Archive for June, 2012

Nevada Online Voter Registration Expands To Lyon And Elko Counties

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 2:07 pm June 21st, 2012

CARSON CITY – Lyon and Elko County residents can now register to vote and make changes to their current voter registration profile through www.registertovotenv.gov and nvsos.gov/votersearch, the online system on Secretary of State Ross Miller’s website.

The Secretary of State Elections Division and the Lyon and Elko County Clerks collaborated on the project that allows all voters to have electronic access to their information. To use the online system, citizens need to be at least 18 years old and have a Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) driver’s license or DMV-issued identification card. The application process pulls the signature on file with the DMV and applies it to the voter’s registration record, which will then be used for identification for all future elections.

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

Registered voters can access their voting information at nvsos.gov/votersearch by entering their first and last names, date of birth, and driver’s license number or social security number. From there, they can update their address or change their party affiliation without completing a paper application and submitting it to the Lyon or Elko County Clerks.

Online voter registration is currently only available to residents with DMV-issued identification in Clark, Churchill, Lyon and Elko counties. The Elections Division is collaborating with all Nevada counties to launch online voter registration prior to the general election.

Eligible voters who are presently registered in another Nevada county but living in Lyon or Elko County may now register with the online voter system, which is federally funded by the Help America Vote Act.

Residents have until Sunday, Oct. 7 to register online to vote in the November 6 general election.

Lawmakers Criticize State Agencies For Seeking To Move Funds From Positions To Equipment

By Sean Whaley | 1:02 pm June 21st, 2012

CARSON CITY – Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford said today he is disappointed that a number of state agencies are seeking to divert funds intended to fill vacant jobs to other purposes, including the purchase of vehicles, computers and furniture.

He accused them of “gaming the system” by seeking to shift their budget priorities one year after the Legislature adjourned and as the 2012 fiscal year comes to a close June 30.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

“Now, a year later from us adjourning, we have agencies here requesting to move money from the personnel category, because you have been unable to fill the vacancies, for whatever reason, and now you want to spend it on furniture, on computers, on vehicles that you did not request or that you did not justify during the budget process,” Horsford said. “And I have to say, I take offense to that.”

Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said he would be voting against all of the requests. He made the statement as the meeting of the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee began. The committee meets in-between legislative sessions to approve changes in state agency budgets.

Horsford was joined in his concerns by Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, a lawmaker who has typically been on the other side of issues with the Democrat during their years together in the state Senate. Horsford is running for the 4th Congressional seat that Cegavske had also sought as a Republican. She lost in the June 12 primary to Danny Tarkanian.

“And I am in whole-hearted agreement with you; will be voting against anything that is reverting those funds from what was positions that were asked for and they are saying they can’t fill,” Cegavske said. “One of the areas I’m really concerned about is whether or not they really tried to fill them.”

Horsford said if agency administrators knew they could not or chose not to fill positions reviewed by the Legislature in the 2011 session, the money could have been put to other critical needs.

“Because had we known that you didn’t need some of these positions, we could have made the decision to eliminate them at that time and then use that money in other priority areas of state government,” he said. “We have teachers being laid off, we have children not being served in developmental programs like early intervention services, we have people being turned away from our mental health hospitals, and we could have used this money.”

The first agency up for a request was the Taxicab Authority, which sought nearly $319,000 to relocate its Las Vegas office and purchase new furnishings and equipment.

Lawmakers asked why, if the agency knew its lease was expiring last fall, the idea of a move was not brought to the 2011 Legislature.

The Taxicab Authority staff testifying at the meeting have only recently joined the agency and had no information on why it was not addressed in the session. Charles Harvey took over as administrator of the agency in May, 2011. The session ended in early June, 2011.

The request was deferred to the next IFC meeting.

Horsford said he hopes that the new performance-based budgeting process being used to develop the next two-year budget for consideration in the 2013 session will address these issues.

“Because you should not automatically get funding for positions that you didn’t even fill in the last biennium as agencies,” he said.

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Audio clips:

Sen. Steven Horsford says he is offended at the attempt by agencies to move funds from personnel to equipment purchases:

062112Horsford11 :30 offense to that.”

Horsford says if the positions were not needed the money could have been put to critical state needs:

062112Horsford2 :26 used this money.”

Sen. Barbara Cegavske says she questions if agencies even tried to fill the positions:

062112Cegavske :17 to fill them.”

 

 

Legislative Panel Votes To Seek Bill To Mandate Veterans’ Court In Clark County

By Sean Whaley | 5:29 pm June 20th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A legislative panel today voted to request that a bill be drafted and introduced in the 2013 session requiring the Clark County District Court to create a Veterans’ specialty court.

The Legislative Committee on Senior Citizens, Veterans and Adults with Special Needs voted unanimously in a work session to seek the legislation. But the interim committee also voted to write a letter to the Clark County District Court asking it to establish a Veterans’ Court on its own so legislative action would not be necessary.

The Legislature authorized the creation of Veterans’ Courts through a bill sponsored by former Speaker Barbara Buckley in 2009. But the measure authorized rather than mandated courts to establish such specialty courts program for veterans and members of the military.

Currently, the Washoe County District Court has established a Veterans’ Court, but it is the only district court that has established such a program.

Assemblyman Elliot Anderson. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

The purpose of such courts is to handle the special cases of veterans struggling to adjust to civilian life after ending their military service.

Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, D-Las Vegas, a veteran and member of the committee, said testimony indicated the Washoe Veterans’ Court has been successful in reducing recidivism among veterans, ultimately reducing money spent on incarceration. The testimony also indicated the court has assisted veterans in obtaining a variety of services and benefits, he said.

The 2009 legislation was enabling only because of budget concerns at the time and the potential fiscal impacts to the court system. But the Washoe program has showed substantial savings because of fewer jail and prison inmates and a reduced need for prosecution staff time and resources, Anderson said.

A court spokeswoman said today: “The (Clark County) District Court supports a Veterans’ Court model. Within our adult drug court, district court currently has a weekly veterans’ calendar that is attended by a Criminal Justice Liaison from the Veterans Administration (VA). Veterans in the program are linked to services for which they qualify. If veterans are identified in other specialty courts they are put in contact with the Criminal Justice Liaison and provided an opportunity to access services through the VA. The (Clark County) District Court is open to expanding this program as funding allows.”

Anderson said lawmakers would prefer the court to move forward on its own.

“And I did promise the committee, and I will follow through, that I will be reaching out to the court throughout the months leading up to the session to try to make this happen without legislative intervention,” he said. “We don’t like to mandate anything without reason.

“It is time for Clark County District Court to get a Veterans’ Court up and running,” Anderson said. “During testimony we did not hear of any extra costs associated with the court, nor did we hear any good reason for the Veterans’ Court to not be established at the Clark County District Court level.”

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Audio clips:

Assemblyman Elliot Anderson says the committee would rather see the Clark County court system create the specialty court on its own:

062012Anderson1 :24 get it done.”

Anderson says testimony indicated that the Veterans’ Court in Washoe County has saved money:

062012Anderson2 :33 is already overwhelmed.”

 

 

State Workforce Consolidation Plan Gains Support From Northern Nevada Elected Officials

By Sean Whaley | 3:35 pm June 20th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Local elected officials representing the Northern Nevada workforce development agency have endorsed a plan to restructure the delivery of job training funds to Nevadans, including eliminating the two local boards now involved in the process.

The 13 local elected officials who oversee the northern agency, called Nevadaworks, have unanimously endorsed the consolidation plan put forward by Frank R. Woodbeck, director of the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR). If approved, the changes are expected to free up $5 million for job training that is now consumed by administrative costs incurred by the two local boards.

“On behalf of the local elected officials of the 13 Northern Nevada counties represented by Nevadaworks, please accept this letter in support of your agency’s plan,” said Norman Frey, chairman of the Nevadaworks board and a Churchill County commissioner, in a letter sent to Woodbeck on June 11.

The statewide Governor’s Workforce Investment Board has also unanimously supported the consolidation plan, which will require a waiver from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Elected officials representing the Southern Nevada workforce agency, called Workforce Connections, are opposing the consolidation effort, however, citing concerns over local control and the potential loss of job training funds in the south.

Gov. Brian Sandoval is strongly in support of the consolidation effort

In an Op-ed column published earlier this month in the Nevada Appeal, he said the plan will not change the structure of the workforce investment areas (one north and one south); and will not change the allocation of funding to the areas, which is set by the Department of Labor.

“This new plan calls for greater collaboration between workforce development and the newly restructured Governor’s Office Economic Development, which earlier this year released its plan under the ‘Moving Nevada Forward’ label as well,” he said. “A key area of focus for my administration is building the type of trained workforce that will support economic diversification.”

Woodbeck said he is pursing the consolidation, outlined in a plan called “Moving Nevada Forward – A Plan for Excellence in Workforce Development” in part because of excessive administrative costs identified in audits of Workforce Connections.

The most recent audit, performed by the state Division of Internal Audits, found that Workforce Connections spent nearly twice as much on administration and monitoring of its programs than its northern counterpart.

But it is also about efficiency and linking job training with the state’s new plan for economic diversification and job growth, he said.

Ardell Galbreth, interim executive director of Workforce Connections since April, has testified that he has made numerous spending reductions at the agency as a result of the audit, including eliminating staff and reducing several six-figure salaries.

Woodbeck said the consolidation plan calls for significant change

Woodbeck said in a telephone interview today that he would like to have the support of both local boards in seeking the waiver from the Department of Labor, but that he will move forward regardless. The wavier will be filed July 1 along with the state’s plan, with a decision expected by the fall.

“Efficiency and effectiveness is really what we’re trying to achieve here,” Woodbeck said. “And it is a change in the system. And when you change anything, people get a little nervous about that.”

The two local boards have been in existence since the Workforce Investment Act was signed into law in 1998.

The consolidation, if approved, will still keep local elected officials involved in the process, including representation on the governor’s board and on the seven Industry Sector Councils created as part of Sandoval’s overall economic diversification and development strategy, he said.

“So it’s really a transferring of the expertise, essentially,” Woodbeck said. “To either the governor’s board or to the Industry Sector Councils. And in fact the governor has agreed to expand the number of local elected officials on the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board. So they will really be the oversight folks and they will have four local elected officials on there from various regions.”

Currently, funding is provided from the federal Department of Labor to the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board and funneled to two local boards, one in Southern Nevada and the other in Northern Nevada. These boards in turn contract with public and private organizations to offer workforce training programs to youth and adult and dislocated workers.

Funding would continue to flow to these public and private organizations under the new consolidation plan.

The U.S. Department of Labor provided about $29.5 million in fiscal year 2011 to Nevada for the programs that are intended to help improve the employability of participants, including both youth and adults.

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Audio clips:

DETR Director Frank Woodbeck says change is not always easy:

062012Woodbeck1 :10 nervous about that.”

Woodbeck says Gov. Brian Sandoval has agreed to expand local elected representation on the state investment board:

062012Woodbeck2 :26 from various regions.”

House Passes Rep. Amodei’s Yerington Land Transfer Bill, Measure Now Heads To Senate

By Sean Whaley | 6:01 pm June 19th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The House of Representatives today passed H.R. 4039, the Yerington Land Conveyance and Sustainable Development Act, the first piece of legislation introduced by Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., since taking office after a special election in September 2011.

The measure, as title IX of the Conservation and Economic Growth Act, a larger jobs and public lands package, passed with some limited Democratic support in a 232 to 188 vote. The bill, which now goes to the Senate, would mandate the fair market sale of approximately 10,400 acres of public lands to the City of Yerington and Lyon County for economic, recreational and cultural development.

Sixteen Democrats supported the bill in the House vote.

Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., a co-sponsor of the Yerington bill, supported the omnibus bill. But Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., another co-sponsor of the land transfer proposal, voted against the act, which rolled 14 different bills into one.

Berkley said in a statement that she is a strong supporter of the land transfer measure and that it was unfortunate it could not be voted on as a single bill.

“It is extremely unfortunate the House did not have the opportunity to vote on this important job-creating measure except as part of a larger legislative package that has no chance of passing in the Senate and faces strong opposition in Nevada,” she said. “I am eager to continue working closely with Congressman Amodei and other members of the Nevada delegation to pass this crucial legislation in the near future.”

Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., who sponsored companion legislation for Amodei’s bill, criticized Berkley’s no vote. Heller and Berkley are locked in a tough race for the Senate in the 2012 general election.

“Shelley Berkley needs to explain why she sided with environmental groups over northern Nevada,” Heller said. “Instead of supporting legislation that would have created jobs in Yerington, she chose to side with the League of Conservation Voters. This is typical Shelley Berkley, saying one thing and then doing another. Today she cast another vote in a long string of votes where she stubbornly refused to acknowledge that people in Nevada are actually hurting.”

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.

In remarks on the floor, Amodei said the land transfer is expected to assist in the creation of 800 high-paying mining jobs in Lyon County, which leads Nevada in unemployment at 16.3 percent. Nevada leads the nation among states in unemployment.

“Eight hundred jobs, no cost to the federal government,” he said. “This is a state where there are loan guarantees for renewable energy to the tune of $1.5 billion and we’ve got 136 jobs to show for it. Eight hundred jobs, no cost to the government.”

Amodei responded to criticisms by House members who opposed the bill on various grounds, including a requirement that the transfer of the land by the U.S. Bureau of Land Management to Yerington be accomplished within 90 days of the bill’s enactment.

“So you want to change the bill to ‘if you feel like doing it go ahead, and by the way, take as much time as you want’,” he said. “No thank you. No thank you to ‘if you feel like it and take as much time as you want’.”

Heller also issued a statement welcoming the favorable House vote.

“This legislation is an example of how Congress can act to encourage job growth, and I am pleased the House passed this measure,” he said. “Mining is the backbone of Nevada’s rural economy and we are fortunate to have resources in our own backyard for economic development. Nevada has led the country in unemployment for the past 32 months, and Congress should focus on every opportunity available to create jobs.”

The City of Yerington and Lyon County are seeking the transfer to leverage the substantial infrastructure investments being made by Nevada Copper at its nearby Pumpkin Hollow project.

Nevada Copper, which broke ground on the Pumpkin Hollow project in February, invested nearly $50 million in exploration to justify the $1 billion investment necessary to fully develop the mine. The mine will produce 250 to 300 million pounds of copper per year.

The initial shaft sinking is already producing economic benefits with the creation of 30 to 40 jobs. An additional 250 to 500 construction jobs could start in 2013 if the land transfer is successful. At full operation in 2015-2016, Pumpkin Hollow is projected to employ 750 to 800 people directly.

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Audio clips:

Rep. Mark Amodei says a 90-day transfer requirement is reasonable:

061912Amodei1 :11 as you want.”

Amodei says the measure will create 800 highly-paid mining jobs at no cost to the federal government:

061912Amodei2 :15 to the government.”

 

 

 

 

Nevada’s Public Employee Pension Plan Gets Low Marks In Latest Pew Study

By Sean Whaley | 3:05 pm June 19th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The financial health of Nevada’s public employee pension plan is cause for serious concern because it is only 70 percent funded as of fiscal year 2010 with a $10 billion gap, a national organization reported this week.

The Pew Center on the States said the funding ratio in Nevada is below the 80 percent benchmark that fiscal experts recommend for a sustainable program.

In 2010, Nevada paid 92 percent of the recommended contribution to its pension plans and just 21 percent of what the state should have paid to fund retiree health benefits, the study found.

Nevada’s “serious concerns” grade for its pension plan is the lowest of three in the new Pew report released Monday, which examines the solvency of public pension plans across the nation. The state received a better “needs improvement” grade on the retiree health care issue. The top ranking is “solid performer.”

Nevada state pension official questions the Pew analysis

Dana Bilyeu, executive officer of Nevada’s Public Employees’ Retirement System, said that while she respects the Pew center’s efforts to calculate the national pension liability, the heavy reliance on the funding ratio for the state scores presents an incomplete picture.

“Nevada has always made its payments,” she said. “Both the employers and the public employees themselves. And to me that is the single best measure for determining if a pension plan is in trouble.”

Nevada’s contribution rates are based on an analysis by an independent actuary, and are fully paid each year despite the Pew report findings, Bilyeu said. Some other states take “pension holidays” where they defer contributions to their pensions, yet they have better grades in the study because of higher funding ratios, she said.

“I just disagree that the single driver of the score is the funding ratio,” Bilyeu said. “I have made this comment to Pew in the past but it has not made it into their methodology.”

The new report notes that the Nevada Legislature in 2009 made some reforms to the plan, which covers nearly all state and local government public sector workers, including raising the retirement age for newly hired workers to 62.

Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval has advocated for a change to the pension plan for future workers from a defined benefit to a 401(k)-style defined contribution plan. Defined contribution plans eliminate any unfunded fiscal liability for states. The 2011 Legislature took no action on the issue but it is expected to resurface in 2013.

Pew study shows pension finances worsening nationally

Nationally public pension plans lost more ground in the new study, called “The Widening Gap Update.”

“States continue to lose ground in their efforts to cover the long-term costs of their employees’ pensions and retiree health care due to continued investment losses from the financial crisis of 2008 and states’ inability to set aside enough each year to adequately fund their retirement promises,” the report said.

“States have responded with an unprecedented number of reforms that, with strong investment gains, may improve the funding situation they face going forward, but continued fiscal discipline and additional reforms will be needed to put states back on a firm footing,” the report said.

In fiscal year 2010, the gap between states’ assets and their obligations for public sector retirement benefits was $1.38 trillion, up nearly 9 percent from fiscal year 2009. Of that figure, $757 billion was for pension promises, and $627 billion was for retiree health care.

The Pew report said that more than half the states’ pension plans were fully funded in 2000. By 2010 only Wisconsin was fully funded, and 34 were below the 80 percent threshold – up from 31 in 2009 and just 22 in 2008.

Other organizations question if Pew is understating the financial implicatioins

Another group is questioning, however, whether the Pew study is actually understating the financial risk facing taxpayers because of the underfunded public pension plans.

Bob Williams, president of State Budget Solutions (SBS), a nonprofit organization advocating for fundamental reform of state budgets, said the Pew Center report understates the real funding gap for public pension plans.

The actual number for unfunded state and municipal pensions is greater than $4 trillion, he said in a statement issued today.

“The most dangerous deception in the Pew report is the failure to not recognize that public pension funds are putting more taxpayer and worker money into riskier investments,” Williams said. “Ignoring this will set taxpayers up for a bigger catastrophe in the future.”

“State Budget Solutions urges elected officials to understand the full scope of our nation’s pension crisis,” he said. “It is vital that pension reform be based on actual numbers instead of Pew’s optimistic outlook.”

Other analyses of the country’s public pension plans, including those by the American Enterprise Institute, put the unfunded liability at much higher levels than the Pew report.

Williams said in a telephone interview that the last time Nevada’s pension liability was calculated by the organization, it was closer to $33.5 billion, not the $10 billion reported by Pew.

The public pension crisis will be worse than Enron, he said.

“Most of the reforms in the states have addressed new hires,” he said. “They should end the defined benefit program for everyone and switch to defined contribution. It’s the only way out of the system. When you’re in a hole you have to stop digging, and most states aren’t willing to do that.”

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Audio clips:

Bob Williams, president of State Budget Solutions, says Nevada’s pension liability is much bigger than the Pew report suggests:

061912Williams1 :27 worse than Enron.”

Williams says states should switch to defined contribution retirement plans for all public employees:

061912Williams2 :14 to do that.”

 

 

 

Nevada Taxpayer’s Association Cites Concerns With Teachers’ Margin Tax Petition

By Sean Whaley | 3:31 pm June 18th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The Nevada Taxpayer’s Association has identified several concerns with an initiative petition to impose a margin tax on Nevada businesses filed by the state teachers union, including the title.

The “Education Initiative” outlining how the 2 percent tax on companies making more than $1 million in gross revenues should more properly be called the “Margin Tax Initiative”, the association said in an email today. The $800 million a year in revenue estimated to be raised from the proposed tax is not directed specifically to public education, the NTA said.

The money would go to the state general fund instead.

But that is just the beginning of the litany of concerns identified by the NTA.

Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons.

“Proponents claim the $1 million exemption protects small businesses,” the NTA said in its assessment of the proposal. “Not true. The calculation of total revenue pursuant to the provisions of the initiative will put the income of many small businesses over $1 million. Those small businesses will include many franchise operators with a single location, most independently owned gas stations, many medical clinics, ranches and farms and a host of other businesses. In reality it is only the tiny business that will not be captured.”

The concerns are coming forward just as a poll is showing support for the proposal by a nearly 2-to-1 margin among those voters queried. The results of the poll, conducted at the end of May, were reported today by Las Vegas Sun columnist Jon Ralston.

Carole Vilardo, president of the NTA, said the association will be reporting even more concerns as businesses begin to analyze the consequences of the tax should it become law. Its first briefing on the proposed tax was issued earlier this month.

The proposal sounds good to voters because it is a tax on business and not on their own pocketbooks, she said.

Tax proponents only want more revenue and they, “don’t care squat about how you get it,” Vilardo said. “They don’t care if it works or not.”

The taxation proposal is modeled on the Texas margin tax and relies also on Assembly Bill 582 of the 2011 session of the Nevada Legislature, which Vilardo said was never fully vetted by lawmakers.

Nevada businesses are already struggling, and face increased fees and future unemployment insurance tax hikes to repay the money borrowed from the federal government to pay unemployment benefits, she said.

The petition was filed with the Secretary of State’s office on June 6 by the Nevada State Education Association with the support of the Nevada State AFL-CIO.

If the groups can collect 72,352 signatures by Nov. 13 it will go to the 2013 Legislature for review. If the Legislature does not approve the proposal it will go to voters in 2014.

Lynn Warne, president of the NSEA, said when the petition was filed that the intent is to provide more funding for K-12 education.

“We believe that they (voters) are looking for a fair, broad-based tax but they are looking for funding for schools, for kids, to make sure Nevada moves off the bottom in per pupil expenditures,” she said.

The NTA also notes that the tax is not based on the ability to pay.

“As a result many small businesses will find their profits wiped out,” the assessment said. “For any businesses hurt by this economy and struggling to keep their doors open, this tax may prove to be the proverbial straw that broke the camel’s back.”

The Texas margin tax also created increases in the cost of compliance for businesses, the NTA said.

“Nevada businesses will face these same increases in addition to paying the tax at a much higher rate,” the NTA said. “This tax is a full employment bill for accountants and tax attorneys.”

Warne said she fully expects a legal challenge to be filed opposing the petition in an effort to derail the signature collection effort.

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Audio clips:

NTA President Carole Vilardo says the tax proposal appeals to voters because it does not affect them directly:

061812Vilardo1 :33 works or not.”

Vilardo says Nevada businesses are already facing multiple challenges:

061812Vilardo2 :31 for employment security.”

 

Nevada’s Declining Jobless Rate Triggers End Of State Extended Benefits

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 1:07 pm June 18th, 2012

CARSON CITY – About 5,500 unemployment insurance recipients who are collecting State Extended Benefits (SEB) will see an end to those benefits on July 7, the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) announced today.

Renee Olson, administrator for DETR’s Employment Security Division, said Nevada’s declining unemployment rate, which hit 11.6 percent in May, is the reason for the end of the benefits. The May rate announced Friday is the lowest in Nevada in three years and the ninth consecutive month of declines.

SEB is a federally funded extended unemployment insurance program available to high unemployment states, and has been active in Nevada since February 2009. Federal and state laws mandate that states in which SEB is paid have a three-month average unemployment rate that remains at least 10 percent higher than the corresponding months in any one of the three prior years.

Nevada’s current three-month average unemployment rate is 11.8 percent, and in order to meet this threshold for SEB, Nevada’s three-month average rate would have needed to be 12 percent or higher, Olson said.

“This exceptionally severe recession left many people unemployed for long periods of time,” she said. “The SEB program assisted them while they continued to search for their next job, and we understand that this is unfortunate news for those who depend on these benefits. We are committed to continuing to help them in their job search through Nevada JobConnect.”

SEB has provided up to a maximum of 20 additional weeks of extended unemployment benefits. Those individuals currently exhausting the fourth tier of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) may be eligible for SEB through the week ending July 7.

The SEB program is not part of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program. The EUC program will remain available for those exhausting regular state unemployment insurance benefits. The federally funded EUC program will remain in effect until the end of 2012.

DETR is notifying all individuals currently receiving SEB by mail that the program is ending, Olson said. Notices include information on how to access other government resources, including services provided by the Nevada JobConnect locations and public assistance offices. Telephone claims representatives will not have any further information to provide.

“The declining unemployment rate suggests that Nevada’s labor market is on the mend, however, we recognize that it is still a challenge for many to find work,” said DETR Director Frank R. Woodbeck. “With continuous support from the governor’s office, DETR is committed to doing everything possible to rebuild Nevada’s economy, which means attracting more businesses to the state and cultivating our training and placement services offered through Nevada JobConnect. We want to assure our citizens we are behind them every step of the way through this difficult time.”

 

Nevada Unemployment Falls To 11.6 Percent In May, Lowest In Three Years

By Sean Whaley | 10:13 am June 15th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s unemployment rate fell to 11.6 percent in May, the lowest it has been in three years, the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) reported today.

The drop of one-tenth of a percentage point in the seasonally adjusted rate from April is the ninth consecutive month that the rate has shown improvement, said DETR Chief Economist Bill Anderson.

Construction workers. / Paul Keheler via Wikimedia Commons.

While an improvement, Anderson again noted in the May report that part of the drop is due to people giving up looking for work.

“Nevada is experiencing some welcomed improvement in the jobless outlook, but it’s important to note that the decline is partly due to the diminishing labor force,” he said. “Fewer people are looking for work as they continue to find it difficult to obtain employment in the current market. Nevertheless, trends do indicate that Nevada’s labor market is slowly rebounding.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval acknowledged that Nevada’s unemployment rate remains significantly high, with 158,300 Nevadans who are currently unemployed, but said he is optimistic about improvement in the job market.

“I am encouraged by this month’s jobs report,” Sandoval said. “With another month of positive news, we are beginning to see several sectors of our economy grow. While these are strong signs, we must continue to help our economy strengthen by cultivating new businesses and expanding those already here.”

While not directly comparable to the state’s seasonally adjusted figure, the unemployment rate in each of the state’s three metropolitan areas held relatively steady, in May, Anderson said. Las Vegas has the highest jobless rate amongst the state’s three population centers, at 11.8 percent, with Carson City’s rate slightly lower at 11.7 and Reno at 11.5 percent.

Seven counties, all of them rural, have single-digit unemployment rates on a year-to-date basis, with the lowest rates in Lander, Eureka, and Esmeralda. Lyon (16.3 percent so far this year) and Nye (14.9 percent) have the highest jobless rates.

Statewide April job estimates have been revised upward by 700, and a seasonally adjusted 5,900 jobs were added to payrolls in May, the second-strongest month-to-month gain this year. At a seasonally adjusted 1.14 million, job readings stand at their second-highest level in nearly three years and are up 12,700 from a year ago, Anderson said.

Nearly all industries in Nevada reported positive results in May, but year-to-date results helps to shed light on underlying trends, Anderson said. Through the first five months of 2012, nonfarm job levels in Nevada stand 9,000 higher than a year ago.

As for some of the state’s major industries, leisure/hospitality has added 10,000 payroll jobs so far this year. Recent trends in the trade/transportation/utilities industries have been fairly strong, leaving job levels in the first five months of the year up by 2,300 compared to 2011.

Professional/business services establishments have added 1,800 jobs over the same period.  Mining-related jobs have averaged 15,500 so far this year, up by 2,300 (or 17.4 percent) from 2011. Strong underlying fundamentals in this industry have certainly contributed to the relatively low unemployment rates in several of the state’s rural counties.

DETR Director Frank R. Woodbeck said that with the unemployment rate improving, the agency will continue to support Sandoval’s efforts to attract new businesses and build a workforce to support the state’s improving economy.

“We are working diligently to further develop Nevada’s workforce system through strengthened partnerships with the business community and greater alignment with higher education, Woodbeck said. “We are exploring every opportunity to continue preparing individuals for careers that will be in higher demand as employers gain confidence to add more jobs and see the benefits of locating operations in Nevada.”

The slowing improving jobs market in Nevada comes as the state is preparing to pay more than $22 million at the end of the month to the federal government as an interest payment on money borrowed to pay unemployment claims. The state has borrowed nearly $700 million from the federal government to date to pay benefits.

Another interest payment of $40 million, which is coming out of the state’s general fund, will be due next fiscal year. The borrowing was made necessary because the unemployment tax rate charged to Nevada’s employers has been inadequate to cover unemployment benefits.

The loan is not expected to be paid off until 2018.

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Audio clips:

DETR Chief Economist Bill Anderson says the May report is fairly encouraging:

061512Anderson1 :20 ninth straight month.”

Anderson says the rate of improvement in the labor markets will continue to be modest, however:

061512Anderson2 :26 be relatively modest.”

 

State Workforce Board Approves Consolidation Plan Opposed By Southern Nevada Officials

By Sean Whaley | 3:32 pm June 14th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The Governor’s Workforce Investment Board today unanimously approved a plan to consolidate two local boards in an effort to free up $5 million in federal funds to train the unemployed.

The move, which requires approval from the U.S. Department of Labor, is opposed by Workforce Connections, the Southern Nevada workforce investment board.

The vote came after Ardell Galbreth, interim executive director of the local board, restated his opposition to the proposal, which was developed after an audit identified excessive spending by the local board on administrative costs. Other Southern Nevada officials also oppose the move, and they expressed their opposition at a public hearing on Monday.

Frank Woodbeck, director of the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR), said the proposal to consolidate the two local boards with the state board will be submitted to the Department of Labor by the end of the month. A decision is expected by the end of the year, he said.

DETR Director Frank Woodbeck.

Woodbeck said it wasn’t just the most recent audit, but earlier reports that also identified concerns, which led to the decision to move forward with consolidation.

“So it was after long deliberation, and after a history of facts, that we reached this particular conclusion,” he said.

“This new plan will result in a significant amount of funds being spent directly for much-needed services, as we are essentially removing an administrative layer of expense,” Woodbeck said when the consolidation plan was announced last month.

Galbreth, who has been interim director of Workforce Connections only since April, has taken a number of actions to reduce administrative costs, including reducing the staff from 72 to 34.

Galbreth read a letter at the meeting of the state board, saying the state plan prepared by DETR has many good elements.

“However, with considerable thought and all due respect to the governor and the state officials, the Southern Nevada Workforce Investment Area Chief Local Elected Official Consortium strongly opposes the state plan to establish a single, consolidated workforce investment board to oversee the delivery of statewide workforce development services,” he said.

Concerns are whether Southern Nevada will continue to receive a full share of funding under the new configuration, and the view that local control of the funds is superior to having the money distributed by a statewide board, Galbreth said.

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, a member of the state board, questioned why local officials would oppose the plan.

“The dollars need to get out to the community,” she said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval is moving forward with the proposal despite the opposition, saying the consolidation will put more money into efforts to train the unemployed to find jobs.

The audit found that Workforce Connections spent nearly twice as much on administration and monitoring of its programs than its northern counterpart. Following the release of the audit, DETR announced its plan to consolidate the two local boards with the state board.

Currently, funding is provided from the federal Department of Labor to the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board and funneled to two local boards, one in Southern Nevada and the other in Northern Nevada. These boards in turn contract with public and private organizations to offer workforce training programs to youth and adult and dislocated workers.

The U.S. Department of Labor provided about $29.5 million in fiscal year 2011 to Nevada for the programs that supported over 26,000 participants. The programs are intended to help improve the employability of participants.

In announcing the plan to change the operation of the boards, Sandoval said: “This new plan calls for greater collaboration between workforce development and the newly restructured Governor’s Office Economic Development, which earlier this year released its plan under the ‘Moving Nevada Forward’ label as well. A key area of focus for my administration is building the type of trained workforce that will support economic diversification.”

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Audio clips:

Ardell Galbreth, interim executive director of Workforce Connections, says Southern Nevada officials oppose the consolidation plan:

061412Galbreth :22 workforce development services.”

Frank Woodbeck, director of the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR), says it was not just the recent audit but previous findings that led to the proposal:

061412Woodbeck :07 this particular conclusion.”

Gov. Sandoval Pushing Forward With Workforce Board Consolidation Despite Opposition

By Sean Whaley | 1:10 pm June 13th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval said today he plans to move forward with the consolidation of two local workforce investment boards even though several Southern Nevada officials testified in opposition to the plan at a public hearing on Monday.

Sandoval said an audit by the state Internal Audit Division showed that not enough of the U.S. Department of Labor money was going to train the unemployed in Southern Nevada so they can find jobs. He said Southern Nevada officials will be well represented on the state board, which would assume control of the funding if the Labor Department gives its OK to the plan.

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

“That wasn’t surprising,” he said of the testimony in opposition from Southern Nevada officials, including Ardell Galbreth, interim executive director of the Southern Nevada board called Workforce Connections. “I think everybody recognizes that that audit was conducted, and a lot of money was not getting to the people who need it the most.

“This effort is not to punish anybody,” Sandoval said. “It is to ensure that the monies that are collected, as much of that money can get to the beneficiaries, the people of the community. The folks in Southern Nevada will be very well represented on the statewide workforce investment board. And I think as they come to learn more (about) what I’m trying to accomplish, they will see that it is in the best interests of all of those people that they serve.”

The goal is to get as many dollars as possible to those who need training so they can find employment, he said.

The audit found that Workforce Connections spent nearly twice as much on administration and monitoring of its programs than its northern counterpart. Following the release of the audit, the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation announced its plan to consolidate the two local boards with the state board.

Currently, funding is provided from the federal Department of Labor to the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board and funneled to two local boards, one in Southern Nevada and the other in Northern Nevada. These boards in turn contract with public and private organizations to offer workforce training programs to youth and adult and dislocated workers.

The U.S. Department of Labor provided about $29.5 million in fiscal year 2011 to Nevada for the programs that supported over 26,000 participants. The programs are intended to help improve the employability of participants.

Galbreth said when the audit was released that the agency’s 2012 budget was revised to ensure that no more than 20 percent of the funding would go to program and administrative costs. The staff of 72 at the board is also being reduced to 34 by the end of the year if not before, he said. The six-figure salaries provided to five of eight staff have been cut, said Galbreth, who took over as interim director in April.

In announcing the plan to change the operation of the boards, Sandoval said: “This new plan calls for greater collaboration between workforce development and the newly restructured Governor’s Office Economic Development, which earlier this year released its plan under the ‘Moving Nevada Forward’ label as well. A key area of focus for my administration is building the type of trained workforce that will support economic diversification.”

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Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says he was not surprised at the opposition to the consolidation plan:

061312Sandoval1 :12 it the most.”

Sandoval says the proposal is not meant as punishment but to get the money to where it is needed most:

061312Sandoval2 :29 that they serve.”

 

Tarkanian Wins 4th Congressional GOP Race, Lee Upset By Democrat Challenger In State Senate 1 In Nevada Primary

By Sean Whaley | 11:02 pm June 12th, 2012

CARSON CITYDanny Tarkanian narrowly beat out state Sen. Barbara Cegavske in the 4th Congressional District GOP primary today, surviving a tough challenge in the contest to see who will face Democrat state Sen. Steven Horsford in the November general election.

4th Congressional GOP candidate Danny Tarkanian.

The son of former UNLV basketball coach Jerry Tarkanian, Tarkanian overcame bad publicity surrounding news that he and his family face a $17 million judgment in a civil real estate case out of California.

The race was close, with Tarkanian ending up with 32 percent of the vote to 28 percent for Cegavske. Cegavske won the more populous Clark County in the district which also stretches across much of rural Nevada. Tarkanian made up the difference with strong showings in the rurals, including Esmeralda, Lyon, Mineral and White Pine counties.

But Tarkanian faces an uphill battle in the new congressional district created in Nevada as a result of the 2010 census. The district, composed of parts of Clark County and several rural counties, has a 113,000 to 90,000 Democratic voter edge as of the close of the primary.

The big surprise of the night may have been the overwhelming defeat of state Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, in the Democratic primary against newcomer Patricia Spearman. Spearman had 63 percent of the vote to 37 percent for Lee.

The contest is expected to be decided with Spearman’s primary victory because of the strong Democratic voter edge in the district.

Progressive activists targeted Lee because of his conservative stand on some social issues. Spearman’s victory, however, won’t alter the political landscape as Republicans and Democrats face off in several other Senate districts in the effort to take control of the 21-member house in 2013.

The Nevada Priorities PAC, which supported Spearman in her underdog challenge, said Lee was their initial target because of his weak voting record on issues relating to education, civil rights, the environment and women’s choice.

“Voting records have consequences,” said Priorities PAC spokesperson Annette Magnus. “When we have a so-called friend abandon us on issue after issue, we were left with little recourse but to launch an independent campaign to educate primary voters.”

Lee raised more than $208,000 for his re-election bid, while the Nevada Priorities Political Action Committee raised $86,000. Spearman raised less than $14,000.

The statewide primary featured very low turnout by registered voters statewide. Fewer than 20 percent of active voters cast ballots in the primary.

There were no surprises in the other state Senate primary battles, with the toughest challenge in the GOP Senate District 9 contest, where Mari Nakashima St. Martin fended off Brent Jones. The race featured allegations of “partying” by St. Martin, while Jones was questioned about whether he 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.

The race pitted GOP Senate Caucus favorite St. Martin against Jones, an avowed opponent of new taxes. St. Martin had 54 percent of the vote to 46 percent for Jones.

A similar GOP primary battle occurred in Senate District 18, where Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas, defeated Assemblyman Richard McArthur, R-Las Vegas, and Conrad Vergara. Hammond was the GOP Senate Caucus choice who voted to continue a package of expiring tax hikes in 2011, while McArthur ran as a no taxes candidate who opposed the package.

Hammond had 56 percent of the vote to 41 percent for McArthur.

For Democrats, Kelli Ross defeated Donna Schlemmer in state Senate 18 and will face Hammond in a district that has a Republican voter registration edge.

The Senate races are critical to both Republicans and Democrats to determine who controls the Senate in the 2013 legislative session. Democrats currently have an 11-10 edge.

The other three state Senate races in play between the parties are Senate 5, 6 and 15. The party primaries in Senate 5 and 6 had no surprises. Senate 15 in Reno had no primary. Republicans need to win four of the five races to take an 11-10 edge in 2013.

In some of the other races and issues facing voters around Nevada, the Laughlin incorporation vote went down to defeat. Residents of the community 90 miles south of Las Vegas rejected the idea of forming their own city by a margin of 55 percent to 45 percent.

There were no surprises in the other congressional races. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., both won their primaries in the Senate contest.

Former Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., had no opponent in the 1st Congressional District. She will face Republican Chris Edwards in November.

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., won his primary in the 2nd Congressional District and will face Democrat Samuel Koepnick.

Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., was easily winning his primary in the 3rd District and will face Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, in November.

In the two State Board of Education races, Allison Serafin and Ed Klapproth, were leading among five candidates in District 3 in Clark County, with 31 percent and 21 percent of the vote, respectively. Both will appear on the November ballot.

In the District 2 race in Northern Nevada among five candidates, current board member Dave Cook had 31 percent of the vote and Donna Clontz had 25 percent. Both will be on the November ballot.

Former Lt. Gov. and Regent Lonnie Hammargren had just over 50 percent of the vote in the race for the Board of Regents in District 12. Andrea Anderson was second in the four person race with 28 percent of the vote.

The only other upset in the legislative races occurred in Douglas County in a three-way Republican primary, where incumbent Kelly Kite lost to challenger Jim Wheeler. Kite was targeted for his vote in 2011 to continue a package of expiring taxes.

 

Nevada Gaming Win Rebounds In April Due To Strength In Clark County

By Sean Whaley | 11:38 am June 12th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s casinos returned to their winning ways in April, posting a statewide total win of $855.7 million for a 6.2 percent gain over April 2011, the Gaming Control Board reported today.

Clark County overall was up 8.9 percent in April to $743.7 million while the rest of the state did not fare as well. Washoe County was down 15.5 percent, South Lake Tahoe was down 4.4 percent and Elko County was down 2.3 percent.

One reason for the positive overall report was technical in nature, however. Because March ended on a Saturday, some of the slot machine revenue from that day did not get tallied until the following month, skewing the April totals.

But the win, coming after a double-digit decline in March, is the sixth positive month out of the past seven and is welcome news, said Michael Lawton, senior research analyst for the control board.

“March was kind of a bump in the road,” he said. “(We) got back on track this month. Next month might be a little bit different, we’ve got a really tough comp for May.”

For the fiscal year from July 1, 2011 to April 30, statewide gaming win is up 2.5 percent.

The win comes even as the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority today reported a slight decline in visitor volume in April, the first in more than two years. Volume fell by 0.9 percent to 3,324,459.

All major Clark County markets posted gains in April, including the Strip, up 7.5 percent; downtown Las Vegas, up a strong 25 percent; and North Las Vegas, up an impressive 42.3 percent.

North Las Vegas was affected by the additional slot revenue counted from March, while downtown Las Vegas was up due in part to the reopening of the Plaza Hotel and Casino after an extensive renovation.

Downtown Las Vegas is up 4.5 percent fiscal year to date, a positive sign for a market that has not had a positive fiscal year since 2005, Lawton said.

Downtown Las Vegas. / Photo: John Phelan via Wikimedia Commons.

The Strip win came despite a modest 2.9 percent gain on table games. Baccarat was up nearly 16 percent to $65.7 million, but twenty-one was down 5.2 percent to $58.8 million. The Strip did much better with slot machine revenues, which were up 12.1 percent to $249 million.

Again, the extra revenue reported from March was a factor in the Strip slot revenue number.

Lawton said when a monthly report has such a reporting anomaly it is better to look at the fiscal year overall. The combined Las Vegas local markets, for example, are up 5.1 percent for the calendar year to date, he said.

“So they are definitely moving in the right direction,” Lawton said.

May will be a tougher month for the industry to post a win, due in part to the big gains posted in May 2011 when both the statewide and Strip wins were up by double digits, he said.

But there were some big events in Las Vegas in May, so, “you never know,” he said.

“We’ll take the slot anomaly and we’ll deal with it next month,” Lawton said.

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Audio clips:

Michael Lawton, senior research analyst for the control board, says the state got back on track in April:

061212Lawton1 :23 month, next month.”

Lawton says numbers over the past several months are showing positive signs:

061212Lawton2 :22 the right direction.”

 

Former Assembly Speaker Maintains Big Campaign Fund Despite Not Running For Office

By Sean Whaley | 4:14 pm June 11th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Former Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley may not be a candidate for public office this year, but this apparent lack of political ambition has not stopped her from maintaining a campaign fund worth nearly half a million dollars.

Buckley, a Democrat who left office following the 2010 general election, has used the broad definition of a candidate in state law to maintain her election fund. In her annual Campaign Contributions and Expenses Report for the calendar year 2010 filed in January 2011, Buckley reported that her campaign fund totaled just under $575,000.

On the same date the fund total was reported, Jan 7, 2011, her report also shows a $200 contribution from colleague Sheila Leslie, a former member of the Assembly and current candidate for the state Senate in Washoe County.

Former Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley.

By receiving the $200 contribution, Buckley is defined in Nevada state law as being a candidate for public office, even though she did not seek office in 2010 and is not seeking office this year. She was termed out of the Assembly in 2010 after serving since 1995.

Buckley considered a run for governor in 2010 but ultimately decided against it. The finance reports identify her as a candidate, but they do not specify an office.

Buckley said today she has continued to maintain the fund in the event she does decide to run for public office in 2014 or 2016, and that she relied on advice from the Legislative Counsel Bureau and the Secretary of State’s office before doing so.

But Buckley said she has no definite political plans currently.

“I have no idea,” she said. “To be honest with you, the longer I’m out, the more I wonder if I will ever run for anything ever again. And so if I choose not to run for anything in the near future I will dispose of all of the money by giving it to either other candidates, parties, nonprofit organizations as outlined in the statute.”

Buckley said she has been fully transparent with all money received and spent from her campaign fund in her filings with the Secretary of State’s office.

Scott Gilles, deputy secretary for elections with the Secretary of State’s office, said via an email response that Nevada law allows a candidate to use donations in the candidate’s next election, which does not have to be in the next election cycle.

Nevada state law also defines a candidate as an individual who has received a contribution in excess of $100, “regardless of whether the person has filed a declaration of candidacy” and regardless of whether the person’s name appears on a ballot.

News of Buckley’s active and financially healthy campaign fund comes as members of the Assembly Republican Caucus have called for more transparency and reforms to the state’s campaign finance laws. One of the reforms outlined by caucus leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, would require ending fund balance reports showing how much money incumbents have on hand after an election.

Buckley’s campaign fund of over $575,000, for example, is reported on her 2011 annual filing for calendar year 2010, but is not found anywhere in the 2011 or 2012 reports. Nor is the information required to be included on the more recent reports under current rules.

Buckley said she would be in favor of better organizing such information on the Secretary of State’s website to make it more easily accessible by the public.

But Hickey said Buckley’s decision to maintain a campaign fund even while not seeking public office shows why greater transparency and accountability is needed in Nevada’s campaign finance laws.

“This example by the former speaker of the Assembly, still having that much money on hand and continuing to give out that money, I assume to Democratic candidates, really underscores the need for us to re-examine how we report on campaign money and how we conduct ourselves after we leave the Legislature,” he said.

“We should be asking ourselves whether or not it is appropriate for former lawmakers to keep large amounts of money and be able to disburse those funds into the political process,” Hickey said.

Buckley also worked as a paid lobbyist for the Legal Aid Center of Southern Nevada in the 2011 legislative session. Buckley, an attorney, is executive director of the center. Serving as a lobbyist and donating to candidates is not a conflict, she said.

People who appear before the Legislature give campaign contributions all the time, Buckley said.

Buckley has continued to file her finance reports with the Nevada Secretary of State’s office, which show she had expenses of just over $35,000 in 2011, mostly consisting of contributions to nonprofit organizations. She continues to identify herself in the reports as a candidate.

In her first report for 2012 filed in May, she reports another nearly $40,000 in contributions, including many donations to candidates. Leslie, who is facing Republican Greg Brower in the Senate 15 race this year, received $8,700 in cash from Buckley. She also received a nearly $1,300 in-kind contribution from Buckley.

Deducting these expenses totaling about $75,000 from her political fund still leaves Buckley with about $500,000 in cash on hand.

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Audio clips:

Former Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley says she has maintained her campaign fund in the event she decides to run for public office in the next two to four years:

061112Buckley1 :12 anything ever again.”

Buckley says that if she decides not to run for elective office, she will dispose of the funds as outlined in state law:

061112Buckley2 :18 in the statute.”

 

Southern Nevadans Oppose Plan To Eliminate Local Workforce Development Board

By Sean Whaley | 12:00 pm June 11th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Representatives and supporters of the Clark County workforce investment board today strongly opposed a plan being pushed by Gov. Brian Sandoval to consolidate the two local boards in an effort to make more money available to train the unemployed.

At a public hearing on Sandoval’s proposal, Ardell Galbreth, interim executive director of Workforce Connections, read a letter opposing the plan, called  “Moving Nevada Forward: A Plan For Excellence in Workforce Development.”

He was joined by other speakers, including René Cantú Jr., executive director of the Latin Chamber of Commerce Community Foundation, and Richard Boulware, first vice president of the Las Vegas chapter of the NAACP, in opposing the consolidation proposal.

“Workforce Connections staff and board are responsive to the needs of local funded partners, and understand our community and our clients, and our own challenges of Southern Nevada nonprofits,” Cantú said. “Ardell Galbreth, interim director, has provided the Latin Chamber Foundation with tremendous commitment of support and here in the south they understand us and are committed to helping us.”

There is an overwhelming consensus in Southern Nevada that consolidation would threaten funding to groups like the Latin Chamber foundation, he said.

Job training tour by Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis. / Photo courtesy of U.S. Dept. of Labor.

“There’s also an overwhelming consensus that such a move would lead to less sensitivity to local needs, that it would skew funding north, that it would allow (the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitiation (DETR), to allot the funds arbitrarily and without accountability to the community, clients or funded partners,” Cantú said. “Based on these considerations I would ask, respectfully, that the boards be allowed to remain as they are.”

There is a need for reform, and Galbreth is moving in that direction, he said.

Boulware said people in the local community know best what their needs are.

“And what we don’t need, with all due respect to the state and to the governor, are people from outside of our local community telling us what we need and where we need to spend our money,” he said.

The NAACP will be opposing the proposed consolidation at all levels, Boulware said.

DETR officials heard public comment but took no immediate action on the proposal.

Currently, funding is provided from the federal Department of Labor to the Governor’s Workforce Investment Board and funneled to two local boards, one in Southern Nevada and the other in Northern Nevada. These boards in turn contract with public and private organizations to offer workforce training programs to youth and adults and dislocated workers.

Sandoval is moving forward with the consolidation plan following an audit of Workforce Connections that showed excessive spending on administration and other costs.

Galbreth, who took over leadership of the agency in April, said last month in  response to the audit that major changes have been implemented to reduce administrative and other costs.

In announcing the plan to change the operation of the boards, Sandoval said: “This new plan calls for greater collaboration between workforce development and the newly restructured Governor’s Office Economic Development, which earlier this year released its plan under the ‘Moving Nevada Forward’ label as well. A key area of focus for my administration is building the type of trained workforce that will support economic diversification.”

Organizations currently contracted as service providers to citizens for workforce needs will continue in the same capacity, but will be managed by DETR staff instead of the northern and southern board offices. Federal funding designated for each of the local workforce investment areas will remain unchanged; no geographic area of the state gains or loses under the reorganization and existing providers can remain in place if they are delivering the appropriate level of service to the end-user.

The audit of the state’s two local workforce investment boards found the Southern Nevada agency spent nearly twice as much on administration and monitoring of its programs than its northern counterpart.

If the southern board cut its local expenses to mirror those of the northern Nevada board, another $1.9 million would have been available to job seekers in fiscal year 2011, the review found. The audit showed Workforce Connections spent 21 percent on administration and monitoring compared to only 11.3 percent in the north.

Sandoval is seeking to finalize the consolidation by the end of this year.

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Audio clips:

René Cantú Jr., the executive director of the Latin Chamber of Commerce Community Foundation, says Workforce Connections is responsive to the needs of the community:

061112Cantu1 :21 to helping us.”

Cantú Jr. says there are concerns that consolidation will skew funding to the north:

061112Cantu2 :26 as they are.”

Richard Boulware, first vice president of the Las Vegas chapter of the NAACP, says local officials know best how to help the community:

061112Boulware :13 spend our money.”