Posts Tagged ‘Settelmeyer’

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Audio clips:

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

110311Gustavson :09 received the award.”

 

Regulation Allowing Firearms In State Parks Wins Lawmaker Approval

By Sean Whaley | 2:00 am October 31st, 2011

CARSON CITY – A regulation eliminating a prohibition on carrying firearms in state parks has been approved by the Legislative Commission.

The regulation still prohibits the discharge of a firearm in a state park with some limited exceptions, such as designated target shooting areas.

But a provision included in the original draft regulation to specifically recognize the right to self defense in a state park was not part of the final changes approved Wednesday by the panel of state lawmakers.

A state lawmaker who supported the regulation said the ability to use a weapon for self defense is covered elsewhere in state law, however.

Statutory changes were mandated in Assembly Bill 282, a pro-gun omnibus measure that passed with bipartisan support during the 2011 legislative session.

The ban had also been the subject of a federal lawsuit.

Valley of Fire State Park. / Courtesy: Nevada Division of State Parks.

Steve Silva, senior law enforcement specialist for the Division of State Parks, told the Legislative Commission that much of the public comment concerned a desire to include, “an affirmative acknowledgement of the right to self defense.”

But the language was removed from the regulation when it was returned from the Legislative Counsel Bureau, he said.

The wording was supported by some who testified at a public hearing on the regulation on Oct. 12, particularly from concealed weapons instructors who argued that not including self defense language would cause confusion in teaching their classes, Silva said.

It did not end up being a part of the regulation, however, he said.

“I’ve been with the division for just short of 32 years,” Silva said. “In that entire period we’ve never prosecuted somebody for utilizing a firearm in self defense.”

Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, said in a phone interview Friday that the right to self defense is provided for elsewhere in Nevada law, and that it was not needed as part of the state parks regulation.

“That was my concern as well and that’s why I pulled the regulation during Legislative Commission . . . to have it reviewed by us,” he said. “Because it kind of perplexed me that, yes you can carry a gun on a state park however you cannot discharge it.”

But Settelmeyer said it is covered elsewhere allowing the discharge of a weapon to protect one’s self or another.

“You don’t have a right to walk down the center of the street and discharge a weapon, but you do to save your life,” he said.

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Audio clips:

Steve Silva, senior law enforcement specialist for the Division of State Parks, says language about using a firearm in self defense was removed by LCB staff from the regulation:

103111Silva1 :19 language was removed.”

Silva says the Parks Division has not prosecuted anyone for using a firearm in self defense for nearly 32 years:

103111Silva2 :14 in self defense.”

Sen. James Settelmeyer says the right to self defense is guaranteed elsewhere in state law:

103111Settelmeyer :35 save your life.”

Conservative Nevada Think Tank Grades Lawmakers On Taxes, Education Reform

By Sean Whaley | 2:00 am June 28th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A conservative Nevada think tank gave passing scores to 22 Republicans in the just-concluded 2011 legislative session, handing out failing scores to four other GOP lawmakers and all 37 Democrats in a report card released today.

The report card produced by Geoffrey Lawrence of the Nevada Policy Research Institute formulated the grades based on each lawmaker’s voting record on legislation related to economic freedom and education reform. The 78 specific bills used in the analysis are available for review at the group’s website.

Tops in the analysis was Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, with a score of 89.1 percent out of a possible 100. He was followed by Sens. Greg Brower, R-Reno, and Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, with scores of 88.63 percent. Sens. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, with a score of 88.15 percent, and James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, at 87.68 percent, rounded out the top five.

Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, won top honors in the NPRI report card./Nevada News Bureau file photo

The 12 lawmakers with the highest scores were all Republicans who voted against a measure to extend a package of taxes for two more years, six in the Senate and six in the Assembly.

“I think that will make my constituents very happy,” Gustavson said of his grade. “The business community as well.”

The state was not in a position to raise taxes this past session, although a majority of lawmakers ended up supporting such a policy, he said.

“We need to keep business going by not raising their taxes,” Gustavson said.

At the other end of the scale, Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce, D-Las Vegas, received the lowest score of 26.52 percent. Pierce authored a number of tax measures in the 2011 session, including a proposed tax on services and tax hikes on cigarettes and alcohol.

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, another one of the low scoring Democrats, called the grade a badge of honor.

“If they don’t like me it means I’m doing something right,” he said.

Segerblom said he campaigned on increasing taxes and is a strong supporter of education and unions, positions supported by his constituents.

“They can read the score and if they don’t like my grade and don’t like the way I voted they can obviously vote me out,” he said. “But I think I voted just like my constituencies wanted me to.”

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom said the low grade from NPRI is a badge of honor./Nevada News Bureau file photo

Segerblom said based on his grade with the NPRI he intends to run for the state Senate in Clark District 3 being vacated by Sen. Valerie Wiener, D-Las Vegas, who must step down due to term limits.

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, scored the highest among Democrats at 35.55 percent, and Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson, scored the lowest among Republicans at 43.98 percent.

Lawrence said the group’s 2009 report card reflected higher scores for some Democrats over Republicans. This session party affiliation and ideology went more hand-in-hand, with Republicans as a group acting in a more fiscally conservative way, he said.

Settelmeyer said he appreciates the types of pro-business measures included in the NPRI analysis.

“They tend to reflect the business friendly community that we’re trying to promote in the state of Nevada,” he said.

Roberson said he is pleased with the high grade from a group that supports free market approaches to education and fiscal policy. But he is disappointed at the level of reform finally approved by the Legislature to end the session.

“I don’t think the reforms were nearly as far reaching as I would like to see,” he said. “The governor proposed some really great education reforms that didn’t even get a vote taken.”

With Democrats in control of both houses, Republicans will focus on winning majorities in the next election cycle, Roberson said. The freshman lawmaker will head GOP efforts to win the Senate majority in 2012.

In addition to votes on several education reform measures and the budget, including a tax package that extended 2009 revenue hikes set to sunset June 30, other examples of bills used in the evaluation included a proposal to charge a fee on auto insurance policies to create a subsidized program for low-income residents of Clark County, and a measure to subsidize the development of wind and solar power.

The auto insurance measure passed the Assembly but never saw a vote in the Senate. The subsidy bill was vetoed by GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval.

The grading system is adapted from one used by the National Taxpayers Union to grade Congress. The NTU methodology allows bills of greater significance to be weighted accordingly. Lawrence said NPRI adapted the grading system to include such elements as education reform.

The 2011 session was one where Sandoval and many Republicans were adamantly opposed to new taxes, with many Democrats pushing for new or increased revenues to further fund public education and other programs.

This paradigm shifted after the Nevada Supreme Court rejected the Legislature’s taking of $62 million from a Clark County water quality fund in the 2010 special session. Sandoval and some lawmakers expressed concern about the legality of using other local funds proposed as part of the new 2011-13 general fund budget that takes effect this Friday.

The ruling led to an agreement to extend the taxes set to sunset, but a number of reforms, including several to public education, were made part of the agreement. Payroll taxes for the states’ small businesses were also eliminated.

Lawrence said some of the reforms passed in the session on their own merits are more significant than those included as part of the budget and tax deal.

He cited the performance-based budgeting bill sought by Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, another measure expanding empowerment schools and a third strengthening the charter school process as examples of legislation that could have far reaching consequences.

Of the reforms included in the budget deal, Lawrence said: “It is arguable that Sandoval and legislative Republicans would not have been able to secure the education and labor reforms they received had they not reversed their position and embraced taxes. However, each of the reforms had merit on its own and should not have required an 11.5 percent increase in the overall state tax burden for lawmakers to consider its passage. Time will tell if the deal was worth its price.”

Audio clips:

Geoffrey Lawrence of NPRI says the most important reforms are unrelated to the budget deal:

062811Lawrence1 :06 the budget deal.”

Lawrence says the reforms that are part of the budget deal will have to be evaluated long term:

062711Lawrence2 :10 they actually materialize.”

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom says he voted the way his constituents wanted him to vote:

062711Segerblom1 :10 wanted me to.”

Sen. Michael Roberson says he is disappointed with the level of reforms approved in the 2011 session:

062711Roberson1 :16 a vote taken.”

Roberson says the GOP goal is to win majorities in both houses of the Legislature:

062711Roberson2 :19 in the Legislature.”

Sen. James Settelmeyer says he appreciates NPRI’s bill priorities:

062711Settelmeyer1 :21 get more jobs.”

Settelmeyer says some of the measures approved this session will likely have to be re-evaluated next session:

062711Settelmeyer2 : 14 of an idea.’”

 

 

Bills Sought By GOP Senators ‘Returned’ To Assembly As Tax Discussions Continue

By Sean Whaley | 12:00 pm May 26th, 2011

CARSON CITY – Republican state senators who are refusing to go along with a call by Democrats to increase funding for the state budget say bills they have sponsored are being held hostage as a result.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, said Assembly Democrats, who have a 26-16 majority, “called back” seven Senate bills that had already been voted on and sent to the Senate for final action.

Senate Bills 89, 96, 111, 134, 225, 322 and 337 were requested to be returned to the Assembly, said David Byerman, secretary of the Senate. He said such requests are routine and are accommodated without requesting an explanation. Various reasons can prompt such a request, such as a reconsideration of a measure, he said.

All seven bills passed the Assembly unanimously on Monday. On Tuesday, Republicans on the Senate Finance Committee, including Cegavske, Sen. Dean Rhoads, R-Tuscarora, and Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, refused to support a proposed budget relying on the extension of sun-setting taxes to add more than $700 million in funding.

The Assembly Ways and Means Committee today passed out a bill extending the sun-setting taxes on a party-line vote. But a two-thirds vote will be required in the full Assembly and then in the Senate to approve the measure.

Democrats in the Legislature need three GOP members of the Senate of 10 to vote to extend the sun-setting taxes. So far the Senate GOP caucus has remained firm in its opposition, holding with Gov. Brian Sandoval against any tax extensions or increases to fund areas of the budget.

On Wednesday, the seven GOP Senate bills were recalled by the Assembly leadership.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, who said he is working to win support from Senate Republicans for additional revenue for the state budget, acknowledged the bills were called back by the Assembly.

“I think the issue is the budget is the most important thing we have going right now,” he said. “Any policy bill is not that important right now. So we’re absolutely looking at holding all the policy bills until we have a budget.

“Call it what you will, I think what we’re doing is, there is nothing more important than getting this budget done so no policy bills are moving right now,” Oceguera said.

If the bills remain in the possession of the Assembly, they won’t see final approval or be signed into law by the governor, he said.

Oceguera said a lot of reform bills are caught up in the discussion over new tax revenue.

“Obviously if there is not reform on the tax side of things there’s not going to be reform on anything else either,” he said.

Cegavske said Republican senators are being punished for their opposition to tax increases but the bills are good legislation that don’t deserve such action.

Cegavske said failing to act on her Senate Bill 225 won’t hurt her personally, but it will harm the efforts of the American Heart Association.

“Yes my name is on it and if you want to punish me, punish me, don’t punish the American Heart Association,” she said. “Because it is truly a bill that will help them and there is nothing wrong with sending policy bills through while you are still debating budgets. There is nothing wrong with that.

“It saddens me that you would act in a manner that is unprofessional,” Cegavske said.

“It’s an angry attempt to say we didn’t like the fact that you voted against the sunset bills so we’re going to do something that affects you,” she said. “Well, it doesn’t affect me personally but it does affect the American Heart Association and what they’re trying to accomplish for the good of the citizens of Nevada.”

“One would hope we don’t need to go down such a partisan road,” said Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville.

SB89 imposing reforms on homeowners’ associations is sponsored by Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon. SB96 making changes to the Guinn Millennium Scholarship is sponsored by Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City.

SB111, sponsored by Settelmeyer, would make changes to help children who are kept in protective custody. SB134 is sponsored by Rhoads and would make changes to the Elko City municipal elections.

SB225 sought by Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, would designate certain hospitals as stroke centers. SB322, relating to weight limits on vehicles, is being sought by Settelmeyer, Hardy and Sen. Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas. SB337 is being sought by Kieckhefer and Sen. Allison Copening, D-Las Vegas, and would make changes to the donation of anatomical gifts.

None of the measures have anything to do with policy reforms sought by some Republicans in exchange for consideration of taxes, such as collective bargaining.

Audio clips:

Sen. Barbara Cegavske said Senate GOP bills are being held up as punishment for opposition to tax increases:

052611Cegavske1 :17 wrong with that.”

Cegavske said there is no reason the bills should not be passed while the budget is being debated:

052611Cegavske2 :24 all that way.”

Sen. James Settelmeyer said the Legislature should not have to go down such a partisan road:

052611Settelmeyer :04 a partisan road.”

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera says the budget is the most pressing issue right now:

052611Oceguera1 :05 going right now.”

Oceguera says policy bills are not that important right now:

052611Oceguera2 :09 have a budget.”

Oceguera says the budget is the top priority:

052611Oceguera3 :09 moving right now.”

Oceguera says if there is not reform on taxes, there won’t be reform on anything else:

052611Oceguera4 :14 anything else either.”

 

 

 

 

Major Campaign Finance Reform Bill Clears Senate Committee Hurdle

By Sean Whaley | 8:28 pm May 19th, 2011

CARSON CITY – CARSON CITY – A bill seeking major reforms to Nevada’s campaign finance laws won approval from a Senate panel today after controversial provisions requiring a two-year cooling off period from lobbying by former public officials were stripped from the measure.

Assembly Bill 452 was approved by the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee with Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, voting no.

The bill will now go to the full Senate for a vote. The bill has already been passed by the Assembly. If approved by the full Senate, the different versions of the bill will have to be reconciled between the two houses before it could go to Gov. Brian Sandoval for his review.

Sandoval has said he supports the idea of electronic filing of campaign reports.

The vote by the committee came one day before a deadline for action on most bills.

The bill sought by Secretary of State Ross Miller would require on-line filing of campaign contribution and expense reports by most candidates and require earlier reporting of the information so voters could review the data before casting their ballots.

Reports would be filed four days before early voting and would be updated to reflect any additional contributions and expenses four days prior to the primary and general elections.

It would also make the Secretary of State’s office the central repository for the campaign reports for all elections, as well as for financial disclosure statements required of candidates and elected officials. These reports would also be filed electronically.

The information would be maintained in a searchable database so the public could review the reports in a simple and comprehensive way.

In testimony before the panel earlier this session, Miller said: “A big part of the transparency we want to provide is letting voters know who is funding the campaigns. The reasons of course are obvious, and the need is equally obvious, even to those outside of Nevada.”

Miller said Nevada consistently receives an “F” grade from the Campaign Disclosure Project by the UCLA School of Law for the state’s campaign finance disclosure laws because of the lack of transparency.

Miller tried to get similar legislation through the 2009 session but a final version of the bill was not approved as time ran out.

The cooling off provisions in the bill, which would have prohibited a former lawmaker from lobbying the Legislature for pay for two years, were removed after concerns were expressed by Crystal Jackson, executive director of the Public Utilities Commission. The proposed cooling off provisions applied to PUC commissioners and others public officers as well.

Jackson said extending the current one-year cooling off period for the PUC to two years could make it difficult to recruit key staff.

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee, told the Senate panel that his committee could accept the removal of the cooling off provisions. There are so many other important provisions in the bill that the cooling off sections should not hold the measure up, he said.

The provisions, which were not sought by Miller, had already proved an issue for some lawmakers, including Assemblyman Horne, D-Las Vegas, an attorney, who objected to them in Assembly hearings, saying he would be prohibited from representing a client in the Legislature if he left office.

“I have a fundamental disagreement with some of my colleagues that you should prohibit someone from doing what they’re gainfully employed to do,” Horne said.

State Lawmaker Speaks Out Against Unfunded Federal Mandates

By Sean Whaley | 12:37 pm March 7th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A state lawmaker testified today that the federal government’s unfunded mandates on issues such as clean air, clean water and flood zones are imposing costs on Nevada taxpayers without authority or justification.

Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, spoke in support of Senate Joint Resolution 6 before the Senate Government Affairs Committee.

“Nevada can no longer afford the federal mandates that are coming down, the unfunded federal mandates,” he said. “The national programs that are forced upon our state’s taxpayers that we have to bear, we just can’t afford.”

The resolution, if approved, would be sent to Nevada’s Congressional delegation, and to the rest of Congress, asking that the federal government respect the right of the state to deal with those issues not under national control as explained in the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

Settelmeyer cited a decision by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to identify 2,500 acres of land in Douglas County as a flood zone even though there was no historical evidence to support the decision. As a result, Douglas County must now purchase costly flood insurance on the land it owns, he said.

Another example was a federal decision to reduce the level of naturally-occurring arsenic in water supplies requiring treatment from 100 parts per billion to 10 parts per billion with no scientific data to back up the change, Settelmeyer said. The result has been the requirement for costly water treatment projects throughout northern Nevada to deal with a new unfunded mandate, he said.

Settelmeyer said Congress needs to be reminded that states have the right to govern themselves on a wide variety of issues. A similar resolution SJR1, was approved by the Nevada Legislature in 1995 with the unanimous support of both Republicans and Democrats.

The federal government’s powers are limited, while those belonging to the states are, “numerous and indefinite,” he said. “Yet that is not what we’ve seen occur over a period of time from the federal government.”

John Wagner of Carson City, a member of the Independent American Party, cited the federal Real ID Act imposing requirements on the states regarding the issuing of driver’s licenses as a reason to support the resolution. The act requires the licenses to contain a microchip that can track people wherever they go, he said.

The act is a mandate that exceeds federal authority, Wagner said.

“But I just don’t like the idea of the federal government mandating to the states: ‘you must do this,’ ” he said. “We’re supposed to be sovereign states according to the 10th Amendment.”

Asked for a comment on the status of Real ID, Tom Jacobs, spokesman for the Nevada Department of Motor Vehicles, said a microchip was never part of the law. Jacobs said Nevada stopped issuing Real ID compliant driver’s licenses in April 2010 after emergency regulations expired. The Legislature chose not to address the issue and, without regulations, the department wasn’t authorized to issue the card, he said.

Tom Cornell, representing the Nevada Libertarian Party, said his concern with inappropriate federal intrusion into state issues is with funded, not unfunded, mandates.

The Department of Homeland Security, for example, has billions of dollars in funding it can use as incentives to obtain compliance from state and county governments with its laws and regulations, he said.

Elko County Commissioner Demar Dahl said the biggest economic development challenge facing the rural Nevada county over the next 20 years is keeping the federal government out of the way. The county is currently in a battle with the U.S. Forest Service over a plan to close hundreds of miles of forest roads, he said. Dahl spoke as an individual, not as a representative of the commission.

Elko County became a battleground with the federal government in the 1990s over the rebuilding of a road washed out in a flood. The U.S. Forest Service opposed reconstruction. The dispute brought national media attention to the remote area of Jarbidge Canyon in northeast Nevada.

The federal government’s control of most of Nevada’s land has led to a number of disputes between residents and various federal agencies over the years, including the “Sagebrush Rebellion” originally a fight over the designation of wilderness areas in Nevada and other western states.

About 87 percent of Nevada is controlled by federal agencies, according to the Nevada Legislative Guide.

A number of other speakers, including Doug Busselman, executive vice president of the Nevada Farm Bureau, also supported the resolution.

But Sen. Mike Schneider, D-Las Vegas, a member of the committee, said federal government initiatives over the past many decades, such as the creation of the interstate highway system, have been a boon to Nevada and the nation.

Nevada currently needs new transmission lines built which cannot be done without the support of the federal government, he said. The new bridge across the Colorado River would not have been accomplished without federal government support, Schneider said.

Nevadans with their strong libertarian streak sometimes get caught up with the idea of keeping the federal government out of the state’s business, but, “I think the federal government maybe needs to do more than they even do today,” he said.

The federal government’s involvement in state activities should not be unbridled, however, Schneider said.

The committee did not take immediate action on the resolution.

Audio clips:

Sen. James Settelmeyer says Nevada cannot afford unfunded federal mandates:

030711Settelmeyer1 :16 just can’t afford.”

Settelmeyer says the federal government has exceeded its authority:

030711Settelmeyer2 :09 the federal government.”

Carson City resident John Wagner says states are supposed to be sovereign:

030711Wagner :11 this legislation, thank-you.”

State Senate Republican Offers Bill To Exempt New Employees from Modified Business Tax

By Sean Whaley | 6:41 pm March 1st, 2011

CARSON CITY – A Republican state senator has proposed his own idea for job creation: A break on the modified business tax for new employees hired by employers after July 1, 2011.

Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, said Senate Bill 199 would exempt new employees hired by Nevada businesses from the tax as an incentive to add workers to their payrolls. Co-sponsors include five other Republican lawmakers. The measure was introduced Monday.

“The concept is based on the payroll tax, which unfortunately unfairly burdens employers based on how many employees they have,” he said. “Only if it is a brand new additional employee – above and beyond what you currently have – the new employee will not have the payroll tax charged upon them for one year.”

Settelmeyer’s jobs proposal comes as Democratic leaders in both the Assembly and Senate are touting their own job creation initiatives, including a plan to use some existing revenues to bond to build public works projects, and another to create a bidder’s preference on such projects for companies that hire Nevada workers.

SB199 has been referred to the Senate Finance Committee but no hearing has been scheduled yet.

Settelmeyer’s bill would require employers to demonstrate that any employees hired under the tax exemption are new additions to a firm’s current workforce, but there would be no limit to the number of new hires that could be included in the exemption. The exemption would be available to existing businesses only.

Bryan Wachter, director of government affairs for the Retail Association of Nevada, said the organization typically opposes tax exemptions or abatements but believes Settelmeyer’s proposal is a positive job-creating measure.

“We do see this as a private sector jobs creation bill,” he said. “Anytime you can stimulate private sector hiring without relying on public sector dollars, that is a good thing.”

Nevada’s nearly 15 percent unemployment rate does not appear as if it will decline anytime soon, and the tax incentive in SB199 could assist in reversing that trend, Wachter said.

Randi Thompson, the local representative for the National Federation of Independent Business, said the bill is a good start to getting Nevadans back to work.

“Anything that would encourage hiring is a good thing,” she said.

Thompson said she remains concerned, however, about the Legislature’s intentions as to the current rates of the modified business tax.

Nevada’s modified business tax is based on an employer’s gross payroll, after deductions for health insurance benefits paid by the employer. The 2009 Legislature increased the tax rate from 0.63 percent to 1.17 percent for large businesses as a way to balance the current budget.

At the same time, it reduced the rate to 0.5 percent for small businesses. Both changes will expire on July 1, 2011, unless the Legislature takes action.

Gov. Brian Sandoval wants to let the increase for large businesses expire, but he wants to continue the lower rate for small businesses for the upcoming two-year budget.

Settelmeyer said he has been told by small businesses that the exemption could make the difference between hiring a new worker and waiting. Larger casino operators have made similar comments, he said.

Audio clips:

Sen. James Settelmeyer says the payroll tax burdens employers based on the number of employees:

030111Settelmeyer1 :08 employees they have.”

Settelmeyer says only new employees would be eligible for the exemption:

030111Settelmeyer2 :08 for one year.”

States Rights Resolution Will Get Legislative Hearing

By Sean Whaley | 3:01 pm February 17th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A state Senate resolution telling Congress to respect Nevada’s right to govern itself under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution is expected to get a hearing, the chief sponsor said today.

Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, introduced Senate Joint Resolution 6 on Wednesday. Cosponsors include all 25 Republican members of the Legislature.

Settelmeyer said the resolution mirrors one he and several other lawmakers sought in the 2009 session that did not get a hearing in the Assembly where he was serving at the time.

But Senate Government Affairs Chairman John Lee, D-North Las Vegas, said there is enough public interest on the issue to hold a hearing, and he has scheduled the measure for March 7.

The resolution, if approved, will be sent to Nevada’s Congressional delegation, and to the rest of Congress, asking that the federal government respect the right of the state to deal with those issues not under national control, Settelmeyer said.

This includes what is expected to be a costly mandate to the state to expand Medicaid coverage as a result of the passage of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, he said.

Nevada is one of 26 states challenging the constitutionality of the act. The states recently won a victory in their challenge in a U.S. District Court in Florida.

“We have far too many edicts coming down from the federal government that we cannot afford,” Settelmeyer said. “They tell us to do stuff and give us no funding to do it with.”

The health care law is just one example, he said.

“This resolution again, is just mainly to state to our congressional representatives and to the U.S. Congress, that the Constitution is relevant and the 10th Amendment within the Constitution is extremely relevant as it pertains to its interactions with the states,” Settelmeyer said.

The resolution was not circulated among Democrats to sign on, although Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, signed on to the similar Assembly Joint Resolution 15 in 2009.

Lee said he is having his committee legal counsel review the measure and the law so that questions raised during the hearing will get answers right then.

“I’m only going to have two bills that day instead of four or five so people have a chance to discuss it,” he said.

Audio clips:

Sen. James Settelmeyer says the federal government has issued too many edicts to the states:

021711Settelmeyer1 :08 do it with.”

Settelmeyer says the resolution will send a message to Congress:

021711Settelmeyer2 :15 with the states.”

Proposal Could Make It Easier To Carry Concealed Weapon

By Andrew Doughman | 10:58 am February 16th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A bill from Sens. James Settelmeyer and John Lee would ease regulations for carrying a concealed semi-automatic weapon.

Their proposal would allow gun owners to obtain a generic concealed-carrying permit rather than a specific permit for each gun. Advocates for the bill said the current law’s requirements are like having to get separate driver’s licenses for every make and model of car you own.

“You do not have to qualify on your driver’s license for a stick shift and an automatic; it is the vehicle you are driving,” Lee said.

The law currently states that Nevadans must show proficiency with each semi-automatic weapon to obtain a permit for that specific weapon.

The same law, however, allows a person to test with one revolver in order to obtain a permit allowing concealed carrying of all types of revolvers.

Settelmeyer and Lee, a Republican and a Democrat, would change the statute to make semi-automatics equal with revolvers: one permit, all guns.

Frank Adams, executive director for Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association, also endorsed the proposal. He said the bill still keeps testing and training requirements to carry concealed weapons. It does, however, ease requirements for citizens and sheriffs alike.

“This would not only make it easier for our citizens … it would make the administration to that program considerably simpler for us at the sheriff’s office,” he said.

Senators at the Senate Judiciary committee before which the bill was heard questioned whether this would make government less accountable for public safety.

Adams said it would not.

“They [gun owners] go through the training and the qualifications and then they are issued a permit from the county sheriff to carry a weapon concealed,” he said.

Other gun dealers and certified trainers testified in support of the bill. They argued that the bill would not endanger either the gun owner or others by allowing owners to obtain one permit for all semi-automatics.

One gun owner, however, admitted he stood to profit from keeping the law the way it was.

“On the current bill we get to charge people for shooting 17 different automatics,” said Bob Irwin, owner of The Gun Store in Las Vegas.

Nonetheless, Irwin said, if a person qualifies with one semi-automatic, that should be enough to qualify for all of them.

One person testified against the bill, saying the proposal would make Nevada less safe.

Future Of Millennium Scholarship Focus Of State Lawmaker Interest In Upcoming Session

By Sean Whaley | 3:34 pm January 27th, 2011

CARSON CITY – While several state lawmakers say they are seeking changes to the popular Millennium Scholarship for Nevada’s academically successful high school graduates, no one yet is pushing for income eligibility restrictions to ensure the program’s continued viability.

None of the five bills requested so far dealing with the program, which has faced funding problems in recent years due to budget cuts and reduced revenues, seeks to restrict eligibility to those in financial need.

Two measures, one by former state Sen. Bill Raggio, and another requested by the Senate Finance Committee, were requested to ensure continuation of the program.

The need for these two measures will now be evaluated based on Gov. Brian Sandoval’s recommendation to continue the program as is. He has proposed adding $10 million in general funds to ensure its financial viability through 2016.

Dale Erquiaga, senior adviser to Sandoval, said the governor would consider legislation to impose a means test for eligibility, or seek to restrict the scholarship to students who pursue specified courses of study.

“The first priority was to keep the program whole,” he said. “And really there are two schools of thought in this building and I don’t think there is consensus yet so we will participate in that conversation.”

Sen. Joe Hardy, R-Boulder City, said he is seeking a requirement that high school students perform community service in addition to the GPA requirement to qualify for the scholarship.

“It would teach them the concept of service, get them out into the community and make them more well-rounded persons,” he said. “They would network with people, do good things and have a better resume.”

Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, said his proposal would require eligible Millennium scholars to first fill out a federal financial aid form. Students eligible for federal aid or private sector scholarships would then use those funds first, offsetting the need for the Millennium scholarship awards.

“We have the potential to make the Millennium scholarship last longer if eligible students take advantage of other sources of funding first,” he said.

If a student was ineligible for other funding, there would be no restriction on the use of the Millennium Scholarship in his proposed legislation, Settelmeyer said.

Probably the most restrictive of the measures sought so far comes from Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, who said he will introduce a bill to limit eligibility for the scholarship to students who pursue specified courses of study.

“It makes sense to reform the program to make it more tailored to our areas of special need,” he said. “It would be a good incentive to lure new people into education as a way to help fund the education training that we need for new teachers.”

Courses of study critical to Nevada’s economic development would also be part of his proposal, which remains a work in progress, Kieckhefer said.

“As our needs change as a state in creating new jobs, we want to have the educated workforce to fill those areas of need,” he said. “If we can leverage something like the Millennium scholarship to ensure that people are trained to fill those jobs, I think that makes sense.

“It is a subject area test, not a means test,” Kieckhefer said.

Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, chairman of the Senate Finance Committee, said the purpose of the committee bill draft is to extend the life of the scholarship.

“I was very pleased that the governor announced $10 million in his budget for that and hope that we will be able to sustain that throughout the budget process so we can extend the life of the program because it is important to the students of the state,” he said.

Horsford said he would not support a change to the program based on financial need.

“I think that the merit based emphasis based on GPA is important to preserve,” he said.

While a separate issue, Horsford said that if student fees are increased in the coming two years as expected, it will be important to ensure there is financial aid available to those in need.

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

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

The scholarship ranges from $40 to $80 per college credit hour depending on the college attended. The scholarship limit is $10,000.

The scholarship is named after the late Gov. Kenny Guinn, who established it during his first term as governor.

Audio clips:

Sandoval Senior Adviser Dale Erquiaga says the governor is open to possible changes to Millennium Scholarship eligibility:

012711Erquiaga :22 the program alive.”

State Sen. Ben Kieckhefer says it makes sense to tailor the program to Nevada’s specific needs:

012711Kieckhefer1 :08 of special need.”

Kieckhefer says teaching and areas of study relating to economic development should be the focus of the scholarship:

012711Kieckhefer2 :11 of economic development.”

Kieckhefer says leveraging the scholarship to help develop an educated workforce makes sense:

012711Kieckhefer3 :15 that makes sense.”

Sen. Steven Horsford says the scholarship is important to Nevada’s high school graduates:

012711Horsford1 :14 of the state.”

Horsford says he does not favor a means test for the scholarship:

012711Horsford2 :05 important to preserve.”

Coalition Calls For Tax Hike To Fund Public Construction Projects To Create Jobs

By Sean Whaley | 5:46 pm January 20th, 2011

CARSON CITY – A coalition of construction industry groups today advocated for a tax increase to fund public works projects around the state to help put people back to work.

The Building Jobs Coalition presented its proposal, called the “Creating 100,000 Jobs” report, in press conferences in both Las Vegas and Reno.

The proposal will likely face significant challenges, however, with Gov. Brian Sandoval’s vow not to raise taxes, and from critics of Nevada’s prevailing wage law.

Described as a working draft, the coalition notes that the current economic downturn in Nevada has required the private sector to cut 179,400 jobs. The construction industry has cut its workforce by more than 50 percent.

The white paper offers five strategies to turn this around, the first being the creation of a Nevada Job Bonds Support Fund, a stable, dedicated revenue source for capital construction projects.

One option lawmakers should consider for creating such a fund would be a tax increase, either a one-quarter of a cent sales tax, a ten cent property tax levy, or an “infrastructure” surcharge imposed on all licensed vehicles, the coalition says.

Assuming $100 million in annual proceeds, this would increase bonding capacity to $1 billion over 20 years, enough to support 11,500 jobs and break ground on the hundreds of millions of dollars in state and local projects that have been on hold due to lack of funding but that are ready to build, the coalition says.

Pat Pusich, a Reno architect and the coalition’s co-chairman, said: “Without a comprehensive plan for exploiting its strengths and correcting its deficiencies, Nevada could find its position as an attractive place to live, work, invest and conduct business usurped as the nation’s economy heals.”

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, offered this statement on the proposal: “With nearly 15 percent of Nevadans looking for work, creating jobs is the top priority for everyone in our state. Any ideas to create jobs are welcome and needed. I’m thrilled that this collection of industry leaders has taken the initiative and I’ll be looking at their ideas closely.”

Sandoval on Wednesday reiterated his intent to veto any legislation that contains a tax increase, saying the Nevada business community cannot afford it.

Businesses are doing their fair share, and “they are doing whatever it takes to keep people employed,” he said. But talk of potential tax increases on the part of the Legislature is a concern in the business community, Sandoval said.

“They appreciate my position but there is a legislative session coming up,” he said. “So they are going to be watching very closely to see what the tax policy in this state is going to be.”

Specifically in response to the proposal, the Sandoval administration today said:

“The governor supports the goal of job creation, but believes it is best accomplished by private sector growth. The strategy of spending public money we don’t have may yield short-term gains for some, but do long-term damage to the economy as a whole.

“Since this is the first we’ve heard of the proposals, we are reviewing them with interest. The governor’s top priority is building and fostering a business environment which creates new jobs without adding to the tax burden or spending money Nevada doesn’t have.”

Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, said the requirement that most public works jobs pay the prevailing wage is another concern with the proposal.

He cited a water quality project on the Carson River that Douglas County officials wanted to pursue with Question 1 bond funds approved by voters in 2002 for parks, water and wildfire needs. The project could have been done for $119,000, but because it exceeded the $100,000 threshold for capital projects, it fell under the prevailing wage law. The final estimated cost was $185,000 and there wasn’t enough money to do the project, Settelmeyer said.

The prevailing wage is set by an annual survey of both public and private construction projects. But with most of the projects in recent years being public works that must pay the prevailing wage, the surveys are skewed and labor rates are going up, he said.

“If we want to put people back to work, I’d rather put two guys back to work for $40 an hour each than give one guy $80 an hour, Settelmeyer said. “I’d rather help two families.”

It’s not right that prevailing wage rates are being pushed up each year while state workers are asked to take a pay cut, he said.

Settelmeyer, formerly a member of the Assembly, protested Nevada’s new prevailing wage rates along with several colleagues when they were announced last year by the Labor Commissioner, but the rates were allowed to take effect.

The Legislature, in a special session in February 2010 called to erase an $800 million shortfall, approved legislation removing a sunset on a voter-approved Clark County tax hike to use for bonding purposes for public works jobs.

The coalition says it is working with key lawmakers to pursue its proposals in the upcoming session.

Some of the projects the coalition says are ready to build include a new county jail for Churchill County at a cost of $50 million, and flood control improvements on the Muddy River in Clark County at a cost of $40 million to $50 million.

Members of the coalition include the Associated Builders and Contractors, the Builders Association of Northern Nevada, Electrical Workers Local 401, the National Association of Minority Contractors and many others.

Audio clips:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says the business community cannot afford a tax increase:

012011Sandoval1 :26 keep people employed.”

Sandoval says the business community is waiting to see what the Legislature does regarding taxes:

012011Sandoval2 :19 going to be.”

Sandoval says he will veto any budget with a tax increase:

012011Sandoval3 :06 will veto it.”

Assembly Democratic Caucus Campaign Report Provokes GOP Criticism, Response From Majority Leader

By Sean Whaley | 7:33 am October 28th, 2010

CARSON CITY – The state Assembly’s Democratic Caucus failed to disclose more than $120,000 in donations from its own members earlier this year, but a Democratic leader says they weren’t legally required to do so.

A dozen Assembly Democrats chipped in the funds in the first five months of this year, according to a review of the individual lawmakers’ campaign expenditure reports. But the donations weren’t disclosed by the caucus on its June 1 financial filing to the state.

Assembly Majority Leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, said the donations were made to reimburse the caucus for salaries of legislators’ staff and to pay the legislators’ dues in the caucus.

“All we have to report is our contributions,” he said. “To be more transparent, we should report everything but we’re not required to do it by law.”

He cited a 1998 legal interpretation from the secretary of state that said that the donations count as reimbursements and aren’t contributions required to be reported by the caucus.

The Nevada News Bureau was not able to immediately obtain a copy of the interpretation.

Oceguera said he has decided to change that policy, effective immediately, to report expenses as well.

The initial explanation was questioned, however, by Nevada State Republican Party Chairman Mark Amodei, an attorney and former state Senator from Carson City.

When told Assembly Democrats have an interpretation from the secretary of state’s office that was the basis for their reporting decisions, Amodei said: “That statement bears no resemblance to the applicable statutes.”

Nevada revised statutes on campaign practices do not use the word reimbursement, he said.

“If it’s an expense, it’s an expense,” he said. “There is no ethics opinion out there that says reimbursements don’t count. This caucus does not have a real strong track record looking back at what has occurred in recent history, when you see what members have used their campaign funds for.”

Outgoing Assemblywoman Kathy McClain, D-Las Vegas, agreed earlier this year to make a $7,276 personal contribution to Safe Nest, a Las Vegas nonprofit supporting abused women, to cover the cost of the contribution she had made in 2009 to the Public Employees Retirement System from her campaign fund. The donation resolved a complaint filed with the secretary of state’s office that she inappropriately used campaign funds to pay for her Clark County retirement contributions while serving as a lawmaker.

Amodei said the real question is why the caucus felt the need to seek an advisory opinion on the issue in the first place.

Oceguera forwarded an email from Tuesday, a day before an inquiry was made about the caucus campaign report, saying he wants the operating expenses disclosed in the future. He directed staff to file an amended report for the second reporting period listing all operating expenses and to ensure future reports include the information as well. The filing deadline for the second report was Tuesday.

“Each caucus member has met the requirements for reporting as has the caucus,” Oceguera said. “However, I believe the caucus can do more, and should. We will file the amended reports quickly, beginning with an amendment to the October 26th report which I expect to have soon.

“I want to emphasize that are in full compliance, and always have been,” he said. “I believe we can go above and beyond that compliance in the public interest, and I’ve directed that we do so.”

Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, said as a member of the Elections, Procedures, Ethics and Constitutional Amendments Committee for two sessions, he frequently heard calls for more openness in the reporting process.

“Unfortunately, it seems actions are much different than words,” he said.

Settelmeyer, who is running for a seat in the state Senate, said the Assembly Democratic Caucus reports signed by Oceguera clearly are incomplete.

“We’re all trying to be more transparent,” he said. “Obviously, even with the current rules we have, we lack some transparency.”

The campaign reports show that members of the Assembly Democratic caucus reported their caucus expenses on their campaign reports, but the expenses are not reflected on the caucus reports.

Oceguera, for example, reported three payments this year to the Assembly Democratic Caucus totaling more than $31,000 that were not reported on the caucus report. The payments were recorded on Oceguera’s campaign contribution and expense report filed June 1 as employee and miscellaneous expenses.

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, contributed $10,548 to the caucus according to her campaign contribution and expense report. Again, the expenditure by the candidate was not reported as a contribution by the caucus.

Ten other Assembly Democrats made similar payments identified as campaign expenses, all of which they identified on their reports but none of which were reported by the caucus.

The unreported contributions from lawmakers total more than $122,000.

The first 2010 caucus report did reflect nearly $110,000 in contributions from other individuals and entities, and was signed by Oceguera on May 31.

The caucus’ 2009 annual report covering activity during the off-election year shows a similar situation, with nearly $90,000 in payments from Assembly Democrats not included. Again, Oceguera and other Assembly Democrats reported expenses to the caucus that were not reported as contributions on the caucus annual report.

A review of the dates of the 2009 contributions shows that over $17,000 was sent by lawmakers to their caucus during a blackout period when the organization cannot accept contributions.

Members of the Legislature as well as their political caucuses are prohibited from accepting contributions starting 30 days before a regular legislative session to 30 days after the end of a session according to Nevada law.

Oceguera said because the expenses identified by lawmakers are reimbursements, they do not fall under the contribution prohibitions.

Contributions or expenses in excess of $100 must be reported by candidates and caucuses as well as political action committees.

The reporting issues have come up just as candidates are in the final days of the hotly contested 2010 campaign. Assembly Democrats are trying to keep their 28-14 supermajority, while Republicans are seeking enough seats to take away their two-thirds edge.

Nevada GOP Assembly Members Call For Suspension of Prevailing Wage on Public Construction

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 2:54 pm October 7th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Members of the Republican Assembly Caucus today called on state Labor Commissioner Michael Tanchek to delay implementation of a new prevailing wage rate in Nevada until the Legislature has an opportunity to review the methodology.

The caucus is concerned a flawed process resulted in the new prevailing wage rate that took effect Oct. 1. There is a 30-day period to file an objection.

In a letter sent to the commissioner, the caucus is challenging the legitimacy of increases to the wage on public construction when the wage rates on private construction have decreased with current market conditions.

“When the wage rates being paid on public works projects are 43 percent higher on average than wage rates being paid in the private sector, something is wrong with the formula,” said Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka. “All of us support a fair wage for those who do public construction but in these economic times we cannot afford a more than fair wage.”

According to an analysis done by the caucus, the average prevailing wage has gone up about 3 percent statewide with gains in some counties being offset by decreases in the rural counties. However, in Carson City where much of the construction for state government is performed, the proposed rate increase is nearly 8.5 percent.

“No one will dispute that the wage rate being paid by the private sector has gone down based on current economic conditions,” said Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville. “And Nevada’s own Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation’s reported wage rate confirms that, so how in the world can we have an increase in the cost of public construction labor? A flawed methodology for determining the rate, that’s how.”

The letter to Tanchek is a formal protest to the rates recently released by his office.

Tanchek was not immediately available for comment on the letter.

The letter says: “Frankly, we are stunned that in this economic environment where private sector construction has, for all intents and purposes, come to a complete halt, the average prevailing wage rate for public construction in Nevada could be increased.”

“We recognize that your office simply collects and reports this information based on a formula prescribed in state law,” the letter says. “However, given the unprecedented economic crisis we find ourselves in, the record unemployment we face and the staggering budget shortfall that will confront us in the next session, we felt compelled to submit this protest as a way to begin a public dialogue on this outrageous situation.”

State law requires the commissioner to survey contractors who have performed construction work during the past year in order to determine the prevailing wage rates. Prevailing wage rates are required to be paid on all Nevada public works construction projects such as schools, libraries, roads and government buildings costing more than $100,000.

The information obtained from the surveys is loaded into a computer program which calculates the prevailing wage rates on a county-by-county, job classification basis.

If no rates are reported for a craft in a county, the commissioner must rely on wage rates as reported for the nearest county that has a rate. Many times a low-population county can end up with the same rate as established in Clark County for a particular craft because no rural numbers were reported.

Goicoechea said: “We are faced with unprecedented economic challenges in this state. We have record high unemployment, we have implemented state worker furloughs, and we have asked our state agency heads to renegotiate contracts where possible; how can we, in good conscience, allow the cost of public construction to increase?”

“We all want to create new jobs, especially in construction, but simple economics dictates that if you overpay those currently working, the result is fewer new jobs,” Settelmeyer said.

New Bill Draft Requests Focus On Wide Range of Issues

By Sean Whaley | 7:00 am September 8th, 2010

CARSON CITY – More than 250 new bill requests were filed for drafting last week by lawmakers and others on issues ranging from requiring health insurance plans to cover acupuncture treatments to implementing a four-year cooling off period before former lawmakers could work as lobbyists.

Other measures would require the precise language of pending legislation to be posted on the Legislature’s website at least three business days before a vote, change the posting dates of campaign contribution and expense reports to make the information more readily available to voters and make changes to the modified business tax to encourage more hiring.

Assemblyman Joe Hogan, D-Las Vegas, said he requested a bill to change the dates of when campaign reports must be filed by candidates so voters would have more time to analyze the information. The current filing deadlines are right before the primary and general elections and give little or no time for voters to review the contribution and expense reports, he said.

The information isn’t available at all to the majority of people who choose to vote early, Hogan said.

Careful voters will try to have a look at the reports to see if a candidate is “wholly owned” by some special interest, he said.

The bill would also require a candidate to list a specific beginning and ending balance each year, he said.

“It would bring completeness to the reporting system that has been needed for a long time,” Hogan said.

The new bill drafts also include a number of proposals from outgoing Gov. Jim Gibbons, including measures to create a voucher program for students and eliminate mandatory collective bargaining for local governments and their employees.

The proposals, which now total 520, will be drafted into legislation for consideration by the 2011 Legislature. Sept. 1 was the deadline for state and local agencies to submit bill drafts. Lawmakers were also required to have some of their requests submitted by the same date.

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart, R-Amargosa Valley, requested the cooling off and bill posting measures.

“We always talk about how we are going to reform government – it has to start with transparency,” he said. “With transparency you will have increased accountability.”

Goedhart said he requested the cooling off measure for lawmakers and statewide office holders even before the controversy arose recently regarding Morse Arberry, who resigned as a long-time Assemblyman to accept a lobbying contract with the Clark County District Court system. That contract was rejected today by the Clark County Commission.

Goedhart said he has seen examples of lawmakers positioning themselves to take advantage of their connections when they leave office. A future payday should not be a reason for someone to run for public office, he said.

Requiring a four- or two-year cooling off period should eliminate that as a reason to run for elective office, Goedhart said.

The bill posting request is to ensure lawmakers and the public have a chance to read a measure before it is voted on, he said.

Goedhart mentioned two specific incidents, one in 2009 and the other in the February special session, where measures were rushed through without time for review. One was dubbed the “absolution resolution” which he said was intended to give lawmakers cover to vote for tax increases. The other was the last-minute vote in the special session on a bill to create construction jobs in Nevada. The bill in part eliminated the sunset of a tax levy in Clark County to fund the projects.

“It was the biggest tax increase that was never mentioned in the last (special) session,” Goedhart said. “These are the types of abuses that my bill hopefully will, if not make downright impossible, will at least make them a lot more difficult.”

Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, requested the modified business tax (MBT) measure as a way to encourage hiring by Nevada businesses.

The proposal would be to exempt new employees from the MBT to provide an incentive to employers to hire more workers, he said.

“We have to look at ways to get new jobs,” Settelmeyer said.

The bill requiring acupuncture treatments to be covered by health plans offered in Nevada was requested by Assemblyman Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, who sought a similar measure without success in the 2009 session.

In testimony in 2009, Segerblom said the coverage is not costly and results in health care savings. The state health plan offers acupuncture treatments and the benefit has not cost the plan a significant amount of money, he said.

Insurance company officials and small business representatives expressed concern, however, about the cost of adding mandated coverage because of the increased cost to consumers.

“Frankly this is a noninvasive medical procedure that in fact saves money,” Segerblom said today. “If it cures people, or deals with their pain problems, then it is better for everybody.”

___

Audio clips:

Assemblyman Tick Segerblom says requiring acupuncture coverage will reduce medical costs:

090710Segerblom :14 better for everybody.”

Assemblyman Ed Goedhart says a cooling off period would ensure people run for public office for the right reasons:

090710Goedhart1 :21 payday for themselves.”

Goedhart says giving lawmakers and public time to read bills before vote would reduce the number of questionable measures:

090710Goedhart2 :20 a lot more difficult.”

Goedhart says transparency will bring about accountability, fiscal responsibility:

090710Goedhart3 :18 fiscally responsible government.”

Nevada Tops List On Federal Lobbyist Spending, Near Bottom On Returns

By Sean Whaley | 7:15 am July 20th, 2010

CARSON CITY – A dozen Nevada government entities spent more than $1.7 million taxpayer dollars last year to hire lobbyists in Washington, DC and have racked up nearly $400,000 in expenses in the first quarter of this year, according to data gathered by the national group Center for Responsive Politics.

The state of Nevada has spent $110,000 so far this year, placing the state 7th among all 900 government entities included in the report, which is found on the group’s website opensecrets.org. Nevada ranks 2nd among states for spending on lobbyists in Washington, DC.

Nevada spent $435,000 last year and ranked No. 2 among the states for such spending behind Pennsylvania. Funding for Nevada’s lobbying effort comes from the general fund, room taxes and other sources.

Nevada’s lobbying effort includes its Washington Office with $280,000 in spending, and $155,000 by the state Department of Transportation, according to the group’s website.

While the state leads in spending, many other Nevada government entities also pay for Washington, DC lobbyists, including Nye County, which spent $200,000 in 2009 and $50,000 so far this year. Nye County has only 46,000 residents.

The City of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Henderson, Reno, Sparks and Carson City also spend money on DC lobbyists, as do Washoe and Clark counties and some other entities.

Nevada, North Las Vegas, Henderson, Nye County and the City of Las Vegas were in the top 100 on federal lobbyist spending in 2009. Henderson, Nye County and North Las Vegas each spent $200,000, according to the report. Las Vegas spent $165,000.

Dave Levinthal, communications director for the center, said it is difficult to track whether the investment in lobbyists brings a return to the government entities. For some it may pay off, but for others it would probably be better to spend the money on paving a street or hiring a police officer, he said.

The organization takes no position on the spending; only reporting the data on a quarterly basis.

There are two schools of thought on the spending, Levinthal said. One is that governments have to be aggressive in the competition for federal funds. The other is that spending local taxpayer money to get federal taxpayer money is inappropriate, he said.

“There is absolutely no guarantee,” Levinthal said. “This is a gamble any way you cut it.”

The first quarter spending suggests the local government entities are on a pace to spend more this year than in any previous year, he said.

Last year state and local government entities spent over $83 million on Washington lobbyists.

Nye County Manager Richard Osborne said the spending by the county on a Washington lobbyist is primarily directed at Yucca Mountain and the desire by the county to see the nuclear waste repository project go forward.

The county gets about $12 million a year now in funding connected to the project, very close to 10 percent of the entire annual budget, he said. The loss of the project, which now seems possible, would be a big financial hit to Nye County, Osborne said.

“We believe that Yucca Mountain is a viable option for storage of nuclear spent fuel,” he said.

The county’s lobbyist, the law firm Akerman Senterfitt, also helps the county with other projects and issues, he said.

Nevada’s Washington office is run by Ryan McGinness, son of state Sen. Mike McGinness, R-Fallon. In a report to the 2009 Legislature, which reviews the budget for the office every session, the firm, District Strategies, noted that it worked with Nevada’s Senate delegation to successfully oppose an amendment that would have cost the state $75 million in federal Medicaid revenue. The firm also assisted in bringing $40 million in additional funding for foreclosure mediation.

The office has come in for criticism by some members of the Nevada Legislature in past sessions, including the 2009 session. Democrat lawmakers have questioned the necessity of the office.

In 2005, Democrats on the Assembly Ways and Means Committee held up funding for the office because of a lack of a detailed budget. Ultimately the office was funded.

But other lawmakers have argued that given Nevada’s poor ranking on the receipt of federal revenues that the investment in the Washington office is worthwhile.

Nevada only gets about 65 cents in federal funds for each tax dollar sent to the federal government. New Mexico is at the other end of the scale getting more than $2 for each tax dollar sent to Washington.

___

audio clips:

Dave Levinthal says some may question the money spent by governments on federal lobbying efforts during tough economic times:

071910Levinthal1 :13 during these times.”

Levinthal says investing in lobbying is a gamble:

071910Levinthal2 :28 guarantee of success.”

Nye County Manager Richard Osborne says loss of Yucca funding would be a blow:

071910Osborne1 :10 in our revenue.”

Assemblyman James Settelmeyer says federal lobbying has pros, cons:

071910Settelmeyer :13 at all times.”