Posts Tagged ‘bill’

Yucca Mountain Is Dead Again

By Elizabeth Crum | 3:09 pm September 10th, 2011

In a long awaited ruling, the federal nuclear safety agency has said Nevada can close down Yucca Mountain once and for all. Or not.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission (NRC) tie vote neither upheld nor rejected a lower board’s ruling on the proposed nuclear waste repository, leaving the legal status of Yucca Mountain construction application in limbo.

The Obama administration had asked Congress to zero out the Nuclear Regulatory Commission’s (NRC) work on Yucca as a follow up to the prior  termination of funding at the Department of Energy (DOE) project. The NRC has directed that all project casework be wrapped up by the end of the month.

Sen. Harry Reid said he is happy it is nearly over:

“Today’s decision by the NRC brings the Yucca Mountain saga closer to its final conclusion,” Reid said. “I am pleased that the commission is ready to wrap up all work on Yucca licensing by the end of this month.”

Aerial view of the crest of Yucca Mountain / U.S. Department of Energy photo

But is the nuclear waste storage project really dead? Court cases or actions by Congress and other governmental bodies may yet revive it.

A federal appeals court ruled in July that legal challenges to the Obama administration’s decision to withdraw from developing Yucca Mountain were premature and that no final decision could be made until the NRC acted.

South Carolina, Washington and other petitioners challenged the federal government’s Jan. 2010 decision to withdraw “with prejudice” the DOE application to the NRC. The states argued that withdrawal of the application violated the 1982 Nuclear Waste Policy Act as well as the Administrative Procedure Act and the National Environmental Policy Act.

Chief Judge David Sentelle wrote in the majority opinion for the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia that the petitioners’ fear that the federal government might never find a place to store their nuclear waste was “not unreasonable.”

In a separate opinion, Judge Janice Rogers Brown noted that petitioners might have a valid argument in that NRC may have violated the National Environmental Policy Act by failing to act quickly enough.

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners, a group of state utility regulators, and the Nuclear Energy Institute, the nuclear industry’s lobbying arm, stand in support of the petitioners and will likely be involved in future lobbying and lawsuits.

The U.S. House of Representatives had voted in July for an energy bill that contained $35 million for Yucca Mountain along with a directive that the NRC and the DOE move forward with the licensing process. A corresponding Senate bill contained no mention of Yucca, and Reid has said there won’t ever be one on his watch.

Closing down Yucca Mountain “once and for all” can happen if the DOE’s license application is denied by NRC and its decision is upheld through a final non-appealable decision rendered by a federal court, or if Congress amends the Nuclear Waste Policy Act and the president signs the legislation.

 

 

 

 

 

Republican Assemblyman Accuses Democratic Senator Of Hijacking His Bill

By Andrew Doughman | 2:20 pm March 10th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Freshman Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, watched as one of his first bills was introduced on the floor of the Assembly Tuesday.

Hansen’s bill would establish a state grants coordinator to help Nevada apply for and win more federal grants.

A few hours later, Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, stood at a lectern flanked by the American flag and the flag of the State of Nevada, and told a gathering of reporters about his bill.

Parks’ bill would establish a state grants coordinator to help Nevada apply for and win more federal grants.

The introduction of Hansen’s bill, Assembly Bill 243, was a matter of procedure. Parks delivered his speech under studio lights at a Democratic press conference attended by about a dozen journalists jotting down his words.

Parks’ proposal received press attention whereas Hansen’s bill did not.

“It’s either highly unusual timing or they thought it was a great idea and wanted to capture it for themselves,” Hansen said yesterday.

Parks said he was “totally unaware” of Hansen’s bill before Hansen e-mailed him yesterday.

Hansen said he had submitted his request for a bill November 4, 2010. He said it was an idea from the Sage Commission’s report, an underlined and annotated copy of which he keeps in his office.

He said he received the bill back last Friday and collected signatures from legislators of both parties Monday.

“They’re taking the political credit for it,” he said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval had earlier said he would like to establish a grant coordinator for the state.

Parks said he had his idea independently from Hansen.

“We see that sort of thing all the time here,” he said today after a Senate floor session. “There was absolutely nothing deliberate. I did not see that he submitted such a bill draft. …These things happen. As far as I’m concerned, it’s no big deal.”

Parks submitted his bill draft request on Valentine’s Day.

Parks’ bill draft request description states that the bill “makes various changes concerning solicitation and use of grants.”

Hansen’s bill draft request description states that the bill “creates the position of State Grants Coordinator within the Budget Division of the Department of Administration.”

Parks bill, Senate Bill 233, was introduced on the Senate floor today.

Parks said that these sort of duplications happen. He cited one of his own bills that Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, introduced in the Assembly before Parks was able to introduce his.

Parks said that there may be “a little personal hurt” when something like that happens, but he hopes to reconcile Hansen’s bill with his own.

“Presumably, somehow along the way our bills will cross and we’ll work on the concept,” Parks said.

 

ACLU of Nevada Opposed to State Lawmaker Proposal To Make English Official Language

By Sean Whaley | 9:37 am August 21st, 2010

CARSON CITY – A state lawmaker is having a bill drafted for the 2011 legislative session to make English the official language of Nevada, saying his intent is to unify rather than divide the state’s diverse residents.

Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, said he is still researching the issue, but that his bill will be symbolic rather than seek to have any practical effect on the delivery of government services. It is not an English-only bill, but instead a recognition that English is the common language of the state and country, he said.

Stewart introduced a similar bill in the 2009 session but it did not receive a hearing.

“We have many different cultures and many people from different lands but I think that the English language is one thing that should be common to all of us and bring us all together,” he said. “Some people have criticized it as being divisive but that is certainly not my intent. It is to be a unifying thing.”

Many other states across the country have already adopted similar measures so it is not unique to Nevada, Stewart said.

The U.S. English website lists 30 states with “official English” laws.

Oklahoma voters will weigh in on the issue on the November ballot. The measure would go further than what Stewart is proposing in Nevada. It would require all official actions of the state to be in English except as required by federal law.

Despite Stewart’s intent, the ACLU of Nevada opposes such legislation and will oppose Stewart’s measure even if it is symbolic only.

“We think they are generally inconsistent with the free speech protections of the First Amendment,” said Lee Rowland, northern coordinator for the organization. “And perhaps more importantly they may impact or conflict with civil rights laws that require equal access to critical government services regardless of national origin.”

Rowland said such laws can intimidate non-English speakers from seeking government assistance, including police and fire, even if they are symbolic only, she said. These concerns were reflected in comments during a debate about an English-only ordinance in Pahrump, Rowland said.

“Often these laws simply have a kind of scare tactic effect,” she said.

The Pahrump Town Board passed the ordinance in November 2006 but repealed it early the following year.

___

Audio files:

Assemblyman Lynn Stewart says his official English bill is meant to unite Nevadans:

081710Stewart1 :19 us as one.”

Stewart says the proposal is not intended to be divisive:

081710Stewart2 :08 a unifying thing.”

Stewart says many other states have adopted such laws:

081710Stewart3 :10 Nevada or anything.”

Lee Rowland of ACLU says English-only bills can conflict with federal civil rights laws:

081710Rowland1 :20 of national origin.”

Rowland says such measures cause problems even if they are only symbolic:

081710Rowland2 :21 result for anyone.”

AP: Gibbons to Veto Furlough Bill

By Elizabeth Crum | 2:31 pm March 8th, 2010

Via the AP via the RJ, Governor Gibbons will veto the furlough bill from the special session:

CARSON CITY — Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons will veto a bill tightening furloughs for state workers that was passed during a special session of the Legislature.

Gibbons’ staff says the governor instead will enact most of the provisions of SB3 through executive order and regulations.

The bill also establishes four-day, 10-hour work weeks for most state agencies beginning July 1, and tightens one-day-per-month furloughs imposed last year by requiring exempt employees to instead take a 4.6 percent pay cut.

Chief of Staff Robin Reedy won’t discuss details of the governor’s concerns over the bill, saying they will be addressed in the governor’s veto message.

Assembly GOP Leader Says Bank Fee in Budget a Tradeoff, Concerned About Last Minute Jobs Bill

By Sean Whaley | 5:44 pm March 1st, 2010

CARSON CITY – Assembly Minority Leader Heidi Gansert said in an interview today that GOP agreement to include a new fee on banks in the final budget deal approved by the Legislature early today was in exchange for support for keeping Nevada State Prison open.

Gov. Jim Gibbons had proposed to close the aging facility as part of his budget cuts, but the move was opposed by many lawmakers because it would mean the layoff of 136 state employees and cause further economic problems for the capital city. Public safety was also cited as a concern.

“In the end it was somewhat of a trade for Nevada State Prison to tell you the truth,” Gansert said on the television program Nevada NewsMakers. “Nevada State Prison has been in limbo for quite some time. We can’t seem to figure out whether to close it or not.”

Closing the prison would also have resulted in maximum capacities at other Nevada correctional facilities as inmates were relocated, potentially creating the need to build a new expensive prison to handle inmate population growth, she said.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, proposed the new banking fee that ultimately was part of the budget agreement. The new fee will create a foreclosure mediation program for small businesses. The fee was originally proposed at $500 per notice of default, but ended up at $200. It will raise about $13.8 million.

The savings from closing the prison was about the same amount of money: $13 million, so the bank fee was included as an offset, Gansert said.

“It’s a tough choice; it’s not something that any of us supported,” she said of the bank fee. “But in the end we felt that we needed to relive some of the uncertainty and give us some more time on the state prison.”

Ultimately six of the 14 GOP Assembly members, including Gansert, voted for the bill to balance the state budget, including the new bank fee. The bill passed both houses of the Legislature and is expected to be signed by Gibbons, who helped craft the budget agreement.

Gansert called the new fees in the bill “a pittance” compared to the budget cuts and other maneuvers, such as sweeping various agency bank accounts, used to balance the budget and erase an $800 million-plus shortfall.

In the interview, Gansert also expressed concerns about a last-minute measure approved by the Legislature to create road construction jobs. Senate Bill 6 passed both houses of the Legislature in the final hours of the six-day session. It will use existing taxes, including a one-eighth of a cent sales tax in Clark County, to finance a bonding program for road construction.

“That bill was a very last-minute bill,” she said. “I know we had a mixed vote out of the Assembly. My concern was there was no check on it. It became an evergreen for a sales tax and an evergreen for some other taxes.”

Gibbons amended the special session proclamation to allow for consideration of the proposal, which was crafted by Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas.

Gansert and four other Assembly Republicans opposed the measure. It received unanimous support in the Senate.

Gansert called the proposal “very unusual” in that no other approvals were required to go forward with issuing the bonds.

“Typically with anything related to bonding, you either have a time frame or a cap — and both of those were gone,” she said.

Gansert said another objection was to a provision giving the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles the authority to raise its own agency fees. The Legislature has not previously given the agency the ability to change its fees through regulation, she said.

Special Session: 6:43 p.m.

By Elizabeth Crum | 6:43 pm February 28th, 2010

All right, Dear Readers!  Just in from the front steps of the legislative building where the governor and legislative leadership held a press conference, the gist of which was “we all pulled together as a team.”  Means they really, Really have a deal now, and we’ll see the bill hit the two floors tonight.

A legislative leader told me after the presser that they will cut and paste all the piecemeal stuff into an omnibus bill so…yes, it seems, this will be done tonight.

Sean Whaley will post a sum-up with quotes from the press conference and details of the bill on the front page (and all the other major newspapers will do a full write-up), so I’ll just share some interesting snippets:

– The deal includes a new (tiered by size) mining claim fee structure.

– The deficit is now officially $805 million (increased net proceeds revenue and secretary of state fees have reduced it).

– Ralston summed up the unspoken sentiment of the leadership (Gibbons, Raggio, Gansert, Buckley, Horsford) pretty well:  “We used to despise each other and called each other names for a few weeks, but now, for the purposes of this performance in front of the Legislative Building, we are The Five Musketeers — one for all and all for one.

– The governor acknowledged he has received the Race to the Top bill but said he has yet to decide whether to sign it. A split in opinions among his senior staff is causing the waver.  My source told and still tells me:  He will not veto.

– Cuts to state funding for K-12 education will be $116.8 million; cuts to higher ed will be $46 million instead of $76.  Most of the Health and Human Services cuts that had been suggested didn’t happen.  And the Nevada State Prison will remain open.

– A four-day work week for most State offices will be instituted. $10 million will be saved through cutting certain State contracts with outside consultants. No more cuts to pay for State workers. $197 million will be redirected from State funds to needed areas. A tax amnesty program will help the state collect $20 million in unpaid taxes.

– Mining fees and fees on new gaming licenses have been increased, and the fee paid by banks when filing a Notice of Default has been raised from $50 to $100.

– Gibbons, acknowledging he is breaking his no-tax pledge, said a “fee is a tax” when Ralston asked him about the $200 foreclosure fee. But when pressed about signing a bill with a tax, he said he had to accept it as part of the “compromise” and to head off a gaming or sales tax.

And some notes/quotes:

– Gansert:  Biggest disappointment was not getting transparency w/ collective bargaining done.  “We do think it’s critically important.”  She is hopeful they can/will get to this issue next session.  “The taxpayers deserve to know where their money is spent.”  Said she was glad education cuts were reduced to 6.9% by consensus, thinks it was “the right thing to do.”  When I asked her about wrapping the whole bill into one big measure and how that would affect yes/no votes from her caucus, she said “some” Assembly Republicans would be voting “yes” to the plan, some “no.”  Declined to say which would be which.

– Horsford in his office after:  On the super majority requirement:  Gibbons put it to the voters, and they approved it.  Unless there is a change to that, it’s the law:  two-thirds is required not just to pass a tax but to pass a fee. “That is creating quite a limitation particularly when you have a group of legislators saying “no” to everything.”  Said a lot more, but everything else he said was just a recap of prior comments.

Governor Will Not Veto Race to the Top Bill

By Elizabeth Crum | 4:48 pm February 26th, 2010

A source inside Governor Gibbon’s office today said Gibbons will not veto the Race to the Top education bill passed Wednesday evening by the state Senate and Assembly during the special session of the Legislature.

A Gibbons spokesperson told the Las Vegas Review Journal yesterday that he intended to veto the bill because some language in it would prevent the state from securing a $175 million federal grant that would help Nevada schools.

The Assembly voted 42-0 and the Senate voted 16-5 to change a state law that so far has prevented Nevada from applying for the grant. Five of the nine Senate Republicans voted against the bill on grounds that language in it might lead the federal Department of Education to reject the state application for a grant.

The governor’s legal team still believes the language in the bill may cause it to be rejected, said the source, but Gibbons has decided to sign the bill with the intention of trying to work with the DOE for grant approval and to show his commitment to putting education first both in this special session and the state.

26th (2010) Special Session Bill Information

By Elizabeth Crum | 3:37 pm February 24th, 2010

All bills will be posted here as they are drafted, introduced and passed (or not).

Reid Smacks Down Jobs Bill Hashed Out by Baucus & Grassley in Committee, Says Too “Watered Down”

By Elizabeth Crum | 7:52 am February 12th, 2010

Politico has the story.

Predictably, the Republicans want less in the bill while the lefty-er Dems want more.  And Reid is stuck in the middle, per usual.

Really, one wonders why he even wants that job anymore.  Isn’t there anything he’d rather be doing?