Posts Tagged ‘Gov. Jim Gibbons’

Las Vegas Attorney Readies Nevada For U.S. Supreme Court Review Of Federal Health Care Law

By Sean Whaley | 2:43 pm November 15th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The Las Vegas attorney representing Nevada in the 26-state challenge to the new federal health care law says the case is critically important because of the mandate for people to purchase health insurance.

“Never before in our nation’s history has the federal government required its citizens to purchase a product or service as a condition of citizenship in this country,” said Mark Hutchison, who is representing Nevada without charge in the case. “This case is of high importance to all Nevadans, because if the federal government can require us to purchase health insurance, then they can require us to purchase anything they choose.”

Hutchison, in a statement issued Monday when the U.S. Supreme Court agreed to hear the case, said the initial written briefs are due Dec. 29. Oral arguments are expected to be in March. The court will issue a decision in the case before its term expires at the end of June 2012.

U.S. Supreme Court.

First appointed by Gov. Jim Gibbons, and then re-affirmed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, Hutchison was named to serve as lead special counsel for the state when Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto declined to represent the state in the federal litigation.

In addition to the 26 states, the National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) is a party to the challenge.

Randi Thompson, Nevada state director for the NFIB, said in a statement Monday: “This act is already increasing the cost of health care on Nevadans, increasing costs to Nevada taxpayers for Medicaid and Medicare coverage, and causing business owners to even drop coverage for their employees. Health care needs to be more accessible and affordable, but this act is not the way to reach that goal.”

Others also weighed in on the decision.

White House Communications Director Dan Pfeiffer issued this statement: “Earlier this year, the Obama Administration asked the Supreme Court to consider legal challenges to the health reform law and we are pleased the court has agreed to hear this case.

“Thanks to the Affordable Care Act, one million more young Americans have health insurance, women are getting mammograms and preventive services without paying an extra penny out of their own pocket and insurance companies have to spend more of your premiums on health care instead of advertising and bonuses. We know the Affordable Care Act is constitutional and are confident the Supreme Court will agree,” he said.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said in a statement: “Nevada families and businesses are already struggling in this current economic environment, and the president’s job killing health care law is making a difficult situation worse. The law’s excessive taxes, expensive regulations and questionable constitutionality 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.

“While the Supreme Court considers this case, the president should work with Congress to find real solutions to health care reform so the excessive mandates in this law do not add to our national debt or hurt our struggling economy,” he said.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said in a statement: “Families, seniors and small businesses in Nevada and across the country are reaping the benefits of health insurance reform. Prescription drug costs for seniors are falling as the Medicare ‘donut hole’ closes, insurance companies can no longer deny coverage to children with pre-existing conditions, and business owners are taking advantage of tax breaks.

“Just last week, a conservative judge appointed by President Reagan ruled that this legislation is constitutional, and I am confident the high court will do the same,” he said.

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said in a statement: “I believe that the individual mandate is unconstitutional and it is my hope that the Supreme Court will overturn it. Already, during my short time in Congress, I voted to repeal a provision of the president’s health care law that raised eligibility for Medicaid far beyond the intended poverty level. This correction is estimated to save taxpayers at least $13 billion over 10 years.

“I eagerly await the court’s decision and from there we’ll be able to assess the path for repealing what amounts to government control of 16 percent of our economy,” he said.

A number of federal courts have weighed in on the law with sometimes contradictory rulings on the constitutionality of the law and the individual mandate. President Obama signed the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act into law in March 2010.

The U.S. Supreme Court decided to use the case filed by the states, including Nevada, and the NFIB, to determine the constitutionality of the law.

Nevada and the other states challenged the law in federal court in the Northern District of Florida. U.S. District Court Judge Roger Vinson ruled in the states’ favor and declared the individual mandate in the federal health care law unconstitutional. He declared the entire law unconstitutional without the mandate.

The 11th U.S. District Court Appeals then upheld Vinson’s ruling on the individual mandate but said the rest of the law could stand.

The U.S. Supreme Court will now take up the issues of whether the individual mandate is constitutional and whether the entire law is unconstitutional if the individual mandate is unlawful.

The individual mandate requires all U.S. citizens and residents to purchase health insurance from a private company or face government-imposed penalties enforced by the Internal Revenue Service.

“We are pleased that the highest court in the country will make a final decision about the constitutional fate of the healthcare legislation,” Hutchison said. “The states are confident that the U.S. Supreme Court will determine that the law is unconstitutional.”

Nevada DMV to Begin Issuing New Licenses that Comply with Federal Real ID Act

By Sean Whaley | 12:42 pm January 7th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s first drivers’ licenses and identification cards that comply with the federal Real ID Act will be issued beginning Monday here in the capital.

The Advanced Secure Issuance, or 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.

The new cards will then roll out Feb. 1 in Reno followed by the rest of the state.

Because the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles has met the first 18 benchmarks of the federal Real ID Act, the licenses and ID cards Nevadans currently possess will be good for federal purposes for several years. The department recommends that motorists wait until their normal renewal date in the years ahead before applying for an ASI card.

“This will not have any immediate impact on most Nevadans,” said DMV Director Edgar Roberts. “The federal government will continue to accept Nevada licenses and ID cards because we are in compliance with the Real ID Act.”

The documents required to prove identity for an ASI card are the same documents Nevada already requires for first-time licensees and new residents. The difference is that DMV will be accepting only those documents it can electronically verify. The only additional information required for an ASI card is a utility bill or phone bill to prove residency.

The department says that some concerns about the Real ID Act have no basis in fact, such as the act requiring a Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) chip in driver’s licenses or a national database of driver information.

When Gov. Jim Gibbons signed emergency regulations last month that allowed the department to comply with federal law, he included specific language to prohibit the use of RFID chips or other technology used to track individuals. The regulations also define how the DMV will store and restrict access to personal identification data.

Governor Gibbons Unveils Education Reform Plan – Political Rivals Raise Questions

By Sean Whaley | 5:49 pm January 6th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons today released a plan to make sweeping changes to the state’s public education system with what he said is an eye towards giving parents and local government more control over how state tax dollars are spent educating Nevada’s children.

“This is all about choice and efficiency,” Gibbons said. “We must give more control over our children’s education to their parents and take back power from bureaucrats, unions and other officials.

“We must start asking the question, if this dollar is not spent helping a child learn, then why is it being spent,” he said.

The plan calls for eliminating a mandate for class size reduction in the lower elementary grades and for the repeal of collective bargaining for teachers and local government workers.

Gibbons is running for reelection this year but faces a strong challenge from fellow Republican candidates in the June primary. He made his announcement in Las Vegas.

The plan provoked an immediate comment from Clark County Commission Chairman Rory Reid, who is running for governor as a Democrat.

He said: “This is not a serious effort at education reform. It is a fundamentally flawed effort to solve a fiscal problem.”

Both Republican primary challengers, former U.S. District Judge Brian Sandoval, and former North Las Vegas Mayor Mike Montandon, also raised questions about the plan.

“While I’m an advocate of school choice, expanding empowerment schools and increased parental involvement, I believe it is an extremely bad idea to be laying off hundreds of teachers in a time of record unemployment in Nevada,” Sandoval said in a statement.

The layoffs would occur if the class size reduction program was eliminated in the state’s public schools.

Montandon said the ideas are worthwhile, but he questioned the timing.

“I don’t see a problem with the content,” Montandon said. “But the timing is strange. He had a marvelous opportunity to do these things for the past several years.

“I’ve been pushing the ideas of school vouchers and merit pay for over a year,” he said. “These are not new ideas. Empowerment schools work. Vouchers work. These programs should have been put in place a long time ago.”

Gibbons’ proposals include:

- Cut multi-level administrative bureaucracies at larger school districts.

- Allow smaller districts to consolidate.

- Give local school districts the ability to use their basic student support funding at their own discretion rather than have the money earmarked for specific programs.

- Eliminate laws requiring local governments and school districts to enter into collective bargaining agreements with employees.

“Unions do nothing to help educate our children,” Gibbons said. “The unnecessary tax money expended for union negotiations and special benefits can be used in classrooms to help our children learn, not pay for union officials or promote costly and often hostile negotiations.”

- Adopt a statewide school voucher program for all parents and students to have school choice.

- Eliminate the elected state Board of Education and instead establish an advisory panel with members appointed by the governor and Legislature.

- Eliminate the requirement in Nevada law for class size reduction at the lower elementary grade levels. This alone would save $127 million in fiscal year 2011, Gibbons said.

- Eliminate a statutory requirement for full-day kindergarten. This would save another $28 million in fiscal year 2011.

“These and other proposals will save money and will pry our children’s education out of the hands of government bureaucrats and put it in the hands of parents and teachers,” Gibbons said. “These proposals will also help us through this unprecedented economic crisis.”

Gibbons is facing another year as governor with lower than expected tax revenues, the potential for severe budget cuts and an economy that includes a double-digit unemployment rate.

A special session of the Legislature to deal with these issues could come as soon as February.

Reid also questioned why Gibbons has proposed an education plan now, noting that two sessions of the Legislature have passed while he has been governor.

The plan, which Reid described as being from the “right wing playbook,” has come only now that his “back is against the wall and his political future is at risk.”

“I’m running for governor, but I’m also a parent,” he said. “I’d much rather have my child in a classroom with 19 other kids than 50 other kids. I think it is common sense that dictates that we want our classes to be as small as they can be.”

Education is critically important to diversifying the state’s workforce and creating an educated workforce for the future, Reid said.

As to the call for eliminating collective bargaining, Reid said Gibbons should work with involved parties to come to an agreement on how to solve the state’s pressing budget problems rather than calling people names.

“What we need is leadership,” he said.

Chancellor Says Nevada Higher Education System Will Plan for 8 Percent Budget Cuts

By Sean Whaley | 9:42 am January 6th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Chancellor Dan Klaich has informed the state budget office that the higher education system will participate in a budget cutting exercise in the event spending reductions are needed due to lower than expected tax revenues.

In a letter to state Budget Director Andrew Clinger sent Monday, Klaich said a special meeting of the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education has been set for Feb. 2 to consider the 8 percent budget reduction plans that will be submitted by each campus.

The 8 percent reductions are in the middle of the 6 percent, 8 percent and 10 percent cuts requested by Clinger in a memo sent out last month to all state agencies.

“I have directed the campuses to focus on the mid-range of cuts between 6 percent and 10 percent outlined in your All Agency Memorandum,” Klaich said.

The letter is a departure from Klaich’s first response to the request for budget cutting scenarios on Dec. 8, when he urged Gov. Jim Gibbons to find alternatives to cutting the higher education budget.

“Governor, I know you made a promise to the people of this state concerning taxes,” he said in the December letter. “However, the current situation and further requests for budget cuts will lead to the dismantling of critical structures and functions of higher education that do not serve the state. There must be another way.”

In the Monday letter, Klaich continued to urge that the majority of any budget cuts come in the second year of the two-year budget, not the current fiscal year which is now more than six months over.

“Contracts have been issued, class schedules set, and registration is largely complete,” he said. “I believe that utilizing proper cash flow techniques and other options available, including acceleration of use of the already budgeted line of credit, that cuts this fiscal year, at a minimum to education, can be avoided.”

There is a $160 million line of credit included to help balance the two-year state general fund budget, but $130 million is scheduled to be used next fiscal year. If the full amount is used this year instead, some cuts could potentially be avoided until 2011.

The Gibbons Administration has not endorsed this idea, saying it would just make the budget gap even bigger in the second year.

The cuts now being contemplated by Gibbons could start as soon as March 1 this fiscal year.

In his letter, Klaich noted that enrollment in the system is up 4 percent as more Nevada residents seek to improve their skills in a tough job market.

Enrollment caps at the system’s campuses has been discussed, he said.

“While this is a highly undesirable result with long-term ramifications for the state, it can’t be ruled out should worst case scenarios, such as the levels addressed in your memo, come to fruition,” he said.

An 8 percent reduction in the final four months of this fiscal year would mean $13.4 million in cuts to the eight campus system. An 8 percent reduction in the full 2011 fiscal year would total $40 million.

Gibbons is considering budget cuts to balance the state budget, which is now $67 million in the red in just the first few months of the 2010 fiscal year. No decision has been made on what level of cuts may be required.

Gibbons is waiting for a Jan. 22 report from the Economic Forum, a panel of private citizens with fiscal expertise, before making any budget decisions. A special session of the Legislature may be required to implement any budget cuts.

Economic Forum to Weigh in on State General Fund Budget on Jan. 22

By Sean Whaley | 4:59 pm January 4th, 2010

CARSON CITY – The Nevada Economic Forum will meet Jan. 22 to provide its analysis of state general fund revenue collections for the remainder of the two-year budget to Gov. Jim Gibbons and the Legislature.

Gibbons asked the panel, made up of five private citizens with fiscal expertise charged with projecting tax revenues during legislative sessions, to meet initially by Jan. 19 to update its state tax revenue projections. That deadline was extended to Jan. 22. The panel will make projections for the major revenue sources, from sales and gaming to the insurance premium tax.

Gibbons has said he wants input from the panel before deciding when and if to call a special session to deal with a state general fund budget shortfall that is currently $67 million.

Tomorrow is the deadline for state agency chiefs to submit budget cutting scenarios reflecting what reductions of 6 percent, 8 percent and 10 percent would mean to the programs and services they provide.

Budget reduction plans reflecting cuts of 1.4 percent and 3 percent were already provided to Gibbons last month. The newer, higher level of cuts reflect concerns that the state’s general fund revenue collections will not recover as expected when the Legislature approved a balanced budget in June.

In addition to the lower than projected tax revenue collections, the state Medicaid budget is expected to see a deficit of $55 million by the end of the two-year budget on June 30, 2011, due to unexpected caseload growth.

Gibbons said the purpose of providing him with the different budget cutting scenarios is to begin to develop a proposed list of cuts that would do the least harm to essential programs and services.

“What I’m asking them to do is prioritize everything so we can look at the least important, the least impactful thing that each agency does, and we’ll start looking at the bottom and working our way up,” he said.

Any cuts required as part of a plan to balance the state budget could be implemented as soon as March 1 for this fiscal year, and for the entirety of the 2010-2011 fiscal year that begins July 1.

Gibbons has asked state employees for their advice on budget cuts, and he has had one meeting with lawmakers to seek their input as well. More meetings with lawmakers are expected before a decision to call a special session is made.

Gibbons has said everything is on the table for discussion, including the potential of state employee layoffs.

Only the governor can call the Legislature into special session.

Whether the budget shortfall will require a special session has not been determined. But lawmakers are expected to be called to the capital by June to take action on a separate issue, a provision in state law that is keeping the state from applying for federal “Race to the Top” funds to improve schools.

Gibbons said he will seek a special session to repeal the law, which prohibits the use of student achievement data from being used to evaluate teachers.

The law must be changed or repealed by the end of May so the state can apply for as much as $175 million in funding.

Legislators Comment on New Report Giving Governor, State Senate Low Grades on Racial Equity Legislation

By Sean Whaley | 8:00 pm December 17th, 2009
CARSON CITY – A first-ever report that says it tracked bills in the 2009 session of the Nevada Legislature having to do with racial equity issues gives the state Assembly high marks and Gov. Jim Gibbons an “F”.

The state Senate didn’t fare much better than Gibbons, getting a D+ for its racial equity votes, according to the report released earlier this week by the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, or PLAN.

The Assembly, because it passed 10 of 10 racial equity bills, received an A+ in the analysis, which also gives a grade to every individual lawmaker and shows their votes on the Legislation.

The Senate passed six of nine such measures, earning it the low grade.

Gibbons received his F grade for signing only three of the seven racial equity measures that passed both houses of the Legislature. Three of the vetoes were overridden by the Legislature, so six measures actually became law from the 2009 session.

In all, 18 measures were tracked for the report.

Following the release of the report, PLAN members delivered the document to Gibbons’ office.  Gibbons had not been given a copy of the report in advance, although all lawmakers were both mailed and emailed a copy in advance of its release to the public.

Dan Burns, a spokesman for Gibbons, said only: “The governor believes PLAN should take five seconds to tell him everything they know about good, responsive government.”

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, the first black Senate majority leader in Nevada history, received a C- for his voting record on the measures. He could not be reached for comment.

The best grade in the Senate was given to David Parks, D-Las Vegas, who received a B.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, received an A-.

“Race matters in Nevada,” said Bob Fulkerson, executive director of PLAN. “But as demographics shift, the unprecedented growth in communities of color is not being echoed in the policy decisions of the Governor and state Legislature.

“Disparities in opportunity, access and outcomes between white Nevadans and Nevadans of color are stark – in some cases, among the worst in the nation,” he said.

Lawmakers leveled some criticisms at the report.

Sen. Bob Coffin, D-Las Vegas, who received a D- in the report card, said the PLAN analysis uses a flawed methodology because lawmakers do not know in advance which specific measures will be evaluated after the session is over.

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, said he had different reasons for voting against some of the bills cited in the report card rather than any disagreement over the need for racial and social equality.

Goedhart received an F- in the report despite having voted for the domestic partners legislation. He questioned why the domestic partners bill, which doesn’t deal specifically with racial equity, was included in the report in the first place.

“I appreciate PLAN’s dedication to the mission of racial equality,” he said. “I voted against some of the measures not because I disagree, but because I came at the bills with a different perspective.”

Goedhart said he opposed the bill to reopen F Street in Las Vegas because of the cost, not the access issue cited by PLAN. He said he voted against a bill requiring the licensing of off road vehicles because he viewed it as a new tax and government mandate.

“We had to face the reality of our budget limitations,” he said. “We have to be good stewards of public monies.”

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, who received an A-, said she believes the PLAN report has value because it focuses on a single area of concern that is important to the organization, lawmakers and the public at large. Many different groups issue similar report cards on different sets of specific issues, she said.

“On the Assembly side I’m very pleased with the overall grade,” Leslie said. “We take issues of racial equity very seriously.”

The report is just one more tool for lawmakers and the public to use and serves to bring attention to an important issue, she said.

“It is fair to hold us accountable,” Leslie said. “Although I would say they were very tough graders.”

The Nevada Legislative Report Card on Racial Equity evaluated and graded lawmakers and Gibbons on legislation that they claim, if passed, would have a positive impact on communities of color. Only bills that received votes in the full Assembly and Senate were used to compile the grades. Bills that died in committee and did not get a full vote in that house of the Legislature were not counted.

Among the measures becoming law this year were Assembly Bill 243, which requires employers to grant leave to parents to participate in certain school activities, and Assembly Bill 149, which revises provisions on home foreclosures.

Those that failed included Assembly Bill 443, which would have given minority voters more power to elect candidates in their wards in Reno and Sparks. The measure passed the Assembly but did not come out of the Senate Government Affairs Committee. Another was Assembly Bill 190, which would have required a study of issues concerning the death penalty. It passed the Assembly but did not come out of the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee.

Among those that became law despite a veto by Gibbons was Senate Bill 283, which revised provisions regarding the rights of domestic partners, and Assembly Bill 304, relating to the preservation of existing neighborhoods. This measure is related to the closure of F Street in Las Vegas, cutting off a historically black neighborhood from downtown businesses.

To back up their conclusions of growing racial inequality in Nevada, PLAN cited statistics that show 50 percent of minority groups received high interest loans compared to only 30 percent of white borrowers, and that nearly 60 percent of white residents receive employer-sponsored health care, compared to 22 percent for Latinos and 7 percent for black residents.

“They are sincere,” Sen. Coffin said of PLAN. “But we don’t always look at bills in terms of race. Their goal is to make you see things in racial terms, and frankly, I don’t vote that way.”

Coffin, who is half Mexican, did say the report can be of some use because lawmakers can now look back at the bills in the PLAN report and evaluate them on racial equity grounds.

The full report is available at the PLAN website.