been named policy director and general counsel. In his new position, Foletta will oversee the work of agency liaisons and coordinate the governor’s policy agenda. Foletta will retain his general counsel duties.

As a former assistant United States attorney for the district of Nevada, Foletta has prosecuted mortgage fraud and identity theft matters on behalf of the U.S. government. A graduate of Wake Forest University School of Law, Foletta was also a former law clerk to Sandoval when he was a U.S. District Court judge.

“Lucas has been a distinguished member of my staff since day one and has an intimate understanding of how policy affects the everyday lives of Nevadans,” Sandoval said. “I look forward to his continued counsel on a wide range of issues.”

Regent Ron Knecht Confirms He Was Let Go From His State Job, Says No Cause Given

By Sean Whaley | 1:41 pm May 25th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Board of Regents candidate Ron Knecht confirmed today he was let go from his state job with the Public Utilities Commission in March, saying no cause was given despite his request for an explanation.

“I can’t tell you a lot,” he said. “I’m no longer working there.”

Ron Knecht.

Knecht said he does know he was not fired for cause.

“My performance reviews were always outstanding,” he said.

Knecht, who spent more than a decade with the PUC as a senior economist, said the agency does not believe it has to give a reason because he was an at-will employee.

The agency today would say only that Knecht no longer works there.

“They believe they don’t need to give a reason when they terminated someone,” Knecht said. “So there’s not a lot I can tell you because I wasn’t given any reason. I wasn’t given proper notice. I was told I was being terminated on March 23, effective March 27.”

Knecht said his request for a reason for his dismissal has not been responded to by the agency.

Knecht said he is looking both for another position and work as a consultant, and that the development will not affect his race for another six-year term on the Board of Regents overseeing the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Knecht is the second state elected official to leave the PUC in the past several months.

State Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, left his job with the agency in November 2011, just as he was named in a lawsuit alleging a violation of the state constitution’s separation of power clause prohibiting government employees from serving in the Legislature.

Denis said he chose to leave his position as a computer technician to take a job in the private sector and that his decision had nothing to do with the lawsuit.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation filed the lawsuit against the PUC alleging Denis’ position violated the separation of powers clause. The case was dismissed as moot after Denis left the agency, but that decision in on appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Knecht said his termination came shortly after he filed for another term on the Board of Regents on March 12. He had submitted paperwork to agency officials informing them of his intention to run for the nonpartisan post, which was accepted.

Candidates For State Education Board Seat Bring Diverse Backgrounds To Race

By Sean Whaley | 9:21 am May 25th, 2012

CARSON CITY – With education reform a top priority of Gov. Brian Sandoval, the new alignment of the state Board of Education – with four seats up for grabs on the November ballot – is taking on more importance than ever before.

One of the four seats, District 2 which mirrors the new Nevada 2nd Congressional District from Reno and Carson City east across rural Nevada, has attracted five candidates, two of whom are serving now on the 10-member elected board. The race is nonpartisan.

Ray Bacon, executive director of the Nevada Manufacturers Association; Scott Carey, a planner for the Pyramid Lake Paiute Tribe; Donna Clontz, a retired teacher and juvenile justice expert; Dave Cook, a member of the board and charter school math teacher; and Adriana Guzman Fralick, a member of the board and attorney with the Nevada Gaming Control Board, are all on the June 12 primary ballot.

The top two vote getters will move on to the general election in November.

Since taking office in 2011, Sandoval has made education reform a priority of his administration. A number of reforms, including reconstituting the state board, were approved in the 2011 legislative session.

Photo courtesy of FEMA via Wikimedia Commons.

He also recently appointed a new superintendent of public instruction, James Guthrie, who formerly served as the senior fellow and director of education policy studies at the George W. Bush Institute in Dallas.

Sandoval plans in 2013 to pursue a number of additional reforms, including ending social promotion and fostering school choice through charter school expansion and some form of voucher program that is still in development.

The new board will play an expanded role in the reform effort. In addition to four elected candidates, Sandoval will appoint three members, one of his choice and one each nominated by the Senate majority leader and Assembly speaker. There will also be four nonvoting members.

Ray Bacon brings an employer perspective to race

Bacon, who has advocated for education reform for more than 25 years, said he entered the race as a candidate coming from the perspective of the business sector.

“There are two primary focuses in the education picture,” he said. “They (are) the students, which should be first and foremost No.1, and then the second constituency is employers, which are routinely ignored by the education system.”

Employers need a voice on the board, Bacon said.

The key is not job oriented education, but providing students with a strong set of basic skills in writing, reading, math and science, he said. The reality is there will be job opportunities in the future that aren’t even on the radar yet, Bacon said.

“If their basic skills are really solid, and really foundational, and they pay attention, they have the skill set to move into those jobs,” Bacon said. “If they’re lacking in those basics, they can’t make the transition.”

The reforms passed in the last session were a major step forward, but more remains to be done, he said.

Bacon said he has concerns with the use of binding arbitration in school district negotiations with teachers and other employees. A recent arbitration decision in Clark County in favor of teachers could lead to hundreds of teacher layoffs. The arbitrators always seem to be from out of state and lack the knowledge of Nevada’s public education funding scheme, he said. Arbitrators should come from Nevada, he said.

There should also be a requirement that teacher contracts comply with state law, Bacon said. The Clark County layoffs will be based on who was last hired, which conflicts with legislation passed in 2011 making seniority not the only basis for such decisions, he said.

As to school choice, Bacon said he would start with students in under-performing schools, giving them an edge to enroll elsewhere, including charter schools.

Scott Carey says an educated workforce is critical to economic diversification

Carey, who grew up in Sparks and took advantage of the Gov. Kenny Guinn Millennium Scholarship, said he wants to focus on improving public education as a way to help with Nevada’s economic diversification efforts

“I see kind of the biggest thing holding back our state to diversifying our economy is education,” he said. “We’re not going to be able to get jobs to relocate here and open up new operations if our schools continue to be in the condition that they are and our graduation rate remains the way it is.”

Nevada needs a skilled workforce to drive innovation and expand the economy, Carey said.

The new board will play a big role in education reform, he said. The state’s last in the nation graduation rate is unacceptable, he said.

“And I’m willing to look at new ideas that can help improve that graduation rate,” Carey said. “I think a lot of the partisan politics that sometimes get played in Carson City do more harm than they do good. If elected to the Board of Education I would take a look at solutions from both sides of the aisle and see what we can do to help improve education.”

Carey said he supports expanded school choice, including the potential use of vouchers, as long as they don’t take financial resources away from what he said are already “vastly underfunded” public schools.

Donna Clontz says she wants to bring her experiences with childhood issues to bear at the state board

“I decided to run for the State Board of Education because I see it in a very important leadership role for policy for all of our 17 school districts and I don’t believe it really has filled that role in the past,” Clontz said.

The board can and should serve in an outspoken leadership role on behalf of all students to make education and quality schools the state’s number one priority, she said.

Clontz started her career as an elementary school teacher, then went to night law school to become an attorney. She then went to work as a prosecutor in the California juvenile justice system. Her next career was on the staff of the National School Safety Center, getting an education on school safety issues, from bullying to weapons, all of which are still issues today.

Those experiences make her well qualified to serve on the board, she said.

“Everybody who plays a role, I think, could be engaged in a strategic planning process where we would all work together to get that change of attitude that I think it’s going to take in Nevada for all of us to say that schools are the most important thing that we can work on to bring our state back, our economy back, to create the jobs we need, to have young people that are trained and ready to go to work in those jobs,” Clontz said. “We’re perched on the edge of some great things.”

She supports ending social promotion for elementary school students and the development of quality charter schools but opposes vouchers. Vouchers have been tried elsewhere without success and Nevada has too many other education issues to address, Clontz said.

Dave Cook says he will pursue Gov. Sandoval’s reforms if returned to the board

Cook said one of the keys to improving education is to use effective testing to measure progress.

“We need to effectively assess students,” he said. “At the same time, we need to do less testing overall. So we need to do testing that is going to be beneficial for making decisions about students.”

Assessing students at the beginning and end of the school year helps prevent a number of problems and can help determine if a student should be promoted, Cook said.

“And most of our problems happen because language and mathematics aren’t being effectively handled in the elementary grades,” he said. “By the time we discover them in middle school, the damage is already done.”

Such testing also provides the opportunity to measure teacher performance because it assesses how far each student has come during the year, Cook said.

Cook, who previously served on the Carson City School Board before being elected to the state Board of Education, said he is a big supporter of quality charter schools. Between 2008 and now, the attitude toward charter schools has improved dramatically and the schools are playing a big role in education reform, he said.

Cook said he supports the concept of vouchers as well, although full implementation might require an incremental approach. Any voucher program would have to carry an accountability element with it to ensure tax dollars are being spent efficiently, he said.

Cook said being a licensed math teacher gives him an added dimension to serve on the board.

Adriana Fralick says her time on the board gives her the background to move forward on reforms  

Fralick said she is on board with the education reforms already achieved by Sandoval and his plans going forward.

“I believe in charter schools and I think now with the new (Charter School) authority I think there is a chance of expanding that and streamlining it so I think that is going to be something very positive,” she said.

She also supports vouchers, saying parents should be able to choose their child’s school.

“Implementing a fair state-based voucher system will give parents and students a vested interest in the child’s education and stimulate parental involvement – an important factor in student success,” she said on her website.

Fralick said she is concerned about the potential for changes to the Nevada Plan, which outlines how public schools are funded in Nevada. A legislative panel is now reviewing the state’s public education funding plan at the request of the Clark County School District.

Fralick was appointed to the board in November 2010 by then-Gov. Jim Gibbons to fill out the term of Ken McKenna, who resigned. During the past 18 months, Fralick said she was on a learning curve. Now that she has the background, it is time to move forward with policies to improve Nevada’s education system.

“I’ve been on the board, not too long, but long enough to where I see what needs changing or what works,” Fralick said. “So I think that is one of my strengths, I can hit the ground running.”

Another strength Fralick said is her work as a public agency attorney for many years. Regulations sometimes have unintended consequences, so a legal background can help to prevent such occurrences, she said.


Audio clips

Ray Bacon says employers have been ignored by the education system:

052512Bacon1 :16 the education system.”

Bacon says students need to master the fundamentals:

052512Bacon2 :18 make the transition.”

Scott Carey says a quality educational system is key to economic diversification:

052512Carey1 :22 way it is.”

Carey says he will work with all policy makers to improve the public education system:

052512Carey2 :25 help improve education.”

Donna Clontz says the board can play a major role in education reform:

052512Clontz1 :15 in the past.”

Clontz says Nevada has to focus on a quality public education system:

052512Clontz2 :33 in those jobs.”

Dave Cook says effective testing is needed to measure education reform efforts:

052512Cook1 :29 not be promoted.”

Cook says students need a strong foundation in the early elementary grades to succeed:

052512Cook2 :17 is already done.”

Adriana Fralick says she supports charter school expansion:

052512Fralick1 :14 something very positive.”

Fralick says she can hit the ground running if elected to the board:

052512Fralick2 :15 the ground running.”


GOP Political Consultant Sig Rogich Says Legislature Needs To Take Serious Look At Collective Bargaining Reform

By Sean Whaley | 2:08 pm May 24th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Long-time Republican political consultant Sig Rogich said today the 2013 Nevada Legislature has to take a serious look at collective bargaining reforms so that situations like the impending layoff of hundreds of Clark County teachers can be avoided in the future.

“I think we’ve got to look at collective bargaining in a real way in this legislative session,” he said. “We’ve got to stop some of these nonsensical things that are going on. You can’t tell me that it’s good government or good policy to lay off 1,200 teachers down here when you’ve got to stop a pay increase to do so.

Sig Rogich.

“And I don’t think their fellow teachers agree that that’s the right thing to do as well,” Rogich said. “But this teachers union has dug its heels in to the detriment of those they represent.”

Rogich, interviewed on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, was referring to the layoffs anticipated in the Clark County School District as a result of a binding arbitration decision requiring the district to provide pay raises to teachers.

The school district lost an arbitration battle worth $63 million over teacher salary increases for education level and longevity. The district says the decision will force as many as 1,000 teacher layoffs  unless money can be found to reduce the number.

Rogich said he believes there is a disconnect between the teachers union and teachers themselves.

Rogich, who was involved in the campaigns of Ronald Reagan and both Bush presidents, also weighed in on the national and Nevada political scenes.

Of presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney, Rogich said his campaign needs to do more to tell voters how he would run the presidency differently from President Obama in order to attract independent voters in November.

The average voter might describe Romney as a Mormon, a successful businessman, governor of Massachusetts or mention his work on the Salt Lake City Olympics, he said.

“To get independent voters to look at him seriously they are going to have to offer reasonable alternatives and differences between the way he would run the presidency as president and what President Obama is doing,” Rogich said.

Romney will do well in Nevada with a strong turnout expected from the Mormon community on his behalf, he said.

“I think that it’s going to be very competitive in Nevada,” Rogich said.

He also expressed no objections to the amount of third party money in the presidential campaign.

“Why shouldn’t people be overwhelmed by TV commercials that have messages that are important for them to know about,” Rogich asked. “What does it harm as long as you disclose it fully and you play by the rules?”

On the race between U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., for the Senate seat, Rogich said it is a tight race but that it is Heller’s to lose because Romney should run strong in Nevada.

Rogich was also asked about the state Senate race between Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, and former state Sen. Sheila Leslie, a Democrat, in Washoe County. The Senate 15 race is one of five in Nevada expected to determine which party controls the Senate in 2013.

Rogich said Leslie has to be the favorite, given her long track record of successful campaigns.

But Brower is extremely capable and cannot be counted out, he said.


Audio clips:

GOP political consultant Sig Rogich says the Nevada Legislature needs to take up collective bargaining reform:

052412Rogich11 :09 to do so.”

Rogich says the Romney campaign needs to differentiate his positions with President Obama:

052412Rogich2 :11 Obama is doing.”

Rogich says he has no problem with the influence of third party political advertising:

052412Rogich3 :11 by the rules.”




Secretary Of State Ross Miller Urges Nevadans To Take Advantage Of Early Voting

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 4:36 pm May 23rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – The June 12 primary election is nearly here, and Secretary of State Ross Miller is encouraging registered voters to take advantage of early voting.

Nevadans can vote early beginning Saturday and running through Friday, June 8.

“We anticipate about 15 percent to 20 percent of registered voters will cast a ballot in the primary election, although we are hopeful that turnout might exceed our projections,” Miller said.

Secretary of State Ross Miller.

The June 12 primary includes a number of races between two or more candidates within the same major party. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., for example, is running for the U.S. Senate against Dean Heller, R-Nev., but first must face four other Democrats vying for the seat.

Early voting information is posted in the “Election Center” on the Secretary of State’s website.

Many Nevada Lawmaker PACs Show Modest Contributions In First Report Of 2012

By Sean Whaley | 4:14 pm May 23rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – Political Action Committees formed by state lawmakers to help their candidates win seats in the Legislature are off to a slow start in fundraising, according to campaign finance reports filed this week with Secretary of State’s office.

Many of the lawmaker-created PACs reported no contributions in the first campaign contribution and expense report filed Tuesday and reflecting financial activity from Jan. 1 through May 18 of 2012.

More lawmakers are forming their own PACs in an effort to both help their party’s candidates and to wield more influence.

Graphic courtesy of KRNV.

The “A Brighter Nevada” PAC formed by state Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, received only $1,000, according to its filing. The “Battle Born Leadership Group” PAC formed by Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, reported no contributions.

But a few of the committees did report some more significant contributions.

The Assembly Republican Caucus brought in $95,000, including $10,000 from the Keystone Corp., and spent $70,000, including a $5,000 contribution to the Committee to Elect Wes Duncan. Duncan is running for the Assembly District 37 seat in Las Vegas now held by Assembly Majority Leader Marcus Conklin.

Conklin’s Nevada First PAC reported no contributions.

The Senate Majority PAC formed by Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, brought in $34,500, including $5,000 from Station Casinos. It also contributed $10,000 each to GOP Senate candidates Mari Nakashima St. Martin and Mark Hutchison. The PAC also took in $160,000 in 2011.

The Majority 2012 PAC formed by Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, reported $7,500 in contributions in 2012. It also took in $15,000 in 2011. It contributed $5,000 to each of four Senate Democrat candidates: Sheila Leslie, Joyce Woodhouse, Justin Jones and Benny Yerushalmi.

The two main Senate caucus reports showed bigger numbers in the first report of 2012, with Democrats out-raising Republicans $187,000 to $149,000.

The Nevada Democratic Party also won the fundraising race in the first 2012 report over the Republican Party. The Democratic Party took in $465,000, while the Republican Party brought in only $75,000 in contributions.

All of these numbers will change after the primary as the parties and caucuses gear up for the November general election.

Republicans Lead In Fundraising In Critical State Senate Races But Democrats Argue They Have Broader Support

By Sean Whaley | 3:27 pm May 23rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – Republican candidates have big leads in fundraising in four of five seats considered critical to control of the state Senate in the 2013 legislative session, with a slight monetary advantage in the fifth, according to campaign contribution reports filed this week.

Both Democrat and Republican caucus leaders are fighting hard to win the seats to control the 21-member house where Democrats now lead 11-10.

The first reports of 2012 show contributions through May 18 and were filed Tuesday with the state Secretary of State’s office. Several candidates also raised money in 2011 and these amounts have given the GOP candidates the funding edge early on in the 2012 election season.

Republican caucus leader Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, is optimistic that the GOP can retake control of the Senate in the November general election. Republicans need to win four of the five seats to do so.

Democratic Senate leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, is equally confident Democrats will maintain control.

Roberson said he is pleased with where the Senate candidates are right now, but added that it is a long time until November. Roberson also said he is pleased but not surprised at the level of contributions to the candidates and the caucus.

“I know the caliber of the candidates we have,” he said. “The group of candidates that agreed to run this time on the Republican side, our endorsed candidates, are some of the best candidates either party has seen in 20 years.”

But Senate Democrats point out that two of their candidates, Justin Jones and Sheila Leslie, both had larger numbers of individuals contributing to their campaigns than their GOP counterparts in the 2012 reports, suggesting they have a broader base of support. A third candidate, Joyce Woodhouse, also out-raised her opponent in the 2012 report.

The Senate Democratic Caucus also out-raised its Republican counterpart so far in 2012, $187,000 to $149,000.

“The recent finance reports show that the Senate Democratic Caucus is a very strong position to expand and protect the majority,” said Mike Luce, executive director of the Nevada Senate Democrats. “We have very strong candidates and the registration in these new districts favors Democrats.

“We have been  saying all along that the Democratic candidates are running strong campaigns and talking about bringing jobs to this state,” he said. “Our message is working, our campaigns are knocking doors and raising the necessary funds to run competitive races.”

In Senate District 5, where former Henderson city councilman Steve Kirk, a Republican, is expected to face Woodhouse, a former state senator, in the November general election, the GOP has the edge in contributions so far. But Kirk has also spent much of his war chest already.

Kirk reports $131,000 in total contributions and expenses of $67,000. Kirk has a primary battle. Kirk received a $5,000 contribution from the Retail Association of Nevada in the first reporting period this year.

Woodhouse reports raising about $96,000 and spending $18,000. She has large contributions from the Nevada State Education Association, $5,000; outgoing state Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, $5,000; and Nevada Senate Democrats, $5,000; in the first reporting period for this year.

The other Republican in the Senate 5 race, Annette Teijeiro, reports about $28,000 in contributions and $15,000 in expenses. The primary is June 12.

Author: David Ball, via Wikimedia Commons.

In Senate District 6, where GOP attorney Mark Hutchison is expected to face businessman and Democrat Benny Yerushalmi, Republicans also have a fundraising advantage.

Hutchison reports $185,000 in contributions and nearly $48,000 expenses. Contributions include $5,000 from the Keystone Corp., $5,000 from the Retail Association of Nevada and $10,000 from the Senate Republican Leadership Conference.

Yerushalmi reports $74,000 in contributions and $10,000 in expenses. He has a primary against Thomas Welsh. Yerushalmi, who ran unsuccessfully for a state Senate seat in 2010, has $4,000 contributions from both the Nevada State Education Association and the Clark County Education Association.

In Senate District 9, where Republican Mari Nakashima St. Martin is expected to face Democrat Justin Jones, the candidates are fairly evenly matched. Both face primary opponents. Brent Jones is also a GOP candidate, and Frederick Conquest has filed as a Democrat.

St. Martin reports nearly $114,000 in contributions and $60,000 in expenses. Contributions include $10,000 from the Senate Majority Political Action Committee, $10,000 from the Jobs First PAC, and $10,000 from the Senate Republican Leadership Conference.

Justin Jones reports nearly $112,000 in contributions and $23,000 in expenses. Contributions include $2,500 from U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s Searchlight Leadership Fund.

GOP candidate Brent Jones has raised nearly $33,000 in contributions.

In the Senate 15 race where incumbent Greg Brower, R-Reno, will face Leslie, who resigned her Senate 13 seat to challenge the attorney who was appointed to fill out the term of the late Sen. Bill Raggio, the Republican is leading in the fund-raising race.

Brower reports $299,000 in contributions and $76,000 in expenditures, with a $7,279 donation from the Las Vegas Sands Corp.

Leslie reports $141,000 in total contributions and $58,000 in expenses. Her contributions include $2,000 from R&R Partners, $5,000 from the Laborers’ Intl Local 169, and $8,700 from the Barbara Buckley Campaign. Buckley is a former Assembly speaker.

In Senate District 18, where Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, is likely to face Democrat Kelli Ross in November, Hammond reports $127,000 in contributions and $70,000 in expenses. Contributions include $2,500 from Station Casinos and $5,000 from MGM Resorts International.

Hammond raised $59,000 in the first 2012 reporting period from Jan. 1 through May 18. He also raised $68,000 in 2011.

Hammond, who is endorsed by the GOP Senate Caucus, and who faces a primary challenge from Assemblyman Richard McArthur, R-Las Vegas, is well ahead in contributions. McArthur reports about $16,000 in total donations. Republican Conrad Vergara, has also filed.

Ross, who has a primary against Democrat Donna Schlemmer, reports $47,000 in contributions and $5,500 in expenses. She received $10,000 from the Committee to Elect Steve Ross and $5,000 from the Committee to Elect Tom Collins.

Schlemmer has raised about $7,000.

Democrats have a voter registration edge in three Clark County races: Senate 5 by 40.6 percent to 37.5 percent for Republicans; in Senate 6 by 41.4 percent to 38.2 percent; and in Senate 9 by 39.6 percent to 35.3 percent, based on registration numbers through April.

Republicans lead in Senate 15 in Washoe County, 40 percent to 38 percent, and in Senate District 18 in Clark County, 40.7 percent to 37.6 percent.


Audio clips:

Sen. Michael Roberson says he is pleased with where the Senate candidates are but that it is a long time yet to November:

052312Roberson1 :14 sure we’re successful.”

Roberson says the GOP Senate candidates are some of the best in the past 20 years:

052312Roberson2 :20 in 20 years.”


Survey Of State Lawmakers, Candidates Shows Support For Continued Government Transparency Efforts

By Sean Whaley | 2:00 am May 23rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – Sixty state lawmakers and legislative candidates who responded to a survey on government transparency largely favor new laws requiring the Legislature to follow the Open Meeting Law and mandating expanded reporting of spending on legislators by lobbyists.

The survey, sponsored by the Nevada Policy Research Institute and the Nevada Press Association, also saw broad support for imposing a 72-hour time frame so the public can read bills before they go to a floor vote, subjecting local government negotiations with public employee unions to the state Open Meeting Law and assessing penalties for government officials who violate Nevada’s public records laws.

Illustration by David Vignoni, Ysangkok via Wikimedia Commons.

The survey was sent to 153 candidates and eight state Senators who are not up for re-election this year. Forty-one Republicans, 14 Democrats and five minor party candidates responded.

This survey is intended to give the voters a chance to find out where candidates stand on transparency issues including public records, open meetings and campaign finance reforms.

“I think it ought to be a very important issue for voters,” said Barry Smith, executive director of the press association. “That’s why we do this; so that they know who has it on their priority list.”

Advocates of increased transparency in government say the responses suggest that further progress can be made on the issues in the 2013 session of the Nevada Legislature.

“We’ve been able to move forward with Open Meeting Law, Open Records Law; the campaign finance does show some improvement,” Smith said. “That’s another thing these surveys showed – there is quite a bit of work to do and there is quite a bit of work the Legislature can do.”

Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director at NPRI, said at least 50 of the 60 responses were either in favor of or leaning in favor of the proposals, suggesting there is a good chance for further progress for increased government transparency in the upcoming session.

The new requirements for campaign contribution and expense reports adopted in the 2011 session were part of the 2010 survey, suggesting the effort is having some influence, he said.

“A lot of these other ideas were embodied into bills; they just never passed the Legislature,” Lawrence said. “So hopefully that will happen this time.”

The survey comes just as Republican Assembly caucus leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, announced several transparency reforms he will seek in the 2013 session. Hickey responded to the survey, indicating support for the various proposals with a “lean yes” on applying the Open Meeting Law to the Legislature. He indicated some flexibility may be required for the proposal, given the 120-day time limit the Legislature has to finish its business.

While most survey responses were supportive without qualification, there were also a few “maybes” and some opposition to the proposals.

Former state Senator Sheila Leslie, a Democrat who resigned her seat in mid-term to run for the Senate 15 seat now held by Republican Greg Brower, did not favor subjecting collective bargaining negotiations to public scrutiny.

“I don’t think inviting TV cameras into negotiations with public employee unions is in the best interest of government,” she said. “There needs to be more transparency and communication but making everything subject to the Open Meeting Law is not necessarily good government. This is one of those instances.”

Leslie was not alone in expressing concerns about the proposal.

Reno Republican Assembly 31 candidate David Espinosa said: “Negotiations, by their nature, are sensitive matters that an open meeting inclusion would transform into an entrenchment of sides, and an opportunity for grandstanding and demagoguery. I would instead support all efforts to openly disclose the starting positions of both sides of the negotiation, and the final position of each of the representatives of the local government.”

Lawrence said the issue is more problematic for some candidates and elected officials because of the support they get from public sector labor unions, which generally oppose such proposals.

Others are more bipartisan in nature, such as the proposal to require reporting of spending by lobbyists on lawmakers all year round and not just during each legislative session.

Leslie sponsored the bill in 2011 that would have required lobbyists to report all spending on lawmakers, not just spending during a legislative session. Senate Bill 206 passed the Senate unanimously but died in an Assembly committee without a vote.

Smith said the goal is to keep moving forward with incremental successes.

“To me it should be obvious that open government is a bipartisan kind of thing that people can agree on that that’s what we want,” he said. “There’s not always agreement on exactly how you get there. But as long as people think it’s important and are willing to work on it, then we will move forward with some of these things.”


Audio clips:

Barry Smith of the Nevada Press Association says the survey results should be very important to voters:

052312Smith1 :12 their priority list.”

Smith says the surveys show a lot more work needs to be done in the areas of government transparency:

052312Smith2 :26 Legislature can do.”

Smith says open government is a bipartisan issue:

052312Smith3 :21 of these things.”

Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director at the NPRI, says the survey has some influence with lawmakers:

052312Lawrence1 :24 happen this time.”

Lawrence says opening public employee labor negotiations to public scrutiny is one of the more problematic transparency issues:

052312Lawrence2 :29 that position, probably.”