Archive for August, 2012

Nevada Lawmaker Elected Vice President Of National Legislative Organization

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 12:56 pm August 20th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, has been elected vice president of the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), a bipartisan organization that serves the nation’s 7,382 state lawmakers and legislative staff. She took office at NCSL’s Legislative Summit in Chicago on Aug. 9.

Nevada Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks.

Smith will serve one year as vice president, ascend to president-elect the following year, and then become president at the Legislative Summit in 2014. NCSL leadership alternates between parties every year. Smith is the first Nevada legislator to serve as an officer on NCSL’s Executive Committee.

“As legislators, we are tuned in to the needs of our constituents and sensitive to the issues facing states and our nation,” Smith said. “Representing the interests of all states, NCSL takes a bipartisan approach to problem solving and provides a forum for constructive dialogue. I look forward to working with NCSL to develop innovative solutions for our future.”

Smith has served Nevada’s 30th Assembly District since 2000, currently as the speaker pro tempore and chairwoman of the Ways and Means Committee. Smith has been actively involved in NCSL for several years, including service on NCSL’s 60-member Executive Committee and as vice chair of NCSL’s Budgets and Revenue Committee. She has also served on NCSL’s Labor and Economic Development Committee.

NCSL is a bipartisan organization that serves the legislators and staffs of the states, commonwealths and territories.

Barbara Vucanovich, First Woman From Nevada To Serve In Congress, Honored At Reno Dinner

By Sean Whaley | 9:20 pm August 18th, 2012

RENO – Friends, family and political colleagues gathered today to honor and pay tribute to the first woman to serve in Congress from Nevada, the now 91-year-old Barbara Vucanovich.

About 250 guests gathered at Rancharrah for the celebratory dinner, which not coincidentally raised a healthy sum for Republican candidates in the November general election.

Two successors in the 2nd Congressional District, U.S. Sen. Dean Heller and current Rep. Mark Amodei, joined in honoring Vucanovich, who was working for then-U.S. Sen. Paul Laxalt in 1982 when he urged her to run for the newly created seat.

Rep. Mark Amodei, Barbara Vucanovich and Sen. Dean Heller. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

Vucanovich, 61 at the time, rose to the challenge and won the seat, serving for seven terms. She became good friends with President Ronald Reagan and other influential political leaders during her 14 years in office.

Heller, wearing one of Vucanovich’s old campaign buttons, said he first met her when he was visiting Washington, DC, more than 20 years ago. Heller called her office on the spur of the moment and Vucanovich offered to take him to lunch at the Congressional dining hall even though she did not know him.

“To this day, when people come out to Washington, DC, I take every opportunity, every chance that I can, to take them to the Congressional dining room, or the Senate’s dining room, and I tell them every time, the reason I’m doing this was because the first time I came to Washington, DC, Barbara Vucanovich took me to lunch,” he said.

Amodei, who took over representation of the district when Heller was appointed to the Senate in May 2011, said there are two remarkable facts about her service that stand out for him.

“One is, it was never about Barbara, which is a phenomenally rare thing in politics, and the other one was, Barbara Vucanovich served 14 years and came home, and that’s a rare thing that I think is really neat too -  one of the things I respect most about her,” he said.

Vucanovich took the lead on many issues affecting Nevada and helped line up support in the House of Representatives to create the Great Basin National Park in 1986; the only national park created in the contiguous United States during the Reagan administration. She was also instrumental in getting the 55 mile-per-hour speed limit repealed.

Reno Assemblyman Pat Hickey with Barbara Vucanovich. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

In an interview Friday, Vucanovich said she is dismayed at the sorry state of discourse and civility  in Congress, not to mention the inability of Republicans and Democrats to reach agreement on critical issues, including the budget deficit. But Vucanovich said she does not have a magic solution to change the political climate for the better.

“It’s kind of discouraging and it’s not good government,” she said.

Attitudes were different during her tenure, Vucanovich said.

“We would disagree in committee or disagree on various issues but when the day was over we patted each other on the shoulder and said, ‘nice day, how is your family.’ I know a lot of nice Democrats and we get along fine.”

“The president, of course, was Ronald Reagan, and although he had a Democratic Congress and so forth everybody liked him,” Vucanovich said. “And it was fine for me, he was there for six years so we were friends and I felt like it was very comfortable. And he was a friend with (House Speaker) Tip O’Neill. I mean they would have differences but then they would have a drink at night.”

Vucanovich has told her story in a new book, “Barbara F. Vucanovich – From Nevada To Congress, And Back Again.”

When she was elected, Vucanovich was one of only a handful of women serving in the House.

“It was different and there were very few women as I say, only 19 of us, and so we got to know each other,” she said. “A lot of us had differences of course, but we were always friendly to each other and it was a great experience.”

Vucanovich held many key roles during her tenure, including chairwoman of the very powerful Appropriations Subcommittee on Military Construction; only the second woman ever to chair an appropriations subcommittee at that time.

“If you are a woman running for office in Nevada, Barbara Vucanovich is the first endorsement you seek,” said Randi Thompson, a former legislative candidate.


Audio clips:

Former Rep. Barbara Vucanovich says her then-boss, Sen. Paul Laxalt, encouraged her to run for the seat:

081812Vucanovich1 :12 I did it.”

Vucanovich says she was of 19 women in the House:

081812Vucanovich2 :14 a great experience.”

Vucanovich says she was fortunate to serve during much of Ronald Reagan’s two terms:

081812Vucanovich3 :30 drink at night.”

Sen. Dean Heller says he first met Barbara Vucanovich more than 20 years ago in Washington, DC:

081812Heller :26 me to lunch.”

Rep. Mark Amodei says Vucanovich’s career in Congress was never about her but about her constituents:

081812Amodei :15 most about her.”




Gov. Sandoval Names Gerald Gardner New Chief Of Staff

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 11:51 am August 17th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval today announced Gerald Gardner has been named chief of staff effective September 5. Gardner takes over for Heidi Gansert who has served as the governor’s chief of staff for the past twenty months and who announced her resignation yesterday.

Gov. Brian Sandoval.

“I have known Gerald since he served as my Las Vegas regional chief when I was attorney general,” Sandoval said.  “His experience in Southern Nevada combined with his keen intellect and insight will be invaluable as we move into the 2013 Nevada Legislative session. I am pleased that Gerald has agreed to join my administration and serve in this capacity. I look forward to working together again.”

Gardner, 47, currently serves as the assistant district attorney of Carson City, advising the district attorney in all policy, administrative, and operational matters. He also serves as chief trial attorney and chief of the criminal prosecution division.

Gardner received his law degree from Cornell University in 1991 and his bachelor’s degree from Kenyon College in 1987. After graduating from law school, he joined the Clark County District Attorney’s Office in Las Vegas where he served for nine years in the criminal, appellate, and civil divisions.

In 2002, Gardner was named the chief of the criminal justice division for the Nevada Attorney General’s Office, focusing on public corruption and fraud cases. In 2004, he was appointed by then-Attorney General Brian Sandoval to serve as his Las Vegas regional chief. He also served on the Attorney General’s Legislative Committee.

“I am extremely honored to have been chosen by Governor Sandoval to serve as his chief of staff,” Gardner said. “It will be my privilege to serve the governor and the people of Nevada in achieving the important objectives of this administration – promoting Nevada’s economy and improving education for our state’s children.”

Gardner lives in Carson City with his wife, Stephanie, and their three children, Bennett, James, and Julia.

Gansert stepped down after discussions with her family.

“As most everyone who is involved in state government knows, the chief of staff position requires an extraordinary commitment and I have given it my all since helping lead the transition and from our first day in office,” she said in a statement. “In addition, preparation has begun on the governor’s biennial budget and legislative agenda, so now is the right time for a new chief to step in and guide the planning process for the 2013 Nevada Legislature.”

Nevada’s Unemployment Rate Jumps In July Even As Jobs Are Added

By Sean Whaley | 11:08 am August 17th, 2012

CARSON CITY – After hitting a three-year low in May and June, Nevada’s seasonally adjusted unemployment rate jumped four-tenths of a percentage point in July to 12 percent, the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) reported today.

The continued high jobless rate, tops in the nation for yet another month, will be front and center when President Obama visits the state again next week, with stops in both Reno and Las Vegas.

Nevada is a battleground state in the 2012 presidential race.

The July rate is still down compared to July 2011, and remains 2 percentage points below the recessionary peak of 14 percent hit in October 2010, said DETR Chief Economist Bill Anderson. The 12 percent rate of joblessness equates to 163,700 people out of work in the state.

And even though the jobless rate rose, Nevada saw job growth from June to July when 2,100 jobs were added, he said.

Employment has increased on a year-over-year basis in each of the past 13 months, and in 18 of the past 19 months, Anderson said.

“I think you have to put today’s report in a broader context,” he said. “Nationwide we saw 44 states with an increase in the unemployment rate from June to July. At the same time, about 31 states had job increases. So it was kind of a good news, bad news kind of a report, pretty much across the majority of states.

“I try not to put too much emphasis on one month’s report,” Anderson said. “So looking forward, I continue to think that we’ll see moderate improvement in the state’s economy and in our labor market. So nothing to write home about but certainly much better than where we were just a couple of short years ago.”

While not directly comparable to the state’s seasonally adjusted figure, the Las Vegas metro area has the highest unemployment rate amongst the state’s three population centers, at 12.9 percent, not seasonally adjusted, in July.

Courtesy of Newmont Mining Corp.

In Carson City, the July unemployment rate stood at 12.2 percent. The Reno-Sparks area tallied a 12 percent rate, Anderson said.

At the county-level, the state’s rural regions where mining activity is occurring continue to have the lowest jobless rates. Lander County, with a rate of 5.7 percent in July, leads the way. Esmeralda is next lowest, at 6.5 percent, followed by Elko County’s 6.7 percent.

The highest unemployment rates continue to be found in the “bedroom communities” of Nye (15.5 percent) and Lyon (15.3 percent) counties.

Over the past 12 months, the Nevada economy has added 10,300 jobs, with 12,600 new positions in private establishments being partially offset by losses in the public sector. The leisure and hospitality sector continues to be the driving force behind Nevada’s job growth, providing 5,100 new jobs over the year and 1,200 over the month.

“I am pleased that job growth continued for a 13th consecutive month, but against the backdrop of a weak national economy not all the news was good,” Gov. Brian Sandoval said in a statement. “As part of Nevada’s slow recovery, our state experienced a slight uptick in unemployment in July, as occurred in the country as a whole. This news is further evidence that we must continue business development efforts to attract new companies and support the expansion of existing companies to get more Nevadans back to work.”

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, according to a report released at the end of July.

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.


Audio clips:

DETR Chief Economist Bill Anderson says despite the uptick in the jobless rate, Nevada like many other states saw job growth from June to July:

081712Anderson1 :25 majority of states.”

Anderson says he still expects to see slow improvement in the Nevada economy and labor market:

081712Anderson2 :22 short years ago.”



Florida Sen. Rubio Rallies Support For Heller’s Election Bid, Berkley Continues Attack On GOP Plan For Medicare

By Sean Whaley | 5:58 pm August 16th, 2012

RENO – GOP Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, at one time a resident of Las Vegas, rallied supporters for Sen. Dean Heller’s election bid today at an area nightclub.

Rubio, who earlier in the day held a rally with Heller in Las Vegas, toured a local business, the Great Basin Brewing Company, before arriving at Mambo’s next to the Atlantis hotel-casino.

Several hundred supporters turned out for the Reno event.

Fla. Sen. Marco Rubio campaigns for Sen. Dean Heller in Reno today. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

In brief remarks, Rubio talked about growing up in Las Vegas, and how the hotel-casino jobs held by his parents helped the family live the “American dream.” Rubio spent seven years in Las Vegas and attended elementary school there.

His dad was a bartender and his mom was a maid, and they had jobs because someone with money built a hotel in Las Vegas, he said.

“And every two weeks my parents cashed a paycheck,” Rubio said. “They were never rich, but they lived the American dream, because they were able to give us the chance to do all the things they never had a chance to do. Because all the doors that had been closed for them, opened for us.”

Rubio said President Obama’s ideas of big government are the same that have “kept people in poverty for centuries.”

“What’s at stake here really is the majority in the United States Senate,” he told the crowd in remarks that lasted about 10 minutes. “You want to repeal Obamacare? Then you better have a Republican majority in the Unites State Senate. You want to have a tax code that encourages people to create jobs in America? Then you better have a Republican majority in the United States Senate. And we can’t have a Republican majority in the United States Senate if Dean Heller is not reelected to the United States Senate.”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that in addition to the Las Vegas rally, Heller and Rubio met with Sheldon Adelson and held a fundraising event that brought in close to $200,000.

Heller’s Democratic opponent, Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., was in Northern Nevada today as well, continuing a tour of the state to criticize what she called “the Heller-Ryan-Romney plan to end Medicare as we know it.”

Berkley held events in both Carson City and Fallon.

Heller said he was “proud” to be the only member of Congress to be able to vote twice for the plan to turn Medicare over to “profit-hungry private insurance companies,” Berkley said in a statement.

“Their plan would put insurance company bureaucrats between patients and their doctors while raising premiums by $6,000 a year,” she said. “Nevadans cannot afford the Heller-Ryan-Romney plan to undermine the benefits they are depending on to be there when they retire. I’ll continue to fight each and every day to ensure Medicare’s guaranteed benefits are there for Nevadans for generations to come.”


Audio clips:

Sen. Marco Rubio says if Nevadans want to repeal Obamacare and create jobs, they need to elect Dean Heller to the Senate:

081612Rubio1 :21 United States Senate.”

Rubio says his parents lived the American dream while working in Las Vegas:

081612Rubio2 :24 opened for us.”

State Board Rejects Proposal To Seek State Funding To Subsidize Nevada’s Health Insurance Exchange

By Sean Whaley | 1:22 pm August 16th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A board overseeing the creation of the state’s health insurance exchange opted today not to seek general fund support to subsidize the fees charged to participants in the program.

The Finance and Sustainability Advisory Subcommittee of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange Board had proposed subsidizing the monthly fee paid by enrollees with a general fund appropriation from the state Insurance Premium Tax.

The proposal was to take 25 percent of the estimated increase in the insurance premium tax revenue resulting from uninsured Nevadans entering the health insurance market to help fund the program.

Relying on general fund support would have dropped the monthly user fee from $4.40 in 2014 to about $2.78 for each participant. The rate under the proposed funding plan will rise to $6.20 in 2015. This rate too would be lower with general fund support.

The fees are estimated to generate $7.7 million in calendar year 2014 and $13.6 million in 2015.

But the recommendation to seek general fund support was rejected by a 6-1 vote of the board. The budget for the exchange, and its funding sources, will become part of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s 2013-15 budget now being drafted for the 2013 legislative session.

Sandoval made it clear on Tuesday that he would oppose supporting the exchange with general funds, even though he has decided that having Nevada move forward with its own exchange is the better option than letting the federal government operate it.

The exchange should have to “stand on its own merits through user fees,” he said.

The federal government is paying for more than 99 percent of the cost of implementing and operating the exchange through Dec. 31, 2014. But beginning Jan. 1, 2015, the state will have to pick up the costs of running the exchange. The plan as approved by the board would cover those costs with the user fees exclusively.

Board member Dr. Ronald Kline said an argument could be made to justify seeking general fund support.

“While I agree philosophically with the recommendations of the committee, that by having more insured people in Nevada we’re going to increase revenue and so it is not unreasonable to ask for a portion of that,” he said. “I agree with that philosophically.”

But from a political perspective such a proposal is unlikely to get support from the governor and could engender bad will for no positive reason, Kline said.

“The second point is, that for subsidized individuals, the higher per-member, per-month fee is completely absorbed by the federal government,” he said. “So by taking 25 percent from the general fund and lowering the per-member, per-month fee, what we’re practically doing is we’re taking more money from our general revenue and accepting less money from the federal government.”

The exchange is basically a one-stop shop for Nevadans to search for and purchase health insurance coverage. The exchanges were authorized by the Affordable Care Act, most of which was upheld by the U.S. Supreme Court in late June. It will begin operation on Oct. 1, 2013.


Audio clips:

Dr. Ronald Kline says an argument can be made to seek general fund support to help operate the exchange:

081612Kline1 :24 per-member, per-month fee.”

But Kline says using general funds would in effect reduce the amount of federal money received to run the exchange:

081612Kline2 :23 the federal government.”


Nevada Retailers Expect $245 Million In Back-To-School Spending, Up 15 Percent Over 2011

By Sean Whaley | 8:45 am August 15th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada retailers and their online counterparts expect to see $245 million in spending on back-to-school merchandise for public school children this year, a 15.4 percent increase over spending levels in 2011, the Retail Association of Nevada (RAN) reported today.

College spending in Nevada is expected to generate another $134 million in what is as the second biggest consumer event for retailers behind the winter holidays, according to the National Retail Federation. The NRF reports that combined K-12 and college spending will reach $83.8 billion this year.

Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

“Parents want to make sure their kids have everything they need to start the new school year and are willing to spend more than ever on school-related necessities,” said Mary Lau, president of RAN. “However, the economy remains a concern in most households, which will have an impact on the way families shop. Bargain-hunting will remain important to budget-conscious consumers.”

According to the latest survey results from the NRF, families nationwide with children in grades K-12 are expected to spend an average of $689 on clothing, backpacks and other supplies. The latest estimate is a 14.1-percent increase from the estimated $604 spent last year.

According to demographics released by Nielsen Marketplace, there are approximately 1 million households in Nevada, and 34 percent (or 355,000 households) have one or more children in grades K-12. Assuming national trends as reported by the NRF generally hold true for Nevada families, total spending in the state will reach approximately $245 million. Due to an increase in both the count of families with children entering elementary or middle school, and an increase in spending per family, back-to-school spending in the state is expected to increase 15.4 percent compared to last year when total spending was an estimated $212 million.

As for college-bound students, the NRF estimates families will spend an average of $907 on new clothes, dormitory or apartment furniture and other college supplies. Compared to last year’s estimate of $809, college spending is expected to increase 12.2 percent.

Utilizing the latest estimate of Nevada residents who will be enrolled in undergraduate and graduate degree programs within and outside of Nevada in the coming school year released by the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey, aggregate back-to-school spending on college supplies is expected to increase this year as well. Again, assuming Nevada residents follow national trends, college spending is estimated to reach $134 million, compared to $120 million in 2011.

Bryan Wachter, director of government affairs for RAN, said back-to-school spending is exceeded only by the Christmas holiday season.

“Back-to-school is for a specific purpose, and we feel we can measure it pretty accurately,” he said.

Wachter said clothing and electronics, from calculators to laptops to phones, are the big spending categories.

“Electronics, not quite but almost, total clothing,” he said. “The average person is going to spend about $250 per student on clothing and we’re going to spend about $225 on electronics.”

The spending increase is due in part to some increased confidence among Nevadans that their jobs are more secure, Wachter said.

The Internet is continuing to grow as a preferred shopping “destination” for back-to-school items. Approximately 39.6 percent of consumers will be using the Internet to shop for needed supplies, nearly double the 2007 estimate. That said, discount stores are expected to be the most popular shopping destination, with 67.1 percent of consumers planning to shop there. Department stores followed with 59.9 percent.


Audio clips:

Bryan Wachter of RAN says back-to-school shopping is a huge event for retailers:

081512Wachter1 :15 on back-to-school items.”

Wachter says spending on electronics now nearly equals spending on clothes:

081512Wachter2 :12 $225 on electronics.”

Local Workforce Boards Awarded Funding Despite Ongoing Concerns Over Excessive Administrative Costs

By Sean Whaley | 4:50 pm August 14th, 2012

CARSON CITY – More than $27 million in federal job training funds were awarded to two local workforce development boards by the Board of Examiners today despite ongoing concerns about how the money is being spent by the Southern Nevada board, called Workforce Connections.

The Southern Nevada board will get more than $19 million in funding over the next two years despite the findings in an audit released earlier this year that it was spending nearly twice as much on administration and monitoring of programs than its Northern Nevada counterpart, Nevadaworks.

Dennis Perea, deputy director of the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR), told the Board of Examiners that the funds are being awarded to the two local boards until such time as the U.S. Department of Labor grants a waiver to the state to have the funds administered instead by one statewide board. That decision is expected within the month, he said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, a member of the Board of Examiners, asked for assurances from Perea that the money would be spent on job training efforts and not excessive administrative expenses.

Sandoval and DETR are pushing for the new funding distribution plan that would replace the two local boards.

“There’s a lot of money involved here in these contracts, and are you confident that if these contracts were to be approved that the dollars would be spent wisely?” he asked Perea. “There was an audit, it didn’t go well. It sounds like there hasn’t been much improvement.”

Perea said the new management at Workforce Connections has made improvements, but there are still concerns about the amount of money being spent on administrative expenses.

“They are budgeting at about 20 percent of the funds being held at the board level for board expenses,” he said. “We’re in the process of talking about ways to limit that even further. But we do believe they are moving in the right direction, maybe not quick enough.”

The contracts were in front of the Board of Examiners because the two local boards are the vehicles to spend the job training funds at the current time, Perea said.

After the meeting, Perea said that if the waiver is approved by the U.S. Department of Labor, the grant funding would be redirected to a newly constituted state workforce board, possibly as early as January. The grant funds are paid out as they are spent by the local workforce boards, and so a transition would occur redirecting the funding to the new state board, he said.

The statewide and Northern Nevada workforce boards have approved the new proposal from DETR to administer the funds through one statewide board, but Workforce Connections has opposed the recommendation.

“As we sit here today we need to approve these contracts to get the money out because at the end of the day we need to help people,” Sandoval said. “But I just want, I’ve said this before, I want to make sure as many possible dollars get to the people that actually need it, than having it all eaten up with administration.”

DETR Director Frank Woodbeck has proposed the plan to consolidate the three separate boards that oversee workforce development into one, which is expected to result in $5 million more in federal funds directed annually to helping train job seekers to find employment.

The plan, “Moving Nevada Forward: A Plan For Excellence in Workforce Development,” was submitted to the Department of Labor last month.

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

But a recent audit of this system by the state Division of Internal Audits revealed that too many federal dollars are lost to administrative and duplicative costs.

“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 plan was released in May. “Administrative functions would be moved to DETR and community service providers will continue to deliver direct services to job seekers.”


Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval asks for assurances the money will be spent appropriately:

081412Sandoval1 :20 be spent wisely?”

Sandoval says the money has to get into the hands of those people who actually need it:

081412Sandoval2 :17 up with administration.”

DETR Deputy Director Dennis Perea says too much money is still being spent on administration by the Southern Nevada board:

081412Perea :12 that even further.”




Board Of Examiners, Including Gov. Brian Sandoval, Approve Contract To Establish Nevada Health Insurance Exchange

By Sean Whaley | 2:43 pm August 14th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The state Board of Examiners, including Gov. Brian Sandoval, today approved a contract worth up to $72 million through 2016 to set up the information technology system needed to implement the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange.

The contract with Xerox State Healthcare will allow the state to move forward with the exchange, basically a one-stop shop for purchasing health insurance. The exchanges were authorized by the Affordable Care Act, most of which was upheld in a U.S. Supreme Court decision in June.

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

Sandoval said he is supporting the development of a Nevada-based exchange so it can be tailored to fit the needs of Nevada residents. The alternative would be to have the federal government operate an exchange in the state. The state would still be obligated to pay for its operation beginning in 2015.

Because the federal government is paying for more than 99 percent of the cost of implementing and operating the exchange through Dec. 31, 2014, Sandoval said it was a prudent decision for the state to move forward with its own program.

The state exchange must be operational by Oct. 1, 2013.

While the development of a Nevada exchange is the right decision for the near term, Sandoval said it will have to become self-sustaining when the state has to find alternative funding sources to pay for its operation starting Jan. 1, 2015. Sandoval said he will oppose any effort to fund it via the state general fund or through an assessment on the state insurance premium tax.

One option to fund the program is an assessment on participants in the exchange.

The exchange should have to “stand on its own merits through user fees,” he said.

“I feel like I would prefer to have this state have the control over this,” Sandoval said during a lengthy discussion of the contract. “We don’t know if we were to not have our own exchange what the federal government would do and what it would look like and what they would charge the state, which we wouldn’t have any say obviously as to what that amount would be.”

Jon Hager, executive director of the exchange, said that if the Affordable Care Act is repealed following the November presidential election, the state will be able to end the contract with Xerox without penalty.

The state is still awaiting notification from the federal government that it will receive a $50 million grant to pay for the Xerox contract, and other expenses of the exchange, he said. That notification is expected within the next few days.

The Board of Examiners, which also includes Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller, approved the contract.

Estimating enrollment in the exchange is still a work in progress. Sandoval said today he is still gathering information on the implications of expanding Medicaid eligibility allowed under the Affordable Care Act. Expanding Medicaid would likely reduce enrollment in the exchange.

Enrollment estimates for the exchange for 2014 range from a low of 119,000 to a high of 145,000, depending on the Medicaid expansion issue.

The board overseeing the exchange will meet Thursday to consider a number of issues in  the ongoing development of the exchange.

Nevada’s decision to move forward with its own exchange comes after more than 70 Republican members of Congress sent a letter to the nation’s governors in June urging them to oppose the creation of health care exchanges.

Sandoval moved forward in his first days as governor in January 2011 to implement the exchange. It was created by Senate Bill 440 of the 2011 Legislature. It was passed unanimously of those voting in both the Senate and Assembly at the end of the session. Four members of the Assembly were excused and did not vote.


Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says it is better for the state to run its own exchange, at least in the near term:

081412Sandoval1 :20 amount would be.”

Sandoval says the exchange will have to survive on its own merits through user fees, not state tax support:

081412Sandoval3 :27 through user fees.”

Rep. Amodei Says Any Green Energy Policy That Pushes Utility Rates Higher Wrong For Nevada

By Sean Whaley | 4:05 pm August 13th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said today that any “green energy” policy that leads to higher electric bills for Nevadans who are looking for work in tough economic times is the wrong energy policy for the state.

“Nobody is anti-green,” he said. “We struggle to compete with the cost of a kilowatt hour when we talk about economic development. And economic development has something to do with jobs.”

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.

If federal money is going to be spent on research and development to make wind, solar and geothermal energy more competitive that’s one issue, Amodei said.

“But if those, when they get done, go to sell into the grid and that increases rates, especially right now when things are they way they are in Nevada, and competition for sustainable living wage jobs is what it is in the Inter-mountain West, I think that’s the wrong energy policy,” he said.

Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District representative made his comments to Sam Shad in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program in response to recent comments from U.S. Sen. Harry Reid saying that NV Energy’s Reid Gardner coal plant in Clark County should be shut down. Reid has also urged NV Energy to support a $5 billion solar project that a Chinese company ENN Mojave Energy, wants to build near Laughlin.

An NV Energy official told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week that the utility has no plans to purchase more renewable energy at this time because it has exceeded the state’s requirement that 15 percent of its portfolio originate from green energy sources.

Amodei also questioned the effectiveness of federal financial support for green energy projects.

“If you go to the Department of Energy and you look in the last few years, they provided $1.5 billion, Sam, $1.5 billion in loan guarantees, to those projects in Nevada,” he said. “And while it’s great news for all the construction folks, I get that, in terms of the long-term jobs, it has created 137 long-term jobs throughout the state. That’s $22 million a job, Sam, in loan guarantees.”

Amodei appeared to get his math wrong, however, with a closer estimate being $11 million a job based on 137 jobs and loan guarantees of $1.5 billion.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute last week released its own analysis of the renewable energy sector in Nevada and found that over $1.3 billion in federal funds funneled into geothermal, solar and wind projects since 2009 has yielded and is projected to yield 288 permanent, full-time jobs, or $4.6 million per job.

Amodei said Gov. Brian Sandoval could create more jobs in Nevada if given a $1.5 billion bank to do so.

Reid was also successful several years ago in getting NV Energy to terminate the construction of a coal-fired plant near Ely in eastern Nevada. NV Energy announced in 2009 it was stopping work on the $5 billion project. Two coal plants had been planned for the area by the utility.

Amodei said the project was able to meet all environmental and air quality requirements.

“These folks have complied with all of the objective regulations and permitting requirements, and you’ve got somebody (Reid) coming in, going, ‘forget about the rules, I’m going to impose my will,’ ” Amodei said.


Audio clips:

Rep. Mark Amodei says any plan requiring Nevadans to pay more in utility costs to promote green energy is the wrong policy for the state:

081312Amodei1 :30 wrong energy policy.”

Amodei says long-term job creation with $1.5 billion in federal loan guarantees has been disappointing:

081312Amodei2 :23 in loan guarantees.”

Amodei says the proposed coal fire plants had met all air quality requirements:

081312Amodei3 :09 impose my will.’ “



Deferred Action Program To Begin Accepting Applications Wednesday, 23,300 Potentially Eligible In Nevada

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 1:30 pm August 13th, 2012

CARSON CITYThe U.S. Department of Homeland Security will officially begin accepting applications Wednesday for “deferred action” from young immigrants who were brought to the United States as children and who meet other specific requirements.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.

There are an estimated 23,300 potential beneficiaries of the program in Nevada, with a large majority, 18,570, from Mexico, according to estimates from the Immigration Policy Center (IPC).

The IPC estimates there are approximately 1.4 million immigrants currently in the United States who might meet the requirements of the deferred action initiative, either now or when they are older.

The IPC is releasing an updated Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals: A Q&A Guide outlining the basic facts about the initiative, including eligibility requirements and important information on process and timing.

The IPC also recently released estimates on who is eligible and where they live in its fact sheet, “Who and Where the DREAMers Are: A Demographic Profile of Immigrants Who Might Benefit from the Obama Administration’s Deferred Action Initiative.” This analysis breaks down the population potentially eligible for deferred action by nationality and age at the national and state level, as well as the Congressional District level.

The report shows there are 11,630 potential beneficiaries in the 1st Congressional District in Nevada currently represented by Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev. An estimated 7,300 beneficiaries aged 15- to 30-years-old are immediately eligible, with another 4,330 future beneficiaries now aged 5- to 14-years old.

There are 5,130 estimated beneficiaries in the 2nd Congressional District represented by Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., with 3,390 eligible now and 1,740 eligible in the future.

There are 6,540 estimated beneficiaries in the 3rd Congressional District represented by Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., with 4,360 immediately eligible and 2,180 eligible in the future.

The action by the Obama Administration has become a campaign issue in the new 4th Congressional District in Nevada, with Republican candidate Danny Tarkanian calling it a ploy for Hispanic votes and state Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, supporting the action.

The Legal Action Center (LAC) has released a practice advisory analyzing DHS guidance regarding the eligibility criteria and application process for the initiative. It also offers strategic advice for attorneys representing individuals who may qualify for deferred action under this initiative. The LAC issued this advisory jointly with the American Immigration Lawyers Association and the National Immigration Project of the National Lawyers Guild.

Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano on June 15 announced that effective immediately, certain young people who were brought to the United States as young children, do not present a risk to national security or public safety, and meet several key criteria, will be considered for relief from removal from the country or from entering into removal proceedings.

Napolitano said the deferred action program will offer the young immigrants two-year work permits and not deport them as a temporary measure until the country’s immigration policies could be changed with the adoption of the DREAM Act.

The IPC, established in 2003, is the policy arm of the American Immigration Council. The IPC says its mission is to shape a rational conversation on immigration and immigrant integration.

NDOT Website Offers New Feature For Information On Disadvantaged Business Enterprises

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 11:10 am August 10th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The Nevada Department of Transportation is offering a new feature on its website making it easier to find information about Disadvantaged Business Enterprises (DBEs) and for the businesses to provide detailed information about the goods and services they provide.

The agency’s Civil Rights Division unveiled the advanced search feature to simplify the process of identifying DBEs.

Users can log on and use the advanced search feature to locate DBE companies in several ways – by vendor name or description, North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) code or description, contact person, website, mailing address and more.

For more accurate results, visitors can use portions of keywords in their searches. For example, they can input “test” for testing, tester, tested, or “manuf” for manufacture, manufactured, manufacturing. This tool can help contractors looking for DBEs that provide specific goods and services.

DBE vendor companies are encouraged to submit comprehensive information about their offerings to NDOT’s Civil Rights and Contract Compliance Team. The information included in the DBE vendor listings can enhance their visibility and opportunities.

The federal Disadvantaged Business Enterprise program is aimed at equal opportunity in business. Funded through the U.S. Department of Transportation (USDOT), the program helps businesses classified as small, woman-owned or disadvantaged to compete in a fair environment right alongside larger corporations.



Gaming Win Down Six Percent In Nevada In June, Difficult Comparisons Cited As Primary Cause

By Sean Whaley | 4:47 pm August 9th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada casinos took in $832.5 million in gaming revenue in June, a decline of 6 percent compared to the same month a year ago, the Gaming Control Board reported today.

The win was about $53 million less than June 2011 as casinos tried to build on the win in June 2011, which was up 16 percent over June 2010.

Special events around the state and increased visitor volume could not offset the difficult comp against the June 2011 gains, said Michael Lawton, senior research analyst for the control board.

It is the second consecutive month of revenue declines. Gaming revenues fell 10.1 percent in May.

The Las Vegas Strip was off 4.5 percent in June, bringing in $483.7 million compared to $506.7 million in June 2011. The comp for the Strip was even tougher, with June 2011 up 32.3 percent over June 2010, Lawton said.

Electric Daisy Carnival 2011. / Photo: Roman Fuchs via Wikimedia Commons.

The Las Vegas locals markets were hit in June as well, with North Las Vegas down 26.2 percent, Laughlin down 20.3 percent and downtown Las Vegas off 12.8 percent. One factor in these numbers was that June ended on a Saturday, meaning that slot revenue from the final weekend  of the month will be reported in July, he said.

A bright spot in the report was Washoe County, which saw gaming revenues increase by 7.3 percent in June to $66.8 million. Reno was up 9.4 percent to $50 million.

Nevada had a number of events and developments that brought in tourists around the state, Lawton said.

There was a Manny Pacquiao fight against Timothy Bradley on June 9 at the MGM Grand, a baccarat tournament at the Bellagio on June 16 and 17, the Electric Daisy Carnival musical festival at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway from June 8 to 10 and the new terminal at McCarran International Airport opened on June 27. In Northern Nevada, a Don Henley concert June 28 and a U.S. Women’s Open bowling event from June 21 to June 27 took place.

“You’ll see that Reno’s visitation was up 3.4 percent for the month of June,” Lawton said. “That’s the first increase they’ve had in a few months so those were definitely good events.”

The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority reported today that tourism was up in Las Vegas in June as well, with 3.39 million visitors for a 2.1 percent increase over June 2011.

Another tough comp in June was the game and table win statewide, which totaled $325.3 million. It was almost flat, down $3 million over June 2011. Game and table win in June 2011 was up 55.2 percent over June 2010.

The baccarat win totaled $103.1 million, down 3.8 percent over June 2011. The volume wagered on the game was up significantly over June 2011, but the casinos did not win as much from gamblers, Lawton said. The “hold” by casinos in June was 12.4 percent compared to a 15.6 percent in June 2011.

“The good sign there is that the play was definitely there,” he said. “We just didn’t hold as well as we did last June.”

The final six months of the calendar year show easier comps and so could produce better results in monthly revenues, Lawton said.


Audio clips:

Michael Lawton, senior research analyst for the control board, says the story of the June report was the difficult comps from June 2011:

080912Lawton1 :12 so basically flat.”

Lawton says Reno visitor volume was up in June in part because of strong events:

080912Lawton2 :11 definitely good events.”

Lawton says baccarat volume was up but the casinos did not win as much from gamblers in June:

080912Lawton3 :10 we normally see.”


Sen. Heller Gets National, Local Chamber Endorsement As Rep. Berkley Touts Her Own Business Support

By Sean Whaley | 2:57 pm August 9th, 2012

SPARKS – U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., showed up at a Sparks floral shop today to receive the endorsement of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in his reelection bid against Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.

The national endorsement was made by former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, who said the choice was clear for the organization.

“This is a time, as you all know, of great contrast in politics,” said Spellings, president of the U.S. Chamber’s Forum for Policy Innovation. “These are not close calls; these are not tough calls, these endorsements. People who support business do so proudly and we are proud and honored to support them. While a lot of people talk a good game, it’s pretty easy to decide who is pro-business around here.”

Sen. Dean Heller speaks in Sparks after being endorsed by the U.S. and Reno-area Chambers of Commerce with Tray Abney and Margaret Spellings looking on. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

Spellings, who served as U.S. Secretary of Education from 2005 to 2009, said Heller’s leadership on pro-growth policies, including American energy production, removing regulatory barriers for small business growth and reining in government spending, is what will get the nation’s economy back on track.

The Berkley campaign at the same time announced support from business leaders for her Senate campaign, including Republican businesswoman Maggie Arias Petrel of Las Vegas.

“Shelley has consistently supported small businesses in our community by voting for legislation like the Small Business Jobs Act, which provided incentives to get small businesses to start hiring again,” Petrel said in a release from the campaign. “We need Shelley to keep fighting for Nevada businesses in the years to come as a U.S. Senator.”

The Chamber of Reno, Sparks and Northern Nevada announced its endorsement of Heller at the same time at the Sparks Florist, despite not having interviewed Berkley first.

Tray Abney, director of government affairs for the regional chamber, representing 2,500 member businesses, said the group decided to endorse Heller because of his past support for pro-business policies. The chamber had expected Berkley to speak to the group during the August recess, but had not heard from her through today, he said.

Abney criticized Berkley, saying she is a “reliable vote for higher taxes, she’s a reliable vote for big government, she’s a reliable vote for making your energy costs more expensive.”

Berkley’s vote for the Affordable Care Act, for example, will lead to increased health insurance costs for small business, he said.

Tony Fiannaca, owner of Sparks Florist, also spoke in support of Heller, noting his family-run business that employs 40 people was built without government support.

Heller took the opportunity to criticize Berkley for voting for “cap and trade,” which he said would cost 50,000 jobs in Nevada.

The American Clean Energy and Security Act would allow the government to set a cap on the total amount of greenhouse gases that could be emitted nationally. Companies would then buy or sell permits to emit the gases, primarily carbon dioxide.

“In this Congressional District here, I knew we would lose 15,000 jobs and for that reason I voted against it,” Heller said. “Who in their right mind in Washington, DC, believes, that when presented an option of actually voting against your own constituents; losing jobs in this economy; would actually vote for it.”

He also criticized Berkley for her support of President Obama’s proposal to end the Bush tax cuts for individuals making $200,000 or more and couples making $250,000 or more.

Pam duPré, executive director of the Washoe County Democratic Party, offered a different perspective, saying Berkley has been a friend to business throughout her political career.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.

“One good example is the Small Business Jobs Act of 2010,” she said. “It created $30 billion in capital for community banks to lend to small businesses to help them grow and create jobs. Republican Governor Brian Sandoval applauded the bill saying it would help create jobs in Nevada.”

Four Nevada banks used the funds in 32 locations, duPré said.

Heller voted against the measure, calling it “another bank bailout.”

But so did then-Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., who lost to Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., in the 2010 general election. Titus told the Nevada NewsMakers television show in April 2012 that she too was concerned it was a bank bailout. Titus is now running for the 1st Congressional seat in Las Vegas.

The Wall Street Journal reported in March 2011 that critics of the fund said some banks were applying for money to refinance outstanding government debt rather than to boost their small-business lending.

DuPré said the chamber “perhaps” could have done more research before making the endorsement.

“Shelley Berkley has always been a strong supporter of small businesses,” she said. “The choice really is very clear. Shelley supports giving small businesses the tools they need to grow and prosper and create jobs here in the United States. Dean Heller continues to support tax breaks for corporations so they can ship their jobs over seas and he continues to support tax breaks for big oil companies.”


Audio clips:

U.S. Chamber spokeswoman Margaret Spellings says the choice is clear in the Nevada Senate race:

080912Spellings1 :24 pro-business around here.”

Spellings says Heller favors policies that will get the nation’s economy back on track:

080912Spellings2 :15 back on track.”

Tray Abney of the Reno area chamber says Berkley is not a friend to small business:

080912Abney :10 costs more expensive.”

Sen. Dean Heller says Berkley voted for cap and trade, which would cost 50,000 jobs in Nevada:

080912Heller :17 vote for it.”

Washoe County Democratic Party Executive Director Pam duPré says Berkley voted for the Small Business Jobs Act, which Heller opposed:

080912Drum1 :27 against that bill.”

DuPré says Heller supports tax breaks for companies that ship jobs overseas:

080912Drum2 :24 big oil companies.”



State Treasurer Announces Record Year For Unclaimed Property Returns To Owners

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 3:28 pm August 8th, 2012

CARSON CITY – State Treasurer Kate Marshall today announced a record year for her office’s Unclaimed Property Division, with nearly $33 million in property returned to its rightful owners in Fiscal Year 2012.

The state budget is benefiting as well, with $97.4 million being transferred to the general fund from Fy2012, which ended June 30. Marshall said it is the largest such transfer from the Unclaimed Property Division in state history, surpassing the $83.7 million transferred in Fiscal Year 2011. Property that is unclaimed for three years is transferred to the general fund.

Nevada State Treasurer Kate Marshall.

The successes of the division were communicated in a letter to Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Legislature.

In the letter, Marshall said: “This past fiscal year, my office initiated Operation Claim It, another component of our aggressive campaign aimed at reuniting rightful owners or heirs with abandoned property being safeguarded by my office’s Unclaimed Property Division. As a result of Operation Claim It and other outreach initiatives, we were able to increase our return rate to rightful owners to 37 percent in FY12.”

Efforts included targeting owners of U.S. Savings Bonds and the contents of safe deposit boxes held by the Treasurer’s Office on behalf of rightful owners.

Examples of abandoned/unclaimed property include: bank accounts; uncashed payroll checks, insurance checks, traveler’s checks; utility deposits; gift certificates; stocks, bonds, mutual funds, dividends; insurance policy benefits, or claim payments; safe deposit box contents; oil and gas royalties; and court deposits. Abandoned/unclaimed property does not include real estate or land, automobiles, boats, taxes, or most other tangible properties.

Anyone wanting to check to see if the office is holding unclaimed property can visit the Treasurer’s Office website and perform a search.