Posts Tagged ‘Dean Heller’

Berkley In Attack Mode, Heller Takes More Restrained Approach In Second Senate Debate

By Sean Whaley | 10:11 pm October 11th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley used a second Senate debate tonight to attack Sen. Dean Heller on issues ranging from Medicare to online poker legislation, while her Republican opponent took a more restrained approach in the hour-long discussion on public television.

Berkley accused Heller of supporting a bill by Rep. Paul Ryan to change Medicare to a voucher program for those aged 55 or younger, adding to the cost of their health insurance.

“My opponent voted twice to end Medicare by turning it over to private insurance companies,” Berkley said. “That’s not the way to fix Medicare, that’s the way you destroy Medicare. Why? Because it’s going to increase the cost of Medicare, health care for older Americans, by $6,400 a year.”

She repeated criticisms made by Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., that Heller failed to uphold his end of a deal to get online poker legislation passed in Congress that would help Nevada.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

But Heller, who is reportedly ahead in several polls in the hotly contested Senate race, did not respond in kind, instead taking a more restrained approach on topics ranging from gas prices to immigration reform.

Heller said his support of the Ryan budget plan would not lead to the privatization of Medicare, and that online poker legislation would be passed by the end of the year after the Nov. 6 election with him and Reid working in concert.

Heller said the poker bill has been turned into a political issue that cannot be addressed until the election is over.

“And I’ll be the first to say, that I believe I have two opponents in this particular race; I have the Congresswoman, and I have Sen. Reid also,” he said. “And I’m OK with that. Because we’re going to continue to push forward, and I’ll continue to push forward on the online gaming. And we’re going to get a bill passed before the end of the year. And I’m going to do that with the help and support, working together, with Sen. Reid.”

While the two candidates focused on the issues in the debate, which was marred in Northern Nevada by several lengthy technical interruptions related to the weather, the more sensational ad wars continue unabated on the airwaves.

Rep. Shelley Berkley - D-Nev.

A Berkley ad now running says she is the real supporter of the middle class and job creation, while the National Republican Senatorial Committee is focusing on Berkley’s previous international travels at taxpayer expense.

In response to a question about a bill that would provide Bureau of Land Management land to the city of Yerington to allow for the development of a job-creating copper mine project, Berkley said she supports the measure even though she voted against it in a package of several bills.

Berkley said she looks forward to voting for a “clean” bill that does not include other measures that are unrelated to the proposal, which has been pushed by Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.

Heller questioned Berkley’s commitment to the bill, saying that only in Washington, DC can you say you support a bill but vote against it.

Berkley acknowledged in response to a question that she voted in 1999 for a bill that deregulated the financial services industry, which has been blamed in part for the 2008 financial meltdown.

Berkley acknowledged voting for the Glass-Steagall Act, which she called a mistake, but said the country needs to look forward at what can be done to protect the American people. Berkley said she voted for the Dodd-Frank bill to reign in the worst excesses of the banking industry.

“My opponent had an opportunity to reign in the worst abuses of Wall Street by voting for the Dodd-Frank bill and he didn’t,” she said. “So unlike me, who is fighting for the middle class and trying to make some sense out of this and give these banks some regulation so they can never get us into this mess again, so we never have massive unemployment because of their avarice and greed and we never end up with a housing crisis like we did.”

But Heller said Berkley’s voted for deregulation while former Sen. Richard Bryan, D-Nev., opposed the bill. She then voted for the bank bailout bill and then supported Dodd-Frank was to give her and her colleagues cover for earlier supporting bank deregulation.

“So when the banks came and said hey, we want to be deregulated, my opponent said OK,” he said. “When they said we made bad decisions because of this deregulation, they said we want to be bailed out, she said OK. And then what happened is they passed Dodd-Frank. The purpose of Dodd-Frank was to give cover for those who voted for the bailout.”

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Audio clips:

Rep. Shelley Berkley says Sen. Dean Heller voted twice to end traditional Medicare coverage:

101112Berkley1 :16 $6,400 a year.”

Berkley says Heller did not support a bill to reign in the excesses of Wall Street:

101112Berkley2 :27 like we did.”

Heller says he will work with Sen. Harry Reid and get an online gaming bill passed by the end of the year:

101112Heller1 :17 with Sen. Reid.”

Heller says Berkley’s vote for the Dodd-Frank bill was to give herself cover for voting for bank deregulation and the subsequent bank bailout bill:

101112Heller2 :18 for the bailout.”

 

 

Jobs, Support Of Middle Class Focus Of Spirited Senate Debate Between Heller, Berkley

By Sean Whaley | 2:10 pm September 28th, 2012

CARSON CITY – It took all of about ten minutes for Sen. Dean Heller and Rep Shelley Berkley to mix it up in their first debate in the U.S. Senate race Thursday, criticizing each other on campaign issues ranging from ethics to Medicare to big oil subsidies.

The hour-long debate on KNPB-TV in Reno was the first chance for many voters to see the two candidates spar on the issues, most of which have already been the focus of campaign attacks in the race to date.

Heller, the Republican appointed to the seat last year, and Berkley, a seven-term Democrat Congresswoman representing the 1st District, will debate twice more before election day on Nov. 6.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.

Heller criticized Berkley for supporting big government bailouts and sequestration, a process which could see massive cuts in military and domestic spending, called the “fiscal cliff,” beginning in January if Congress cannot reach agreement on how to reduce spending. He also commented on the ethics issues that are dogging her through the campaign.

Berkley went after Heller for supporting tax breaks for big oil and for supporting a plan by Vice Presidential candidate Paul Ryan to change the Medicare program for younger Americans when they retire in the years to come.

Heller’s alleged ‘hobos’ remark starts the back-and-forth

One of the first questions to provoke Heller was in reference to his alleged comment in Elko in February of 2010 when unemployment benefits were being extended. He supposedly asked if by continuing the program that “the government is now creating hobos.”

“This is the most difficult part of an election; that is proving something that you didn’t do or say,” Heller said in response to the question. “And in this case this is something that I did not do and something that I did not say. Let’s be very specific. I did not say that.”

Berkley used the opportunity to try to align Heller with Mitt Romney’s controversial comments about 47 percent of Americans being dependent on the federal government.

Heller has disavowed Romney’s comments.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

Did Heller say that the government is creating hobos?

Yes, according to the Elko Daily Free Press, which reported his comments as: “Heller said the current economic downturn and policies may bring back the hobos of the Great Depression, people who wandered the country taking odd jobs.

“He said a study found that people who are out of work longer than two years have only a 50 percent chance of getting back into the workforce. ‘I believe there should be a federal safety net,’ Heller said, but he questioned the wisdom of extending unemployment benefits yet again to a total of 24 months, which Congress is doing. ‘Is the government now creating hobos?’ ”

But the Heller campaign, in a statement released during the debate, said: “Dean Heller never called unemployed individuals hobos. Then-Congressman Heller was referring to a presentation made by Lawrence B. Lindsey, former Director of the National Economic Council at the White House, before the Republican Members of the House Ways and Means Committee.”

The statement cited a number of times Heller voted to extend unemployment insurance during his career in Congress.

Debate moves to who is a bigger supporter of the middle class

Heller used the opportunity to question Berkley’s claims that she supports the middle class.

“She’s bailed out Detroit, she’s bailed out Wall Street, you name it she’s bailed out everybody time and time again,” he said. “And the question is when are you going to bail out the middle class. What are you going to do for the middle class. You continue to support big bailouts.”

Berkley cited five votes Heller has made “to protect tax breaks for corporations that ship American jobs overseas.”

The Heller campaign pointed to Berkley’s vote in July to extend tax breaks for all but those earning over $250,000 a year. Eliminating those tax breaks “could cost Nevada 6,000 jobs and more than 900,000 nationwide,” the statement said.

Berkley voted for an energy tax, opposed the Keystone Pipeline which will mean the oil gets shipped to China, and supported the Affordable Care Act, Heller said.

Berkley has supported energy tax breaks in Congress, but those breaks have focused on alternative energy development. She introduced the  “Clean Energy Jobs Act,” which would extend a 30 percent tax credit for domestic companies that manufacture products used in clean energy projects such as wind turbines and solar panels.

Heller too said he supports renewable energy development, including some federal support.

Berkley’s ethics investigation initiates another round of discussion

Berkley, who is the subject of a House ethics investigation over whether her support of a kidney transplant program in Southern Nevada benefited her physician husband, was asked about the charges. The investigation is under way and is not expected to be resolved before the election.

Berkley did not respond directly to the question, saying only that her only motive was to help Nevadans. Instead she used the opportunity to again attack Heller for voting for big oil subsidies.

Heller said “character matters,” and called Berkley’s ethics issues “a pattern” that existed prior to her being elected to Congress in 1998.

Heller was referring to a memo Berkley wrote to her then-Las Vegas Sands Inc. boss Sheldon Adelson about needing to do favors to local elected officials to get favorable treatment. The memo was made public in 1998.

The Berkley campaign has called the memo old news and not a factor in her election to Congress.

“I think character does matter, and you know what’s important to the people of the state of Nevada? Who’s going to protect them. Who is going to be fighting for them in the U.S. Senate,” Berkley said in the debate. “The middle income families, who’s working for them, who’s making sure that we get people to go back to work.”

Questions about who supports Medicare take center stage

The candidates also debated the future of Medicare, and Heller’s two votes for changing the program to a voucher plan for those under age 55.

Heller said Berkley’s vote for the health care act meant taking $700 billion from Medicare.

“She needs to quit stealing,” from Medicare, he said.

Berkley said moving Medicare to private insurance companies will cost Nevadans more, and “put private insurance company bureaucrats in-between doctors and their patients.”

Berkley said she did not cut money out of Medicare benefits, but instead voted to eliminate over-payments to insurance companies.

Does Heller want to eliminate the Department of Education?

Another issue that provoked a dispute between the candidates is whether Heller has in fact called for the elimination of the U.S. Department of Education.

Heller said he does not support closing the agency, but that it should be downsized to provide more money directly to local school districts.

The Berkley campaign argues that Heller has called for the elimination of the agency.

The Pahrump Valley Times reported: “Heller singled out the U.S. Department of Education for elimination. ‘Just to give you an idea of how they decide how Pahrump Valley High School should be run, we have 3,500 people back in Washington D.C. in the Department of Education that average more than $100,000 per year per person. Now you can’t tell me you can’t take that money, move it to the states and be able to teach better, giving it to the teachers, the principals and the parents.’ ”

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Audio clips:

Sen. Dean Heller says he did not make “hobos” remark:

092812Heller1 :10 not say that.”

Heller says Shelley Berkley has voted to bailout big business, not the middle class:

092812Heller2 :12 support big bailouts.”

Rep. Shelly Berkley says Heller supports big business and shipping jobs overseas:

092812Berkley1 :10 their tax subsidies.”

Berkley says the question is who is going to fight for the middle class in the U.S. Senate:

092812Berkley2 :14 back to work.”

 

Ryan Tells Sparks Crowd Nation Needs New Leadership

By Sean Whaley | 2:55 pm September 7th, 2012

SPARKS – Fresh on the heels of another disappointing jobs report, Republican vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan held a brief rally here today, telling a crowd of 2,500 at a local small business that President Obama needs to be replaced to get the country back on track.

“Are we going to stick with four more years of the same, of the same path? No,” Ryan said at the campaign event held at Peterbilt Truck Parts and Equipment. “Are we going to have a country in debt, in doubt, in decline? Or are we going to do what we need to do to get people back to work, to fix the mess in Washington, and to get this country back on the right track.”

Paul Ryan fires up the crowd at a rally today in Sparks. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

It was Ryan’s first visit to Northern Nevada as Mitt Romney’s running mate. Romney is expected  back in Reno on Tuesday for a National Guard convention.

President Obama is slated to visit Las Vegas on Wednesday as Democrats and Republicans fight to win the battleground state in the Nov. 6 general election.

Ryan wasted no time in bringing up the jobs report released today by the U.S. Department of Labor that showed the country saw only 96,000 jobs created in August, well below the 125,000 gain expected by Wall Street. The unemployment rate declined to 8.1 percent in August from 8.3 percent in July but the drop was attributed to more people giving up looking for work.

“Today, for every person that got a job, nearly four people stopped looking for a job; they gave up,” he said. “We can’t keep doing this. Our economy needs to create just 150,000 jobs every month just to keep up with the growth of  our population.

“Friends, this is not an economic recovery; this is nowhere close to an economic recovery,” Ryan said. “We need a new president and we need a real economic recovery.”

Obama promised to keep unemployment below 8 percent with the stimulus package passed early on in his term, he said.

Instead, it’s been above 8 percent for 43 months and in Nevada it is 12 percent, Ryan said.

“It’s not working, and we have a plan to fix this,” he said.

In a statement from the White House on the report, Alan Krueger, chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers, said: “While there is more work that remains to be done, today’s employment report provides further evidence that the U.S. economy is continuing to recover from the worst downturn since the Great Depression.  It is critical that we continue the policies that are building an economy that works for the middle class as we dig our way out of the deep hole that was caused by the severe recession that began in December 2007.”

Ryan told the Sparks crowd that when Republicans win in November, the Romney-Ryan administration will move to immediately develop the country’s energy resources to create jobs, including building the Keystone pipeline, Ryan said.

The administration will also provide opportunities for those looking for work to learn new skills to find jobs, and will seek to increase manufacturing and agricultural production, he said.

The administration will also work to bring spending under control and bring an end to deficit spending, Ryan said.

“We have got to get this budget under control or else we will wind up just like Europe,” he said. “If you practice European economics you will get European results.”

Finally, the administration will work to help small businesses succeed and create jobs, Ryan said.

Romney will bring a history of successful business experience to the White House, he said.

If Nevadans support the Republican ticket, “we will turn this thing around,” Ryan said.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who is locked in a battle with U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., for the senate seat, used Ryan’s visit to criticize Heller for supporting his budget plan, which includes a proposed change to the Medicare system for younger Americans.

Ryan’s plan would keep Medicare in place for people 55 or older but change it for others by privatizing it and relying on government subsidies.

“The Heller-Ryan-Romney plan essentially ends Medicare by turning it over to private insurance companies, and under the plan, seniors’ premiums would increase by nearly $6,400 and they would pay more in prescription drug costs,” Berkley said in a statement.

Heller welcomed Ryan to Nevada in a statement issued by his campaign.

“Paul Ryan is the vice presidential pick who can lead this country in a substantive discussion about the most pressing issues of the day,” he said. “When many in Washington wanted to play politics and preserve their own political ambitions, Paul Ryan faced head-on the enormous challenge of bringing our nation’s fiscal house in order. This conversation is long overdue, and I look forward to more of Paul Ryan and Mitt Romney’s leadership moving forward.”

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Audio clips:

Paul Ryan says the country needs new leadership to turn the economy around:

090712Ryan1 :22 the right track.”

Ryan says today’s jobs report shows there is no economic recovery under way:

090712Ryan2 :32 real economic recovery”

 

Florida Sen. Rubio Rallies Support For Heller’s Election Bid, Berkley Continues Attack On GOP Plan For Medicare

By Sean Whaley | 5:58 pm August 16th, 2012

RENO – GOP Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, at one time a resident of Las Vegas, rallied supporters for Sen. Dean Heller’s election bid today at an area nightclub.

Rubio, who earlier in the day held a rally with Heller in Las Vegas, toured a local business, the Great Basin Brewing Company, before arriving at Mambo’s next to the Atlantis hotel-casino.

Several hundred supporters turned out for the Reno event.

Fla. Sen. Marco Rubio campaigns for Sen. Dean Heller in Reno today. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

In brief remarks, Rubio talked about growing up in Las Vegas, and how the hotel-casino jobs held by his parents helped the family live the “American dream.” Rubio spent seven years in Las Vegas and attended elementary school there.

His dad was a bartender and his mom was a maid, and they had jobs because someone with money built a hotel in Las Vegas, he said.

“And every two weeks my parents cashed a paycheck,” Rubio said. “They were never rich, but they lived the American dream, because they were able to give us the chance to do all the things they never had a chance to do. Because all the doors that had been closed for them, opened for us.”

Rubio said President Obama’s ideas of big government are the same that have “kept people in poverty for centuries.”

“What’s at stake here really is the majority in the United States Senate,” he told the crowd in remarks that lasted about 10 minutes. “You want to repeal Obamacare? Then you better have a Republican majority in the Unites State Senate. You want to have a tax code that encourages people to create jobs in America? Then you better have a Republican majority in the United States Senate. And we can’t have a Republican majority in the United States Senate if Dean Heller is not reelected to the United States Senate.”

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reported that in addition to the Las Vegas rally, Heller and Rubio met with Sheldon Adelson and held a fundraising event that brought in close to $200,000.

Heller’s Democratic opponent, Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., was in Northern Nevada today as well, continuing a tour of the state to criticize what she called “the Heller-Ryan-Romney plan to end Medicare as we know it.”

Berkley held events in both Carson City and Fallon.

Heller said he was “proud” to be the only member of Congress to be able to vote twice for the plan to turn Medicare over to “profit-hungry private insurance companies,” Berkley said in a statement.

“Their plan would put insurance company bureaucrats between patients and their doctors while raising premiums by $6,000 a year,” she said. “Nevadans cannot afford the Heller-Ryan-Romney plan to undermine the benefits they are depending on to be there when they retire. I’ll continue to fight each and every day to ensure Medicare’s guaranteed benefits are there for Nevadans for generations to come.”

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Audio clips:

Sen. Marco Rubio says if Nevadans want to repeal Obamacare and create jobs, they need to elect Dean Heller to the Senate:

081612Rubio1 :21 United States Senate.”

Rubio says his parents lived the American dream while working in Las Vegas:

081612Rubio2 :24 opened for us.”

AARP Poll Of Nevadans Aged 50+ Shows Election Concerns Include Medicare, Social Security, Not Just Jobs, Economy

By Sean Whaley | 11:48 am August 8th, 2012

CARSON CITY – It’s not just jobs and the economy but the future of Social Security and Medicare that concerns Nevadans aged 50 and older in this 2012 presidential election year, according to a new poll commissioned by the AARP and released today.

The survey includes responses from Nevadans aged 50 and older, as well as results for a subgroup of those aged 50 to 64 who are still working.

Working baby boomer voters in Nevada are pessimistic about retirement, the poll results show. Of this group, 67 percent believe they will have to delay retirement and 32 percent are not confident they will ever be able to retire. Sixty-eight percent of working boomers believe the recent economic downturn will force them to rely more on Social Security and Medicare.

A large majority of Nevada voters age 50 and older want the candidates to better explain their plans for Social Security and Medicare to help them decide who they will support in November, the poll results show.

“While concerns about access to living wage jobs in a struggling economy is certainly important to most Nevadans, voters age 50-plus are most concerned about reforming/strengthening Social Security, reducing the budget deficit and reforming/strengthening Medicare,” said Maria Dent, AARP Nevada spokeswoman. “Any meaningful discussion of the economy during this year’s election has to include real plans about the future of Social Security and Medicare. For older voters, ‘retirement security’ and ‘economic security’ is largely the same thing.”

AARP commissioned Hart Research Associates and GS Strategy Group to conduct a series of surveys of registered voters aged 18 and over, which were conducted by telephone July 10 to16. The national survey included 1,852 registered voters.

The survey also focused on Nevada, where 408 voters aged 50 and older were polled. The Nevada results have a margin of error of plus/minus 4.9 percentage points.

Nevada is one of several battleground states expected to play a major role in the presidential race.

The surveys looked at five other battleground states: Colorado, Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin, as well as African Americans and Hispanics aged 50 and older.

The poll results show Nevada voters aged 50 and over are tied in their preference for president, with 46 percent each for President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney and 8 percent not sure.

In the Nevada Senate race between Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., Heller has a slight edge of 33 percent to 31 percent with 13 percent leaning to Heller, 11 percent leaning to Berkley and 12 percent not sure.

The results also show 51 percent of those surveyed disapproved of President Obama’s job performance, with 43 percent in support and 6 percent not sure. The job approval rating was much lower for Congress, with 84 percent disapproving, 8 percent approving and 8 percent not sure.

The concerns of Nevada voters 50 and older highlight the importance of Social Security and Medicare as election issues. They think the next president and Congress need to strengthen Social Security (94 percent) and Medicare (93 percent). They also overwhelmingly (93 percent) think that these issues are too big for either party to fix alone and require Republicans and Democrats to come together.

Voters 50+ in Nevada are looking to the candidates for more information on these key issues.  These voters think the candidates have not done a good job of explaining their plans on Social Security (74 percent) and Medicare (66 percent).

“The message from voters 50+ is clear,” said Nancy LeaMond, AARP executive vice president, state and national group. “In a razor-tight election, candidates have a major opportunity to reach key voters by speaking about their plans on Social Security and Medicare – and they are making a huge gamble if they ignore them.”

Earlier this year, AARP launched You’ve Earned a Say, a national conversation to ensure that Americans have a say in the future of Social Security and Medicare. To date, more than 2.1 million Americans have engaged with You’ve Earned a Say to share their thoughts about how best to protect and strengthen health and retirement security for today’s seniors and future generations.

In Nevada, the You’ve Earned a Say road tour kicked off at Lake Tahoe’s Hot August Nights the first weekend of August. AARP Nevada will also be hosting events and thought leader forums in northern Nevada during a three-day tour of northern Nevada – stopping in Reno, Carson, Fernley, Fallon and Silver Springs. A tour of southern Nevada is being planned for October.

AARP is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization, with a membership of more than 37 million. AARP does not endorse candidates for public office or make contributions to either political campaigns or candidates.

Clean Energy Summit Sparks Political Events, Debate Over Government Role In Renewables

By Sean Whaley | 2:10 am August 7th, 2012

CARSON CITY – With U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s 5th annual National Clean Energy Summit set to kick off today in Las Vegas, the debate over alternative energy development and the government’s role in its future rages on.

The purpose of the day-long event as described on the website is to, “once again bring together clean energy visionaries and leaders, public officials, business executives and entrepreneurs, investors, students, and the media to discuss how to empower the public with tools to promote the clean energy economy; increasing jobs and our energy independence.”

But the role of the federal government in the development of alternative energy has become a major political topic in this presidential election year, with critics pointing to the  closure in July of the solar manufacturing company Amonix in North Las Vegas 14 months after opening.

The company had been awarded $6 million in solar manufacturing tax credits to build the facility, but the company said the credits were never used. The closing was used to criticize President Obama and Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., who is locked in a tough Senate race with Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev. But Politico noted in an article that the Bush Administration first backed the Amonix project in 2007.

Federal funding of Nevada renewable projects called into question

The Nevada Policy Research Institute, in an article published today in the Nevada Journal, examined the state’s renewable energy sector and found that over $1.3 billion in federal funds funneled into geothermal, solar and wind projects since 2009 has yielded and is projected to yield just 288 permanent, full-time jobs.

“That’s an initial cost of over $4.6 million per job,” writes Kyle Gillis, a reporter for the NPRI publication. “Despite this, Sen. Reid continues to hype Nevada as the ‘Saudi Arabia of renewable energy,’ even though the renewable energy subsidized with federal dollars and mandated under Nevada’s Renewable Portfolio Standard costs consumers and NV Energy, Nevada’s publicly regulated utility company, up to four times as much as fossil fuels, such as natural gas.”

Gillis said the few clean-energy jobs in the state of Nevada are still precarious even with government support, pointing to Nevada Geothermal Power, a federally subsidized green-energy firm in Nevada. Auditors are raising questions about whether that firm is going to fail, he said.

As of last October, Nevada Geothermal Power had 22 employees in Nevada, and, according to the New York Times, had received $145 million in federal subsidies – composed of a loan guarantee of nearly $79 million for its Blue Mountain geothermal project and at least $66 million in grants to the company itself.

The Times called the company a “politically connected clean energy start-up that has relied heavily on an Obama administration loan guarantee,” and said it “… is now facing financial turmoil.”

Sen. Reid’s position in support of alternative energy and federal assistance is unwavering

Reid says on his Senate website: “Our country is too dependent on oil and fossil fuels, which pollute our air, place our economy and national security at risk, and contribute to climate change.”

He points to the funding in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act for helping Nevada become the nation’s renewable energy leader.

“Through the Recovery Act, Nevada has received over $550 million for a range of energy efficiency, renewable, and weatherization projects as well as hundreds of millions in low-cost financing for transmission and renewable energy deployment projects,” Reid said.

New federally-backed Nevada alternative energy project announced

On Monday Reid was joined by U.S. Department of Agriculture Under Secretary Dallas Tonsager and Nevada Rural Development State Director Sarah Adler to announce a major renewable energy project in Northern Nevada.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack also announced the $105 million loan guarantee to Fulcrum Sierra BioFuels, LLC to finance development of a facility to convert municipal solid waste into advanced biofuels. The project is expected to help reduce the nation’s dependence on foreign oil, relieve pressure on existing and future landfills, and stimulate economic growth in Northern Nevada through job creation.

The Nevada plant is expected to create an estimated 430 jobs during construction and 53 permanent jobs in Storey County, 20 miles east of Reno. Once operational, the plant is expected to convert 147,000 tons of processed municipal solid waste into over 10 million gallons of advanced biofuels annually using a two-part thermo-chemical process.

“The time is now to embrace alternative American-produced feedstocks that support our nation’s energy independence, provide jobs in rural areas, and support the Obama Administration’s ‘all of the above’ energy strategy,” Vilsack said. “At USDA we are focused on the production of renewable energy from a wide variety of non-food sources, including waste, algae, wood, and switchgrass as a long-term solution to America’s energy needs.”

Alternative energy debate also focuses on oil company tax breaks and Nevada Senate race

The politics of energy development prompted another event Monday, this one aimed at Heller and his history of supporting tax breaks for oil companies.

Sponsored by ProgressNow Nevada, activists gathered near Heller’s Las Vegas office to bring attention to his record on the issue.

Heller in March shifted his position to some extent by urging Congress to close some oil company tax loopholes to help reduce the price of gasoline. He did so in an amendment to S. 2204 called the Gas Price Relief Act. It would, in part, close oil and gas tax loopholes for the major integrated oil companies and provide a permanent reduction in the gas tax.

Berkley has been using Heller’s past votes to maintain the tax subsidies as a campaign issue in the Senate race. An ad running now in northern Nevada, paid for by the League of Conservation Voters, points out that Heller voted “nine times” for Big Oil tax breaks.

The Heller campaign called the ad “payback” to Berkley for supporting the league in voting against a bill to transfer BLM land to Lyon County.

“This ad is a tired, over the top attack,” said Chandler Smith, Heller for Senate spokeswoman, in a statement last month. “Dean Heller actually proposed a bill that would end tax loopholes for big oil companies. Shelley Berkley, on the other hand, voted for a national energy tax that would raise prices at the pump and is personally invested in big oil companies.”

Electricity from coal also part of the discussion

Today, a coalition of health advocates, environmentalists, and members of the Moapa Band of Paiutes is set to rally outside the conference to call on NV Energy to transition from coal fired power plants to clean energy.

The coalition also plans to call attention to NV Energy’s Reid Gardner coal plant operating 50 miles from Las Vegas and next to the Moapa Band of Paiutes reservation. The groups allege that air pollution from the coal plant results in $28 million in public health costs every year.

The Moapa Band of Paiutes wants the coal plant shut down.

NV Energy officials say even though the plant was built in the 1960s, “it has undergone extensive technology improvements and is among the cleanest coal-burning facilities in the nation.”

Nevada Among States With Lowest Energy Consumption Per Capita, Gets C+ For Renewable Energy Efforts

By Sean Whaley | 1:17 pm July 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada ranks 40th among the states for the amount of energy consumed per person, according to the nonprofit website EnergyTrends.org.

The state rankings were released on Wednesday and show Nevadans consumed 239 million Btu per capita in 2010 compared to 303 Btu per capita in 2007.

First among the states in energy consumption was Wyoming, followed by Alaska and Louisiana. Rhode Island ranked 50th.

Photo by Tom Harpel via Wikimedia Commons.

The website, created by the Lexington Institute, has also graded the states on renewable energy efforts. Nevada received a C+ in the analysis, which was 11th best. Three states, California, Massachusetts and Colorado, received B grades, the highest awarded in the review.

Nevada ranked 17th in net renewable energy generation in 2010 with 4.444 gigawatt hours (GWh). The growth in renewable energy generation was up 35 percent from 2007 to 2010.

Nevada’s renewable portfolio standards require 25 percent of the state’s electricity to be supplied by renewable resources by 2025.

“It is our hope that the information on EnergyTrends.org will be useful for everyone from schools to elected officials to keep track of their state’s critical energy consumption and generation patterns,” said Don Soifer, executive vice president of the Lexington Institute.

Soifer said the research is based on 2010 energy data which was recently released by the U.S. Department of Energy. It is the most recent data available. The website tracks vital indicators for energy and electricity use, as well as which fuels (like coal, natural gas or renewables) are used to generate electricity, and ranks states in each category. It also analyzes data from recent years, providing easy-to-read indicators to show overall trends.

Renewable energy, and tax incentives to support its development, has become a major political topic in Nevada and around the nation this presidential election year.

Earlier this month, the solar manufacturing company Amonix closed its manufacturing plant in North Las Vegas 14 months after opening.

President Obama in July 2010 praised the solar manufacturing tax credits that generated $6 million to help build the facility, which was under construction at the time. Obama’s support of the facility was recently used as fodder for criticism by the Mitt Romney campaign. But a news article in Politico noted that the Bush Administration first backed the project in 2007.

The company also issued a statement saying it never utilized the tax credit for the Las Vegas facility.

“The only federal incentive Amonix received for the North Las Vegas facility was a $5.9 million federal manufacturing incentive tax credit that was never utilized,” the statement said. “Tax credits can only be used to offset taxable income, and Amonix has not realized taxable income to utilize the tax credits. Thus, those tax credits have not been claimed and have had no cost to U.S. taxpayers.”

It also became a campaign issue in the Nevada Senate race between U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Las Vegas. Heller called the closing proof of the failure of federal stimulus spending supported by Berkley. Berkley in turn criticized Heller for failing to show any concern for the Nevadans who lost their jobs because of the closing.

State Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, a candidate for the 4th Congressional District, defended the use of clean energy incentives in an interview last week on the Face to Face television program.

“This sector of renewable energy should not be based on the success or failure of one company alone,” he said. “There was tremendous subsidies for traditional energy, coal and other energy sources, for decades so it isn’t like this is some new thing, that the government helps subsidize a growing and emerging industry.”

But a recent report has questioned the value of tax incentives and regulations approved by many states around the country, including Nevada, to create “green jobs,” noting that subsidies used for such programs can take away revenue for other needs such as public education.

Nevada was identified as having seven separate financial incentives for green jobs, three of which are property tax exemptions in the report.

“States face a hard and fast budget constraint; they cannot deficit spend or take on debt for general operating expenses,” said Bryan Leonard of State Budget Solutions in his report, “Green Jobs Don’t Grow on Trees.”

“This means that every dollar spent by states on green job training programs, grants to green firms, or subsidies for renewable energy producers is a dollar that cannot be spent on teachers’ salaries, educational tools, or social safety nets,” he said.

Soifer said the Lexington Institute supports renewable energy, “but realizes that if renewables are really going to take hold in the United States, and particularly solar and wind are the two that everybody talks about most, they are going to need to stand on their own without having to depend on government subsidy.”

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Audio clips:

Don Soifer, executive vice president of the Lexington Institute, says Nevada ranked 11th best for its renewable energy efforts:

072612Soifer1 :28 the whole country.”

Soifer says the Lexington Institute supports renewables but that they will need to stand on their own:

072612Soifer2 :25 the United States.”

 

Heller Campaign Releases New Ad Outlining Berkley’s Alleged Ethics Problems

By Sean Whaley | 11:21 am July 11th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A new ad released by the Dean Heller for Senate campaign this week documents what it describes as an established pattern of Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., using her office for personal gain.

“Berkley pushed legislation and twisted the arms of federal regulators, advocating policies for financial gain, saving her husband’s industry millions,” the ad says. “Shelley Berkley took care of herself, and she got caught.”

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., addresses the Nevada Legislature in 2011. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

The ad comes just as the House Ethics Committee voted unanimously late last month to establish an investigative subcommittee to determine whether she inappropriately furthered the business interests of her husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner.

In a new development today, Las Vegas Sun columnist Jon Ralston is reporting that the National Republican Senatorial Committee has asked Secretary of State Ross Miller to confirm that Nevada law mandates that Berkley must stay on the ballot even if she withdraws because of ethics problems.

In a statement in response to the Heller ad, the Berkley campaign said: “Shelley Berkley’s one and only concern is Nevada patients, which is why she fought to prevent Nevada’s only kidney transplant program from being shut down by Washington bureaucrats and why she has worked to ensure Medicare recipients continue to receive the care they need.

“While Shelley Berkley won’t stop fighting for Nevada’s patients, middle-class families and seniors, Senator Dean Heller is pulling the rug out from under them by voting twice to end Medicare by turning it over to private insurance companies, protecting taxpayer giveaways to Big Oil companies and defending tax breaks for Wall Street corporations that ship American jobs overseas,” the statement concluded.

The Heller campaign expanded on the brief ad in a press release issued today, citing a report from Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW) from 2011 identifying Berkley as one of the most corrupt members of Congress.

The report said in part: “The congresswoman vocally advocates for Washington policies that financially benefit her kidney surgeon husband. In turn, she has become a major recipient of campaign donations from those in the kidney care industry.”

The release also cites the New York Times report published in September 2011 detailing her efforts in 2008 to preserve a Nevada kidney transplant program at the University Medical Center in Las Vegas.

Berkley and other members of Nevada’s Congressional delegation were able to preserve the program. But the New York Times said her efforts, “also benefited her husband, a physician whose nephrology practice directs medical services at the hospital’s kidney care department — an arrangement that expanded after her intervention and is now reflected in a $738,000-a-year contract with the hospital.”

Berkley has defended her efforts to preserve the transplant program and said her only concerns were for the patients waiting for transplants.

“The reality is I’ve never done anything, or never advocated for anything that wasn’t in the best interest of patients and patient care,” she said in a recent interview on the Face To Face television program.

The ethics review announced Monday is expected to be an ongoing campaign issue for Berkley, who is seeking Heller’s Senate seat. Heller was appointed to the seat by Gov. Brian Sandoval in April 2011.

The race is considered to be critical for both Republicans and Democrats seeking control of the Senate in the 2012 election.

The Heller ad is the latest in what is expected to be a barrage of attacks by the two candidates over the next four months. An ad criticizing Heller for his votes in support of changes to the Medicare program, paid for by the Political Action Committee Patriot Majority, was in turn criticized by the Heller campaign this week for being false and misleading.

 

House Ethics Committee Appoints Investigative Subcommittee To Review Rep. Berkley Ethics Questions

By Sean Whaley | 3:24 pm July 9th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The House Ethics Committee announced today that it has established an investigative subcommittee to review ethics questions raised about Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., and whether she inappropriately furthered the business interests of her husband, Dr. Larry Lehrner.

The committee voted unanimously on June 29 to establish the subcommittee.

“Pursuant to the committee’s action, the investigative subcommittee shall have jurisdiction to determine whether Representative Shelley Berkley violated the Code of Official Conduct or any law, rule, regulation, or other applicable standard of conduct in the performance of her duties or the discharge of her responsibilities, with respect to alleged communications and activities with or on behalf of entities in which Representative Berkley’s husband had a financial interest,” committee Chairman Jo Bonner and Ranking Member Linda Sánchez said in a statement.

Rep. Shelley Berkley - D-Nev.

“The committee notes that the mere fact of establishing an investigative subcommittee does not itself indicate that any violation has occurred,” the statement said.

The decision means the ethics questions surrounding Berkley will continue to ferment as her bid for the U.S. Senate against Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., heats up ahead of the November general election.

The race is considered to be critical for both Republicans and Democrats seeking control of the Senate in the 2012 election.

The House Ethics Committee announced that Rep. Michael Conaway will serve as the chairman of the investigative subcommittee, and Rep. Donna Edwards will serve as the Ranking Member. The other two members of the subcommittee are Reps. Robert Latta and Adam Schiff.

“No other public comment will be made on this matter except in accordance with committee rules,” the release said.

The ethics questions were first raised in a New York Times report published in September 2011. The Nevada State Republican Party then filed a complaint based on the reports, which involved her efforts to preserve a Nevada kidney transplant program at the University Medical Center in Las Vegas.

Berkley and other members of Nevada’s Congressional delegation were able to preserve the program. But the New York Times said her efforts, “also benefited her husband, a physician whose nephrology practice directs medical services at the hospital’s kidney care department — an arrangement that expanded after her intervention and is now reflected in a $738,000-a-year contract with the hospital.”

The report said that Lehrner helped build a political action committee that relied on Berkley to push its causes.

“She has co-sponsored at least five House bills that would expand federal reimbursements or other assistance for kidney care, written letters to regulators to block enforcing rules or ease the flow of money to kidney care centers and appeared regularly at fund-raising events sponsored by a professional organization her husband has helped run,” the newspaper reported.

Berkley has defended her efforts to preserve the transplant program and said her only concerns were for the patients waiting for transplants.

“The reality is I’ve never done anything, or never advocated for anything that wasn’t in the best interest of patients and patient care,” she said in a recent interview on the Face To Face television program.

Jessica Mackler, campaign manager for Berkley’s Senate campaign, released a statement on the committee’s action:  “We are pleased with the committee’s decision to conduct a full and fair investigation, which will ensure all the facts are reviewed. We are confident that ultimately it will be clear that Congresswoman Berkley’s one and only concern was for the health and well being of Nevada’s patients.

“That’s why she joined then Republican Congressman Dean Heller to prevent Nevada’s only kidney transplant program from being shut down by Washington bureaucrats,” the statement said. “With more than 200 Nevada patients desperately waiting for a lifesaving kidney transplant, it would have been irresponsible of her not to work with the state’s entire Congressional delegation to protect the program.”

National Republican Senatorial Committee (NRSC) Executive Director Rob Jesmer also commented on the House Ethics Committee decision: “It speaks volumes that even Shelley Berkley’s Democrat colleagues unanimously voted to move forward investigating Berkley’s use of her office to enrich her and her husband. Since Berkley entered the political arena we’ve seen a long pattern of ethical questions surrounding her conduct.”

Gov. Sandoval Says Effect Unclear On Nevada Medicaid, Delegation, Candidates Weigh In On Affordable Care Ruling

By Sean Whaley | 11:04 am June 28th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval said today the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding much of the Affordable Care Act on the state’s Medicaid program remain unclear.

“The implications for Medicaid costs are still unclear, but Nevada will prepare to meet the serious financial implications of this decision,” he said in a statement shortly after the court ruled.

The court said in the ruling today that states could not be penalized if they did not go along with the Medicaid provisions in the law.

In an interview today on the Nevada NewsMakers program as the decision was announced, Sandoval said his intention would be not to opt in to the Medicaid expansion because of the costs to the state.

“And as I have said all along, that if that component had been found constitutional, it would cost us $60 million in this budget and $100 million in future budgets,” he said in the interview. “We can’t afford that. And to make that decision and to opt into that program, would mean that I would have to look at cutting education, at other what I think are untenable outcomes. So as I sit here today, it wouldn’t be my intention for this state to opt in.”

A statement from Sandoval’s office issued later in the day said the decision indicates states will have an option to expand Medicaid, but, “additional guidance is needed in order to understand the penalties for not expanding the Medicaid program and we must determine if there are savings to the general fund by shifting existing costs to the federal government. We will continue to examine today’s opinion to fully understand its implications.

“Therefore, given what we know today, the governor does not intend to automatically accept the Medicaid expansion,” the statement said. “These serious budgetary implications, including the impact on education spending, require further analysis – not just of the next biennial budget but of the long-term costs. Further information will be provided as the budgeting process unfolds over the next few months.”

In his initial statement on the ruling, Sandoval also said: “I believe the Congress should act to reform this law and ease the serious burdens it places on the states and the nation’s businesses. The American people remain deeply divided on the wisdom of this law and they are still entitled to see it changed.”

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said he too wants to see the law changed.

U.S. Supreme Court.

“This law has now been affirmed as a colossal tax increase on the middle class, and its excessive regulations are stripping businesses of the certainty they need to hire at a time when Nevadans and the rest of the country are desperate for jobs,” he said. “The president should work with Congress to find real solutions to healthcare reform so the excessive mandates and taxes in this law do not further add to our national debt or continue to stifle economic growth.

“This onerous law needs to be repealed and replaced with market-based reforms that will provide greater access, affordability, and economic certainty to our nation,” Heller said.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the matter is now settled.

“It’s time for Republicans to stop refighting yesterday’s battles,” he said.

“I’m pleased to see the Supreme Court put the rule of law ahead of partisanship, and ruled the Affordable Care Act constitutional,” Reid said. “Passing the Affordable Care Act was the greatest single step in generations toward ensuring access to affordable, quality healthcare for every American – regardless of where they live or how much money they make.

“No one thinks this law is perfect,” Reid said. “But Democrats have proven we’re willing to work with Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act.”

Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., said the ruling doesn’t make the health care act a good law.

“This is still the same flawed bill that was forced through Congress on a party line vote in the dead of night with special interest provisions like the ‘Cornhusker Kickback’ and the ‘Louisiana Purchase’,” he said. “And today we have learned that the law amounts to a huge tax increase on the American people in a struggling economy. We know that a majority of Americans think the law should be repealed and that it will increase health care costs, reduce access to care and add to our deficit.

“Instead of injecting more government into our health care system, our focus should be on patients, especially our seniors who rely on access to quality health care,” Heck said. “Our system is working for most Americans and it can work for all Americans through common sense reforms like moving insurance coverage towards an individual-based model, increasing competition by allowing the purchase of insurance across state lines, incentivizing the purchase of insurance through tax credits, and letting people, not the government, decide what services they need and want.

“The Supreme Court had their word on June 28, but the American people will have the final word on November 6,” Heck said.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera said it is time to refocus on jobs.

Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, who is challenging Heck in the 3rd Congressional District, said: “Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, it’s time that those in Washington moved on from trying to score political points instead of finding solutions. This decision doesn’t change the reality that too many Nevada families and small businesses are struggling to pay for the rising costs of health care.

“One thing we know for sure, if Washington politicians don’t stop the bickering and finger pointing and focus on what matters – creating jobs and getting our economy back on track – nothing will get done,” he said. “This shouldn’t be about politics – it should be about getting something done.”

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said it is time to repeal the law.

“Advocates for Washington-based management of health care and unprecedented tax increases on the middle class won today,” he said. “However, I will continue to work for patient-centered solutions, reductions in health care costs, and improving health care access for all Nevadans.

“I look forward to the opportunity to vote the week of July 9 for full repeal of this harmful government intrusion into health care,” Amodei said. “Congress created this mess and it’s our responsibility to clean it up. We owe it to the middle class to give them specific, well-thought out options focusing on portability of insurance across state lines and affordability, while not interfering with the patient-doctor relationship.

“This 2,700-page monster offends seniors, veterans, middle class families and employers,” he said. “I will continue to take every opportunity to repeal and address this mess for Nevadans in a practical way without picking political winners and losers.”

State Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said he was pleased with the ruling.

In a campaign email, the 4th Congressional Democratic candidate said: “Today’s decision is a victory for those with pre-existing conditions, for women who now don’t have to pay more than men for care, and for Nevada seniors who will save on prescription drugs.

“Now Republicans in the House are scheduling a vote to repeal the health care law, instead of working on a jobs bill,” Horsford said. “The Republican Congress needs to stop playing political games and start working on getting our economy moving and creating jobs for Nevadans.”

GOP Congressional candidate Danny Tarkanian said the law needs to be repealed.

The candidate for the 4th Congressional seat said: “I have consistently stood against Obamacare and remain committed to its full repeal. Rather, we need to press forward with legislation that will extend the same tax incentives that businesses receive for providing health insurance to individuals who purchase their own plans. We need to get serious about tort reform and stabilize Medicare reimbursement rates. We need to make insurance portable and purchasable across state lines.

“When they should be focusing on promoting economic growth and creating jobs, Democrats insist instead on ramming through job-killing policies that increase taxes on Americans, like Obamacare,” Tarkanian said.

There was no immediate response from Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.

A big issue for Nevada is what the ruling means to the state’s Medicaid program.

The head of Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services said in May that as many as 150,000 more residents will be eligible for Medicaid coverage if the state has to comply with the Medicaid provisions. Bringing new residents onto the rolls was estimated to cost the state an estimated $574 million between now and 2020, said HHS Director Mike Willden.

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Audio clip:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says it would not be his decision to opt into the Medicaid expansion allowed under the Affordable Care Act:

062812Sandoval :24 to opt in.”

 

 

Berkley Defends Actions In Preserving Kidney Program, Calls For Comprehensive Immigration Reform

By Sean Whaley | 8:06 pm June 25th, 2012

CARSON CITY – U.S. Senate candidate and Rep. Shelley Berkley defended her efforts to preserve a kidney transplant program in Nevada in 2008, saying she never advocated for anything that was not in the best interests of patients and patient care.

Berkley, D-Nev., defended her role in preserving the program in response to questions in an interview on the Face To Face television program.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.

Berkley, who is facing U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., in a battle for the seat that could tip the balance of power in the Senate, also expressed disappointment that the U.S. Supreme Court today did not completely reject Arizona’s immigration law.

In a lengthy discussion of her ethics review, Berkley defended her actions.

“The reality is I’ve never done anything, or never advocated for anything that wasn’t in the best interest of patients and patient care,” she said.

Berkley said she has sponsored or co-sponsored over 100 pieces of health-related legislation, from breast cancer to osteoporosis, because of her commitment to patient care in Nevada.

“Would I have really stood back and done nothing when I knew that there was a possibility that the only kidney transplant program in the entire state of Nevada was going to be closed,” she said. “At the time it was going to be closed there were 200 Nevada patients waiting for a kidney transplant. This is a life-saving operation.”

The House of Representative’s Ethics Committee is expected to announce its course of action in the Berkley ethics issue by July 9. A complaint filed by the Nevada Republican Party,, prompted by a New York Times report, involves allegations that Berkley used her position to help her husband’s medical practice.

On the U.S. Supreme Court decision today repealing three of four major sections of the Arizona immigration law, Berkley said she was disappointed that the law was not rejected in its entirety.

She echoed the comments of many other elected officials today by saying the ruling makes it clear Congress and the president must address comprehensive immigration reform. The alternative is 50 different laws on immigration in the 50 states, Berkley said.

Berkley also offered qualified support both for the federal stimulus package approved early on in the Obama presidency, as well as the federal health care law that will see a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on Thursday.

Berkley said she voted for the health care law because in balance, it was best for Nevadans, particularly the 600,000 residents who don’t have health insurance. The vote was not the result of pressure from then-house majority leader Rep. Nancy Pelosi or anyone else, she said.

Berkley said she supported the stimulus bill even though it was not a “silver bullet” because it was a good first step and necessary to move the economy forward.

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Audio clips:

Rep. Shelley Berkley says her votes on a kidney transplant program were to ensure patient care:

062512Berkley1 :08 and patient care.”

Berkley says she had to act to save the program:

062512Berkley2 :20 life-saving operation.”

 

Party Officials Agree Washoe Is Critical To Battleground State Nevada In 2012 Presidential Contest

By Sean Whaley | 2:24 pm June 4th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Washoe County Republican and Democratic Party leaders may disagree on who the best choice is for president, but they agree on one point – Washoe is the “battleground” county in the battleground state that is Nevada.

Clark County is expected to go big for Democrats and President Obama, while Nevada’s rural counties are expected to go strong for Mitt Romney. But Washoe County, where Republicans lead in voter registration by 3,700, has gone for both parties in past elections.

Courtesy of Malwack via Wikimedia Commons.

In 2008, Washoe County helped Obama win Nevada and the presidency, giving him 55 percent of the vote.

In 2010, the county went strongly for Republican Brian Sandoval in the governor’s race, although U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., won over GOP challenger Sharron Angle. The county also went for incumbent George W. Bush in the 2004 presidential election.

Today on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, county Democratic Party spokesman Chris Wicker and county GOP Chairman Dave Buell discussed Washoe’s influence in Nevada in the 2012 presidential contest.

Buell said the fact that Washoe County voters have gone in different directions in past elections make it the flashpoint in Nevada.

“So Washoe County is the place where Nevada is going to be decided, and there will be all types of resources, both on the Democrat and Republican side in this county to make sure that they carry the day for their candidate,” he said.

Wicker said Washoe is winnable by either side if some side “drops the ball.”

“It all boils down that either side, given the right circumstances, could win Washoe County,” he said.

President Obama is aware of Washoe’s importance, making an official visit to Reno last month to talk about a mortgage refinancing plan he wants Congress to approve. Nevada is clearly important overall, with the president scheduled to make another stop in Las Vegas on Thursday.

Romney was also in Las Vegas last week and campaigned around the state ahead of the February Republican caucus.

Las Vegas Sun columnist Jon Ralston, among others, has noted Washoe County’s importance in the 2012 general election.

Strong support for either candidate could also provide coattails either to U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., or his challenger Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., in the Senate race. Control of the U.S. Senate is also up for grabs this election year.

Buell was asked if Washoe Republicans might support Obama over Romney this year as many did for Reid over Angle in 2010. Buell downplayed any such idea, saying it was more dissatisfaction with Angle than support for the Democratic agenda that was a factor in the race. The other factor was a belief that Reid could deliver for Nevada as Senate Majority Leader, he said.

Wicker said Democrats will work to ensure a strong turnout for Obama in Washoe County by talking more about the successes of his first administration, including positive job creation numbers nationally over the past several months.

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Audio clips:

Dave Buell says either party can win Washoe in 2012:

060412Buell :23 for their candidate.”

Chris Wicker agrees that Clark County will go for Democrats and the rurals for Republicans:

060412Wicker :16 in the rurals.”

 

Campaign Launched Urging Congress To OK Internet Sales Tax Collections – Nevada Delegation Split

By Sean Whaley | 9:14 am May 31st, 2012

CARSON CITY – The National Retail Federation has launched a nationwide 60-day campaign to raise awareness among lawmakers and the public on how what it calls a loophole exempting online sales from sales tax is hurting local communities and job creation.

If Nevada’s five-member Congressional delegation is any indication, the group has its work cut out for it, with three members opposed and two supportive of the idea to allow states to tax online sales.

“Our current sales tax system unfairly favors one set of retailers over another,” NRF President and CEO Matthew Shay said. “Congress is naming winners and losers by its failure to address this issue, and the brick-and-mortar retailers who create jobs across our country want action on this issue now.”

Illustration by Pictofigo via Wikimedia Commons.

The national push, begun earlier this month, comes on the heels of Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval’s agreement with Amazon to begin collecting sales taxes on Nevada online purchases beginning Jan. 1, 2014, or sooner if federal legislation is passed to allow states to collect revenues from internet purchases.

The agreement also calls for the state and the Fortune 500 company to work together for immediate enactment of federal legislation that will address the needs of states, retailers and consumers by creating a simplified and equitable framework for sales tax collection.

But members of Nevada’s Congressional delegation are divided on the question.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., and Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., have previously said they oppose such legislation, called the “Main Street Fairness Act.”

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., is also opposed.

“We need to ensure that Nevada’s small businesses have the tools they need to grow and create jobs without burdensome taxes and additional red tape,” she said in a statement issued Wednesday. “For this reason, I will continue to support unrestricted Internet sales in Nevada and throughout the U.S.”

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., who participated in a hearing on the issue last year as a member of the House Judiciary Committee, said Wednesday he is open to the idea, depending on the specific wording of a measure that would come up for a vote.

The current system of ignoring Internet sales while collecting sales taxes from local retailers is an “artificial tax administration policy I don’t think anyone approved,” he said. “It just kind of happened. I would sure like to look at something.”

Retailers of all types should be playing on the same field for tax purposes, Amodei said.

A statement from the office of U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., said he also supports giving states the authority to require online retailers to collect their sales tax.

Three Republican candidates seeking the 4th Congressional seat in the 2012 general election recently spoke in favor of such legislation in a debate on the Face To Face television program. Barbara Cegavske, Danny Tarkanian and Dan Schwartz all said they favored such legislation.

Sandoval estimates Nevada will receive between $15 million and $20 million a year under the agreement with Amazon, which mirrors those signed in several other states. Tax revenues to Nevada could total $200 million a year if all online purchases were assessed the state sales tax, he said. Nevada’s sales tax rate varies by county and ranges between 6.85 and 8.1 percent.

Sandoval recently said he pursued the agreement after the online sales tax collection issue was brought to him by the Retail Association of Nevada (RAN), which praised the deal announced in April.

Bryan Wachter, director of Government Affairs for RAN, said the national campaign is aimed at educating the public and policy makers. While “mom and pop” stores on Main Street are required to collect the sales tax, Internet companies have been treated differently, he said.

“Even though they’re both doing the same amount of business for the same customers, they are treated as two different entities and we just think that needs to stop,” Wachter said. “Government should create level playing fields and allow the market to be able to decide what business model works and doesn’t work. And so that’s really the main focus of the E-Fairness campaign, is government should treat everybody the same. Fair is fair.”

The proposals in Congress are asking that states be allowed to decide if they want to collect sales taxes on internet sales, he said. A lot of states have budget problems right now that could be partially addressed with such revenue, Wachter said.

There are a lot of struggling businesses in Nevada that face an additional hurdle because of the sales tax issue, he said.

Shay said the federation will mobilize the retail industry, “so every retailer – regardless of whether they sell their merchandise online, through the mail or in a store on Main Street – can compete on a level playing field. This debate is about local retailers who make major contributions to their local communities being forced to operate in an unfair sales tax environment while out-of-state competitors are handed a huge advantage.”

The campaign includes an online petition that merchants and consumers can sign, a series of videos featuring small retailers talking about the competitive disadvantage they face, and print and online advertising in targeted states and congressional districts.

The sales tax issue was created by a 1992 U.S. Supreme Court decision in Quill v. North Dakota that ruled that “remote sellers” – which include Internet, mail-order and “1-800” sellers on radio or television – can only be required to collect sales tax in states where they have a physical presence, such as their headquarters or a store or warehouse.

Shay said the court ruling means that most online sales go untaxed and has placed local retailers at a competitive price disadvantage. It also costs state and local governments an estimated $24 billion a year in tax revenues.

“Retail is retail, be it online or in a store,” he said. “All retailers should compete on a level playing field with the same set of sales tax rules. It is only fair.”

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Audio clips:

Bryan Wachter with the Retail Association of Nevada says the two types of businesses are being treated differently and the practice needs to stop:

053012Wachter1 :29 needs to stop.”

Wachter says government should treat everybody the same:

053012Wachter2 :14 Fair is fair.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Rep. Berkley Announces Plan To Permanently End Federal Travel Ban To Las Vegas, Sen. Heller Joins Effort

By Sean Whaley | 3:31 pm April 25th, 2012

CARSON CITY Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., today said she will introduce legislation to permanently end a Bush era ban on cities -  including Las Vegas and Reno – from hosting federal agency and executive branch conferences and conventions.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said he will join Berkley in the effort.

A similar effort in 2009 by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., did not pass.

Heller and Berkley are both seeking the same U.S. Senate seat, filled by Heller in 2011 when he was appointed to the post by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The announcement by the two Nevada members of Congress comes as the fallout continues from a now infamous conference held by the General Services Administration (GSA) in Henderson in 2010.

In remarks on the floor, Berkley said some GOP members of Congress are seeking to attack Nevada’s tourism industry because of the abuses reported regarding the GSA conference.

Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.

“These Republicans are trying to bring back the last administration’s so-called ‘blacklist’ of resort cities like Las Vegas and Reno – prohibiting federal agencies from traveling to hold conferences and seminars,” she said. “This policy has damaged the reputation of my state, hurt our economy and killed jobs.”

Berkley said the blacklist has been lifted by the Obama Administration, but that it is time to make such a policy permanent.

“Las Vegas wasn’t the problem, the irresponsible behavior of the GSA was,” she said. “And that’s why I am going to introduce legislation to prohibit the blacklisting of any city in America.”

Later in the day Heller said he would join in the effort.

“Despite our differing views on the bailouts for Wall Street and Detroit, Obamacare, and stimulus spending that has left many Nevadans out of work, I am pleased to join Congresswoman Berkley in the effort to end the blacklist process by the federal government,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

“Nevada offers the best hospitality and convention services in the world, and Las Vegas, Henderson, Lake Tahoe, and Reno have long been favorite destinations for millions of visitors,” Heller said.  “I have always taken pride in the Nevada delegation working together on Nevada issues, and plan to introduce legislation in the near future.”

While Berkley praised President Obama for ending the federal travel blacklist, she did not bring up his controversial remarks made in 2009 when he told companies receiving federal bailout money that they should not “take a trip to Las Vegas” on the taxpayer’s dime.

Then-Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons, among others, criticized Obama’s remarks, saying they helped stall the state’s economic recovery.

Obama later compounded the controversy when he remarked that responsible people don’t “blow a bunch of cash in Vegas when you’re trying to save for college.”

Nevada is one of several “battleground” states where the 2012 presidential election is expected to be played out in November.

Several congressional committees have held hearings into the GSA conference, which resulted in the resignation of GSA chief Martha Johnson after she dismissed two deputies and suspended other career employees over the incident.

The $823,000 conference was held at the M Resort and Casino, and included a clown and a mind reader. It was the subject of a critical report by the GSA Office of Inspector General.

 

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller Calls On Congress To Continue Defunding Of Yucca Mountain

By Sean Whaley | 1:43 pm April 24th, 2012

CARSON CITY – U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., today sent a letter to the chairmen and ranking members of both the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations asking them to continue defunding the proposed high level nuclear waste repository at Yucca Mountain.

Heller’s letter comes just days after some House Republicans indicated they want to allocate $25 million to revive the Yucca Mountain project.

Yucca Mountain tunnel. / Photo by Daniel Mayer via Wikimedia Commons.

Both the Senate and House Committees on Appropriations are currently preparing their Fiscal Year 2013 Energy, Water, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill.

“As you prepare your Fiscal Year 2013 Energy, Water, and Related Agencies Appropriations bill, I am writing to request that you honor the wishes of the state of Nevada, continue to defund the proposed Yucca Mountain Nuclear Waste Repository, and prioritize funding that seeks alternatives to Yucca Mountain for the long-term storage of our nation’s nuclear waste,” Heller said in his letter.

Heller, who is facing a challenge in his Senate election bid from Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said he has consistently opposed making Nevada the nation’s nuclear waste dump. Berkley has long opposed the dump as well.

“While we need to responsibly develop all of our nation’s energy resources, including nuclear energy, the irresponsible history of Yucca Mountain undermines the integrity of the project,” Heller said in his letter. “Nevadans have a right to be safe in their own backyards, and given the historically politicized nature of this project, I don’t trust the federal government to appropriately manage Yucca Mountain.”

The move by some House Republicans to restart funding for Yucca Mountain reflects concerns expressed by Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., who came in for some criticism for suggesting on his House website earlier this year that Yucca Mountain was not dead because it comes up for discussion in the House on a regular basis.

“While I understand it’s great politics for some of my predecessors to say it’s dead, and all that other sort of stuff, and more power to them, you can’t sit here and listen to those guys talk on the floor every week and walk back and tell Nevadans that you think it’s dead too, OK?” he said in February.

A statement on Amodei’s congressional website says in part: “Let me be clear, I do not believe Yucca Mountain should become a simple dumping site for the nation’s nuclear waste. I believe the Administration and Department of Energy (DOE) should keep funding for the project, while Congress works with the DOE to make the location a bastion of nuclear research and reprocessing.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval also sent a letter to U.S. Department of Energy Secretary Steven Chu in March making it clear that he does not support any type of nuclear waste disposal or interim storage at Yucca Mountain. Sandoval’s letter was in response to the Nye County Commission expressing its support for a Yucca Mountain repository.

The project has been declared dead by some elected officials after President Obama zeroed out funding for it in 2010. U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has also worked successfully to defund the project.

A special bipartisan commission is now calling for a new, “consent oriented” approach to find a suitable location for the disposal of the nation’s high-level nuclear waste.