Archive for the ‘News’ Category

Sandoval Asks For Assessment Of School Security

By Sean Whaley | 10:39 am December 20th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval today said he wants an assessment of how Nevada’s public schools are doing in regards to security following the horrific shooting deaths a week ago at a Connecticut elementary school.

Sandoval made the request as chairman of the state Homeland Security Commission, which met today by teleconference. A presentation will be prepared for the next meeting of the commission.

“I think it would be worthwhile perhaps if we had an item on the agenda where we could get some type of presentation of where our state stands in terms of school security,” he said. “I’m interested in terms of what is best practices and if there are things we need to recommend or do.

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

“I also am curious in terms of fencing and single points of entry and buzzing in and out,” Sandoval said. “Just how we’re doing with the newer schools and the older schools. Perhaps it might be appropriate to have a representative from the two largest school districts.”

Sandy Hook shooter Adam Lanza forced his way into the elementary school, where he killed 26 adults and children before taking his own life.

Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley said the review could include a discussion of a proposed “campus carry” bill being sought by Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas. The measure, first reported on by the Nevada News Bureau, would allow those with concealed weapons permits to carry their weapons on the campuses of the Nevada System of Higher Education. Concealed weapons are now prohibited on the campuses except for rare exceptions.

A similar bill proposed by former state Sen. John Lee in the 2011 session was the focus of intense debate but did not pass.

Haley said he opposed the bill in 2011 as president of the state Sheriffs and Chiefs Association. The higher education system also opposed the bill.

Haley said there should be a discussion about what the position of the commission should be in regards to the proposed law.

“As we all know, even though we are at a university with young men and women, we also have day care centers in those universities, we also have high school students meeting there for college-level training, and we have kids moving in and out of those facilities on a regular basis,” he said.

Adam Garcia, director of University Police Services at the University of Nevada, Reno, said he remains opposed to the bill as he did in 2011.

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Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says he wants a report on the status of Nevada school security efforts:

122012Sandoval1 :08 of school security.”

Sandoval says he wants to know if Nevada schools are following best practices:

122012Sandoval2 :15 largest school districts.”

Washoe County Sheriff Mike Haley says there should also be a discussion of a proposed “campus carry” bill:

122012Haley :20 a regular basis.”

 

 

Latest “Fiscal Cliff” Talks Focusing On Tax Cuts

By Sean Whaley | 3:11 pm December 18th, 2012

CARSON CITY – As Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., prepared today to attend another briefing with his House Republican colleagues on the latest “fiscal cliff” negotiations, he said that he would consider tax hikes on the wealthiest Americans to reduce the deficit, but not to fund increased government spending.

“Am I willing to increase revenues to fund more government spending?” Amodei asked. “No, I’m not. The spending dynamic is out of control. Am I willing to look at revenues that will reduce the debt, not to fund more government spending? Yes I am.”

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.

The latest offer from GOP House Speaker John Boehner made earlier today, called “Plan B,” would renew tax cuts for all but those making more than $1 million a year. The proposed was quickly rejected by the White House and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

A statement from White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said in part that President Obama “is not willing to accept a deal that doesn’t ask enough of the very wealthiest in taxes and instead shifts the burden to the middle class and seniors.”

Reid said the proposal would not pass both houses of Congress and he called on Boehner to work on forging a large-scale deficit reduction agreement.

“It would be a shame if Republicans abandoned productive negotiations due to pressure from the Tea Party, as they have time and again,” he said in a statement.

The latest counter proposal from the White House that was to be discussed at the House Republican caucus at 2 p.m. Pacific time would extend tax breaks for all but those making more than $400,000. President Obama originally proposed tax increases for those earning more than $250,000.

Boehner wants a vote on a tax cut extension by Thursday.

But Amodei said he is concerned that a vote on raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans, if it comes without some decisions on reducing federal spending, could mean the new revenue from the deal would not go to reduce the deficit. That is unacceptable, he said.

“So it’s not: I won’t look at any revenues,” Amodei said. “But it’s like, listen: If you’re talking revenues just to allow government spending to increase, that’s the problem. So, if you’ve got a proposal out there that increases revenues and decreases the debt, then hey, let’s look at it.”

Amodei said he remains frustrated with the discussions because they do not at this point appear to be focused on long-term solutions for reducing the debt and getting federal spending under control. Constituents and others contacting his office are, for obvious reasons, focused on the Jan.1 fiscal cliff deadline, he said.

“You show me a political winner out of any of this and I’ll show you somebody who knows nothing about the policy,” he said. “Because my frustration at the moment is, it seems like we’re talking about stuff that will not, at the end of the day, bring about any change in terms of the federal debt posture.”

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Audio clips:

Rep. Mark Amodei says he is willing to look at tax revenue increases if the money goes to reducing the deficit:

121812Amodei1 :19 Yes I am.”

Amodei says he will look at proposals that raise revenue to reduce the deficit:

121812Amodei2 :22 look at it.”

Amodei says the latest discussions do not appear to be directed at the long-term federal deficit:

121812Amodei3 :15 federal debt posture.”

 

Sandoval Appoints Elaine Wynn To State School Board

By Sean Whaley | 3:56 pm December 17th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval today announced he has appointed Elaine Wynn to the state Board of Education, effective January 8, 2013.

“Elaine has long been a vocal advocate for improving the delivery of education to our state’s children,” Sandoval said. “From her service to our state as co-chair of the Education Reform Blue Ribbon Task Force to her continued work with students in the greater Las Vegas area, Elaine is a dedicated champion for education and I am pleased she has agreed to serve in this manner.”

Elaine Wynn.

Wynn, director of Wynn Resorts since 2000, was appointed by then-Gov. Jim Gibbons as co-chair of the Education Reform Blue Ribbon Task Force in 2010. The task force was created to submit a state application for the federal Race to the Top competition and make education reform recommendations to the state Legislature. Nevada did not ultimately receive funding in the competition.

Wynn is the founding chairwoman of Communities In Schools of Nevada, the current chairwoman of the national board of Communities In Schools, a trustee of the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a board member of the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, and a board member of the Library of Congress Trust Fund.

Born and raised in New York City, Wynn graduated from George Washington University in 1964 with a bachelor’s degree in political science. She resided in Washington, DC, before moving to Las Vegas in 1967.

The makeup of the Nevada State Board of Education was changed by the 2011 Legislature as part of Sandoval’s education reform package. Until now it has been a 10-member board elected from districts around the state.

The new board as established in Senate Bill 197, beginning next year, has four elected members, one from each of the state’s congressional districts. It also has one member appointed by Sandoval and one member each selected by the Senate majority leader and Assembly speaker. There will also be four non-voting members appointed by the governor representing different public education interests.

Sandoval and lawmakers agreed to a number of education reforms in the 2011 session, including a new teacher evaluation process to ensure the best educators remain in the classroom.

 

Jurist Says Mental Health Support Key To Stemming Mass Killings

By Sean Whaley | 3:12 pm December 17th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty said today that the country will not have success in reducing the tragic type of shooting incident that occurred Friday in Connecticut without providing more mental health support.

Hardesty, interviewed on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, said “we’re going backwards” on mental health treatment needs nationally and in Nevada.

Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty.

“It’s high time the country does something about these matters,” he said. “And from the perspective of a judge who has worked hard to, and the judiciary as a whole, worked hard to promote mental health court as an example, we cannot achieve any success in any of these areas if we do not recognize the importance of being proactive in dealing with mental health issues in this country and in this state.

“And yet we’re going backwards,” Hardesty said. “And I hope that these very sad incidents demonstrate the need to revisit these subjects.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, in a report released in November 2011, said there is a national crisis in helping people with serious mental illness due to deep cuts in state spending for mental health services.

“States such as California, Illinois, Nevada and South Carolina, which made devastating cuts to mental health services previously, have made further cuts for fiscal year 2012, putting tens of thousands of citizens at great risk,” the report said.

The NAMI report said states have cut more than $1.6 billion in general funds from their state mental health agency budgets since 2009 while at the same time demand increased significantly.

The state Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services has more than $7 million in general funding spending requests in the state budget “wish list” document released to the public on Friday. Many of the $419 million in total state agency general fund requests included on the list are not expected to see funding due to a lack of tax revenue.

One of the mental health requests is for nearly $200,000 for a clinical program manager and training for a new program to provide a continuum of care for clients reentering the community when being released from jails, prisons and forensic hospitals.

In his NewsMakers comments, Hardesty said the 2nd Amendment and gun control debate is a separate issue.

But the perpetrators of many of these terrible incidents are afflicted with serious mental health issues that require a proactive society, he said. Families who struggle with family members who suffer from such illnesses need help and support, Hardesty said.

Nevadans don’t have to look to Connecticut to see the problem, he said, citing the Carson City incident in September 2011 where a man armed with an AK-47 assault rifle shot five uniformed National Guard members eating breakfast at a restaurant, killing three and another person before shooting himself.

The shooter, Eduardo Sencion of Carson City, suffered from mental health issues and was on medication. He left no note or explanation for the shootings.

“So I hope that it causes us, as a society, to look at what will help be proactive and achieve some significant changes in those areas,” Hardesty said.

On a positive note, he pointed to the successes of the state’s mental health courts, where the focus is on diverting non-violent offenders with mental illness into treatment programs. The goal is to reduce or eliminate offender recidivism by treating their mental illness.

“And the more we can do to be proactive to support programs like that, the more we’ll do to reduce the risks to our society caused by the Sandy Hook Elementary event,” Hardesty said.

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Audio clips:

Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty says Nevada and the nation are going backwards in support for mental health treatment efforts:

121712Hardesty1 :17 we’re going backwards.”

Hardesty says he hopes the tragic Sandy Hook incident will help lead to more mental health support:

121712Hardesty2 :11 in those areas.”

Hardesty says an investment in mental health support will help reduce the risks of further such incidents:

121712Hardesty3 :13 Hook elementary event.”

 

From the Publisher

By Elizabeth Crum | 2:18 pm December 17th, 2012

Readers, Colleagues, Media Partners & Friends:

It is with deep appreciation for your help, encouragement, readership and support over the past three years that I am tasked with announcing the suspension of operations at the Nevada News Bureau.

In short, we have been unable to secure the funds we would need to continue operating in 2013. Such is life, sometimes, in the non-profit world.

More than two dozen Nevada newspapers and websites have been regularly publishing our stories this year, and I regret that we will no longer be able to provide them with free, non-partisan content about Nevada government and politics. I am also sorry to disappoint the more than 330,000 readers who have visited our website since we launched in 2009, as well as our regular Nevada readers who total nearly 20,000.

Sean Whaley, our stellar capitol bureau reporter, has landed on his feet at his old digs, the Las Vegas Review-Journal. He starts soon, and I know you will all wish him well. It has been my great honor to work alongside Sean and call him both a colleague and friend.

I will continue to co-host the daily political talk show “The Agenda” at KSNV-Channel 3 and will still be Tweeting pithy remarks and links from @elizcrum. I will also soon be revving things up at my old blog and posting news and opinion blurbs for your reading pleasure.

Nevada News Bureau will continue to register with the Nevada Secretary of State as a non-profit organization and will, in the eyes of the Department of Treasury, be an inactive nonprofit for the time being. Our governing board is open to restarting operations should we secure funding through one or more donations or media partnerships. If you are donor looking for a worthy cause or a media organization wishing to discuss opportunities for partnership with us, please contact me.

All in all, it’s been a great ride, and we hope we brought something worthy to Nevada.

Our last day will be this Friday, December 21, which is also Mayan Apocalypse Day. Sean and I thought the timing was appropriate.

Warmly,

E.

Publisher/Editor

P.S.  We sent out this press release at 8 a.m.  In the time since, we have received dozens of wonderful, humbling emails from our readers. I would like to thank those individuals for helping us feel that we did, indeed, do good things while we were able.

 

Gov. Sandoval Releases Expanded Budget Data

By Sean Whaley | 5:11 pm December 14th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval today released budget data that had been sought by state lawmakers after a weeks-long disagreement over whether the information was public.

The state Budget Office posted the “items for special consideration” data on its website at noon. The items are requests made to Sandoval by state agencies for spending over and above their base-budget submissions. The base budget data was released by the Sandoval administration in October.

Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Included in the requests is a proposal to expand the Medicaid program to a new group of Nevada residents as provided for under the Affordable Care Act. As first reported by The Associated Press, Sandoval announced on Tuesday that he will propose expanding the program to provide health care coverage to 87,000 Nevadans, the cost of which will initially be paid for by the federal government. The 2013 Legislature will consider the recommendation.

Sandoval initially did not provide the additional budget information to the Legislature when it was expected on Oct. 15.

The decision prompted members of the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee in late October to question state Budget Director Jeff Mohlenkamp about the decision.

Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Rick Combs told lawmakers that the information has been provided to lawmakers by past governors.

Mohlenkamp said the base budget data provided to the Legislature met the requirement of the state law on budget disclosure and Sandoval also defended the decision.

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

The budget dispute was first reported by the Nevada News Bureau. The Las Vegas Sun also reported on the impasse earlier this month, which led to several calls in the media and by others for Sandoval to release the data.

Sandoval then announced last week he would release the budget data this week, which happened today.

Given the limited amount of state tax revenues, many of the special consideration items are not likely to see funding in Sandoval’s 2013-15 budget, which will be released next month ahead of the start of the Feb. 4 legislative session.

Many of the requests are for new positions. A total of just over 518 positions are in the agency wish lists for the first fiscal year, with about another 100 proposed to be added in the second year.

But there are other types of requests, such as the $20 million being sought from the general fund by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to provide more money for the Catalyst Fund, which will be used to attract new businesses to the state. The Legislature created the fund in 2011 and appropriated $10 million for its operation in the current budget.

The total requests from the general fund by the various agencies total $419 million.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute congratulated Sandoval on releasing the budget information, but said the requests should be ignored because they are meaningless.

“That’s because they assume that every government agency should be given a substantial funding increase through costs – including pay increases – that automatically roll up,” said NPRI Deputy Policy Director Geoffrey Lawrence. “This outdated and broken budgeting process, commonly referred to as ‘baseline budgeting,’ failed to exact any accountability over the use of public resources.”

The adoption by the 2011 Legislature of a new process, called performance-based budgeting, which was advocated by NPRI, among others, will ensure the state’s highest priorities are funded, he said.

 

Medical Association Applauds Sandoval Medicaid Decision

By Sean Whaley | 11:11 am December 13th, 2012

CARSON CITYNevada State Medical Association President Florence Jameson said today that Gov. Brian Sandoval made a “politically courageous and correct” policy decision to expand the Nevada Medicaid program.

The decision will ensure that there will not be a new class of uninsured Nevadans when the federal health coverage changes are implemented in January 2014, said Jameson, a physician.

This decision assures coverage for low income uninsured Nevadans who would not be eligible for the new health insurance products provided through the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange. While controversial, the principal achievement of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) is the development of a complex scheme for providing health care coverage for most Americans, the announcement said.

The association recommended in September that Sandoval opt for the expansion, but Nevada physicians remain concerned that it does not improve the current Medicaid program, which is significantly underfunded, Jameson said.

The association “urges Governor Sandoval and the state Legislature to address the access to care needs of the patients who are, and will continue to be, covered by the current Medicaid program,” she said.

This medical care access issue is one reason the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a libertarian think tank, has criticized the decision.

NPRI Deputy Policy Director Geoffrey Lawrence said that because the Medicaid program systematically under-reimburses health-care providers, many are not taking new patients. This means current Medicaid enrollees – by definition the most vulnerable populations – will now be competing with healthy adults for fewer and fewer doctors. Sandoval’s decision will exacerbate the doctor shortages already faced by the children and the disabled who use Medicaid, he said.

“All this said, one must applaud the governor’s decision to finally institute consumer co-pays and thus introduce some real-world price sensitivity into the calculations of Medicaid consumers,” Lawrence said. “The primary reason for the health-care system’s high costs is the government-induced breakdown of the price system.”

Imposing co-pays is a proven way of encouraging individuals to seek only the care they really need, helping to control cost growth, he said.

Another concern cited by NPRI with the expansion is the increasing cost of the Medicaid program to taxpayers.

State Medicaid spending is already growing at an unsustainable pace and will soon displace K-12 education as the state’s largest budget item, Lawrence said. While Congress has pledged that federal taxpayers will cover a majority of costs for the newly eligible population through 2020, that will likely shift more to state taxpayers in later years, he said.

State Senate GOP Leaders Support Medicaid Expansion

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

CARSON CITY – State Senate Republican leaders today commended GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval’s decision to expand the state Medicaid program as a commitment to the health of all Nevadans and a boost for a critical sector of the state’s economy.

“Ensuring that poor Nevadans have access to primary health care through Medicaid is very simply the right thing to do, both for our citizens and our economy,” said Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Henderson. “It will reduce our rate of uninsured and provide individuals with greater economic security.”

State Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Henderson.

“Nevada’s health care indicators continually trail its neighboring states and regularly rank among the worst in the nation,” said Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno. “Expanding Medicaid to poor childless adults will help address this.”

“Nevada has higher-than-average rates of such things as cancer, diabetes, heart disease and asthma,” he said. “Access to primary health care is critical to both prevention and treatment of these diseases and conditions. Our citizens deserve this.”

Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, said expanding the program will allow Nevada to improve its return on federal tax dollars and ensure that money is reinvested into Nevada’s health care economy, which is in need of a boost.

“Fully implementing health care reform is expected to boost Nevada’s economy by up to $6.2 billion over the next six years,” he said. “Medicaid expansion could also result in the creation of up to 8,600 much-needed jobs in Nevada over that time. With the low state match over this period, that’s a solid return on investment.”

All three Republican Senate leaders said they look forward to working with their colleagues during the 2013 session to approve this expansion, but also believe it’s imperative that Nevada protect its economic future and require a sunset on the expansion should federal reimbursement rates drop below 90 percent for this population.

In addition, Republican Senate leadership supports the governor’s proposal to include a cost-sharing component in Medicaid and plans to pursue that initiative during the 2013 Legislative Session.

Sandoval announced yesterday that he will include 78,000 additional people in Nevada’s Medicaid program as provided for under the federal Affordable Care Act.

“Though I have never liked the Affordable Care Act because of the individual mandate it places on citizens, the increased burden on businesses and concerns about access to health care, the law has been upheld by the Supreme Court,” he said in a statement. “As such, I am forced to accept it as today’s reality and I have decided to expand Nevada’s Medicaid coverage.

“My fiscal year 2014-2015 budget will provide 78,000 additional Nevadans with health insurance coverage through Medicaid, which is estimated to save the state general fund approximately $17 million dollars in mental health savings,” Sandoval said. “My executive budget will also help Nevada businesses cope with the burden placed on them by decreasing the modified business tax. My decision to opt-in assists the neediest Nevadans and helps some avoid paying a health-care tax penalty. As part of my proposal, I will also call upon the Legislature to pass Medicaid patient responsibility cost-sharing measures.”

Federal funding will pay for 100 percent of the Medicaid expansion for the first three calendar years beginning in 2014, with the state required to pick up a percentage of the cost beginning in 2017. The first year state cost is 5 percent, in 2018 the state cost is 6 percent, in 2019 the state cost is 7 percent, and in 2020, the state cost is 10 percent.

The expansion in Nevada would mostly cover childless adults who are not covered by the state program now. The other expansion will come from parent caretakers of children who are covered at 75 percent of poverty now, according to Mike Willden, director of the Nevada Department of Health and Human Services, who spoke on the subject earlier this year.

Willden said there are also administrative costs to the state that are not fully covered by the expansion but instead are shared between the federal government and the state at a 50-50 match. They include information technology costs and the cost to hire new eligibility workers, for example, he said.

 

Sandoval Announces Intent To Expand Medicaid

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 6:19 pm December 11th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval today announced he will include 78,000 additional people in Nevada’s Medicaid program as provided for under the federal Affordable Care Act.

“Though I have never liked the Affordable Care Act because of the individual mandate it places on citizens, the increased burden on businesses and concerns about access to health care, the law has been upheld by the Supreme Court,” he said in a statement. “As such, I am forced to accept it as today’s reality and I have decided to expand Nevada’s Medicaid coverage.

Gov. Brian Sandoval.

“My fiscal year 2014-2015 budget will provide 78,000 additional Nevadans with health insurance coverage through Medicaid, which is estimated to save the state general fund approximately $17 million dollars in mental health savings,” Sandoval said. “My executive budget will also help Nevada businesses cope with the burden placed on them by decreasing the modified business tax. My decision to opt-in assists the neediest Nevadans and helps some avoid paying a health-care tax penalty. As part of my proposal, I will also call upon the Legislature to pass Medicaid patient responsibility cost-sharing measures.

“I will commit to working with the Legislature if anything changes at the federal level,” he said. “At any point during the Legislative session, if there is any sign of change at the state or federal level, it may alter my support for expansion.”

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid today praised Sandoval for his decision.

“This is wonderful for the people of Nevada and for the thousands of Nevadans who now will have health care,” he said. “I commend Gov. Sandoval for taking this bipartisan step. This is a win-win, it will save the state money, is good for the economy, good for employers and most importantly will help people. I worked hard to pass this legislation and I couldn’t be happier that the governor has made this decision.”

Carson School District Wins Race To Top Funding

By Sean Whaley | 11:16 am December 11th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The U.S. Department of Education announced today that 16 applicants, including the Carson City School District, will share nearly $400 million in Race to the Top funds to improve student learning.

The award will mean up to $10 million to the district. An application submitted by the Clark County School District did not receive funding.

One comment on the Carson application said in part: “The Carson City School District provides a very strong, comprehensive, and coherent plan for the revision of the district school system.”

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

“Districts have been hungry to drive reform at the local level, and now these winners can empower their school leaders to pursue innovative ideas where they have the greatest impact: in the classroom,” said U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan. “The Race to the Top-District grantees have shown tremendous leadership though developing plans that will transform the learning environment and enable students to receive a personalized, world-class education.”

The 2012 Race to the Top-District grantees will receive four-year awards that range from $10 million to $40 million, depending on the number of students served through the plan. The winning applicants were the top scorers among the 372 applications the department received in November, which were evaluated and scored by independent peer reviewers.

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., congratulated the district on the award.

“This is wonderful news for Carson City’s students, teachers and parents” he said. “As someone whose life was transformed by teachers, I understand the importance of providing all Nevadans with the opportunity to receive a quality education. While I wish that other school districts in the state were also awarded this grant, I know these funds will help put Carson’s students on a path towards success.”

Campus Carry Bill Back On Tap For 2013 Session

By Sean Whaley | 10:38 am December 11th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A newly elected Republican state lawmaker plans to push forward with a bill next session to allow students and others with permits to carry concealed weapons on the campuses of the Nevada System of Higher Education.

Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R- Las Vegas, elected to Assembly District 4 in November, has submitted a bill draft request to prepare a measure for consideration in the 2013 legislative session.

The one-line description for the request says: “Authorizes the possession of a concealed firearm on property of the Nevada System of Higher Education under certain circumstances.”

Fiore, a lifetime member of the National Rifle Association, made 2nd Amendment rights a key part of her campaign for the Assembly.

Assemblywoman Michele Fiore, R-Las Vegas.

The “campus carry” issue was a controversial topic in the 2011 session, when former state Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, brought a similar bill to the Legislature. The bill passed the Senate but did not get a vote in the Assembly Judiciary Committee late in the session.

Lee sponsored the bill on behalf of Amanda Collins, a concealed weapons permit holder who was unarmed when she was raped by James Biela in a University of Nevada, Reno parking garage in 2007. Collins gave emotional and candid testimony on behalf of the measure at the 2011 session.

Fiore cites the Collins case in requesting the bill, saying in an email there is no reason to prohibit concealed weapons permit holders from being able to protect themselves while on a campus of Nevada’s higher education system.

“In our communities today the bad guys have guns and the good guys obey the law and sometimes because of our firearm laws us good guys are put in a compromising position,” she said. “That is not OK. I will not hesitate to protect myself with my handguns. If I have to make a choice between saving my children’s lives or my own life or letting a scum bag take our lives, I’ll choose to take the culprit out.”

Collins said in her 2011 testimony that she could have defended herself if she had been allowed to carry her weapon on campus.

Biela was sentenced to death in 2010 for the murder of another Reno woman, Brianna Denison, in 2008.

Lee said at a hearing on his bill in 2011 that the decision to make Nevada college campuses “gun-free zones” actually created “defenseless-victim zones.”

CCW permit holders must be at least 21 years of age and take an eight-hour training class.

The Nevada System of Higher Education and several law enforcement groups opposed the measure, however, arguing in part that the discretion to deal with weapons on campus belonged to the Board of Regents, not lawmakers.

Concerns were also cited with how to deal with campus athletic events where alcohol is served, and how to ensure weapons would be safely stored in student dormitories.

Nevada Casinos Eke Out Another Modest Gain In October

By Sean Whaley | 11:49 am December 7th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada casinos took in $978.8 million from gamblers in October, eking out a modest 1.9 percent increase over the same month in 2011, the Gaming Control Board reported today. It was the third consecutive month of modest gaming wins for the state.

For the 2013 fiscal year that began July 1, the gaming win has increased 4.6 percent.

The October increase was primarily due to a 3.6 percent gain on the Las Vegas Strip, where casinos pulled in $580.7 million. Clark County overall was up 2.8 percent, while South Lake Tahoe posted a 0.8 percent gain with $15.9 million in revenues.

Photo: Conor Ogle via Wikimedia Commons.

But many other markets in Nevada posted declines in October, including Laughlin, down 0.9 percent; Reno, down 6.9 percent; and the Carson Valley area including Carson City, down 5.5 percent.

Michael Lawton, senior research analyst for the state gaming agency, said he was pleasantly surprised by the modest increase because October faced a tough comparison against a strong October 2011, and there were two fewer weekend days in October 2012 than in October 2011.

Helping out the overall win were two Madonna concerts at the MGM Grand on Oct. 13 and 14.

There was also a technical benefit with September ending on a weekend, which meant that some slot revenue from that month was counted in October instead, he said.

Visitor volume in Las Vegas also increased in October, up 2.9 percent to 3.5 million visitors, according to information provided by the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Game and table win statewide totaled $364.9 million, down 5.5 percent over October 2011, which had seen a strong gain of 14.4 percent over October 2010.

Lawton said one note of interest was an all-time record win for roulette of $50.8 million for a 174.2 percent increase over October 2011. The previous high was set in December of 2007 when the roulette take was $38.3 million.

Slot win statewide totaled $614 million for an increase of 6.8 percent over October 2011.

“I would say honestly, going into this month, I am pleasantly surprised that with the difficult comp and the calendar, losing the two weekend days – I mean although we did basically get help with the revenue timing – it was a difficult comp and to come in positive is definitely a good sign,” Lawton said.

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Audio clips:

Gaming analyst Michael Lawton says Nevada saw a record roulette win in October:

120712Lawton1 :23 strong roulette month.”

Lawton says the win increase in October is a good sign given the difficult comparison with October 2011:

120712Lawton2 :18 a good sign.”

 

Democrats Call On Sandoval To Release Budget Data

By Sean Whaley | 3:46 pm December 5th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The Nevada State Democratic Party today said Gov. Brian Sandoval should immediately disclose state agency budget requests to the Legislature and public.

Some state lawmakers expressed concern at an Interim Finance Committee meeting in October that the Sandoval administration had not provided them with information about state agency requests over and above their base budget requests, known as “items for special consideration.”

“Governor Sandoval’s refusal to disclose his administration’s budget requests is deeply disturbing and likely violates Nevada law,” the statement says. “The governor is not entitled to pick and choose which laws he wants to follow. Governor Sandoval should immediately disclose his budget requests, as required by the law, so Nevadans know how he wants to spend their tax dollars.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The items of special consideration include data on expanding Medicaid to a new group of eligible Nevada residents as a result of the federal Affordable Care Act.

The story about the failure to provide the budget information was first reported by the Nevada News Bureau. Republican lawmakers, including Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, also expressed concerns about the failure by Sandoval’s budget office to provide the information.

Kieckhefer was particularly concerned about the Medicaid data, 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.

Sandoval is not expected to announce his decision on expanding Medicaid until his State of the State address in January.

Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Rick Combs said today he again asked the Sandoval administration for the budget information last week.

In an email, he said in part: “I was told that they were hoping to have a response for me last week. I haven’t heard anything from them about it since. We have not received access to the Items for Special Consideration, so we are unable to review it or provide it to the public.

“The (LCB) Legal Division has looked into it and believes that the law requires the Governor’s Office to provide to us and make available for the public the requests that agencies made for the upcoming biennium,” Combs said. “We believe it was the intent that the Legislature and the public have access to what the agencies requested rather than only a portion of what the agencies requested.”

The information has been provided to lawmakers by past governors.

In response to questions from the NNB, Sandoval said in October he had complied with the state laws requiring transmittal of the budget information to lawmakers.

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

Sandoval said it was 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.”

Nevada Supreme Court Hears Margins Tax Case

By Sean Whaley | 11:37 am December 5th, 2012

Attorneys for the teachers association and state business interests faced off before the Nevada Supreme Court today over whether a proposed margins tax initiative petition has met legal requirements and so should be submitted to the 2013 Legislature.

A Carson City district court judge earlier this year said the petition filed by the Nevada State Education Association to establish a 2 percent tax on companies making gross revenues in excess of $1 million a year was invalid because the 200 word “description of effect” was incomplete. It did not specify how much revenue the tax would generate, said Judge James Wilson in a ruling in October.

A group called The Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs challenged the petition. The teachers association appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court, which heard oral arguments in the dispute today. The court, which met in Las Vegas, will rule later on the matter.

Nevada Supreme Court.

Despite the lower court ruling, the association last month turned in 152,000 signatures, more than double the required number to qualify the petition for consideration by the Legislature.

If the petition is found by the court to have satisfied state legal requirements, the Nevada Legislature will be required to take up the proposal when it convenes in February. 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.

Justice Ron Parraguirre asked whether it is a material effect that a business could face a loss and still be required to pay the tax.

“Isn’t that a material effect that ought to be disclosed?” he said.

Francis Flaherty, attorney for the teachers, told the court the backers of the measure should not be subjected to a “judicial slot machine” where decisions on what to include in the description are subjected to second guessing by the judiciary.

“You’ve only got 200 words,” he said.

Flaherty called the petition “core political speech” that the Supreme Court has said in previous rulings it must do “everything in its power to uphold.”

Justice Michael Douglas asked attorney Josh Hicks, representing The Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs, how the court is expected to pick and chose what to include in the description given the complexity of the proposal, which totals 22,000 words.

Hicks said the 200-word description could very easily be written to be accurate for those asked to sign the petition. He said an accurate description is a fundamental protection to ensure potential signers of the petition know what the measure would do. There is no guarantee that the tax proposal will generate any additional money for public education, which is a material fact that should have been disclosed, he told the court.

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Audio clips:

Attorney Francis Flaherty says the description of effect satisfies state law:

120512Flaherty :14 got 200 words.”

Attorney Josh Hicks says there are no guarantees the proposal will increase education funding:

120512Hicks :23 change in it.”

 

 

 

State Senate GOP Leadership Endorses Drivers’ Licenses For Deferred Action Program

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 3:08 pm November 30th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s state  Senate Republican leadership today expressed support for a state policy that makes thousands of young immigrants living in Nevada eligible for a state-issued driver’s license or ID.

The Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, with the support of Gov. Brian Sandoval, announced this week that its policy would be to honor the employment authorization card granted to successful applicants under the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) Deferred Action program.

Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, said he supports the DMV policy and hopes those eligible will take advantage of this opportunity.

State Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Henderson.

“These young men and women are living, working and attending school here in Nevada, and are doing everything in their power to improve their lives and the lives of their families,” Roberson said. “A driver’s license from the state of Nevada will aid in their ability to commute to and from work and school; will afford a sense of self-sufficiency; and will provide greater opportunities for thousands of Nevada families.”

Deferred Action, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) is a directive from the secretary of the DHS that grants temporary permission to stay in the U.S. to certain undocumented young people. Individuals who receive deferred action may apply for and obtain employment authorization. It is estimated that more than 20,000 young immigrants could benefit from this program in Nevada.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, also applauded the policy: “This DMV policy allowing young immigrants living in our communities to obtain driver’s licenses will benefit not only the young people and families eligible for deferred action, but will also help strengthen Nevada’s education system and our economy at large.”

Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, commented on the safety aspects of the policy: “In order to secure a driver’s license, an individual must obtain the proper knowledge and skill level to pass a test to ensure they can safely drive on the streets. This policy will not only provide greater opportunity for so many young people in Nevada, it will also make our streets safer by ensuring training for those who may otherwise be driving without a license or adequate preparation.”

The Las Vegas Sun reported the drivers’ license policy earlier this week.

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

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