Posts Tagged ‘state’

Gov. Gibbons Announces Plans To Increase Use of Solar Energy By State of Nevada

By Nevada News Bureau Staff | 9:29 am June 5th, 2010

CARSON CITY – Gov. Jim Gibbons today announced plans to dramatically increase the use of solar power by the State of Nevada.

Working through the State Energy Office, a request for proposals (RFP) is being put together to develop solar energy systems at multiple state agency sites. The idea is to place solar energy panels on state property, particularly on large state parking lots. Power from these solar energy panels would be used to provide low-cost energy to adjacent and nearby state buildings, resulting in significant savings to taxpayers.

Design of the solar arrays would be structured so visitors and state employees could park underneath the solar panels.

“This is a giant step toward my goal of making Nevada a leader in solar energy development” Gibbons said. “We will lead by example and make use of clean solar power for state buildings.”

Gibbons said the project will save taxpayers millions of dollars in utility costs as well.

The RFP will also include the use of vacant state land for solar energy development, but any solar development on vacant land would require the installation of removable solar energy panels to allow for future development of state buildings or other facilities.

A solar project now under construction at the National Guard facility in Carson City is an example of the type of project to be included in the RFP.

Dan Burns, communications director for Gibbons, said companies will have to pay the construction costs of the solar projects up front. They will recoup their investment over time as the state pays for the use of the solar power with funds now used to pay utility costs.

The state will benefit by paying less than what is now budgeted for those utility costs, he said.

“There are investors interested in doing these projects,” Burns said. “The governor fully expects a great deal of interest from investors in our RFP.”

Some of the sites under consideration for solar projects include the parking lot of the Nevada State Transportation Department in the capital, the parking lots of several Department of Motor Vehicles offices in Southern Nevada and the parking lot of the Grant Sawyer State Office Building in Las Vegas.

Other state properties will also be considered. The project should be ready to present to potential bidders by the end of June.

Former State GOP Chair to New State GOP Chair: Good Luck

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:57 am May 16th, 2010


I almost didn’t post this because it is so run-of-the mill for a candidate to issue congratulations to a fellow politician upon election.  The statements always include the usual catch phrases — “full support” and “outstanding public servant” and so on — but the last word of Sue Lowden’s remarks about Mark Amodei’s election as state GOP chair sort of lingered in my mind and then elicited a chuckle.

Here it is:

“As a former state senator and former chair of the Nevada Republican Party, I want to offer my congratulations and full support to Senator Mark Amodei on being elected as the new chairman of the Nevada Republican Party. Mark has been an outstanding public servant, a proud veteran of our nation’s armed services, and loyal Republican. I look forward to his continued service and wish him luck.”



Luck raising money in a year both the county organizations and state party have (so far) struggled with generating cash flow.  In part because many voters don’t trust the party orgs to spend the money wisely and are therefore opting, when they give at all, to contribute directly to campaigns or to their PAC of choice.

Luck erasing from collective memory the egomaniacal and discomforting behavior of his predecessor.  Though this one probably doesn’t require much luck.  Amodei is a calm, sensible guy who will no doubt put out sane press releases that feature vote- and money-moving issues rather than narcissistic nonsense.

Luck with registrations and getting GOP voters to the polls so party operatives don’t end up looking like fools who squandered an opportunity.  Amodei can consider himself lucky indeed to have the very savvy Jaime Siemer from the RNC’s GOTV working out of the Vegas GOP office.  If anyone can whip the state party’s database into shape by November 1, it’s her.

And luck fending off the complaints, accusations and attacks that will no doubt come — either now, at/after the state convention or after the elections, inside party baseball being what it is.

Assembly District 13 Primary Debate – Monday, May 10th

By Elizabeth Crum | 7:56 am May 3rd, 2010

Haven’t seen too many state Assembly and/or Senate seat primary debates on the various web calendars, but here’s one sponsored by Right Pride and the UNLV College Republicans:

Assembly District 13 GOP Primary Debate

Come see Joshua Gust, Scott Hammond and Nathan Taylor debate the issues affecting Nevadans and answer your questions to determine who is the best candidate for Assembly District 13. Help spread the word! Early voting begins May 22nd, so don’t miss this opportunity to hear from the candidates!

Monday, May 10, 2010

6:30pm – 8:30pm (Sign-in begins at 6 pm)

Charlie’s Lakeside Casino, 8603 W. Sahara Ave. (@ Durango), Las Vegas, NV

Space is limited, so arrive early.

Snacks will be provided. Cash bar. There is a $10 suggested donation to help cover expenses.

For more information, please contact:

Ciavola says the format will be simple:  a 60 minute debate consisting of 20 minutes of questions written by Right Pride and UNLV College Republicans, a 20 minute candidate forum in which each candidate asks one question to his opponents and 20 minutes of questions from the audience. Candidates will not receive questions in advance.

I’ve agreed to moderate, so I’ll see all you AD13ers there.


Face to Face: Assemblymen John Hambrick, Mo Denis Weigh In on Immigration

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:47 pm April 26th, 2010

Tonight on Ralston’s Face to Face, Assemblyman Mo Denis and John Hambrick talked about the new immigration law in Arizona.

SB 1070 states:  “For any lawful contact made by a law enforcement official, where reasonable suspicion exists that the person is an alien who is unlawfully present in the Unites States, a reasonable attempt shall be made when praticable to determine the immigration status of the person.”

Mo Denis questioned the definition and after-determination of the word “reasonable,” saying, “It’s going to be different to different people,” and asking about those who might be profiled, “What do they look like? Are we talking Canadian? Are we talking Asian-American? Are we talking Hispanic?”

Denis expressed concerns with the high ratio of Hispanics residing in Arizona, saying, “I think that is problematic because I think you’re then singling out one specific race.”

Hambrick disagreed. “When you have 460,000 and the vast majority happens to be a particular ethnic group, you cannot racial profile, the pool is so large,” he said.

Hambrick defended the Arizona bill based on relatively high in-state support.  “When 70% of a state, according to media reports, agree with it, that is not 70% that are Anglo.  70% of the state, that is a good mixture, whether it is Latino or Anglo. They agree it is needed,” he said.

“Unfortunately a rancher died a few weeks ago, and there was a catalyst,” he said.

Hambrick said many voters feel the federal government has let them down on the issue of immigration.

“This administration made promises prior to coming in that certain benchmarks would be met in the first year. That has not happened,” he said. “Hopefully what happens now in Arizona will be a catalyst to force Washington to get off their bottoms.”

Hambrick acknowledged there are issues with enforcement and racial profiling but said training of enforcement officers is the answer.

“The government has said that there will be training,” said Hambrick.

“What is reasonable?” he asked. “Yes, it is in the eye or the mind of the person that is behind the badge that has made that stop.”

“Their life experinces, and the different communities they come from, if the police officer happens to be Hispanic and is dealing with a Hispanic, there is a different reasonable expectation of what will be happening there,” Hambrick said.  “If it’s an Anglo and a Hispanic, again, the community will have to judge whether that police offer has done his job adequately, fairly and objectively. And that will be determined by a court.”

Answering a question about fears that the law will become oppressive and that every ethnic person will have to walk around with proof of citizenship in their pocket, Denis said it is a valid concern.

“We are familiar with 287-G, that’s been going on even here, we have been dealing with that, trying to get people to step forward on crimes, and now they are afraid,” Denis said.

(Denis said 287-G permits Nevada authorities to ask about a person’s immigration status when they are in county jail.)

“And, but, you know, people do not trust that,” said Denis. “They think that maybe some of the police officers—  You know, we have had meetings with some of the individuals here, and there are some concerns that really need to dealt with, and even with that issue, so I can see where, you know, if you’re looking for somebody reasonable, what is it that somebody looks like… And do we really have to all walk around with papers, so we can prove our citizenship?”

Both Hambrick and Denis agreed immigration reform could be an issue in the campaigns, and that Nevada voters are generally concerned with immigration policy.

Republican Party to File Ethics Complaints Against Secretary of State Ross Miller and State Treasurer Kate Marshall

By Elizabeth Crum | 11:41 am April 13th, 2010

The state Republican party has confirmed it will be filing an ethics complaint against Secretary of State Ross Miller and state Treasurer Kate Marshall alleging the improper use of publicly funded web pages, phone lines and state employees for their respective reelection campaigns.

“The Nevada Republican party is moving forward with an ethics complaint,” confirmed Ciara Turns, Communications Director for the state party.  “We look forward to the ethics commission completing an investigation into these improper actions.”

Turns said the evidence collected includes screen shots of web pages that have since been revised and records of phone conversations with public employees who fielded campaign-related questions and directed callers to where they could make campaign donations for both Miller and Marshall.

Turns said she anticipates the ethics complaint will be filed tomorrow.

In a press release issued today and titled “Marshall works for Nevadans as opponent throws stink bombs,” state Treasurer Kate Marshall called the ethics allegations a “cheap and baseless attack.”

Marshall defended her record and said that while her opponent is “digging through my disclosure forms and reading about my accomplishments on my website,” she is working hard for the state.  The rest of Marshall’s release summarized her past public service as an employee of the U.S. Department of Justice Anti-Trust Division and her service as Nevada Senior Deputy Attorney General as well as past law experience.

In a response to the strongly worded press release, Turns said Marshall is “attempting to change the subject and distract from her blatant disregard of the law.”

“Treasurer Marshall does not one time address the claims the Nevada Republican Party is making about her violation of Nevada ethics laws, which makes clear she is trying to avoid providing Nevadans with the answers they deserve,” said Turns.  “The people of Nevada expect their elected officials to follow the law and ensure the public trust.”

“Treasurer Marshall owes Nevadans an explanation for why she has failed them in this regard,” said Turns, “and the statement she provided in response to our allegations doesn’t come close to doing that.”

News of possible ethics violations surfaced yesterday when Nevada Republican Party Acting Chair Sherry Dilley issued a statement saying both Miller and Marshall had violated Nevada ethics laws according to Nevada Revised Statutes (NRS) Chapter 281A which dictates that a public officer or employee is “prohibited from requesting or otherwise causing governmental entity to incur expense or make expenditure to support or oppose ballot question or candidate in certain circumstances.”

Dilley’s statement said both Miller and Marshall had listed their government phone numbers as the contact numbers for their respective re-election campaigns. The statement also said Miller had provided his government phone number and email address as contact information for his campaign’s financial disclosure reports.

“Secretary of State Miller and Treasurer Marshall are in clear violation of Nevada law and should be held responsible for their flagrant disregard for the ethical obligations they owe the people of Nevada,” Dilley said.

Steve Martin, former state controller and current Republican candidate for state treasurer, also criticized Miller and Marshall for their actions.

“It is outrageous that any elected official would use an elected office for campaign purposes, given the financial crisis we face as a state,” Martin said.

In 2004, then-state controller Kathy Augustine was fined $15,000 and was impeached by the Nevada Assembly for improper use of state resources.

Who Will Be the Republican State Party Chairman?

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:06 pm April 12th, 2010

A big question for Republicans since state party chairman’s Chris Comfort’s departure has been…who will take his place?  And how soon?  Because, like, the elections are coming and everything.

I’ve heard Mark Amodei’s name floated a number of times by a number of folks over the past few weeks.  And there’s been all kinds of talk about whether he would or wouldn’t and whether he should or shouldn’t.  (And, apropos of nothing, I guess some around town are kinda mad at him for not challenging Cortez-Masto for AG this year.)

An ex-national RNC committeeman I saw today said there is Someone New (not Amodei) on the short list, but he wouldn’t spill it.  He looked like the cat that swallowed the canary, though, so maybe it’s someone good.

Another insider today floated a name I’ve not yet heard for “the perfect person.”  And it made me stop and go “Hm!”  That name was Sharron Angle.

Would she consider it?  Probably not until June 9th.  And probably not after that either.  Not that it would matter because it’d be too late by then.  But you know what?  I bet she’d be very well received and could do a great job if she wanted to give it a whirl.  Maybe next time…

Will update as I hear word.

(Nominations, anyone?)

Update (9:34 PM): From a party insider, Amodei is indeed reported to be “The” first choice candidate.  Initially he was opposed to the idea, but it is now reported that he is seriously considering it and may even announce his interest in being elected to job soon.  The special central committee meeting to elect the chairman is in Reno on May 15th.

Also:  It’s also being said that meeting can probably expect to see a controversial floor nomination:  Clark County GOP Chairman Bob Ruckman.

Ninth Circuit Puts the Kibosh on Brothel Ads in Some Nevada Counties

By Elizabeth Crum | 2:18 pm March 13th, 2010

This story from (and involving) CityLife is extremely interesting and meets the “only in Nevada” standard I have come to love about our state.

The sum-up:  The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals just upheld a ban on brothel advertising in Nevada counties where prostitution is illegal (appeal expected).  The case was originally filed in 2006, after the Shady Lady Ranch brothel in Nye County tried to advertise in CityLife and other newspapers but ran into a snag in state law.

Brothels are permitted to advertise in the 11 Nevada counties where prostitution is legal, but they can’t do so in counties where prostitution is not allowed — including Clark County. CityLife and others, represented by the ACLU of Nevada, sued, alleging the ban was a First Amendment violation.

In July 2007, the U.S. District Court struck down the anti-advertising statutes, calling them “overly broad.” But in a 34-page ruling issued this week, the Ninth Circuit ruled that the state’s laws are constitutional, in part because they support Nevada’s interest in the prevention of the commodification of sexual activity. From the ruling:

Banning commodification of sex entirely is a substantial policy goal that all states but Nevada have chosen to adopt. Uniquely among the states, Nevada has not structured its laws to pursue this substantial state interest to the exclusion of all others. Rather, it has adopted a nuanced approach to the sale of sexual services, grounded in part in concern about the negative health and safety impacts of unregulated, illegal prostitution. By permitting some legal prostitution, Nevada has been able to subject a portion of the market for paid sex to extensive regulation, while continuing severely to limit the diffusion of sexual commodification through its banning of prostitution where by far most Nevadans live (and where most outsiders visit), Clark County.


Increased advertising of commercial sex throughout the state of Nevada would increase the extent to which sex is presented to the public as a commodity for sale. The advertising restrictions advance the interest in limiting this commodification in two closely related ways. First, they eliminate the public’s exposure — in some areas entirely, and in others in large part — to advertisements that are in themselves an aspect of the commodification of sex. As the harm protected against occurs in part from the proposal of the transaction, banning or restricting the advertising directly reduces the harm.

Second, the advertising restrictions directly and materially advance Nevada’s interests in limiting commodification by reducing the market demand for, and thus the incidence of, the exchange of sex acts for money, which, by definition, is the commodifying of sex. Nevada might be able to reduce the buying and selling of sex acts to a greater degree by instituting a complete ban on prostitution…. But it has chosen to take an approach to reducing demand that will not short-circuit the health and safety gains that come with partial legalization.” (emphasis in original)

AG Catherine Cortez Masto praised the ruling, but Allen Lichtenstein, general counsel of the ACLU of Nevada, disagrees.

From the CityLife piece:

[Lichtenstein] said the U.S. Supreme Court has clearly ruled if a product or service is legal, then advertising about that product or service is First Amendment-protected commercial speech. “Does somebody’s objection to the commodification of sex trump the First Amendment? We believe it does not,” he said. “The social harm of alcohol, cigarettes and gambling is well-documented; no documented social harm of legal brothels exists.”

Lichtenstein added: “The empirical evidence of making into law somebody’s moral judgment is unfortunate.” He said the case will be appealed, either to the full Ninth Circuit or directly to the U.S. Supreme Court.

It will be interesting to see how the appeal goes.  It’s possible the state’s legal position has problems.  As Sebelius pointed out in his post, “the legalization of prostitution is by definition the commodification of sex” so Nevada has already made a policy decision t0 define sex as something that can be bought and sold.  Can the state reasonably (and legally) argue that the harm that results from the commodification of sex is acceptable, but the harm caused by the advertisement of that commodification is not?  And, in any case, that the state’s interest trumps the protections of the First Amendment?

We’ll see.

Face to Face Snippets: State GOP Chairman, Democratic State Party Spokesperson

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:17 pm March 8th, 2010

Typed up a few notes during the Chris Comfort (state GOP chair) and Phoebe Sweet (Dem state party communications director) segment on Face to Face tonight.  (This is not a complete transcript.)

Phoebe Sweet’s first set of comments on Harry Reid’s likely GOP opponents went something like:  When you put Senator Reid up against (1) a two-time loser (Tarkanian) or a (2) woman whose husband collected $200K in bonuses while laying off employees (Lowden)…

When Ralston asked Comfort if he is obsessed with Reid and beating Reid, Chris joked:  “Constantly. I have a difficult time sleeping at night…”

Ralston joked back re: whether or not Dr. Comfort’s dental patients should be concerned (presumably about his lack of sleep) and Comfort replied:  “It’s interesting because the dental patients are giving me ideas.  It’s interesting… Because where I work, there are a lot of miners, a lot of self-educated people, and these people understand there is something  wrong with this state and with this country, and how disconnected the Democrats are from any known parameter.”

Comfort went on to say that the GOP has “very well known candidates” running for governor and then named them:  Montandon, Sandoval, Gibbons. When asked if Gibbons is doing a good job, Comfort said:  “The governor is doing a decent job as a conservative in office, and he is holding the line on taxes the best he can, given the hostility of the Democrats…”

Sweet chimed in:  “Well, if that’s the only benchmark, I guess so.  But if you take into account his flip-flops…”

Ralston interrupted and said perhaps the Dems should be praying for Gibbons to win the primary because that is the only hope they (Rory) have.  He went on to say that based on recent polling, Montandan is known by “no one” and is still beating Rory Reid.

At which point Sweet whipped out that famous old standard:  “The only poll that counts is the poll on election day.”

Ralston also read an excerpt from one of Comfort’s recent news release about the voter registration gap which was put out in response to the news that Democrats now have “only” a 63,000-voter lead over the GOP (due to a purging of inactive voters from the rolls):

Looking for proof that our message of common-sense, responsible conservatism is resonating with Nevada voters?

…more and more voters are rejecting the failed policies of the Democrats and are instead embracing the kinds of real, common-sense solutions Republicans are offering. Voters are tired of the reckless spending and unaccountable government that threatens the future of our great state. They are saying: Enough is enough!”

Ralston asked Comfort:  “Were you inhaling some of your own laughing gas?  The Republican party is hemorrhaging voters…”

Comfort acknowledged the numbers but then said the Dems are losing voters at a 3-to-1 ratio.  (They are?)  He added that voters “are not flocking to the Republicans…yet…” and then thanked Jon, tongue in cheek, for “getting the message out…that we see so many people being disaffected by the government, people are fed up, and we see a resurgence of common sense values…”

Ralston turned the subject to the Tea Party candidate (Ashjian) and asked Comfort if he wasn’t “terrified” of the votes that could be pulled and that it might throw the November race to Reid.

Comfort said, “No, we’re not petrified at all” and then said he/we (who you calling we?) are calling him “the Tim Geithner candidate…with his tax problems and so forth.”  (It was revealed on Ralston’s show last week that Ashjian has a tax lien issue of some sort.)

Shortly after, Ralston asked Sweet if independent voters don’t seem to be turning more to Republican candidates right now.  Sweet said, “There’s a move  away from both parties” and then said the reduction in Dem voter rolls are “indicative of a change of address, not a way of thinking.”  She then pointed out that the GOP doesn’t have much going for it if “all they have to crow about is a 66,000 voter registration gap.”


There were a few more parting comments about Senator Reid, on whom Comfort’s last word was:

“There is technology park on 215 and Durango, near my house, that has sat empty for years.  That’s a testament to Harry Reid’s failed leadership…” and then, re: Rory, he added:  “The apple does not fall far from the tree.”

Live Tweets from Governor on Face to Face

By Elizabeth Crum | 8:12 pm February 26th, 2010

Crazy day here, Dear Readers. Will do a little catch up right now.  Let the blogging begin…

Got a chance to watch Governor Gibbons on Ralston’s show tonight.  Live Tweeted it.  Here they are:

From Face to Face studio: Gov light hearted, joking w/ set crew. “Where’s Mr. Ralston? Why am I here first? I’m taking his chair.”

Governor tries to sit in Ralston’s chair. Ralston says, “No, you need to be over here. On the right.” Everyone laughs.

Ralston: Where are you on taxes, really? GIbbons: Always said will not accept unless voted on by public or accepted by org/industry

Gov talking about gaming license application fees as source of revenue. Says applicants r not current gaming peeps so not gaming tax.

Ralston grilling Gov on taxes, mining: Gibbons says “distasteful” that mining can take advertisting $ as deductions in good years.

Governor: Let’s not build our revenue & spending around uncertainties, commodities.

Ralston quotes Speaker re: Gibbons reacting to political slam of day, not being consistent. Gibbons begs to differ. Shocker.

Gibbons talking general fund, reductions, education cuts; says debate is over revenue increases to fill in for lower edu cuts.

Gibbons differentiating between edu cuts that affect the kids directly, and cuts that get rid of highly paid adminstrators.

Ralston asked if Gov going 2 veto Race to the Top. Gov says looking at it, but still concerned re: language, DOE grant approval.

Governor jokes to Ralston just before last segment starts: “Don’t look so serious.” Ralston: “I’m smiling on the inside.”

Ralston asks Gov about primary, cites polls, why #s so low. Gov says it is difficult for all governors in tough economic times.

Cow Counties vs. Mining Counties: How the NV Miners Won Special Status in the State Consitution

By Elizabeth Crum | 4:08 pm February 23rd, 2010

I’ve lately wondered (but kept putting off the research) how the mining industry got its super special status in the Nevada state constitution way back when.  Today, courtesy of a Tweet by @Scandalmonger, the story appeared before me.  Very interesting!

Includes the whole history plus an analysis of the final vote according to the occupations of the voters.

Tweets from State Budget Talks Today

By Elizabeth Crum | 5:40 pm February 18th, 2010

If you want to see all the Nevada News Bureau Tweets on today’s talks – or follow us in general – go here.  If you were following us, here is some of what you would have seen:

Assembly Speaker Buckley says primary concern about budget cuts are impacts on education. Dicussioms with gov continue. Sill a ways to go.

Sen. Bill Raggio says some proposed budget solutions are “smoke and mirrors.”

State Tax Chief Dino DiCianno says suggestion his agency can obtain $100 million in uncollected taxes greatly exaggerated.

Assembly Speaker Buckley says Nevada should consider another tax amnesty program. Last amnesty generated $41 million. Would help avert cuts.

Pete Ernaut, representing mining industry, pledges support to get through state fiscal crisis to lawmakers. No support for Gibbons plan.

Pete Ernaut says mining tax would have to be increased by $100 million to get $50 million to general fund because half goes to counties.

Raggio says if lawmakers had not raised taxes temporarily in 2009, budget hole would be twice as big.

Speaker Buckley wants regulatory agencies, including gaming, to increase fees to cover costs as a solution to reducing budget cuts.

See?  Just like being there in person.  Except in 140 characters rather than really long sentences.  And without having to listen to all the boring in-between stuff.

If you’re not signed up for Twitter, you should be.  It’s a quasi news aggregator you design yourself because you can choose who you follow.  Do it!

Clark County Precinct Meetings

By Elizabeth Crum | 4:44 pm February 18th, 2010

This is a public service announcement.

The two biggest political parties in Nevada’s most heavily populated county are about to have their precinct meetings.  Get the details on the GOP’s on Saturday, February 20 by clicking here, and info re: the Dem’s on Saturday, February 27 by clicking here.

It seems the Libertarian party of Clark County has already had its 2010 convention and has filled 14 positions with delegates. The state convention is Saturday, February 20 in Sparks.

The Clark County Independent American Party convention was held on February 6.  Here’s their news and blog page which seems to be a mix of party information and general stuff.  Update (6:39 p.m.): The IAP State Convention will be next week in Elko (26th and 27th); you can see some info on that here.

If and when the Tea Party of Nevada announces county meetings or convention plans, I’ll post ‘em here.

And if anyone has any info I missed that would be helpful, email it to

Eeny, meeny, miny, moe

By Elizabeth Crum | 9:22 pm February 11th, 2010

Thought I was done working, but took one more peek at Twitter and saw Ralston posted this a short time ago:

State employees asked to choose lesser of three evils

By Jon Ralston · February 11, 2010 · 8:30 PM

That’s what the state personnel department asked of state employees today in a confidential survey requested by lawmakers. Here’s the key question with the three choices:

In the face of the current and projected State budget shortfall, emergency measures must be taken to swiftly address State employee payroll costs. The options listed below are under consideration and would be in addition to the current furlough.

Please rank these options in order of your preference:

(1 = most preferred, 3 = least preferred)

4/10′s work week with additional 2 hour furlough

6% salary reduction

Eliminate holiday pay

Hm.  If it were me, I’d…do the math.  Although the four 10s would be tempting regardless.

Speechifying 101

By Elizabeth Crum | 2:09 pm February 8th, 2010

Jon Ralston has generously written Governor Gibbons’ speech for him tonight.

What say you, Dear Readers?

Government Efficiency Panel Calls for Reform to State Employee Pay and Benefit Package

By Sean Whaley | 7:07 pm January 7th, 2010

CARSON CITY – A final report from a panel of private citizens charged with finding efficiencies in state government says the generous salary and benefit package provided to the state workforce is “unaffordable in the short run and unsustainable in the long run.”

“The sooner Nevada addresses this, and the sooner total government employee compensation is brought into parity with the private sector, the sooner the state will achieve a balanced budget allowing it to provide needed citizen services at desired levels,” says the final report from the Nevada Spending and Government Efficiency Commission (SAGE) in a report delivered today to Gov. Jim Gibbons.

“Dealing with this issue alone will save half of all the money contained in the Sage Commission’s recommendations,” said SAGE Chairman Bruce James.

Other findings in the report include:

- The state budgeting process is archaic and in need of revision. The process itself distracts everyone from agency personnel to members of the Legislature from focusing on the big picture by being forced to deal with minutia. We saw example after example of the same basic public services being provided by multiple agencies in a duplicative fashion without any coordination.

- Operating with 200 different units and agencies is unmanageable. In the government sector it seems that once an entity or program is established it seldom goes away regardless of efficacy. The result is a waste of public resources. AS a result, the SAGE Commission has recommended establishing the Nevada Sunset Commission to ensure periodic review of every state government entity and program to make certain it is still doing what it was established to do, is still necessary, and is cost efficient.

- The state needs to address its real estate portfolio. Nevada does not have a real estate plan and it lacks a complete inventory, in one place, of its raw land, improved real estate, leased real estate, and water and mineral rights.

- Nevada state officials lose out on millions of dollars in federal grants because there is no strategic, managed focus on this opportunity as other states do. This should be a full-out, statewide effort involving all jurisdictions eligible for such grants.

James said the SAGE Commissioners spent a lot of their own time and money to provide the 44 money saving and efficiency creating recommendations.

“Just as SAGE commissioners did in their work, we hope our elected public officials can now set aside their partisan differences to put the public’s interest first,” he said.

Gibbons established the SAGE Commission in 2008 as a non-partisan group of professionals who have volunteered their time to seek ways for Nevada government to save money, work more effectively, and perform more efficiently.

“I am delighted with the work of the SAGE Commission, and I am anxious to examine their newest recommendations and work to implement them,” he said after receiving the final report.

Gibbons said he has supported the vast majority of the SAGE Commission’s recommendations over the last year-and-a-half, but that most of the ideas have not been embraced by the Legislature.

“I will continue to pursue implementation of the SAGE Commission recommendations,” Gibbons said. “This Legislature simply must realize that they cannot continue to crush working families by raising taxes and increasing spending.”

Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said the Legislature has examined and given careful consideration to the SAGE Commission recommendations. The Legislature did enact some changes to the state retirement system and health benefit plans for new hires this past session, she said.

“But there was a pretty strong bipartisan feeling that it would be unfair to go back on agreements we have made in the past where state employees gave up salary increases to have better health care, for example,” Leslie said.

There seems to be a sense from the commission that the Legislature is not taking its recommendations seriously, which is not the case, she said.

The idea of reorganizing the many units of state government to improve efficiency is worth looking at, Leslie said. But some of Gibbons’ proposed reorganizations, such as combining the Commissions on Tourism and Economic Development, were not well thought out, she said.

Leslie said there are always efficiencies to be found in state government. That is why the Legislature‘s Audit Subcommittee constantly reviews state agency operations.

But absent some big reorganization or cutting a big chunk of money out of the budget, cost savings from such efficiencies are likely to be minimal, she said.

Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, said many of the SAGE recommendations have been ignored by the Legislature, just as past recommendations from previous reviews were ignored. Any changes that are adopted are usually modest, he said.

If some of the recommendations of past reviews had been accepted, Nevada might not be in such dire financial circumstances right now, he said.

But Settelmeyer said he does not believe state employees are excessively compensated. Settelmeyer said he would support a change to the state benefit program for new hires, but not current workers.

“On new hires, we have to change the system,” he said. “We need to change from a defined benefit to a defined contribution system.”

Rather than look at current state employee pay and benefits, Settelmeyer said he would like to see a comprehensive review of programs created over the past several sessions when times were good to see if some can be eliminated. Eliminating new programs the state can’t afford could help get the budget back in balance, he said.