Archive for September, 2012

Jobs, Support Of Middle Class Focus Of Spirited Senate Debate Between Heller, Berkley

By Sean Whaley | 2:10 pm September 28th, 2012

CARSON CITY – It took all of about ten minutes for Sen. Dean Heller and Rep Shelley Berkley to mix it up in their first debate in the U.S. Senate race Thursday, criticizing each other on campaign issues ranging from ethics to Medicare to big oil subsidies.

The hour-long debate on KNPB-TV in Reno was the first chance for many voters to see the two candidates spar on the issues, most of which have already been the focus of campaign attacks in the race to date.

Heller, the Republican appointed to the seat last year, and Berkley, a seven-term Democrat Congresswoman representing the 1st District, will debate twice more before election day on Nov. 6.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.

Heller criticized Berkley for supporting big government bailouts and sequestration, a process which could see massive cuts in military and domestic spending, called the “fiscal cliff,” beginning in January if Congress cannot reach agreement on how to reduce spending. He also commented on the ethics issues that are dogging her through the campaign.

Berkley went after Heller for supporting tax breaks for big oil and for supporting a plan by Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan to change the Medicare program for younger Americans when they retire in the years to come.

Heller’s alleged ‘hobos’ remark starts the back-and-forth

One of the first questions to provoke Heller was in reference to his alleged comment in Elko in February of 2010 when unemployment benefits were being extended. He supposedly asked if by continuing the program that “the government is now creating hobos.”

“This is the most difficult part of an election; that is proving something that you didn’t do or say,” Heller said in response to the question. “And in this case this is something that I did not do and something that I did not say. Let’s be very specific. I did not say that.”

Berkley used the opportunity to try to align Heller with Mitt Romney’s controversial comments about 47 percent of Americans being dependent on the federal government.

Heller has disavowed Romney’s comments.

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

Did Heller say that the government is creating hobos?

Yes, according to the Elko Daily Free Press, which reported his comments as: “Heller said the current economic downturn and policies may bring back the hobos of the Great Depression, people who wandered the country taking odd jobs.

“He said a study found that people who are out of work longer than two years have only a 50 percent chance of getting back into the workforce. ‘I believe there should be a federal safety net,’ Heller said, but he questioned the wisdom of extending unemployment benefits yet again to a total of 24 months, which Congress is doing. ‘Is the government now creating hobos?’ ”

But the Heller campaign, in a statement released during the debate, said: “Dean Heller never called unemployed individuals hobos. Then-Congressman Heller was referring to a presentation made by Lawrence B. Lindsey, former Director of the National Economic Council at the White House, before the Republican Members of the House Ways and Means Committee.”

The statement cited a number of times Heller voted to extend unemployment insurance during his career in Congress.

Debate moves to who is a bigger supporter of the middle class

Heller used the opportunity to question Berkley’s claims that she supports the middle class.

“She’s bailed out Detroit, she’s bailed out Wall Street, you name it she’s bailed out everybody time and time again,” he said. “And the question is when are you going to bail out the middle class. What are you going to do for the middle class. You continue to support big bailouts.”

Berkley cited five votes Heller has made “to protect tax breaks for corporations that ship American jobs overseas.”

The Heller campaign pointed to Berkley’s vote in July to extend tax breaks for all but those earning over $250,000 a year. Eliminating those tax breaks “could cost Nevada 6,000 jobs and more than 900,000 nationwide,” the statement said.

Berkley voted for an energy tax, opposed the Keystone Pipeline which will mean the oil gets shipped to China, and supported the Affordable Care Act, Heller said.

Berkley has supported energy tax breaks in Congress, but those breaks have focused on alternative energy development. She introduced the  “Clean Energy Jobs Act,” which would extend a 30 percent tax credit for domestic companies that manufacture products used in clean energy projects such as wind turbines and solar panels.

Heller too said he supports renewable energy development, including some federal support.

Berkley’s ethics investigation initiates another round of discussion

Berkley, who is the subject of a House ethics investigation over whether her support of a kidney transplant program in Southern Nevada benefited her physician husband, was asked about the charges. The investigation is under way and is not expected to be resolved before the election.

Berkley did not respond directly to the question, saying only that her only motive was to help Nevadans. Instead she used the opportunity to again attack Heller for voting for big oil subsidies.

Heller said “character matters,” and called Berkley’s ethics issues “a pattern” that existed prior to her being elected to Congress in 1998.

Heller was referring to a memo Berkley wrote to her then-Las Vegas Sands Inc. boss Sheldon Adelson about needing to do favors to local elected officials to get favorable treatment. The memo was made public in 1998.

The Berkley campaign has called the memo old news and not a factor in her election to Congress.

“I think character does matter, and you know what’s important to the people of the state of Nevada? Who’s going to protect them. Who is going to be fighting for them in the U.S. Senate,” Berkley said in the debate. “The middle income families, who’s working for them, who’s making sure that we get people to go back to work.”

Questions about who supports Medicare take center stage

The candidates also debated the future of Medicare, and Heller’s two votes for changing the program to a voucher plan for those under age 55.

Heller said Berkley’s vote for the health care act meant taking $700 billion from Medicare.

“She needs to quit stealing,” from Medicare, he said.

Berkley said moving Medicare to private insurance companies will cost Nevadans more, and “put private insurance company bureaucrats in-between doctors and their patients.”

Berkley said she did not cut money out of Medicare benefits, but instead voted to eliminate over-payments to insurance companies.

Does Heller want to eliminate the Department of Education?

Another issue that provoked a dispute between the candidates is whether Heller has in fact called for the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education.

Heller said he does not support closing the agency, but that it should be downsized to provide more money directly to local school districts.

The Berkley campaign argues that Heller has called for the elimination of the agency.

The Pahrump Valley Times reported: “Heller singled out the U.S. Department of Education for elimination. ‘Just to give you an idea of how they decide how Pahrump Valley High School should be run, we have 3,500 people back in Washington D.C. in the Department of Education that average more than $100,000 per year per person. Now you can’t tell me you can’t take that money, move it to the states and be able to teach better, giving it to the teachers, the principals and the parents.’ ”

-

Audio clips:

Sen. Dean Heller says he did not make “hobos” remark:

092812Heller1 :10 not say that.”

Heller says Shelley Berkley has voted to bailout big business, not the middle class:

092812Heller2 :12 support big bailouts.”

Rep. Shelly Berkley says Heller supports big business and shipping jobs overseas:

092812Berkley1 :10 their tax subsidies.”

Berkley says the question is who is going to fight for the middle class in the U.S. Senate:

092812Berkley2 :14 back to work.”

 

Taxable Sales Climb 4.7% In July For 25th Consecutive Month Of Gains

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 3:21 pm September 27th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Statewide taxable sales totaled $3.55 billion in July, a 4.7 percent increase over July 2011 for the 25th consecutive month of increases, the state Department of Taxation reported today.

Clark County taxable sales were up 5.4 percent, while Washoe County saw a 5.6 percent gain over July 2011.

Ten of Nevada’s seventeen counties recorded an increase in taxable sales for July 2012 compared to July 2011. Eureka, Lyon, Mineral, Nye, Pershing, Storey, and White Pine counties recorded decreases.

Photo by SteelCityHobbies via Wikimedia Commons.

The largest increases in statewide taxable sales were seen in the Motor Vehicle and Parts Dealers category, up 14.2 percent; Merchant Wholesalers-Durable Goods, up 10.1 percent; Machinery Manufacturing, up 44.2 percent; Clothing and Clothing Accessories, up 4 percent; and Food and Beverage Stores, up 7.3 percent.

Other categories showing increases in July included General Merchandise Stores, up 2.8 percent; Furniture and Home Furnishings, up 0.9 percent; and Accommodations, up 109.2 percent.

Not all the news was good, however. The Construction Industry classification was down 5.9 percent in July over July 2011 and the Food Services and Drinking Places category was down 0.6 percent.

State Senate Candidate Advocates New Corporate Profits Tax In Debate, GOP Opponent Says Call Is Premature

By Sean Whaley | 2:50 pm September 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Former state Sen. Sheila Leslie drew a clear contrast with her Republican opponent Sen. Greg Brower in the District 15 race in Washoe County in a debate today, calling for a corporate profits tax to generate enough revenue to adequately fund education.

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposal to extend a package of sunsetting taxes into the next budget to avoid any further cuts to education won’t provide enough revenue, she said in a debate with Brower on the Nevada NewsMakers television program.

The Washoe County School District will have to cut $50 million next year even if the sunsetting taxes are continued, she said.

“All the surrounding states have that kind of a tax,” Leslie said. “Utah is the lowest at 5 percent. We could have a 1 or 2 percent tax and still be the lowest. We could phase out the modified business tax, which is a job killer. And we could lower the sales tax, eventually.”

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

Brower said he supports extending the sunsetting taxes, but said talk of new taxes is premature.

“Including the tax revenue that was to sunset as revenue that we will or may have as we build the budget is the only common sense thing to do,” he said. “Otherwise we have a $700 million hole in the budget and we just can’t fill that, especially if we are not going to cut education further, which I think is absolutely critical.”

The debate, which went off without any fireworks, involves a state Senate seat considered critical by both Democrats and Republicans as they seek to control the 21-member house for the 2013 legislative session. Democrats now have an 11-10 majority. The 42-member Assembly is expected to remain in Democratic control.

In an unusual political move, Leslie resigned her Senate 1 seat to run against Brower in the new District 15. Brower was appointed to the Senate in District 3 to fill out the term of the late Sen. Bill Raggio. The new district, the result of redistricting based on the 2010 census, has a Republican voter registration edge of 39.8 percent to 37.9 percent for Democrats as of the end of August.

Brower said it would be better to have Republicans control the Senate because the party is more pro-business. Republicans will also do more to further public education reform and work to reform the collective bargaining process, which is crippling local governments, he said.

Democrats came along “kicking and screaming” in their support the 2011 education reforms, Brower said.

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

Leslie said having Democrats in control has ensured that Nevada has not had to deal with “horrible legislation” that has been seen in other states such as voter suppression efforts and hard-line anti-immigration measures.

Sandoval is a Republican so there is balance, she said.

“And as to the education reforms, those came out of the Democratic Assembly, they were the ones who brought forth the reforms, so it’s not true that Democrats don’t ever want to reform anything,” Leslie said.

Having said that, Leslie said the 2013 Legislature needs to look at properly funding education and retaining the best teachers, not pursuing further reforms. The 2011 reforms, including a new teacher evaluation process, have not even had a chance to take effect yet, she said.

Brower said he would like to see more choice for parents in picking schools and have the state give up some of its control to the local school boards. The best teachers also need to be paid more, he said.

The two candidates will also debate Friday on the Face to Face television show.

-

Audio clips:

Senate 15 candidate Sheila Leslie says she would support the creation of a corporate profits tax to adequately fund public education:

092612Leslie1 :14 sales tax, eventually.”

Candidate Greg Brower says such talk is premature:

092612Brower1 :21 talking about that.”

Brower says a Republican-controlled Senate would be more pro-business and allow for more education and collective bargaining reforms:

092612Brower2 :15 in the Legislature.”

Leslie says having Democrats in control has kept Nevada from passing bad legislation:

092612Leslie2 :17 to reform anything.”

 

Poll Finds Nevadans Divided On New Tax Proposal But Strongly Favor Education Reform Efforts

By Sean Whaley | 11:08 am September 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The results of a poll of Nevada residents conducted on behalf of the Retail Association of Nevada (RAN) show that 45 percent of those queried believe a 2 percent margins tax on business proposed by teachers will generate the revenues necessary to support public education.

But 49 percent say the new levy, if approved, would raise prices, increase the state’s already high jobless rate and hurt business, according to the poll by Public Opinion Strategies of 500 likely voters taken Sept. 19-20. It has a margin of error of 4.38 percentage points.

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

And when asked if money alone will improve Nevada’s public education system, only 22 percent agreed, with 73 percent saying the system also needs significant reforms.

The Nevada State Education Association is currently circulating petitions to take the proposed new tax to the Legislature in 2013, but a legal challenge to the proposal remains alive in Carson City District Court.

The poll found that 59 percent of those surveyed said the amount of taxes they pay is about right, with 22 percent saying taxes are too high.

And 58 percent said the governor and Legislature should raises taxes if necessary to avoid cuts to education and health care, while 32 percent said spending should be cut instead.

RAN began conducting the semi-annual poll in 2009, and many of the questions have been asked each time. In this way, the poll can give not only a snapshot of current conditions, but it can also identify trends by comparing results from earlier polls.

Poll information is then shared with RAN members, the public and state legislators so that the concerns of our state will be considered when policies are shaped in Carson City.

Among the other findings in the latest survey:

- Gov. Brian Sandoval is popular, with 62 percent approving of his job performance. But only 45 percent say the governor understands their problems, and only 33 percent say the Legislature does.

- A majority of those surveyed, 52 percent, say the state should not freeze the defined benefits offered to public employees through the state retirement system, while 41 percent say a freeze should be implemented to save money.

- The survey found that 48 percent of respondents believe that Nevada should opt into the Medicaid expansion provided for under the Affordable Care Act, while 44 percent say the state should opt out because of the cost and because the neediest residents are already covered.

- Asked about the conservative Tea Party Movement, 26 percent of respondents said they had a strongly or somewhat favorable view of the movement, with 35 percent saying they have strongly or somewhat unfavorable views.

Public Opinion Strategies (POS) is a national political and public affairs research firm. Founded in 1991, POS has conducted more than five million interviews with voters and consumers in all fifty states and over two dozen foreign countries.

Prevailing Wage, Taxes Focus Of State Senate 18 Debate

By Sean Whaley | 8:27 pm September 25th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Democratic state Senate candidate Kelli Ross said today that she is the “union” candidate in the District 18 race in Las Vegas, while Republican Scott Hammond said he will listen to but not vote in lockstep with labor in the Legislature.

The two candidates in the newly created Senate seat in northwest Las Vegas debated on Jon Ralston’s Face to Face television program. The Senate contest is one of five viewed by both parties as critical to controlling the 21-member house in the 2013 legislative session.

Democrats now have an 11-10 edge in the Senate.

Kelli Ross.

During the debate, Hammond, currently a member of the Assembly, said he would seek to reform Nevada’s prevailing wage law so that public construction projects could be built more cost effectively and generate more jobs. Paying less would stretch public construction dollars further, he said.

He pointed to the Phoenix, Ariz., area, where prevailing wage rates are $14 an hour compared to $42 an hour in Nevada.

“I think we need to reform that, look at putting it back on to something that is the standard market, and I think we’re going to see significant savings there,” Hammond said.

Ross said she would oppose any move to reduce the prevailing wage, a wage set for construction workers hired for state and local government projects. The prevailing wage guarantees a qualified workforce, she said.

“Not only would it not save money it would even hurt the middle class that much more,” Ross said. “When you’re paying a prevailing wage you’re guaranteeing that you’re going to get a job done, get a job done on time and get the job done right.”

State law requires the state Labor Commissioner to survey contractors who have performed construction work during the past year in order to determine the prevailing wage rates. Prevailing wage rates are required to be paid on all Nevada public works construction projects such as schools, libraries, roads and government buildings costing more than $100,000.

Scott Hammond.

Ross acknowledged that most of her endorsements are labor groups, and she said there is not a labor position she is aware of that she would oppose in the Legislature.

“Yeah, I am the union candidate,” she said. “But I’m also the candidate that is there for the people. I am born and raised in Nevada. These people know that I’m going to do what is right for them, and what is going to bring our middle class up to the standards that it should be.”

Hammond said he will listen and try to respond to union concerns.

“But I’m not going to be beholden to the union organizations,” he said.

The debate also delved into the issue of taxes, and Hammond’s support for extending a package of sunsetting taxes supported by GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval in the 2011 session. Hammond said he has not yet decided whether to support extending the sunsets in the next two-year budget as proposed by Sandoval to avoid further cuts to education.

Hammond said the tax extension in 2011 also resulted in the complete elimination of the state business tax for small Nevada employers.

“The reason why I haven’t made up my mind is because I still want to see what the Economic Forum is going to tell us in the next couple of months,” he said.

The forum estimates the tax revenues that will be collected by the state for the next two-year budget.

Ross said she supports the tax extension, but called it just another Band-Aid that does not solve the state’s long term revenue issues.

In a discussion of education concerns, Ross said the current public funding formula shortchanges Clark County at the expense of rural and Northern Nevada. It needs to be changed so Clark County taxpayer money stays in the south, she said.

An interim legislative committee recently endorsed revisions to the public education funding formula to compensate for such issues as poverty and non-English speaking students, factors found more often in Clark County than elsewhere in the state.

Hammond said the formula can be reviewed, but giving parents more choice in where their children attend school, including expanding charter schools, will improve student achievement.

Senate District 18 has a Republican advantage, with 39.9 percent of the voters registered GOP compared to 37.6 percent for Democrats as of the end of August.

-

Audio clips:

Senate 18 candidate Scott Hammond says Nevada’s prevailing wage law needs to be reformed:

092512Hammond1 :10 significant savings there.”

Senate 18 candidate Kelli Ross says the state’s prevailing wage law helps the middle class:

092512Ross1 :10 job done right.”

Ross says she is the union candidate but also the candidate of the people:

092512Ross2 :13 it should be.”

Hammond said he will listen to but not automatically support labor concerns:

092512Hammond2 :16 the union organizations.”

 

 

Nevada Voter Registration Expanding With Online Access, Multimedia Campaign

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 4:19 pm September 25th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A statewide multimedia campaign promoting Nevada’s online voter registration system, available statewide for the first time in a presidential election, is bringing a dramatic increase in voter registrations, doubling the daily average in just the first week since the television and radio campaign started.

During the first seven days of the television and radio campaign starting Sept. 17, new registrations averaged 550 per day, twice the number of new registrations during the first 16 days of September. Updated registrations in the same period prior to Sept. 17 averaged 189 per day, nearly doubling to 362 per day once the campaign began.

The data was reported by the Secretary of State’s Office in advance of National Voter Registration Day today.

Photo by Tom Arthur via Wikimedia Commons.

Online voter registration is now available to approximately 623,000 eligible Nevadans who are not yet registered to vote. Nevadans can also register by going to Facebook.

Outdoor advertising for the online registration campaign began Sept. 10, with the television and radio portion of the campaign beginning Sept.17.

“My office is making it easier than ever for eligible voters in Nevada to register to vote before Oct. 6,” said Secretary of State Ross Miller. “Online voter registration is convenient, easy and secure.”

The Nevada Secretary of State’s office is also collaborating with Nevada businesses and library systems throughout the state to provide access to online voter registration for residents and employees who may not have easy access to a computer or Internet.

Television and stage performer Holly Madison donated her time to shoot a 30-second video with Miller to provide information about online voter registration. And, in order to provide up-to-date voter registration information to members of the military, the Secretary of State’s office partnered with Gov. Brian Sandoval in a video encouraging military in Nevada to register to vote.

To register to vote online, citizens need to be at least 18 years of age by Election Day and have a Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) driver’s license or DMV-issued identification card. The application process pulls the signature on file with the DMV and applies it to the voter’s registration record.

Nevada residents have until 11:59 pm on Saturday, Oct. 6 to register to vote online, and until Oct. 16, 2012 to register in person at their respective county registrar or clerk’s office.

Heller Says Online Gaming Bill Should Not Be Political Football In Run-up To General Election

By Sean Whaley | 3:33 pm September 25th, 2012

CARSON CITY – U.S. Sen. Dean Heller today said online gaming legislation critical to the future of Nevada’s economy should be removed from the world of politics so partisan fights don’t “poison the water” for the bill’s future in Congress.

Heller, interviewed on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, said the legislation is too important to be subjected to political fights between himself and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid between now and the Nov. 6 general election.

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

Reid earlier this month blamed Heller for failing to line up Republican support in the Senate for the measure.

Heller, R-Nev., is locked in a fierce battle with Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., to retain his Senate seat.

“So I believe at the end of the day, we’ll have the 10-15 (GOP) votes that we’re going to need in order to get a bill like this passed,” Heller said. “But we don’t need the politics playing in it today. And we don’t need to poison the water on this also.

“Let’s get the politics out of this,” he said. “Let’s put an important issue like Internet poker to the sidelines during this campaign because it isn’t helping the process. And unfortunately in this case, the process is just as important as the bill itself.”

Heller predicted that after the election, he and Reid will again work together on the Internet poker bill.

“The Internet poker bill was never going to pass before the election,” he said. “It’s going to happen. And I’m still committed, as is Sen. Reid, to get a bill passed.

“When this is all said and done, both sides are going to come together and say, ‘OK, let’s do what’s best for Nevada,’ ” Heller said.

Berkley also criticized Heller on the online gaming issue in a statement released earlier this month: “Once again, Senator Dean Heller has failed to deliver for Nevada’s hardworking families who were counting on online poker legislation to boost the state’s struggling economy and to create thousands of good paying jobs.

“Perhaps Senator Heller shouldn’t have spent so much time cozying up to Wall Street special interests by protecting tax breaks for corporations that ship American jobs overseas and more time doing what Nevada families expect of their elected leaders: putting people back to work,” she said.

During the interview, Heller also criticized Berkley for not spending more time in Northern Nevada in her Senate race, including failing to make any recent appearances on the NewsMakers program. Her last appearance was on Feb. 1, 2011.

“Well, as much time as I spend in Southern Nevada I think she should be spending some time up here in Northern Nevada,” he said.

Berkley has made several campaign appearances in Northern and rural Nevada, including stops in Churchill County over the Labor Day weekend. She also attended an event in Reno on Saturday.

When asked about Berkley’s ongoing ethics problems regarding the preservation of a kidney transplant program in Southern Nevada and whether her actions inappropriately benefited her physician husband, Heller did not hesitate to weigh in.

“She was ethically challenged before,” he said. “She was counsel, she was a lawyer, and she told her boss at this point that you’ve got to buy off county commissioners, you’ve got to buy off judges, you’ve got to hire their children into your business in order to get favorable treatment from those judges and from those county commissioners.

“Now she’s in the United States Congress and her activity hasn’t changed,” Heller said.

Heller was referencing a memo written by Berkley to her then Las Vegas Sands Inc. boss Sheldon Adelson that first surfaced in 1998 during her first bid for Congress. The memo has been the subject of a political ad critical of Berkley in her Senate race.

In response to the Crossroads GPS ad, the Berkley campaign told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in August that the episode was old news and has been overshadowed by Berkley winning re-election six times.

“Leave it to George W. Bush’s political director, Karl Rove, to dredge up something from two decades ago that voters made a judgment on during Shelley’s very first campaign for Congress,” campaign spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa, told the newspaper.

In the NewsMakers interview, Heller described her activities when working for Adelson as “trying to bribe judges and county commissioners” and the current controversy as “lining her own pockets as a member of the United States Congress.”

Heller was asked why he accepted $10,000 from Republican Sen. David Vitter, R-La., who is on Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington’s annual list of the “most corrupt members” of Congress as is Berkley with a “dishonorable mention” for a second year in a row.

Heller sidestepped the question, responding by saying, “how hard do you have to work to be on the most corrupt list two years in a row?”

-

Audio clips:

Sen. Dean Heller says the Internet poker legislation is too important to be a political football in the November election:

092512Heller1 :24 the bill itself.”

Heller says Berkley’s ethics problems go back many years:

092512Heller2 :22 activity hasn’t changed.”

 

 

New Retail Association Poll Shows Presidential Race Tied, Others Favor Obama

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 11:49 am September 25th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The Retail Association of Nevada’s (RAN) latest installment of its semi-annual survey, conducted by Public Opinion Strategies, shows the presidential race in a tie and U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., opening up a lead against Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev. in the Senate race.

With early voting beginning in just 26 days, the race for president is tied with 46 percent of voters indicating they would reelect President Obama and 46 percent of voters indicating support for Gov. Mitt Romney. Only 2 percent of those polled said they were undecided. The survey results come just days before both Obama and Romney visit Nevada yet again this season.

Two other recent polls show much different results, however, with both favoring Obama in Nevada.

Author: David Ball, via Wikimedia Commons.

The RAN results show Heller opened a five point lead over Berkley with 44 percent of voters preferring him to Berkley’s 39 percent. Four percent of voters in that race remain undecided and nine percent opted for “none of the above.” The poll’s margin of error is 4.38 percentage points.

RAN will be releasing full poll results on Wednesday. Additional topics covered in the survey include Nevada voters’ thoughts on Gov. Brian Sandoval, the Nevada Legislature, the economy, education, taxation and more.

The poll was conducted September 19-20 and used a sample size of 500 likely voters including 100 cell phone interviews.

Results today show that more Nevadans are optimistic about the direction of the state than in previous surveys. Thirty-seven percent say Nevada is heading in the right direction, with 54 percent finding the state is on the wrong track. Only 17 percent thought Nevada was headed in the right direction in RAN’s September 2010 poll, while 76 percent said the state was on the wrong track two years ago.

RAN commissions their surveys from Public Opinion Strategies twice a year which allows trends to be identified and provides an historical context to some of the toughest challenges facing Nevada.

Public Opinion Strategies (POS) is a national political and public affairs research firm. Founded in 1991, POS has conducted more than five million interviews with voters and consumers in all fifty states and over two dozen foreign countries.

A separate poll released today for the League of Conservation Voters showed much different results, with Obama up 9 percent over Romney 52 percent to 43 percent. The survey of 501 likely voters taken Sept. 18-20 by Public Policy Polling was an automated response poll, requiring those contacted to press the telephone keypad to indicate their responses.

The results, which also show 48 percent supporting Berkley and 44 percent Heller, were first reported by political commentator Jon Ralston.

Yet another poll released by the American Research Group puts Obama at 51 percent to 44 percent for Romney with 4 percent undecided.

The survey of 600 likely voters was conducted Sept. 20-23 and has a margin of error of 4 percentage points.

Debate In State Senate 9 Race Focuses On Democrat Justin Jones’ Actions In Las Vegas Sands Case

By Sean Whaley | 8:38 pm September 24th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A televised debate today between the two candidates for the state Senate seat in district 9 in Las Vegas  - viewed as critical by both major parties – got off to a rocky start for Democrat Justin Jones.

The debate between Jones and Republican candidate Mari Nakashima St. Martin on Jon Ralston’s Face to Face program started with questions posed to Jones, an attorney, in relation to his representation of the Las Vegas Sands Corp. in a wrongful termination case.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal has reported that Jones did not correct another Sands attorney who said in a Clark County District Court hearing that no one could view a series of emails outside Macau that were sought in the case. This statement was determined to be inaccurate and the Sands was fined $25,000 for “intention to deceive the court.”

GOP State Senate 9 candidate Mari Nakashima St. Martin.

Asked about the matter, Jones said he could not comment specifically because of attorney-client privilege, but that he has always acted honorably as an attorney in court matters. He is no longer involved in the case.

“The order from Judge (Elizabeth) Gonzalez speaks for itself,” he said. “I hope you have had a chance to look that over. I hope my opponent has also. I’m not mentioned in the order at all. And I think that I’ve acted honorably throughout that case and all of my cases.”

St. Martin is using the issue in her race.

“I think it is absolutely an issue,” she said. “I think that, you know, Justin says that he was willing to do this for a client, but he will probably have those same clients when he goes to Carson City. You know, we’re a citizen Legislature and so, he’s willing to do that in his professional career; how do we know that; you know, if he is willing to walk into a courtroom with the intention to deceive, how do we know he’s not going door-to-door with that same intention to deceive.

“The voters need someone they can trust,” St. Martin said.

Jones said: “I’m proud of my legal career. I’ve done a lot of good work in my career over the last 10 years both as a lawyer but also in the community and I think that shows. I fulfilled my obligations, Jon, and I always have.”

He called the claims “slanderous attacks” and said St. Martin was the focus of personal attacks by her GOP primary opponent and is now using the same tactics.

Democratic State Senate 9 candidate Justin Jones.

Jones said the attacks in St. Martin’s mail pieces are untrue, but St. Martin said the information is taken directly from the judge’s order and columns in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The Senate 9 seat is one of five in play in the state Senate, where Democrats now hold an 11-10 edge. Republicans are seeking to win four of the five seats to take control of the Senate for the 2013 legislative session.

The district, open because of the resignation of Sen. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, has a Democratic voter edge of 39.9 percent to 34.3 percent for the GOP as of the end of August. Since then Democrats have been out registering Republicans in Clark County as a whole.

Other issues raised in the debate included a statement by St. Martin that more needs to be done to eliminate waste in state government.

Asked to name instances of waste, St. Martin said she would seek to sunset state agencies every six years or so to force them to justify their existence.

“I think that is a great way to look internally at how we can root out waste, fraud, abuse,” she said. “Why shouldn’t we do an internal audit of our own state government.”

An example of waste is the current cumbersome process of finding who is receiving Medicaid but who also has private insurance, St. Martin said.

Jones said it would cost more money to sunset and eliminate organizations that have lost their purpose than to just leave them in existence and on the books.

Another issue discussed was the foreclosure crisis.

Jones said on his website he will crack down on illegal foreclosure activity.

“I think we’ve made a lot of progress but there’s a long way to go,” he said.

St. Martin said voters want someone they can trust, and that Jones has represented banks as an attorney.

-

Audio clips:

Senate 9 candidate Justin Jones says he acted honorably in the Sands case:

092412Jones :12 of my cases.”

Candidate Mari St. Martin says the issue raises questions about Jones’ suitability for the job:

092412Martin :23 intention to deceive.”

Nevada Division of Insurance Seeking Public Input on Essential Health Benefits

By Sean Whaley | 1:33 pm September 24th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The Nevada Division of Insurance (NVDOI) is seeking public input on what should be included in Nevada’s essential health benefits plan under the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

Gov. Brian Sandoval will ultimately decide which of 10 existing health insurance plans now offered in Nevada will be used to determine the essential benefits that will be required in all individual and small group health insurance plans starting on Jan. 1, 2014.

The ACA requires health insurance policies offered in the individual and small group markets, both inside and outside of the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange, to offer a comprehensive package of items and services, known as essential health benefits.

Ten categories of items and services are required for the state’s essential benefits plan: ambulatory patient services; emergency services; hospitalization; maternity and newborn care; mental health and substance use disorder services, including behavioral health treatment; prescription drugs; rehabilitative and habilitative services and devices; laboratory services; preventive and wellness services and chronic disease management; and pediatric services, including oral and vision care.

With some variations, the 10 plans available in Nevada now are fairly comparable in what they offer in these required categories, said Adam Plain, insurance regulation liaison for Division of Insurance.

But the plans differ in what additional services and benefits they offer, he said. A plan might cover chiropractic treatments or hearing aids as well, Plain said. Another may not.

So it is important for the public to weigh in on what coverages they think should be part of an essential health benefits plan for Nevada, keeping in mind that the more benefits covered, the higher the cost will be, he said.

“What we’re looking at is: is physical therapy covered,” Plain said. “If it is, what benefits specifically are covered. And are there any limitations like 20 visits per year, or 60 visits per year, or is the benefit unlimited in the number of visits. And so that is what we’re looking at.”

The state must also pick benefits and services as they are offered now in one of the 10 existing plans, he said. So depending on which plan is selected, advocates for some coverages may not get what they want in the essential benefits plan, Plain said.

“Because none of the plans are perfect, and no single plan is the best in terms of coverage, we can’t say, you know, we want everything to be covered, because no plan does that,” he said. “If someone wants coverage for hearing aids, and someone else wants coverage for gastric bypass surgery, and those two benefits aren’t offered under the same plan, someone is not going to walk away happy.”

Cost-sharing issues, including co-pays and deductibles, are not at issue in this provision of the ACA, Plain said.

The 10 existing health plans that can be used to set the benchmark for the items and services included in the essential health benefits package are:

  1. Health Plan of Nevada Point-of-Service
  2. Aetna PPO
  3. Anthem PPO
  4. Nevada PEBP High-Deductible Health Plan
  5. Nevada PEBP Health Plan of Nevada HMO
  6. Nevada PEBP Hometown Health Plan HMO
  7. Government Employees Health Association
  8. FEHBP/ Blue Cross-Blue Shield Standard
  9. FEHBP/ Blue Cross-Blue Shield Basic
  10. Clark County School District/Health Plan of Nevada HMO

The Nevada Division of Insurance is seeking public comment at meetings being held across the state this week. The meetings will be held in:

- Henderson on Wednesday at 2 p.m. at the Henderson City Council Chambers, 240 Water St.;

- Las Vegas on Wednesday at 6 p.m. at the Charleston Campus of the College of Southern Nevada, 6375 W. Charleston Blvd., Room K-101;

-  Reno on Thursday at 6 p.m. at Truckee Meadows Community College, 7000 Dandini Blvd., Room 205 of the Vista Building.

A hearing was also held in Elko last week.

Public comment can also be submitted in writing to the Commissioner of Insurance at 1818 E. College Pkwy., Suite 103, Carson City, NV 89706 or by fax at (775) 687-0788 or by email to Adam Plain at aplain@doi.nv.gov. All written public comment must be received by Thursday at 5 p.m.

After the public comment period has closed the NVDOI will make a recommendation to Sandoval regarding which essential health benefits should be required for Nevada based on the range of services offered in the 10 separate plans. Sandoval is required to decide by Sept. 30 which plan will be used to set the essential benefits for the state.

-

Audio clips:

Adam Plain, insurance regulation liaison for the Division of Insurance, says the purpose of the hearings is to determine which benefits should be covered:

092412Plain1 :20 we’re looking at.”

Plain says not all benefits will be able to be included in an essential plan:

092412Plain2 :30 walk away happy.”

Gov. Sandoval Trade Mission Announces Business Agreements For Two Nevada Firms

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 3:16 pm September 23rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval’s trade mission to the People’s Republic of China has announced two business agreements for companies located in Northern and Southern Nevada. A collaborative research agreement with the Desert Research Institute (DRI) was also expanded.

In a joint venture initially valued at $500,000, Las Vegas-based Tate Snyder Kimsey Architects signed a two-year contract with Shenzhen Investment Holdings Company for the design of the Shenzhen Bay Technology and Ecological City, a business campus in the Chinese industrial mega-center near Hong Kong.

Additionally, under the terms of a distribution agreement, Reno-based confectioner Kimmie Candy is entering the Chinese candy market for the first time.

Leaders from both companies are part of the Nevada business delegation for the trade mission, which was organized by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

The agreements were announced Saturday.

“These agreements are notable both because of the breadth of engagement we are beginning to see in our economic development efforts with China and because they will help create jobs in Nevada,” Sandoval said. “The export dollars brought into our state by deals such as these are the bricks that strengthen our economy as we continue to build a diversified economy.”

Stephen Wells, president of DRI, signed a memorandum of understanding Friday with the Chinese Academy of Science’s Institute of Earth Environment (IEECAS) to collaborate on a broad range of atmospheric research.

The memorandum of understanding between DRI and IEECAS builds on the original agreement signed in 1996 with Nankai University in Tiajian, China. The new agreement calls for collaboration on a broad range of research, including development and application of ambient air quality mechanisms; methods for the measurement of organic carbon and elemental carbon; instrument development; aerosol measurements and modeling; and development and application of air quality models.

With today’s deal for distribution in China, Kimmie Candy is becoming a major exporter in Nevada, with significant business also in Canada, Mexico, the Philippines and the Middle East. Kimmie Candy is the maker of Choco Rocks, which won the prestigious Candy Grammy product of the year award.

Tate Snyder Kimsey Architects is a leading design firm in the Western United States. The firm is based in Las Vegas and maintains offices in Reno and Los Angeles. Over the past 25 years, the firm’s projects have won more than 70 design awards. The firm is committed to developing sustainable projects.

The governor’s trade mission to the People’s Republic of China, organized by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development with support from Asian Chamber of Commerce leaders, is focused on identifying opportunities for Nevada companies to export their products and services to China’s markets and encourage Chinese investment in Nevada.

This is an historic trade mission because it is the first that a Nevada governor has led to China.  Other delegates accompanying the governor include state academic leaders from UNLV and UNR, as well as leaders from the state’s business community. The mission will also visit South Korea.

Nevada Jobless Rate Ticks Up To 12.1 Percent In August

By Sean Whaley | 10:57 am September 21st, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s unemployment rate ticked up one-tenth of a percentage point to 12.1 percent in August from July, the second month of increases in the jobless rate after hitting a three-year low in May, a state agency reported today.

The increase in the seasonally adjusted rate, coming after a jump of four-tenths of a percentage point in July, continues to make Nevada the state with the highest unemployment rate in the nation.

The rate is still well below the 13.8 percent jobless rate reported in August of 2011, the report from the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) shows.

The Las Vegas area had an unadjusted jobless rate of 12.3 percent in August, while Reno-Sparks saw a 11.5 percent rate and Carson City stood at 11.6 percent.

Nevada’s economy is front and central in the presidential race, and will be a topic of comments in Mitt Romney’s visit to Las Vegas today. Both Romney and President Obama have made several trips to Nevada over the past few months. The frequent visits highlight Nevada’s importance as a battleground state in the race.

DETR Chief Economist Bill Anderson, in commenting on today’s August report, said that Nevada is mirroring the nation with its labor market having softened in recent months.

“Job growth has eased, and the unemployment rate has ticked up,” he said. “Still, year-over-year improvement is evident. Taken as a whole, labor market barometers point to the tenuous nature of the current economic environment, both nationally and here in Nevada.”

Based, at least in part, upon the results of a monthly survey of Nevada businesses, total nonfarm payrolls fell by 1,000 jobs in August, Anderson said. In every month this summer, employment fell on a month-over-month basis, resulting in a summer decline of 3,600 jobs. (The June to July change in non-farm payroll jobs was revised from a gain of 2,100 to a loss of 1,100.)

“As a result of falling job levels throughout the summer, Nevada’s over-the-year employment comparison appears less impressive,” he said. “Nonetheless, Nevada still has 5,200 more jobs than in August of last year, with a gain of 6,500 in the private sector partially offset by public sector losses.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval, who has made economic development and job creation a centerpiece of his administration and who is currently on a trade mission to the People’s Republic of China and South Korea, said: “While I am disappointed that Nevada experienced another slight uptick in the unemployment rate, I am encouraged by the fact that we continue to see signs of modest economic improvement, measured on a year-over-year basis, in these numbers.”

Sandoval acknowledged, however, that the slight improvement is not enough to sustain Nevada’s economy, “which is why we must continue to work to diversify our state’s economy and bring jobs to Nevada.”

As has been the case, throughout the 2012 election season, the candidates have weighed in on the latest jobless numbers.

Mason Harrison, a spokesman for the Romney campaign, said: “Today, we received more bad news from the Obama economy – more and more Nevadans are finding themselves unemployed. Nevada has seen unemployment continue to rise, despite President Obama’s promises to stop the bleeding of jobs.

“Mitt Romney will succeed where President Obama has failed by implementing a 5-point plan that will strengthen the middle class and create 12 million jobs across our country in his first term alone,” he said.

But U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., in a statement, said: “Today’s numbers highlight the critical importance of creating jobs. The best way to do that is to strengthen Nevada’s middle class and our small business community.

“I have been working with my Democratic colleagues to provide tax relief to middle class families, and to help small business owners expand and create jobs for hard working Nevadans. However, these commonsense measures have been met with unconditional obstruction by Senate and House Republicans, regardless of their potential to spur economic growth.”

-

Audio clips:

DETR Chief Economist Bill Anderson says the national softening of the jobs market is affecting Nevada:

092112Anderson1 :16 the Nevada numbers.”

Anderson says Nevada’s rate of improvement is diminishing:

092112Anderson2 :30 of improvement diminish.”

Gov. Sandoval Discusses China Trade Opportunities In Beijing

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 2:42 pm September 19th, 2012

CARSON CITY – On the first leg of his trade mission to the People’s Republic of China, Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Nevada business delegation met with members of the U.S. Embassy staff and representatives of the U.S. Departments of Commerce, Treasury, Agriculture, and the divisions of  Economics and  Public Affairs of the Department of State, his office reported today.

Highlights of the briefings, held Tuesday, included a discussion on China’s economy and investment strategy and business opportunities for the state of Nevada. The Governor’s Office of Economic Development shared its desire to identify export markets in China and possible avenues for foreign direct investment while Nevada’s business delegation was provided an opportunity to discuss their business interests with and ask questions of Embassy officials.

“Briefings with embassy staff and meetings with U.S. representatives provided our delegation with the opportunity to learn firsthand the complex nature of China’s global economy and how Nevada can build lasting relationships with China’s business community in an effort to grow our economy,” Sandoval said. “These meetings will lay a foundation for further engagement and dialogue.”

While in Beijing, Sandoval was also given a tour of the National Centre for the Performing Arts (NCPA) and met with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC).

Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Nevada trade delegation with Chinese officials in Beijing.

During his tour of the National Centre for Performing Arts, China’s premier and most advanced performing arts center, Sandoval met with the center’s leadership and discussed the importance of such venues to international cities such as Beijing and Las Vegas. Sandoval informed the center’s leadership that Nevada recently celebrated the opening of the Smith Center in Las Vegas and he extended an invitation for them to visit the center.

In addition to exploring mutually beneficial opportunities for Nevada’s business community, Sandoval explained that “partnerships in the arts are extremely important to fostering cultural exchanges that will have broad and lasting impact.”

Sandoval finished the day’s meetings with the Civil Aviation Administration of China and its Deputy Director, Xia Xing Hua. At the meeting, Sandoval discussed the logistical opportunities at Reno-Tahoe International Airport, the completion of the International Terminal 3 at McCarran International Airport, and Nevada’s aviation manufacturing industry and the opportunities for those Nevada companies to export products into China.

Legislative Audit Finds Welfare Benefits Paid To Deceased Clients, Some Funds Spent After Death

By Sean Whaley | 1:16 pm September 19th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A legislative audit released today says that the state Welfare Division needs to do a better job of identifying when clients receiving benefits have passed away.

The audit, reviewed today by the Legislative Commission’s Audit Subcommittee, found 189 instances of people listed by a separate state agency as having passed away between July 1, 2007 and Dec. 31, 2009 that were listed by the division as still living.

Legislative auditors tested Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards used to provide benefits in 50 of the cases. They found that the division paid more than $11,500 in benefits to 27 of the 50 clients after their dates of death.

Benefits were paid by the agency up to 10 months after the clients died. The state’s vendor for the EBT program later removed $7,225 of unused benefits from the accounts.

Benefits provided to Nevadans include food stamps, now called the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), and a cash grant program called Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).

Auditors also found that EBT cards in some cases were used after the dates of death of the clients.

Of the 50 cases tested, 13 were found where SNAP transactions using the cards had occurred after the clients’ dates of death. The transactions totaled $6,502 and took place from 13 to 247 days after the clients’ dates of death.

The audit made five recommendations to correct the issues found in the review, and all were accepted by the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services.

Lawmakers serving on the subcommittee noted that the amounts involved in such cases were small compared to the nearly $500 million in SNAP benefits provided to Nevadans in federal fiscal year 2011. The SNAP program is entirely federally funded.

Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, said no one should take money that is not due to them, but the incidents of potential abuse found in the audit appear to be few.

“If we’re talking $497 million in SNAP monies in the year 2011, and we’re looking at the possibility of it might be $6,000 worth of problems, it just seems like such a small amount and such a small problem compared to all the benefits that are being paid out here,” she said.

Legislative Auditor Paul Townsend said auditors also identified potential fraudulent activity during the review.

“It does point out there is a problem there,” he said. “It’s not a huge problem but the problem does exist. And along the way we also found some instances where there’s possibly some fraudulent activity taking place where someone is actually getting a card issued after their date of death.”

Steve Fisher, acting administrator of the division, said the flaws found in the review are serious and need to be addressed. He noted, however, that the benefits are available to an entire household, so even if a client passes away, other family members might use the EBT cards to access the benefits.

The agency is actively working on implementing all five of the recommendations, Fisher said.

The agency has an investigative unit to look for instances of fraud to recover benefits paid inappropriately, and criminal prosecutions can occur as well.

-

Audio clips:

Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton says the incidents of potential abuse are few compared to the amount of benefits provided:

091912Carlton :26 paid out here.”

Legislative Auditor Paul Townsend says some evidence of fraudulent activity was uncovered during the review:

091912Townsend :16 date of death.”

 

Nevada Voters To Weigh In On One Controversial State Ballot Measure In November

By Sean Whaley | 7:43 am September 19th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada voters will determine the fate of only one statewide measure in the Nov. 6 general election, but the proposal put on the ballot by the Legislature is somewhat controversial.

Question 1 on the ballot asks Nevada voters if the state constitution should be amended to allow the Legislature, on extraordinary occasions and only with two-thirds support of lawmakers in each house, to call itself into special session. Sessions would be limited to 20 days, but could be convened on a continuous basis if the extraordinary occasion requirement was met and with two-thirds support from lawmakers.

The term “extraordinary occasions” is not defined in the proposed constitutional amendment.

The Nevada state Senate in session, 2011. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

The constitution now says that only the governor can call a special session of the Legislature.

Currently, legislatures in 34 states are authorized to call a special session.

Nevada voters have rejected this concept once before, in 2006, by a margin of 52 percent to 48 percent.

The measure is on the ballot after Assembly Joint Resolution 5 was approved by the Legislature in both 2009 and 2011. In 2011, the proposal passed both houses only by a party line vote with all Republicans opposed.

Opponents of the proposal are concerned the change could move the Legislature away from its tradition of meeting on a part-time basis.

In a discussion of the ballot language for the question by the Legislative Commission in June, Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said the ability of lawmakers to continue special sessions indefinitely was a concern.

Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said at the commission meeting that giving lawmakers the authority to call themselves into special session could be important if a situation like that in Illinois arose with impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich. It is unlikely that a governor facing impeachment would call a special session to allow for his removal from office, he said.

Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said in an interview this week that with the state getting bigger and issues sometimes requiring immediate attention, there are times the Legislature may need to convene itself into special session.

“I think it is closer to the people if the Legislature has the ability to do that,” he said.

But Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said this week he likes the way the system works now.

“I like the fact that we have a strong chief executive state,” he said. “That the Legislature can’t call itself into session for whatever purpose it chooses. I think the system that we have is functional for our state.

“And the idea that the Legislature can start calling itself into session whenever it wants just doesn’t really fly with me,” Kieckhefer said.

Special sessions of the Nevada Legislature have become more frequent in recent years, in part because of the state’s ongoing budget problems. But they have all been called by the sitting governor at the time. Gov. Brian Sandoval has not yet called for a special session in his 21 months in office.

The last special session was called in February 2010 by then Gov. Jim Gibbons to deal with a shortfall in the state budget. It lasted seven days.

There have been 10 special sessions of the Legislature since 2001. They were called for a variety of reasons, including tort reform for the medical industry and the impeachment of the late state Controller Kathy Augustine. Many were called because the Legislature could not finish its work by the constitutionally-mandated 120 days, a limit approved by voters in 1998 and taking effect for the first time in 1999.

Previously there had not been a special session since 1989.

-

Audio clips:

Sen. Mo Denis says there are times when the Legislature may need to call itself into special session:

091812Denis :22 into special session.”

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer says he likes the system as it works now:

091812Kieckhefer :28 fly with me.”