Archive for July, 2012

Margin Tax Initiative Petition To Fund Education Awaits Ruling By Carson City District Judge

By Sean Whaley | 5:35 pm July 31st, 2012

CARSON CITY – Carson City District Judge James Wilson heard arguments today but delayed ruling on whether an initiative petition filed by the state teachers association to raise an estimated $800 million a year for education via a new margin tax is too flawed to go forward.

Wilson said after a brief hearing that he will issue a decision “as soon as possible.”

Attorney Josh Hicks, representing the Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs, argued that the petition filed with the Secretary of State’s office by the Nevada State Education Association violated a rule for such measures requiring they deal with a single subject.

He also argued that the 200-word description of effect for the complex 26-page proposed margin tax on larger Nevada businesses was misleading. Nevada residents who would be asked to sign the petition to take the proposal to the Legislature in 2013 need to know what the measure would do, Hicks said.

Carson City District Judge James Wilson.

The description of effect does not, for example, include mention that the names of the businesses paying the tax, and the amount they would pay, would have to be published on a website by the Department of Taxation for the public to review, a change to current confidentiality statutes, he said.

This provision generated a number of questions from Wilson directed to James Penrose, the attorney defending the petition on behalf of the teachers association.

Hicks also argued that the proposal violates a constitutional requirement that it provide enough revenue to pay for its implementation. A fiscal note for the proposal indicates that not enough money has been identified to pay for the costs to the Tax Department to implement the new levy, he said.

Hicks questioned whether what the teachers association calls the “Education Initiative” is misleading because there is no guarantee that funding for public education would increase if it became law.

Penrose argued that the petition is straight forward, seeking to impose a new tax to raise money for public education. It would levy a 2 percent tax on companies making gross revenues in excess of $1 million a year. The money would be deposited in the Distributive School Account to fund public education, he said.

Penrose said the description of effect does not have to be perfect, but has to give those who might sign the petition a clear idea of its intent, which the proposal does.

Lynn Warne, president of the NSEA, said after the hearing that the group has yet to begin gathering signatures to qualify the measure to take to the Legislature. The group has until Nov. 13 to collect can collect 72,352 signatures to take the measure to lawmakers. The Legislature would then have 40 days to approve the proposal or it would go to the voters in 2014.

Warne said the association will wait until Wilson’s ruling to decide whether to begin collecting the needed signatures, even though any decision could be appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court.

If elements of the petition are rejected by Wilson, the petition can be revised and re-filed so that the signature gathering effort can begin, she said.

Gary Peck, executive director of the association, said the group expects its effort to be successful.

“I think it would be fair to say that we remain confident that, at the end of the day, the initiative will withstand a legal challenge,” he said. “We remain confident that it will qualify because the residents of the state of Nevada understand how inadequate the funding for K-12 education is, and they will be persuaded that this is a way to fix the problem.”

Hicks said he could not predict what Wilson’s ruling will say.

“The judge gave it a full, fair hearing and that’s all anyone can ask for,” he said.

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Audio clip:

Gary Peck, executive director of the teachers association, says the effort to impose the tax will be successful and supported by Nevada residents:

073112Peck :29 fix the problem.”

 

Panel Recommends $4 Million In State Funding In Next Budget To Move Forward With Student Tracking System

By Sean Whaley | 2:12 pm July 31st, 2012

CARSON CITY – A state panel charged with implementing a system to track individual student performance from preschool through entry into the workforce is recommending that $4 million in state funds be appropriated by Gov. Brian Sandoval and the 2013 Legislature to help accomplish the task.

The P-16 Council, led by chairwoman and state Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, finalized its recommendations to Sandoval on Monday, proposing the funding to ensure the Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems (SLDS) project moves forward in the next two-year budget.

“Everybody’s really been doing a yeoman’s job, I mean really working hard to get the information that we need to continue on,” she said. “I think the governor is going to be very pleased. I’ll be anxious for his review as well.

“So we’re really excited to be able to move on with this,” Cegavske said. “And we’re going to be like other states. It took a lot of people a long time to put theirs together and we’re not going to be any different. But I’m very hopeful that all entities will join and we’ll be able to get this done in a reasonable amount of time.”

State Sen. Barbara Cegavske.

Sandoval issued an Executive Order  on Oct. 7, 2011 asking the council to take the necessary steps to create the system to track students, following the lead of other states as part of an effort to reform education and improve student performance in Nevada.

The effort got a boost in June when the Nevada Department of Education was awarded a $4 million grant from the Institute of Education Sciences (IES) to develop the SLDS. Nevada was one of 24 states to receive funding to support the design and implementation of its tracking system.

The three-year grant will create and assign a Unique State Personal Identifier so that students, teachers and those in the workforce can be followed from pre-school through grade 12, into post-secondary education and on into the workforce.

The grant will also be used to fund an in-depth technical needs assessment at the state Department of Education, the Nevada System of Higher Education and the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation to determine solutions for implementing the enhanced SLDS. The assessment is expected to be completed by June 2013.

But the P-16 Council, in its report, said that state funding will be needed to accomplish the solutions identified in the assessment. In addition, funding will be needed to incorporate early childhood data into the SLDS – a project that is not included within the grant.

As a result, the council made the funding recommendation to support the next steps of the SLDS project and sustain it beyond the grant funding.

The council made no recommendations on data polices, such as which data elements will be shared and how, or how privacy will be protected, saying such decisions are premature until the needs assessment is completed.

In introductory remarks to the council in November 2011, Sandoval said he wants Nevada to create a data system that will put it on a par with states that have successfully accomplished the task, including Florida, Maine, Connecticut and Washington. The information, including performance measures of educators, is critical to moving Nevada forward in student achievement, he said.

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

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

The Department of Education has already created a student data system, but it is not as comprehensive as required for Sandoval’s education reform efforts.

A national report showed that Nevada made progress in this data collection effort in 2011. The Data Quality Campaign’s (DQC) seventh annual state analysis, Data for Action 2011, shows that states have made major progress building their student data systems. More states than ever – 36, up from zero in 2005, including Nevada – have implemented all of DQC’s 10 Essential Elements of Statewide Longitudinal Data Systems.

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Audio clips:

P-16 Council Chairwoman Barbara Cegavske says the members of the panel worked hard to finalize the report:

073112Cegavske1 :10 be very pleased.”

Cegavske says Nevada hopefully will soon have a quality student data tracking system:

073112Cegavske2 :23 amount of time.”

 

 

Think Tank Files Legal Brief To Pursue Separation-Of-Powers Case Aimed At State Lawmakers In Public Jobs

By Sean Whaley | 4:21 pm July 30th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A libertarian think tank’s legal team has filed an opening brief in a case before the state Supreme Court seeking to pursue its separation-of-powers lawsuit aimed at state lawmakers who also work in state government jobs.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation (CJCL) filed the brief Friday in its case Pojunis v. State of Nevada, et al. – a lawsuit brought to restore adherence to the separation-of-powers clause found in Article 3, Section 1 of Nevada’s constitution. It named then-state employee and current state Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas.

Nevada state Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas. / Nevada News Bureau file photo

Shortly after the complaint was filed in November 2011, Denis announced his resignation from his computer technician job with the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada.

Carson City District Court Judge James Russell then ruled the case was made moot by Denis’ resignation.

The CJCL is seeking to have the case reinstated by the Nevada Supreme Court, citing other lawmakers working in state or even local government jobs that could be affected by a decision in the matter.

Joseph Becker, chief legal officer and director of CJCL, said: “NPRI’s Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation is appealing this case to the Nevada Supreme Court because the separation-of-powers clause at issue in this case is the same clause that the Nevada Supreme Court has written “is probably the most important single principle of government declaring and guaranteeing the liberties of the people.”

While the interpretation of the separation-of-powers clause may be moot in Denis’ case, Becker is arguing there is a compelling public interest in having the case resolved.

The separation-of-powers clause “makes it perfectly clear that a sitting legislator cannot hold a job in the executive or judicial branch of government, and yet, there are at least 14 conflicting attorney general’s opinions on this issue and no fewer than six current legislators who also hold jobs in the executive or judicial branch of state government,” Becker said.

Even Gov. Sandoval has asked the Supreme Court to “[s]ettle it once and for all,” he said.

“Upholding the constitution’s separation-of-powers clause is a fundamental and ‘public’ legal issue, and we urge the Nevada Supreme Court to let this case proceed,” Becker said.

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

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

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

Hearing On Apple Tax Breaks Generates No Public Comment, Will Be Reviewed Wednesday By State Economic Board

By Sean Whaley | 3:26 pm July 30th, 2012

CARSON CITY – There were no takers today for the chance to weigh in on $89 million in tax breaks being offered to Apple in exchange for the company building a data center and related facilities in the Reno area that are expected to bring $1 billion in investment over the next decade.

The hearing on the proposed sales and personal property tax abatements, made as part of a deal to bring Apple to Northern Nevada, did not generate a single comment.

Today’s hearing, conducted by Steve Hill, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, was continued to Wednesday when the Economic Development Board, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, will consider the tax breaks in a special meeting.

Steve Hill, executive director of the Governor’s Office on Economic Development. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

But Hill said the ultimate decision to grant the incentives to Apple will be his to make under the provisions of the law creating the new agency approved by the 2011 Legislature.

Some questions have been raised about whether the tax breaks offered to bring Apple to Nevada will be a good investment over the long term.

But Hill said he has not heard any comments from people who are highly upset about the proposal.

“I think it’s reasonable to question, OK, is that a good deal and why is that a good deal and should we continue to make those kind of deals as we go forward,” he said. “We have not heard a lot of, ‘you should not have done this.’ ”

“In my opinion this is a terrific deal for Northern Nevada,” Hill said. “In order for us to be competitive, our tax structure, or the abatements that we give out, are going to have to make us competitive as a place.”

Sandoval has already gone on record as supporting the tax incentives. In an interview on Nevada NewsMakers last month, he said: “There are 49 other states who would have loved to have what we have. And there were negotiations that went on back-and-forth. I had an opportunity to meet with some of the Apple officials early on and I think it was a great outcome for Nevada.

“I think it’s going to be a very strong magnet for us,” he said. “It shows that we’re in the game. It’s very competitive for these data centers across the United States. And Apple is going to look to see where we can go.”

Hill said after the hearing today that other firms have contacted his office inquiring what the state has to offer following the announcement of the Apple deal. There is no guarantee that the same level or type of abatements will be offered to other companies that may want to relocate here, he said.

The Washoe County Commission, the Washoe County School Board and the Reno City Council have all already given their approval to deal.

The sales tax abatement will mean Apple will pay only half a percent of the levy on what they buy during as part of the agreement, Hill said. The personal property tax abatement is worth 85 percent, but does not include construction-related activity. The first $100 million in construction by Apple includes no abatements, Hill said.

The abatements are contingent upon Apple making a minimum investment in its facilities in the Reno area during the life of the agreement.

The company will end up paying a minimum of $20 million in a variety of taxes over 10 years as a result of the abatements.

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Audio clips:

Steve Hill, director of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, says people are right to ask questions about the Apple agreement:

073012Hill1 :28 have done this.’ “

Hill says he believes the deal is terrific for Northern Nevada:

073012Hill2 :19 as a place.”

 

Retiring NDOT Director To Be Honored By White House On Tuesday

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 11:59 am July 30th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The White House tomorrow will honor leaders who have helped their communities through transportation innovation, including retiring NDOT Director Susan Martinovich, as part of the Champions of Change program.

Transportation Innovators are individuals or organizations who have provided exemplary leadership in the growth and expansion of the transportation industry at the local, state or regional level.

Susan Martinovich, director of the Nevada Department of Transportation. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

“Today’s Champions are leaders in developing and implementing innovative transportation initiatives,” said Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood. “They are making a difference every day in their local communities and across the country by improving America’s transportation infrastructure and helping their friends and neighbors get where they need to go.”

The Champions of Change program was created as a part of President Obama’s Winning the Future initiative. Each week, a different sector is highlighted and groups of Champions, ranging from educators to entrepreneurs to community leaders, are recognized for the work they are doing to serve and strengthen their communities.

The event can be watched live Tuesday at 8 a.m. Pacific Daylight Time at www.whitehouse.gov/live

Martinovich, who has been with the Nevada Department of Transportation for more than 28 years, is retiring in September after five years as director. Martinovich has a bachelor’s degree in civil engineering from the University of Nevada, Reno and is a licensed professional engineer in Nevada and California.

She is past president of the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials and serves on the National Academy of Sciences Transportation Research Board Executive Committee, as well as many other national committees in the areas of Safety, Research and Policy Initiatives.

The state Board of Transportation last week selected Rudy Malfabon, a 24-year veteran of the agency, as the new director.

 

Nevada Posts Double-Digit Gain In Taxable Sales In May, 23rd Consecutive Month Of Increases

By Sean Whaley | 3:02 pm July 27th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada taxable sales jumped by double-digits in May, with consumers purchasing $3.7 billion in goods for a 10.4 percent increase over May 2011, the state Department of Taxation reported today.

Clark County taxable sales were up 10 percent, while Washoe County saw a 4.9 percent gain.

Photo by Tabercil via Wikimedia Commons.

All major taxable sales categories were up in May over May 2011.

Bryan Wachter, director of government affairs for the Retail Association of Nevada, said the broad increases across all major categories, from vehicles to general merchandise, is especially noteworthy.

“Things are starting to look good,” he said. “Obviously unemployment is still going to be a huge indicator on where people have disposable income, where consumer confidence is going, and the numbers would appear that people are reasonable in making purchases and feel like it.”

The largest increases were seen in the categories of Motor Vehicles and Parts Dealers, up 20.8 percent; food services and drinking places, up 7.8 percent, merchant wholesalers – durable goods, up 13.7 percent; machinery manufacturing, up 84.9 percent; and clothing and clothing accessories, up 8.9 percent.

Other categories showing increases included the construction industry, up 6.8 percent; general merchandise stores, up 6.2 percent; food and beverage stores, up 11.2 percent; furniture and home furnishings, up 3.5 percent; and accommodations, up 87.9 percent.

Fifteen of Nevada’s seventeen counties recorded an increase in taxable sales for May 2012 compared to May 2011, with only Lincoln and Lyon counties reporting a decrease.

It was the 23rd consecutive month of increases in taxable sales.

The sales taxes collected from the consumer activity are now about $34.5 million more for the 2012 fiscal year through May than what was projected by the Economic Forum.

Wachter said the upcoming back-to-school shopping season will provide further guidance on how Nevada’s economy will perform through the fall and holiday shopping season.

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Audio clips:

Bryan Wachter, director of government affairs for the Retail Association of Nevada, says Nevada unemployment will play an important role in consumer confidence but the May numbers are great:

072712Wachter1 :22 these are great.”

Wachter says the upcoming back-to-school shopping season should be a good indicator of Nevada’s economic health for the remainder of the year:

072712Wachter2 :11 make some improvements.”

 

 

 

 

Broader Measure Of Unemployment Shows Continued Improvement In Nevada But Still Above 20 Percent

By Sean Whaley | 12:28 pm July 27th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A broader measure of Nevada’s unemployment picture, including those who have given up looking for work, showed slight but continued improvement through the second quarter of 2012, a federal report released today shows.

Called the U-6 rate, it declined in Nevada from 22.3 percent in the four quarters through March 31 to 22.1 percent in the 12 months ending June 30, according to the quarterly report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

Photo by FEMA via Wikimedia Commons.

Nationally, the U-6 unemployment rate is 15.3 percent, down from 15.6 percent through the first quarter of 2012. The only other state above 20 percent is California, with a rate of 20.3 percent. North Dakota has the lowest rate at 6.1 percent.

The U-6 rate is sometimes referred to as the “actual” jobless rate because it includes discouraged workers and those working part-time who would like to be in full-time jobs.

Nevada’s U-6 rate compares to the June seasonally adjusted rate of 11.6 percent, which held steady from May. The June rate, considered to be the official unemployment rate, was reported last week by the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR).

Nevada leads the nation in both measures of unemployment.

Bill Anderson, chief economist for DETR, said the good news for Nevada is that the unemployment rate is showing some “very modest” improvement.

“I think over time we will see the unemployment rate edge down,” he said. “There is going to be some good months, some bad months, but overall the trend is slightly downward.

“The same for the employment side of the equation, the more important employment side of the equation,” Anderson said. “Some good months, some bad months, but overall I think the positives will outweigh the negatives. But it is only going to translate into modest job growth.”

Prior to the recession Nevada was adding 60,000 jobs a year and the state was growing at four times the national labor market, he said. The current trend is about 15,000 jobs a year, Anderson said.

The official June jobless report noted that for the first half of the year, 14,000 jobs have been added in Nevada’s private sector establishments. This is on top of approximately 12,000 new jobs in 2011.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has made job creation a priority of his administration, and is pushing forward with an economic development plan to help create 50,000 new jobs in Nevada by the end of 2014.

In commenting last week on the June report, Sandoval said: “I am encouraged by the fact that this is the 12th straight month of positive news, but we must continue working to support job growth by bringing new business to Nevada and allowing existing businesses to be successful.”

Nevada’s official jobless rate peaked at 14 percent in October 2010. The U-6 rate in Nevada for the 12 months of 2010 was 23.6 percent.

Anderson said: “We’ve got a long way to go until we get to the 4 percent rate that we were at essentially prior to the last recession. But nonetheless the news of late has been better than it was a year or two ago.”

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

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

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

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Audio clips:

Bill Anderson, chief economist for DETR, says the trend for unemployment in Nevada is modest improvement:

072712Anderson1 :25 is slightly downward.”

Anderson says the same is expected for job growth in Nevada:

072712Anderson3 :21 modest job growth.”

 

Nevada Small Business Owners Advocate For Fewer, More Sensible Federal Regulations

By Sean Whaley | 4:43 pm July 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A pair of Nevada small business owners today said the federal government needs to ease off on its excessive regulatory efforts under the Obama administration if it wants to encourage job growth here and around the country.

Buddy Byrd, owner of Byrd Underground, a construction firm in Las Vegas, and Tim Wulf, owner of two Jimmy John’s sandwich shops in the Reno area, talked about their frustrations with what they say is regulatory overload.

The business owners were enlisted as part of a national effort by the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) to “Stop President Obama’s Regulatory Tidal Wave,” a new campaign aimed at stemming the flow of new rules from federal agencies ranging from the EPA to OSHA.

Buddy Byrd.

The NFIB says the next four years could bring hundreds of costly regulations for U.S. businesses and consumers, with nearly 4,100 federal regulations in the pipeline that are estimated to cost the national economy more than half a trillion dollars.

“We’re stepping up the attention to stop this tidal wave and we’ve actually created a new website, called stopthetidalwave.org, to highlight the high number of regulations that could wash over small business in the next four years,” said Nevada NFIB State Director Randi Thompson.  “Because small business creates two-thirds of new jobs, we must remove major barriers to small business job creation, and reducing the regulatory burden is a major step. So in order to help Nevada small business and overall economic recovery, we need sensible, clear and fair regulations.”

Nevada leads the nation in the unemployment rate, and Thompson said a January Gallup poll found that 85 percent of small business owners were not hiring, with 46 percent citing government regulations as a reason for their decision.

Not everyone agrees that federal regulations are stifling job creation.

U.S. Sen. Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in November 2011 that there is no evidence to support the claim.

“My Republican friends have yet to produce a single shred of evidence that the regulations they hate so much do the broad economic harms they claim,” he said. “That’s because there aren’t any. Conversely there’s plenty of evidence to prove those regulations save lives, prevent asthma attacks, and ensure mom and pops face a fair fight against these multinational corporations and monied interest groups.”

But Byrd said he owns heavy equipment that won’t be permitted to be used on government jobs beginning in 2014 if a proposed EPA rule restricting emissions takes effect. The new rule is forcing him to sell his current equipment to foreign countries and purchase new equipment that will meet the new standards. The old equipment will continue to operate and expel emissions, just not in the U.S., he said.

“It’s costing us a considerable amount of money; I can’t replace that equipment for what I sold it for and so therefore we’re suffering great loss here just to accommodate what they want to do,” Byrd said. “And they don’t have any consideration for the small business.

“We just can’t continue to go down this path and employ people and give them jobs when there is no profit after they regulate us and regulate us and regulate us,” he said.

Wulf expressed concern about OSHA regulations that are taking safety concerns to an extreme and unworkable level, such as instructions on how to avoid being hit in the head by a mop handle.

“Here is an employee of the government, taking my time to teach me some ridiculous thing that I’m supposed to then take time with every one of my employees; like I say, in and of itself it is just laughable. But it is the aggregate effect of all these regulations that just makes you go crazy.”

Some members of Congress are concerned about regulatory overload as well. The House today passed H.R. 4078, the “Red Tape Reduction and Small Business Job Creation Act” which would impose a moratorium on the adoption of regulations between election day and the inauguration of the president. It would also place a freeze on new major regulations until the national unemployment rate falls to 6 percent or below.

The measure passed 245 to 172 on a mostly party-line vote with Republicans primarily in support. Nevada Reps. Mark Amodei and Joe Heck, both R-Nev., supported the measure. Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., voted no.

Audio clips:

NFIB State Director Randi Thompson says multiple new regulations could take effect in the next four years:

072612Thompson1 :12 next four years.”

Thompson says the regulations are a barrier to hiring:

072612Thompson2 :17 and fair regulations.”

Construction company owner Buddy Byrd says regulations are keeping him from hiring:

072612Byrd1 :19 want to do.”

Byrd says there is too much regulation:

072612Byrd2 :15 and regulate us.”

Tim Wulf, owner of two Jimmy John’s sandwich shops, says it is the aggregate of the regulations that is overwhelming:

072612Wulf :18 you go crazy.”

 

Nevada Attorney General Masto To Lead Western Attorneys General Conference

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 2:27 pm July 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto will serve as the 2012-2013 chairwoman for the Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG) following a ceremony during the annual meeting held in Anaheim, Calif.

“It is an honor to be given the opportunity to lead the Conference of Western Attorneys General,” Masto said. “I look forward to continuing my efforts with CWAG in the upcoming year and working with my colleagues to shed light on issues that we face.”

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto.

Masto, who will serve as chair through July 2013, was the 2011-2012 CWAG vice chairwoman. Her role marks only the 3rd time in the organization’s 44-year history that a Nevada attorney general has held the position. Frankie Sue Del Papa served as the most recent CWAG chairwoman from Nevada, from 1994-1995.

The Conference of Western Attorneys General (CWAG) is a bipartisan group comprised of the attorneys general of 15 western states and three Pacific territories. CWAG, founded in 1968, addresses emerging legal topics along with focusing on common areas of interest to the west: water, fish and wildlife, public lands, minerals, environmental protection and Indian law.

CWAG’s primary function is to provide a forum for chief legal officers of member states and jurisdictions to cultivate knowledge, cooperate on concerns and coordinate actions which improve the quality of legal services available to members.

Nevada Among States With Lowest Energy Consumption Per Capita, Gets C+ For Renewable Energy Efforts

By Sean Whaley | 1:17 pm July 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada ranks 40th among the states for the amount of energy consumed per person, according to the nonprofit website EnergyTrends.org.

The state rankings were released on Wednesday and show Nevadans consumed 239 million Btu per capita in 2010 compared to 303 Btu per capita in 2007.

First among the states in energy consumption was Wyoming, followed by Alaska and Louisiana. Rhode Island ranked 50th.

Photo by Tom Harpel via Wikimedia Commons.

The website, created by the Lexington Institute, has also graded the states on renewable energy efforts. Nevada received a C+ in the analysis, which was 11th best. Three states, California, Massachusetts and Colorado, received B grades, the highest awarded in the review.

Nevada ranked 17th in net renewable energy generation in 2010 with 4.444 gigawatt hours (GWh). The growth in renewable energy generation was up 35 percent from 2007 to 2010.

Nevada’s renewable portfolio standards require 25 percent of the state’s electricity to be supplied by renewable resources by 2025.

“It is our hope that the information on EnergyTrends.org will be useful for everyone from schools to elected officials to keep track of their state’s critical energy consumption and generation patterns,” said Don Soifer, executive vice president of the Lexington Institute.

Soifer said the research is based on 2010 energy data which was recently released by the U.S. Department of Energy. It is the most recent data available. The website tracks vital indicators for energy and electricity use, as well as which fuels (like coal, natural gas or renewables) are used to generate electricity, and ranks states in each category. It also analyzes data from recent years, providing easy-to-read indicators to show overall trends.

Renewable energy, and tax incentives to support its development, has become a major political topic in Nevada and around the nation this presidential election year.

Earlier this month, the solar manufacturing company Amonix closed its manufacturing plant in North Las Vegas 14 months after opening.

President Obama in July 2010 praised the solar manufacturing tax credits that generated $6 million to help build the facility, which was under construction at the time. Obama’s support of the facility was recently used as fodder for criticism by the Mitt Romney campaign. But a news article in Politico noted that the Bush Administration first backed the project in 2007.

The company also issued a statement saying it never utilized the tax credit for the Las Vegas facility.

“The only federal incentive Amonix received for the North Las Vegas facility was a $5.9 million federal manufacturing incentive tax credit that was never utilized,” the statement said. “Tax credits can only be used to offset taxable income, and Amonix has not realized taxable income to utilize the tax credits. Thus, those tax credits have not been claimed and have had no cost to U.S. taxpayers.”

It also became a campaign issue in the Nevada Senate race between U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Las Vegas. Heller called the closing proof of the failure of federal stimulus spending supported by Berkley. Berkley in turn criticized Heller for failing to show any concern for the Nevadans who lost their jobs because of the closing.

State Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, a candidate for the 4th Congressional District, defended the use of clean energy incentives in an interview last week on the Face to Face television program.

“This sector of renewable energy should not be based on the success or failure of one company alone,” he said. “There was tremendous subsidies for traditional energy, coal and other energy sources, for decades so it isn’t like this is some new thing, that the government helps subsidize a growing and emerging industry.”

But a recent report has questioned the value of tax incentives and regulations approved by many states around the country, including Nevada, to create “green jobs,” noting that subsidies used for such programs can take away revenue for other needs such as public education.

Nevada was identified as having seven separate financial incentives for green jobs, three of which are property tax exemptions in the report.

“States face a hard and fast budget constraint; they cannot deficit spend or take on debt for general operating expenses,” said Bryan Leonard of State Budget Solutions in his report, “Green Jobs Don’t Grow on Trees.”

“This means that every dollar spent by states on green job training programs, grants to green firms, or subsidies for renewable energy producers is a dollar that cannot be spent on teachers’ salaries, educational tools, or social safety nets,” he said.

Soifer said the Lexington Institute supports renewable energy, “but realizes that if renewables are really going to take hold in the United States, and particularly solar and wind are the two that everybody talks about most, they are going to need to stand on their own without having to depend on government subsidy.”

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Audio clips:

Don Soifer, executive vice president of the Lexington Institute, says Nevada ranked 11th best for its renewable energy efforts:

072612Soifer1 :28 the whole country.”

Soifer says the Lexington Institute supports renewables but that they will need to stand on their own:

072612Soifer2 :25 the United States.”

 

Nevada House Reps. Vote To Audit Federal Reserve, Measure Also Supported By Sen. Heller

By Sean Whaley | 12:45 pm July 25th, 2012

CARSON CITYRep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., today voted in favor of H.R. 459, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act.

The legislation, which Amodei is cosponsoring, would direct the comptroller general to complete an audit of the board of governors of the Federal Reserve system and of the Federal Reserve banks, followed by a detailed report to Congress. The bill passed the House 327 to 98.

Reps. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and Joe Heck, R-Nev., also supported the legislation.

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.

“The Fed’s monetary policy has far-reaching consequences for the American people, affecting everything from employment to consumer prices to interest rates,” Amodei said in a statement after the vote. “Some oversight and accountability are more than warranted. It makes you wonder, who would oppose such transparency? This is an issue where my colleague from Texas, Rep. Ron Paul, has been right and I’m proud to support his effort.”

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., a supporter of the audit legislation, issued a statement after the House vote: “The Federal Reserve is a major influence over our country’s economy, and the ability to audit this institution would bring much-needed accountability.

“It is essential that Congress exercise its constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight and scrutinize monetary policy in an open and transparent way,” he said. “I am a strong supporter of this bill, and I hope the Senate will take action on this legislation.”

Heller was a cosponsor of H.R. 459 when he was in the House and is currently a cosponsor of the Senate companion bill (S. 202).

Romney Hammers Obama On Foreign Policy, National Security Leaks, In Comments In Reno

By Sean Whaley | 2:30 pm July 24th, 2012

RENO – Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney went on the attack against President Obama today in a speech to attendees of the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention here, criticizing him for national security leaks, weak foreign policy and a failure to seize on political opportunities in such countries as Iran.

Romney, speaking to the same group that Obama addressed on Monday, spent his 27-minute talk focusing on his foreign policy views and the need to maintain a strong military presence.

He called Obama’s first term a “time of declining influence and missed opportunity.”

Mitt Romney speaks at the VFW convention today. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

The nation’s economy has not recovered and at the international level, the world faces an increasing likelihood of a nuclear-armed Iran, Romney said.

“These clear measures are the ultimate tests of American leadership,” he said. “And by these standards, we haven’t seen much in the president’s first term that inspires confidence in a second. The president’s policies have made it harder to recover from the deepest recession in 70 years. Exposed the military to cuts that no one can justify. Compromised our national security secrets.

“And in dealings with other nations, he has given trust where it is not earned, insult where it was not deserved and apology where it is not due,” Romney said.

The audience at the Reno-Sparks Convention Center broke into applause frequently during Romney’s remarks. After his speech, Romney was set to leave on an overseas strip starting in London and including visits to Israel and Poland.

Romney criticized Obama for impending across-the-board budget cuts set to take effect for the military next year if a deal is not reached in Congress on a deficit reduction plan. The military would see funding cuts of $492 billion over 10 years, with an equal size cut coming to domestic programs. The cuts are the result of the failure of Congress in 2011 to come up with a deficit-reduction plan.

The cuts will weaken an already stretched Veterans Administration, and Romney said he will not let them take effect if elected president.

“This is no time for the president’s radical cuts in our military,” he said.

But Obama, in his remarks on Monday, noted that  most Republicans in Congress supported the automatic cuts, and he urged Congress to reach agreement on a deficit reduction plan. Obama has proposed eliminating tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest residents as one way to help reduce the federal deficit and avoid the automatic cuts.

Some of Romney’s most blistering comments focused on national security leaks in the Obama administration. He called the leaks “contemptible.”

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, D-Calif., on Monday called for President Obama to stop the flow of information out of the White House.

“This isn’t a partisan issue, it’s a national security crisis,” he said. “It betrays our national interest. It compromises our men and women in the field. And it demands a full and prompt investigation by a special counsel, with explanation and consequence. What kind of White House would reveal classified material for material gain? I will tell you right now, mine will not.”

Romney also criticized Obama for congratulating Vladimir Putin for winning the Russian presidency in a “corrupt” election and for failing to take advantage of a public uprising in Iran that could have led to political reforms.

“That terrible misjudgment should never be repeated,” he said.

Romney also said the U.S. needs to do more to support Israel, its closest ally in the Middle East, and work with its allies to ensure Iran does not develop nuclear weapons.

“It’s a mistake, and sometimes a tragic one, to think that firmness in American foreign policy can only bring tension or conflict,” he said. “The surest path to danger is always weakness and indecision.”

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Audio clips:

Presumptive GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney says President Obama’s achievements in his first term don’t make a strong case for reelection:

072412Romney1 :26 national security secrets.”

Romney says Obama’s foreign policy is full of failures:

072412Romney2 :11 is not due.”

Romney says the Obama administration foreign policy leaks require an independent investigation:

072412Romney3 :12 explanation and consequence.”

 

Nevada Affirms U.S. Agriculture Department Drought Disaster Declaration For All 17 Counties

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 5:43 pm July 23rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada today affirmed the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s automatic drought disaster declaration, which applies to all 17 Nevada counties.

The disaster designation makes all qualified farm operators in the designated areas eligible for low interest emergency loans. Additionally, today the USDA announced new flexibility and assistance in the agency’s major conservation programs to get much-needed help to livestock producers and plans to encourage crop insurance companies to provide a short grace period for farmers on unpaid insurance premiums.

Author: Arthur Rothstein via Wikimedia Commons.

USDA’s announcement allows flexibility within four programs: the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the Environmental Quality Incentives Program (EQIP), the Wetlands Reserve Program (WRP), and the Federal Crop Insurance Program.

According to the Nevada State Division of Emergency Management, Division of Water Resources and the State Climatology Office, current conditions in Nevada primarily affect agriculture, wildlife and wildfire. The conditions are not affecting municipal water systems, groundwater availability for municipal water systems or future commercial economic development.

“I encourage affected Nevada farmers and ranchers to contact the federal Farm Service Agency’s state office for assistance,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said. “At a state level, I have authorized the activation of the State Emergency Operations Center as an information center and to help coordinate the response. Additionally, I’ve directed state agencies to work with the federal government to ensure Nevadans receive the assistance they need.”

Affected Nevada farmers and ranchers can contact the federal Farm Service Agency state office in Reno at (775) 784-5411, extension 117, or on the web.

President Obama Touts His Accomplishments For Veterans, Military In Reno Visit

By Sean Whaley | 4:27 pm July 23rd, 2012

RENO – President Obama told members of the Veterans of Foreign Wars today that he has fulfilled the promises he made four years ago to make America safer, strengthen jobs programs for returning military personnel and fight homelessness, suicide and posttraumatic stress disorder among the nation’s veterans.

Obama, appearing at the 113th convention of the group, acknowledged in a 30-minute speech that more needs to be done to help returning military personnel find jobs. He took the opportunity to announce a major overhaul of the transition assistance program.

President Obama speaks to the VFW in Reno today.

“We’re going to set up a kind of reverse boot camp for our departing service members,” he said. “Starting this year, they will get more personalized assistance as they plan their careers. We’ll provide the training they need to find that job, or pursue that education or start that business. And just as they have maintained their military readiness, we’ll have new standards of career readiness.”

He also urged Congress to find a solution to the nation’s deficit spending to protect the military budget from automatic cuts set to take effect next year without an agreement.

“Because people in Congress ought to be able to come together and agree on a plan, a balanced approach that reduces the deficit and keeps our military strong,” Obama said. “It should be done.

“If the choice is between tax cuts that the wealthiest Americans don’t need and funding (for) our troops that they definitely need to keep our country strong, I will stand with our troops every single time,” he said. “So let’s stop playing politics with our military.”

Obama said he promised four years ago, to “take the fight to our enemies and renew our leadership in the world.”

“As president, that’s what I’ve done,” he said.

Not only did his administration kill Osama bin Laden, but it has also taken out more top al-Qaeda leaders than at any time since 9-11, Obama said.

Obama also highlighted his decision to withdraw troops from Iraq in what he said was a responsible manner, and the administration plan now under way to withdraw all U.S. military from Afghanistan, completing a transition to Afghan military control by 2014.

Obama received a number of cheers and applause from the crowd of men and women, some young and others veterans of World War II, Vietnam and Korea, among other conflicts.

He took a few minutes at the beginning of his remarks to talk about those with military connections who were victims of the Aurora, Colorado, shooting rampage Friday, including Jonathan Blunk, a 2004 graduate of Hug High and a Navy veteran.

His appearance, the second visit to Reno this year, will be followed tomorrow by remarks from Mitt Romney, his presumed GOP rival in the November general election.

Romney has attacked Obama’s record on the military. On his website, he says: “President Obama came into office with a military in serious need of modernization. However, instead of rebuilding our strength, President Obama has put us on course toward a ‘hollow’ force. President Obama has repeatedly sought to slash funds for our fighting men and women, and over the next ten years nearly $1 trillion will be cut from the core defense budget. This budget cutting enterprise is proceeding while American troops are in combat in Afghanistan, returning from their mission in Iraq, and fighting the remnants of al-Qaeda worldwide.”

In a response to Obama’s remarks, Romney campaign spokesman Mason Harrison said: “In no region of the world is our country’s influence any stronger than it was four years ago. President Obama has failed to restore our economy, is weakening our military with devastating defense cuts, and has diminished our moral authority. Governor Romney will restore the pillars of American strength to secure our interests and defend our values.”

Obama’s Nevada visit focused on his record of accomplishments in the military and Veterans arenas, but still brought him to a battleground state viewed as critical by political observers for victory by the candidates in November.

He won Nevada in 2008, but with the highest unemployment rate and one of the highest home foreclosure rates in the nation, the state is considered to be a toss up. Washoe County in particular is viewed as critical to which candidate will win the state’s six electoral votes.

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Audio clips:

President Obama urges Congress to come up with a deficit reduction plan to avoid mandatory cuts to the military budget next year:

072312Obama1 :14 should be done.”

Obama says he will fight for military funding rather than lower taxes for the wealthiest Americans:

072312Obama2 :14 every single time.”

Obama announces a “reverse boot camp” to help returning military personnel find work:

072312Obama3 :24 of career readiness.”

 

CD4 Candidate Steven Horsford Supports Federal Health Care Act, Medicaid Expansion in Nevada

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 2:05 am July 23rd, 2012

LAS VEGAS – State Senate Majority Leader and 4th Congressional District candidate Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said he supports the federal health care law that was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in late June.

Horsford, who is running in the new district that encompasses parts of North Las Vegas as well as parts of rural Nevada said he would have voted for the Affordable Care Act (ACA), adding that he believes it is important for the betterment of the country.
“Thirty percent of Nevadans are uninsured. Most of them are children,” said Horsford. “All of us as taxpayers pay for people who end up going into the emergency room and receiving care through uncompensated care.”

State Senate Majority Leader and CD4 candidate Steven Horsford

Horsford, interviewed on Jon Ralston’s television program Face to Face last Thursday, said he supports the measure including insuring people with pre-existing conditions, helping students and young people stay on their parents insurance and helping seniors afford the cost of their medications.

Horsford declined to call the ACA’s tax penalty a tax, though, as the U.S. Supreme Court did in its decision.
“It’s a penalty for those who fail to get insurance,” said Horsford.
Horsford also said he had talked to a small business owner in his district who is benefitting because he is now going to be able to afford health care coverage for employees.
Regarding the debate over whether Nevada should expand its Medicaid program under ACA, Horsford agreed it will undercut a key part of the bill if Nevada does not opt in to the expansion.
Horsford pointed out that the first three years’ costs for the benefits under a Medicaid expansion would be paid for by the federal government and asked about Nevada’s participation, “Why wouldn’t we?”
Horsford also echoed familiar Democratic talking points about standing with the middle class against obstructionist Republicans who represent only the wealthy.
“I stand with the people who are suffering right now, who are struggling. I know because I am one of them,” said Horsford. “My opponent represents the rich, the ultra rich, and he will stand with the Republicans in Congress. I will stand with the middle class.”
When presented with a video clip of his opponent Danny Tarkanian saying he expected that Horsford would engage in class warfare in his congressional campaign, Horsford called Tarkanian “a self-proclaimed crazy radical” and said that Tarkanian was endorsed by the Palin family.
When he was running in the Republican primary for U.S. Senate in 2010, Tarkanian was endorsed by Sarah Palin’s father.
The following month, when asked in an interview with ABC’s Topline about conservative media personality Glenn Beck praising him as a Tea Party radical, Tarkanian said Beck had lumped him in with Marco Rubio and other conservative politicians who advocate for common sense principles.
“I am one of those crazy radicals — according to the far left media — that has those common sense views,” Tarkanian said.
As evidence of Tarkanian’s supposed extremism, Horsford pointed to Tarkanian’s pro-life positions as well as recent campaign statements that if elected he would look at abolishing the Department of Education.
Horsford defended President Obama’s economic policies by saying Obama inherited a difficult situation including the loss of more than four million jobs during the Bush administration.
The president has offered numerous proposals for job creation but the Republicans in Congress have not cooperated, Horsford said.
“The president has created private sector jobs,” said Horsford. “Is it enough? No. We all should want more jobs.”
Like fellow Democrat and Assembly Speaker John Oceguera who is running in the 3rd Congressional District, Horsford declined to say whether he would have voted for the so-called stimulus bill but he did say that he supported its job-saving aspects.
“As a state senator, as the chairman of the finance committee, I know that without those investments, Nevada would have had higher unemployment and our services would have been compromised for the people of Nevada,” Horsford said.
“Those investments were necessary,” he added.
Regarding clean energy initiatives, Horsford said he continues to believe that Nevada can be a leader in that growing industry.
Regarding the failure of Amonix, a solar parts manufacturer in North Las Vegas that closed its doors last week, Horsford mentioned the death of the company’s CEO last year and said the exception should not dictate the rule.
“This sector of renewable energy should not be based on the success or failure of one company alone,” Horsford said.
Horsford said he disagrees with Republicans that government should not invest in or subsidize green energy initiatives.
“There was tremendous subsidies for traditional energy, coal and other energy sources, for decades so it isn’t like this is some new thing, that the government helps subsidize a growing and emerging industry,” said Horsford.
When asked to name one solar energy company that has helped someone in the middle class in Nevada, Horsford mentioned the Solar One plant in Boulder City.
That plant presently supports only five permanent jobs, but Horsford defended it.
“Those are five jobs that we desperately need in Nevada, and my opponent has not offered any solutions for how he creates jobs,” said Horsford.
Horsford cited his own commitment to job creation in his 10 years at the helm of the Culinary Training Academy (CTA), a joint management and labor partnership between participating gaming companies and the Culinary and Bartenders Unions. The CTA prepares students for positions in the hospitality industry.
“It’s not easy. It’s about partnership,” said Horsford. “It’s about bringing the private sector together with labor, with government, with the community to actually get people the training that they need.”
Horsford was passionate when talking about unethical lending practices and the housing collapse in Nevada and across the nation.
“I believe that those who issued those predatory loans should go to jail,” said Horsford.
Horsford said there should have been strings attached to bailouts to make sure the banks kept on lending and that small businesses are still struggling to make payroll because they cannot gain access to needed capital.