Posts Tagged ‘James Settelmeyer’

Special Masters Begin Work On Drawing New Nevada Political Boundaries

By Sean Whaley | 3:02 pm October 11th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The business of drawing new political boundaries will now get under way by three court-appointed special masters following two days of public hearings on what Nevada’s legislative and congressional districts should look like for the next decade.

The clock is ticking.

The special masters, Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover, Las Vegas attorney Thomas Sheets and former legislative Research Director Bob Erickson, have 10 days to draw four congressional and 63 legislative districts based on the 2010 U.S. Census data as directed by Carson City District Judge James Todd Russell last month.

Special redistricting masters, from left, Bob Erickson, Thomas Sheets and Alan Glover, take public testimony today. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

Russell will receive the maps on Oct. 21 and release them to the public. By mid-November he will decide whether to accept them or send them back to the special masters for refinement.

All this is happening as the 2012 election season moves ever closer. A number of people have announced they are running for one of the four congressional seats even though there are no districts yet to run in.

The redistricting process outlined by Russell will continue even as the Nevada Supreme Court has decided to weigh in on the issue, which ended up in the courts after the Democrat-controlled Legislature failed to reach a compromise with Republicans on new district lines.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, who vetoed two Democrat-sponsored redistricting bills in the 2011 legislative session, weighed in on the controversy again today when asked, saying there is no reason to call the Legislature back into session to approve new maps. On Monday he said he had not had any conversations with lawmakers about calling them back to deal with redistricting.

” There are no facts and circumstances at this time that would justify calling a special session,” he said.

Sandoval said today he has faith in the judicial system, and the process outlined by Russell, to resolve the impasse.

While the Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for Nov. 14 on questions raised by Secretary of State Ross Miller, it did not stop the process set up by Russell to develop new maps. In his petition filed with the court, Miller argues the state constitution makes it clear that it is the responsibility of the Legislature to draw the political boundaries, not the courts.

Because the court refused to block the process outlined by Russell, the special masters heard public testimony Monday in Las Vegas and today in Carson City on how the maps should be drawn. Twenty-two speakers testified in Las Vegas. Only a handful participated in Carson City.

One major issue for the special masters is whether to draw an urban Las Vegas congressional district that would include much of the Hispanic community. Democrats in their proposed maps split the Hispanic vote among three congressional districts, while Republicans are advocating for creating a single district with a large percentage of Hispanic voters.

At the hearing today, Democrat Forrest Darby presented a new set of maps for the masters to consider, saying the Southern Nevada congressional districts included in the plan would allow either the Republicans or Democrats to win any or all of the three.

Democrat Forrest Darby testifies on his redistricting proposal today in Carson City. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

“We really believe this is a fair map,” he said.

Darby said he has also petitioned Russell to reconsider his requirement that the four congressional seats have virtually no population deviation. A slight deviation would make for cleaner and more logical districts, he said.

“You cannot get down to one person,” Darby said. “If you do you will have horrible, ugly boundary lines, period.”

Also testifying was state Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, who recommended that the special masters look at Assembly Bill 570, the measure creating the 13 new political boundaries for the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents, as a starting point to draw congressional and legislative districts. The bill passed both houses of the Legislature unanimously and was signed into law by Sandoval, he said.

“I voted for it. For me it preserved the communities of interest, it did not pack individuals, it also created a situation where the deviation was only 0.37 percent in the creation of those 13 districts,” Settelmeyer said.

State Sen. James Settelmeyer testifies at the redistricting public hearing today as former Assemblyman Bernie Anderson looks on. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

Former Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, a Democrat from Sparks, said the special masters are qualified to address the issue, but that redistricting is not a responsibility of the court system.

“I am of the opinion, however, that you do not have the authority to do this,” he said. “And I believe it is a question of separation of powers. And my base view is I want to make sure that does get into the record. That this is a legislative issue and should be left to the Legislature to take care of.”

Sheets asked what the answer is to resolving the redistricting issue when the Legislature cannot agree.

“I guess we are an imperfect solution to this problem that seems to have no other resolution if you have intractable parties,” he said.


Audio clips:

Democrat Forrest Darby says Nevada’s congressional districts should have some deviation to make for cleaner lines:

101111Darby :26 what we did.”

State GOP Sen. James Settelmeyer says the special masters should look to the Board of Regents redistricting bill as a starting point:

101111Settelemyer :19 because of that.”

Former state Assemblyman Bernie Anderson says the courts have no authority over redistricting:

101111Anderson :19 take care of.”

Special Master Thomas Sheets says the panel is an imperfect solution to the impasse:

101111Sheets :07 have intractable parties.”


Lawmakers Respond to Poor Marks on Teachers’ Union Report Card

By Anne Knowles | 5:45 am August 30th, 2011

School just started and every Republican state lawmaker has already received a failing grade from Nevada’s teachers’ union.

The Nevada State Education Association (NSEA) has released its 2011 legislative session report card and the 16 Assembly and 11 Senate Republicans all earned an F, according to the statewide association.

“Taking away educators’ rights is not education reform, it’s union-busting,” said the report. “You cannot have proper reform unless the proper funding is in accompaniment. In this regard, the 2011 Legislature came up woefully short.”

But the report didn’t spare either political party.

“NSEA believes this unfortunate outcome lies at the feet of the leadership in both parties, along with Governor Sandoval,” the report says.

Only one Democrat, Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, received a failing mark, while the rest of the members of the Senate Democratic caucus got A or B grades. But more than half the Assembly Democrats fared little better than their Republican colleagues, receiving eight C and seven D grades in total.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, for example, the speaker pro tempore, who is known for her interest in education issues, received a D.

Smith was chairwoman of Assembly Ways and Means, where two major education bills, Assembly Bill 225 and AB 579 originated. AB 225 changed teacher probationary rules and supersedes collective bargaining, while AB 579 funded K-12 education. Smith was also a primary sponsor on two other key bills: AB 222, which created a leadership council to evaluate teacher performance, and AB 229, a broad reform bill.

“I’m disappointed, of course,” said Smith in reaction to her grade. “My whole adult life I’ve worked as an advocate for K-12. I understand the teachers’ union has a job to do, to represent their members on jobs and benefits.  But I’m comfortable with the packages we put forth.”

Republicans lawmakers were less concerned with the report.

“I’m not really as bothered by the failing grade for all the Republicans as I am by the failing grades in our schools,” said Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden.

Settelmeyer said the Republicans were right to work to reform collective bargaining and get rid of the so-called “last in, first out” way of laying-off teachers that protected seniority regardless of performance.

“I think the report shows how out of touch with reality the association is with both the economic situation and the desires of both parents and students,” said Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno.

Kieckhefer said NSEA’s stand on legislation showed it cared more about protecting its adult members than students.

The NSEA disagrees.

“Kids right now are going to school with fewer services and more kids in the classroom,” said Craig Stevens, director of government relations at NSEA. “If they were truly putting kids first, they wouldn’t have done what they did.”

The NSEA says the legislature gutted the budget, cutting $300 million from the previous budget and forcing a 9 percent pay cut on school employees.

In addition, says Stevens, the legislature did nothing to address the state’s budget deficit.

“To truly fix the funding problem we must fix the deficit. They’re going to walk into the next session with a billion dollar hole,” said Stevens. “At least the Democrats came out with a plan to try to fund the budget responsibly. The Republicans made no effort and sat there saying ‘no, no, no.’”

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick (D-North Las Vegas) said she thought lawmakers did the best they could on education measures in light of the challenges of balancing the state budget.

“In my mind, we are sent up to Carson City to make hard choices,” said Kirkpatrick. “And it could have been so much worse. If the taxes that were set to sunset had not been extended, I don’t know that I would have supported deeper cuts — but they were, so we found a way. And I think the reforms were fair.”

The Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI), a conservative think tank based in Las Vegas, characterized the report as misleading, especially on funding issues.

Victor Joecks, communications director for NPRI, said the education budget was cut in a 2010 special session by several hundred million dollars so the budget passed in 2011 actually increased funding slightly.

“It’s a false narrative that flies in the face of reform,” said Joecks of the report.

Joecks said per pupil spending will increase from $5,192 last year to $5,263 this fall and $5,374 in 2012-2013.

He also said that the nine percent cut in teacher pay cited in the report includes contributions teachers will now be making to their Public Employee Retirement System (PERS) accounts. Previously, teachers did not contribute to their retirement accounts.


Senator Roberson’s Majority PAC Debut a Veritable NV GOP Who’s Who

By Elizabeth Crum | 2:07 pm August 21st, 2011

Behold the long list of Host-supporters at the Republican Senate Majority PAC’s kick-off event in Tivoli Village next month. Host contributions are $5,000 so by my math, funds raised will be at least $35,000.

Senator Mike Roberson organized the event and is heading up the GOP effort to raise money and retake the Nevada Senate next year. The Democrats currently have an 11-10 majority, but 10 senate seats will be open come November of 2012.

Some say the role nicely positions Roberson to lead the Republican Senate caucus and if his efforts are successful, possibly the Senate itself.

In June, Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness chose Roberson over veteran state Sen. Barbara Cegavske, who many expected would lead the caucus.

Roberson has said he will work hard to raise money and recruit candidates and that he is “confident” Republicans can win the upper house. He also denies there is any bad blood between he and Cegavske, insisting the two are “on the same page” with what needs to happen over the next 15 months.

In a memorable moment on the senate floor during the 2011 legislative session, Sen. Mike Schneider called Roberson the “rookie from Green Valley” as he criticized him for signing a pledge not to raise taxes.

Looks like the rookie is making a play for permanent pro status, while both parties wait to see how the new Senate districts are drawn.

Roberson has already proven he can raise money and run successful campaigns. During his own 2010 election, Roberson raised $380,000 to unseat incumbent Democrat Joyce Woodhouse.

Another key player in the GOP effort is Sen. James Settelmeyer, whose campaign gave $1o,ooo to Roberson’s campaign at a crucial time last year. Some have floated Settlemeyer’s name for a possible leadership position, but he has so far been non-committal about his interest.


After Tiff, Republicans Offer “Minor Tweaks” To Redistricting Proposal

By Andrew Doughman | 4:46 pm May 3rd, 2011

CARSON CITY — State legislative Republicans have changed their proposals for new state Assembly districts.

The boundaries of some proposed districts were altered today after Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, publicly criticized Senate Republicans for their maps.

“We tried to resolve their concerns,” said Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville. “We heard their issues and concerns and sat down with them.”

Goicoechea said earlier today that the “minor tweaks” to the maps satisfied him.

“They made us a lot happier,” he said.

The amended maps show more boundaries that run along county lines in rural counties and in Washoe county.

Settelmeyer said these changes would mean rural legislators would represent fewer counties. That change allows lawmakers to travel to fewer county meetings in districts that already span hundreds of miles.

The Republicans’ proposal for Clark County Assembly districts largely stays the same.

The two Republican caucuses had drawn separate maps, but Assembly Republicans decided to shelve their proposal after a lawyer recommended that they keep it private.

The lawyer said the proposed map did not correspond with the federal Voting Rights Act, which governs how racial minorities are treated in the redistricting process.

Goicoechea said they would go along with the Senate’s proposals and adopt those as their own.

The proposed maps now also show streets, highways and bodies of water, which should make it easier for Nevadans to analyze the districts.

The updated maps also show district numbers that reflect the current numbers. The earlier maps had changed every district number, which means that no legislator could be deemed an incumbent or use the word “reelect” in a campaign.

Settelmeyer said the original intent had been to ignore incumbents and purely look at data while drawing maps.

Now that the maps are out, however, the numbers have been changed back, he said.

“It makes it easier for people to understand which numbers are which, so it helps eliminate some of the confusion,” he said.

The Nevada Legislature must draw new political districts every 10 years following population statistics released by the U.S. Census Bureau.

The updated proposals can be viewed here.





Rural Lawmakers Could Pay High Price For Backing Governor On Budget

By Andrew Doughman | 4:15 pm April 22nd, 2011

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s rural Republican legislators are struggling to defend the cuts to their communities in the governor’s budget.

Democrats have been showcasing cuts to the rural counties in order to convince rural Republican legislators that a vote for tax increases is a vote to mitigate the harm to their districts.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said that rural counties are already “cut to the bone,” and in many cases could lose all that they have left.

“Are they willing to be so loyal that they hurt the very constituents that elected them?” Horsford asked.

Many of the governor’s budget cuts would affect rural counties. The budget reduces the money going to rural health clinics or shifts that responsibility to county governments. Many clinics and college campuses that have branched out into the countryside are slated to consolidate to more populated areas.

So far, these cuts have not pushed any rural Republicans to voice anything but support for Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposed general fund budget.

“There’s nobody blinking, so to speak, from the rural areas about increasing taxes,” said Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora.

Rural legislators say they understand they must share in the cuts, but that the cuts should be fair. For some Democrats, though, that means rural counties need to shoulder more of the burden.


Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, here speaking before the Senate, has highlighted impacts of Gov. Brian Sandoval's proposed budget. "I'm particularly concerned about the impact to the rural and underserved communities," he said today./PHOTO: Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau

This Monday, Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, said that Washoe and Clark counties have to subsidize the rural counties.

“A lot of you come from areas of the state that are taking from the largest counties of the state,” he said to his fellow legislators in the Assembly chambers.

Horsford has argued that it is unfair for the state to divert property tax revenue from Clark and Washoe counties to the University of Nevada, Reno and the University of Nevada, Las Vegas when counties like Elko and Eureka, beneficiaries of Great Basin College, do not.

The governor’s staff has said that Washoe and Clark counties benefit economically from the state’s two universities and should therefore pay more to support them.

“If you close Great Basin College, which does mining and other training to the mining industry, if you close that campus, that’s going to have a tremendous economic impact to that region,” said Horsford, who earlier urged the Board of Regents to consider closing campuses to save money. “So to suggest that there’s no economic benefit to those rural communities either by underfunding or funding their programs, I’m not understanding their logic.”

The governor’s chief of staff, Heidi Gansert, said that Washoe and Clark counties have more money. The governor is asking all counties to pay for a greater share of health services, but she said the two largest counties can shoulder that burden and rural counties cannot.

Despite this defense, budget cuts in rural counties worried Sandoval enough that he traveled to Elko this past Saturday to listen to concerns from county officials and state legislators.

Rhoads said he had personal chats with the governor during the flights to and from Elko. They discussed cuts to the Wells Honor Camp and the rural bookmobile program. Rhoads said the governor told him he would “add back” funding for these services if the state receives more revenue as the economic recovery inches forward.

“He’s looking at amending this stuff back in now,” said Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko, who also met with the governor in Elko this past Saturday. “I think at the end of the day … I’m hoping it’ll be fair.”

From left to right, Assemblyman John Ellison, R-Elko, Senator Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, and Assemblyman Tom Grady, R-Yerington, watch Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., address the Legislature earlier this week. Gov. Brian Sandoval visited Rhoads and Ellison earlier this week to discuss budget cuts to rural districts. /PHOTO: Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau

Budget Battle Could Pit Urban Against Rural

Sandoval has said before that the Legislature is free to move money around within his budget. As long as the $5.8 billion arrives at his desk without taxes and fee increases, he will sign it.

“If you don’t want to spend more in this account and move it to that account, that’s the Legislature’s prerogative,” said Dale Erquiaga, the governor’s senior adviser, at a press briefing earlier this week.

But Erquiaga later suggested that policy decisions “pitting urban against rural” would be bad for the state.

“I don’t think he [Sandoval] has given a carte blanche,” said Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, suggesting the governor would not sign a budget that overtly hammers rural Republican districts.

Given the magnitude of the governor’s proposed cuts, it is unlikely that any one legislator would be spared cuts to his or her district.

“As long as we’re not taking more than their [urban legislators'] share, everyone is willing to do their part,” said Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon.

But what is “fair” is a matter of debate. Just like in Congress, legislators will try to do what they can for their districts. This time, though, that is less a matter of bringing home the bacon than it is of saving the farmhouse.

State entities, however, may have an monetary incentive to favor urban districts. Centralizing services in cities could save money while reaching the majority of Nevadans.

“We’ll offer fewer classes at fewer locations,” said Nevada System of Higher Education Chancellor Dan Klaich. “In particular, this could impact rural locations that could suffer as our colleges focus on serving the greatest number of students.”

That pressure, however, does not mean rural legislators are pushing to be first in line to vote for a tax increase.

“Most of my constituents have indicated that in these tough times we have to make some cuts,” Settelmeyer said. “Most of them have told me they would prefer to make tough choices [over raising taxes].”

The cuts, though, still could become a bargaining chip. The governor has said he wants “shared sacrifice,” but the Legislature could end up with an Animal Farm scenario in which all cuts are equal, but some cuts are more equal than others.

***UPDATED April 23, 2011 to reflect  that no NSHE entities are fully closing, although some satellite campuses may close.***

Bill Would Remove Overtime Pay Provisions

By Andrew Doughman | 5:16 pm March 28th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Overtime pay for working more than eight hours per day would disappear under a proposal from Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville.

While employers and chambers of commerce supported the bill, Settelmeyer said he brought Senate Bill 332 on behalf of employees.

He said workers in his district told him they wanted more flexibility with their schedules. Currently, employers must pay employees overtime at a rate of 1.5 times the hourly wage any time an employee works more than eight hours in any 16 hour period or one calendar day.

The bill would keep the time and one-half rate for employees who work more than 40 hours per week.

Several restaurant owners testified before a Senate committee that Nevada’s current overtime law prevents flexible schedules beneficial to both employees and employers.

“The regulation in Nevada is onerous and ridiculous,” said Larry Harvey of John Ascuaga’s Nugget casino in Sparks.

Carole Villardo of the Nevada Taxpayers Association testified that a survey from her group identified the daily overtime law as an “impediment” to creating jobs.

She told the Senate Labor, Commerce and Energy Committee, which heard the bill, a story from an Elko restaurant owner.

“If someone does not show up for her breakfast shift the next morning, if she calls someone back in who worked the late shift, she is on overtime,” Villardo said. “That is a major impact to a lot of small businesses.”

Villardo had earlier written that the senator’s bill would put Nevada’s law more in line with the federal Fair Labor Standards Act.

Labor groups opposed the bill, saying it would not be fair to employees.

“There were people who were making minimum wage who were working 16 consecutive hours,” said Jack Mallory, lobbyist for Painters and Allied Traders International Union District Council 15. “And really I think that’s what the existing law is intended to discourage.”

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, asked Mallory whether there was any room for compromise.

“You’re hearing from two different sides of the story,” Mallory said. “You’re hearing from the industries and you’re hearing from groups of employees. I think we have a difference of opinion.”

The committee did not take action on the bill.





Allegations Of Gerrymandering Fly As Legislators Address Redistricting

By Andrew Doughman | 10:50 am March 16th, 2011
CARSON CITY – When it comes to redistricting this year, the line from the Assembly Republicans goes like this: the “fair” process is unfair.

They say the process resulted in gerrymandering in 2001, when the boundaries of political districts were last redrawn.

“It was gerrymandered to death,” said Assemblyman Mark Sherwood, R-Henderson.

Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea started a sentence like this: “Clearly, the way it was gerrymandered in 2001…”

The Assembly Republicans have data from the most recent election that they say shows that the current districts are unfair.

More Nevadans voted for Republicans than Democrats in the state’s 42 Assembly races last year.

But Democrats won 26 races to the Republicans’ 16.

Furthermore, Republican candidates earned more total votes than Democratic candidates during the past decade’s Assembly races.

But Republicans won fewer seats.

When electing representatives to the Assembly for the 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2011 sessions, Democrats won 130 elections while Republicans won 80. Click to enlarge. (Legislative Counsel Bureau)

The past decade has produced a 3-2 Democratic advantage in the Assembly.

After the 2010 election, Victor Joecks of the Nevada Policy Research Institute wrote that the current Assembly districts are unfair.

Among other things, he noted that the largest Republican-controlled district has more voters than the eight smallest Democratic-controlled districts combined.

But Democratic Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who is leading the Assembly’s redistricting committee, shrugged off the claims.

“If you don’t have anything else to argue, argue it,” he said. “Districts have to be equal population. You’re not going to have equal votes.”

“Common sense is wrong.”

Legislators drew all 42 Assembly districts with almost equal populations in 2001.

Every 10 years, legislators redraw the political districts based on the most recent Census data. They put equal numbers of people in each district.

It is people, not voters that define “fair.”

Lorne Malkiewich, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, employs experts to help legislators edit the boundaries of districts.

He said legislators are mandated to draw districts of equal population. The voter population in each district may differ, sometimes markedly.

Gov. Brian Sandoval has already said he wants the Legislature to draft a plan based on equal district populations or he will veto the plan.

“What is counted and what is important is the number of people, not the number of votes cast,” said professor William Eubank of the UNR political science department.

Two districts might have equal populations, but several factors affect voters numbers in each district. Some people cannot vote: children, teens under the age of 18, prisoners and some immigrants. Other demographic factors also predict whether an eligible voter actually will vote.

So what about that 3-2 split in the Assembly when Republican candidates got more votes?

“It’s one of those things that common sense tells you is wrong,” Eubank said. “But common sense is wrong.”

The Growth Problem

Even so, populations grow or shrink, leaving once-equal districts warped.

Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden,  is part of the bi-partisan group “Fair Vote.”

He said the current system is not “fair.”

“I don’t believe the last reapportionment was fair to both parties,” he said. “We did not take into account, which I think we’re obligated to do, growth.”

Take Assembly Districts 13 and 22 for example. Republicans dominate both districts. When they were drawn in 2001, they comprised the outlying areas of Las Vegas.

Assembly Districts 13 and 22, at left and along the bottom of this image, are among the largest in the state because they absorbed population growth in Clark County between 2000 and 2010. (Nevada Legislature)

Now there are more than 220,000 people in each. Another Clark County district, Assembly District 11, contains 42,000 people. Based on the 2010 Census, a district should have 65,000 people.

So it’s a Goldilocks problem. After 10 years of population change, no district is “just right.” Most are either too big or too small.

Republican legislators point to these districts as proof of gerrymandering, suggesting that in 2001, Democrats schemed to lock urban growth in a few Republican-leaning districts. This would restrain Republicans from gaining more seats.

Making the districts equal by population could still help Republicans in urban districts because it would spread out Republican voters currently in those two massive districts.

“If we get districts balanced with people, then the votes will follow,” Goicoechea said. “We’re going to get 65,000 people in each Assembly district and call it good.”

If only it were so simple.

Government Efficiency Panel Calls for Reform to State Employee Pay and Benefit Package

By Sean Whaley | 7:07 pm January 7th, 2010

CARSON CITY – A final report from a panel of private citizens charged with finding efficiencies in state government says the generous salary and benefit package provided to the state workforce is “unaffordable in the short run and unsustainable in the long run.”

“The sooner Nevada addresses this, and the sooner total government employee compensation is brought into parity with the private sector, the sooner the state will achieve a balanced budget allowing it to provide needed citizen services at desired levels,” says the final report from the Nevada Spending and Government Efficiency Commission (SAGE) in a report delivered today to Gov. Jim Gibbons.

“Dealing with this issue alone will save half of all the money contained in the Sage Commission’s recommendations,” said SAGE Chairman Bruce James.

Other findings in the report include:

- The state budgeting process is archaic and in need of revision. The process itself distracts everyone from agency personnel to members of the Legislature from focusing on the big picture by being forced to deal with minutia. We saw example after example of the same basic public services being provided by multiple agencies in a duplicative fashion without any coordination.

- Operating with 200 different units and agencies is unmanageable. In the government sector it seems that once an entity or program is established it seldom goes away regardless of efficacy. The result is a waste of public resources. AS a result, the SAGE Commission has recommended establishing the Nevada Sunset Commission to ensure periodic review of every state government entity and program to make certain it is still doing what it was established to do, is still necessary, and is cost efficient.

- The state needs to address its real estate portfolio. Nevada does not have a real estate plan and it lacks a complete inventory, in one place, of its raw land, improved real estate, leased real estate, and water and mineral rights.

- Nevada state officials lose out on millions of dollars in federal grants because there is no strategic, managed focus on this opportunity as other states do. This should be a full-out, statewide effort involving all jurisdictions eligible for such grants.

James said the SAGE Commissioners spent a lot of their own time and money to provide the 44 money saving and efficiency creating recommendations.

“Just as SAGE commissioners did in their work, we hope our elected public officials can now set aside their partisan differences to put the public’s interest first,” he said.

Gibbons established the SAGE Commission in 2008 as a non-partisan group of professionals who have volunteered their time to seek ways for Nevada government to save money, work more effectively, and perform more efficiently.

“I am delighted with the work of the SAGE Commission, and I am anxious to examine their newest recommendations and work to implement them,” he said after receiving the final report.

Gibbons said he has supported the vast majority of the SAGE Commission’s recommendations over the last year-and-a-half, but that most of the ideas have not been embraced by the Legislature.

“I will continue to pursue implementation of the SAGE Commission recommendations,” Gibbons said. “This Legislature simply must realize that they cannot continue to crush working families by raising taxes and increasing spending.”

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said the Legislature has examined and given careful consideration to the SAGE Commission recommendations. The Legislature did enact some changes to the state retirement system and health benefit plans for new hires this past session, she said.

“But there was a pretty strong bipartisan feeling that it would be unfair to go back on agreements we have made in the past where state employees gave up salary increases to have better health care, for example,” Leslie said.

There seems to be a sense from the commission that the Legislature is not taking its recommendations seriously, which is not the case, she said.

The idea of reorganizing the many units of state government to improve efficiency is worth looking at, Leslie said. But some of Gibbons’ proposed reorganizations, such as combining the Commissions on Tourism and Economic Development, were not well thought out, she said.

Leslie said there are always efficiencies to be found in state government. That is why the Legislature‘s Audit Subcommittee constantly reviews state agency operations.

But absent some big reorganization or cutting a big chunk of money out of the budget, cost savings from such efficiencies are likely to be minimal, she said.

Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, said many of the SAGE recommendations have been ignored by the Legislature, just as past recommendations from previous reviews were ignored. Any changes that are adopted are usually modest, he said.

If some of the recommendations of past reviews had been accepted, Nevada might not be in such dire financial circumstances right now, he said.

But Settelmeyer said he does not believe state employees are excessively compensated. Settelmeyer said he would support a change to the state benefit program for new hires, but not current workers.

“On new hires, we have to change the system,” he said. “We need to change from a defined benefit to a defined contribution system.”

Rather than look at current state employee pay and benefits, Settelmeyer said he would like to see a comprehensive review of programs created over the past several sessions when times were good to see if some can be eliminated. Eliminating new programs the state can’t afford could help get the budget back in balance, he said.

Yerington National Guard Rec Center Gets Holiday Makeover Courtesy of First Friday Reno and Local Lawmaker

By Sean Whaley | 12:22 pm December 29th, 2009

CARSON CITY – When the 80 members of Yerington’s L Troop of the 1st Squadron 221st Cavalry return from their one-year mission to Afghanistan in April, they will have a surprise waiting for them in addition to what will undoubtedly be a joyous homecoming with family and friends.

Rec center's old sofa classifed as "Early American Basement"

Rec center's old sofa classifed as "Early American Basement"

Having heard that the furniture in the troop’s Yerington recreation room dated from the 1970s and was described as “early American basement,” a group called First Friday Reno and Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, decided to do something about it.

Paul Jackson, organizer of the monthly conservative and libertarian social event called First Friday, said $1,400 was raised selling raffle tickets to win one of three firearms.

The money was then used to refurnish the rec room with new furniture from RC Willey Home Furnishings.

Included in the project was a 60-inch HD TV.

Jackson said RC Willey helped out in a big way by discounting the items. The fundraiser also generated $200 for the unit’s Family Readiness Group.

The furniture and television were delivered Dec. 22, just in time for Christmas.

60" big screen TV is delivered

60" big screen TV is delivered

“We just wanted to make their lives a bit easier when they get back here,” Settelmeyer said. “We all appreciate their sacrifice. No amount of money can repay them for their service. All we can do is good deeds.”

“The guys deserve it,” Jackson said. “When you’re spending time somewhere, you need a place to relax, write a letter, get on the computer or watch some TV.”

Most of the guardsmen and women assigned to the Yerington troop come from Carson City, Dayton, Reno, Sparks, Fallon and Fernley.

Those on deployment are serving in Laghman Province in southeast Afghanistan. They are providing security for a reconstruction team and are conducting combat and infantry missions.

Service men test out the new furniture and TV

Service men test out the new furniture and TV

The First Friday Reno event this month will be held Jan. 8 because of the New Year’s Holiday.

It will be at Harrah’s Reno Hotel & Casino in the Sapphire Lounge starting at 5:30 p.m.