Posts Tagged ‘PLAN’

Gov. Brian Sandoval Says Today’s Ruling On Arizona Immigration Law Shows Need For Federal Reform

By Sean Whaley | 10:59 am June 25th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval said today’s U.S. Supreme Court ruling in the Arizona immigration law case points out the need for Congress and the president to come together and reform the country’s immigration laws.

“While I have always supported Arizona’s Tenth Amendment right to enact laws to address its unique concerns with public safety and have said all along the law is not needed in Nevada, I understand and respect the Supreme Court’s application of the Supremacy Clause,” he said.

Photo by Michael L. Dorn via Wikimedia Commons.

In today’s ruling, the court struck down much of the law passed by the Arizona Legislature and signed into law by GOP Gov. Jan Brewer.

One provision, requiring police to perform immigration checks on those they arrest or stop for questioning, was upheld by the court.

But other provisions, including one authorizing police to arrest immigrants without warrants where probable cause exists that they committed a public offense making them removable from the country, were struck down by the court.

Also rejected were sections making it a state crime for “unauthorized immigrants” to fail to carry registration papers and other government identification; and a ban on those not authorized for employment in the United States to apply, solicit or perform work.

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., expressed concern at the section of the law that was upheld by the court.

“I am greatly concerned that the provision putting American citizens in danger of being detained by police unless they carry their immigration papers at all times will lead to a system of racial profiling,” he said in a statement.

“Immigration reform should continue securing our borders; punish unscrupulous employers who exploit immigrants and undercut American wages; pass the DREAM Act; and require the 11 million who are undocumented to register with the government, learn English, pay fines, pay taxes and go to the end of the line to legalize their status,” he said.

The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada praised the ruling.

“This ruling is a victory for everyone who respects basic human rights and equal treatment and protection under the law,” PLAN organizer Mario De La Rosa said in a statement. “While we had hoped for the entire law to be struck down, we agree with the court’s decision to rule against SB1070′s most egregious violations of the United States Constitution.”

De La Rosa said the group will continue to advocate for and work towards a more humane and fair immigration process, and will work to block any efforts by Nevada policy makers to enact similar laws.

Several Nevada lawmakers introduced immigration-related bills in the 2011 session, but they failed to win support.

 

Nevada Groups Criticize U.S. Immigration Agency On ‘Secure Communities’ Decision

By Sean Whaley | 4:40 pm August 11th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A Nevada activist group is criticizing a decision by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to terminate all of its agreements with states regarding the operation of its “Secure Communities” program.

The information sharing program identifies criminal aliens for prosecution and deportation.

The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN) “joins the chorus of condemnations” to the decision of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to unilaterally annul ICE’s agreements with states, including Nevada, the group said in a statement issued Wednesday.

Photo Courtesy of ICE

ICE Director John Morton on Friday terminated all of the agreements with the states to “clarify that a memorandum of agreement between ICE and a state is not required to operate Secure Communities for any jurisdiction.”

“Once a state or local law enforcement agency voluntarily submits fingerprint data to the federal government, no agreement with the state is legally necessary for one part of the federal government to share it with another part,” a statement from the agency said.

ICE said the program is mandatory, not voluntary.

In the letter to governors, Morton said the decision will have no effect on the operation of the program in the states where it is being operated.

John Morton, director of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

Secure Communities is operating in 14 of Nevada’s 17 counties. The first to join was Washoe County in July 2010. White Pine, Eureka and Esmeralda counties are not yet participating. According to the agency, 785 convicted criminal aliens have been apprehended in Nevada since the program began, with 341 being removed from the U.S.

Chris Perry, director of the Nevada Department of Public Safety, said through a spokeswoman that the letter has been received but the agency is still evaluating what it means to the state’s Secure Communities program.

Mario DelaRosa, immigrant rights organizer with PLAN, said in the statement: “Once again DHS is trying to rule by mandate. This is not Libya, where security agencies make up the rules as they go along. Local law enforcement agencies bear the costs of the program, including the erosion of trust between local police and immigrant communities that occurs whenever police engage in federal immigration enforcement.”

In a telephone interview, he said: “This is a response to numerous state leaders, governors, who have openly expressed serious doubts about this program.”

DelaRosa said about 55 percent of those people deported from Washoe County, and 73 percent from Clark County, committed either no crime or a minor crime. Families are being separated, he said.

“That is causing a crisis in the immigrant community,” DelaRosa said.

Mario DelaRosa, immigrant rights organizer with PLAN

The ACLU of Nevada is also critical of the move.

Rebecca Gasca, legislative and policy director for the organization, said the decision is a complete about face.

“What the Obama administration should have done is halt the program,” she said. “It’s a complete surprise and an unfortunate one.”

The Secure Communities program is fraught with civil rights problems, including allegations of racial profiling and fears in the immigrant community of reporting crimes, Gasca said. There is also a lack of training and standards, she said.

Several states, most recently Massachusetts in June, have made efforts to reject the program because of the problems, she said.

“The lack of the (memorandum of understanding) makes it even worse because there is no accountability between the local jurisdictions and DHS,” Gasca said.

The statement from ICE said: “Secure Communities promotes the agency’s top enforcement priority of finding and removing those who are unlawfully present or otherwise removable and have criminal convictions by relying on an already-existing federal information-sharing program, consisting of the sharing of biometric data between two federal law enforcement agencies – DHS and the FBI.

“ICE continues to work with its law enforcement partners across the country to responsibly and effectively implement this federal information sharing capability and plans to reach complete nationwide activation by 2013,” the statement concluded.

ICE is using the Secure Communities capability in 1,508 jurisdictions in 43 states and one U.S. territory as of Aug. 2.

Audio clips:

Mario DelaRosa, immigrant rights organizer with PLAN, says the decision by ICE is in response to concerns about the program being raised by state leaders and governors from around the country:

081111DelaRosa :12 about this program.”

Rebecca Gasca of the ACLU of Nevada says the Obama Administration should have halted the program because of the many problems:

081111Gasca1 :17 associated with it.”

Gasca says the lack of the agreement makes it even worse:

081111Gasca2 :07 jurisdictions and DHS.”

Gasca says there is also a lack of training and standards with the program:

081111Gasca3 :09 on the program.”

 

Senators Sit On Floor In Impromptu Debate With Camping Activists

By Andrew Doughman | 5:18 pm May 17th, 2011

CARSON CITY — Senate Republicans gave new meaning to the legislative jargon “floor debate” today.

Several lawmakers sat on the floor outside their offices today as they talked to activists who have been camping on the Capitol lawn since yesterday night in support of new revenue.

The impromptu, hour-long debate featured a variety of popular budget topics including teacher pay, textbooks in schools, higher education tuition and taxes.

It all started when about two dozen campers requested an audience with Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, who did not have room for them in her office. So she stepped outside, and they sat on the floor together.

Several other Republican senators joined her soon after, and Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, offered shortbread Girl Scout cookies all around.

“I’ve never seen this before,” said Warren Hardy, a former legislator and current lobbyist who watched the debate. “It’s a great dialog. If I were still a senator, I would be right in the middle of it because I think that’s the respect these people deserve.”

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, speaks with Michael Flores, a ProgressNOW organizer, outside her office in the halls of the Legislature. //PHOTO: Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau

Republicans fielded a variety of questions from tough critics, some of whom are from organizations like Progress NOW Nevada and the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. Those groups have supported Democratic plans for new taxes and have opposed Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget.

One girl asked about a shortage of textbooks in her Clark County School District high school.

Responding, Roberson said that many Clark County School District employees earn six-figure salaries and he wants more money going into the classroom.

Bob Fulkerson of PLAN called the response a “good sound byte,” but not a solution for poor rural school districts.

Roberson, in a familiar line, said that collective bargaining is “bankrupting the state,” after which several people shouted: “no.”

“If every teacher makes concessions, you will not have one teacher laid off,” Roberson said.

Republicans touted reforms to collective bargaining and advocated for the governor’s recommendation to cut teacher and state employee salaries by 5 percent, saying that it is the same suffering that private sector employees have had to bear during this recession.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, listens to a young girl ask him a question about the K-12 system as he sits outside legislative offices with a group camping outside the Legislature to show support for taxes. //PHOTO: Andrew Doughman, Nevada News Bureau.

The conversation was mostly an exercise in disagreement: over taxes, over the influence of public sector unions, over teacher pay, over tuition.

“If you want taxes to happen immediately, why can’t reforms happen immediately?” asked Sen. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, as Roberson, Cegavske, Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, and Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, looked on.

McGinness had met with the group of campers earlier.

“They talked to me about taxes and I talked to them about the governor’s budget,” he said. “We agreed to disagree.”

Similar disagreements are happening behind closed doors as McGinness and other legislative leaders from both parties are talking about taxes and the governor’s budget. McGinness said he thinks it is likely legislators will meet almost every night to reach a budget compromise.

Seated on the floor, no Republican had a sudden revelation that taxes will save Nevada and none of the campers disavowed taxes, but both groups seemed pleased with the debate.

“I’m so proud of you for sitting on the floor with us,” Cegavske said. “This is awesome.”

Michael Flores, a Progress NOW organizer, said it was “amazing” to talk to legislators for that long in an open-forum debate.

“This is what Democracy looks like,” he said.

Republican and Democrats Release Competing Political District Maps

By Andrew Doughman | 5:03 pm April 28th, 2011

CARSON CITY – State Republicans and Democrats today released their proposals for new state legislative political districts.

The competing proposals for state Assembly and Senate districts both keep the Legislature at its current size of 63 legislators.

The Democratic proposal, however, includes a new concept involving two Assembly districts nested within each Senate district. Democrats said they introduced “nesting” in order to simplify and harmonize how Nevadans are represented at the state level.

The proposal could also save thousands of dollars, said Larry Lomax, Clark County Registrar of Voters.

“The more the lines coincide … the less ballot styles you create,” Lomax said. “The fewer number of ballot styles you have, the cheaper it is to do your printing.”

Lomax said that his office printed 307 different types of ballots for the 2010 general elections in Clark County.

The Democratic proposal promises a 30 – 12 Democratic split in the Assembly and a 14 – 7 advantage in the Senate, according to voters registered Democratic and Republican in each proposed district.

The Republican proposal reflects a 26 – 16 Democratic advantage in the Assembly, which is the current ratio in the Assembly. The Republican plan for the state Senate would create 14 seats with more voters registered as Democrats and seven seats with a Republican voter advantage.

But the presence of large numbers of independents and third-party voters means many of these districts could swing blue or red.

About 470,000 Nevadans are registered as Democrats as opposed to about 405,000 registered Republican.

Republicans Release Congressional Plan, Hispanic Vote Proves Contentious

Republicans also released a plan for Nevada’s four congressional districts, one of which is new due to population growth between 2000 and 2010.

The districts include what Republicans say are two districts likely to elect Democrats and two districts likely to elect Republican candidates.

State legislative Republicans today released this plan for Nevada's four congressional district. Nevada earned one more representative to Congress as a result of population growth between 2000 and 2010. Please click here to see Clark County districts 1 and 4.

The proposals drew rapid criticism from Hispanic advocacy groups that called the proposals unfair to Hispanics. The proposed population of congressional district four contains 44.3 percent voting-aged Hispanics.

“This proposal does not enhance the ability for the Hispanic community to elect candidates of choice,” said Javier Trujillo of the Latin Chamber of Commerce, who said Hispanics are packed together to the extent that their vote is diluted in other districts.

Republicans, however, contended that a majority-minority district increases the likelihood that a Hispanic candidate will be elected to Congress.

Advocacy groups and legislators argued the same points about minority populations during a Democratic press conference today, touting the Democrat’s proposals as “common sense” and “fair” while disparaging the Republican proposals as unfair to their communities.

“There are several factors that we will discuss today that guided the development of this plan, including reducing population deviation, following county and city boundaries, fairly reflecting the diversity of our state and restoring common sense and reducing confusion,” said Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas.

Proposed Maps Also Eliminate Seats For Two Incumbents, Eradicate Dual Senate Districts

Both proposals eliminate Clark County’s two dual-districts, which legislators and constituents alike had criticized.

Democrats and Republicans also offered similar responses to population shifts to Clark County. The two political parties agreed to eliminate the seats of Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, and Assemblyman Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka.

Growth in the southern part of the state meant that current districts are imbalanced and one northern Senate seat and one northern Assembly seat became southern seats in the new proposals.

Brower recently declared his intention to run for Congress and Goicoechea is expected to run for state Senate in rural Nevada, where Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, must leave the Senate due to term limits.

In an odd maneuver, the Republican proposal also changes the numbers of every district. Nevada law prohibits someone from using the word “reelect” if the district number changes.

Democrats have also touted how their maps include Assembly districts that are, as much as possible, bounded by the borders of cities.

Both proposals, however, do not always follow county lines, especially in rural counties.

The Republican and Democratic plans represent two different takes in what could be a lengthy process to hammer out a compromise between a Republican governor and a Democratic-controlled Legislature. If the two parties cannot reach a compromise, the drawing of political districts could end up in the hands of Nevada’s judges.

Parties Constrained By Redistricting Rules

Democrats and Republicans drawing the boundaries of political districts have to follow rules culled from a variety of past court decisions.

All districts must be nearly the same size. Map drawers use the U.S. Census total population figures for Nevada and divide those by the number of districts so that each district has an ideal size. The ideal size for an Assembly seat is about 64,300 people and about 128,600 people for a Senate seat.

Republicans and Democrats must also try to follow as closely as possible the boundaries of cities and counties when drawing maps. Natural boundaries like rivers and man-made boundaries like highways can also serve as convenient boundaries.

The political parties are also generally prevented from drawing incumbent legislators out of their districts.

Finally, the two political parties must consider “communities of interest” when creating political districts. This could prevent rural Nevadans from suddenly being thrown in the same district as urban Nevadans, or keeping a distinct downtown community separate from a suburban community.

Audio Clips

Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, says that the Democratic plan for redistricting:

042811 Horsford :20

 

Democrats Release Maps For Proposed State Assembly And Senate Districts

By Andrew Doughman | 5:03 pm April 28th, 2011

CARSON CITY — State legislative Democrats have released their proposals for state Senate and Assembly districts.

Democrats will debate the proposals together with Republicans during meetings of the Assembly and Senate tonight. Republicans released their proposals for new state Senate and Assembly districts, as well as Congressional districts, this morning.

The Legislature is required to redraw the boundaries of political districts every 10 years based on changes in population released through the U.S. Census.

Please click here for party registration numbers for each of the proposed districts — the numbers of which correspond to the current districts and those districts’ Senators and Assembly members.

The map can be viewed below or click here for the full-sized map.

 

Democrats today released this proposal for 21 Senate districts and 42 Assembly districts. In the proposal, two Assembly districts are nested within each Senate district.

The proposal has 30 Clark County Assembly seats, five seats in rural counties, six seats in Washoe County and one seat split between Washoe County and rural counties.

The Senate proposal has 15 Clark County seats, three seats in Washoe County and seat split between Washoe County and rural counties.

The Nevada News Bureau has obtained from Legislative Counsel Bureau staff large .pdf files of the Democratic proposals. They are available for download below.

 

A Clark County map with Assembly districts nested within Senate districts.

large Clark County Assembly district map with incumbent homes.

A large Clark County Senate district map with incumbent homes.

 

Washoe County map with Assembly districts nested within Senate districts.

large Washoe County Assembly district map with incumbent homes.

large Washoe County Senate district map with incumbent homes.

 

A large statewide (rural) Assembly district map with incumbent homes.

A large statewide (rural) Senate district map with incumbent homes.

 

 

 

 

 

Republicans In The Nevada Legislature Introduce Redistricting Plans

By Sean Whaley | 10:30 am April 28th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Legislative Republicans today announced that they are introducing redistricting plans for the Assembly, Senate, and the state’s Congressional delegation that will “ensure fair representation for the people of Nevada.”

In a news release from Senate GOP leaders Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, and Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, they say they have crafted a plan that respects the current numerical strength of various regional, ethnic, partisan, and individual community groups without infringing on the rights of other Nevadans to effectively participate in the electoral process.

Images of the plans are accessible here:  http://www.nevadarepublicanlegislators.com/

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the ideal population for each of Nevada’s Congressional districts is 675,138; for state Senate Districts, 128,598; and for state Assembly districts, 64,299, and the Republican plans show minimal disparity from these ideal populations.

In the Congressional plan, district populations have an absolute deviation of zero people, except in one necessary instance due to Nevada’s total population being an odd, and not even, figure. In the state Senate plan, district populations deviate from the ideal population by less than one tenth of one percent (0.1 percent). In the State Assembly plan, district populations deviate from the ideal population by less than one half of one percent (0.5 percent).

The Republican plans will also fully and properly comply with the requirements of the Voting Rights Act. As such, the Republican plans:

- Prevent “fracturing” of the Hispanic community by creating the following majority-minority districts: one majority-Hispanic congressional district; four majority-Hispanic state senate districts; and eight majority-Hispanic assembly seats.

- Prevent “packing” of the Hispanic community by keeping the total Hispanic population under 60 percent in all of the majority-minority districts.

According to the 2010 Census, Hispanics represent more than 26 percent of Nevada’s population. The Republican Congressional plan ensures that members of the Hispanic community will have opportunities to elect candidates of their choice to Nevada’s Congressional delegation. Additionally, the legislative plans create the opportunities for the Hispanic community to increase its representation in the Nevada Legislature.

The Republican plans also preserve historic African-American districts in the Nevada Senate and Nevada Assembly.

The Republican Congressional plan creates two districts likely to elect Democratic candidates and two districts likely to elect Republican candidates – one of which leans Republican only slightly.

In the Nevada Senate, the Republican plan creates nine districts likely to elect Democratic candidates, four districts likely to elect Republican candidates, and eight competitive districts.

In the Nevada Assembly, the plan creates twenty districts likely to elect Democratic candidates, eight districts likely to elect Republican candidates, and fourteen competitive districts.

Freshman State Senator Shakes Up Mining Industry As Legislative Session Begins

By Sean Whaley | 9:21 am February 21st, 2011

CARSON CITY – Freshman Republican state Sen. Michael Roberson got a lot of people’s attention last week when he engaged in a brief but spirited line of questioning at a Judiciary Committee hearing with mining industry lobbyists.

On the job just one week, Roberson, R-Las Vegas, was trying to get information from the mining industry about their profits in Nevada. He was not satisfied with the answers, and said afterward the mining industry might be able to pay more in taxes, firing a shot across the bow of one the state’s most powerful industries.

Sen. Michael Roberson

Roberson, the only attorney on the Judiciary Committee and one of only two in the 21-member Senate, did not mince words with the industry lobbyists during a discussion of a measure to take away mining’s right to use eminent domain.

In an interview in his legislative office last week, Roberson said it is his job to get the answers, and he won’t stop until he does.

“What I wanted to know from mining, and I didn’t get a straight answer – how much money are the mining companies making here in Nevada,” Roberson said. “What’s their profit? I think that’s important for the people to know. And it was clear to me, the lobbyists for mining didn’t want to give me those numbers.”

Roberson says he is in complete agreement with GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval on the need to balance the next two-year state budget without a tax increase. But restructuring Nevada’s tax system to generate more income from mining while reducing the burden on small businesses, for example, is worth considering if taxes don’t increase overall, he said.

Watching Roberson take on one of the biggest players in the Nevada Legislature was an eye-opener for some observers, but should not come as a surprise. Roberson ran a tough campaign to unseat the better funded Democrat incumbent Joyce Woodhouse in the November election in District 5, paring the Democratic majority in the Senate to a single vote.

Bob Fulkerson, director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN), which has been pushing for a tax increase on the mining industry, said Roberson’s comments at the hearing, “broke the sense of entitlement the mining lobbyists swagger around with.”

“It was very refreshing to see a legislator from Nevada have the guts to expose mining’s sweetheart tax loopholes in such a forceful way,” he said. “It shows we make mistakes – me and PLAN, or anybody – it shows we can’t pigeon-hole lawmakers based on party and ideology.”

Roberson knows a bit about the mining industry, or at least its sometimes less appealing aftermath. Raised in Galena, Kansas, a small mining town with a population of 3,300, he saw the effects of mining on the community in the 1960s after the minerals had been extracted and the companies had left.

“It can’t help but color how I see things because in my formative years that’s what I grew up with,” he said. “And again, I’m not against mining. I’m not anti-mining. I think it is an important industry to our state, especially to the rurals, and I want mining to thrive here in Nevada.

“But it took many years before the EPA came in and finally cleaned up Galena. In fact I had already moved away by the 1990s.”

Galena is the name of a lead-based mineral that was also found here in Northern Nevada. Galena Creek in south Reno and nearby Galena High School share the same name.

Roberson said Galena itself was the poorest area of the state. On his campaign website Roberson describes himself as coming from “modest beginnings.”

After graduating from high school, Roberson attended the University of Kansas where he graduated in 1993 with a political science degree. He then attended the University of Kansas School of Law on an academic scholarship, earning his degree in 1996.

Roberson said he was inspired to get involved in politics with by the Republican takeover of Congress in 1994. He worked on the U.S. Senate campaign for Sam Brownback in 1996 and moved to Washington, D.C. in 1997, where he worked on Capitol Hill for then-House Majority Whip Tom DeLay. He then worked for a political fund-raising company named CAPTEL.

Roberson moved to Nevada in 2000 and is currently an attorney with the law firm of Kolesar & Leatham, Chtd.

Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon, said he first met Roberson at the GOP caucus meeting after the election and was impressed with his demeanor.

“He was not overly gabby but when he did talk, he was very thoughtful,” he said.

McGinness said Roberson’s line of questioning at the Judiciary hearing was appropriate, given the state’s budget situation.

“He went into the deep end of the pool right away,” he said. “He’ll do OK.”

Roberson, 40, said he enjoys serving in the Judiciary Committee and that the legislative process thus far is about what was expected. Roberson is also serving on the Natural Resources and Commerce, Labor and Energy committees.

“You never really know what it is going to be like but I guess this is generally how people described it to me before I got into this,” he said. “But I’m enjoying it. I really am.”

Being away from his wife, Liberty Leavitt-Roberson, a Clark County school teacher, and their two dogs, is one of the more difficult aspects of the job so far, but time away from family is part of the job description for a Southern Nevadan to serve in the Legislature in Carson City, he said.

“That’s the toughest part about this, I miss my wife, I miss my two little dogs, it’s tough being away from my family,” Roberson said. “It was tough not being with my wife on Valentine’s Day. But those are the sacrifices we make. We’ll be fine.”

While his comments on mining profits have garnered the most attention early in the session, Roberson said his legislative agenda includes reforms to public education and the collective bargaining process to try to drive down public employee salaries to make them comparable to the private sector.

Roberson said he wants a school choice program where parents can get a rebate for half the per pupil support to pick a private or public school or use the money for home schooling. It would require testing to show student achievement, he said. Roberson also wants a study of Florida’s school reforms to see which might work for Nevada.

Changes to collective bargaining are needed because the pay differential is 30 percent higher for public sector workers, he said.

“We’re never going to get control of this beast until we do something about narrowing that gap,” Roberson said.

His bills have not yet been introduced.

He would also support a change sought by Sandoval to change the public employee retirement system to a defined contribution plan for future hires.

But for now, mining is the hot topic for Roberson.

Richard Perkins, a lobbyist for the Newmont Mining Corp. and former speaker of the Assembly, said Roberson is thoughtful and asks good questions.

“But like any freshman legislator, Senate or Assembly, (he) is still trying to find his sea legs,” he said. “And the questions he asked this last week were a part of that process.”

The mining industry now needs to educate Roberson about the business and satisfy his concerns, Perkins said.

“His profile will more fully develop itself to all of us after that education occurs and we look at how he handles this specific issue,” he said.

Roberson said he does not yet know if the mining industry can afford to pay more, although he is inclined to believe the companies are doing OK.

“My general sense is mining is doing exceptionally well right now,” he said. “And I know for a fact small business in this state is on life-support.”

If that proves not to be the case, Roberson said he would not pursue a tax increase on the industry. But he wants the answers to the mining industry’s profitability in Nevada first and said he will get them.

Based on the exchange at the Feb. 14 judiciary hearing, the mining industry probably believes he won’t take no for an answer either.

Audio clips:

Sen. Michael Roberson says toughest part of job is being away from family:

022111Roberson1 :07 from my family.”

Roberson says it took long time for EPA to clean up his home town:

022111Roberson2 :17 by the 1990s.”

Roberson says he is not opposed to mining industry:

022111Roberson3 :16 here in Nevada.”

Roberson says he did not get a straight answer from mining on profits in Nevada:

022111Roberson4 :10 people to know.”

Roberson says mining lobbyists did not want to provide information:

022111Roberson5 :17 become more suspicious.”

Roberson says if restructuring of Nevada’s tax system makes sense and is revenue neutral, that is OK:

022111Roberson6 :08 open to discussing.”

Mining lobbyist Richard Perkins says Roberson’s questioning was part of his learning process as a freshman:

022111Perkins1 :10 of that process.”

Perkins says Roberson’s profile will become more clear after seeing how he handles the mining issue:

022111Perkins2 :08 this specific issue.”

Efforts By Citizens To Access November Ballot End In Failure

By Sean Whaley | 5:05 am June 16th, 2010

CARSON CITY – One proposal sought to increase mining taxes and another wanted to define life as beginning at conception. A third would have required secret ballots for employee votes on whether to join a union and yet another would have given Nevada residents the right to reject participation in government backed health care.

But none of these citizen-backed proposals to amend the Nevada state constitution will be on the ballot come November. Legal challenges, the cost and time required to circulate petitions and other factors have led to all such measures ending in failure this election cycle.

Yesterday was the deadline for groups to turn in the nearly 100,000 signatures needed to qualify constitutional amendments for the ballot.

The only group to come close, the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, announced Monday it would fall short of the number of signatures needed to ask voters to consider increasing the mining tax.

Jan Gilbert, northern Nevada coordinator for PLAN, said a legal challenge by the well-financed Nevada mining industry did hurt the group’s efforts. The effort was also made more complex by the 2009 Legislature by requiring signatures to be collected in the state’s three congressional districts, she said.

In Clark County, where all three of Nevada’s representatives have constituents, signature gatherers had to determine which of three petitions to use for each registered voter, Gilbert said.

The process shouldn’t be so easy that voters have to consider 20 or 30 ballot questions every two years, but it should be fair, she said.

Las Vegas attorney Joel Hansen, who has in the past argued in court in support of several constitutional amendment efforts, said the process is intentionally designed by the Legislature to thwart the public’s will.

“They don’t want the people to have this input,” he said. “They have been hostile to the process.”

Hansen, who advocated for an initiative petition to impose a spending limitation on state government four years ago, said the process is set up to allow expensive legal challenges by opponents. Most citizen groups can’t afford to fight such legal challenges, and if they do and they win, any funds to collect signatures are then depleted, he said.

“The right of ordinary people to do this has essentially been destroyed by the Legislature’s burdensome requirements,” Hansen said.

The TASC measure to limit the growth of state government to inflation and population growth was kicked off the ballot by the Nevada Supreme Court after supporters had won in district court, he said. Hansen, who argued to put the measure on the ballot, said a typographical error was cited as the reason by the Supreme Court to not let it go to the voters.

The court in its ruling said the error was significant and not just a minor typo.

Hansen said such rulings frustrate the will of the voters who clearly want the measures qualified for the ballot.

Since the Legislature is unwilling to simplify the process, the only answer may be an initiative petition by the people to amend the state constitution to reform the process for placing such measures on the ballot, he said.

“It’s very discouraging,” he said. “I have not been involved in any of these this year because nobody has the heart for it anymore.”

Hansen, a candidate for attorney general with the Independent American Party, said he would work if elected to advocate for the public’s right to access the ballot.

“Whatever I can do from that position, I will do it,” he said.

Gilbert said another challenge for PLAN was the requirement for nearly 100,000 signatures, a significant number resulting from the strong turnout in the 2008 presidential election. The signature requirement in other years can be much lower depending on turnout at the prior general election.

A challenge to the mining tax proposal was just argued in front of the Nevada Supreme Court earlier this month. Gilbert said she does not know if a ruling will be forthcoming now that the group has not filed its signatures.

The legal challenge by the Nevada Mining Association could only be contested by PLAN with the help of attorneys who worked for free, she said.

Gilbert said PLAN believes the petition effort has laid the groundwork for the Legislature to consider mining tax increases in the 2011 session.

If a citizen-backed constitutional amendment does make it on the ballot, it must be approved twice before it can take effect. The Legislature can place such amendments on the ballot after approving them in two consecutive legislative sessions.

The process is equally complex for citizens who want to change an existing state law rather than amend the constitution, but the time frame to collect signatures is longer. Several such petitions are circulating, including one by Gov. Jim Gibbons to open up the public employee negotiating process to the open meeting law. The deadline for signatures for these measures is Nov. 9.

Audio files

Jan Gilbert of PLAN says there are obstacles to petition drives in Nevada:

061510Gilbert1 :14 get those signatures.”

Gilbert says initiative process shouldn’t be too easy but should be fair:

061510Gilbert2 :16 that is achievable.”

Las Vegas attorney Joel Hansen says Legislature has intentionally made petition process difficult:

061510Hansen1 :22 having this voice.”

Hansen says Nevada Supreme Court has frustrated will of people:

061510Hansen2 :20 think we will.”

Initiative Petition Deadline Looms, Groups Have Until June 15 To Qualify Measures For November Ballot

By Sean Whaley | 2:25 pm June 4th, 2010

CARSON CITY – While voters and political observers are focused on the Tuesday primary, Nevadans seeking access to the November ballot for measures they are pushing to amend the state Constitution have another key date in mind.

June 15 is the deadline for groups pushing their amendments to turn in the nearly 100,000 signatures they need to qualify the measures for the ballot. There are three initiative petitions to amend the state constitution still active, according to the Secretary of State’s office.

The only constitutional measure that is certain to see signatures turned in to the clerks of the state’s 17 counties by the deadline is one seeking to increase the mining tax.

“We’re continuing our collection efforts and we’re getting close,” said Jan Gilbert, Northern Nevada coordinator of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada. “I’m always optimistic.”

Gilbert said she does not know the precise number of signatures collected so far because the more than 300 volunteers doing the work have not all turned in their petitions yet. The collection effort is continuing even as the group faces yet another court challenge to the proposal before the Nevada Supreme Court on Monday.

The measure would change the Nevada constitution to require the mining industry to pay taxes on no less than 5 percent of the gross proceeds rather than no more than 5 percent of the net proceeds, on their mineral extraction efforts.

The status of two other measures, one aimed at ensuring employees have the right to vote in secret when deciding to join a union, and another explicitly mandating secret voting in all elections, could not be determined when calls were not returned.

One other measure, the Personhood petition to define life as beginning at conception, lost a challenge in Nevada District Court. The Nevada Supreme Court has not yet ruled on an appeal. The group did not respond to an inquiry about whether the signature gathering process is still under way.

Several other measures have been withdrawn by the proponents.

Other active measures to change state law, such as a proposal by Gov. Jim Gibbons to subject public employee labor discussions to the open meeting law, have a different deadline.

Gilbert said PLAN is pushing for the change to Nevada’s mining tax law because of a belief the industry is not paying enough in taxes, especially now that gold is valued at more than $1,200 an ounce. If the PLAN proposal was in effect in 2008, for example, mining companies would have paid $284.4 million in taxes to state and local governments instead of the $91.8 million that was paid by the industry.

The proposal will see its second challenge from the Nevada Mining Association on Monday, when the Nevada Supreme Court considers whether it violates a requirement that such petitions deal only with a single subject. The court will also consider whether the petition is a proper use of the initiative process.

Tim Crowley, president of the Nevada Mining Association, said the key issue before the court is whether the petition is proper because it directs the Legislature to take certain actions regarding the mining tax.

“We do believe the initiative is flawed in several ways,” he said. “What they are calling for in the initiative is to force the Legislature to change law, and in our opinion you can’t bind a Legislature to do anything.”

Crowley said the proposal, if approved by voters, would be crippling to the mining industry, particularly for the geothermal industry and those operations providing materials to the construction industry.

“Those businesses cannot endure that type of a tax,” he said. “So it is something that causes us great concern.”

Crowley also noted that the measure would not do anything to solve the state’s current budget problems, since it would have to be approved by voters twice, this year and again in 2012, before it could take effect.

“Our primary focus is fixing today’s fiscal issues,” he said.

Gilbert said the legal challenges are just another attempt by the well-funded mining industry to derail the measure and prevent voters from having their say.

“It’s hard to fight such a well-funded effort,” she said. “We’re hopeful on the Supreme Court case as well.”

A ruling against the PLAN initiative would remove it from the ballot whether the group had gathered enough signatures or not.

Following the submission of the signatures to county clerks, a verification process begins to determine if there are enough names or registered voters to qualify. Petitions require 97,002 signatures from the state’s three Congressional districts. A check is then made to assess whether enough of the signatures are from valid registered voters.

If all the requirements are met, a measure would be qualified for the November general election ballot.

Audio Clips:

060410Gilbert1 :09 make that deadline.”

060410Crowley1 :31 the ballot initiative.”

060410Crowley2 :23 the geothermal industry.”

Community and Labor Groups Call on Nevada Attorney General to Support Health Care Bill

By Elizabeth Crum | 12:20 pm March 26th, 2010

And from the other side of the aisle (see my previous post), we have a media advisory saying that a dozen Nevada community leaders are calling on Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto to reject the idea of a “frivolous health-care lawsuit.”  From their press release:

Nevada Gov. Jim Gibbons has demanded that the Attorney General join a lawsuit to block implementation of federal health care reform, a package of important changes that is particularly needed in Nevada, where an estimated 400,000 men, women and children lack health insurance coverage.

And:

“It is unfortunate that Gov. Gibbons has chosen to side with insurance companies rather than the people who elected him,” said Jan Gilbert, Northern Nevada organizer for the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada (PLAN).

Signatories on a letter that will be delivered to the AG’s office later today are:  PLAN, Business Advocating Social Equity, Culinary Workers Union Local 226, Family TIES of Nevada, Food Bank of Northern Nevada, Great Basin Resource Watch, Nevada Advocates for Planned Parenthood Affiliates, Nevada Lawyers for Progressive Policy, Nevada State Education Association, Planned Parenthood Mar Monte, Planned Parenthood of Southern Nevada, and Public Resource Associates.

Rory Out With Education Plan, Governor’s Blue Ribbon Edu Panel Skips Edu Reform Summit

By Elizabeth Crum | 7:24 am March 22nd, 2010

As Flashed by Ralston a short time ago:

Reid the Younger Releases Education Plan

Will also be presented at town hall tonight at Walter Bracken.

Has a cutesy acronymic name: “The Leading EDGE: Rory Reid’s Plan for Economic Development through Great Education”

Devil in details, as always, with plans for accountability and empowerment and even choice (don’t get too excited, voucher advocates).

The plan is here:

http://roryreid.com/system/files/4/original/Rory-EDGE_Plan.pdf

More later….

I am personally willing to listen to and consider voting for any candidate who will say (and DO) anything substantive about the pathetic state of our state’s education system, which is practically criminal in its failure to produce graduates who can competently read, write and do ‘rithmetic.

Notable note:  On Friday the governor’s brand new blue-ribbon education panel had their first meeting at the Wynn Resort while a very worthwhile education reform conference was being put on by NPRI over at the Orleans.  In my humble opinion, the information was excellent and the governor’s new education brain trust could have benefited from attending the summit en masse.  At the very least, they should have at least sent a couple-few representatives to glean and bring back information.

Anecdotal note::  One of the blue-ribbon panelists who attended the meeting at the Wynn sent this text to the sole blue-ribbon panelist who chose, of his own free will, to skip the Wynn and be at the education summit at the Orleans:  “Our lunch is better than your lunch.”

Yeah, that’s the really important thing, here:  fancier lunches.

Gibbons Unveils Plan for State Budget Cuts

By Elizabeth Crum | 11:47 am February 16th, 2010

From the governor’s office a few minutes ago (PDFs of all docs provided below):

GOVERNOR PRESENTS PLAN TO REDUCE SPENDING

Governor Gibbons: “Difficult reductions, but no new taxes

Carson City – Governor Jim Gibbons today unveiled his plan to reduce state spending by nearly $900-million dollars, while at the same time avoiding higher taxes for Nevadans. “Our citizens are already struggling during this economic crisis, “Gibbons said, “I intend to lead Nevada out of this recession with responsible government spending and without raising taxes.”

Governor Gibbons, his senior staff, legislators and legislative staff have been meeting for the last several weeks seeking agreement on ways to reduce state spending. Under the Nevada Constitution, the state must operate with a balanced budget. Because of revenue shortfalls, Nevada must reduce its spending by about $890-million.

Governor Gibbons today announced his plans to reduce state government spending, while at the same time providing vital and core government services and continuing to fund safety-net programs for our most vulnerable citizens. “As I said in my State of the State Address, there are no easy answers,” Gibbons said, “These last few weeks, coming up with these recommendations, have been some of my most difficult times as your Governor, but Nevada must do what hundreds of thousands of you are already doing. Nevada state government must reduce spending.”

2010-02-16_SpecialSessionProclamation

PR-2010-02-16_fiscal_solution_notes

PR-2010-02-16_09-11_Biennium_Shortfall

PLAN Circulating Petition re: Mining Taxes

By Elizabeth Crum | 5:12 pm February 12th, 2010

The Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada has a new website called Nevadans for Fair Mining Taxes.  Includes a petition, a call for volunteers, donations, and sign up for action alerts.  Explains itself thusly:

Nevadans for Fair Mining Taxes is a coalition dedicated to ensuring a stable and equitable revenue source for our state by undoing antebellum Constitutional provisions which allow the mining industry to evade paying its fair share of taxes.

If you think the mining companies are under-taxed or are just curious, go check it out.

Montandon Releases Mortgage Foreclosure Plan

By Elizabeth Crum | 4:52 pm February 11th, 2010

A new idea from the Montandon campaign today.  The sum-up:

The Foreclosure Avoidance and Stabilization Today Program (FAST Program) utilizes a private insurance policy combined with a state government backed loan protection plan to address the current economic crisis in Nevada’s housing market. This plan will also provide an urgent solution to prevent further deterioration in the State’s housing market.

The problem to be solved:

As ARM loans readjust homeowners are unable to refinance due to the homes negative equity. The current system fails to recognize the real problems facing homeowners; banks are unwilling to talk with homeowners until the home is in default, and even after default banks lack a financial solution to address the current market realities. Banks are unable to refinance the loan because the current market value of the home is less than the amount owed on the first loan. FAST encourages banks to work with homeowners through a private mortgage insurance backed through the full faith and credit of the State of Nevada.

Montandon’s solution:

FAST provides a government-backed guarantee on a portion of the loan that is unsecured by the market value of the home. Suppose that a home was purchased for $300,000 in 2005 on a 5-Year 0-Interest ARM, this summer the 5-year arm readjusts and the homeowner is unable to make the new payments. The home is now worth $200,000, and to refinance the bank will only make a loan on the value of the home, so the homeowner will have to come up with $100,000 to satisfy the original loan. Many Nevadans faced with this common scenario are forced into foreclosure. In this example, FAST would provide a guarantee on the $100,000 and provide a path for homeowners to refinance their home and protect the value of their neighbor’s homes by preventing foreclosure.

FAST is funded through private insurance premiums paid by participating homeowners in their loan closing costs and is not a taxpayer-subsidized program. Homeowners electing to save their home through FAST will pay an insurance premium used to satisfy the gap loan in the event that a homeowner forecloses on a FAST secured home. Nevada can protect the State’s housing market by preventing foreclosures from driving down the value of all homes in the state.

And the attempt at an inspirational closing:

FAST embodies the Nevadan ideal that people do not just walk away from their obligations:  they are “battle born” to fight to do what is right.

Some interesting ideas here.  And at least he has a plan for the foreclosure crisis.  Haven’t seen any from anyone else.

Mining Association Files Suit to Block Tax PLAN

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:28 am February 10th, 2010

First posted last night at the RalstonFlash blog, the Nevada Mining Association (NMA) has filed a lawsuit to block the PLAN initiative to raise taxes on the mining industry.  (Ralston helpfully posted the filing.  If you’re looking for a mini-education on all the legalities, I highly recommend reading it.)

The suit attempts to block PLAN’s efforts to “alter radically the manner in which mineral property has been taxed in Nevada since statehood” on the basis that it “violates Nevada’s single-subject provision for initiative measures, provides a legally-insufficient and misleading description of effect, violates on its face a raft of state and federal constitutional provisions – including contravening the basic requirement that property taxation in Nevada be uniform, equal and based on just valuations – and furthermore constitutes an impermissible use of the initiative process.”

If you are not aware of it, PLAN’s petition essentially seeks to amend Article 10, Section 5 of the Nevada constitution by changing every instance of the word “net” to “gross,” thus altering the rate of taxation on mineral property to 5% of the gross value (rather than net).

The opening legal analysis of the NMA’s suit reads as follows (and is quite amusing in parts):

For the entirety of Nevada’s history, the proceeds of mineral property have been subject to an ad valorem property tax on fair market value. The net proceeds system contained in the state constitution, and refined in N.R.S. Chapter 362 over many decades, is an evolving effort to determine that fair market value. It reflects the simple truth that mineral property must be located, extracted, refined, and processed; it is not just lying around the valleys of Nevada waiting to be picked up by passersby. The current net proceeds tax is a system for appraisal of the mineral property to be taxed on an ad valorem basis. It is not, and has never been, an income tax on the market price of gold or silver. This is what the Petition threatens: a gross income tax applied to mineral proceeds, without regard to the costs of extraction. This artificially inflates the assessed value of the property to be taxed, far beyond fair market value and contrary to every concept of fair taxation.

If valuable minerals were lying around Nevada, however, at least the current system, which takes into account the costs of extraction, would recognize the difference between a major digging operation thousands of feet below the surface and pocketing a nugget found on the ground while walking the dog. It is that difference that has always informed Nevada’s system for taxing mineral proceeds. The Petition’s scheme does not recognize or respect this difference, and is an attack on a century and a half of uniform, equal, and just taxation.

The suit goes on to argue – via citation of a plethora of NRS statutes and precedents – each of its points and authorities as described in paragraph 2 of this post.

Among other things, I was interested to note that the NMA suit includes a defense of the geothermal energy industry which it claims would be “crippled” by the PLAN petition. Here’s the pithiest part of that section (page 13 of the PDF):

Furthermore, all publicity regarding the Petition to date would make most Nevadans think that gold was the only mineral in Nevada. One would never know, for example, that geothermal energy producers also fall under the constitutional and statutory provisions regarding mineral production. N.R.S. 362.010(2). Like other minerals, geothermal energy sources are deep within the earth; drilling, pumping, and conversion to usable electricity are expensive processes. The Petition’s effect would be to ignore investment in and costs of the processes necessary to utilize geothermal energy, and would tax producers on the gross proceeds of income from energy sales. Proponents fail to explain, therefore, that one of the most promising green industries providing reliable, sustainable, and environmentally-friendly electricity would not only be affected but likely crippled by the Petition’s taxes. Currently, this state is a national leader in implementing direct-use applications of geothermal energy. Nevada derives revenue from federal geothermal lease rental fees and production royalties, exports electricity to consumers in neighboring states through green power purchase programs, and generates employment through geothermal energy research, plant construction, and operation associated with resource development.

The federal government has provided for tax credits and other incentives for geothermal energy producers in the Energy Improvement and Extension Act of 20085 and the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009,6 the value and efficacy of which will be destroyed by the Petition’s proposed tax upon the gross incomes of producers—in direct contradiction to the policy and purposes of the federal legislation.

Very clever sidebar to the suit:  whip up support from all the Green energy peeps and their allies.  One of whom is You Know Who.

Lots more, and again, the lawsuit is excellent reading if you want to wrap your brain around this issue.  More later if I have time.