Posts Tagged ‘Marcus Conklin’

Many New Faces In Nevada Legislature For 2013

By Sean Whaley | 12:10 pm November 7th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The 63-member Nevada Legislature will see quite a few new faces when it convenes Feb. 4, including 11 members in the Assembly and 10 members in the Senate, although several newly elected state senators have moved up from the Assembly.

One of the new Assembly members is Democrat Ellen Spiegel in District 20 in Henderson, who served in the 2009 session but lost re-election in 2010. Also new will be Republican Wes Duncan in District 37. Duncan unseated Democrat Marcus Conklin in the only loss by an incumbent in the 42-member Assembly.

Newly elected Assemblyman Wes Duncan.

One newly elected Assembly candidate’s future is in legal limbo. Democrat Andrew Martin won in Assembly District 9 in Las Vegas, but a Clark County District judge on Monday ruled him ineligible for the seat because he did not reside in the district. The ruling could be appealed to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Democrats now have a 27-15 majority in the Assembly.

In the 21-member Senate, five of the new members have all served in the Assembly. They include Democrats Tick Segerblom, Kelvin Atkinson, and Debbie Smith, and Republicans Scott Hammond and Pete Goicoechea.

A sixth new member, Joyce Woodhouse, previously served a term in the state Senate but lost re-election in 2010.

Only four new Senate members have no previous legislative experience: Democrats Patricia Spearman, who defeated Democratic incumbent John Lee in the primary, Justin Jones and Aaron Ford; and Republican Mark Hutchison.

Democrats maintained their narrow 11-10 edge over Republicans in the Senate for the 2013 session after several extremely close races split between the two parties in Tuesday’s election.

 

GOP Assembly Leader Predicts Gains On Tuesday

By Sean Whaley | 3:37 pm October 31st, 2012

CARSON CITY – Assembly Republican caucus leader Pat Hickey said he expects to pick up seats for the GOP in the upcoming election, but declined to predict today exactly how big a dent his candidates will make in the 26-member Democratic majority on Nov. 6.

Hickey, R-Reno, said he does expect to see an increase from the 16 seats Republicans have now in the 42-member Assembly. The party has opportunities because of the new political boundaries drawn by a panel of special masters as a result of the 2010 census, he said.

Assembly GOP caucus Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno.

Hickey, interviewed on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, said he is optimistic about the chances of victory for David Espinosa, the GOP candidate challenging Democrat Skip Daly in Assembly District 31 in Sparks, and for Wes Duncan, who is challenging Assembly Majority Leader Marcus Conklin in District 37 in Las Vegas, among others.

“Conklin’s race is certainly one where it went from a district that was 17 percent Democrat to now roughly even in registration, and having a very attractive candidate like Wes Duncan, Marcus is in for the race of his life,” Hickey said. “But we’re close in quite a number of our races.”

Hickey said he won’t make any firm predictions however, given the unpredictability of the individual races.

“So I’m not going to give you a number of how many we might win but we think we’re going to increase our numbers and we might be very happy on election night depending on how well (Mitt) Romney and the upper ticket folks do in Nevada,” he said.

While party officials and observers are closely watching the state Senate races to see which party will have a majority in the 2013 legislative session, the Assembly contests have received less media attention because Democrats are expected to maintain control.

But some of the races have generated controversy.

The Conklin campaign team was criticized by Hickey and Assembly Republicans last week after one of Conklin’s campaign workers was photographed removing Duncan campaign materials left at district homes.

“It’s one thing to be competitive; it’s another thing to, if you will, steal another opponent’s literature,” Hickey said.

There was no claim made that the theft of the literature came at the direction of Conklin, Hickey said.

The Conklin campaign did not immediately reply to an email seeking comment.

Not all of the 42 Assembly races are in contention, however. Nine Assembly incumbents, five Republicans and four Democrats, have no opponents at all and will win automatically on Tuesday.

Hickey said he remains optimistic about the chances for Republican candidates to win their races despite the strong Democratic voter registration edge statewide, especially in Clark County. Party candidates are using the hands-on approach by walking the districts and talking to voters face-to-face, he said.

“You walk, you win; you don’t, you may not,” Hickey said.

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Audio clips:

Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey says redistricting has given Republicans a chance to win seats in the Assembly:

103112Hickey1 :22 do in Nevada.”

Hickey says redistricting has made Majority Leader Marcus Conklin’s seat competitive:

103112Hickey2 :14 of our races.”

Hickey says Republican candidates are relying on face-to-face contact with voters to win:

103112Hickey3 :16 you may not.”

 

 

Nevada Secretary Of State Seeks More Campaign Disclosure, Restrictions In Proposed ‘Aurora Act’

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 4:47 pm October 2nd, 2012

CARSON CITY – Increased financial disclosure, greater restrictions on contributions and gifts, and tougher penalties for campaign violations are the goals of new legislation for the 2013 Legislature detailed today by Secretary of State Ross Miller.

The “Aurora Act,” named for the new campaign contribution and expense search function now available at the Secretary of State’s website, includes language that would mandate near real time reporting of large dollar campaign contributions and expenses, further define the prohibition on personal use of campaign funds and significantly restrict the ability of candidates and public officials to receive “gifts” from donors who may pose a conflict of interest.

Secretary of State Ross Miller.

The proposed legislation also includes provisions to allow the Secretary of State’s office to seek injunctive relief to order individuals or groups to file campaign finance reports, and substantially increased penalties for violations.

Miller said the campaign reform measures passed in the 2011 legislative session were the most comprehensive in Nevada history.

“We’ve made progress in increasing transparency and accountability in recent sessions, but we can clearly do more and do better,” he said. “I believe that we will have an initial coalition of lawmakers that can make this happen. If we want meaningful reform to occur, we need to call on all candidates and elected officials to support the ‘Aurora Act.’ We’ve all heard the lip service to this issue, but I believe that with the public’s help, we can get enough support from both sides of the aisle to bring much needed sunshine to this state.”

Initial support for Miller’s “Aurora Act” has been expressed by Assemblymen Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, and Pat Hickey, R-Reno, and by former state Sen. Sheila Leslie who is the Democratic candidate for Senate District 15 in Reno.

Hickey earlier this year called for his own set of reforms.

Hickey said: “ While there may be more or less added to Secretary Miller’s proposals, there should be widespread bi-partisan support for cleaning up campaigns and the conduct of candidates at all levels.”

Leslie said: “This is an opportunity for lawmakers to step up and give our constituents the information they need to make informed decisions, and to develop a greater level of trust between the people and their public servants.”

Leslie in 2011 proposed legislation that would have required lobbyists to report spending on lawmakers year round, and not just during legislative sessions. The bill died in an Assembly Committee. She requested the same bill for the 2013 session.

Conklin said the proposal could set an important tone for the legislature.

“We want to come away with an increased transparency, and in doing so demonstrate to Nevadans that their lawmakers can work in a bipartisan manner to effect meaningful change,” he said.

Miller’s legislation would require:

- Increased disclosure and transparency into the money being spent in Nevada’s elections by defining “electioneering communication” and “independent expenditure” to clarify who is required to disclose and when they are required to disclose money spent on Nevada candidates by third-party groups.

- Clarifying the term “personal use” to prevent campaign contributions from being used by a candidate for personal use.

- Clarifying that any expenditures made from a candidate or public official’s campaign account must always be reported.

- Requiring public officials and candidates to report their contributions on hand at the beginning of each year so the public will know how much money public officials and candidates are carrying over from year to year. Currently, only the contribution totals received within a calendar year are reported.

- Reporting within 72 hours contributions received or expenses paid in excess of $1,000 to provide the public with more “real time” reporting through an election cycle.

- Clarifying that the Secretary of State may seek injunctive relief for campaign finance violations to ensure that individuals and groups must not only pay a financial penalty but also actually disclose their activity.

- Allowing the Secretary of State to seek in penalties up to three times the amount of money at issue in a reporting violation. This change will give the office more flexibility in seeking penalties that are more in line with the amount of money involved reporting violations.

- Restricting and clarifying laws related to the acceptance of gifts by public officials by better defining “gift” and “restricted donor.” Changes will set forth from whom it is legal to accept gifts, and provide a clear list of examples of gifts that may or may not be accepted and must be disclosed on public reports.

Lawmaker Panel Unanimously Selects Staffer Richard Combs As New Director Of Legislative Counsel Bureau

By Sean Whaley | 3:41 pm May 15th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Richard Combs, currently an Assembly fiscal analyst and member of the LCB staff since 1994, was the unanimous choice today of a legislative panel to become the next director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau.

The recommendation of the Committee to Consult with the Director will now go to the Legislative Commission for action later this month.

The committee interviewed five candidates for the position today, including four current members of the Legislative Counsel Bureau staff. The fifth candidate was the assistant director of the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel for the state of Utah.

Lawmakers on the panel came down to two finalists after the interviews: Combs and Paul Townsend, currently the legislative auditor and a member of the LCB staff since 1987.

Members of the panel discussed the need to hire a director who could be ready for the 2013 legislative session while at the same time seeking someone with leadership capabilities.

“Always in the back of our mind is next session because it is like the inevitable, right,” said Assembly Majority Leader Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas. “But there are more sessions past that too. And the next person, at least in theory, could be here for awhile. And you want somebody who can carry on the traditions, deliver all the services that LCB currently does, but is also open to change, open to new ways of accomplishing the same thing, maybe more efficient.”

Combs will succeed Lorne Malkiewich, who retired as director of the LCB in early April after serving in the position for more than 18 years. The position pays $138,000 a year.

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Audio clip:

Assemblyman Marcus Conklin says the new director should be someone who is open to change:

051512Conklin :29 maybe more efficient.”

 

GOP Assembly Candidate Criticizes Democrat Incumbent For Napa Valley Fundraiser

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 3:29 pm April 24th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Republican Assembly District 37 candidate Wes Duncan today called on his Democratic opponent, Assembly Majority Leader Marcus Conklin, to cancel a pharmaceutical fundraiser in Napa, California set for Wednesday.

“With Nevada businesses struggling, I cannot believe that Assemblyman Conklin would hold a fundraiser in Napa, California,” Duncan said. “Assemblyman Conklin talks about promoting business in Nevada, but when it comes to his own campaign, he is happy to send his money out of state when most Nevadans are facing difficult times.”

Napa Valley. / By Aaron Logan, from http://www.lightmatter.net/gallery/albums.php {{cc-by}} via Wikimedia Commons.

Duncan said the state’s elected representatives should be focused on bringing business back to Nevada, including large political fundraisers that would give business to Nevada restaurants and resorts, purchase Nevada products and employ Nevada workers.

“This campaign definitely won’t be holding fundraisers in California that don’t help Nevada businesses,” he said.

The Conklin campaign has not yet responded to a request for comment on Duncan’s criticisms.

Duncan and Conklin are the only two candidates in the race for District 37, located in Clark County.

Conklin is not the first Nevada Assembly Democrat to be criticized for an out-of-state fundraiser.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, a candidate for the 3rd Congressional District in Las Vegas now held by Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., also came in for some criticism for holding lavish fundraisers, including a wine tasting event in Napa, in his 2009-10 Assembly re-election bid.

Oceguera defended the events, saying campaigns are more competitive and require more innovation.

State Fiscal Constraints Holding Up Interim Studies Of Public Education, Retirement System

By Sean Whaley | 1:51 pm February 15th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The state of Nevada’s tough financial situation is holding up two separate interim studies approved by the Legislature because of the requirement for alternative funding sources to assist in conducting the reviews.

One is a study of the state Public Employees’ Retirement System and the other is a study of the funding formula now used for public education. Both studies require non-state funding, but proponents are having a hard time coming up with the money.

Typically there is state funding appropriated for interim studies by the Legislature. But the state’s difficult fiscal situation led to the imposition of the financial requirements for the two studies.

Retirement system review requires $250,000 in private cash up front

Gov. Brian Sandoval and lawmakers approved a study of the state public pension system with an eye towards evaluating the need for a change for future state and local government hires to a “defined contribution”  or some modified type of plan.

But the study outlined in Assembly Bill 405 requires a $250,000 contribution from the private sector to be secured before another $250,000 appropriation from the state could be used for such an assessment.

The private funding has been hard to come by.

Heidi Gansert, chief of staff to Sandoval, said other options are being explored by representatives of Nevada’s business community interested in such a review.

Sandoval Chief of Staff Heidi Gansert, right, with former budget director Andrew Clinger. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

“They had to meet the $250,000 threshold before state funds would be released and so I think the issue was the level of funding required, private funding, versus getting some funding for it,” she said. “There may be some private sector folks that are still going to work on some form of study.

“My understanding is the $250,000 is too high of a threshold but they are looking at coming up with partial funding and maybe doing something on their own versus trying to meet that threshold to get the state funding,” Gansert said.

Sandoval favors a change to the retirement plan because of a concern about the potential taxpayer liability for the defined benefit plan that covers almost all state and local government employees. The long-term unfunded liability is estimated at about $10 billion, although some assessments using different measures put it at a much higher amount.

There has been a growing call nationally to move public pension plans to a state to a defined contribution plan, similar to a 401(k)-type plan, from the current defined benefit plan, where retirees are paid a set amount per month based on salary and years of service.

Sandoval has advocated such a position, although the concept did not see any serious discussion in the 2011 legislative session.

Nevada PERS officials say the plan is actuarially sound, and that the unfunded liability will be covered over time. They also note that the contribution rates required to keep the plan healthy are set by an independent actuary and are fully funded by the Legislature. The Legislature also made several changes to the existing PERS plan in 2009.

Public education study requires at least $125,000 to move forward

The legislative study looking at potentially new ways of funding public education was sought by the Clark County School District. But no state funding was provided for the review.

At the first meeting of the New Method for Funding Public Schools interim study in January, Clark County School District official Joyce Haldeman said $125,000 in anticipated funding from a private foundation to pay for a study would not be available.

The district is looking for other funding for the study.

Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, the chairman of the interim study, gave the district until Feb. 21 to identify at least $125,000 for a study. The panel is scheduled to meet Feb. 28, but the meeting will be cancelled if no funding is secured.

The Clark County School District would like to see new factors included in the 45-year-old funding formula, such as additional financial weight given to educate special education students, English-language learners and children in poverty.

Questions have been raised as to whether either study is actually needed, however.

Geoffrey Lawrence, deputy director of policy for the Nevada Policy Research Institute, said in an interview in June, 2011, regarding the PERS unfunded liability that legislative studies do not typically generate change in subsequent legislative sessions.

And Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, a member of the public education interim study panel, asked for justification for the proposed review at the January meeting, noting a 2007 study by lawmakers identified no inequities in the Nevada Plan formula for public education.

After spending nearly $250,000, the conclusion was that the Nevada Plan was highly equitable, he said.

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Audio clips:

Heidi Gansert, Gov. Brian Sandoval’s chief of staff, says the level of private funding required for the PERS study to go forward is too high:

021512Gansert1 :15 form of study.”

Gansert says business leaders may come up with a lower level of funding and conduct their own study:

021512Gansert2 :10 the state funding.”

 

Lawmaker Review Of 45-Year-Old Nevada Public Education Funding Plan Hits Financial Roadblock

By Sean Whaley | 2:23 pm January 24th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A panel of lawmakers today began a review of the state’s 45-year-old formula for funding public education with an eye towards addressing the needs of the state’s urban districts as they work to educate special education students, English-language learners and children in poverty.

The panel is still searching for funding for a study to help in the review, however. The failure to find private funding for a study could jeopardize any meaningful review in this interim, lawmakers were told.

Nevada public education funding formula study hits financial roadblock.

The panel decided to give the Clark County School District, which advocated for the review in the 2011 legislative session, until Feb. 21 to identify a minimum of $125,000 in private funding to perform the necessary study. The panel would then meet again on Feb. 28 if the funding is secured.

The New Method for Funding Public Schools interim study was authorized by the 2011 Legislature to look at the “Nevada Plan” the current funding formula adopted in 1967.

“As we know over the past several decades since the Nevada Plan was developed and adopted, our state has grown and changed significantly,” said Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, the chairman of the panel. “A periodic review of the state’s funding methodology for public schools is necessary to ensure that the funding methodology accomplishes what it was originally designed to do  - which was to ensure an adequate educational opportunity for all Nevada students regardless of individual school district wealth.”

Following a review of the Nevada Plan, the panel can then determine if inadequacies or inequities exist, he said.

“Then we can develop any recommendations for improvement, if necessary, to ensure that the state’s public school funding methodology equitably considers the individual needs and characteristics of Nevada’s public school student population,” Conklin said.

Joyce Haldeman, associate superintendent of community and government relations with the Clark County School District, said there is no intention with the review to take away funding from other school districts.

Instead, the state’s largest school district would like to see additional factors given weight in the formula, including English language learners, special education students, gifted and talented and students receiving free- and reduced lunches, she said.

The study is the result of Senate Bill 11 sought by the Clark County School District to consider a weighted enrollment formula to take into account the different educational needs of children in the larger districts.

Craig Stevens, director of government relations for the Nevada State Education Association, spoke in support of the study.

“Our state is simply too diverse and the needs are too specialized to have a flat rate just for every single child,” he said. “It really not only hurts those that need the specialization but those that do not as well. We fully support making sure that funds are differentiated so that the student gets the services that they need in order to be fully successful.”

Several parents from Clark County also expressed support for the study, saying the funding formula needs revision because it shortchanges the district.

But Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, a member of the panel, asked for justification for the review, noting a 2007 study by lawmakers identified no inequities in the Nevada Plan.

After spending nearly $250,000, the conclusion was that the Nevada Plan was highly equitable, he said.

“Now what’s changed between 2007 and today?” Hansen asked.

The committee debated how overarching any funding formula review should be, given that no money was allocated for a study. The consensus was that a narrow review, focusing on several key student populations, would be the most practical approach if funding is secured.

The Clark County School District had anticipated $125,000 in funding from a foundation to pay for a study, but the district learned the money will not be forthcoming, Haldeman told the panel. The district is looking for other funding sources, she said.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute, a conservative think tank, weighed in on the Nevada Plan in September 2011, noting that many people, including policy makers, are either confused or deliberately misleading on the issue of per pupil funding in the public schools.

The analysis suggested that when all sources of funding are included in per pupil expenditures, the dollars spent are much higher than are reported by the districts.

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Audio clips:

Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, says the study is needed to ensure an adequate educational opportunity for all students:

012412Conklin1 :23 school district wealth.”

Conklin says once there is an understanding of the Nevada Plan, the panel can consider the need for any changes:

012412Conklin2 :27 school student population.”

Craig Stevens, director of government relations for the Nevada State Education Association, says the study is much needed:

012412Stevens :23 be fully successful.”

Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, says the issue was studied in 2007 and no inequities were found:

012412Hansen :25 2007 and today.”

 

Reno Assemblyman Named GOP Caucus Leader In Unanimous Vote

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 2:08 pm January 19th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Reno Republican Assemblyman Pat Hickey was unanimously elected today to be the new GOP Assembly Caucus Leader.

The former minority Leader, Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, stepped down because of his intention to run for the Nevada State Senate in District 19.

Assembly Republicans currently hold 16 seats in the 42-member Assembly, while Democrats control 26 seats. Hickey said he is optimistic the caucus can improve on those numbers in November.

Hickey, who represents District 25 in Reno, returned to the Assembly in 2010 after an absence of several years.

Assemblyman Pat Hickey during the 2011 legislative session. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

“As a caucus, we sincerely thank Pete Goicoechea for his leadership over the years,” Hickey said. “I am humbled and honored to be selected to follow in his footsteps. As the new leader, I will direct my energy and focus on supporting a strong conservative agenda and electing a dynamic slate of candidates this election cycle.”

Hickey was first elected to the Assembly in 1996 in the Democratic majority District 27. He then took time to focus on his family and business before running for Assembly in District 25 in 2010.

“The 2012 election cycle presents opportunities for our caucus to strengthen and grow,” Hickey said. “I am confident that our conservative message of limited government and fiscal responsibility will resonate with the people of this great state.”

In a telephone interview, Hickey said he believes Assembly Republicans have a chance to capitalize on GOP momentum in the state Senate and pick up several seats. Senate Republicans are optimistic they can retake the majority from Democrats, who now have an 11-10 edge.

“The level of enthusiasm at this moment in Republican state circles has extended from the Senate where they of course are sharing a realistic optimism they that are going to be in the majority,” he said. “And given the quantity and quality of candidates that we have attracted in Assembly races following redistricting, frankly, is giving us a great deal of optimism with respect to the prospects of significantly growing the caucus.”

In a perfect set of circumstances, Republicans could come close to taking the majority, but realistically the caucus could see its numbers increase to the high teens or low 20s, Hickey said.

The caucus is ahead of where it was in the last election cycle with fundraising, he said.

Hickey said he is in a position where he can devote all of his time to getting Assembly Republicans elected in November.

“I mean there are so many ingredients that go into a successful election cycle,” he said. “In the end it’s the quality of candidates and we’re especially hopeful this time because we think we’ve got some very good candidates who will no doubt be extremely competitive and in many cases successful.”

Democrats had a two-thirds, 28-vote veto proof majority in the 2009 legislative session. Assembly Republicans picked up two seats in the 2010 general election to take away the two-thirds advantage in the 2011 session.

Hickey, a small business owner, is a 4th generation Nevadan. He was born in Carson City and grew up in Lake Tahoe. He received his master of arts in journalism from the University of Nevada, Reno.

Hickey and his wife, Shin, have been married for 34 years and have four children.

Hickey’s election comes just days after Assembly Democrats voted to make Majority Leader Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, the leader of their caucus after a contested election.

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Audio clips:

GOP Assembly Caucus leader Pat Hickey says Republicans are optimistic of regaining the majority in the Senate:

011912Hickey1 :23 in the majority.”

Hickey says that optimism is now extending to the Assembly as well:

011912Hickey2 :24 growing the caucus.”

Hickey says the caucus will have competitive and successful candidates:

011912Hickey3 :26 many cases, successful.”

Nevada Selected For Policy Academy To Improve Higher Education Performance Measures

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 5:00 pm October 17th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The National Governors Association (NGA) announced today  that Nevada has been selected as one of six states to participate in a Policy Academy on strengthening post-secondary education performance measures.

The NGA defines a Policy Academy as a highly interactive, team-based process for helping a select number of states develop and implement an action plan to address a complex public policy issue.

In announcing the project, the NGA said: “States must have a strategy for getting more career-ready graduates for the dollars they have, and the NGA Policy Academy will focus on helping states build that strategy.”

Photo courtesy of UNLV.

“Having good performance metrics is important, but it is not enough,” said Dane Linn, director of the NGA Center for Best Practice’s Education Division. “Governors and other policymakers must be equipped to use performance measures, whether in developing budgets, approving or evaluating programs or deciding how or whether to regulate administrative and academic services. This Policy Academy will help states focus on those measures.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval said: “Nevada is diligently working to improve accountability systems and measures throughout the K-12 system and this Policy Academy will enable us to expand that work through the higher education realm.”.

The work will complement the Legislature’s interim funding study, he said.

“As always, higher education’s goals have been focused on continuous improvement in how we educate our students and how we help Nevada’s economy prosper,” said Dan Klaich, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education. “I’m excited we were selected for the Complete to Compete Initiative and I am looking forward to working with the governor and representatives of the Legislature to define accountability metrics that will support our ongoing initiatives related to student success and effectiveness and efficiency.”

NSHE Chancellor Dan Klaich.

The NGA Policy Academy is aimed at improving post-secondary education accountability systems and consists of two workshops, technical assistance from NGA Center staff, and grants of up to $30,000 per state for additional expertise.

The academy is designed to help states strengthen their post-secondary education systems by focusing on efficiency and effectiveness metrics in their accountability systems and incorporating those metrics into their decision making processes.

The NGA Center will help selected states in their efforts to review and revamp their existing state post-secondary accountability system. States will also work with the NGA Center to identify ways to use efficiency and effectiveness metrics as part of the state’s higher education policy agenda.

Funding for the academy is provided by the Lumina Foundation and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.

Nevada’s governor-appointed state team consists of: Heidi Gansert, chief of staff to Sandoval; Julia Teska, a budget analyst from the Department of Administration; Denice Miller, vice president of government relations, MGM Resorts International; Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas; Klaich; and Neal Smatresk, president of the University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Governor Vetoes Democratic K-12 Spending Plan

By Andrew Doughman | 2:58 pm May 16th, 2011

CARSON CITY — Governor Brian Sandoval today vetoed the Democratic spending proposal for Nevada’s K-12 budget.

Democrats and Republicans had been at loggerheads during debate over the bill, largely because it would provide for spending almost $700 million more than Sandoval wanted.

As expected, Sandoval vetoed Assembly Bill 568 because he said “it increases state spending by nearly $660 million above the amount proposed in the Executive Budget.”

In a statement explaining the veto, Sandoval also contended that the bill is a “circuitous attempt to secure a tax increase” by passing a spending bill without the money to back it.

Democrats have, however, proposed a $1.2 billion tax package that ostensibly would raise the money to pay for the expenditures in the bill.

By passing the bill and putting it before the governor, Democrats forced the governor’s hand in signing the veto.

“In the past when governors veto a bill they usually tell you why,” said Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, after the bill passed last week. ”It’ll be interesting to see why.”

Sandoval, however, objected to what he said was the “clear intention of casting opponents [to the bill] as somehow ‘anti-education’ while at the same time forcing a tax increase.”

The $660 million would have paid for such things as teacher’s salaries, which the governor had proposed to cut by 5 percent.

“Today, the governor not only turns his back on the struggling schools of Nevada, but he also risks turning our successful schools into factories of underachievement,” said Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, in a statement released after the veto.

Rather than an immediate tax increase, the governor said in his veto statement that he prefers waiting for an economic recovery to bring in more money for schools.

“I proposed that ‘triggers’ be adopted so additional funding can continue to go straight to support of the classroom as revenue becomes available through economic recovery,” he said.

 

 

Legislature Votes To Cut Pay To State And University Workers

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

CARSON CITY – Legislators on money committees today approved on a party-line vote a 4.8 percent salary cut to state and higher education employees.

The proposal would include a 2.3 percent cut through furloughs – about six days per year – and a 2.5 percent salary reduction.

Gov. Brian Sandoval had proposed in his budget a 5 percent salary cut to state and higher education workers.

Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, advanced the 4.8 percent “compromise” cut. Legislative staff said it would create a shortfall between $7.5 and $10 million in the governor’s budget.

The vote passed with all Democrats voting for the idea and all Republicans voting against it. In an earlier vote, Republicans voted to follow the governor’s recommendation while Democrats voted against it.

Republicans characterized the salary reductions and cuts to benefits as similar to reductions in the private sector.

“What we are seeing here is a continuation of that downsizing,” said Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno.

Democrats contended that government does not operate like private businesses; rather than seeing less business during a recession, more people depend on state services in a recession.

“If we are going to apply true business principles to government, we should be hiring right now … our demand is way up,” said Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas.

Union representatives and higher education faculty testified against the cuts, saying that they much preferred furloughs to salary cuts.

Danny Thompson of the AFL-CIO also said that reductions in the governor’s budget have provoked a grassroots movement that could punish Republicans during next year’s elections.

“I would caution you that if you don’t solve this problem, that organic uprising that has already happened is going to spread and the people are going to solve this problem,” Thompson said.

Legislators also voted to continue suspending merit and longevity pay as well as eliminating holiday premium pay for higher education and state workers. Legislative staff said that these decisions should save the state $71.5 million.

Yesterday, legislators voted to curtail health care benefits for public sector employees.

Public sector employee union representatives said they have already endured these reductions in pay and benefits for several years as Nevada has struggled through the recession.

“It is so totally unfair what we are doing to our state government,” said Jan Gilbert of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada.

The governor has earlier argued that furlough days resulted in less productivity from employees, causing longer lines at places such as the DMV.

None of the votes are binding, and the Legislature may decide to alter the proposals as they finalize the budget.

Legislative committees last week voted not to reduce pay for school district employees nor did they choose to suspend merit pay for school district employees.

Those decisions could cost the state $402 million during the next two years.

Democrats last week proposed a revenue package totaling about $1.2 billion comprising a continuation of taxes approved by the 2009 Legislature and scheduled to end this year as well as a tax on businesses’ gross revenue and a sales tax on some services.

If passed, these tax increases could pay for that $402 million cost.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, also noted a potential budget consequence in cutting salaries. He said that the sustained compensation cuts could lead some state workers to favor retirement over working for less.

Dana Bilyeu of the Public Employees’ Retirement System estimated that 2,000 current state employees are eligible to collect full retirement benefits.

Should they choose to retire, the state would have an unfunded obligation to cash out those retiring employees for accrued sick leave, she said.

Bilyeu and others in the committee room could not estimate a cost, but she said about 1,000 more teachers than usual retired due to changes in benefits following the 2007 legislative session, causing the state to lose millions of dollars.

 

 

 

Bill Would Require More State Data To Be Hosted Online

By Andrew Doughman | 10:31 am March 30th, 2011

CARSON CITY – More of the state’s financial data would migrate online with a bill from Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas.

He would require the Controller’s office to post the state’s revenues and expenditures online with tables, graphs and explanatory descriptions for each account.

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

Adding these things would not cost the state any money, he said, but would make arcane financial spreadsheets more accessible to the public.

Nevada Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, speaks in committee at the Legislature. Conklin is sponsoring a bill that would put more state data online.

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

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-Las Vegas, who chairs the Assembly Government Affairs Committee that heard Conklin’s bill, said the bill would be like putting the state’s checkbook online.

Wallin testified in support of the bill.

“It’ll paint a picture,” she said. “A checkbook online, you look at your checkbook and it’s just a bunch of numbers … I think if we can start showing the trends of our expenditures, I think that paints a better picture.”

The committee took no action on the bill today.