Archive for October, 2012

Sandoval Disappointed At Teachers Union For Blocking Grant Request

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 4:18 pm October 31st, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval said today he is disappointed by the leadership of the Clark County Education Association for blocking a $40 million school district application for federal Race to the Top funds.

“The Race to the Top federal grant can be used to hire additional teachers and provide much-needed support to some of our most at-risk students,” Sandoval said in a statement. “I am particularly supportive of the district’s plan to use technology and early-intervention strategies to help the district’s growing number of English language learners catch up to their peers faster.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Sandoval said he had a discussion with U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan today, and was advised that the deadline for Race to the Top grant applications has been extended until Friday.

“It is important we take advantage of every opportunity to provide much-needed relief to our schools and our children and I urge the Clark County Education Association to reconsider its position and work with the School District on Clark County’s application,” he said. “If necessary, I will personally meet with CCEA and the school district to get this done for our children.”

Las Vegas news media, including the Las Vegas Review-Journal, reported Tuesday that the Clark County School District’s application for a share of the $400 million in Race to the Top funds was derailed by the lack of support from the union, which has been at odds with the district over pay and benefits.


GOP Assembly Leader Predicts Gains On Tuesday

By Sean Whaley | 3:37 pm October 31st, 2012

CARSON CITY – Assembly Republican caucus leader Pat Hickey said he expects to pick up seats for the GOP in the upcoming election, but declined to predict today exactly how big a dent his candidates will make in the 26-member Democratic majority on Nov. 6.

Hickey, R-Reno, said he does expect to see an increase from the 16 seats Republicans have now in the 42-member Assembly. The party has opportunities because of the new political boundaries drawn by a panel of special masters as a result of the 2010 census, he said.

Assembly GOP caucus Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno.

Hickey, interviewed on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, said he is optimistic about the chances of victory for David Espinosa, the GOP candidate challenging Democrat Skip Daly in Assembly District 31 in Sparks, and for Wes Duncan, who is challenging Assembly Majority Leader Marcus Conklin in District 37 in Las Vegas, among others.

“Conklin’s race is certainly one where it went from a district that was 17 percent Democrat to now roughly even in registration, and having a very attractive candidate like Wes Duncan, Marcus is in for the race of his life,” Hickey said. “But we’re close in quite a number of our races.”

Hickey said he won’t make any firm predictions however, given the unpredictability of the individual races.

“So I’m not going to give you a number of how many we might win but we think we’re going to increase our numbers and we might be very happy on election night depending on how well (Mitt) Romney and the upper ticket folks do in Nevada,” he said.

While party officials and observers are closely watching the state Senate races to see which party will have a majority in the 2013 legislative session, the Assembly contests have received less media attention because Democrats are expected to maintain control.

But some of the races have generated controversy.

The Conklin campaign team was criticized by Hickey and Assembly Republicans last week after one of Conklin’s campaign workers was photographed removing Duncan campaign materials left at district homes.

“It’s one thing to be competitive; it’s another thing to, if you will, steal another opponent’s literature,” Hickey said.

There was no claim made that the theft of the literature came at the direction of Conklin, Hickey said.

The Conklin campaign did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

Not all of the 42 Assembly races are in contention, however. Nine Assembly incumbents, five Republicans and four Democrats, have no opponents at all and will win automatically on Tuesday.

Hickey said he remains optimistic about the chances for Republican candidates to win their races despite the strong Democratic voter registration edge statewide, especially in Clark County. Party candidates are using the hands-on approach by walking the districts and talking to voters face-to-face, he said.

“You walk, you win; you don’t, you may not,” Hickey said.


Audio clips:

Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey says redistricting has given Republicans a chance to win seats in the Assembly:

103112Hickey1 :22 do in Nevada.”

Hickey says redistricting has made Majority Leader Marcus Conklin’s seat competitive:

103112Hickey2 :14 of our races.”

Hickey says Republican candidates are relying on face-to-face contact with voters to win:

103112Hickey3 :16 you may not.”



Gov. Sandoval Appoints New Business Agency Director

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 1:44 pm October 29th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval today announced he has appointed Bruce Breslow as director of the Department of Business and Industry, effective November 12. Breslow is currently Director of the Department of Motor Vehicles.

“Bruce’s people-first approach to problem solving has helped pioneer a new era for customer service at the DMV,” Sandoval said. “His innovative thinking has led to the development of mobile applications, the placement of DMV self service kiosks at grocery stores throughout the state and a reduction in wait times for customers at the DMV. I am confident that Bruce’s leadership and customer-first mentality will be an invaluable asset to B&I.”

DMV chief Bruce Breslow. / Nevada News Bureau.

Breslow takes over the agency from Terry Johnson, who Sandoval last week named to the Nevada Gaming Control Board.

The Department of Business and Industry is comprised of fourteen regulatory agencies, 635 employees and a combined budget of $119 million. A multitude of industries are regulated by the department, including insurance, transportation, financial institutions, and boxing and mixed martial arts, among others.

Sandoval appointed Breslow to head up the DMV in January 2011. He formerly served as the executive director of the Nevada Agency for Nuclear Projects and as commissioner and administrative law judge for the Transportation Services Agency under former Gov. Kenny Guinn.

Troy Dillard has been named interim director at the DMV. A native Nevadan, he was employed with the Nevada Department of Public Safety from 1989 until 2004 when he transferred to the DMV as an administrator. In 2011, Dillard was appointed to the position of deputy director with the DMV.

Fifty-Eight New Citizens Sworn In For Nevada Day

By Sean Whaley | 3:50 pm October 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval today participated in a ceremony in the old Assembly chambers in the state Capitol to swear in 58 new citizens representing countries from Bulgaria to New Zealand.

The new citizens range in age from 18 to 85 and are from 27 different countries.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, right, applauds after 58 new U.S. citizens take the oath of allegiance. / Nevada News Bureau.

It was the 4th annual Nevada Day naturalization ceremony sponsored by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

In his remarks, Sandoval talked about Nevada’s admission into the union in 1864 to help ensure President Lincoln would be elected to a second term.

“Lincoln himself said, and I quote: ‘The struggle of today is not altogether for today. It is for a vast future also.’ You, all of you, are now part of that future,” Sandoval said.

“Many rights and privileges come with citizenship, but so do many responsibilities,” he said. “And the greatest responsibility of them all is to see the story through. To contribute to the vast future of our nation.

“I know that each and every one of you are up to that challenge,” Sandoval said.

USCIS Reno Field Director Monica Toro administered the Oath of Allegiance to the new citizens. Peter Barton, administrator of the Nevada Division of Museums and History, also made remarks.


Audio clip:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says the 58 new citizens are now part of America’s future:

102612Sandoval :17 of that future.”

Gov. Sandoval Disagrees With GOP Consultant, Says Romney Will Win Nevada

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 1:37 pm October 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval said today he disagrees with the political prognostications of his friend and adviser Pete Ernaut, who earlier this week predicted that President Obama will win Nevada on Nov. 6.

Gov. Brian Sandoval.

“Pete and I have been friends for many, many years,” Sandoval said. “Gov. Romney has my full support. I believe that Gov. Romney is going to win the state. He has a great amount of momentum at this point. And we’ll know on election day.”

Ernaut, president of government and public affairs for R&R Partners, said Tuesday he sees Nevada voters supporting President Obama while at the same time giving Republican Sen. Dean Heller a victory against Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley in the hard fought U.S. Senate race.

Ernaut made the comment on the Nevada NewsMakers television show.

“I don’t think there is a Romney-Berkley voting bloc,” he said. “But there is clearly an Obama-Heller voting bloc.”

Sandoval was scheduled to cast his vote today in Reno.


Audio clip:

Gov. Sandoval says Mitt Romney will win Nevada:

102612Sandoval :11 on election day.”


Gov. Sandoval Says He Has Complied With Budget Disclosure Requirements

By Sean Whaley | 1:11 pm October 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval said today his administration has fully complied with a requirement in state law to provide preliminary state budget data to lawmakers and their staff.

“The agency requests have been presented to the Legislature in accordance with the law,” he said. “I don’t see any problems.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Lawmakers on Thursday questioned state Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp on why some components of the initial agency request budget, known as “items for special consideration,” were not supplied to their fiscal staff as has been past practice. The items are funding requests beyond the agency base-budget requests for the 2013-15 spending plan. Expanding Medicaid to a new population of eligible Nevadans as allowed for under the Affordable Care Act is one such request.

Mohlenkamp said his office does not believe the special consideration items are part of the budget information required to be provided under Nevada Revised Statutes 353.211.

Sandoval said today the issue should not be characterized as one involving the transparency of his office.

“We are still gathering information on the Medicaid question,” he said. “We have not gotten all the instructions that we need from the federal government in order to completely prepare that. So anything that would be presented would not be complete at this time.”

Sandoval said his recommended budget will be made public in a “matter of weeks” and that release should satisfy lawmakers.

The budget is typically presented following the governor’s State of the State address in mid-January.

Sandoval said today it is unfair for anyone to suggest his administration failed to follow state law in the release of the budget data without providing any specifics about the alleged violation.

“There is no violation of law,” he said. “We’re perfectly consistent and in accordance with Nevada state law.”

Lawmakers expressed their concerns at a meeting of the Interim Finance Committee.

Rick Combs, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said the additional budget information has been provided to legislative staff historically as specified in state law. It has also been made available to the public after being transmitted  to fiscal staff electronically by the state budget office on Oct. 15.

“The part that is of concern to us there is twofold,” Combs told the committee. “Your staff doesn’t have access to the information. The other concern is that information that is provided to us on Oct. 15 is supposed to be open for public dissemination at that point.”

Legislative Counsel Brenda Erdoes said Nevada statues, both 353.205 and 353.211, require the information to be provided to legislative fiscal staff. NRS 353.211 says in part that the information to be provided must include: “Each agency’s requested budget for the next 2 fiscal years.”

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said at the meeting it is an ongoing issue that needs to be resolved.


Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says his administration has complied with state law:

102612Sandoval2 :05 see any problems.”

Sandoval says the Medicaid expansion issue is still not finalized:

102612Sandoval :13 at this time.”


Nevada’s Broader Jobless Rate Remains Above 20 Percent

By Sean Whaley | 10:07 am October 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A broader measure of Nevada’s unemployment picture, including those who have given up looking for work, showed continued improvement through the third quarter of 2012 but remains above 20 percent, a federal report shows.

Called the U-6 rate, it declined in Nevada from 22.1 percent in the four quarters through June 2012 to 21.4 percent through September for a decline of seven-tenths of a percentage point, according to the quarterly report from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.

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

Nationally, the U-6 unemployment rate is 15 percent in the 12 months through September, down from 15.3 percent through June.

Nevada is now the only state with a U6 rate above 20 percent. California’s U6 rate dropped to 19.6 percent in the latest report, down from 20.3 percent through June.

North Dakota has the lowest rate at 6 percent.

Nevada’s U-6 rate compares to the state’s official September seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 11.8 percent reported last week by the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR), which declined three-tenths of a percentage point from August.

Nevada continues to lead the nation in both measures of unemployment.

Nevada’s official jobless rate peaked at 14 percent in October 2010. The U-6 rate in Nevada for the 12 months of 2010 was 23.6 percent. The latest quarterly U6 report reflects a decline of 2.2 percentage points since then.

Bill Anderson, chief economist for DETR, said last week when the September jobless report was released that he expects to see continued but modest improvement in the jobless numbers over the next few months.

“Nevada’s economy and our labor markets are on the mend,” he said.

Earlier this month, DETR also reported that initial claims for unemployment insurance fell in September to their lowest level in five years, dropping to under 14,000 in a month for the first time since September 2007.

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

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

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

Dispute Emerges Between Sandoval, Lawmakers Over Access To Budget Data

By Sean Whaley | 5:23 pm October 25th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A dispute has emerged between Gov. Brian Sandoval and the Legislature over what information in the initial state agency request budget should be made available to legislative staff and the public.

At a meeting of the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee today, state Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp was asked about what is considered by legislative staff to be a departure from past practice regarding the budget information provided to legislative fiscal staff and the public.

The 2013-15 budget information conveyed to the Legislature on Oct. 15 does not include “items for special consideration” requested by state agencies. These items are budget requests from agencies that Sandoval will consider including in his final spending plan, but that have not yet been approved for inclusion by Sandoval.

Sandoval’s budget won’t be made public until mid-January.

Rick Combs, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said this information has been provided to legislative staff historically as specified in state law. It has also been made available to the public.

LCB Director Rick Combs.

An example of an item of special consideration is the expansion of the Medicaid program to a new group of Nevadans as provided for in the federal Affordable Care Act. Sandoval has not made a decision on whether to expand Medicaid to this new group of Nevada residents.

Because of this apparently new interpretation by Sandoval, the Medicaid expansion information has not been provided to the Legislature’s fiscal staff and so is not available to the public either.

“The part that is of concern to us there is twofold,” Combs told the committee. “Your staff doesn’t have access to the information. The other concern is that information that is provided to us on Oct. 15 is supposed to be open for public dissemination at that point.

“Now if you, or a member of the public, asks us for anything that was in an item for special consideration, we don’t have it,” he said. “Even though we feel the statute requires that that to be available to you or a member of the public that ask for it.”

Combs said his staff  has asked for the information but has not received a response from Mohlenkamp.

IFC Chairwoman and Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, asked Mohlenkamp for an explanation.

Mohlenkamp said a decision has not been made yet on whether to provide the information to legislative staff, and that the budget information transmitted to lawmakers has fulfilled the statutory obligation to lawmakers.

“We’re still considering whether we will be able to provide access to LCB fiscal,” he said. “That decision hasn’t been made. I’ve been in coordination with the governor’s office on this and I’m hopeful that we will be able to give a firm and final response in the near future. But right now that decision hasn’t been made.”

Mohlenkamp said there are all kinds of agency requests beyond Sandoval’s flat-budget guidelines that may not end up as part of the budget, and so should not be subject to speculation.

The change is significant enough that Geoff Dornan, the long-time capital bureau reporter for the Nevada Appeal, made a rare public comment at the meeting.

“We have always gotten the items for special consideration,” he said. “This change completely changes how the law has been interpreted, for longer than Mr. Mohlenkamp, no offense, has been working for the state.”

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, also expressed concern, saying that if Sandoval decides not to propose expanding Medicaid to the new eligible population, then the budget data collected to provide background on this item of special consideration might never be provided to lawmakers or the public.

Kieckhefer said he would have a problem if that information was never made public.

Mohlenkamp said the Sandoval administration has not yet decided whether that information would be made public at some point.


Audio clips:

LCB Director Rick Combs says the lack of budget data creates two concerns:

102512Combs1 :13 at that point.”

Combs says the LCB fiscal staff cannot provide information to lawmakers about the special budget requests because it does not have the information:

102512Combs2 :16 asks for it.”

Nevada Appeal reporter Geoff Dornan says the budget information should be made public:

102512Dornan :33 capital press corps.”

State Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp says  a decision has not been made on whether to provide the information to legislative staff:

102512Mohlenkamp :21 hasn’t been made.”




Las Vegas Firm Ordered To Pay $125,000 For Medicaid Fraud

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 3:28 pm October 25th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A behavioral health company based in Las Vegas was fined $125,000 today in a Medicaid fraud case involving the failure to maintain adequate records to support Medicaid claims.

Rainbow Child and Family Services was sentenced for one gross misdemeanor offense of intentional failure to maintain adequate records by Clark County District Judge Valerie Adair and ordered to pay the $125,000 in restitution, penalties, and costs.

Persons convicted of Medicaid fraud may also be administratively excluded from future Medicaid and Medicare participation.

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto announced the sentencing.

“Businesses need to pay attention when processing Medicaid claims,” Masto said. “This office continues to investigate and prosecute Medicaid fraud cases.”

The AG’s office began an investigation after information was obtained that Rainbow was not providing services to Medicaid recipients. Interviews with Medicaid recipients showed that Rainbow was not providing the Basic Skills Training (BST) and Psychosocial Rehabilitation (PSR) services to the recipients as indicated on claims submitted to Medicaid. Furthermore, the documentation to substantiate the claims submitted to Medicaid was inadequate as the records did not note accurate or true dates or types of services provided.

The fraud occurred from August 2011 to April 2012.

The case was investigated and prosecuted by the Nevada Attorney General’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit (MFCU), which investigates and prosecutes financial fraud by those providing healthcare services or goods to Medicaid patients. The MFCU also investigates and prosecutes instances of elder abuse or neglect.

Nevada Posts 26th Consecutive Taxable Sales Increase In August

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 1:38 pm October 25th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada recorded its 26th consecutive month of taxable sales increases in August, when consumers spent $3.7 billion on goods and services for a 7.6 percent jump over August 2011, the state Department of Taxation reported today.

The last decrease in statewide taxable sales came in June 2010, when a 0.3 percent decline was reported over June 2009.

Taxable sales grew by 8.1 percent in Clark County and jumped double-digits in Washoe County to 10.5 percent.

Nine of Nevada’s 17 counties recorded an increase in taxable sales for August 2012 compared to August 2011, with Carson City, Esmeralda, Eureka, Lander, Lyon, Mineral, Pershing, and White Pine counties showing declines.

All major taxable sales categories showed gains in August.

The largest increases were seen in the categories of Motor Vehicle and Parts Dealers, up 21.6 percent; Building Material and Garden Equipment and Supplies, up 36.9 percent; Clothing and Clothing Accessories, up 10.3 percent; General Merchandise Stores, up 6.9 percent; and Merchant Wholesalers-Durable Goods, up 9 percent.

Other major categories showing increases included the Construction Industry Classification, up 2.7 percent; Food and Beverage Stores, up 0.6 percent; Furniture and Home Furnishings, up 6 percent; Accommodations, up 12.2 percent; and Food Services and Drinking Places, up 2.4 percent.

Bryan Wachter, director of government affairs for the Retail Association of Nevada (RAN), said the increases in larger purchases, from vehicles to furniture, is particularly good news in the August taxable sales report.

“Furniture sales I think is a great indicator that hopefully, people are either renovating their houses or buying new furniture or possibly trying to furnish new homes,” he said. “I think that signals more of a confidence, and people are more secure, especially leading into the holiday season.

“We’re very positive looking forward, we’re very optimistic,” Wachter said. “We came up with a 6.8 percent increase in taxable sales for holiday goods this year over last year. I think this news confirms that we were probably justified in our optimism.”

In some good news for Gov. Brian Sandoval as he prepares his next two year budget, the General Fund portion of the sales and use taxes collected from the August taxable sales amounted to $73.1 million, an 8.4 percent increase over August 2011.


Audio clips:

Bryan Wachter with RAN says the major purchases are an especially good sign for Nevada’s economy:

102512Wachter1 :19 the holiday season.”

Wachter says retailers are optimistic about a strong holiday shopping season:

102512Wachter2 :16 in our optimism.”




Romney Rallies Reno Voters In Effort To Win Nevada

By Sean Whaley | 2:41 pm October 24th, 2012

RENO – Gov. Mitt Romney fired up a crowd of about 2,000 enthusiastic Northern Nevada  voters today, urging them to get to the polls and help him take the battleground state that is Nevada 13 days from now.

Romney told the crowd that President Obama is out of ideas, out of excuses and will be out of office come Nov. 6.

The president, “doesn’t understand what it takes to get this economy going, he doesn’t have a plan to get jobs for Americans, I do and that’s why I’m going to win,” he said.

Gov. Mitt Romney fired up a Reno crowd today. / Nevada News Bureau.

He promised to repeal and replace the federal Affordable Care Act, which he referred to as Obamacare, and stop the raid of Medicare funds to pay for it.

Romney said that if Obama is reelected, the national debt will grow from $16 trillion to $20 trillion by the end of his second term.

“I will get America to finally be on track to a balanced budget,” he said.

In his second Nevada visit in as many days, Romney held the rally at the Reno Events Center downtown in a county viewed by many political observers as holding the key to a GOP victory on Nov. 6. He spoke for about 20 minutes.

In a display of just how critical both parties view the state with its six electoral votes, Obama is scheduled to make yet another Nevada appearance later today in Las Vegas.

Nevada voter registration leans Democratic, with 41.9 percent active registered voters to 34.7 percent for Republicans, with another 17.4 percent nonpartisans. Early voting, which began Saturday and runs through Nov. 2, has also favored Democrats so far, with 81,694 votes cast by Democrats through Oct. 23 compared to 62,031 cast by Republicans and 28,981 cast by nonpartisans.

In his remarks, Romney said the election isn’t just about big national issues, but about America’s families and whether they will be able to find jobs and have the ability to choose the school their children attend.

“And I understand what it’s going to take to get this country strong again and provide the answers that your families need,” he said. “Because this is an election about two very different pathways for America. The one represented by the president is in fact one with $20 trillion in debt. He started with $10 trillion, he’s up to $16 (trillion) on his way to $20 (trillion). I’ll balance the budget instead.”

Romney said his five step plan to get the country’s economy working again includes more development of oil, coal, gas and renewable energy, expanding foreign trade, providing training for job seekers, working toward a balanced federal budget and championing small business.

“I want to get small business going again and that means I want to keep taxes down on small business; I want to get regulators to see their job is encouraging small business, not crushing it,” he said. “I’ll make small business the centerpiece of our economic recovery.”

Romney asked the crowd to each find a voter who supported Obama in 2008 and get them to vote for his campaign in 2012 and help “take America in a new direction.”


Audio clips:

Gov. Romney says voters have two clear paths on election day:

102412Romney1 :19 the budget instead.”

Romney says he will make small business the centerpiece of an economic recovery:

102412Romney2 :14 our economic recovery.”


Nevada Think Tank Publishes “Piglet Book” Citing Government Waste

By Sean Whaley | 2:01 am October 24th, 2012

CARSON CITY – From double-dipping employees to the questionable use of credit cards, the newest edition of the Nevada Policy Research Institute’s “piglet book” released today offers highlights of recent questionable government agency actions.

The Nevada Piglet Book 2012” is authored by Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director for NPRI, a libertarian think tank based in Las Vegas. The third edition comes out as lawmakers prepare to return to the capital for the 2013 legislative session.

In the 40-page report, Lawrence also reviews and raises questions about recent political and policy developments in Nevada, including the successful effort by Gov. Brian Sandoval and others to lure Apple to Reno, and U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s efforts to promote green energy projects in the state using taxpayer subsidies.

“While Reid regularly trumpets these deals as ways to ‘create jobs’ in the state, these deals – it’s clear upon review – are really about transferring wealth from taxpayers and electric ratepayers to campaign donors and allied politicians,” Lawrence writes in the report.

He cites the work of fellow NPRI staff in criticizing the effort: “Since 2009, with Reid’s backing, over $1.3 billion in federal taxpayer subsidies has gone into renewable-energy contracts in Nevada. Yet the projects those subsidies fund are projected to create only 288 permanent jobs in the state – a cost to taxpayers of $4.6 million per job.”

Reid has strongly supported green energy development in his Senate career. His website says: “Our country is too dependent on oil and fossil fuels, which pollute our air, place our economy and national security at risk, and contribute to climate change. As the Senate Majority Leader, I am working on building a clean energy future that will help provide Americans safe, reliable, and affordable supplies of clean energy.”

As to the decision by Apple to build a data center in the Reno area after receiving large tax breaks, Lawrence said in the report: “To help it win the tax breaks it sought, Apple hired lobbyist and Sandoval adviser Greg Ferraro to represent the company before the Governor’s Office of Economic Development – where insider Ferraro was already under contract to perform public relations work for $200 per hour.”

This relationship was reported by the Las Vegas Sun in August. Ferraro told the Sun he personally represented only Apple in the dealings that netted the company $89 million in tax breaks, not the state as well.

While some of the information in the Piglet Report comes from reporters and others looking into questions at all levels of government, many issues cited are uncovered by government agencies themselves through audits.

“Most people don’t follow audits, they don’t read them, so they don’t know what they say, and the problems that some of the cities and counties and state have had,” Lawrence said in a telephone interview in advance of the release of the report. “So this is kind of a nice way to make that information more easily accessible to the public.”

The audits are an important source of information on the activities of government agencies, but not all entities, including most counties and many cities, do not have an internal audit function, he said. Getting local governments to invest in such reviews would be a benefit to the taxpayers, Lawrence said.

Lawrence also cites a Nevada News Bureau story in the report regarding some questionable use of welfare cash grants, called Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), by recipients.

“Over a seven-month period in 2011, Nevada TANF funds were withdrawn in 35 different states, Guam and the District of Columbia,” he said. “About a hundred withdrawals took place in liquor stores. Others took place in casinos and slot parlors. Some occurred in tourist destinations like New Orleans, Hawaii, Angel Stadium, Magic Mountain, SeaWorld San Diego, Knott’s Berry Farm and Pier 39 in San Francisco. While withdrawals of this nature were a minority, they indicate that at least some welfare payments went to fund indulgences – not necessities.”

The book, and other transparency efforts by NPRI, does have an effect on policy makers, Lawrence said. One example was the successful push for electronic reporting of campaign contribution and expense reports by candidates and elected officials, which was sought by others as well in the 2011 session including Secretary of State Ross Miller.

“These transparency issues especially are things that resonate with people on every end of the political spectrum,” Lawrence said. “So it’s easy for the public to get behind each of these measures. It’s perhaps a little more difficult for lawmakers who may not want to make things quite as transparent.”

But for everyone else the changes are clearly a benefit, he said.


Audio clips:

Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy policy director for NPRI, says the report presents an easy-to-read review of questionable government activity:

102412Lawrence1 :24 to the public.”

Lawrence says people of all political persuasions support transparency efforts:

102412Lawrence3 :27 to our benefit.”



GOP Political Consultant Predicts Obama, Heller Victories

By Sean Whaley | 2:45 pm October 23rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – A long-time Republican political consultant said today he sees Nevada voters supporting President Obama on Nov. 6 while at the same time giving Republican Sen. Dean Heller a victory against Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley in the hard fought U.S. Senate race.

Pete Ernaut, president of government and public affairs for R&R Partners, said he believes there is an Obama-Heller voting bloc in Nevada.

“If Gov. Romney carries Nevada, without a doubt Heller will win the Senate race,” he said during an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television show. “I don’t think there is a Romney-Berkley voting bloc. But there is clearly an Obama-Heller voting bloc.

Political consultant Pete Ernaut.

“And I actually made the prediction that I think the margins of victory will be similar,” Ernaut said. “That I think Obama will carry the state somewhere, one, three points, something like that. And I think that’s about the margin of victory for Heller.”

A similar situation occurred in Nevada in 2010, when Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid won re-election while GOP governor candidate Brian Sandoval won as well.

Ernaut said the potential of a split result should make Nevadans feel good in some respects because it shows that voters are so independent that such a vote-switching scenario could occur on election day.

“I think that makes me feel good about Nevada; that that type of result is possible,” he said.

Ernaut, a former state lawmaker, also weighed in on the closely watched state Senate 15 race, where Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, faces former state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno. Ernaut said Brower, appointed to fill out the term of the late Sen. Bill Raggio, has an advantage.

But Leslie’s former state Assembly seat is located entirely within the Senate district, which could make the race close, he said.

“It’s going to be a closer race that it probably should have been, given the registration and given the dynamics of that district,” Ernaut said. “I think though that Brower still has a slight advantage.”

Ernaut said he has also reconsidered Washoe County’s critical role in the statewide election contests because of the huge Democratic voter registration edge that has emerged over Republicans in Clark County.

Democrats have 390,227 active registered voters in Clark County, compared to 262,806 Republicans, for a 45.8 percent to 30.9 percent split. Another 151,490 voters, or 17.8 percent, are nonpartisans.

“But I think that this is going to be a race that is going to be very, very affected by the turnout of Democrats in Clark County,” he said. “And that, I think, will determine the relevancy of Washoe in this statewide race.”


Audio clips:

GOP political consultant Pete Ernaut predicts an Obama and Heller victory in Nevada on election day:

102312Ernaut11 :26 victory for Heller.”

Ernaut says Greg Brower has a slight advantage in the state Senate 15 race:

102312Ernaut2 :11 a slight advantage.”

Ernaut says the strong Democratic voter edge in Clark County has potentially affected Washoe County’s influence in the statewide races:

102312Ernaut3 :16 this statewide race.”




Carson Judge Invalidates Teacher-Backed Margin Tax Petition

By Sean Whaley | 9:56 am October 23rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – A Carson City District Judge today ruled an initiative petition being circulated by teachers to levy a 2 percent tax on companies making gross revenues in excess of $1 million a year to raise money to support public education is invalid.

The Nevada State Education Association said it will appeal the decision to the Nevada Supreme Court and will continue to collect signatures to qualify the measure.

In his ruling, Judge James Wilson found that the description of effect used to explain to voters the intent of the petition is incomplete.

The validity of the petition was challenged by a group of Nevada business groups called the Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs.

Carson City District Judge James Wilson.

“The Committee (to Protect Nevada Jobs) argues the description needs to tell those being asked to sign the petition how much revenue the tax will generate,” Wilson said. “The court agrees the amount of revenue is an effect that those being asked to sign the petition should know.

“Failure to inform those being asked to sign the petition is a failure to explain a material ramification of the initiative,” he said. “The amount of revenue the tax will probably generate must be included in the description. Failure to include the probable amount invalidates the petition.”

The judge also cited several other aspects of the description of effect as misleading, including the fact that millions of dollars of the tax would be directly sent to the Department of Taxation to cover the costs of administering the tax. Additionally, the description of effect does not specify that the tax would also be levied against businesses that are operating at a loss. The judge noted that such an effect would be a major impact of the petition and should have been specified in the description.

John La Gatta, chairman of the Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs, said in response to the ruling: “This petition, which should have been called the Margin Tax Petition, would have greatly harmed business and jobs in our state and not helped our education system at all. Imposition of this tax would greatly harm economic development. We are delighted with this ruling.”

Josh Hicks, attorney for the Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs, said he was not surprised by the ruling.

“We knew that the description of effect was deeply flawed and misleading,” he said. “This is a victory for all Nevadans and should send a strong message that the courts will not allow such deceptions against the public.”

In a statement, the teachers association questioned how Wilson could find the description proper in an earlier ruling in August, but find the same wording flawed in today’s ruling.

“While NSEA anticipated and planned for legal challenges, we also expected consistency in the court’s rulings,” the statement said. “The description of effect, the 200-word summary of the petition, was declared as succinct, straightforward, and not misleading in August and has only been changed in non-substantive aspects and in aspects not relevant to today’s ruling. We do not agree with today’s ruling that is at-odds with the court’s prior decision.

“Through all of the recent economic travails, Nevada voters have understood that our path to prosperity needs to include a renewed commitment to education funding and they are demonstrating that understanding by supporting our referendum,” the statement said. “NSEA’s recently finalized report, By the Numbers, shows that an investment in education is an investment in our state’s economic prosperity.”

The association, which has already collected between 55,000 and 60,000 signatures to take the margins tax proposal to the Legislature next year.

The group has until Nov. 13 to collect a minimum of 72,352 signatures to take the measure to lawmakers. The Legislature would then have 40 days to approve the proposal or it would go to the voters in 2014.

The proposed Texas-style margins tax would raise an estimated $800 million a year for public education.

Wilson’s ruling prohibits the petition from being submitted to the Legislature next year or to voters in 2014.





Washoe County Sees Record Early Voting Turnout

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 2:06 pm October 22nd, 2012

CARSON CITY – Washoe County experienced record turnout on the first weekend of early voting, surpassing the 2008 presidential election numbers by more than 60 percent, the registrar of voters office reported today.

Ballots cast this weekend totaled 14,475 compared to 9,036 in 2008. In 2008, 56 percent of all voters cast their ballots during early voting, the county reported.

All early voting polling sites are running smoothly with additional machines delivered to areas experiencing higher than normal turnout. Voters can choose from 22 early voting locations, spread geographically throughout the region, through Nov. 2. Weekday voting is generally slower than weekends, with Saturdays and the last day of early voting the busiest. A complete list of locations is available online at

The county registered an all-time high of 241,400 voters prior to the close of registration this past Tuesday, exceeding the record of 231,400 for the General Election in 2008. Washoe County is expected to be one of the most closely watched jurisdictions in the nation for this year’s presidential election.