Posts Tagged ‘Nevada Newsmakers’

GOP Political Consultant Predicts Obama, Heller Victories

By Sean Whaley | 2:45 pm October 23rd, 2012

CARSON CITY – A long-time Republican political consultant said today he sees Nevada voters supporting President Obama on Nov. 6 while at the same time giving Republican Sen. Dean Heller a victory against Democratic Rep. Shelley Berkley in the hard fought U.S. Senate race.

Pete Ernaut, president of government and public affairs for R&R Partners, said he believes there is an Obama-Heller voting bloc in Nevada.

“If Gov. Romney carries Nevada, without a doubt Heller will win the Senate race,” he said during an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television show. “I don’t think there is a Romney-Berkley voting bloc. But there is clearly an Obama-Heller voting bloc.

Political consultant Pete Ernaut.

“And I actually made the prediction that I think the margins of victory will be similar,” Ernaut said. “That I think Obama will carry the state somewhere, one, three points, something like that. And I think that’s about the margin of victory for Heller.”

A similar situation occurred in Nevada in 2010, when Democratic U.S. Sen. Harry Reid won re-election while GOP governor candidate Brian Sandoval won as well.

Ernaut said the potential of a split result should make Nevadans feel good in some respects because it shows that voters are so independent that such a vote-switching scenario could occur on election day.

“I think that makes me feel good about Nevada; that that type of result is possible,” he said.

Ernaut, a former state lawmaker, also weighed in on the closely watched state Senate 15 race, where Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, faces former state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno. Ernaut said Brower, appointed to fill out the term of the late Sen. Bill Raggio, has an advantage.

But Leslie’s former state Assembly seat is located entirely within the Senate district, which could make the race close, he said.

“It’s going to be a closer race that it probably should have been, given the registration and given the dynamics of that district,” Ernaut said. “I think though that Brower still has a slight advantage.”

Ernaut said he has also reconsidered Washoe County’s critical role in the statewide election contests because of the huge Democratic voter registration edge that has emerged over Republicans in Clark County.

Democrats have 390,227 active registered voters in Clark County, compared to 262,806 Republicans, for a 45.8 percent to 30.9 percent split. Another 151,490 voters, or 17.8 percent, are nonpartisans.

“But I think that this is going to be a race that is going to be very, very affected by the turnout of Democrats in Clark County,” he said. “And that, I think, will determine the relevancy of Washoe in this statewide race.”


Audio clips:

GOP political consultant Pete Ernaut predicts an Obama and Heller victory in Nevada on election day:

102312Ernaut11 :26 victory for Heller.”

Ernaut says Greg Brower has a slight advantage in the state Senate 15 race:

102312Ernaut2 :11 a slight advantage.”

Ernaut says the strong Democratic voter edge in Clark County has potentially affected Washoe County’s influence in the statewide races:

102312Ernaut3 :16 this statewide race.”




State Senate Candidate Advocates New Corporate Profits Tax In Debate, GOP Opponent Says Call Is Premature

By Sean Whaley | 2:50 pm September 26th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Former state Sen. Sheila Leslie drew a clear contrast with her Republican opponent Sen. Greg Brower in the District 15 race in Washoe County in a debate today, calling for a corporate profits tax to generate enough revenue to adequately fund education.

Gov. Brian Sandoval’s proposal to extend a package of sunsetting taxes into the next budget to avoid any further cuts to education won’t provide enough revenue, she said in a debate with Brower on the Nevada NewsMakers television program.

The Washoe County School District will have to cut $50 million next year even if the sunsetting taxes are continued, she said.

“All the surrounding states have that kind of a tax,” Leslie said. “Utah is the lowest at 5 percent. We could have a 1 or 2 percent tax and still be the lowest. We could phase out the modified business tax, which is a job killer. And we could lower the sales tax, eventually.”

Former state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

Brower said he supports extending the sunsetting taxes, but said talk of new taxes is premature.

“Including the tax revenue that was to sunset as revenue that we will or may have as we build the budget is the only common sense thing to do,” he said. “Otherwise we have a $700 million hole in the budget and we just can’t fill that, especially if we are not going to cut education further, which I think is absolutely critical.”

The debate, which went off without any fireworks, involves a state Senate seat considered critical by both Democrats and Republicans as they seek to control the 21-member house for the 2013 legislative session. Democrats now have an 11-10 majority. The 42-member Assembly is expected to remain in Democratic control.

In an unusual political move, Leslie resigned her Senate 1 seat to run against Brower in the new District 15. Brower was appointed to the Senate in District 3 to fill out the term of the late Sen. Bill Raggio. The new district, the result of redistricting based on the 2010 census, has a Republican voter registration edge of 39.8 percent to 37.9 percent for Democrats as of the end of August.

Brower said it would be better to have Republicans control the Senate because the party is more pro-business. Republicans will also do more to further public education reform and work to reform the collective bargaining process, which is crippling local governments, he said.

Democrats came along “kicking and screaming” in their support the 2011 education reforms, Brower said.

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

Leslie said having Democrats in control has ensured that Nevada has not had to deal with “horrible legislation” that has been seen in other states such as voter suppression efforts and hard-line anti-immigration measures.

Sandoval is a Republican so there is balance, she said.

“And as to the education reforms, those came out of the Democratic Assembly, they were the ones who brought forth the reforms, so it’s not true that Democrats don’t ever want to reform anything,” Leslie said.

Having said that, Leslie said the 2013 Legislature needs to look at properly funding education and retaining the best teachers, not pursuing further reforms. The 2011 reforms, including a new teacher evaluation process, have not even had a chance to take effect yet, she said.

Brower said he would like to see more choice for parents in picking schools and have the state give up some of its control to the local school boards. The best teachers also need to be paid more, he said.

The two candidates will also debate Friday on the Face to Face television show.


Audio clips:

Senate 15 candidate Sheila Leslie says she would support the creation of a corporate profits tax to adequately fund public education:

092612Leslie1 :14 sales tax, eventually.”

Candidate Greg Brower says such talk is premature:

092612Brower1 :21 talking about that.”

Brower says a Republican-controlled Senate would be more pro-business and allow for more education and collective bargaining reforms:

092612Brower2 :15 in the Legislature.”

Leslie says having Democrats in control has kept Nevada from passing bad legislation:

092612Leslie2 :17 to reform anything.”


Heller Says Online Gaming Bill Should Not Be Political Football In Run-up To General Election

By Sean Whaley | 3:33 pm September 25th, 2012

CARSON CITY – U.S. Sen. Dean Heller today said online gaming legislation critical to the future of Nevada’s economy should be removed from the world of politics so partisan fights don’t “poison the water” for the bill’s future in Congress.

Heller, interviewed on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, said the legislation is too important to be subjected to political fights between himself and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid between now and the Nov. 6 general election.

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev.

Reid earlier this month blamed Heller for failing to line up Republican support in the Senate for the measure.

Heller, R-Nev., is locked in a fierce battle with Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., to retain his Senate seat.

“So I believe at the end of the day, we’ll have the 10-15 (GOP) votes that we’re going to need in order to get a bill like this passed,” Heller said. “But we don’t need the politics playing in it today. And we don’t need to poison the water on this also.

“Let’s get the politics out of this,” he said. “Let’s put an important issue like Internet poker to the sidelines during this campaign because it isn’t helping the process. And unfortunately in this case, the process is just as important as the bill itself.”

Heller predicted that after the election, he and Reid will again work together on the Internet poker bill.

“The Internet poker bill was never going to pass before the election,” he said. “It’s going to happen. And I’m still committed, as is Sen. Reid, to get a bill passed.

“When this is all said and done, both sides are going to come together and say, ‘OK, let’s do what’s best for Nevada,’ ” Heller said.

Berkley also criticized Heller on the online gaming issue in a statement released earlier this month: “Once again, Senator Dean Heller has failed to deliver for Nevada’s hardworking families who were counting on online poker legislation to boost the state’s struggling economy and to create thousands of good paying jobs.

“Perhaps Senator Heller shouldn’t have spent so much time cozying up to Wall Street special interests by protecting tax breaks for corporations that ship American jobs overseas and more time doing what Nevada families expect of their elected leaders: putting people back to work,” she said.

During the interview, Heller also criticized Berkley for not spending more time in Northern Nevada in her Senate race, including failing to make any recent appearances on the NewsMakers program. Her last appearance was on Feb. 1, 2011.

“Well, as much time as I spend in Southern Nevada I think she should be spending some time up here in Northern Nevada,” he said.

Berkley has made several campaign appearances in Northern and rural Nevada, including stops in Churchill County over the Labor Day weekend. She also attended an event in Reno on Saturday.

When asked about Berkley’s ongoing ethics problems regarding the preservation of a kidney transplant program in Southern Nevada and whether her actions inappropriately benefited her physician husband, Heller did not hesitate to weigh in.

“She was ethically challenged before,” he said. “She was counsel, she was a lawyer, and she told her boss at this point that you’ve got to buy off county commissioners, you’ve got to buy off judges, you’ve got to hire their children into your business in order to get favorable treatment from those judges and from those county commissioners.

“Now she’s in the United States Congress and her activity hasn’t changed,” Heller said.

Heller was referencing a memo written by Berkley to her then Las Vegas Sands Inc. boss Sheldon Adelson that first surfaced in 1998 during her first bid for Congress. The memo has been the subject of a political ad critical of Berkley in her Senate race.

In response to the Crossroads GPS ad, the Berkley campaign told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in August that the episode was old news and has been overshadowed by Berkley winning re-election six times.

“Leave it to George W. Bush’s political director, Karl Rove, to dredge up something from two decades ago that voters made a judgment on during Shelley’s very first campaign for Congress,” campaign spokeswoman Xochitl Hinojosa, told the newspaper.

In the NewsMakers interview, Heller described her activities when working for Adelson as “trying to bribe judges and county commissioners” and the current controversy as “lining her own pockets as a member of the United States Congress.”

Heller was asked why he accepted $10,000 from Republican Sen. David Vitter, R-La., who is on Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington’s annual list of the “most corrupt members” of Congress as is Berkley with a “dishonorable mention” for a second year in a row.

Heller sidestepped the question, responding by saying, “how hard do you have to work to be on the most corrupt list two years in a row?”


Audio clips:

Sen. Dean Heller says the Internet poker legislation is too important to be a political football in the November election:

092512Heller1 :24 the bill itself.”

Heller says Berkley’s ethics problems go back many years:

092512Heller2 :22 activity hasn’t changed.”



Rep. Amodei Says Any Green Energy Policy That Pushes Utility Rates Higher Wrong For Nevada

By Sean Whaley | 4:05 pm August 13th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said today that any “green energy” policy that leads to higher electric bills for Nevadans who are looking for work in tough economic times is the wrong energy policy for the state.

“Nobody is anti-green,” he said. “We struggle to compete with the cost of a kilowatt hour when we talk about economic development. And economic development has something to do with jobs.”

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.

If federal money is going to be spent on research and development to make wind, solar and geothermal energy more competitive that’s one issue, Amodei said.

“But if those, when they get done, go to sell into the grid and that increases rates, especially right now when things are they way they are in Nevada, and competition for sustainable living wage jobs is what it is in the Inter-mountain West, I think that’s the wrong energy policy,” he said.

Nevada’s 2nd Congressional District representative made his comments to Sam Shad in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program in response to recent comments from U.S. Sen. Harry Reid saying that NV Energy’s Reid Gardner coal plant in Clark County should be shut down. Reid has also urged NV Energy to support a $5 billion solar project that a Chinese company ENN Mojave Energy, wants to build near Laughlin.

An NV Energy official told the Las Vegas Review-Journal last week that the utility has no plans to purchase more renewable energy at this time because it has exceeded the state’s requirement that 15 percent of its portfolio originate from green energy sources.

Amodei also questioned the effectiveness of federal financial support for green energy projects.

“If you go to the Department of Energy and you look in the last few years, they provided $1.5 billion, Sam, $1.5 billion in loan guarantees, to those projects in Nevada,” he said. “And while it’s great news for all the construction folks, I get that, in terms of the long-term jobs, it has created 137 long-term jobs throughout the state. That’s $22 million a job, Sam, in loan guarantees.”

Amodei appeared to get his math wrong, however, with a closer estimate being $11 million a job based on 137 jobs and loan guarantees of $1.5 billion.

The Nevada Policy Research Institute last week released its own analysis of the renewable energy sector in Nevada and found that over $1.3 billion in federal funds funneled into geothermal, solar and wind projects since 2009 has yielded and is projected to yield 288 permanent, full-time jobs, or $4.6 million per job.

Amodei said Gov. Brian Sandoval could create more jobs in Nevada if given a $1.5 billion bank to do so.

Reid was also successful several years ago in getting NV Energy to terminate the construction of a coal-fired plant near Ely in eastern Nevada. NV Energy announced in 2009 it was stopping work on the $5 billion project. Two coal plants had been planned for the area by the utility.

Amodei said the project was able to meet all environmental and air quality requirements.

“These folks have complied with all of the objective regulations and permitting requirements, and you’ve got somebody (Reid) coming in, going, ‘forget about the rules, I’m going to impose my will,’ ” Amodei said.


Audio clips:

Rep. Mark Amodei says any plan requiring Nevadans to pay more in utility costs to promote green energy is the wrong policy for the state:

081312Amodei1 :30 wrong energy policy.”

Amodei says long-term job creation with $1.5 billion in federal loan guarantees has been disappointing:

081312Amodei2 :23 in loan guarantees.”

Amodei says the proposed coal fire plants had met all air quality requirements:

081312Amodei3 :09 impose my will.’ “



Medicaid Caseload Will Expand By 150,000, Cost Nevada $574 Million if Federal Health Care Law Is Implemented

By Sean Whaley | 2:51 pm May 7th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The head of Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services said today that as many as 150,000 more residents will be eligible for Medicaid coverage if the federal health care law is found constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court.

Bringing new residents onto the rolls is expected to cost the state an estimated $574 million between now and 2020, said HHS Director Mike Willden in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program broadcast today.

The estimate, which is about two years old, includes the cost to the state of serving new Medicaid eligibles, the cost of new information technology needed to implement the law and some increased payments to primary care physicians, he said.

The U.S. Supreme Court is expected to rule on the constitutionality of the health care law by June.

U.S. Supreme Court.

Nevada was one of more than two dozen states to challenge the constitutionality of the new law. Even so, Gov. Brian Sandoval has moved forward with implementation because it is the law of the land.

Willden said the new rules say that every man, woman and child living under 138 percent of the federal poverty level will be eligible for Medicaid, the cost of which is shared by the states and federal government.

“Our estimate in Nevada is, as I indicated, we have about 325,000 people on Medicaid or our Checkup program now, and we may see upwards of 150,000 more people eligible for Medicaid,” Willden said. “Because we pick up a group that we’ve never covered in Nevada, and that’s what we call childless adults. Nevada has never served childless adults.”

The other part of the expansion will come as Nevadans now eligible for Medicaid but who have not enrolled in the program will participate because of the individual mandate to have health insurance, he said.

Willden said he does not believe Nevada’s medical provider community will be able to accommodate the increased population seeking health care.

“As you know we’re one of the worst in the nation when it comes to primary care physicians ratios to population, specialists of various kinds ratios to population, and you bring in many, many more on Medicaid I don’t think there will be what we call adequate networks to provide that, so that will be a challenge,” he said.

Nevada will need to bring more physicians into the state, but will have to compete with other states to do so, Willden said. It could also lead to an examination and potential expansion of what types of medical care nurses and physician assistants are able to provide to patients, he said.


Audio clips:

DHHS Director Mike Willden says about 150,000 more Nevadans may be eligible for Medicaid:

050712Willden1 :22 served childless adults.”

Willden says Nevada’s medical community may not be able to handle the increase in the Medicaid eligible population:

050712Willden2 :23 be a challenge.”


Teachers Union President “Excited” That Business Profits Tax Ballot Proposal Moving Forward

By Sean Whaley | 1:56 pm April 9th, 2012

CARSON CITY – The president of the powerful state teachers union said today she is “excited” that another labor organization, the AFL-CIO, plans to pursue a business profits tax initiative petition.

“It will be a big deal,” said Lynn Warne, head of the Nevada State Education Association. “We’re excited that Danny (Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO) has decided to move forward with this. Anything we can do about funding our schools adequately in this state is great.”

Photo courtesy of the National Archives and Records Administration via Wikimedia Commons.

Warne did not say in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program that the teachers’ union will be throwing its weight behind the petition drive, however.

Thompson said last week his group will push forward to collect the 72,352 signatures by  November 13 to take the tax proposal to the 2013 Legislature. Lawmakers will have 40 days to approve the proposal or it will go to the voters in 2014. Lawmakers could also offer a competing tax proposal to appear on the ballot, but a two-thirds vote would be required to move any tax measure forward in the Legislature.

Thompson said the proposed tax, which would be assessed on net business profits in excess of $500,000 at a rate of 2 percent, has been projected by some analysts to bring in about $1 billion a year to the state general fund. The money would go to fund public and higher education. The initiative petition has not yet been filed with the Secretary of State’s office.

In an interview with the Las Vegas Sun last week, Warne said the teachers union has not signed off on Thompson’s proposed tax petition because of concerns regarding the language. Warne said she supports in concept the effort by to raise money for schools.

The teachers union had indicated in January that it would sign on to the tax proposal.

In the NewsMakers interview, Warne said 2014 could be a major election year in Nevada with GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval up for re-election and a business profits tax measure on the ballot as well.

Sandoval has moved “a bit in the direction of needing to keep our education budgets whole,” she said. But Sandoval’s plan to continue a package of taxes set to sunset on June 30, 2013 into the next budget to avoid further cuts to education is inadequate, Warne said.

“We’re still at funding levels that are lower than the 2003 funding for the education budget, so no, it’s not enough and I think the governor would acknowledge that as well,” she said. “But it’s going to help.”

Warne said the two competing tax measures being pushed by Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller, one seeking to give the Legislature the authority to raise the mining tax and a second that would increase the gaming tax on the state’s largest casinos, are being pursued to confuse voters about the business tax proposal.

“Mining and gaming are the low hanging fruit in this state in terms of targets for tax increases,” she said. “And so Monte has picked those. There are a lot of questions as to his sincerity as to whether or not he would want to see those move forward. He has even made comments that should gaming try and strangle Danny’s effort then he will back off his gaming initiatives.”

Warne said the association has never had any discussions with Miller regarding his two petitions.


Audio clips:

NSEA President Lynn Warne says the association is excited the AFL-CIO is moving forward with a business profits tax:

040912Warne1 :13 adequately is great.”

Warne says Sandoval’s plan to continue the sunsetting taxes isn’t enough but it will help:

040912Warne2 :18 going to help.”

Warne says there are questions as to whether Monte Miller is sincere about his tax petitions:

040912Warne3 :18 those move forward.”

State Sen. Greg Brower Criticizes His Opponent For ‘Quitting’ On Her Constituents

By Sean Whaley | 2:21 pm March 19th, 2012

CARSON CITY – State Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, today criticized his Democratic challenger for “quitting” on her constituents when she resigned her Senate seat in mid-term and then filed to run against him.

Brower is running for election to a full four-year term in what is now Washoe District 15 after the state’s legislative districts were redrawn following the 2010 census. Former state Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, who was in the middle of a four-year term in what is now Senate District 13, formerly Washoe Senate 1, resigned from office when she moved into District 15. She then filed for election to the Senate 15 seat.

Filing for public office ended Friday and it didn’t take long for the campaign season to begin.

In an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, Brower said: “It was a little surprising; I guess they couldn’t find a candidate to run against me and so partisan politics, I guess, prevails once again and so an incumbent moves to make sure I have a tough race.”

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

But it is a strong Republican district, one that GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval won by almost 20 points two years ago, he said.

The district has 28,002 Republican and 26,511 Democrat active voters as of February. There are also 10,957 nonpartisan voters.

The race is viewed as one of five state Senate contests that could determine whether Democrats or Republicans control the 21-member Senate in 2013. Democrats currently have an 11-10 edge.

Brower said Leslie was serving on several important committees in this interim period before the 2013 legislative session, including the Interim Finance Committee, the Legislative Commission and the Legislative Commission’s Audit Subcommittee.

“It’s a strange way to do public service by resigning and basically quitting on the folks you represent,” he said. “But the interim, as you know, has a lot of activity with respect to interim committees, and Sheila, frankly, served on a couple of important committees that she no longer serves on now because of her resignation. And that’s not good for Washoe County.”

Brower said he has worked well with Leslie on Washoe County issues.

“And the fact that she has just taken herself away from all of that interim activity, the Interim Finance Committee, the Legislative Commission, and other important committees, I don’t think speaks well to her commitment to the folks in Washoe County.”

Former Sen. Sheila Leslie, D-Reno. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

Leslie, asked to respond to his comments, said by email: “I understand Senator Brower’s frustration that I moved and am going to give him a competitive race when he was hoping for an easy election. I resigned my seat in Senate District 1 because I believed it was required when I moved out of that district by about a mile. I followed the rules. It was not an easy decision, but I believe it was the ethical decision.

“Now that we both live in Senate District 15, we’ll be able to present our constituents with a clear choice between someone who is committed to funding education and essential services and someone who chose to vote the extreme Tea Party-line to ensure he had the right kind of record for a Congressional primary,” Leslie said. “I think the voters will know who is really committed to the citizens of Washoe County.”

Brower was appointed to the Senate seat to replace the late Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, who resigned before the start of the 2011 session. Brower refused to speculate on his political future beyond 2012 when asked if he was considering a run for Nevada attorney general. Democrat Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto will be termed out of office in 2014.

“I am 100 percent focused on getting elected to this Senate seat,” he said.

When asked by host Sam Shad if he would commit to a full four-year term in the Senate, Brower said: “I can’t predict the future, Sam, I just don’t know what is going to happen. I’m just not even going to think beyond 2012.”

Brower also defended Sandoval for his announcement last week that he would continue a package of expiring tax increases into the 2013-15 budget to avoid any further budget cuts to education. Brower voted against continuing the 2009 taxes in the 2011 session even though Sandoval supported the decision as a compromise to finalize the current budget.

“I think what the governor is trying to do is move this state forward,” he said. “And that means leadership on real issues like the budget. And I think that’s what we saw last week and that’s what we’re going to continue to see. And to the extent this governor is going to take a leadership role in moving this state forward, I stand solidly behind him.”


Audio clips:

Sen. Greg Brower says Sheila Leslie quit on her constituents:

031912Brower1 :17 for Washoe County.”

Brower says her resignation makes him question her commitment to the residents of Washoe County:

031912Brower2 :20 in Washoe County.”

Brower says he stands behind Gov. Brian Sandoval’s decision to extend a tax package into the next budget to avoid cuts to education:

031912Brower3 :20 solidly behind him.”


Nevada Political Consultant Warns Against Setting Tax Policy At The Ballot Box

By Sean Whaley | 3:46 pm February 27th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Long-time political consultant and former state lawmaker Pete Ernaut said today that efforts to use the ballot box to set tax policy could handcuff the ability of the governor and Legislature to make critical decisions on the future of the state.

“It should be warning to everybody because this is something that could very rapidly turn into the next iteration of the California ballot, where we have 10, 12, 13 ballot measures on a number of issues and you wake up one day and really you’ve taken the power away from the Legislature or the governor to make any decisions,” he said.

Political consultant Pete Ernaut.

“And that’s really what they’re struggling with in California more than anything else is you have this entire apparatus in the California state Legislature that essentially has the ability to make decisions on about 5 percent or 6 percent of the entire California budget,” Ernaut said in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television show. “If we’re not careful, that’s the way that it will go.”

Ernaut’s comments were in response to a question about the possibility of several tax proposals qualifying for the state ballot in the next few election cycles. Ernaut is president of government and public affairs with R&R Partners.

Las Vegas businessman Monte Miller is pursing two initiative petitions, one to raise the gaming tax rate on the state’s largest casinos, and another to amend the state constitution to permit the tax rate on the mining industry to be increased.

Miller said he is pursing the tax proposals to ensure there are some options on the table for policy makers if state labor and education leaders move forward with a Texas-style margin tax on business to increase funding for education. No such petition has been filed yet with the Nevada Secretary of State’s office.

Ernaut acknowledged that there is an undercurrent of frustration regarding Nevada’s current tax policy, with gaming and mining questioning the fairness and balance of the system, and some in the business community in turn concerned they are being pressured by the gaming and mining industries.

Nevada’s improving economy could help defuse the intensity of the tax debate and allow for a more measured, methodical and thoughtful discussion of what the state’s tax structure should look like down the road, “rather than with a pistol to somebody’s forehead, which is what it seems like it’s been,” he said.

Gov. Brian Sandoval also spoke out recently in opposition to the tax-related ballot measures, saying those discussions belong in the Legislature.

“I believe initiative petitions are a poor way to set tax policy,” Sandoval said.

But Danny Thompson, executive secretary-treasurer of the Nevada State AFL-CIO, who first mentioned the possibility of a business tax ballot proposal in November 2011, said at the time it is the Legislature’s inability to make tax decisions that has generated the interest in going directly to the voters instead.

Nevada has a two-thirds vote requirement in the Legislature to increase taxes or fees.

“We are looking seriously at this process because the legislative process is an impossible one,” he said. “With the two-thirds requirement in the constitution, what in effect that does – it has the minority control the majority wishes. You cannot solve the problem at the Legislature alone without some help from the people.”


Audio clips:

Long-time political consultant Pete Ernaut warns against setting tax policy at the ballot box:

022712Ernaut1 :23 make any decisions.”

Ernaut says the California Legislature is handcuffed because of the numerous ballot measures approved by voters:

022712Ernaut2 :15 it will go.”

Ernaut says an improving Nevada economy could help lower the intensity level of the tax policy debate:

022712Ernaut3 :19 like it’s been.”


Former Nevada Gov. Richard Bryan Calls Rep. Mark Amodei’s Remarks On Yucca Mountain “Unfortunate”

By Sean Whaley | 4:37 pm February 16th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Former U.S. Sen. and Nevada Gov. Richard Bryan today described Rep. Mark Amodei’s recent comments about Yucca Mountain not being dead as a site to dispose of the nation’s nuclear waste was as “unfortunate.”

“The great majority of Nevadans, dating back more than 30 years ago when I was governor, have taken a position that Yucca Mountain threatens the health and safety of Nevadans,” Bryan said in an interview with Sam Shad on the Nevada NewsMakers television program. “The issue was politicized in terms of its site location and there are a number of scientific issues that should give every Nevadan cause for concern.”

Gov. Richard Bryan.

Bryan was responding to a statement from Amodei, R-Nev., that says in part: “While some of my colleagues in the delegation have successfully managed to slow the project through the congressional appropriations process, I do not believe it is a ‘dead’ issue and think it is more likely the repository will eventually come to fruition through a sound scientific process over time.”

Amodei’s statement also says in part: “Let me be clear, I do not believe Yucca Mountain should become a simple dumping site for the nation’s nuclear waste. I believe the Administration and Department of Energy (DOE) should keep funding for the project, while Congress works with the DOE to make the location a bastion of nuclear research and reprocessing.”

Amodei was elected to the 2nd Congressional District seat in a special election in September 2011.

Bryan said the Obama Administration has indicated that it will not move forward with Yucca Mountain, U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., has successfully worked to defund the project, and a special bipartisan commission is now calling for a new, “consent oriented” approach to find a suitable location for the disposal of the nation’s high-level nuclear waste.

As a result, Yucca Mountain will not move forward as a repository, he said.

“And I think it is unfortunate that Nevadans, both Democrat and Republican alike, would break ranks at this key moment when in my opinion, Sam, we are literally on the threshold of a victory that the great majority of Nevadans have sought for a third of a century,” Bryan said.

Amodei said he does not believe Yucca Mountain is dead because it comes up as a topic of conversation in the House all the time.

“While I understand it’s great politics for some of my predecessors to say it’s dead, and all that other sort of stuff, and more power to them, you can’t sit here and listen to those guys talk on the floor every week and walk back and tell Nevadans that you think it’s dead too, OK?” he said.

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.

Googling nuclear waste or Yucca Mountain in the congressional record provides all the proof anyone needs the project remains alive, he said.

Amodei also cited the final report from the Blue Ribbon Commission On America’s Nuclear Future, which found that the Obama decision to halt work on Yucca Mountain is evidence of a nuclear waste management policy that has been “troubled for decades and has now reached an impasse.” Impasse does not mean dead and the report says the impasse cannot continue, he said.

“While nobody wants a nuclear landfill in Nevada, we probably ought to at least talk about it,” Amodei said. “Well if that is breaking ranks, then yes I did.”

Bryan also dismissed any suggestion that funding would flow to Nevada if it accepted the Yucca Mountain project.

“That absolutely is utterly false,” he said. “There has never been any money promised us in terms of real money out there. The industry itself has never offered anything and nor has the federal government. And I guess I would say that even if some money were offered, in my view this is a question of health and safety.

“And when you press those folks who make those assertions, tell us where,” Bryan said. “Show us. Who is offering the money; when, and where, and how much. And Sam, I would respectfully suggest that these misguided Nevadans can’t come up with an answer.”

Bryan, a Democrat who was elected governor in 1982 and 1986 and then to the U.S. Senate in 1988 where he served two terms, is now a member of the Lionel Sawyer & Collins law firm. Bryan fought against the Yucca Mountain project during his time in public office and continues to speak out against it.


Audio clips:

Gov. Richard Bryan calls Rep. Mark Amodei’s comments about Yucca Mountain “unfortunate”:

021612Bryan1 :22 cause for concern.”

Bryan says Nevada is on the threshold of a victory on Yucca Mountain:

021612Bryan2 :16 of a century.”

Bryan says no money has been promised Nevada for accepting Yucca Mountain:

021612Bryan3 :27 health and safety.”

Bryan says those saying there is money available should be specific:

021612Bryan4 :14 with an answer.”

Rep. Mark Amodei says he sees evidence weekly in the House that Yucca Mountain is not dead:

021612Amodei1 :18 dead too, OK?”

Amodei says if seeking to talk about Yucca Mountain is breaking ranks, then yes he did:

021612Amodei2 :15 yes I did.”



Rep. Amodei Rejects Congressional Earmarks, Says Projects Should Go Through Regular Budget Process

By Sean Whaley | 3:51 pm January 9th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said today he opposes the earmark process used to fund various projects around the country, advocating instead that state priorities for federal support go through a regular budget review.

“The problem with earmarks, when you look at them, it’s symbolic largely, because it’s not that it’s a huge part of the federal budget,” he said. “But a lot of them appear at the end with absolutely no hearings and they are in bills.

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev.

“It’s not that you shouldn’t spend federal money for specific things like that, whether it’s capital improvements or something else, but there should be some level of hearing on them,” Amodei said in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television show. “And the problem with earmarks is it has become synonymous with little or no hearing whatsoever. So you find out about them after the fact with absolutely no record in support.”

The appropriateness of earmarks generated some controversy in Northern Nevada last week when U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., toured the new air traffic control tower at the Reno-Tahoe International Airport. Heller in November 2010 said he would not seek earmarks for Nevada projects.

The $27 million in funding for the tower was provided with earmarks supported by Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev.

Heller acknowledged helping with the funding for the project as well, and the Nevada State Democrat Party criticized the freshman senator for what it said was his flip-flopping on the issue.

“It’s hypocrisy,” said Democratic Party Communications Director Zack Hudson. “It’s another example of how he’ll say anything and do anything just to get elected again.”

Heller, appointed to the Senate in May by Gov. Brian Sandoval, is facing a challenge from Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev. in the 2012 general election.

Amodei was elected Sept. 13 in a special election to take Heller’s seat in the 2nd Congressional District, which covers all of Northern and rural Nevada.

In the interview, Amodei said he believes the tower would have been built without the earmark process because it was desperately needed for safety reasons.

“Because I’ve been in that tower during my first 115 days, and you look across at the old one, where you couldn’t even the ramps down there . . .,” he said. “I am certain that you could have made a very strong public case for this should rise to the top for tower improvements for FAA facilities throughout the nation. I mean, it speaks for itself, if you will.”

Amodei said he has priorities for federal spending in Nevada, but that the projects should go through the budget process and compete for funding.


Audio clips:

Rep. Mark Amodei says projects should go through the regular budget process:

010912Amodei1 :13 are in bills.”

Amodei says state funding requests need to go through a hearing process:

010912Amodei2 :16 record in support.”

Amodei says the Reno-Tahoe Airport tower was a project that stood on its own merits:

010912Amodei3 :20 if you will.”


GOP Political Operative Sig Rogich Says Earlier Presidential Caucus Would Have Benefitted Nevada

By Sean Whaley | 3:54 pm December 19th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Long-time Republican political operative Sig Rogich today disagreed with comments from former Gov. Bob List that Nevada is better off with a Feb. 4 GOP presidential caucus rather than the January date that had been proposed initially.

“Why in the world would you want to step back, and we’re not going to be rewarded for such a thing, all things being equal,” Rogich said in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program. “I just don’t think that it makes any sense to be that far back when you have an opportunity to be up in play.”

Sig Rogich.

Rogich was responding to a question from host Sam Shad about List’s remarks in an interview on the show last week when he said Nevada is better off with the Feb. 4 GOP caucus.

List, a Nevada State Republican Party national committeeman, said the primary contest won’t be over before Feb. 4, making Nevada a key battleground for Republican candidates.

Nevada was embroiled in a controversy earlier this year over when to hold its caucus because of Florida’s decision to move up its primary date. Nevada Republican Party officials ultimately agreed to the Feb. 4 date for the “First in the West” GOP caucus.

During the NewsMakers interview, Rogich predicted that Romney will win Nevada’s caucus. He won handily here in 2008.

But he also said the Romney campaign has failed to clearly define the former Massachusetts governor.

“And I think that’s their big problem in this campaign,” Rogich said. “He’s articulate, eloquent, certainly a good looking guy, he’s got a great accomplished history of a lot of things. But if you ask the average person what do you think about Mitt Romney and what he stands for, you’d probably get mixed reviews. People just don’t know where to categorize him.”

Rogich, who worked with Newt Gingrich during his time at the White House, said the candidate is on message and has momentum, but he has the ability to “create chaos from order.”

But Rogich predicted Gingrich will win in Iowa, is tightening up the race in New Hampshire and will win in South Carolina.

Rogich also said he still believes President Obama is the favorite to win, if the election was held today.

“All things being equal, if you count the electoral map, he may win very narrowly,” Rogich said. “But if he carries some of those states that he is likely to carry, at this juncture today, then I still think he is still a favorite to win.”


Audio clips:

Sig Rogich says Nevada would have been better off with an earlier caucus:

121911Rogich1 :14 up in play.”

Rogich says the Romney campaign has failed to define their candidate:

121911Rogich2 :19 to categorize him.”

Rogich says President Obama is the favorite to win if the election was held today:

121911Rogich3 :20 favorite to win.”

Former Gov. Bob List Says Later Nevada GOP Caucus Date Will Help, Not Hurt, Nevada

By Sean Whaley | 3:09 pm December 12th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Former Nevada Republican Gov. Bob List said today that he believes the state will have a critical role to play in the selection of the party’s nominee for president despite seeing the caucus date pushed back to Feb. 4.

“No, I think that being fifth actually has turned out to be better than being third,” said List, who is a Nevada State Republican Party national committeeman. “This race is certainly not going to be decided by the time Florida has its primary.

Former Nevada Gov. Bob List.

“We’re going to have the Iowa caucuses, which are non-binding on the delegates, then you’ve got New Hampshire, then Florida, then South Carolina,” he said in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program. “It’s not going to be over by then. Then comes Nevada. We’re going to be the first in the West and we’re going to get a lot of activity out here and the eyes of the nation are going to be on the Silver State.”

“I think the race will become more critical by that time,” List said. “I don’t think it hurt us one bit to slip back.”

Nevada was embroiled in a controversy earlier this year over when to hold its caucus because of Florida’s decision to move up its primary date. Nevada Republican Party officials ultimately agreed to the Feb. 4 date for the “First in the West” GOP caucus. The caucus had previously been set for Jan. 14.

List said Nevada played by the rules in setting its caucus date, which will benefit the state in future years. Florida will be penalized for setting its GOP primary so early, he said.

List said the Republican debates are generating a lot more attention than in past years, and the ultimate candidate will be “widely known and well tested.”

List also criticized former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s offer to bet Texas Gov. Rick Perry $10,0000 over Romney’s position on the individual health care mandate. The exchange came in an Iowa debate on Saturday and Romney has been criticized for being out of touch with average Americans for proposing to make such a large bet.

“I didn’t think that was well thought through,” List said. “I think it was a bad mistake.”

Even so, List praised Romney as the potential Republican presidential nominee.

List said Romney is a good manager, has high ethical standards and is respected for his integrity.

There has been some concerned expressed by Southern Evangelicals over Romney’s religion, but List said Nevadans know that members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are good Christians, and “it’s nothing to be feared.”

Romney won the Nevada caucus in 2008.

List also praised Newt Gingrich for his command in the debates, which has pushed him into front-runner status.

“He is so smart, and he has such a sense of history, and he really has an enormously good grasp of the issues,” List said.

Both Romney and Gingrich could beat President Obama, he said.


Audio clips:

Former Nevada Gov. Bob List says Nevada’s later GOP caucus date will help the state:

121211List1 :29 the Silver State.”

List says the GOP presidential primary will be more critical by Feb. 4:

121211List2 :08 to slip back.”

List says Mitt Romney made a mistake in offering to bet Rick Perry $10,000:

121211List3 :13 a bad mistake.”



Gov. Sandoval Making Strides On Top Priority Of Job Creation For Nevadans

By Sean Whaley | 3:29 pm September 8th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval said today he is making big strides in his top priority of improving the Nevada economy and growing jobs.

Sandoval said he has been making calls to businesses interested in relocating to the state and is getting ready to launch a newly revised economic development board to help the state turn the economic corner.

In an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, Sandoval said a key element of implementing his jobs strategy is a study now under way by the Brookings Institution and the Stanford Research Institute, now known as SRI International, which will look at which economic development sectors the state should focus its efforts on. Two contracts, one for $40,000 with Robert Lang with Brookings, and the other for $200,000 with SRI, were approved by the Board of Examiners in June.

Gov. Brian Sandoval. / Nevada News Bureau file photo.

The study, expected to be completed in late October, will review the different economic sectors the state is now involved in and identify “clusters” Nevada should turn its attention to in its diversification efforts, Sandoval said.

The state can’t take a “shotgun” approach to economic development, but instead must be more focused on those areas that can produce the desired result of economic diversification and job production, he said.

“Once we know what we can be the best at we can focus our economic developments in that regard,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval said he will also serve as chairman of the newly constituted Board of Economic Development, created as a result of the passage of Assembly Bill 449, which saw broad bipartisan support in the 2011 Legislature. The nine voting members of the board will include six private sector representatives. Sandoval said he will soon be announcing his three appointments to the panel.

The bill implementing the economic development reorganization, which was one of Sandoval’s priorities in his State of the State address, was sponsored by Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, and numerous other Democrat and Republican lawmakers.

The board will include three legislatively appointed private sector representatives, as well as Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki and Secretary of State Ross Miller or their designees. The board will also send the names of three finalists to Sandoval to pick a new executive director of the Office of Economic Development, who will serve as part of Sandoval’s cabinet.

Steve Redlinger, spokesman for Oceguera, said the lawmaker expects to make his appointment to the board within seven to 10 days.

“John sees the board as getting some great people serving the state who can get our economic engines revving,” he said. “His expectations and hopes are high. We face serious challenges.”

Nevada leads the nation in unemployment.

Sandoval said he does not believe politics will override the mission of the new panel.

“I think you are going to see, to answer your question, an unprecedented effort in terms of education, in job training, and the effort we make to recruit new business to the state of Nevada,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval said he has made numerous calls to businesses considering Nevada for expansion or relocation, and he cited one case where it has helped pay off. The expansion of Philadelphia-based Urban Outfitters to Washoe County with the construction of a distribution center providing 650 new jobs, was one of those calls, he said.

“I hope that I helped push it over the finish line, but it is a team effort and I would never take credit for that because there are so many people out there in the field every day,” Sandoval said.

Sandoval said the message he takes to company CEOs is that Nevada is a business friendly state, and that there will be “service after the sale” meaning access to state elected and regulatory officials.

That message has really resonated with the business community, he said.


Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says Nevada has to take a focused approach to economic development:

090811Sandoval1 :13 in that regard.”

Sandoval says Nevadans will see an unprecedented effort to bring new businesses to the state:

090811Sandoval2 :11 state of Nevada.”


Rep. Berkley “Taking The Pulse” In Reno As She Weighs Senate Bid

By Andrew Doughman | 2:02 pm February 1st, 2011

RENO — Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev., said she is “taking the pulse” of Reno this week as she considers a bid for Republican Sen. John Ensign’s seat in the 2012 election.

She told Sam Shad and Ray Hagar on Nevada NewsMakers today that she is raising campaign money, but she said the money is for her re-election bid in Congress. For now.

When asked when she plans to make her decision to run for Senate, she said “there’s no rush.”

“I’m taking my time, I’m meeting with people, I’m up here in Reno this week, just to touch bases with old friends, kind of taking the pulse of the people of Reno,” she said.

Last year, she said she’d make a decision before Valentine’s Day.

She had earlier told Jon Ralston on his Face to Face television program that she planned to announce a decision sometime during late spring or early summer of this year.

[CORRECTION: Shelley Berkley told Las Vegas Sun reporter Karoun Demirjioan that she would make a decision before Valentine's Day. The Nevada News Bureau had erroneously reported that she had told this to Jon Ralston.]

Tarkanian Gets a Little Testy

By Elizabeth Crum | 4:43 pm May 20th, 2010

Check out this clip from yesterday’s Nevada Newsmakers television program in which Danny Tarkanian gets pretty testy in answer to a question about that little issue of signing legal documents while his license to practice law was inactive a couple-few years back.

In what can only be described as a very tense exchange, Tarkanian repeatedly tells the questioner-reporter he is “mistaken” and that after he gets his facts straight, he will need to come back and apologize to the viewers.