Posts Tagged ‘Congress’

Federal Unemployment Program To Expire In January

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 12:39 pm November 28th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A federal emergency unemployment benefit program will expire on Jan. 2, cutting off about 25,000 Nevadans from the program, a state agency reported today.

The federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation (EUC) program will expire unless Congress votes to extend the federal benefits as it has done in the past, said Renee Olson, administrator of the Employment Security Division of the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR).

As a result, about 25,000 Nevadans currently receiving EUC will be abruptly cut off and each week another 1,000 claimants who are receiving regular unemployment, (which allows for a maximum of 26 weeks), will exhaust their benefits and not be able to move to the EUC program, Olson said.

However, claimants should continue to file their weekly claims so that benefits can be paid as quickly as possible if Congress does vote in favor of extending the EUC program, she added. There are nearly 32,000 people on the regular unemployment benefits program in Nevada.

“The last week payable for EUC benefits is December 29, 2012, which means those claimants on EUC will stop receiving benefits, even if they still have balances remaining on their claims,” Olson said. “In the past, claimants have been allowed to continue receiving benefits through the end of the tier they were in.”

Congress first enacted the federal benefits package in June 2008 in response to record high unemployment. Claimants currently qualify for a maximum of 73 weeks. In July of this year, the State Extended Benefits program ended, dropping the number of weeks from 99 to 79, then in September, six more weeks were cut, dropping the maximum weeks from 79 to 73.

Nevada’s unemployment rate is below its peak of 14 percent hit in October of 2010, but remains in double-digits as of October at 11.5 percent.

DETR Director Frank R. Woodbeck said the department is remaining diligent in its efforts to offer innovative training programs that will lead to positive employment outcomes for Nevada’s job seekers.

“We understand the severity of this situation and sympathize with our citizens who are still having a difficult time finding employment,” Woodbeck said. “I want to encourage these Nevadans to visit their nearest Nevada JobConnect office so that our counselors can assist them with job placement and training needs as they pursue gainful employment.

DETR Director Frank Woodbeck.

“Additionally, DETR is working tirelessly with the Governor’s Office on Economic Development and other partners to explore every opportunity to bring more industries to the state, while also creating training programs that will assist our job seekers in being prepared for a more diverse business environment,” he said.

Information on local support services may be obtained by calling 211; this is a centralized number for social support service directories.

Claimants are encouraged to visit DETR for updates on the status of the EUC program, as representatives in Telephone Claims Centers won’t be able to answer questions or provide any further information, Olson said.

Nevada House Reps. Vote To Audit Federal Reserve, Measure Also Supported By Sen. Heller

By Sean Whaley | 12:45 pm July 25th, 2012

CARSON CITYRep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., today voted in favor of H.R. 459, the Federal Reserve Transparency Act.

The legislation, which Amodei is cosponsoring, would direct the comptroller general to complete an audit of the board of governors of the Federal Reserve system and of the Federal Reserve banks, followed by a detailed report to Congress. The bill passed the House 327 to 98.

Reps. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and Joe Heck, R-Nev., also supported the legislation.

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.

“The Fed’s monetary policy has far-reaching consequences for the American people, affecting everything from employment to consumer prices to interest rates,” Amodei said in a statement after the vote. “Some oversight and accountability are more than warranted. It makes you wonder, who would oppose such transparency? This is an issue where my colleague from Texas, Rep. Ron Paul, has been right and I’m proud to support his effort.”

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., a supporter of the audit legislation, issued a statement after the House vote: “The Federal Reserve is a major influence over our country’s economy, and the ability to audit this institution would bring much-needed accountability.

“It is essential that Congress exercise its constitutional responsibility to conduct oversight and scrutinize monetary policy in an open and transparent way,” he said. “I am a strong supporter of this bill, and I hope the Senate will take action on this legislation.”

Heller was a cosponsor of H.R. 459 when he was in the House and is currently a cosponsor of the Senate companion bill (S. 202).

State Sen. Barbara Cegavske Announces Run For Congress In New District 4

By Sean Whaley | 4:59 pm November 10th, 2011

CARSON CITY – State Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, made it official today, announcing she will run for congress in the new District 4 in northern Clark and much of rural Nevada.

“I am running for Congress because I believe we can fix the serious problems facing Nevada and our country,” Cegavske said. “Our state leads the nation in unemployment and foreclosures and for far too long Washington politicians have been out of touch. Nevada voters have my word that I will work every day to get government out of the business of punishing our job creators and in the business of protecting and preserving Social Security and Medicare for our seniors.”

Cegavske said her campaign will focus on solutions.

“We can improve our economy and get people back to work if we send people to Congress who are committed to sound fiscal policy, sensible tax policy and regulatory reform,” she said. “I am committed to protecting and preserving Social Security and Medicare for our senior citizens and for future generations.”

Cegavske, representing Clark District 8 in the senate, is in the middle of her last four-year term in the upper house. She will be termed out of office in 2014.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas.

Cegavske is the second Republican to announce for the new district, created because of Nevada’s population increase reported in the 2010 census.

Las Vegas businessman Dan Schwartz also plans to run for the seat.

Two Democrats, Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, and Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, have announced they are seeking the seat as well and will face off in a primary.

The district has a healthy Democrat voter registration edge, 45.9 percent to 33.2 percent Republican. Nonpartisan voters make up 15.5 percent of the district with the remaining 5.4 percent minor party registrations.

Cegavske said she will formally announce her campaign for congress in January with a trip to all counties in the district. The district includes parts of Clark and Lyon Counties and all of Esmeralda, Lincoln, Mineral, Nye and White Pine counties.

Cegavske began her legislative career in the Assembly in 1997, serving through 2001. She was elected to the Senate in 2002.

Horsford Announces Congressional Run, Says He Has “Very Effective” Campaign Team

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:49 pm October 12th, 2011

As expected and as reported a couple of hours ago by the AP, state Sen. and Democratic majority leader Steven Horsford (SD-4) will tomorrow formally announced he is running for Congress in CD-1, Rep. Shelley Berkley’s seat.

The public announcement will come at the Culinary Academy of Las Vegas, inside the Westside Bistro, tomorrow, October 13, at 2 p.m. (The address is 710 West Lake Mead Blvd in North Las Vegas.)

I chatted with Horsford this afternoon about his candidacy. A few snippets:

Horsford said he has so far tapped the following pros for his team:

– Campaign manager Geoff Mackler who last cycle worked at the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee’s Independent Expenditure office. He was in charge of strategy (polling, mail, media, radio, field coordination) for ten congressional campaigns, including challengers Jim Himes, who beat Christopher Shays in Connecticut, and Mike McMahon, who won a Republican open seat in New York.  Prior to that Mackler spent six years at MSHC, a direct mail firm, and has also worked on campaigns in Massachusetts, Michigan and Texas.

Cornell Belcher to do media strategy and polling (same firm that did Obama polling in Nevada in 2008)

GMMB for media research and strategy (note the President’s smiling photo, top left)

Chadderdon Group as his direct mail house

State Sen. Steven Horsford

When listing his reasons for running, Horsford mentioned his commitment to his constituency — including his residency in that community for 38 years — and said he sees people there as “family” and feels an obligation to go to Washington for those who are “frustrated with how broken D.C. is.”

Horsford said that Nevada and its gaming industry “can’t recover and grow until the national economy recovers” so he believes he can do his best work inside the Beltway to help the country get on track.

When asked about district lines and a possible primary challenge, Horsford said:

“Right now there is no primary in this district. No other candidate has announced. My state senate district is contained within this congressional district and covers one-third of its area. I have served this community; people here know me; and I care about them.”


Horsford, now 38, was elected in his North Las Vegas district in 2004 and became senate majority leader in 2008.

He has served in six special sessions and four regular sessions of the Nevada Legislature. In the most recent session, he served as chair of the Senate Finance Committee and also served on the Senate Committee on Revenue and the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections.

Horsford serves as a national Democratic committee member and co-chaired the campaign for Obama in 2008. He is also a member of the DNC’s Rules & Bylaws Committee.

Horsford is the CEO of the Culinary Training Academy, a joint management and labor partnership between participating gaming companies and the Culinary and Bartenders Unions.

If elected to Congress, Horsford plans to step down as CEO.

He is married to Dr. Sonya Horsford, a professor of educational leadership at UNLV. They have three children, Benjamin, Bryson and Ella.

Possible campaign issues

Horsford’s tenure as an elected official has not been without controversy.

In November 2009, KTNV Channel 13 observed Horsford illegally parked, his SUV with his senate license plate visible in a handicapped parking space at a park for a number of hours. He quickly apologized for the “inconvenience.”

In August 2010, in an attempt to raise money, Horsford sent out an email to potential contributors offering access to himself and other Senate leadership in exchange for contributions of between $1,000 and $25,000 to a Democratic victory fund. The day after Nevada News Bureau broke the story, Horsford said it was a “poor action” and told KRNV he was pulling the plug on the program.

Also, this past April, web poker giant PokerStars treated Horsford to a paid “junket” to the Bahamas immediately prior to the introduction of internet poker legislation in Carson City. Horsford said the company asked him to attend a Nassau conference and that he “went to learn more about Internet gaming policy before federal and state governments.” However, Horsford later reimbursed the poker lobby group for the cost of the trip.

(In the original version of this post, I did not not mention that Sen. Horsford later paid Poker Stars for the trip because I was not aware of it. I regret the error.)

Subsequently, it was reported that Horsford had received $37,500 in campaign contributions from the then-federally indicted PokerStars. Forty-eight Nevada legislators in total took some amount of PokerStars money, including some PAC cash. Horsford (and others) later returned the money.

Recent Legislative work

During the 2011 Legislative session, Horsford was a vocal advocate for closing mining tax loopholes. He also requested emergency legislation to conduct a performance audit of the revenue collection functions of the Department of Taxation following questions about the thoroughness of that agency’s review of mining tax payments.

Despite being an outspoken education advocate, Horsford also at one point during the session pressed Nevada System of HIgher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich as he spoke in support of considering higher education campus closures as part of necessary budget reductions.

Horsford was part of the final-days dealmaking between Gov. Brian Sandoval and legislative leaders from both parties in which a budget agreement was announced that included tax extensions and restorations of funding to public and higher education in exchange for significant policy reforms in education and collective bargaining.





American Jobs Act May Create Unfunded Burden on State

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 4:09 pm October 5th, 2011

When he visits Las Vegas on Oct. 24, President Barack Obama will continue his nationwide tour urging Congress to pass the Americans Jobs Act, his $450 billion plan to create jobs and stimulate the economy.

“Pass this jobs bill, and there will be funding to save the jobs of up to 13,000 North Carolina teachers, cops, and firefighters,” Obama said earlier this month to thousands of supporters at North Carolina State University.

The president has not, however, shared with voters that his jobs bill as presented would fund many of the proposed jobs for only one year, nor has he explained his plan for how the jobs would be paid for once federal funds run out.

A recent White House press release on the impact of the American Jobs Act in Nevada said the measure would help Nevada localities avoid and reverse layoffs, through an influx of $258.3 million to support up to 3,600 educator and first responder (police and firefighter) jobs.

Dividing the $258.3 million in federal funding proposed for Nevada by 3,600 jobs yields $71,750 to cover salary, benefits, and other costs associated with providing each position. Based on average teacher or first responder pay and benefits in the state, it is likely that funding from the jobs bill would, on average, cover no more than one year of total compensation.

For example, teacher salaries before benefits in Clark County School District range from $34,688 to $69,272. After benefits are added in, teacher pay packages range from $50,267 to $93,785, the median being $72,026.

Sections 204-209 of the bill as proposed include provisions requiring states to “meet the requirements” of the measure for an additional two years.

A White House spokeswoman has said the bill includes no unfunded mandates but unless Nevada picks up the funding for these positions after the first year or so, it is unclear how the teachers and first responders supported by it would be paid going forward.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has not taken a position on the proposed federal legislation but a spokesperson in his office said he “would encourage members of Nevada’s Congressional delegation to avoid any ‘maintenance of effort’ provisions that place a long-term burden on state resources, even in exchange for short-term relief.”

Should the state’s economy improve significantly, revenue would flow into the state coffers and enable a continuation of funding. However, recent economic reports and projections make the prospect of significantly increased state funds seem unlikely at present.

Another issue is that the traditional school year has begun, local school districts have hired teachers, and classes are under way. Even if the bill became law quickly, it is unclear how Nevada government agencies could accept and process the federal money and achieve the president’s job goals during the current school year.

The nation

Obama’s American Jobs Act includes $35 billion for state and local government employees: $30 billion to hire or preserve the jobs of public school teachers, and $5 billion for police officers, firefighters, and other first responders.

In the White House analysis for each state, the categories are combined. One-seventh, or 14 percent, of the money covers first responders.

An analysis of the planned allotment and estimated jobs from each state yields a nationwide average cost per job of $74,757.

Background information provided by the White House on the American Jobs Act bases the distribution of funds to each state primarily on population. The job estimates rely on public sector labor costs obtained from each state.

(Story continues after graphic generously provided by Carolina Journal.)



(For an Excel spreadsheet with the state-by-state breakdown, click here.)

An analysis places Nevada 22nd among the states in cost per job.

At the extreme ends of the rankings, South Dakota would receive the least money per job and New York the most.

South Dakota would get $77.6 million for an estimated 1,600 jobs, or $48,500 per job. New York, by contrast, would receive $1.77 billion for an estimated 18,000 jobs, or $98,322 per job.

California ranks second to New York with $3.6 billion for an estimated 37,300 jobs, $97,086 per job.


Democrat Congressional Candidate Oceguera Says He Will Face Off Against GOP Incumbent Heck In 2012 If Necessary

By Sean Whaley | 3:40 pm August 17th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Assembly Speaker and announced candidate for Congress John Oceguera acknowledged today that a number of Democrats are seeking seats in the House of Representatives in the 2012 election, and that hopefully any costly primary battles can be avoided.

Oceguera, who announced in July he will run as a Democrat for Congress despite the fact that lines for what will ultimately be four districts remain theoretical only, said a primary battle between two Democrats for one or more of the seats would not be beneficial.

While unlikely, a primary battle is a possibility and Oceguera said he is prepared for such a scenario. But a primary would not help any of the candidates, and hopefully could be avoided “in the spirit of cooperation,” he said.

Former Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., has announced she intends to run again for a seat in Congress. State Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, is also an announced candidate. State Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford and state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, both D-Las Vegas, are also potential candidates for one of the seats.

Democrat Assembly Speaker John Oceguera.

Oceguera made his comments during an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program.

The district lines remain undecided because the Legislature failed to approve a redistricting plan based on the 2010 census that met with approval of both Democrats and Republicans. Two Democrat plans were vetoed by GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval. The issue is now in front of Carson District Judge James Todd Russell with no clear timetable on when it will be resolved. It will likely end up before the Nevada Supreme Court.

Oceguera said he does not know what district he will end up in, but that he may have to face Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., who represents the 3rd Congressional District. Heck is a freshman who defeated Titus in the 2010 election.

Oceguera, who lives near Heck in Clark County, said he is not concerned with the possibility of facing an incumbent in his congressional run. Oceguera, who is termed out of the state Assembly, is a North Las Vegas firefighter, attorney and fourth generation Nevadan, born in Fallon.

Heck’s district has elected both Republicans and Democrats, he said.

“Where ever I end up, as far as where the maps are drawn, is where I will run,” Oceguera said.

Ryan Erwin, a political consultant to Heck, said in response to Oceguera’s comments: “Commenting on every Democrat candidate looking for the title of Congressman would be a full time job.

“Dr. Heck has been spending his time helping constituents and trying to get the federal government out of the way of small businesses trying to create jobs,” he said. “The truth is, creating an environment that allows Nevada businesses to grow, invest and hire new employees is far more important to Joe Heck than who might run against him next year.”

Oceguera announced his intention to run in July, saying it would be too late to mount a competitive campaign if he waited until the redistricting issue is decided. While fundraising is difficult in such an uncertain situation, waiting until the 2012 filing period next spring is unworkable, he said.

Oceguera said it will take between $2 million and $3 million to run a competitive race, and that he expects to have about $250,000 by the first reporting period.

Oceguera said he is running on his legislative record, including job creation efforts in the 2011 session, and on his history of hard work and desire to seek compromise on issues facing the state.

“It is something we’re sorely missing in Washington, DC, right now,” he said.

Oceguera said he and his fellow lawmakers fulfilled their promises in the 2011 legislative session.

“We said we were going to cut – we did, we cut,” he said. “We said that we were going to reform – we did, we reformed. We said that we were going to balance our budget – we did, we balanced our budget. And we said we were going to end on time and we did that as well. So I think that is a pretty strong record in the last legislative session.

“I’ve been strong on education, I think I’ve been strong for business,” Oceguera said. “I don’t know that that’s all I will run on, but I think my legislative record is solid.”

Audio clips:

Congressional candidate John Oceguera says the Legislature fulfilled its promises in the 2011 session to balance the budget, cut spending and make reforms:

081711Oceguera1 :25 last legislative session.”

Oceguera says he is strong on education and for business:

081711Oceguera2 :09 record is solid.”

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera Announces Bid For Congress In As-Yet Undetermined District

By Sean Whaley | 5:17 pm July 18th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Term limited Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, today announced he will run for Congress in one of four districts that have yet to be finalized in Nevada’s contested redistricting process.

Oceguera, a native fourth-generation Nevadan, said he wants to bring his skills in finding compromise on difficult issues honed in the Nevada Legislature over the past nearly dozen years to the House of Representatives.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera announced today he will run for Congress.

“I think what I bring to the table is kind of a common sense approach,” he said. “I think I’ve been successful in finding solutions in the Legislature and I think I will be successful in Congress.

“I think Nevadans are kind of fed up with the way it’s going in DC and I’m looking to help the middle class, the folks that rely on social security and Medicare,” Oceguera said. “I believe that they deserve someone that will fight for them and that’s what I intend to do.”

Oceguera, an assistant fire chief in North Las Vegas, said he decided to announce his candidacy even though the Nevada redistricting process is in the courts, where it could remain for some time before finally being decided.

“I’m of the belief that redistricting is going to be wrapped up in the court system for a number of months, and that might put us all the way as far as next year,” he said. “And you really can’t start a congressional campaign in the same year that the election is going to be held. You have to get started.”

Oceguera currently resides in the 3rd Congressional District represented by Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., but he said that could change by the 2012 election. Oceguera said he will challenge Heck if that is where he ends up.

“But I think it is really too soon to know one way or the other where we’re going to be because we have no idea how those lines are going to be drawn at this point,” he said.

The Democrat-controlled Nevada Legislature sent two redistricting bills to GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval, but they were vetoed out of a concern the proposals violated the federal Voting Rights Act. The issue is now in Carson City District Court and will likely be decided by the Nevada Supreme Court.

Oceguera’s announcement prompted Amy Tarkanian, chairwoman of the Nevada Republican Party, to describe him as a career politician “looking for a new gig.”

“Oceguera’s bid for Congress, made before even understanding or caring about the constituency he claims to want to represent, is an action of a termed-out assemblyman who is panicking at the thought of losing one of his government paychecks,” she said.

Tarkanian criticized Oceguera for attempting to push through a $1.3 billion tax hike in the 2011 session.

“Oceguera’s colleagues rejected his proposal then and Nevadans will reject him in 2012,” she said.

In response, Oceguera said public service is “not a bad thing.”

“I’m proud of what I’ve done as a fire fighter and the people I’ve helped,” he said. “I’m proud of what I’ve done in the Legislature and the Nevadans I’ve helped there and I want to continue that service. Certainly if I wanted to go into the private sector and make money that’s what I would be doing, but I choose to go and serve the public and I think that record speaks for itself.”

Audio clips:

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera says he can’t wait for redistricting to be resolved before starting a campaign:

071811Oceguera1 :24 to get started.”

Oceguera says he brought a common sense approach to compromise in the Legislature and will do so in Congress:

071811Oceguera2 30 successful in Congress.”

Oceguera says he is proud of his public service:

071811Oceguera3 :29 speaks for itself.”

Oceguera says Nevadans are fed up with what is happening in Washington, DC:

071811Oceguera4 :20 intend to do.”


Titus Retires from UNLV, Ready to Run for…Something

By Elizabeth Crum | 5:27 pm June 24th, 2011

In case you missed it yesterday, the Las Vegas Sun reported that former U.S. Rep. Dina Titus has accepted a sweet buyout from UNLV, a move signaling she is ready for a return to politics.

Former Rep. Dina Titus

Titus will get a $162,000 lump sum for giving up her political science professor’s job. She will will still teach part-time and is scheduled to teach a nuclear politics course at UNLV this fall (for which she’ll be paid $3,000).

Titus told the Las Vegas Sun she’ll be working on a book she’s writing, exploring the horizon as a political consultant and…planning her next campaign:

“I’m certainly looking into it,” Titus said when asked about a future bid. “We’re watching the numbers and redistricting. I’ll probably make a decision in the fall.”

And in case there was any doubt, Titus told CityLife she will run for…something.




Governor Sandoval Vetoes Democratic Redistricting Plan

By Andrew Doughman | 2:20 pm May 14th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval has vetoed the Democratic redistricting plan for new Congressional, state Senate and Assembly districts.

Sandoval, in a veto statement issued today, said that the Democratic plan violated the federal Voting Rights Act, which governs how ethnic minorities should be treated when the boundaries of political districts are drawn, and was created for the partisan gain of Democrats.

The veto represents the first rejection of proposed maps, drawn according to 2010 Census data, in what could be a long path toward compromise.

If the Democratic-controlled Legislature and the Republican governor cannot reach common ground, the drawing of political districts may become a matter for the courts to decide. Anticipating the veto, Democrats have another redistricting bill that they can amend and send back to the governor.

At stake is the political representation of Nevada’s Hispanic community. Sandoval charged that the Democratic plan would dilute the Latino vote.

“Of the four Congressional seats it establishes, not one contains a Hispanic majority—though such a district can clearly and simply be drawn, consistent with traditional redistricting principles,” Sandoval’s statement read.

A Republican plan that did not receive a vote created a congressional district with a  50.7 percent total Hispanic population.

The governor also said the Democratic plan would not “afford Hispanics an equal opportunity to elect representatives of their choosing.”

In an earlier speech on the Assembly floor, Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, asked whether this logic implied that only a Hispanic majority could elect a Hispanic candidate.

“Nevada has proven that Hispanic and other minority candidates can and have been elected in minority influence districts,” she said.

Sandoval, Nevada’s first Hispanic governor, was himself elected with a majority of the white vote while losing the Hispanic vote.

In a Republican redistricting plan, Republicans created eight Hispanic-majority seats in the Assembly, four in the Senate and one in Congress.

Democrats spread Hispanic voters throughout more districts, creating two Senate, three Assembly and no congressional districts with a majority Hispanic population

Democrats responded to the veto and called the assertions that their party violated the Voting Rights Act “legally absurd.”

“It is nothing but a smokescreen in an attempt to obscure the partisan ambitions of a party that has a pathetic record on issues of minority rights,” the Democrats said in a statement released following the veto.

Some have said that partisan politics are behind the rhetoric.

During the 2010 election, Hispanics overwhelming voted for Democratic candidate Rory Reid in the gubernatorial race and incumbent Democratic Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid in the Senate race.

A Hispanic population diffused over many districts should then create more Democratic-leaning districts while a Hispanic population concentrated in one district should create more Republican-leaning districts.

Hispanics now comprise 26 percent of Nevada’s population and are a voter bloc that both parties cannot ignore.

One in seven eligible voters in Nevada are Latinos, the sixth-largest Hispanic eligible voter population share nationally, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

Sandoval also said the Democratic plan seemed to benefit Democratic candidates politically.

“At its core, this bill creates districts that were drawn exclusively for political gain,” he said.

In earlier statements, Republicans had contended that Democrats had not drawn enough competitive districts and had created too many Democratic-leaning districts.

Democrats would have a voter registration advantage in three of Nevada’s four congressional districts in their proposal.Republicans would create a 2-2 split.

Republican incumbent Rep. Joe Heck would also lose a Republican majority in his congressional district under the Democratic proposal.

The Democratic proposal promises a 30 – 12 Democratic split in the Assembly and a 14 – 7 advantage in the Senate, according to voters registered Democratic and Republican in each proposed district.

The Republican proposal reflects a 26 – 16 Democratic advantage in the Assembly, which is the current ratio in the Assembly. The Republican plan for the state Senate would create 14 seats with more voters registered as Democrats and seven seats with a Republican voter advantage.

The Legislature is required to redraw the boundaries of political districts every 10 years based on changes in population released through the U.S. Census.


Democratic Redistricting Plans Pass Out of Senate And Assembly, Head To Governor

By Andrew Doughman | 3:54 pm May 10th, 2011

CARSON CITY — The political power game of drawing political boundaries escalated today as Nevada’s Democratic legislators passed their plans for new political districts.

Legislators will deliver the proposal for new Congressional and state Assembly and Senate districts to Gov. Brian Sandoval. The Republican governor has said before that he will veto any redistricting plan that he does not deem “fair.”

Republicans today contended that the Democratic plan was not fair.

“While the [population] numbers are equal [between districts], the numbers slanted toward the Democrats are somewhat unfair for the Republicans in the minority,” said Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, on the Assembly floor.

The governor has until Monday to veto the bill. If the Democratic-controlled Legislature and the Republican governor cannot reach a compromise, the drawing of political districts could end up in the hands of Nevada’s judges.

Although the budget overshadows the legislative session, redistricting offers politicians an opportunity to blend combinations of voters to their favor. Although ostensibly governed by equal populations between districts, redistricting is an inherently political process.

“Every 10 years we get to select the voters that will be voting for us and we have a special responsibility to be fair in this process,” said Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, on the floor of the Assembly.

The Senate vote for the Democratic proposal broke along party lines with an 11-10 vote. In the Assembly, all Republicans voted against the proposal, joined by Democratic Assemblyman Harvey Munford, who said he was unhappy with how his party redrew his Las Vegas district.

Both Democrats and Republicans have focused much of the debate about political districts on Nevada’s growing Hispanic community. Hispanics now comprise 26 percent of Nevada’s population and are a voter bloc that both parties cannot ignore.

One in seven eligible voters in Nevada are Latinos, the sixth-largest Hispanic eligible voter population share nationally, according to the Pew Hispanic Center.

Democrats would like to establish “minority influence” districts where ethnic minority populations comprise an influential voting bloc in several districts.

Republicans argue that Nevada should have a majority-minority “opportunity” district because 26 percent of the state’s population is Hispanic and therefore one of the state’s four congressional districts should be majority Hispanic.

Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, said the Democrat plan ignores the intent of the federal Voting Rights Act for congressional districts by failing to ensure fairness in representation for the Southern Nevada Hispanic community

The Republican plan created one of four congressional districts with 50.7 percent total Hispanic population. The Democrat plan creates no such district, which is in violation of the act, Hardy said.

“This plan actually creates four districts in which whites make up a significant majority,” he said. “Any plan that does not begin with an attempt to create a majority Hispanic district in Clark County fails to adhere to the letter and the spirit of the Voting Rights Act. It is something I personally cannot ignore in good conscience.”

On the Assembly floor, Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, asked whether this logic implied that only a Hispanic majority could elect a Hispanic candidate.

“Nevada has proven that Hispanic and other minority candidates can and have been elected in minority influence districts,” she said.

Sandoval, Nevada’s first Hispanic governor, was elected with a majority of the white vote while losing the Hispanic vote.

The Republicans are calling for eight Hispanic-majority seats in the Assembly, four in the Senate and one in Congress.

Democrats spread Hispanic voters throughout more districts, creating two Senate districts and three Assembly districts with a majority Hispanic population.

The Legislature is required to redraw the boundaries of political districts every 10 years based on changes in population released through the U.S. Census.

Nevada’s explosive population growth between 2001 and 2010 earned Nevada one more Congressional District, giving Nevada four Congressional Districts.

All districts must be nearly the same size. Map drawers use the U.S. Census total population figures for Nevada and divide those by the number of districts so that each district has an ideal size. The ideal size for a Congressional district is 675,000 people.


//Bureau Chief Sean Whaley contributed to this report.

Rep. Berkley “Taking The Pulse” In Reno As She Weighs Senate Bid

By Andrew Doughman | 2:02 pm February 1st, 2011

RENO — Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said she is “taking the pulse” of Reno this week as she considers a bid for Republican Sen. John Ensign’s seat in the 2012 election.

She told Sam Shad and Ray Hagar on Nevada NewsMakers today that she is raising campaign money, but she said the money is for her re-election bid in Congress. For now.

When asked when she plans to make her decision to run for Senate, she said “there’s no rush.”

“I’m taking my time, I’m meeting with people, I’m up here in Reno this week, just to touch bases with old friends, kind of taking the pulse of the people of Reno,” she said.

Last year, she said she’d make a decision before Valentine’s Day.

She had earlier told Jon Ralston on his Face to Face television program that she planned to announce a decision sometime during late spring or early summer of this year.

[CORRECTION: Shelley Berkley told Las Vegas Sun reporter Karoun Demirjioan that she would make a decision before Valentine's Day. The Nevada News Bureau had erroneously reported that she had told this to Jon Ralston.]

GOP Congressional Candidate Joe Heck Admits Race Will Be Close, Reaches Out To Undecided Voters

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 2:58 pm September 27th, 2010

Republican Congressional candidate Joe Heck said today he expects the race between him and incumbent Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., to be decided by no more than 2 percentage points in the November general election.

Heck, a physician and former state lawmaker who served with Titus in the Nevada Senate, said on the Nevada NewsMakers television program today: “It’s going to be a neck and neck race.”

“So we’re working hard on the folks that we need to reach out to, the undecideds, the nonpartisans, we’re doing well in those groups, and we think that is what is going to carry us to victory on Nov.2,” he said.

Heck said he does not know if the Tea Party Express will back his campaign, but that anything the group does to energize Nevada voters will benefit him in the Congressional District 3 race against Titus, who is completing her first term.

“Anything that movement does to energize the conservative vote to turn out will have a trickledown effect in CD3,” he said.

Polls show the two candidates in a statistical tie. The race is considered a key to which party will control Congress following the mid-term election.

Heck said the federal health care law has some positive elements, such as requiring coverage for preexisting conditions, but that too much of it is flawed. An example is the requirement for younger healthier people to pay substantially more for coverage to support older participants with more costly medical conditions, he said.

“There is $1 billion in this bill appropriated to the federal government for the cost of implementation of the bill,” he said. “So any bill that is going to cost $1 billion to implement certainly has some flaws.”

Heck said if he is elected to Congress his approach to the health care law will be to repair those good sections that have flaws, repeal unworkable elements and replace those parts that are good in concept but that need more realistic solutions.

Heck, who has been criticized by Titus backers for a vote in the Nevada Senate in 2007 to oppose requiring health insurance companies to cover a new cervical cancer drug, said the statements ignore his real legislative record in support of reforms to improve access to health care. There were concerns about potential side effects from the drug, he said.

“They want to pick one vote on one issue and try to make it seem I was against women in heath care when actually I was standing up for women in health care,” he said.

Heck said mandated coverages drive up the cost of health insurance and Nevada has a high number of mandates already.

Audio clips:

Republican Congressional District 3 candidate Joe Heck says his race against Titus will be close:

092710Heck1 :14 on Nov. 2.”

Heck says any Tea Party Express efforts in Nevada will help him in his race:

092710Heck2 :22  on Nov. 2.”

Heck says the new federal health care law has flaws:

092710Heck3 :09 has some flaws.”

Heck says he worked in the state Legislature to improve access to health care:

092710Heck4 :07 in health care.”

Nevada Budget Director Says Congress Not Expected To Extend Medicaid Funding To States

By Sean Whaley | 4:00 pm June 30th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada Budget Director Andrew Clinger said today he does not believe Congress will act to extend Medicaid funding that was counted on by lawmakers in February when they approved an $800 million plan to balance the state budget.

Even so, Clinger said it is “not yet time to panic” over the failure of Congress to approve a six-month extension of the temporary enhancement of the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP), which provides funding for state Medicaid and other health programs. A number of states were counting on the extension from Jan. 1, 2011 through the end of the fiscal year June 30. The extension was expected to bring $88.5 million to Nevada.

Clinger said a number of factors need to be analyzed before deciding on what needs to be done about the loss of the anticipated federal funding.

One piece of good news is that state tax collections are up about $57 million over what was projected for this fiscal year, he said. If tax revenues continue to exceed estimates, it will help keep the state budget balanced, Clinger said.

Taxable sales reported earlier this week for April were up 2 percent, the first increase in Nevada in 20 months.

Clinger said the first step will be to revise tax revenue estimates for the remainder of this fiscal year and the 2011 fiscal year that begins Thursday. Clinger said he will also sit down with Mike Willden, director of the Department of Health and Human Services, to get new caseload estimates on Medicaid and other programs.

Another unresolved factor is $62 million taken from a Clark County water pipeline project as part of the plan approved by lawmakers in February to balance the budget. The diversion of funds is being challenged in court by the Clark County Clean Water Coalition.

There is also a concern about whether a new three-month tax amnesty program set to start Thursday will bring in the $10 million anticipated by lawmakers as part of the budget balancing plan, he said.

Clinger said earlier this month he believes that if a shortfall materializes in the current budget, any spending reductions can be presented to the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee for approval rather that the full Legislature, an option that would require Gibbons to call lawmakers into a special session.

Gov. Gibbons Optimistic Congress Will Extend Medicaid Program That Means $88 Million To Nevada Budget

By Sean Whaley | 1:58 pm June 8th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons expressed optimism today that Congress will act to extend Medicaid funding that was counted on by state lawmakers in February when they approved an $800 million plan to balance the budget.

Action could come this week in the Senate on a six-month extension of the temporary enhancement of the federal medical assistance percentage (FMAP), which provides funding for state Medicaid and other health programs. Failure to approve the extension from Jan. 1, 2011 through the end of the 2011 fiscal year would mean the loss of $88.5 million to Nevada, money lawmakers counted on in balancing the current state budget.

“It’s a huge concern to us,” Gibbons said.

But Gibbons said even if the extension is not approved, the shortfall in the budget can be addressed without calling the Legislature into special session.

Gibbons said he does expect Congress to act on the extension, however, since many states face the same funding concerns. There is pressure on Congress to act, he said.

State budget Director Andrew Clinger said the extension has now been made part of a U.S. Senate bill. If approved, then the House would also have to act, he said.

Clinger said he believes that if the shortfall materializes, any budget reductions can be presented to the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee for approval rather that the full Legislature which would require Gibbons to call lawmakers into a special session.

But waiting until February when the Legislature is scheduled to meet in its regular session would not work, he said. Spending reductions would have to be implemented much sooner than that, Clinger said.

Groups nationally are weighing in with support for the extension as well.

In a letter to the bipartisan U.S. Senate leadership today, including Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., five pharmacy associations called on Congress to pass a six-month extension of the FMAP. The additional assistance, which was enacted in 2009, is set to expire at the end of 2010 without further Congressional action.

“While the U.S. economy has shown positive signs of recovering, state finances are expected to continue to suffer at least two more years, with state budget deficits approaching $180 billion,” the associations wrote. “Therefore, continued federal assistance to states at this time is critical as the recession has driven many Americans out of work, increasing reliance on state Medicaid programs.”


Audio clips:

Gibbons says special session not needed:

060810Gibbons :12 session for that.”

Gibbons says Congress expected to act

060810Gibbons2 :22 at this point.”

Budget Director Andrew Clinger says IFC can OK reductions if needed

060810Clinger :16 Finance Committee process.”

Nevada Agency Ready To Move Quickly To Reinstate Emergency Federal Jobless Benefits If Congress Acts On Legislation

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 12:35 pm June 7th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Jobless benefits will resume quickly to Nevada’s eligible unemployed residents if Congress passes legislation to again extend the federal Emergency Unemployment Compensation programs that expired on June 2, a state agency reported today.

There are about 70,000 people receiving EUC benefits in Nevada.

The Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation has been preparing contingency plans for several weeks in case of a gap between the current EUC benefit sunset and passage of a bill to extend the programs, said Cynthia Jones, deputy director of DETR and administrator of the Employment Security Division.

“Because this matter is packaged with several other initiatives in Congress, and has to be resolved at the federal level, the agency knows a proactive approach would be in the best interest of Nevada’s unemployed,” she said. “Our focus remains on paying benefits when due in the most timely and efficient manner. Staff is prepared to move quickly upon passage of the bill.”

Jones said the agency is continuing to accept the EUC claims, however payments on those claims will not be processed until the pending legislation is approved and the status of these programs are known.

Current claimants will continue to receive funds from the federal extension level they are currently on, but they will not be able to progress to the next extension level, until the status of the program is known.

All claimants receiving State Extended Benefits will stop receiving them after June 13 unless the bill is passed prior to that date. The agency will continue to accept the weekly claims and process them as quickly as possible if and when the bill is passed. There are about 2,500 claimants receiving State Extended Benefits.

Any claims established after May 23 will not receive the Federal Additional Compensation $25 payments. These payments may be made retroactively if included in the bill passage.

Regular benefits will not be impacted.

Updated information will be available on the internet and on the Call Center telephone lines as information becomes available.