Posts Tagged ‘Conklin’

Democrats Narrowly Maintain Control Of State Senate

By Sean Whaley | 12:30 am November 7th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The Nevada state Senate will remain in Democratic control following Tuesday’s election after three Republican candidates won victories in five closely contested races, one short of the number needed for a change of power.

Democrats won two of the five races in play for control of the Senate, maintaining the 11-10 status quo over Republicans.

Republicans needed to win four of the five contested seats to achieve an 11-10 edge and win control of the Senate. Democrats have controlled the Senate since 2008.

But Republicans won only three of the five races, all of which were closely contested.

The results ensure that both the 21-member Senate and the 42-member Assembly will remain in control of Democrats in the 2013 session, requiring GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval to work with the opposing party in both houses to push through his education reform agenda in the 2013 legislative session.

There were 12 Senate races in the Tuesday election, but only five were considered in play by the two parties.

Mark Hutchison, Republican victor in Senate District 6.

In Senate District 5, former state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, defeated Republican and former Henderson city councilman Steve Kirk for the four-year term. The final vote had 52 percent for Woodhouse to 48 percent for Kirk. Woodhouse served previously but had lost a re-election bid in 2010.

In Senate District 6, GOP attorney Mark Hutchison narrowly defeated Democrat businessman Benny Yerushalmi, 50.8 percent 49.2 percent.

In Senate District 9, Democrat Justin Jones defeated Republican Mari St. Martin by a margin of 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent.

In Senate District 15 in Washoe County, a closely watched race that pitted Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, against former state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, Brower eked out a narrow victory. Leslie had resigned her previous seat to face Brower, but lost the hotly contested race 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent. More than $1 million was spent on the race by the two candidates, with Brower winning by a mere 266 votes.

In Senate District 18, GOP Assemblyman Scott Hammond defeated Democrat Kelli Ross, 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent.

Both GOP caucus leader Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, and Democratic leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, had high hopes for their slate of candidates.

In the Assembly, Democrats picked up a seat to take a 27-15 edge over Republicans, although there were some significant developments in a handful of the races.

Assembly Majority Leader Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, expected to be the next Assembly Speaker, lost a fiercely contested race to GOP newcomer Wes Duncan, by a margin of 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent.

Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas.

Conklin’s loss opens up the leadership post among Democrats for the 2013 session.

In Assembly District 20, Democrat Ellen Spiegel, who lost a re-election bid in 2010, won her election bid over Republican Eric Mendoza.

And in a race sure to cause some difficulties for Democrats, candidate Andrew Martin won over Republican Kelly Hurst, despite being found ineligible for the seat by a Clark County District Judge on Monday due to a residency issue. Evidence presented at a court hearing resulted in a ruling that Martin did not actually live in the district.

In other races, President Obama’s strong showing in the Silver State did not have the coattail effect that Rep. Shelly Berkley, D-Nev., needed in her challenge to Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev. Heller narrowly defeated Berkley to keep the Senate seat for the GOP, even though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will maintain his position in the U.S. Senate with victories elsewhere across the country.

In the state’s four House races, former Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., won election in the 1st Congressional District. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., won a full term to the 2nd District, and Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., defeated challenger John Oceguera for a second term in the 3rd District. The most closely watched race, in the new 4th Congressional District, saw state Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, defeat GOP candidate Danny Tarkanian.

Horsford will be Nevada’s first African American member of Congress.

Bill Requiring Posting Of State Financial Information On Controller’s Website Signed Into Law

By Sean Whaley | 2:53 pm May 31st, 2011

CARSON CITY – A bill requiring more of the state’s financial data to be posted online at the Controller’s office website has been signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

Assembly Bill 276, sought by Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, will require the office to post data concerning the expenditures and revenues of the state, including a table displaying all revenues received during each month from certain sources; a table displaying all expenditures made each month for certain purposes; a graph displaying certain cumulative expenditures by month during the current biennium and the immediately preceding biennium; and additional information as well.

The bill received unanimous approval in both houses of the Legislature, and takes effect July 1, 2012. It was signed into law Sunday.

State Controller Kim Wallin already hosts financial on her website, as does Sandoval. Conklin, however, said in a hearing on the bill earlier this session that the current data-displays lack charts, graphs and year-by-year comparisons that his bill would require.

“Information is not readily available,” Conklin said. “It is very hard to find. … As some of you know in my private capacity, I do some economic research from time to time. … I can tell you from personal experience, finding good, usable consumable data is very, very difficult.”

Lawmakers Show Another Party-Line Split On Sandoval’s Urban County Property Tax Shift For Higher Education

By Sean Whaley | 2:17 pm May 7th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Members of the Legislature’s two money committees reviewed Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed budget for higher education today in preparation for making final decisions on how to fund the state’s public university system for the next two years.

Members of the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees reviewed a 20-page document setting out alternatives to Sandoval’s budget, which would reduce state support to the Nevada System of Higher Education by $162 million.

The document was initially made public, then withdrawn when legislative staff said the information was not intended to be released. The information was later provided by a lobbyist electronically and posted by political commentator Jon Ralston.

It shows various options that will likely generate partisan votes by the money committees when they do take final action on the higher education budget. But one element of a funding plan, implementing higher student fees, may see broader support.

Students could see a 13 percent  per credit hour “surcharge” as part of the funding plan, raising the nearly $157 charged for university undergraduate courses now to $200 by 2013, a 27 percent increase. Fees for other levels of courses would rise by the same percentages.

But it was a proposal by Sandoval to divert nine cents of property tax from Clark and Washoe counties to help support the state’s two universities that produced the most spirited debate of the session. The transfer would put $120 million in local revenue into the two institutions. The rationale from Sandoval is that Clark and Washoe counties derive an economic benefit in having the institutions house in their communities.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said it should be all or none. Either all 17 counties should be asked to contribute local property tax to higher education or none should, he said.

Asking for a motion, Democrats on the two committees voted to oppose Sandoval’s recommendation of shifting money only from Clark and Washoe. Republicans supported the governor.

The vote created another hole in the Sandoval budget following votes earlier this week to add nearly $700 million in funding to public education by the same two panels. Those votes were party line as well with Republicans opposed.

Horsford said it is an issue of fairness.

“I for the life of me don’t understand how only two counties are responsible for having to fill the budget hole of the higher education system which is a benefit of all Nevadans and all counties,” he said.

“It’s either all in or none,” Horsford said.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said he does see the logic of the Sandoval plan because of the economic benefit to Clark and Washoe counties from the presence of the two universities, but added he would be willing to consider applying the tax shift to all counties.

That proposal did not get much support from rural lawmakers, however.

“I guess the problem I have; in several of the rural counties that I represent are just really close to going bankrupt,” said Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora. “And if that happens the state is going to have to take them over of course. White Pine County and some of those other counties are really hurting.”

Horsford replied that some other rural counties have huge reserves.

“Clark and Washoe counties are not doing all that great either,” he said.

Assemblyman Tom Grady, R-Yerington, said some rural counties are at the maximum property tax levy allowed by law and could not afford the shift.

“Where do the counties get the money to not only pay this but the other things that we’re looking at pushing down to them when they can’t raise their tax if they wanted to because of the cap,” he asked.

Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, said Washoe County is at the tax cap as well.

Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, said the property tax shift is being proposed because Nevada is “cheap.”

“We’ve been stuck in a paradigm for years in this state and the paradigm is we’re cheap,” he said. “That’ right. We don’t want to pay. And the reality is, that we think that because we’re cheap, people will come. I’ve got to tell you, people don’t come to places that are cheap, they come to places of value.”

Democrats earlier this week released details of a tax plan they will pursue to restore $920 million in cuts to education and health and human services programs, including $120 million to higher education.

But Sandoval and GOP lawmakers have already rejected the plan. Democrats cannot raise taxes without Republican support.

Audio clips:

Sen. Steven Horsford says the property tax shift to higher education should come from all counties or none:

050711Horsford :13 counties, or none.”

Sen. Dean Rhoads says some rural counties are on the verge of bankruptcy:

050711Rhoads :21 are really hurting.”

Assemblyman Tom Grady says some counties cannot raise their property taxes to compensate for the shift:

050711Grady :15 of the cap.”

Assemblyman Marcus Conklin says the property tax plan is being proposed because Nevada is cheap:

050711Conklin :23 places of value.”



Lawmaker Proposes One-Stop Shop Website For Consumer Fraud Information

By Sean Whaley | 4:27 pm April 4th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A bill to create a website where Nevadans could learn how to protect themselves from consumer fraud was received favorably today by an Assembly committee.

Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, introduced Assembly Bill 323 to help fight Nevada’s Top 10 in the nation ranking in areas of consumer fraud ranging from builders and contractors to investment opportunities to telephone service to mortgages.

“Unfortunately, deception and fraud and misrepresentation are a constant undercurrent in our society today,” he told the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee. “The index of Nevada Revised Statutes lists over 100 entries under the heading of fraud and false pretenses and representations.”

There are other types of fraud that harm consumers indirectly by increasing the cost of goods and services and increasing the state’s overall tax burden, Conklin said. These include insurance fraud, tax evasion and welfare fraud, among others, he said.

But the state’s regulatory system to deal with fraud is spread across numerous agencies, and there are multiple professional licensing boards that deal with the issue as well, Conklin said.

“Nevada has ranked in the Top 10 for fraud in the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book since it first came out in 2002,” he said. “Top 10 in the country for the last decade.”

The average amount paid per instance of consumer fraud in Nevada in 2010 was tops in the nation at $3,400, Conklin said. The total amount paid in consumer fraud in 2010 was over $21 million, he said.

Nevada also ranks in the top 10 in internet crimes, Conklin said.

The Division of Health Care Financing and Policy, which oversees the Medicaid program, has opened 511 new investigations this fiscal year and has recovered $700,000, Conklin said. In the last 15 months, the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation has conducted over 9,000 investigations of unemployment fraud, he said.

“The list is, unfortunately, a long one,” he said.

The FTC report shows debt collection is the top fraud complaint in Nevada in 2010, followed by internet services and impostor scams.

“Assembly Bill 323 sets up a comprehensive, shared, inter agency internet website to assist with the enforcement and compliance efforts by encouraging reports of fraud, and allowing consumers to check quickly on someone they are thinking about doing business with,” Conklin said.

The site would provide cautions and warnings, reports on specific confirmed instances of fraud and information on violations and violators, he said. The Department of Business and Industry will set up and run the website, receiving information from the other agencies and boards.

Many of these agencies have websites already, but there is no single place consumers can go to find out how to protect themselves, Conklin said. The state’s Fight Fraud website is not as useful to consumers as it could be either, he said.

The committee did not take immediate action on the bill, which saw no one speak in opposition.

Audio clips:

Assemblyman Marcus Conklin says fraud is prevalent in our society:

040411Conklin1 :15 pretenses and representations.”

Conklin says Nevada ranks in the Top 10 for fraud since it first came out in 2002:

040411Conklin2 :17 the last decade.”

Conklin says his bill would create a single website for consumers to learn about fraud:

040411Conklin3 :15 doing business with.”



Nevada DMV to Offer Traditional Drivers’ License to Residents as Option to Real ID

By Sean Whaley | 5:50 am April 20th, 2010

CARSON CITY – A legislative panel was told by the Department of Motor Vehicles yesterday that a new version of a regulation implementing Real ID in Nevada is being drafted that will allow residents to keep the older, traditional license if they choose to do so.

The announcement by DMV Director Edgar Roberts came at a hearing of the Legislative Commission’s Subcommittee to Review Regulations, which was to consider a new regulation adopting the new drivers’ license requirement for all residents.

The announcement drew a round of applause from a number of people on hand to testify against the proposed regulation.

Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the subcommittee, noted that the DMV will hold a hearing on the new proposed regulation before it comes back to the subcommittee for review.

Conklin said the new regulation is, “trying to make it better but we need a little time to do so.”

The subcommittee will meet April 28 at 1 p.m. to consider the new version of the regulation. The date of the DMV hearing has not yet been set.

Gov. Jim Gibbons signed an emergency regulation implementing Real ID in Nevada in December despite concerns expressed by the ACLU of Nevada and others that the regulations were a violation of privacy rights. Gibbons said the regulation addressed the privacy concerns.

A new regulation is required to be adopted to replace the emergency version.

The DMV began issuing Advance Secured Issuance licenses to comply with Real ID earlier this year. ASI is a new license or ID card marked with a gold star indicating it meets federal identification standards for boarding commercial aircraft and entering federal buildings where identification is required.

Gibbons Says Legislature Acted Irresponsibly By Failing to Approve Unemployment Regulations

By Sean Whaley | 12:37 pm December 4th, 2009
CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons is rejecting the suggestion made by a lawmaker that his administration delayed action on regulations needed to ensure the continuation of unemployment benefits for out-of-work Nevadans beginning Jan. 1.

In an “op/ed” article sent to Nevada news media outlets, Gibbons said the law was followed and key dates were met by the Employment Security Division in preparing the regulations that set the unemployment insurance rates for businesses for the coming year.

The agency sought pre-approval of the regulations from the Legislative Commission’s Subcommittee to Review Regulations on Nov. 24. The panel rejected the request, however, telling the agency to craft emergency regulations instead.

Members of the panel were concerned that approving the regulations before a public hearing scheduled for this Monday would preclude public comment.

Gibbons said the committee members were told by employment security officials that two public hearings had already been held on the regulations.

The legislative committee rejected two other sets of regulations at the meeting, citing the same concerns about circumventing the public hearing process. Emergency regulations will now be required for these as well.

“The public paid the committee to meet in November 2009 and do nothing,” Gibbons said. “Due to the committee’s irresponsible action, the cost to the public of enacting these three regulations will be significantly higher because agency staff will have to go through two rule-making processes to get the same end result. Taxpayers will also pay the committee members for yet another meeting to do what they should have done last week.”

The assertion by Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, the chairman of the panel, that the agency had a year to draft the regulations is not correct, Gibbons said.

The process could not begin until after Sept. 30 by state law, and the process began on the fourth business day after that date, he said.

The request to pre-approve the regulations was made because the legislative panel had no further scheduled meetings after the upcoming Monday hearing date and the end of the year, Gibbons said.

“These dates and procedures clearly show that Assemblyman Conklin’s explanation for the Legislature’s lack of action is inaccurate at best,” Gibbons said.

Makeup of Revenue Study Citizen Panel Criticized

By Sean Whaley | 1:31 pm November 19th, 2009
CARSON CITY – The makeup of a 19-member panel selected to participate in a study of Nevada’s revenue structure was approved today, but not before it came in for criticism from some lawmakers for not fully representing the varied interests of the state.

A member of the public also criticized the panel makeup, saying it will inevitably generate a call for higher taxes.

The panel membership was decided Monday by a subcommittee of the lawmaker panel overseeing the study of Nevada’s revenue structure.

Even Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, who participated in the selection on Monday, acknowledged the membership of the “Nevada Vision Stakeholder Group” will have credibility issues as the tax study gets under way.

The panel is not representative of rural Nevada, he said.

Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, agreed, saying the panel is not representative of the general public, small business or rural interests.

Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said he has issues with a panel that does not include any representation from the Reno-Sparks or Las Vegas chambers of commerce.

The panel is composed of competent people, but it appears biased in favor of those interests that consume tax revenue rather than those who have the responsibility of providing revenue, he said.

Raggio said it is critical that a tax study to be undertaken at the request of the Legislature have credibility or the results won’t be accepted.

Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, the chairman of the subcommittee that made the selections on Monday, defended the panel makeup, saying it has a large number of business representatives. The panel includes Joe Dini with the Nevada Mining Association, Alan Feldman with the MGM Mirage and many others, he said.

“You look down the list of people that we’ve put on here and I think it is incredibly representative,” Conklin said.

Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said he believes the panel is well represented by business as well as other varied interests throughout the state.

Geoffrey Lawrence, a fiscal policy analyst at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, also criticized the makeup of the panel for being a “collection of cherry-picked special interests.” He was the only member of the public to speak at the meeting.

“The group includes no explicit taxpayer advocate,” he said. “It includes no explicit small-business advocate. It is composed primarily of public employees, union representatives and other recipients of state funds as well as large gaming and mining interests.”

The result will predictably be a call for higher taxes, Lawrence said.

Ultimately the panel was approved by the Interim Finance Committee’s Subcommittee to Conduct a Review of Nevada’s Revenue Structure. Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, Raggio, Settelmeyer and Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, voted no.

The panel also voted, with some opposition, to make Robert Lang, representing the Brookings Mountain West/University of Nevada, Las Vegas Department of Sociology, as the nonvoting chairman of the panel. Lang had been named by the subcommittee on Monday as an alternate.

The alternate spot was filled by Jacob Snow, representing the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada.

Horsford, chairman of the lawmaker panel overseeing the study, said all stakeholder meetings will be noticed and open to the public.

The panel will work closely with Moody’s Analytics, the West Chester, Penn., based firm selected by lawmakers last month to perform the revenue study at a cost of $253,000. The firm has until July 1 next year to complete its review.

Lawmakers have sought the revenue study because of the likelihood that the next state budget will be out of balance by as much as $2.4 billion. This is due in large part to tax increases approved by the 2009 Legislature that will expire in two years, and the likelihood that federal stimulus funds will no longer be available to the state.

Gov. Jim Gibbons has opposed the study, saying it will only result in a call for higher taxes.