Posts Tagged ‘Nevada Legislature’

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.


Nevada Voters Approve Legislative Special Session Measure

By Sean Whaley | 10:59 am November 7th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A majority of Nevada voters on Tuesday approved a measure sought by some state lawmakers that will now allow them to call a special session of the Legislature on “extraordinary occasions.”

The vote in support of the constitutional amendment was 54 percent to 46 percent opposed.

The Nevada state Senate in session, 2011. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

The change will now allow the Legislature, on extraordinary occasions and only with two-thirds support of lawmakers in each house, to call itself into special session. Sessions would be limited to 20 days, but could be convened on a continuous basis if the extraordinary conditions requirement was met and with two-thirds support from lawmakers.

The term “extraordinary occasions” is not defined.

The constitution previously allowed only the governor to call a special session of the Legislature.

Currently, legislatures in 34 states are authorized to call a special session.

Nevada voters rejected the concept in 2006 but supported it in this election.

The measure was put on the ballot after Assembly Joint Resolution 5 was approved by the Legislature in both 2009 and 2011. In 2011, the proposal passed both houses by a party line vote with all Republicans opposed.

Opponents of the proposal were concerned the change could move the Legislature away from its tradition of meeting on a part-time basis by allowing lawmakers to call themselves into session on a continuous basis.

But supporters said giving lawmakers the authority to call themselves into special session could be critical if a situation like that in Illinois arose with impeached Gov. Rod Blagojevich. Supporters said it would be unlikely for a governor facing impeachment to call a special session to allow for his own removal from office.

Democrats Narrowly Maintain Control Of State Senate

By Sean Whaley | 12:30 am November 7th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The Nevada state Senate will remain in Democratic control following Tuesday’s election after three Republican candidates won victories in five closely contested races, one short of the number needed for a change of power.

Democrats won two of the five races in play for control of the Senate, maintaining the 11-10 status quo over Republicans.

Republicans needed to win four of the five contested seats to achieve an 11-10 edge and win control of the Senate. Democrats have controlled the Senate since 2008.

But Republicans won only three of the five races, all of which were closely contested.

The results ensure that both the 21-member Senate and the 42-member Assembly will remain in control of Democrats in the 2013 session, requiring GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval to work with the opposing party in both houses to push through his education reform agenda in the 2013 legislative session.

There were 12 Senate races in the Tuesday election, but only five were considered in play by the two parties.

Mark Hutchison, Republican victor in Senate District 6.

In Senate District 5, former state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, D-Henderson, defeated Republican and former Henderson city councilman Steve Kirk for the four-year term. The final vote had 52 percent for Woodhouse to 48 percent for Kirk. Woodhouse served previously but had lost a re-election bid in 2010.

In Senate District 6, GOP attorney Mark Hutchison narrowly defeated Democrat businessman Benny Yerushalmi, 50.8 percent 49.2 percent.

In Senate District 9, Democrat Justin Jones defeated Republican Mari St. Martin by a margin of 50.4 percent to 49.6 percent.

In Senate District 15 in Washoe County, a closely watched race that pitted Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, against former state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, Brower eked out a narrow victory. Leslie had resigned her previous seat to face Brower, but lost the hotly contested race 50.2 percent to 49.8 percent. More than $1 million was spent on the race by the two candidates, with Brower winning by a mere 266 votes.

In Senate District 18, GOP Assemblyman Scott Hammond defeated Democrat Kelli Ross, 51.4 percent to 48.6 percent.

Both GOP caucus leader Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, and Democratic leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, had high hopes for their slate of candidates.

In the Assembly, Democrats picked up a seat to take a 27-15 edge over Republicans, although there were some significant developments in a handful of the races.

Assembly Majority Leader Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, expected to be the next Assembly Speaker, lost a fiercely contested race to GOP newcomer Wes Duncan, by a margin of 51.1 percent to 48.9 percent.

Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas.

Conklin’s loss opens up the leadership post among Democrats for the 2013 session.

In Assembly District 20, Democrat Ellen Spiegel, who lost a re-election bid in 2010, won her election bid over Republican Eric Mendoza.

And in a race sure to cause some difficulties for Democrats, candidate Andrew Martin won over Republican Kelly Hurst, despite being found ineligible for the seat by a Clark County District Judge on Monday due to a residency issue. Evidence presented at a court hearing resulted in a ruling that Martin did not actually live in the district.

In other races, President Obama’s strong showing in the Silver State did not have the coattail effect that Rep. Shelly Berkley, D-Nev., needed in her challenge to Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev. Heller narrowly defeated Berkley to keep the Senate seat for the GOP, even though Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., will maintain his position in the U.S. Senate with victories elsewhere across the country.

In the state’s four House races, former Rep. Dina Titus, D-Nev., won election in the 1st Congressional District. Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., won a full term to the 2nd District, and Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., defeated challenger John Oceguera for a second term in the 3rd District. The most closely watched race, in the new 4th Congressional District, saw state Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, defeat GOP candidate Danny Tarkanian.

Horsford will be Nevada’s first African American member of Congress.

State Senate Candidates Await Fate

By Sean Whaley | 2:46 pm November 5th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The precincts have been walked, the issues debated and the media campaigns run. Now many Nevada voters will get to weigh in on five critical races to determine whether Republicans or Democrats will control the state Senate after the polls close tomorrow.

The 21-member Senate currently has an 11-10 Democratic edge.

Gov. Brian Sandoval and many of his Republican colleagues are working to change this by winning at least four of five of the races in play between the two parties on Election Day tomorrow.

Sandoval, who is expected to push for further education reforms and other changes in the 2013 session, would love to have the leverage a Republican Senate would provide to help win passage of his agenda.

State Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas.

Democrats meanwhile, are working hard to hold on to or even increase their majority in the Senate, where they have been in control since 2008. The 42-member Assembly is expected to remain under Democratic control following the election.

Races to watch

Four of the five Senate seats in play are in Southern Nevada and the fifth is in Reno:

Senate 5, where Republican and former Henderson city councilman Steve Kirk is facing Democrat and former state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse;

Senate 6, where GOP attorney Mark Hutchison faces Democrat businessman Benny Yerushalmi;

Senate 9, where Republican Mari Nakashima St. Martin faces Democrat Justin Jones;

Senate 15 in Reno where Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, is running against former state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno; and,

Senate 18, where Republican Assemblyman Scott Hammond faces Democrat Kelli Ross.

Republicans have a voter registration edge in Senate 15 and 18, while Democrats lead in the other three. There are a large number of nonpartisan voters in all five districts as well, however. How they vote could determine the outcome of the races.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, said the top drawer candidates recruited by the Republican Senate caucus are all in a position to win on Tuesday.

State Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas.

“We’re right where we want to be, we’re right where we expected to be,” he said today. “We’re positioned to win all of these races. Whether we do or not the voters will tell us tomorrow.

“All of our races are very close,” Roberson said. “Some of them could certainly go either way. But we feel like we’ve done everything we can to put us in a position to be successful.”

The Republican candidates have been successful in attracting both Democrat and nonpartisan voters, he said.

“So I think you’re going to see a lot of ticket splitting; I think you’re going to see a lot of people who are registered Democrat or registered nonpartisan that come over and vote for our candidates,” Roberson said.

Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, was equally optimistic about the outcome for his Democratic candidates.

“Our take has always been that we were going to maintain and expand our majority,” he said today. “We went out and recruited some great folks and we’ve been out working hard on the ground since February, knocking on doors.”

The candidates and the caucus have raised the funds needed to fund competitive campaigns, and polling shows they are doing well with voters, Denis said.

“The registration numbers were great for us, and the early vote has been great for us,” he said. “So I feel real confident about our folks and how they’re going to do tomorrow.”

Early voting results statewide did favor Democrats, with 307,877 votes cast compared to 259,913 for Republicans. Not all of those votes came in the five Senate districts.

Republicans out raising Democrats in all five races

But the campaign funding race has favored Republicans, according to the Campaign Contribution and Expense forms filed with the Secretary of State’s office updated through Nov. 1.

Even so, all of the candidates have brought in and spent large sums since the beginning of the year, showing just out important both parties see the races.

The Brower-Leslie race alone has generated nearly $1.2 million in contributions combined since January.

In Senate 5, Kirk has raised $336,000 since the beginning of the year, but has spent $392,000. This compares to $243,000 for Woodhouse with nearly $267,000 spent.

In Senate 6, Hutchison has brought in just over $572,000 while spending nearly $520,000. Yerushalmi has raised $292,000 while spending $290,000.

In Senate 9, St. Martin has raised over $388,000 and spent $376,000, while Jones has raised nearly $313,000 and spent $297,000.

In Senate 15, Brower has almost $704,000 and spent $718,000, with Leslie bringing in nearly $483,000 and spending $500,000.

In Senate 18, Hammond has raised $214,000 and spent 208,000, while Ross reported just over $201,000 in contributions and $186,000 in expenses.

Roberson said a Republican majority in the Senate will bring more balance to the Legislature.

“And that’s going to encourage more bipartisanship, more cooperation, more collaboration,” he said. “And I think the end result will be better legislation, better public service for the people of Nevada, coming out of Carson City.”

Denis said he has a track record of working across the aisle with Republicans, and that his leadership will ensure bipartisanship and balance with the GOP.

“I think the balance has to come from leadership, and I’ve show that,” he said. “I know Sen. Roberson has said he wants to do that; he’s going to have to prove that with his actions. And so I’ll give him the benefit of the doubt that he’ll want to do that.”


Audio clips:

Sen. Michael Roberson says the Senate GOP candidates are positioned to win on Tuesday:

110512Roberson1 :23 to be successful.”

Roberson says Republicans will draw Democratic and nonpartisan voters:

110512Roberson2 :10 for our candidates.”

Roberson says a GOP Senate will encourage bipartisanship:

110512Roberson3 :18 of Carson City.”

Sen. Mo Denis says Democrats are poised to hold on to and even expand their Senate majority:

110512Denis11 :19 knocking on doors.”

Denis says he is confident the Senate Democratic candidates will do well Tuesday:

110512Denis2 :13 to do tomorrow.”

Denis says he has a track record of working with Republicans:

110512Denis3 :24 to do that.”


Study Touts New Measures For Teacher Effectiveness

By Sean Whaley | 11:53 am September 5th, 2012

CARSON CITY – As Nevada policy makers work to ensure that ineffective teachers are removed from classrooms around the state, a new report released today provides evidence to support the use of test scores to measure how much individual teachers contribute to pupil achievement.

Using quantitative measures to evaluate teachers, known as value-added modeling (VAM), remains controversial, said Marcus Winters, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute’s Center for State and Local Leadership.

But in his report released today called Transforming Tenure: Using Value-Added Modeling to Identify Ineffective Teachers, Winters said his analysis using data from Florida public schools shows that a VAM score in a teacher’s third year in the classroom is a good predictor of that teacher’s success in the fifth year of teaching after receiving tenure.

“VAM is not a perfect measure of teacher quality because, like any statistical test, it is subject to random measurement errors,” Winters said in his report. “So it should not be regarded as the ‘magic bullet’ solution to the problem of evaluating teacher performance.

“However, the method is reliable enough to be part of a sensible policy of tenure reform – one that replaces ‘automatic’ tenure with rigorous evaluation of new candidates and periodic reexamination of those who have already received tenure,” he said.

Winters, an assistant professor at the University of Colorado Colorado Springs, discussed his report in a telephone conference today with the news media.

“The idea is by looking at student test scores and by matching students to their teachers, we can identify which are the effective teachers – which are the teachers that are having a positive effect on student learning as measured by their test score growth – and which teachers are just not doing as well,” he said.

The findings show that the value-added analysis is a good predictor of future teacher performance, Winters said.

“What this means is that value-added is potentially a useful tool for identifying a teacher’s future performance, which is what we really want out of an evaluation system,” he said. “And on top of that, I show that value-added is actually a far better predictor of a teacher’s future performance than is a measure that is commonly used by the current system, which is obtainment of a master’s degree.”

The analysis comes as Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval is pushing for improved teacher accountability as a way to improve student achievement. Sandoval was successful in getting a number of reforms passed in the 2011 legislative session, including a requirement that student achievement data must be at least half of, but not the sole factor, in evaluating teachers.

Lawmakers also supported the creation of the Teachers and Leaders Council of Nevada, which is charged with making recommendations by December of this year to the state Board of Education for the creation of a statewide performance evaluation system for teachers and administrators.

The Board of Education has until June 1, 2013 to adopt regulations establishing the performance evaluation system, which then must be implemented in the state’s 17 school districts by the 2013-2014 school year.

Overall teacher performance will be ranked as highly effective, effective, minimally effective or ineffective.

The 2011 legislative changes also require an additional probationary period for teachers and administrators who receive unsatisfactory evaluations.

Sandoval is expected to pursue further education reforms in the upcoming legislative session, including ending social promotion of students.

Tennessee was the first state to develop and use value-added models, according to the Data Quality Campaign.


Audio clips:

Marcus Winters, a senior fellow with the Manhattan Institute, says using student test scores to assess teacher performance is a reliable predictor of future teacher effectiveness:

090512Winters1 :15 doing as well.”

Winters says it is a better measure than current evaluation tools:

090512Winters2 :22 a master’s degree.”



Interim Lawmaker Panel OKs Drafting Resolution To Provide For Study Of Legislature, Including Pay, Annual Sessions

By Sean Whaley | 4:18 pm August 20th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A legislative panel today voted to seek a resolution in the 2013 session to authorize the creation of a public commission to study the operation of the Legislature and make recommendations on issues ranging from lawmaker pay to moving to annual sessions.

The Legislative Commission’s Committee To Study the Structure and Operations of the Nevada Legislature voted to pursue such a review, which has not occurred in Nevada since 1988. The study would be performed by a public commission which could make recommendations for consideration by the 2015 Legislature.

Details of who would serve on the public commission, along with other aspects of such a review, will be worked out in committee hearings in the 2013 session that will start next February.

Currently the Nevada constitution requires the Legislature meet every other year for 120 days. The constitution also limits legislative pay to the first 60 days of a session and imposes term limits for state lawmakers. Voters would have to approve any changes to these requirements before they could take effect.

While the legislative panel approved the drafting of a resolution providing for a public commission to review these and potentially other legislative rules and mandates, one lawmaker said he will reserve judgment until he sees the final working of the proposal.

“I’m all for studying virtually anything and this is certainly a topic worthy of study,” said Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, a member of the panel. “But I don’t want to mislead the chair of the committee. I’m not convinced that creating a commission is necessary, especially in light of the fact that this committee has been meeting throughout the interim to do largely what the commission would do.

“But I will keep an open mind on that, and I will look at the resolution once it is created as a result of this committee’s work, and I will study it carefully during the next session,” he said.

Before the discussion on the resolution, the committee heard from former state Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, who now serves as a member of the Nevada Gaming Commission. Townsend was termed out of office in 2010. He had served in the Senate since 1983.

Former state Sen. Randolph Townsend. / Photo courtesy of Project Vote Smart.

Townsend suggested a number of ideas for the Legislature to consider, including changing the length of terms for state Senators from four years to six, and for Assembly members from two years to four, to reduce the frequency of campaigns that he said interfere in the legislative process.

“Whether you change term limits or not, I think you take a lot of the money and vitriol out of these things,” he said. “Because it’s gotten to the point where campaigns overcome policy making, and that is not fair to any of you no matter what party you are in or what section of the state you live in.”

Townsend also suggested that legislative sessions be changed to even-numbered years if there is no move to have annual sessions. Those elected to the Legislature in each general election every November in even numbered years would then have more than a full year to learn the legislative process before a session would begin. Now lawmakers are elected in November and must start a session early the following year, he said.

“Move it off a year,” Townsend said. “Leadership can appoint those folks to their interim committees, and they can start learning the process, and the issues, and their colleagues and the people that they affect. That one single change will make every legislator better, whether you’ve been there a long time or whether you are new.”

The change would also mean a shorter campaign season for lawmakers if sessions continued to end in early June in even-numbered years, Townsend said.

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the interim study committee, questioned how lawmakers would raise campaign funds in such a scenario but said such issues can be discussed at a later date.


Audio clips:

Sen. Greg Brower says he is not convinced such a study is needed but will consider the issue in the 2013 session:

082012Brower :32 the next session.”

Former state Sen. Randolph Townsend says Assembly terns should be four years and Senate terms six years:

082012Townsend1 :11 you live in.”

Townsend says legislative sessions should be moved to even-numbered years:

082012Townsend2 :24 you are new.”

$3 Million Tourism Contract Approved By State Board, Funding Still In Limbo

By Sean Whaley | 2:14 pm July 13th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The state Board of Examiners today approved a $3 million contract with an out-of-state firm to spearhead tourism efforts in Nevada after being told the selection process was thorough and fair.

The board, with members Gov. Brian Sandoval and Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto voting, approved the two-year contract with the California-based offices of Burson-Marsteller.

Approval came despite the fact that the contract remains in limbo. The Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee in June delayed approval of budgetary changes sought by the Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs needed to pay the contract.

The budget changes were deferred after state Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, a candidate for the 4th Congressional District seat, questioned if the firm had any knowledge of Nevada. The Interim Finance Committee won’t meet again until Aug. 23.

Sandoval said he was satisfied that the selection process was proper. He also noted that Nevada has some preferences for Nevada firms competing for contracts, but that the provisions did not come into play to the selection process.

If there was a tie, for example, then a Nevada firm would get the nod, but there was no tie in this case.

“I’m confident in the process,” Sandoval said after the vote. “I think that it was a well-vetted process that was consistent with what the state has always done. It was consistent with the law. There was a committee that was comprised of both private sector experts in the area as well as experts within the state of Nevada that fairly graded each of the applicants.”

Nineteen firms, eight from in-state and 11 from outside Nevada, submitted proposals to secure the contract.

“I think that the entity that was selected will do well for the state of Nevada,” Sandoval said.

Claudia Vecchio, director of the Department of Tourism and Cultural Affairs, along with Greg Smith, state administrator and chief procurement officer of the Nevada State Purchasing Division, reviewed the selection process for the board.

The request for proposals was handled like any other such contract, with no special treatment provided to any firm, Smith said.

Vecchio defended the contract and selection process at the Interim Finance Committee meeting, noting that none of the four finalists were from Nevada, a fact which generated comment from at least one Nevada public relations firm.

Burson-Marsteller, with offices in Los Angeles and San Francisco, was the unanimous selection of an evaluation committee made up of Nevada tourism professionals, Vecchio said. The company will be working with Red Rock Strategies out of Las Vegas, she said.

The contract has been drawn up and signed by both parties, but it remains contingent upon approval of state officials.

Vecchio said the firm will provide national and international contacts that will benefit the state.


Audio clip:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says the selection process was fair and followed the law:

071312Sandoval :19 of the applicants.”



Plan To Move Nevada Primary Closer To General Election Likely To Face Tough Road In Legislature Next Year

By Sean Whaley | 12:21 pm May 22nd, 2012

CARSON CITY – A proposal by Assemblyman Pat Hickey, R-Reno, to move Nevada’s primary election back to September to shorten the campaign season didn’t get out of the starting gate in 2011.

The Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee held one hearing on Assembly Bill 157, which had cosponsors from both major political parties. But it also saw serious opposition from state election officials and never came up for a vote.

Photo by Guroadrunner via Wikimedia Commons.

Even so, Hickey said he would like to again pursue the idea of moving the primary closer to the November general election in the 2013 legislative session. The Assembly GOP caucus leader announced his intentions Monday while discussing proposed reforms to the campaign finance and lobbying reporting laws. Hickey said he is not set on a particular date for the primary.

But the election season goes on too long with the June primary and voters lose interest, he said.

“In shortening the length of the campaign season we might actually create an electorate that is actively engaged rather than being turned off and tuned out by the time November rolls around,” Hickey said.

It would also reduce the amount of time Democratic and Republican candidates would have to campaign against each other, Hickey said.

“By doing so we might even make progress in restoring a measure of civility to campaigning or at the very least, shorten the period we make enemies of each other in the dog days of summer before we arrive in Carson City before the cold days of winter needing to make peace with each other,” he said.

The late Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, was an advocate for moving the primary back to September.

But several Nevada election officials opposed the change in the 2011 hearing, arguing a September primary is too close to the November general election to ensure ballots can be prepared and delivered to voters, especially overseas military personnel.

In 2005 the Legislature changed the primary from September to August to accommodate the time concerns of election officials. August primaries were held in 2006 and 2008.

But Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said at the 2011 hearing that the August date proved imperfect because of the heat of the summer in Las Vegas for those campaigning and because of concerns that many potential voters were on vacation.

The Legislature changed the date again in 2009 to the second Tuesday in June, which was used in the 2010 election season. The primary this year is June 12.

The Secretary of State’s office also opposed the change back to September during the 2011 hearing, citing the same concern about the U.S. Department of Justice requirement for mailing out overseas ballots.

Lomax said today that a September primary is not doable because of the need to comply with the federal regulations for overseas ballots. The August primary was not popular either because of the heat and concerns about participation by voters, he said.

“I understand what they say about the additional campaigning . . . but early voting starts here next week and there is nothing going on but signs posted around,” Lomax said. “So I don’t know how much that turns off the voters.”

The only significant television or radio advertising on the air in Southern Nevada is not local but is related to the presidential race, he said.

The second Tuesday in June has proved to be a good date for a variety of reasons, and Lomax said it should be left alone.

Hickey acknowledged that a bill changing the primary will face opposition from many lawmakers. There are arguments that a shorter campaign season favors incumbents, he said.

“I really do think that with 10- and 12-month campaigns every other year we take ourselves away from doing the work in the interim,” he said. “I think it does contribute to the animosity and the distance that members of both parties feel from each other with long and heated campaigns such as they are. And maybe more importantly I really do think we wear the public out and I think we turn a lot of them off.”


Audio clips:

Assemblyman Pat Hickey says a shorter campaign season might improve relationships between the two parties:

052212Hickey1 :16 with each other.”

Hickey says a shorter campaign season could lead to an actively engaged electorate:

052212Hickey2 :32 November rolls around.”



Pew Study Gives Nevada Low Marks For Evaluating Effectiveness Of Tax Incentives

By Sean Whaley | 2:43 pm April 13th, 2012

CARSON CITY – A new study by the Pew Center on the States identifies Nevada as one of 16 states that did not publish a document between 2007 and 2011 that evaluated the effective of tax incentives.

Nevada received a poor grade in the study: Evidence Counts: Evaluating State Tax Incentives for Jobs and Growth. The study identified 13 states leading the way in conducting such evaluations, another 12 showing mixed results and the remainder, including Nevada, that “have not taken the basic steps needed to know whether their incentives are effective.”

Courtesy of the Pew Center on the States.

The study found that every state has at least one incentive program and most have several. States offer credits, exemptions and deductions to businesses in specific industries, such as manufacturing or movie production. They also give them to firms willing to locate in struggling neighborhoods, or to firms that pledge to hire new workers.

The Nevada Legislature’s Fiscal Analysis Division conducted a review of the state’s tax abatements and exemptions authorized under Nevada law. The 294-page report, released in February of 2009, identified several tax abatements, tax exemptions and tax incentives, including those for new or expanding businesses and for “green building” construction.

Efforts to create tax incentives in Nevada have been mixed. A bill introduced in the 2011 legislative session that would have offered transferable tax credits to attract filmmakers to Nevada did not win approval.

But a $10 million Catalyst Fund created by the 2011 Legislature to help aid in business expansion and economic development did see approval. It is a component of Nevada’s new Governor’s Office of Economic Development, which in February released its plan to grow and diversify the state economy.

The plan includes benchmarks to assess whether Nevada is achieving its ambitious job-creation goals. Gov. Brian Sandoval has called for the creation of 50,000 new jobs by the end of 2014.

“Policy makers should know whether these tools deliver a strong return on their investment,” said Jeff Chapman, senior researcher, Pew Center on the States. “Regular, rigorous, and comprehensive evaluations of tax incentives are critical to their ability to do so.”

Pew reviewed nearly 600 documents and interviewed more than 175 government officials and experts to examine how – and how well – states gauge the effectiveness of their tax incentives, if they do so at all. The study does not take a position on whether tax incentives for economic development are good or bad, but does identify promising approaches to evaluation.

Nevada Ranks 30th In Animal Protection, National Organization Says In New Report

By Sean Whaley | 2:17 pm January 17th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada ranked 30th among the states in how it protects animals in 2011, scoring only 25 points out of a possible 66, The Humane Society of the United States said in a national report released today.

Ranking first with 46 points was California, followed by New Jersey and Oregon with 40 points. In last place was South Dakota with eight points, with Idaho second to last with nine points.

Courtesy of The Humane Society of the United States

Nevada improved its score from 2010, but the organization noted that the state’s laws regarding the possession of dangerous wild animals are weak. Nevada ranked 30th in 2010 but had 24 points, one fewer than in the 2011 report card.

The third annual rating evaluates the states on a wide range of animal protection laws, including animal cruelty codes, equine protection standards, wildlife issues, animals in research and farm animal policy.

“Our Humane State Ranking provides a big-picture look at how states are faring on animal-protection policies, and how they rank in the nation,” said Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS. “There are some states that are adopting innovative and strong policies to protect animals, while others are lagging badly. Animal protection is a serious matter for tens of millions of Americans, and we hope state lawmakers fulfill their moral responsibility and help us crack down on abuses.”

Nevada’s ranking was unchanged despite several new measures approved by the 2011 Legislature to further protections for animals.

They included Senate Bill 223, sponsored by Sen. Shirley Breeden, D-Henderson, and Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, known as “Cooney’s Law” after a dog brutally killed with a box cutter, was the highest profile animal welfare measure considered during the session. The new law makes willful or malicious cruelty to pet animals a felony on the first offense. Under previous law, a felony charge could be issued only after a third act of cruelty.

Also winning approval were:

- Senate Bill 226, sponsored by Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, Parks, and Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, requiring the wildlife commission to regulate leg hold traps in congested areas.

- Senate Bill 299, sponsored by Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas, requiring commercial dog breeders to be licensed and to have regular county inspections, bans the stacking of cages and the use of wire floors in puppy mills, and prohibits the breeding of dogs younger than 18 months of age. The bill applies only to commercial breeders selling dogs as pets, and exempts hobby breeders.

- Senate Bill 102, proposed by the Senate Natural Resources Committee, imposes civil penalties for illegally killing or possessing a trophy big game mammal, or for illegally killing or possessing certain wildlife species.

Not all measures were successful.

Senate Bill 364, which proposed to ban horse tripping, a practice of roping a horse’s legs used in some non-sanctioned rodeos, failed to win approval in the Senate Natural Resources Committee. Supporters of the bill, including the Humane Society, said the practice is cruel and does occur in some non-advertised rodeos in Nevada.

Opponents said the proposal was an attempt to open the door to banning other types of rodeo events, and ultimately, rodeos themselves.

Report Outlining Tax And Spending Decisions By 2011 Legislature Now Available

By Sean Whaley | 3:30 pm December 6th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A report outlining the actions taken by the 2011 Legislature to finalize Nevada’s two-year, $6.2 billion general fund operating budget that took effect July 1, including approval of $1.1 billion in additional revenues, has been published by the Legislative Counsel Bureau.

The Nevada state Senate in session, 2011. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

Gov. Brian Sandoval initially proposed a $5.84 billion general fund budget that relied heavily on local government revenues to balance out, a decision that was later called into question in a Nevada Supreme Court decision.

The $6.2 billion general fund budget is actually less – but only by about $100 million – than the 2009-11 spending plan.

When all revenues are counted, including federal funding, the current two-year state budget totals $15.9 billion, down from $16.5 billion in the 2009-2011 budget.

The Nevada Legislative Appropriations Report for the 2012 and 2013 fiscal years summarizes the actions of the Legislature in funding public education, corrections and other agency budgets. Prepared by the Fiscal Analysis Division, it also contains sections on tax revenues.

The final spending plan was augmented by revenue increases totaling nearly $1.1 billion over the 2009-11 budget, with $513 million of the total going to the general fund and $556 million to public education.

Sandoval’s original budget did not propose to continue a number of tax increases approved by the 2009 Legislature that were to sunset on June 30, 2011. But in an agreement with lawmakers late in the session, the tax sunsets were removed for two more years to help balance the budget.

The agreement came after the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that $62 million taken from a Clark County water fund in the 2010 special session to help balance the previous budget was unconstitutional. This ruling raised doubts about the legality of a number of proposals in Sandoval’s budget to use local tax revenues to help balance the state budget.

The bipartisan agreement to extend the taxes for two more years came as part of an overall deal to approve major reforms to public education and public employee benefits.

One of the major pieces of the tax agreement was to keep the tax rate for the modified business levy at 1.17 percent of wages, bringing in $237 million over two years. The first $250,000 in wages was completely exempted from the tax, however, as a break to Nevada small businesses.

Another $283 million is being generated by maintaining a 0.35 percent sales tax increase for the current two-year budget to help support public education.

The report shows that 37.5 percent of the general fund budget is directed to public education, down from 39.9 percent in the previous budget. Higher education is receiving 15.3 percent of the total, up from 15.2 percent in the previous budget. Human resources spending totals 31.2 percent, up from 29.1 percent in 2009-2011. The remaining 16 percent is divided among other agencies, including corrections, public safety and the constitutional offices.

The report also shows a reduction in the number of state positions. In fiscal year 2011, which ended June 30, there were 18,431 approved positions in state government, not including the higher education system. For the current year, the number of approved positions is 17,856, a reduction of 575 jobs.

The Nevada System of Higher Education saw a bigger percentage decline, from 7,166 professional and classified jobs in 2011 to 6,789 positions this year, a reduction of 377 jobs.

Thirteen Nevada GOP State Lawmakers Get High Ratings In First Report Card From Conservative Group

By Sean Whaley | 10:38 am November 3rd, 2011

CARSON CITY – The national conservative organization American Conservative Union ranked Nevada lawmakers for the first time in a report card released today, handing out top scores to five GOP state Senators.

Sens. Greg Brower, R-Reno; Don Gustavson, R-Sparks; Elizabeth Halseth and Michael Roberson, both R-Las Vegas; and James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville; all were named as “Conservative All-Stars of the Nevada Legislature” for scoring 100 percent in the ratings.

Another eight Republican lawmakers, two in the Senate and six in the Assembly, were identified as ACU Conservatives for scoring 80 percent or higher in the ratings.

State Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

They are Sens. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas; Mike McGinness, R-Fallon; and Assembly members John Ellison, R-Elko; Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley; John Hambrick and Richard McArthur, both R-Las Vegas; Ira Hansen, R-Sparks; and Mark Sherwood, R-Henderson.

One lawmaker, Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, scored a zero on the report card and was identified as “A True Liberal of the Silver State.”

ACU Chairman Al Cardenas announced the rankings at a press event in Las Vegas.

“Just as we hold every member of Congress accountable for his or her voting record on the most important issues facing our nation, the ACU will ensure voters in Nevada have access to the latest information on their state representatives’ conservative credentials,” he said.

The ACU, which describes itself as the nation’s oldest and largest grassroots conservative organization, recently announced a new initiative to expand the ACU Congressional Ratings program to state legislatures for the first time ever, grading members on their votes on key conservative issues.

State Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks. / Nevada News Bureau file photo

The ACU said in its report that it tracks a wide range of issues before state legislatures to determine which issues and votes, “serve as a clear litmus test separating those representatives who defend liberty and liberal members who have turned their backs on our founding principles – constitutionally limited government, individual liberty, free markets, a strong national defense and traditional values.”

The votes selected for the inaugural State Legislative Ratings in each of five targeted states – Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, Ohio and the Commonwealth of Virginia – are not always considered the “most important” votes as defined by others, the ACU said in its report. Instead, the votes selected are chosen to create a clear ideological distinction among those casting them.

The group selected 31 legislative measures to score the 63 Nevada lawmakers, including Assembly Bill 299, which would have imposed a 50-cent surcharge on auto insurance policies to subsidize car insurance for low income residents, which the ACU opposed. The bill did not pass.

Another measure was Assembly Bill 321, which implemented the “Castle Doctrine” in Nevada, giving citizens the right to defend themselves in their own homes. The ACU supported the bill, which was approved by both houses of the Legislature.

The ACU also used the vote on extending a collection of taxes set to expire on June 30 in its report card. Assembly Bill 561 passed the Legislature and was signed into law by Gov. Brian Sandoval as part of a budget deal between Democrats and Republicans.

“As pleased as we are to recognize a total of 13 members of the Legislature as true conservative patriots, we are disappointed there were not more members who adhered to conservative principles,” Cardenas said. “Thankfully, Gov, Brian Sandoval, a rising star of the conservative movement, has championed limited government and pro-growth policies by vetoing several ill-conceived pieces of legislation passed by the Nevada Legislature.”

“I am honored to be named the most conservative legislator in the Nevada Assembly,” McArthur said. “This rating will reinforce the ratings I have previously received from the Nevada Policy Research Institute and Citizen Outreach.”

McArthur scored 94 percent in the ACU ratings, ranking him as the most conservative member of the Nevada Assembly.

Gustavson said he was pleased to rank so highly in the survey.

“It doesn’t come as a surprise because I have been living up to my conservative values that got me elected and keep getting me elected,” he said. “So I’m very honored to have received the award.”


Audio clips:

Sen. Don Gustavson said he has been living up to his conservative values:

110311Gustavson :09 received the award.”


Gov. Sandoval Makes Appointments to Health Insurance Exchange Board

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 3:44 pm September 23rd, 2011

Dr. Ronald Kline.

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval announced today his appointments to the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange Board.

Sandoval has appointed Elsie Lavonne Lewis, Leslie Ann Johnstone, Dr. Ronald Kline, Barbara Smith Campbell and Marie Kerr. Each of the appointees will be voting members of the board.

“While Nevada remains a partner in challenging the constitutionality of the federal health care law, we are mandated to move forward with its implementation,” Sandoval said.  “Each member of the board will bring a distinctive perspective to the table to help Nevada formulate the most effective exchange.”

Lewis, chief operating officer of the Clark County Urban League, will serve until June 30, 2013. Johnstone, executive director of the Health Services Coalition in Clark County, will serve until June 30, 2014. Kline, a physician with Comprehensive Cancer Centers of Nevada in Clark County, will serve until June 30, 2012. Smith Campbell, a Washoe County resident and former chairwoman of the Nevada Tax Commission, is the founder of Consensus, a tax consulting firm, will serve until June 30, 2014. Kerr, an attorney in Reno, will serve until June 30, 2012.

Reno attorney Marie Kerr.

Created by Senate Bill 440, the Exchange is required to:

-          Create and administer a state-based health insurance exchange;

-          Facilitate the purchase and sale of qualified health plans;

-          Provide for the establishment of a program to assist qualified small employers in Nevada in facilitating the enrollment of their employees in qualified health plans;

-          Make only qualified health plans available to qualified individuals and qualified small employers on or after January 1, 2014; and

-          Unless the federal health care law is repealed or is held to be unconstitutional or otherwise invalid or unlawful, perform all duties that are required of the exchange to implement the requirements of the law.

The bill creating the exchange passed both houses of the Legislature unanimously with four members of the Assembly not present for the vote. While lawmakers questioned the effect of the act being found unconstitutional on the operation of the exchange, there was no testimony in opposition to the measure.

The exchange is governed by the Board of Directors, consisting of five voting members appointed by the governor, one voting member appointed by the Senate majority leader and one voting member appointed by the speaker of the Assembly.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford has appointed Dr. Judith Ford with Canyon Gate Medical Group in Las Vegas, and Assembly Speaker John Oceguera has appointed Lynn Elkins.

[Update]: Background Check Exemption Status for CCW Holders Granted by ATF

By Anne Knowles | 11:46 am August 26th, 2011

Update: Shortly after this story posted, the ATF published an open letter to Nevada gun owners granting the exemption in question.

Thanks to a letter written by a concerned citizen, Nevada owners of a concealed weapons (CCW) permit may soon be able to purchase more firearms without further background checks and the associated $25 fee.

The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BATFE, also commonly referred to as ATF) is reviewing legislation passed this last session to determine if Nevada again qualifies for an exemption from the National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) check. If the legislation meets BATFE requirements, the federal agency will issue an open letter to Nevada federal firearms licensees, or dealers, informing them a CCW permit will now suffice for firearm purchases.

For Nevada gun owners, that means they will forego additional background checks and the associated $25 fee charged by the state, as long as they can produce a valid CCW permit when purchasing a firearm.

A BATFE spokeswoman confirmed that the agency is reviewing the Nevada law, but could not say if or when the exemption would be granted.

“All we’re trying to do is talk to the ATF and make sure they have everything they need,” said Frank Adams, executive director of the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association (NSCA) in Mesquite. “We’re expecting an answer shortly. I don’t have a crystal ball.”

The NSCA initially said it would contact BATFE via a formal letter, but at its July meeting the group opted to delay action until its September meeting at the request of the sheriffs of Clark and Washoe counties, said Adams.

“They wanted to study the impact because they anticipate a huge influx of new applications,” he said.

Adams said both counties have suffered tremendous budget cuts.
“We may have to go back to the counties and ask for more money,” he said, to cover the costs of new permit applications. “The fees we collect don’t cover the whole cost. They have to be fiscally concerned. It’s a privileged license being supplemented by taxpayer dollars.”

In the meantime, a private citizen associated with the Stillwater Firearms Association, a Fallon-based advocacy group, sent a letter to the ATF, which contacted him to say it was reviewing the new law passed by the state, according to J.L. Rhodes, legislative action committee chairman for the association.

“They called to say thank you,” said Rhodes.

Rhodes said he called the Nevada Department of Public Safety to see what the holdup was on contacting the ATF to trigger a review and was told that the ATF was already taking action based on the private citizen’s letter.

“It was left up to an individual to send the letter,” said Carrie Herbertson, state liaison for the National Rifle Association, who said the NSCA dragged its feet on the matter. “That’s one powerful letter.”

Nevada lost its exemption from the NICS checks in 2008 when it failed to pass legislation that would have brought the state into compliance. An earlier audit by the BATFE showed that not all of the state’s sheriff offices were conducting proper background checks and that state law did not require the checks on permit renewals.

In 2005, the state’s 17 sheriffs’ offices signed a Memorandum of Understanding saying they would comply with BATFE requirements until legislation could be enacted in the 2007 legislative session, allowing the state to hang onto its exemption until then.

The Nevada legislature, though, failed to pass the needed legislation in 2007 so, in 2008, the BATFE said the state no longer qualified for the exemption.

Since then, CCW permit holders have had to go through a background check for each firearm purchase and, because Nevada acted as a point of contact (POC) and used the state’s criminal records database, had to pay a $25 fee. Background checks conducted by the Federal Bureau of Investigation for states that opt not to be POCs are free.

No action was taken during the 2009 legislative, but this past session Assembly Bill 282 passed. The bill includes the language making the process for initial applications and renewals the same and is expected to satisfy the BATFE’s rules for exemption from the NICS checks. The only thing left is for the BATFE to review the bill, give its stamp of approval and inform dealers that they can now accept CCW permits as an alternative to NICS checks.

But the granting of the NICS exemption may not be the end of the issue. According to the NRA’s Herbertson, at least one Nevada state legislator is looking into why the state charges a $25 fee for the check it will be required to do on initial applications and 5-year renewals even with the exemption.

“The $25 fee is absurd,” said Herbertson, who says that many other so-called POC states charge less. She said she believed the charges for the NICS checks were $2 in Virginia, $7.50 in Utah and $10.50 in Oregon, for example.

Nevada is one of 21 states that act as a POC, according to the BATFE web site. In the rest of the states, dealers go through the FBI for free checks. Herbertson said several states are now trying to back out of their POC status, but this year only Delaware was successful in dropping it.

Western State Lawmakers, Including Nevadans, Traveling To Hawaii For Annual Conference

By Sean Whaley | 2:57 pm July 22nd, 2011

CARSON CITY – Lawmakers from 13 western states, including some from Nevada, will converge on Hawaii at the end of the month.

But lawmakers won’t be in the tropical paradise to relax or play golf. It’s all about policy and regional issues confronting the states at the 64th annual meeting of the Council of State Governments-WEST. CSG-WEST is a nonpartisan organization that brings Western legislators of both parties together to share best policy practices, cooperate on regional issues and participate in legislative effectiveness training.

Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, is one Nevada lawmaker who will be attending the event. Atkinson is vice chairman of the organization this year, and will serve as chairman in 2013, when the conference that attracts between 1,000 and 1,500 people will be held in Las Vegas.

Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson will bring the CSG-West conference to Las Vegas in 2013. / Nevada News Bureau file photo

Atkinson said he will be too busy to take in much of Hawaii’s beauty during the event, which will be held in Honolulu from July 30 to Aug. 2.

“I’m vice chair so I probably touch every aspect of the conference,” he said. “Right now on my calendar I probably have 12 or 13 things already I’m going to be doing over there. So I definitely will be going for business.”

The conference is in Hawaii this year because the chairman of CSG-WEST is Hawaii Representative Marcus Oshiro.

CSG-West seems to be popular with Nevada lawmakers because the states that are members share common issues and concerns, Atkinson said. Nevada and other states participate in other organizations as well, including the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) and the American Legislative exchange Council (ALEC).

“So we’re able to talk to each other and get through some of these things,” Atkinson said. “It’s a great networking opportunity for that.”

Nevada lawmakers who decide to attend the conference will either be paying their own way or as representatives of  CSG-West, however. The Nevada Legislature has no funding to pay lawmaker expenses for attending such conferences.

Lorne Malkiewich, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said the Legislature this year did pass a bill to pay the cost of the dues for being members of the three organizations and several others. Assembly Bill 492 allocated $711,000 for Nevada’s dues to the groups for the next two years.

Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, will be attending as well, although it is not clear how many of Nevada’s 63 legislators will make the trip.

Smith is serving as chairwoman of the Fiscal Affairs Committee, and is also a member of the Executive Committee as well as serving on two other panels.

“I really like the organization,” she said. “They do a lot of good training. On the fiscal side there is a lot of good information about what is going on in other states. They bring in national speakers. I am going to be working very hard.”

Audio clips:

Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson says he has a full agenda at the upcoming conference:

072211Atkinson1 :17 committee as well.”

Atkinson says Hawaii just happens to be hosting the conference this year:

072211Atkinson2 :22 it just happens.”

Atkinson says CSG-West is popular with Nevada lawmakers because it focuses on Western issues:

072211Atkinson3 :28 opportunity for that.”