Posts Tagged ‘Marshall’

Let’s Get Linky

By Elizabeth Crum | 1:49 pm September 23rd, 2011

Bored with my usual “In Case You Missed It” headline, so I’m mixing it up today, Dear Readers. Livin’ on the edge, that’s me. Here’s some stuff you may have missed this week in your mad rush to live your life:

Presidential/Electoral Stuff

What do Florida and Nevada have in common, besides being all sunshine-y? They are both toss-up states with high unemployment rates, which puts them in play in 2012 presidential politics. Michigan (blue) and North Carolina (red) are leaners rather than toss-ups, but that Motor City jobless rate might be a problem for Obama as well. (H/T Ralston)

Rick Santorum admits to helping out a fellow Senator and tipping off John Ensign way back when. (Doug Hampton said as much when he appeared on Face to Face.)


Here’s the state GOP complaint/request filed with the Office of Congressional Ethics Tuesday for an investigation into Rep. Berkley’s legislative actions related to her husband’s medical practice and related matters. Ralston put together a fun timeline showing what happened next.

Sen. Dean Heller gave his first speech. Quite the populist these days. Those of running for U.S. Senate and trying to appeal to independents, I mean.

I wonder if Heller called these guys copycats? He’s been pushing for transparency of that supercommittee with near-daily press releases since it was formed.


Speaking of copycats, someone at R&R pointed me to a Joe Trippi “Echo” ad in the California governor’s race after I Tweeted something about this Amodei ad tying Kate Marshall to various Dems.

You know its official when the door sign goes up.


Sandoval is having a couple of little fundraisers. And Secretary of State Ross J. Miller says he’s looking at the AG’s (not the governor’s) office in 2014.

Sandoval is not running for vice president. Really, Dear Readers, he’s not.

T-shirts for cheap. (Poor Jim Gibbons.)


Redistricting continues.

Random Stuff

Personal income growth in the states is (you guessed it) down. Nevada is in the lowest fifth.

Someone is encouraging people to move to Nevada, but not for the reasons you might think.

Here’s the Retail Association of Nevada poll if you want to read the whole thing.

We might get the winter Olympics. In 2022. If the world has not ended by then.

I didn’t know there was such a thing as the Chinese Miss Cosmos pageant. There is. And it’s coming to Reno.




Nevada’s Newest Congressman On His Way To Washington, DC For Swearing In Thursday

By Sean Whaley | 1:24 pm September 14th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Nevada’s newest representative to Washington, DC was in the air today on his way east to be sworn in as the fourth person to serve in the 2nd Congressional District.

In an interview today before departing for his new job, former state Sen. Mark Amodei said he expects to be sworn into office Thursday and be casting votes the same day.

“My job now is to make all those 75,000 voters look like smart people,” he said of those who cast their ballots for him.

Newly elected Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., at a debate last month. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

Amodei handily won the Tuesday special election to replace Dean Heller, beating Democrat and state Treasurer Kate Marshall by more than 20 points.

Like Heller, appointed to the U.S. Senate by Gov. Brian Sandoval to replace John Ensgin, who resigned, Amodei is a Carson City resident. Amodei said he plans to fly home each week to keep in touch with his constituents.

“If you’re going to be effective you have to be in touch with the folks who gave you the job,” the Congressman-elect said.

Amodei said he will report to the House Speaker’s office at 8:30 a.m. Thursday and take the oath of office by about 10 a.m.

“We’re going to go back and get sworn in and start the stuff with staff and the office and just kind of get up to speed and operating,” he said. “There is a ton to do so I’m sure it will be a pretty fully employed . . . next couple of weeks.”

Despite leading in the polls up to election day, Amodei said he did not purchase his Southwest Airlines ticket to Washington until last night after returns showed him winning the open seat.

Amodei said it is humbling to win so much support from voters, including Washoe County, where Republicans don’t always do well in general elections. Amodei took the county by more than 7,000 votes over Marshall, a Reno resident.

Making reference to the other special house election, where Republican Bob Turner won in New York City in a district held by Democrats for decades, Amodei said the GOP victories could help foster more cooperation in Congress.

“I think the overall message is, people are tired of what’s been going on the last few years, so let’s figure out where we need to go that makes some sense that hasn’t been tried and failed,” he said.

Land use regulations are the major issue facing Nevada and the residents of the district, Amodei said.

“I’m looking forward to going over to the Department of Interior before the end of the week and introducing myself to the BLM (Bureau of Land Management) folks and just saying, hey, you know what, we have a lot of work to do in Nevada,” Amodei said. “I’m not impugning anybody’s work product but the time frames absolutely, positively have to change.”

Eighty-seven percent of Nevada is under the control of various federal agencies. The BLM controls 67 percent of the state alone.

“You just can’t take years to make decisions when the economy is in the shape it’s in,” he said. “I mean make whatever decision you think is appropriate. But this slow play stuff which is a de facto shut down of land use in Nevada; that’s priority No. 1 for me.”


Audio clips:

Newly elected Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., says it will be a busy fall for him in his new job:

091411Amodei1 :21 couple of weeks.”

Amodei says voters are tired of the failures of those in Washington to solve the nation’s problems:

091411Amodei2 :11 and failed, so.”

Amodei says he will meet with the BLM to tell them the regulatory process needs to be streamlined:

091411Amodei3 :31 it is in.”

Amodei says the current process is a de facto shut down of land use in Nevada:

091411Amodei4 :13 No. 1 for me.”

GOP Former State Senator Mark Amodei Easily Wins 2nd Congressional District Special Election

By Sean Whaley | 9:32 pm September 13th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The results of the vote in the special election in the 2nd Congressional District went the way that most pundits had predicted: Republican and former state Sen. Mark Amodei will assume the seat vacated with the appointment of Dean Heller to the U.S. Senate.

Amodei jumped out in front with more than 60 percent of the vote when the first results were posted from around the state, and the wide margin between the former Nevada State Republican Party chief and Democrat Treasurer Kate Marshall declined only marginally. Later results showed Amodei leading by 57 percent to 38 percent for Marshall, of Reno.

Former state Sen. Mark Amodei won the 2nd Congressional District special election Tuesday.

The 2nd Congressional District seat, held exclusively by Republicans since it was created in 1981, will remain in GOP control.

Marshall called to congratulate Amodei just after 9 p.m.

Heller said in a statement: “I want to congratulate Mark Amodei on his victory this evening. As our state continues to struggle in this difficult economy, Mark will be a strong voice in the halls of Congress to help place our nation back on track and get Nevadans working again. I know he will serve our great state with distinction.”

Nevada State Democratic Party Chair Roberta Lange said in a statement: “Kate Marshall fought tirelessly to win a special election in a heavily Republican district that no Democrat has ever won. While we are obviously disappointed in tonight’s results, Kate Marshall will continue to serve Nevada well as state Treasurer. We look forward to electing Democrats in the upcoming general election across the state to fight to get Nevadans back to work and protect Nevada seniors from Washington Republicans who are trying to kill Medicare by turning it over to private insurance companies.”

The district, with a wide margin of Republican voters over Democrats, required a special election when Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed incumbent Heller to the Senate to replace GOP Sen. John Ensign, who resigned.

The contest began with a crowded field as Democrat Secretary of State Ross Miller said the race would be open to all comers in a “ballot royale.” But the state Supreme Court rejected Miller’s argument for a wide-open race, saying both major parties had the right to pick their candidates.

Political observers saw the wide open race as one that would favor Democrats by splitting the Republican vote.

With the court ruling creating a two major party candidate race, however, Republicans were favored to keep the seat. Also running were Independent American Party candidate Tim Fasano and independent Helmuth Lehmann, both of whom were pulling in the low single digits.

With Amodei’s win, the seat will remain in the hands of a Carson City resident. Heller is also a capital city resident.

The district encompasses 16 of Nevada’s 17 counties and a small part of Clark County.

The district has a more than 30,000 Republican voter edge, but there are also more than 60,000 independent voters.

Amodei’s win won’t mean a rest from campaigning. He will have to run for a full term in the 2012 election.


Live Results Link for CD-2 Special Election

By Elizabeth Crum | 2:09 pm September 10th, 2011

The Secretary of State’s office has announced that the official live results of the Congressional District 2 Special Election on Tuesday, Sept. 13 will be available at

The website will enable the public to monitor election results as they are reported by the counties throughout the evening.

The website features county-by-county results, updates on the percentage of precincts reporting and past voter turnout statistics for CD-2. The voter turnout feature allows users to view historical statistics from the 2008 and 2010 elections and compare them to 2011 special election turnout.

Friday was the last day of early voting.

Voters can locate their Election Day polling place by visiting My Voter File and clicking on the Election Center tab.

CD2 Candidates Battle Over Tax Policy, Solutions for the Economy

By Anne Knowles | 7:14 am August 26th, 2011

Helmuth Lehmann and Tim Fasano were caught in the crossfire last night as Mark Amodei and Kate Marshall threw rhetorical punches at one another during an hour-long debate between the four candidates for Nevada’s second congressional district.

Former state Sen. Mark Amodei responds to a question at the debate./Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau

The former state senator and current state treasurer stood on opposite ends of the podium trading jabs about taxes and jobs for much of the live debate held in Reno’s KNPB TV studio and broadcast statewide.

Democratic candidate Marshall proposed offering tax breaks to companies who create jobs and endorsed a so-called infrastructure bank, an idea also promoted by President Barack Obama, which would lend money to private companies to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure. She used the topic to chide her Republican opponent.

“It has bipartisan support unless, of course, you signed the tax pledge, then you’re not supportive of that bipartisan piece of legislation,” said Marshall. “In order to come together you have to not box yourself in a corner you can’t sign a tax pledge which has Grover Norquist telling you when and whether you’ll raise taxes.”

Amodei recently re-signed a pledge not to raise taxes if he were elected to Congress, a pledge promulgated by Americans for Tax Reform, a Washington-based advocacy group headed by Grover Norquist.

“I think it signals a willingness to acknowledge the facts. Compromise is not spending 40 cents of every dollar on debt. Compromise is not running up the debt until it equals the GDP, ” said Amodei when asked earlier in the debate whether signing the pledge signaled his unwillingness to compromise. “It’s not being intractable, it’s recognizing we cannot tax your way out of this.”

For his part, Amodei rebuked Marshall for latching onto loan guarantees made to private enterprises by the federal government.

“We need to start telling the people the truth,” said Amodei when asked what he would do to restore confidence in Congress. “How maybe loan guarantees aren’t a good thing. Remember the ones to Chrysler and General Motors?  They cost the taxpayer. Remember the ones to AIG and some of the Wall Street folks.”

Amodei, like Marshall, repeated ideas he’s been touting on the campaign trail to solve the state’s economic woes. He talked about expediting the process for permits to use public lands and, on a national level, suggested a hiring freeze for the federal government.

Amodei said 85 percent of the land in Nevada is publically-owned and should be better utilized for ranching, mining and energy resources in order to create jobs, but permits to use the land can take up to 10 years to acquire.

“The processing times are phenomenally slow to the point where we are de facto closed for business,” said Amodei.

When the candidates were asked when they disagree with their own party, Amodei said his party over the last couple decades has sometimes lacked courage.

“Not having the courage to say we don’t need special healthcare for members of Congress, that we don’t need a special bank for member of Congress,” said Amodei. “There’s a good bunch of people serving there, but the culture has overtaken.”

Nevada State Treasurer Kate Marshall

Marshall said she parts way with the Democratic party on the so-called Bush tax cuts, reductions in the tax rate passed under President George W. Bush that are set to expire at the end of the year.

“I think we need to keep the Bush tax cuts,” said Marshall, saying that small businesses needed the cuts to create jobs.

Only Lehmann, a non-partisan independent, favored letting them expire, but only to raise rates on the wealthy.

The candidates also agreed that they would have not voted to raise the nation’s debt ceiling, but for varying reasons. Lehmann said he is opposed to the balanced budget amendment that was attached to the bill.

“I think it’s a ruse to make people believe that Congress is actually doing something,” said Lehmann.

Fasano, the Independent American Party candidate, said he wouldn’t have voted for it either.

“We have a problem in government and that problem is spending,” said Fasano.

Marshall said she was opposed to the deal because it cut defense spending and Medicare and didn’t close tax loopholes.

“It was the wrong priorities and those are not my priorities,” said Marshall.

Amodei said that he would have voted no because Washington needs to learn spending discipline.

Early voting for the special election to fill vacant seat starts on Saturday. The election is Sept. 13.


Amodei, Marshall Duel Over Facts, Foreign Policy, Medicare and Taxes

By Anne Knowles | 9:05 pm August 22nd, 2011

State Treasurer Kate Marshall and former state senator Mark Amodei sparred over Medicare reform, campaign ads and even the uprising in Libya in an hour-long debate airing on the statewide news program Face to Face on Monday and Tuesday.

Former Nevada state Sen. and CD2 GOP candidate Mark Amodei.

The two candidates vying for a vacant congressional seat in a special election next month offered starkly different solutions to the nation’s problems, including how to best rein in Medicare spending.

Marshall said the federal government should use its power to negotiate with pharmaceutical companies over the price of prescription drugs for seniors, while Amodei said the Medicare eligibility age should be bumped up and the program’s benefits restructured for those 15 years or more from current eligibility.

Amodei said he wanted to reform the program while increasing the reimbursement rate doctors receive for treating Medicare patients.

Jon Ralston, host of Face to Face and the debate moderator, asked the Republican candidate what he would cut if he were not in favor of reducing reimbursement rates for doctors.

“How about a federal hiring freeze?” said Amodei, adding that it was wrong, “to tell people they have a Medicare program when doctors won’t let them in the office because reimbursement rates are too low.”

The Medicare discussion raised the issue of the budget plan put forth by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, which calls for turning Medicare into a program in which seniors are given vouchers to purchase insurance on the private market.

Democratic candidate Marshall said the plan “lacks vision” and actually exacerbates the problem because the cost of private insurance has grown faster than Medicare.

“Medicare is a good bang for your buck if you’re a senior,” said Marshall.

Amodei said he would have voted against the Ryan plan if he had been a member of Congress at the time, but Ralston pointed out that Amodei was quoted in an article on Politico saying the plan was “excellent.”

“I think Mr. Amodei is trying to have it both ways,” said Marshall.

Amodei defended the change in views, saying he had read the Ryan bill since making his earlier statements of support and that it would not work well for his district. He added that the Ryan plan was the only budget plan on the table.

The pair also discussed their dueling campaign ads. A Marshall ad accuses Amodei of being a paid lobbyist while serving in the legislature, when he was employed by the Nevada Mining Association, and also of voting himself a pay raise.

Amodei said he was not employed as a lobbyist nor registered as one in the years in question, and that the bill he voted for that gave legislators a bump in pay meant he made only $7 more per day for 60 days during the 2007 and 2009 legislative sessions. Meanwhile, he said, the state treasurer was given a $17,000 pay raise.

The same bill that gave legislators their pay raise also increased the state treasurer’s salary from $80,000 to $97,000, but Marshall did not take office until after the bill went into effect.

The Marshall ad also accuses Amodei of voting for the largest tax increase in the state’s history, in 2003 when the legislature passed the modified business tax. Amdoei said it was supported by the Chamber of Commerce and the Nevada Tax Association and was necessary to fund the education budget requested by then Gov. Kenny Guinn.

“I’m a solutions guy who deals with the facts and the fact at the time was that was a responsible way to deal with Gov. Guinn’s budget request,” said Amodei. “What we need now is a solutions person who won’t ignore the facts, won’t go in the tank for a political caucus or special interest group and who says we’ve got to bring the federal budget into balance, we’ve got to bring some spending discipline.”

Marshall said she would not have voted for the modified business tax because it penalizes employers for hiring people.

Amodei distanced himself from an ad paid for by the Republican party that showed Marshall saying she had “steered the state with a steady hand,” while flashing grim statistics about Nevada’s unemployment and foreclosure crisis.

Amodei talked about some of his solutions to the state’s fiscal woes, including expediting the permitting process to use federal lands for recreation and resource exploration. Marshall countered, saying she supported what she called streamlined permitting.

Nevada state Treasurer and Democrat CD2 candidate Kate Marshall

Both candidates shied away from answering whether they supported the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s project to import water from rural Nevada.

Marshall said the project wasn’t being done correctly, while Amodei said he supports the process of the state engineer having control and would not, as a federal official, intervene in a state-controlled decision.

Ralston started the debate asking about Libya, where a popular uprising has ousted Muammar el-Qaddafi, with the help of the United States and other countries.

Amodei said the U.S. should now enlarge its embassy there to monitor the situation and determine who is in charge while Marshall said we should first work through an intermediary there, such as a country friendly to both the U.S. and Libya.

“Mr. Amodei shows a fundamental misunderstanding of the Middle East,” said Marshall in the first jab of the debate.

Amdoei responded by saying America needed to discern the situation there for itself and not rely on outsiders.




Differences Between Major Party Candidates In CD2 Race On Display At Reno Debate

By Sean Whaley | 10:54 pm August 17th, 2011

RENO – The two major party candidates running in the 2nd Congressional District special election to replace Dean Heller stuck to their talking points in a tame hour-long debate here today.

But the verbal jousting in front of about 150 people at the California Building in Idlewild Park still managed to illustrate the contrasts between Republican Mark Amodei and Democrat Kate Marshall.

Marshall, the Nevada state Treasurer in the midst of her second term, said she would protect social security and Medicare while seeking to balance the federal budget. She also pointed to her successes as treasurer, making money on the state’s investments in every quarter she has been in office.

Nevada state Treasurer and Democrat CD2 candidate Kate Marshall. / Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau.

“There is only one candidate here who will protect your social security and Medicare, and that is me,” Marshall said.

Amodei,  a former state Senator who served in several sessions of the Legislature, said he is a candidate who does not think the federal government is too small, that there aren’t enough regulations and that there isn’t enough taxing and spending. Amodei said his legislative experience will allow him to tackle the tough issues facing the country the day after the Sept. 13 special election.

“I hope you take a look at who has worked for 24 years in the private sector to earn their living,” he said. “When you’re worried about unemployment, you’re worried about foreclosures, you’re worried about the economy, I think it’s a good thing to have somebody who comes from the private sector.”

Marshall touted her advocacy of Senate Bill 75 passed in the 2011 legislative session, which will allow the treasurer’s office to invest school funds in start-up businesses to create jobs, and criticized Amodei for proposing what she said would have been the largest tax increase in Nevada history as a lawmaker in 2003. The tax bill that was ultimately approved included a payroll tax, which means businesses that hire new employees pay more tax, she said.

“It’s no wonder our unemployment rate is the highest in the nation,” she said.

Amodei said his tax proposal was designed to head off the possibility of an income tax in Nevada. It was also intended to prevent a tax on gross receipts. Amodei also noted he opposed a $781 million tax increase in 2009.

Former Nevada state Sen. and CD2 GOP candidate Mark Amodei. / Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau.

Also participating in the hour-long debate were American Party candidate Tim Fasano and independent Helmuth Lehmann, both of whom argued that they were better choices than the establishment party candidates.

Fasano said the two major party candidates are “out of the same cloth” and voters who want change should vote for him on Sept. 13.

“I will stand for the rule of law,” he said.

The special election was made necessary when Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed former Rep. Dean Heller to the U.S. Senate to replace Sen. John Ensign, who resigned. The district encompasses 16 of Nevada’s 17 counties and part of Clark County.

The district has a more than 30,000 Republican voter edge, but there are also more than 60,000 independent voters.

Audio clips:

GOP candidate Mark Amodei says his 24 years of private sector experience are a big part of his qualifications for Congress:

081711Amodei :22 the private sector.”

Democrat candidate Kate Marshall says she will work to balance the budget while protecting social security and Medicare:

081711Marshall :32 and that’s me.”

State Board OKs $539K To Pay Counties For Costs Of Running Special CD2 Election

By Sean Whaley | 12:25 pm August 15th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The Board of Examiners today approved a request for more than half a million dollars from a legislative contingency fund to pay the counties for the cost of the Sept. 13 special election in the 2nd Congressional District.

The board, made up of Gov. Brian Sandoval, Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller, approved the $539,000 request, which will be considered Aug. 31 by the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee.

Miller said the other options to pay for the election were to pass the costs on to the counties or to use a dwindling pool of federal funds, but that the request from the contingency fund is the best choice. Requiring cash-strapped counties to pay the costs could lead to cutting corners, and Miller said it is important to ensure the integrity of the election.

Secretary of State Ross Miller. / Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau

Miller said his office made every effort to reduce the expenditures to reasonable levels. Initial estimates put the cost at in excess of $1 million

“We explored every avenue we could to try to reduce costs for the election,” he said. “The counties obviously had not budgeted for this election, so allowing them to be reimbursed from the contingency fund gives us a much greater level of comfort that they will ultimately run the election as the public would expect.”

Miller said the use of federal Help America Vote Act (HAVA) funds was not recommended because the amount of money in the account is dwindling. The money has in the past been used to buy the electronic voting machines used in the state’s 17 counties for elections. The state has used just under $150,000 in HAVA funds for the special election, in part to provide replacement voting machines, he said.

Miller said it is too early to estimate the turnout in the election, which pits Mark Amodei, a former state senator, as the Republican, versus state Treasurer Kate Marshall, the Democrat. The race also includes Independent American Party candidate Tim Fasano and independent Helmuth Lehmann. The candidates are seeking to replace former Rep. Dean Heller, who was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Sandoval to replace John Ensign, who resigned.

But Miller said he does expect a low turnout in the race, which encompasses 16 of the state’s 17 counties plus a portion of Clark County.

“I think it’s going to be very low, just based upon the feedback that we have received and in conversations with the county clerks,” he said. “I think it is a little bit early to try to guess at the turnout percentage because the campaigns and the national parties obviously over the next few weeks will start expending significant sums of money trying to get people out to the polls, and so that could certainly influence turnout, but I still don’t think it’s going to be a very high turnout election.”

Secretary of State Ross Miller says using the legislative contingency fund to pay for the election is the best option:

081511Miller1 :24 funds for us.”

Miller says he expects a low turnout:

081511Miller2 :27 high turnout election.”

Secretary Of State Seeks $539K To Pay Counties For Costs Of Special CD2 Election

By Sean Whaley | 3:37 pm August 10th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Secretary of State Ross Miller is seeking more than half a million dollars from a legislative contingency fund to pay the counties for the cost of the Sept. 13 special election in the 2nd Congressional District.

The request for $539,137 from the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee Contingency Fund would reimburse counties for all costs and expenses to conduct the special election to pick a replacement for Dean Heller, who was appointed to the U.S. Senate by Gov. Brian Sandoval. The fund has just under $12 million.

The request will be considered Monday by the Board of Examiners, made up of Sandoval, Miller and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto. It will then go to the IFC on Aug. 31.

Secretary of State Ross MillerFormer state Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, is facing Democrat state Treasurer Kate Marshall in the race, which also includes Independent American Party candidate Tim Fasano and independent Helmuth Lehmann.

Counties budget for and cover the costs of administering regularly scheduled elections in Nevada, but Miller said previously that neither the counties nor the state have budgeted for costs to run a special election. As a result, Miller issued emergency regulations he said are necessary to assist the counties during a financially difficult period…and are also necessary to ensure the proper administration of the special election by the counties.

Under the emergency regulations, counties must submit invoices and other supporting documents with the request for reimbursement to the Secretary of State’s office following the election.

Miller said reimbursement of eligible costs and expenses “will be contingent upon available and authorized state funding.”

Miller earlier rejected the notion of approving requests from Esmeralda and Nye counties to expand the number of mail ballot only precincts in their counties for the special election. Both counties claimed they would realize modest cost savings by designating more mail ballot only precincts, but Miller said his overriding concern is the integrity of the election process.

The district covers all of 16 of 17 Nevada counties, plus a small portion of Clark County. The district has 141,330 active Democrat voters, 172,281 active Republican voters and 60,519 active nonpartisan voters.

The district, created in 1981 following the 1980 U.S. Census, has always been represented by a Republican.

State Officials, Lawmakers Reject Claim That Transfer Of Funds To Scholarship Program Was Improper

By Sean Whaley | 4:21 pm July 28th, 2011

CARSON CITY – State officials and lawmakers are rejecting the suggestion that they acted improperly last year when fees generated from several college savings programs were shifted to shore up the cash-strapped Gov. Guinn Millennium Scholarship for academically eligible Nevada high school graduates.

But one former lawmaker, who voted for the transfer, acknowledges he remains concerned about the decision.

The Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee voted in July 2010 to transfer $4.2 million in fees from the college savings programs to the Millennium Scholarship to ensure eligible college students would get full reimbursement for classes they took last year.

The College Savings Board had previously voted to use the money for other purposes, including support for the Nevada Prepaid Tuition program, a separate fund managed by the Treasurer’s Office for Nevada families to save for college within the Nevada System of Higher Education.

The transfer was unanimously approved by the 21 members of the IFC after lawmakers were told the fees to be used to shore up the scholarship fund would not affect participants or their investments in the separately managed college savings programs. The fees are paid by families investing in the various college savings plans to brokers, who in turn remit a portion of those fees to the state Treasurer’s Office.

Just over 471,000 college savings accounts, most of them from out-of-state residents, have been opened in the four programs offered through the state Treasurer’s Office as of March 31, 2011. Just over 7,000 Nevadans are enrolled in the programs and they do not pay any fees for participating.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute, a conservative Nevada think tank, on Wednesday published an article by Steve Miller suggesting that the shift of funds was illegal and that Nevadans participating in the Prepaid Tuition program may now have grounds to sue the College Savings Board because of the IFC vote.

Miller, vice president for policy at NPRI, cited a “nationally experienced securities attorney,” who was consulted on a confidential basis for the conclusions in his article.

“Because the Prepaid Tuition program was damaged by the IFC action — made financially weaker than it otherwise would have been — investors in the program would have legal standing against the program, said the attorney, who was consulted on a confidential basis,” he said in his article.

The Treasurer’s Office rejected the notion that the Prepaid Tuition program was harmed by the IFC action.

In a press release issued Thursday, state Treasurer Kate Marshall said the Prepaid Tuition program is funded at 108 percent.

“The program is solid, as demonstrated by the dramatic increase in the funded status and a 15 percent increase in new contracts totaling 594 in 2011,” she said.

Nevada State Treasurer Kate Marshall

Steve George, chief of staff for Marshall, said the article did not indicate that the IFC vote to transfer the funds was unanimous. The College Savings Board did not object to the transfer at its August meeting following the IFC vote either, he said.

“Treasurer Marshall and this office had worked for months to try and come up with some solution that might work to keep the Millennium going forward to the next legislative session,” he said. “That was accomplished by that move, and that’s why I made the comment that this is something that works for the Millennium, and it also does not harm college savings and prepaid.”

Even with the $4.2 million transfer to the Millennium Scholarship, the College Savings Board has transferred nearly $1.56 million over the two past fiscal years to the Prepaid Tuition Program, George said.

Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, said he believes the article unfairly singled out Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, for criticism. Horsford was co-chairman of the IFC at the time. The IFC is composed of the Legislature’s two money committees.

“I believe that we were making the best decision based on the information that was available to us and our legal counsel,” he said. “And so I think we all did it together and we did something that we thought was appropriate that we could do and legal counsel said we could do it.”

The transfer was needed to ensure kids received their Millennium Scholarships, Denis said.

Minutes of the July 21 special IFC meeting show that lawmakers were told the shift of funds was legal by Chief Legislative Counsel Brenda Erdoes.

Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, said he believes the transfer was both lawful and appropriate.

“I think that not only was it legal, but it kept students, who anticipated getting tuition money, in college,” he said.

But Hardy said he does not take issue with a watchdog group keeping an eye on the activities of the Legislature.

The allegation that lawmakers may have acted improperly has political implications.

Horsford is rumored to be considering a run for Congress in a seat as yet undefined due to a legal dispute over the required redistricting process.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas.

Horsford declined to comment on the NPRI article.

Marshall, a Democrat, is also running for congress in a special election in the vacant 2nd Congressional District against former state Sen. Mark Amodei, R-Carson City.

Miller also quotes former long-time state Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, as questioning the appropriateness of the transfer, but does not point out that Raggio “reluctantly” voted for the shift.

Raggio said the article accurately describe his concerns, which remain even with the advice from legal counsel. Funds held in trust should be used for the purposes specified, he said.

“Lawyers can differ, and even though Brenda said so at the time, there is always a question,” Raggio said. “And I wouldn’t be surprised if someone did challenge it.”

Miller said today he focused on Horsford in the article because the lawmaker was the point man pushing for the transfer. The unanimous IFC vote wasn’t included because lawmakers often rubber stamp such requests, he said.

Miller said he decided to run the story based on the one attorney’s comments because of the individual’s credibility. As a result of the article Miller said he has received a comment from one Nevada attorney about the potential for challenging the shift of funds.

The Millennium Scholarship is named for the late Gov. Kenny Guinn, who created the program in 1999 with legislative approval.

Gov. Brian Sandoval recommended adding $10 million in general funds to the scholarship in the 2011 legislative session, which was approved. The scholarship is now believed to be financially whole through at least 2015. It was originally intended to be fully supported by money from a tobacco company settlement, but those funds have declined annually due to lower smoking rates.

Audio clips:

Treasurer’s Office Chief of Staff Steve George says the vote by the IFC kept the scholarship program whole without harming the college savings or prepaid tuition programs:

072811George1 :23 savings and prepaid.”

George says the Prepaid Tuition Program is financially sound:

072811George2 :27 to go forward.”

Sen. Mo Denis says lawmakers made a unanimous decision based on the best information available:

072811Denis1 :20 could do it.”

Sen. Joe Hardy says the vote was legal and kept kids in college:

072811Hardy1 :19 stay in college.”

Hardy says he has no problem with watchdog groups keeping an eye on lawmaker activities, however:

072811Hardy2 :17 doing what’s right.”

Former Sen. Bill Raggio says he would not be surprised if someone does challenge the transfer:

072811Raggio1 :12 did challenge it.”

NPRI’s Steve Miller says he focused on Horsford in the article because the lawmaker was the point man pushing for the transfer:

072811Miller1 :32 some political power.”



Only Four Candidates To Appear On Congressional District 2 Special Election Ballot

By Sean Whaley | 4:00 pm July 6th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Secretary of State Ross Miller said today the Sept. 13 ballot for the special election in Congressional District 2 to pick a replacement for Dean Heller will have only four names.

Miller made the announcement after the Nevada Supreme Court on Tuesday upheld a lower court decision saying that Democrat and Republican party officials would pick their candidates to fill the vacancy created with Heller’s appointment to the U.S. Senate earlier this year.

When filing for the office closed June 30, multiple Democrats and Republicans had filed for the seat. But the court ruling eliminated all except the two picked by their respective parties.

Republicans have picked former state party chairman and former state Sen. Mark Amodei as their official nominee. Democrats have selected state Treasurer Kate Marshall as their official candidate.

In addition to the two major party candidates, Miller informed Nevada’s 17 county clerks and registrars that Independent American Tim Fasano, who was designated by his party’s state executive committee, will also appear on the ballot. The fourth candidate is Independent Helmuth Lehmann, who qualified for the ballot by collecting the required 100 signatures from registered voters in Congressional District 2.

County elections officials were not able to validate the required number of signatures submitted by three individuals who had filed as Independent candidates: Earl Ammerman IV and Christopher Simon, both of Washoe County, and Roland Lee of Lyon County.

The deadline to submit petitions of candidacy (signatures) for Independent candidates and candidates from minor parties with no ballot access was May 18th , and the period for filing declarations of candidacy closed June 30th pursuant to court order.

Heller was selected to fill the vacancy created with the resignation of U.S. Sen. John Ensign.

Nevada Supreme Court Set To Weigh In On Special Election In 2nd Congressional District

By Sean Whaley | 7:51 am June 29th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Attorneys for the state Democrat and Republican parties argued their cases Tuesday before the Nevada Supreme Court over whether they should pick their candidates for the special election to fill the vacant 2nd Congressional District seat, or whether it should be a “ballot royale.”

The Democrat Party and Secretary of State Ross Miller, himself a Democrat, are asking the court to rule by July 6 that any and all comers should be able to file to fill the vacancy left with the appointment of former Rep. Dean Heller, R-Nev., to the U.S. Senate.

Attorneys for the Republicans say Miller exceeded his authority in making the election a free-for-all, and that the parties should select the single candidate to represent them in a special election that has been set for Sept. 13, although it is possible this date might have to be changed.

Some Supreme Court justices appeared to question if Miller’s administrative decision to allow any candidate to run as a Republican or Democrat was appropriate, given the requirements in Nevada state law and the failure of the secretary of state’s office to finalize regulations on such a special election following the Legislature’s adoption of a new law addressing the issue in 2003.

“What is of concern to me is a broader legal question, (which) is the extent to which deference should be given by this court or any court to an administrative decision which is not represented by regulation,” said Justice James Hardesty.

But Justice Mark Gibbons asked attorney David O’Mara, representing the state Republican Party, why the court should not defer to Miller.

“Why shouldn’t we just let the secretary of state make this decision and interpretation, because otherwise we’re going to have judges running these elections and setting the policy” which is probably not the best option, he said. “Maybe it’s better for the chief elected official of the state to make these decisions.”

Miller, who sat in on the 45-minute oral argument in front of the seven justices, one of whom participated from Las Vegas, said too much should not be read into the questioning. Only a final ruling from the court will clarify the court’s position, he said.

Secretary of State Ross Miller answers questions after the Supreme Court hearing Tuesday./Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau

His representative at the hearing, Deputy Attorney General Kevin Benson, said Carson City District Judge Todd Russell got the decision wrong when he ruled Miller’s interpretation was incorrect.

“The district court got it wrong because it’s decision is directly contrary to the plain language of (Nevada Revised Statutes 304.240),” he said. “That language says a major party candidate is nominated by filing. It doesn’t say: is nominated by the central committee, by the party or by anybody else for that matter. It says you’re nominated by filing a declaration or acceptance of candidacy.”

O’Mara argued against giving deference to Miller to make such an interpretation.

“Nevada’s public policy has always been that we are going to narrow the candidates who are going to be placed on the general election,” he said. “Now we can call this a special election but the statute specifically says that we are going to treat it and have all the laws of Nevada’s general election apply.”

Attorney Marc Elias, representing Democrats, argued the court should defer to Miller’s interpretation.

“The Nevada Legislature has spoken to this situation,” he said. “It has spoken plainly. And if there is ambiguity, it has also spoken as to how that ambiguity is to be resolved – by determining that there shall be a chief elections official, that that chief election official shall be the Secretary of State, and that independent of the rule-making authority, that chief election official shall have interpretive authority.”

The 2nd Congressional District seat has been held by Republicans since it was created in 1981. The GOP is concerned that if multiple candidates are allowed to run under its party name, the vote will split and favor Democrats.

Russell ruled in favor of the Republican Party in May, and the Democrats and Miller appealed.

The state Republican Party 10 days ago went ahead and picked former state party chairman and former state Sen. Mark Amodei as its official nominee. Democrats followed on Saturday by selecting state Treasurer Kate Marshall as their official candidate.

But filing for the race, which remains open through Thursday, has attracted multiple candidates running under both party banners. Fifteen Republicans have filed, although several others, including state Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, have withdrawn.

Retired Navy commander Kirk Lippold remains in the race, however.

Ten Democrats have also filed for the vacancy, including former university system Regent Nancy Price, but she announced her withdrawal from the race last week.

Besides the front-runners, most of the major party candidates have little name recognition.

Whoever wins the seat will have to immediately begin a re-election campaign for the 2012 general election.

While the ballot question remains in limbo, the two major parties are not wasting any time attacking the opposing front-running candidate.

On Tuesday Democrats accused Amodei of dodging the question of his support for major changes to the Medicare program as proposed by Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis.

“Spin and doubletalk will not change the fact that Kirk Lippold and Mark Amodei are on record giving their full throated support for the Heller-Heck plan to end Medicare,” said Nevada State Democratic Party spokesman Zach Hudson.

Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., is the incumbent in Congressional District 3.

Republicans meanwhile questioned Marshall’s candidacy following her selection on Saturday.

“Whether it’s taking Harry Reid’s fast campaign money or losing Nevadans tax dollars in a Wall Street gamble, Kate Marshall is wrong for Nevada,” said Mari Nakashima, communications director for the Nevada Republican Party. “Nevadans simply cannot trust or afford another big government, tax-and-spend liberal in Washington, DC.”

Gov. Brian Sandoval appointed Heller to the Senate after the resignation of John Ensign over his conduct involving an affair with a former staff member.

Audio clips:

Justice James Hardesty asks why the court should defer to Secretary of State Ross Miller on the ballot question:

062811Hardesty :16 represented by regulation.”

Justice Mark Gibbons asks why the court should not defer to Miller on the CD2 race:

062811Gibbons :13 make these decisions.”

Deputy Attorney General Kevin Benson says the district court got the decision wrong:

062811Benson :20 acceptance of candidacy.”

Republican attorney David O’Mara says the court should not defer to Miller on the ballot issue:

062811O’Mara :16 general election apply.”

Democrat attorney Marc Elias says Miller is the proper authority on the question:

062811Elias :26 have interpretive authority.”




Bill To Generate Money For Public Education, Create Jobs, Raises Legal Concerns

By Sean Whaley | 5:20 pm May 18th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A bill authorizing the state Treasurer to use up to $50 million in education funds to support economic diversification efforts and generate more money for public schools passed the Senate today despite questions about the constitutionality of the measure.

Senate Bill 75, amended twice before the vote, passed 12-9 with 10 Democrats and two Republicans in support. It will now be considered by the Assembly.

The bill is being sought by state Treasurer Kate Marshall.

It would create a first-for-the-state private equity fund to allow for investment in both existing Nevada companies and companies seeking to locate to the state that are in such industries as cyber security, alternative energy and health care.

The intent is to assist in diversifying Nevada’s economy while generating a better return on the invested monies from the state’s Permanent School Fund.

A big hurdle for the measure is the state constitutional prohibition on loaning state money to any company except a corporation formed for educational or charitable purposes. Supporters of the bill have a judicial determination that the proposed investments would be constitutional. Some Republican lawmakers say the determination is insufficient to satisfy their concerns.

The bill also has some political overtones. Marshall is a Democrat who has announced her intention to run for the open Congressional District 2 seat in the September special election. State Sen. Greg Brower, who voted against the measure today, is a Republican who has also announced his intention to seek the seat.

The constitutional question proved troubling for some lawmakers during a debate before today’s vote.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said he wanted to see either an attorney general’s opinion or one from the legal counsel of the Legislature answering the constitutional question before he could support the measure.

“It’s one thing to ask a judge to sign an order,” said Roberson, an attorney. “It’s another thing to have the imprimatur of the attorney general’s office saying yes, we believe as a matter of law, this is our opinion, that it is constitutional.”

Brower, R-Reno, also an attorney, had similar concerns.

“I sat on the committee that heard this bill and was impressed by some of the ideas brought forward that were behind this bill, and considered it with great interest in terms of it being, as you might call it, an outside-the-box approach to this issue,” he said.

But, Brower said: “We haven’t been able to get a good, clean bill of health on this bill in terms of its constitutionality.”

Until the issue is clarified, the Legislature should not pass a bill that may not be constitutional, he said.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, said waiting for the Nevada Supreme Court to rule on whether each bill passed by the Legislature is constitutional would unduly hamper the legislative process. He said he would rely on the district court determination.

Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, said the bill has the potential to help create desperately needed jobs in Nevada. There is time while the bill is being considered in the Assembly to resolve the constitutional question, he said.

The bill had already been amended by Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, who successfully put the authority of the investment process in the hands of the Commission on Economic Development. Even so, Cegavske said her concerns with the overall bill, including the constitutionality question, caused her to vote against the measure.

Kieckhefer and Hardy voted for the bill. Sen. John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, was the only Democrat opposing the measure.

The bill as originally introduced would create a nonprofit public entity, the Nevada Capital Investment Corporation, to be headed by a board that includes members appointed by the governor and legislative leadership based on their investment expertise. The state treasurer, whose duties include the investment of state money, would also be a member.

The NCIC would hire professional private equity fund managers that would seek to partner with capital investment firms to invest in select companies and innovative start-up businesses that would assist in the state’s efforts to grow and diversify its economic base, leading to increased employment.

Steve George, chief of staff to Marshall, said the office remains supportive of the intent of the bill. But he suggested the Cegavske amendment, by changing the focus of the bill from improving the investment return for public school funds to one solely looking at economic development, could actually make it unconstitutional.

The primary focus originally was to get a better rate of return on the Permanent School Fund, a trust fund made up of federal funds provided to the state for decades from such sources as the sale of federal lands and court fees, George said. It is a trust fund that can’t be spent, only invested.

Eleven other states, excluding Nevada and Colorado, can invest their funds in more diverse ways, George said. Nevada has earned 4 percent on its investments over the past five years with the current limitation, while three other states have earned in excess of 5 percent, according to information provided by the Treasurer’s Office to Gov. Brian Sandoval. Oklahoma has earned 6.22 percent over the past five years.

“With no focus on return, we don’t think it will pass the constitutional requirement,” George said.

Audio clips:

Sen. Michael Roberson says his constitutional concerns with the bill remain unanswered:

051811Roberson :12 that it’s constitutional.”

Sen. Greg Brower says he has the same concerns despite the outside-the-box thinking in the bill:

051811Brower :17 to this issue.”

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer says he will rely on the opinion of the district court:

051811Kieckhefer :23 on his opinion.”




Nevada Officials Pleased With Sandoval’s Funding Of Millennium Scholarship

By Sean Whaley | 1:11 pm January 25th, 2011

CARSON CITY – State officials said today they are pleased that Gov. Brian Sandoval has proposed continuing the Guinn Millennium Scholarship program in his budget, including a one-time infusion of $10 million from the general fund to keep it solvent through 2016.

“I was pleased to see that,” said Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, in a budget hearing today.

Sandoval received a standing ovation during his State of the State speech Monday when he said the scholarship, named after the late Gov. Kenny Guinn, is continued in his budget. The program has been in jeopardy because of budget cuts and revenue shortfalls. Guinn established the scholarship during his first term as governor.

The Legislature must still approve the funding when the 2011 session convenes Feb. 7.

State Treasurer Kate Marshall, whose office manages the scholarship funds, also expressed appreciation to Sandoval for his support of the program.

In addition to the $10 million general fund contribution, the scholarship will continue to receive funding from Nevada’s tobacco settlement agreement, as well as a $7.6 million transfer each year from the treasurer’s Unclaimed Property Division.

The decision to continue the scholarship, “is a welcome message to students and parents across the state of Nevada,” Marshall said. “My office continues to receive many inquiries about the future of the Gov. Guinn Millennium Scholarship program from students, parents, and high school counselors concerned about the opportunity to utilize the program’s benefits in upcoming years.”

The program has been used by more than 60,000 Nevada high school graduates who have met the eligibility criteria. Currently, there are approximately 21,000 students receiving millennium scholarship benefits. Since its inception, over 22,000 millennium scholars have earned a degree from a Nevada institution of higher learning.

The Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee infused the scholarship with College Savings Plans program funds last year to keep it solvent through this school year, but its future was in doubt due in part to lower amounts of funding coming from the tobacco settlement agreement. The annual tobacco payment to Nevada is declining mostly because people are smoking less.

The scholarship currently provides around $25 million per year to Nevada high school graduates who attend a Nevada institution of higher learning. Initial eligibility requirements include graduating from a Nevada high school with a minimum 3.25 grade point average.

About 8,000 high school graduates per year are eligible to receive a millennium scholarship, of which about 60 percent choose to activate their award.

The Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) says the scholarship covers about 56 percent of a student’s tuition costs at a Nevada university.

Nevada State Treasurer Completes Bond Sale At Low Interest Rate

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 12:28 pm December 9th, 2010

CARSON CITY – State Treasurer Kate Marshall announced today that despite the current volatile treasury market, her office has successfully completed the sale of five series of general obligation bonds totaling $161.3 million at an average interest cost of 3.6 percent, one of the lowest interest rates the state has ever received.

“We have been working diligently to find funding to assist the Governor’s Office and the Department of Administration with meeting capital improvement project needs they have identified,” Marshall said. “I am happy to report that this important sale will provide about $52 million in funding for such projects, with the determination of how that money will be used now in the hands of the Department of Administration.”

Marshall praised her staff and the three firms managing the sale – Barclays Capital, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley – for their efforts and teamwork in making the sale a success.

The bonds were sold in two main blocks. The first two series of bonds totaling $142.1 million were sold to refinance bonds issued previously for the state’s capital improvement program. The proceeds will provide $23.1 million for new projects this fiscal year and free up an additional $29 million for fiscal year 2012.

The last three series of bonds totaling $19.2 million are providing funding for the state’s Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Revolving Fund, used to fund local governments’ water and sewer projects throughout the state, as well as to refund bonds previously issued under that program.

The bond sales come a week after the country’s three major rating agencies maintained the state’s strong AA bond rating.

All three rating agencies – Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch – said the high rating reflects the state’s conservative financial practices, modest level of state debt, and strong financial leadership.

“The high ratings we were able to achieve in spite of the economic hardships facing the state over the past two years played a substantial role in our ability to sell the bonds this week amidst a heavy supply of new municipal bonds and inflationary concerns in the bond market,” Marshall said. “With yields likely to rise in the future due to the potential end of the Build America Bonds program by year-end and the current tone of the bond market, we were pleased to be able to effectively market these bonds to the investor community at this time.”