Posts Tagged ‘Supreme Court’

Jurist Says Mental Health Support Key To Stemming Mass Killings

By Sean Whaley | 3:12 pm December 17th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty said today that the country will not have success in reducing the tragic type of shooting incident that occurred Friday in Connecticut without providing more mental health support.

Hardesty, interviewed on the Nevada NewsMakers television program, said “we’re going backwards” on mental health treatment needs nationally and in Nevada.

Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty.

“It’s high time the country does something about these matters,” he said. “And from the perspective of a judge who has worked hard to, and the judiciary as a whole, worked hard to promote mental health court as an example, we cannot achieve any success in any of these areas if we do not recognize the importance of being proactive in dealing with mental health issues in this country and in this state.

“And yet we’re going backwards,” Hardesty said. “And I hope that these very sad incidents demonstrate the need to revisit these subjects.”

The National Alliance on Mental Illness, in a report released in November 2011, said there is a national crisis in helping people with serious mental illness due to deep cuts in state spending for mental health services.

“States such as California, Illinois, Nevada and South Carolina, which made devastating cuts to mental health services previously, have made further cuts for fiscal year 2012, putting tens of thousands of citizens at great risk,” the report said.

The NAMI report said states have cut more than $1.6 billion in general funds from their state mental health agency budgets since 2009 while at the same time demand increased significantly.

The state Division of Mental Health and Developmental Services has more than $7 million in general funding spending requests in the state budget “wish list” document released to the public on Friday. Many of the $419 million in total state agency general fund requests included on the list are not expected to see funding due to a lack of tax revenue.

One of the mental health requests is for nearly $200,000 for a clinical program manager and training for a new program to provide a continuum of care for clients reentering the community when being released from jails, prisons and forensic hospitals.

In his NewsMakers comments, Hardesty said the 2nd Amendment and gun control debate is a separate issue.

But the perpetrators of many of these terrible incidents are afflicted with serious mental health issues that require a proactive society, he said. Families who struggle with family members who suffer from such illnesses need help and support, Hardesty said.

Nevadans don’t have to look to Connecticut to see the problem, he said, citing the Carson City incident in September 2011 where a man armed with an AK-47 assault rifle shot five uniformed National Guard members eating breakfast at a restaurant, killing three and another person before shooting himself.

The shooter, Eduardo Sencion of Carson City, suffered from mental health issues and was on medication. He left no note or explanation for the shootings.

“So I hope that it causes us, as a society, to look at what will help be proactive and achieve some significant changes in those areas,” Hardesty said.

On a positive note, he pointed to the successes of the state’s mental health courts, where the focus is on diverting non-violent offenders with mental illness into treatment programs. The goal is to reduce or eliminate offender recidivism by treating their mental illness.

“And the more we can do to be proactive to support programs like that, the more we’ll do to reduce the risks to our society caused by the Sandy Hook Elementary event,” Hardesty said.


Audio clips:

Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty says Nevada and the nation are going backwards in support for mental health treatment efforts:

121712Hardesty1 :17 we’re going backwards.”

Hardesty says he hopes the tragic Sandy Hook incident will help lead to more mental health support:

121712Hardesty2 :11 in those areas.”

Hardesty says an investment in mental health support will help reduce the risks of further such incidents:

121712Hardesty3 :13 Hook elementary event.”


Gov. Sandoval Says Effect Unclear On Nevada Medicaid, Delegation, Candidates Weigh In On Affordable Care Ruling

By Sean Whaley | 11:04 am June 28th, 2012

CARSON CITY – Gov. Brian Sandoval said today the effects of the U.S. Supreme Court decision upholding much of the Affordable Care Act on the state’s Medicaid program remain unclear.

“The implications for Medicaid costs are still unclear, but Nevada will prepare to meet the serious financial implications of this decision,” he said in a statement shortly after the court ruled.

The court said in the ruling today that states could not be penalized if they did not go along with the Medicaid provisions in the law.

In an interview today on the Nevada NewsMakers program as the decision was announced, Sandoval said his intention would be not to opt in to the Medicaid expansion because of the costs to the state.

“And as I have said all along, that if that component had been found constitutional, it would cost us $60 million in this budget and $100 million in future budgets,” he said in the interview. “We can’t afford that. And to make that decision and to opt into that program, would mean that I would have to look at cutting education, at other what I think are untenable outcomes. So as I sit here today, it wouldn’t be my intention for this state to opt in.”

A statement from Sandoval’s office issued later in the day said the decision indicates states will have an option to expand Medicaid, but, “additional guidance is needed in order to understand the penalties for not expanding the Medicaid program and we must determine if there are savings to the general fund by shifting existing costs to the federal government. We will continue to examine today’s opinion to fully understand its implications.

“Therefore, given what we know today, the governor does not intend to automatically accept the Medicaid expansion,” the statement said. “These serious budgetary implications, including the impact on education spending, require further analysis – not just of the next biennial budget but of the long-term costs. Further information will be provided as the budgeting process unfolds over the next few months.”

In his initial statement on the ruling, Sandoval also said: “I believe the Congress should act to reform this law and ease the serious burdens it places on the states and the nation’s businesses. The American people remain deeply divided on the wisdom of this law and they are still entitled to see it changed.”

U.S. Sen. Dean Heller, R-Nev., said he too wants to see the law changed.

U.S. Supreme Court.

“This law has now been affirmed as a colossal tax increase on the middle class, and its excessive regulations are stripping businesses of the certainty they need to hire at a time when Nevadans and the rest of the country are desperate for jobs,” he said. “The president should work with Congress to find real solutions to healthcare reform so the excessive mandates and taxes in this law do not further add to our national debt or continue to stifle economic growth.

“This onerous law needs to be repealed and replaced with market-based reforms that will provide greater access, affordability, and economic certainty to our nation,” Heller said.

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid, D-Nev., said the matter is now settled.

“It’s time for Republicans to stop refighting yesterday’s battles,” he said.

“I’m pleased to see the Supreme Court put the rule of law ahead of partisanship, and ruled the Affordable Care Act constitutional,” Reid said. “Passing the Affordable Care Act was the greatest single step in generations toward ensuring access to affordable, quality healthcare for every American – regardless of where they live or how much money they make.

“No one thinks this law is perfect,” Reid said. “But Democrats have proven we’re willing to work with Republicans to improve the Affordable Care Act.”

Rep. Joe Heck, R-Nev., said the ruling doesn’t make the health care act a good law.

“This is still the same flawed bill that was forced through Congress on a party line vote in the dead of night with special interest provisions like the ‘Cornhusker Kickback’ and the ‘Louisiana Purchase’,” he said. “And today we have learned that the law amounts to a huge tax increase on the American people in a struggling economy. We know that a majority of Americans think the law should be repealed and that it will increase health care costs, reduce access to care and add to our deficit.

“Instead of injecting more government into our health care system, our focus should be on patients, especially our seniors who rely on access to quality health care,” Heck said. “Our system is working for most Americans and it can work for all Americans through common sense reforms like moving insurance coverage towards an individual-based model, increasing competition by allowing the purchase of insurance across state lines, incentivizing the purchase of insurance through tax credits, and letting people, not the government, decide what services they need and want.

“The Supreme Court had their word on June 28, but the American people will have the final word on November 6,” Heck said.

Assembly Speaker John Oceguera said it is time to refocus on jobs.

Oceguera, D-Las Vegas, who is challenging Heck in the 3rd Congressional District, said: “Now that the Supreme Court has ruled, it’s time that those in Washington moved on from trying to score political points instead of finding solutions. This decision doesn’t change the reality that too many Nevada families and small businesses are struggling to pay for the rising costs of health care.

“One thing we know for sure, if Washington politicians don’t stop the bickering and finger pointing and focus on what matters – creating jobs and getting our economy back on track – nothing will get done,” he said. “This shouldn’t be about politics – it should be about getting something done.”

Rep. Mark Amodei, R-Nev., said it is time to repeal the law.

“Advocates for Washington-based management of health care and unprecedented tax increases on the middle class won today,” he said. “However, I will continue to work for patient-centered solutions, reductions in health care costs, and improving health care access for all Nevadans.

“I look forward to the opportunity to vote the week of July 9 for full repeal of this harmful government intrusion into health care,” Amodei said. “Congress created this mess and it’s our responsibility to clean it up. We owe it to the middle class to give them specific, well-thought out options focusing on portability of insurance across state lines and affordability, while not interfering with the patient-doctor relationship.

“This 2,700-page monster offends seniors, veterans, middle class families and employers,” he said. “I will continue to take every opportunity to repeal and address this mess for Nevadans in a practical way without picking political winners and losers.”

State Sen. Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, said he was pleased with the ruling.

In a campaign email, the 4th Congressional Democratic candidate said: “Today’s decision is a victory for those with pre-existing conditions, for women who now don’t have to pay more than men for care, and for Nevada seniors who will save on prescription drugs.

“Now Republicans in the House are scheduling a vote to repeal the health care law, instead of working on a jobs bill,” Horsford said. “The Republican Congress needs to stop playing political games and start working on getting our economy moving and creating jobs for Nevadans.”

GOP Congressional candidate Danny Tarkanian said the law needs to be repealed.

The candidate for the 4th Congressional seat said: “I have consistently stood against Obamacare and remain committed to its full repeal. Rather, we need to press forward with legislation that will extend the same tax incentives that businesses receive for providing health insurance to individuals who purchase their own plans. We need to get serious about tort reform and stabilize Medicare reimbursement rates. We need to make insurance portable and purchasable across state lines.

“When they should be focusing on promoting economic growth and creating jobs, Democrats insist instead on ramming through job-killing policies that increase taxes on Americans, like Obamacare,” Tarkanian said.

There was no immediate response from Rep. Shelley Berkley, D-Nev.

A big issue for Nevada is what the ruling means to the state’s Medicaid program.

The head of Nevada’s Department of Health and Human Services said in May that as many as 150,000 more residents will be eligible for Medicaid coverage if the state has to comply with the Medicaid provisions. Bringing new residents onto the rolls was estimated to cost the state an estimated $574 million between now and 2020, said HHS Director Mike Willden.


Audio clip:

Gov. Brian Sandoval says it would not be his decision to opt into the Medicaid expansion allowed under the Affordable Care Act:

062812Sandoval :24 to opt in.”



Special Masters Begin Work On Drawing New Nevada Political Boundaries

By Sean Whaley | 3:02 pm October 11th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The business of drawing new political boundaries will now get under way by three court-appointed special masters following two days of public hearings on what Nevada’s legislative and congressional districts should look like for the next decade.

The clock is ticking.

The special masters, Carson City Clerk-Recorder Alan Glover, Las Vegas attorney Thomas Sheets and former legislative Research Director Bob Erickson, have 10 days to draw four congressional and 63 legislative districts based on the 2010 U.S. Census data as directed by Carson City District Judge James Todd Russell last month.

Special redistricting masters, from left, Bob Erickson, Thomas Sheets and Alan Glover, take public testimony today. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

Russell will receive the maps on Oct. 21 and release them to the public. By mid-November he will decide whether to accept them or send them back to the special masters for refinement.

All this is happening as the 2012 election season moves ever closer. A number of people have announced they are running for one of the four congressional seats even though there are no districts yet to run in.

The redistricting process outlined by Russell will continue even as the Nevada Supreme Court has decided to weigh in on the issue, which ended up in the courts after the Democrat-controlled Legislature failed to reach a compromise with Republicans on new district lines.

Gov. Brian Sandoval, who vetoed two Democrat-sponsored redistricting bills in the 2011 legislative session, weighed in on the controversy again today when asked, saying there is no reason to call the Legislature back into session to approve new maps. On Monday he said he had not had any conversations with lawmakers about calling them back to deal with redistricting.

” There are no facts and circumstances at this time that would justify calling a special session,” he said.

Sandoval said today he has faith in the judicial system, and the process outlined by Russell, to resolve the impasse.

While the Supreme Court has scheduled oral arguments for Nov. 14 on questions raised by Secretary of State Ross Miller, it did not stop the process set up by Russell to develop new maps. In his petition filed with the court, Miller argues the state constitution makes it clear that it is the responsibility of the Legislature to draw the political boundaries, not the courts.

Because the court refused to block the process outlined by Russell, the special masters heard public testimony Monday in Las Vegas and today in Carson City on how the maps should be drawn. Twenty-two speakers testified in Las Vegas. Only a handful participated in Carson City.

One major issue for the special masters is whether to draw an urban Las Vegas congressional district that would include much of the Hispanic community. Democrats in their proposed maps split the Hispanic vote among three congressional districts, while Republicans are advocating for creating a single district with a large percentage of Hispanic voters.

At the hearing today, Democrat Forrest Darby presented a new set of maps for the masters to consider, saying the Southern Nevada congressional districts included in the plan would allow either the Republicans or Democrats to win any or all of the three.

Democrat Forrest Darby testifies on his redistricting proposal today in Carson City. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

“We really believe this is a fair map,” he said.

Darby said he has also petitioned Russell to reconsider his requirement that the four congressional seats have virtually no population deviation. A slight deviation would make for cleaner and more logical districts, he said.

“You cannot get down to one person,” Darby said. “If you do you will have horrible, ugly boundary lines, period.”

Also testifying was state Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, who recommended that the special masters look at Assembly Bill 570, the measure creating the 13 new political boundaries for the Nevada System of Higher Education Board of Regents, as a starting point to draw congressional and legislative districts. The bill passed both houses of the Legislature unanimously and was signed into law by Sandoval, he said.

“I voted for it. For me it preserved the communities of interest, it did not pack individuals, it also created a situation where the deviation was only 0.37 percent in the creation of those 13 districts,” Settelmeyer said.

State Sen. James Settelmeyer testifies at the redistricting public hearing today as former Assemblyman Bernie Anderson looks on. / Photo: Nevada News Bureau.

Former Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, a Democrat from Sparks, said the special masters are qualified to address the issue, but that redistricting is not a responsibility of the court system.

“I am of the opinion, however, that you do not have the authority to do this,” he said. “And I believe it is a question of separation of powers. And my base view is I want to make sure that does get into the record. That this is a legislative issue and should be left to the Legislature to take care of.”

Sheets asked what the answer is to resolving the redistricting issue when the Legislature cannot agree.

“I guess we are an imperfect solution to this problem that seems to have no other resolution if you have intractable parties,” he said.


Audio clips:

Democrat Forrest Darby says Nevada’s congressional districts should have some deviation to make for cleaner lines:

101111Darby :26 what we did.”

State GOP Sen. James Settelmeyer says the special masters should look to the Board of Regents redistricting bill as a starting point:

101111Settelemyer :19 because of that.”

Former state Assemblyman Bernie Anderson says the courts have no authority over redistricting:

101111Anderson :19 take care of.”

Special Master Thomas Sheets says the panel is an imperfect solution to the impasse:

101111Sheets :07 have intractable parties.”


Leading GOP Candidates For Heller Congressional Seat Face Off In Tame Debate

By Sean Whaley | 5:26 am June 16th, 2011

RENO – For the three leading Republican candidates seeking the Congressional District 2 seat vacated with the appointment of Dean Heller to the U.S. Senate, it was all about qualifications and experience in a debate held here Wednesday.

Former state Republican Party Chairman Mark Amodei, also a former state senator, state Sen. Greg Brower, appointed to fill the seat formerly held by retired Sen. Bill Raggio, and retired Navy commander Kirk Lippold, faced off ahead of a GOP meeting Saturday in Sparks that could determine which candidate will get the party nod.

Republicans vying for the Congressional District 2 seat, from left, Mark Amodei, Greg Brower and Kirk Lippold, chat before the debate. / Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau

The debate was fairly sedate until the end, when the candidates talked about their qualifications for the post.

Brower criticized Amodei for pushing a massive tax hike in the 2003 Nevada legislative session, and for supporting collective bargaining efforts during his time in the Legislature.

Brower said Amodei is on the “wrong side” of these issues in 2011 for Republicans, who want lower taxes, less spending and a smaller government.

Amodei defended his tax proposal, and said he was participating in the 2003 session unlike Brower, a member of the Assembly when he lost a GOP primary race to Sharron Angle in 2002.

Lippold acknowledged his lack of political experience, but said he would benefit from not being burdened by any “business as usual” positions on the issues facing the country. Lippold, commanding officer of the USS Cole when it was attacked by terrorists in Yemen in 2000, said he has the strength of character and integrity to stand up to President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid.

The debate held at the Boys and Girls Club of Truckee Meadows drew about 115 people. The candidates agreed on a number of issues, from rejecting the idea of increasing the federal debt, at least without corresponding cuts in spending, to working to reduce the country’s dependence on foreign oil.

Lippold said nuclear power has to be a part of that strategy, and suggested nuclear reactors could be built at the former Nevada Test Site to help power the Southwest.

Right now the CD2 race is wide open, with 31 candidates, including 17 Republicans, already filed to succeed Heller. Filing ends June 30. But the Nevada Supreme Court is expected to decide later this summer if the Democrat and Republican parties can pick their candidates rather than see a “ballot royale” at a special election that will occur sometime this fall.

Republicans are challenging the wide open contest advocated by Democrat Secretary of State Ross Miller. The GOP is concerned that with several strong Republican candidates on the ballot, Democrats could take the seat for the first time since it was created in redistricting in 1981. The district covers all of Northern and rural Nevada and includes a small portion of Clark County as well.

With similar views on the major issues, the candidates acknowledged that their background and experiences are key to who should win the GOP nod for the seat.

It was at this point that Brower delved into Amodei’s record in the Nevada Legislature. Amodei was termed out in the 2010 election.

“My record in Carson City is one of fighting for balancing budgets without raising taxes,” Brower said. “In 2003, Mark was part of the effort, he co-sponsored a bill, to raise what would have been the biggest tax increase in state history.”

State Sen. Greg Brower makes a point at the debate./Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau

Brower also questioned Amodei’s support for public sector collective bargaining during his time in the Legislature.

In response, Amodei said the tax bill he proposed was designed to head off an income tax that could have been imposed on Nevadans.

“That bill was done as a way to defeat the Nevada IRS,” he said. “So think about that. This state with an income tax? No way.”

Former state Sen. Mark Amodei responds to a question at the debate./Photo: Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau

In response to the collective bargaining statement, Amodei said: “And the collective bargaining stuff was a way to try to blow up the teachers union, who we are still under the thumb of financially. And I said that in my floor statement, but my opponents are not telling you that, because you know what, it doesn’t serve their political purpose.”

Brower also pointed out Lippold’s lack of legislative or Washington, D.C. experience.

Lippold said the nation’s founding fathers didn’t have such experience either.

“They took life experiences and went on to build the greatest nation on the face of the earth, and give us the tools that still hold true today,” he said. “I will do, having experienced a terrorist attack personally, whatever it takes to keep this nation safe.”

Retired Navy commander Kirk Lippold speaks at the debate./Photo by Sean Whaley, Nevada News Bureau

In an interview after the debate, Lippold said: “We need people that are going to go to Washington that have the strength and character and integrity to stand on principle and tell the Obama Administration and the Harry Reid machine, now is not the time to continue government expansion. We need to reduce spending, we need to reduce government, we need to reduce taxes.”

The state Democrat Party also weighed in on the debate with a press release immediately following the event.

“Tonight’s debate highlighted the clear choice voters in CD 2 face this fall between a Democrat who will fight to create jobs and protect Social Security and Medicare, and a Republican who supports the job-destroying, Medicare-ending Washington GOP agenda,” said Nevada State Democratic Party spokesperson Zach Hudson.

Audio clips:

State Sen. Greg Brower says former state Sen. Mark Amodei pushed a big tax increase in 2003:

061511Brower1 :13 in state history.”

Brower says Amodei is on the wrong side of issues important to Republicans:

061511Brower2 :10 size of government.”

Amodei says his 2003 tax proposal was an effort to head off a state income tax:

061511Amodei1 :19 tax? No way.”

Amodei says his collective bargaining position is not being fully explained by his opponents:

061511Amodei2 :13 their political purpose.”

Retired Navy commander Kirk Lippold says the Founding Fathers didn’t have political experience either:

061511Lippold1 :27 hold true today.”

Lippold says he has the strength of character to stand up to President Obama and Sen. Harry Reid:

061511Lippold2 :16 to reduce taxes.”

Gov. Sandoval Taking Two Pronged Approach To Addressing Potential $656 Million Budget Shortfall

By Sean Whaley | 5:35 pm May 27th, 2011

CARSON CITY – The Sandoval administration is pursuing two paths in an effort to resolve a potentially massive budget shortfall, seeking clarification from the Nevada Supreme Court on the case that created the issue and working with lawmakers on potential additional revenues should they be necessary.

Dale Erquiaga, senior adviser to Gov. Brian Sandoval, briefed a number of interested parties on the developments since the state’s high court dropped the potential budget bombshell on the Legislature yesterday.

“The Supreme Court, in a rather dramatic decision, presented us with a math problem,” he said. “They didn’t present us with a crisis, and they didn’t present us with something insurmountable.”

In a decision rejecting the Legislature’s right to use $62 million from a Southern Nevada water fund to help balance the current budget, the court intimated that as much as $656 million proposed by Sandoval to be used in the upcoming budget could be legally unavailable.

Erquiaga said the first course of action was for Sandoval early this morning to ask Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto to ask the court to clarify if its decision was narrowly focused on the $62 million clean water fund sweep, or if the decision should be interpreted more broadly to cover other proposed uses of local funds to help balance the governor’s proposed $6.1 billion spending plan.

“Again, did the court mean $62 million, or did the court mean to take the broadest interpretation possible, thus putting at risk an amount ten times that size, and really, forever changing the way we budget in the state of Nevada,” Erquiaga said.

“These revenue mechanisms have been used for anyone’s recent memory here,” he said. “All of the revenue mechanisms that the governor included in his budget except one have been used by prior legislatures. For the court to say you can’t use that kind of money anymore will forever change the way we budget.”

Erquiaga said that if the issue is only the $62 million water fund sweep, the Legislature can move forward with adopting Sandoval’s proposed two-year budget. Sandoval would like the court to act quickly on the clarification request so the Legislature can complete its work by June 6, the constitutionally mandated final day of the session, he said.

On the budgetary front, Sandoval has met with lawmakers from both parties and both houses to discuss the possible continuation of some of the tax increases set to sunset June 30 as a source of new revenue should it be needed to balance the budget, Erquiaga said.

About $679 million could be generated if the taxes were extended another two years. The taxes include a sales tax piece and a higher modified business tax for the state’s largest employers, but Sandoval will not support continuing all of the higher levies, he said.

So if $656 million is needed to balance the budget, Sandoval will look to other revenues, but not new taxes, Erquiaga said.

“If sunsets are called into play, you may be assured that the margin tax and the service tax are not,” he said.

These new taxes were proposed by legislative Democrats in recent weeks as a way to augment the budget.

As part of these tax discussions, Sandoval and Republican lawmakers are seeking a number of policy reforms as part of any such continuation, Erquiaga said.

Some of the reforms being discussed this session include changes to Nevada’s collective bargaining law, the elimination of teacher tenure, and others.

“It is critical to the governor that reforms be included in any final solution,” Erquiaga said.

He would not disclose the specifics of the reforms under discussion.

Charles Blumenthal, communications director for the Assembly Democratic Caucus, said legislative leadership is having productive discussions every day trying to work through the process and get a budget agreement.

Audio clips:

Sandoval Senior Adviser Dale Erquiaga says the Supreme Court presented the governor and Legislature a math problem, not a crisis:

052711Erquiaga4 :10 with something insurmountable.”

Erquiaga says Sandoval wants the court to clarify its intent:

052711Erquiaga1 :14 state of Nevada.”

Erquiaga says the revenue mechanisms used in Sandoval’s budget have been used before:

052711Erquiaga2 :16 way we budget.”

Erquiaga says policy reforms have to be part of any budget solution:

052711Erquiaga3 :05 any final solution.”


Governor Estimates $656 Million Lost In Budget Due To Supreme Court Decision

By Andrew Doughman | 11:54 pm May 26th, 2011

CARSON CITY — The state’s budget just took a $656 million hit, according to members of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s staff.

Following a Supreme Court decision earlier today, the governor convened the press at 11 p.m. to outline his opinion of how the decision effects funding streams used in the state budget.

“The problem is much worse than we thought,” said Dale Erquiaga, the governor’s senior adviser.

Erquiaga, Andrew Clinger and Lucas Folleta, the governor’s budget director and legal counsel respectively, would not speculate as to how they will replace the dollars they assume are lost in the state’s proposed two-year budget.

This morning, the court ruled in the Clean Water Coalition case that the state government could not take $62 million in local revenues to bolster the state budget.

Later this afternoon, Sandoval said he believed the case could have wide-reaching implications for his proposed general fund budget.

“The ruling raises questions about certain assumptions in the proposed executive budget, despite some having been used in the past,” he said in a statement. “As a former federal judge, I am cognizant of the legal issues.  As governor, I am forced to deal with their ramifications and I am responding by reworking the state budget.  I will announce a revised plan on Friday.”

Erquiaga said that the governor has kept legislative leaders appraised of the situation.

Erquiaga also said the governor and his staff plan to work throughout the night to find a solution to replace the lost revenue.

The governor, however, has already announced that he is considering extending taxes that are set to expire June 30. Doing so would bring the state an estimated $712 million, enough to offset the reductions due to the court decision.

In addition to the $62 million, the governor is assuming $594 million in lost revenue.

“The court’s decision forced us with this decision,” Folleta said.

The decision holds that the state cannot siphon money from a local funding stream, thus making the Clean Water Coalition money grab unconstitutional.

The governor’s staff spent the late afternoon and evening evaluating where the money in Sandoval’s budget is coming from and arrived at a “conservative” decision that the court’s ruling could endanger five other revenue sources.

“To take a less conservative approach, if the state were sued, revenue streams will have to be backed out,” Erquiaga said.

In addition to the $62 million lost due to the court’s decision, the governor’s office assumes these revenue sources would be lost if challenged in court:

  • Supplemental account for medical assistance to indigents: $38,427,584

  • Transfer from school districts’ debt service reserves: $247,420,312

  • 4 cent Clark and Washoe counties operating property tax: $52,994,482

  • 2.6 cents in fiscal year 2012 and 2 cents in fiscal year 2013 in Clark and Washoe counties capital projects property tax rate: $30,475,264

  • Room tax dollars: $225,455,400

Nevadans Outline Stakes As Legislature Plans New Political Districts

By Andrew Doughman | 4:00 am April 3rd, 2011

CARSON CITY – The budget is not the only thing legislators are cutting this session.

Far from the budget tug-o-war that snags newspaper headlines, legislators this session must kingmaker carve the boundaries of congressional, senate and assembly districts that will remain for the next ten years, or the next five budget cycles.

Along the way, legislators have culled public opinion through several hours of hearings throughout the state. The overarching message from the people of Fallon, Reno, Carson City and Las Vegas is this: align communities with political districts.

In Las Vegas, representatives from several community groups stressed the need to keep the city’s various minority groups together.

The mayor of Mesquite submitted a letter asking legislators to unite Mesquite in one district. The city is currently split into different districts.

Several residents of Fallon asked legislators to preserve the rural flavor of their current districts. They asked legislators not to draw districts that would leave rural counties subsumed beneath larger voter majorities in Clark and Washoe counties.

“Where do we end up as far as the rural counties are concerned? Is most of our representation going to Washoe County?” asked Bob Johnston of Fallon.

One Person, One Vote

Johnston’s concerns arise from a shrinking rural population.

Nevada was the fastest-growing state in the nation during the past 10 years. The population hit 2.7 million, enough to give Nevada another Congressional seat.

Since much of the growth occurred in Clark County – almost three of every four Nevadans now live in Clark County – Northern Nevada stands to lose one state Senate seat to the south, as well as one or two Assembly seats.

Clark County already boasts 14 of the 21 total Senate seats and 29 of 42 total Assembly seats.

These calculations set the size for a district.

Rules For Redistricting

After that, a variety of U.S. Supreme Court decisions and federal laws also govern how the Legislature must draw its districts.

For instance, legislators must make districts as contiguous and compact as possible while also preserving “communities of interest.

These are communities that would benefit from having a reasonable chance to elect a representative who understands their issues.

This could be a rural community whose legislator may know about water rights and ranching.

Or a community of interest could be a Hispanic neighborhood in Las Vegas that would benefit from having a legislator who understands challenges specific to Hispanics.

Generally, legislators want to avoid “cracking” these communities in two, or “packing” them into one small district.

There are, of course, also political factors like protecting incumbents and drawing districts with certain candidates in mind. Testifying in Las Vegas, Ellen Spiegel, a former legislator, asked for the preservation of districts that have elected female legislators. Andrew Murphy, representing the Asian American and Pacific Islander community, noted that no district currently elects an Asian.

This combination of mathematics, geography, law and politics is enough to make anybody’s head spin.

“We hear words like ‘cracking, stacking and packing’ and understand that redistricting is a complicated process,” said Teresa Navarro, chairwoman of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, at a redistricting hearing in Reno.

Legislators have finished gathering public opinion about the districts. Now they will retreat to the Legislature, where they will draw maps at least partially based on the opinions they gathered in the field.

That is the idea, anyway.

Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said that the Legislature will hold some type of hearing after they release their maps.

In the cynic’s corner, others are unsure.

“Does it really matter?” asked Charlene Bybee at the Reno hearing. “Or is it something that you do because you have to and it is more of a show that you’re not going to consider sincerely when you’re making your decision?”









Year Of Dramatic Campaign Spending Increases Marks Anniversary Of Citizens United Decision

By Andrew Doughman | 12:54 pm January 21st, 2011

One year later, the impacts of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in the Citizens United case are plain to see.

On Jan. 21, 2010, the court ruled that corporate and union donations to political candidates cannot be limited under the First Amendment.

The impact?

During this past Senatorial election, Democratic-incumbent Harry Reid and Republican challenger Sharron Angle together spent about $44 million on their campaigns. Including outside spending, that number is probably above $50 million.

That’s compared to about $8 million spent during the 2004 and 2006 Senate races, when campaign financing laws were still on the books.

At the Congressional level, Democrat Dina Titus and Republican Joe Heck battled it out this year, spending a combined $4 million in a contest Heck ultimately won. That’s actually less than the $4.65 million spent in the 2008 race between Titus and Republican-challenger Jon Porter. But outside spending in the 2010 race accounted for an extra $4.5 million in 2010 compared to $1.8 million in 2008.

In a 5-4 decision, the Supreme Court struck down a provision of those financing laws in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission.

In striking parts of the Bipartisan Campaign Reform Act – better known as the McCain-Feingold Act – the court allowed corporate donors to give unlimited amounts of money to political candidates or to spend independently on behalf of candidates.

The spending numbers above only track the spending declared by candidates, excluding money spent on their behalf. In the Reid-Angle race, many of the donors to Angle’s campaign were individuals, whereas Reid raked in donations for corporations.

Following the ruling, President Barack Obama said the ruling “gives the special interests and their lobbyists even more power in Washington … while undermining the influence of average Americans who make small contributions to their preferred candidates.”

His 2008 Republican opponent, Sen. John McCain, also criticized the decision. Along with Sen. Russ Feingold, D-Wisconsin, McCain had been a sponsor of the campaign reform law, the provisions of which the court struck down.

Former state Senator Bill Raggio, in an interview on the Nevada NewsMakers program on Jan. 13, also questioned the high level of spending on campaigns in general and in the Reid-Angle race in particular: “I think the money that is spent on campaigns, particularly this last campaign season, was obscene. In just this state alone, $50 million between these two candidates for the U.S. Senate.

“I certainly want to support free speech and the ability of people to back candidates and to fund candidates, but I think there should be some reasonable limit. It may be something that has to be self imposed by individuals or candidates or groups, but I think it was obscene.”

Other groups, however, praised the ruling. The National Rifle Association and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce had both supported Citizens United during the trial. The Cato Institute, a conservative think tank, also issued a statement in support.

To make campaign spending equal or nearly so, the government would have to force some people or groups to spend less than they wished. And equality of speech is inherently contrary to protecting speech from government restraint,” the statement read.

To mark the one-year anniversary of the decision, Citizens United released a celebratory statement today. Their lead counsel in the case, Theodore B. Olson, said that the decision is the “most important in history.”

“What that decision said is that individuals, under the First Amendment, cannot be inhibited, cannot be restrained, cannot be threatened, cannot be censored by the government when they wish to speak about elections and the political process,” he said. “What could be more important than that?”

One year later, the rancor aroused by the decision appears not to have quieted.

Republicans are pushing for removing more campaign financing restrictions while Democrats are lining up to propose a constitutional amendment to limit corporate spending.

Contested Public Records Cases Could End Up Costing Storey County Taxpayers

By Sean Whaley | 1:31 pm October 5th, 2010

CARSON CITY – A Fallon attorney who has won two public records cases against Storey County is asking the Nevada Supreme Court to require the local government to pay his requested fees and costs for bringing the actions.

Attorney Martin Crowley said two different district judges who ruled in his favor in the public records cases awarded only $2,500 each in fees and costs, far less than requested for the time spent on the matters.

In the first of the cases dating to 2009 against the Storey County Clerk, Crowley said his fees exceeded $40,000 and he asked for $25,000. First Judicial District Judge James Wilson called the fee request “excessive and unreasonable.”

The request in the second case against the Storey County Assessor’s Office was for just under $9,000.

If Crowley gets a favorable ruling from the Supreme Court, the actions by Storey County officials to fight the public records requests could end up costing local taxpayers a substantial sum.

Crowley said the failure to award appropriate fees and costs would be a blow to the public’s efforts to obtain public records. Requiring a local government or agency to pay reasonable court costs is an incentive to make public documents available as required by state law, he said.

“If they don’t have to pay there is no cost to them to refuse documents when they are properly requested,” Crowley said. “Both of these entities could have settled out for dirt cheap if they would have just turned over the documents and paid the fees.”

Crowley said the first case could have been settled for less than $4,000. Because the county continued to challenge the matter, however, and the court ordered additional hearings, the costs rose substantially.

In the first case, Crowley said Storey County not only failed to provide the records sought by Druscilla Thyssen  and Joe Panicaro until ordered to do so by the court, but it spent $18,000 to hire private legal counsel to fight the request.

Thyssen had sought information provided by other Storey County property owners who were successful in lowering their tax bills after failing to get her own tax bill reduced. Thyssen and Panicaro tried for six months to get the records without success, Crowley said.

Thyssen ultimately won a reduction in an appeal to the state tax board.

The Storey County District Attorney’s office defended the second case in a records request by Panicaro, which initially involved fees of only about $1,100.

The government entities balked at paying the modest fees, and in so doing forced the matters into the courts and the costs to go up, Crowley said.

Storey County Deputy District Attorney Laura Grant said there were legitimate issues in the county recorder case, including whether a public records request had actually been submitted. She also said there was some confusion because of a change to the public records law by the 2007 Legislature.

Grant said her understanding is that the Supreme Court has limited options in dealing with the fees. The court could remand the matter back to the district judge to reconsider the fee request, she said.

The private attorney representing the county in the other case could not be reached for comment.

Nevada’s public records law presumes all information is public unless there is a specific statute exempting the information from release for privacy or other valid reasons. The law requires requests to be honored within five working days. If a request is rejected the public agency must cite the Nevada statute making the records confidential. Those making requests can be charged for the cost of copies.

It also requires payment of costs and reasonable attorneys fees to the prevailing side in a legal action.

Barry Smith, executive director of the Nevada Press Association, said if a public records request is denied the only recourse is to take the matter to court which is a financial barrier for most people.

Legitimate fees and costs associated with such cases have to be recognized by the courts, he said.

“What public officials need to realize is that these are public records,” Smith said. “They aren’t the government’s records. People don’t realize governments are using their tax dollars to fight against their own interests.”

Crowley said there wouldn’t even be a legal case if officials had followed the state law on public records requests and made the requested information available to the two county residents.

Crowley is attempting to consolidate the two cases before the Supreme Court because they involve similar issues. He has alerted Nevada media entities of the cases and is asking for support in the form of “friend of the court” briefs where groups and individuals not actually involved in a case can still weigh in on the legal issues.

Crowley said there are other public records cases he could pursue, but he can’t afford to take them until the fee issue has been resolved.

Audio clips:

Attorney Martin Crowley says his client attempted for six months to get public records without success:

100510Crowley1 :17 for six months.”

Crowley says requiring government entities to pay court fees and costs ensures they will comply with the public records law:

100510Crowley3 :13 paid the fees.”

Crowley says he will emphasize to the Nevada Supreme Court the cases could have been resolved at a much lower cost:

100510Crowley3 :13 paid the fees.”

Short List of Supreme Court Nominees to Replace Stephens

By Elizabeth Crum | 12:07 pm April 22nd, 2010

The list of maybes for the Supreme Court is not Nevada-related but still of interest, in part because six of them are women (so it sure looks like Obama is going to try to put another female justice on the Big Bench) and five of them have Chicago ties (Stephens is from Chicago if you didn’t know it):

*Seventh Circuit Judge Diane Wood (who also lectures at U of Chicago law school)

*Seventh Circuit Judge Ann Claire Williams (nominated by Reagan in 1985, she was the first-ever African-American female judge appointed to the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois; in 1999, Clinton put her on the Seventh Circuit; and she was mentioned last year as a possible replacement for Souter in the appointment that went to Sotomayor)

DC Circuit Appeals Judge Merrick Garland (raised in Lincolnwood, IL)

9th Circuit Judge from Montana, Sid Williams

*Term-limited MI Governor Jenny Granholm (a Canadian-born politician, former AG of MI, and the 47th and first female governor of MI)

Current MA Governor Deval Patrick

*U.S. Solictor General Elana Kagan (first woman to hold that office, put in to office by Obama in ’09, former dean of Harvard Law School, ex-professor of law at U Chi Law School, served as Associate White House Counsel under Clinton)

*Harvard Law Dean Martha Minow (New Trier East graduate, just sworn in as an Obama appointee to the Legal Services Corp., where she is now vice chairwoman; daughter of Newton Minow, former chairman of the FCC.  Fun fact:  When Obama was at Harvard Law, Minow recommended that Sidley hire him for the summer; Obama took the job — and there met Michelle)

*Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano (you know who she is)

Too soon to start placing bets; this “short list” will soon be narrowed to 2 or 3 and then we can speculate.  Obama will announce his pick in mid-May.

Gubernatorial Candidate Brian Sandoval Answers Questions on Issues

By Elizabeth Crum | 11:17 am April 14th, 2010

This morning in a statewide media conference call moderated by the Nevada News Bureau, candidate Brian Sandoval fielded questions on numerous issues including the 2003 Supreme Court ruling on the two-thirds legislative supermajority needed to increase taxes, tax policy, the Tax Pledge, budget cuts and higher education salaries, renewable energy mandates and the state’s health care reform lawsuit.

Sandoval maintained that as his press release said yesterday, he did not agree with the controversial 2003 Supreme Court ruling. He said he did not publicly state his views at the time because rules of conduct prevented him from doing so.

“The rules of conduct are such that I could have found myself subject to a bar complaint had I criticized the Supreme Court’s ruling,” said Sandoval. “However, my spokesperson at the time did issue a statement that went as far as I was able to go in expressing my opinion.”

“We didn’t seek invalidation of the two-thirds vote – the court did that on its own,” Sandoval spokesperson Tom Sargent told the Reno Gazette-Journal on July 16, 2003.

Sandoval also defended his position on taxes, saying as governor he would veto a corporate income tax.  He also said he does not believe tax increases are inevitable.

“Many believe [tax increases] are a foregone conclusion, but I do not,” said Sandoval.  “We have a spending problem in this state, and that is how I will approach the issue if fortunate enough to be elected governor.”

But Sandoval said he has not signed the Tax Pledge because it would “tie my hands behind my back.”

When asked how he can reconcile his refusal to sign the Tax Pledge with a statement made in a recent radio interview with Dawn Gibbons — in which he answered with an emphatic “no” in answer to a question about whether he would, under any circumstances, consider supporting a tax hike — Sandoval said he considered being on record enough of a “pledge.”

“I haven’t signed any pledges, and I am going to remain consistent on that,” added Sandoval.

Sandoval said that as governor he will be committed to finding cuts in the state budget and referred to the proposal he had submitted prior the special session that included a four percent reduction in pay to higher education salaries as well as the the reduction of some benefits.

Regarding Nevada’s need to attract and develop industry and create jobs, Sandoval said he is not in favor of clean and renewable energy mandates similar to the one’s passed in California but that he does believe renewable energy is an important part of the state’s recovery.

“Between solar, geothermal, hydroelectric and other clean energy sources, Nevada has some unique and valuable natural resources,” said Sandoval.  “We need to attract those kinds of businesses here.  But I would oppose any mandates that are generally harmful to the business environment.”

Sandoval also defended what some perceived as a curious delay in announcing his support for Governor Gibbons’ effort to join a lawsuit to challenge the recently passed health care reform legislation.

When asked why he had to deliberate overnight on the issue, Sandoval insisted he never had to think about it.

“We had put out a release that we opposed the bill, two months beforehand,” said Sandoval. “So, that next day, to clarify and make sure everyone knew my position, that I was consistent, I came out with statement.”

Sandoval said he believes Attorney General Masto’s duty on the issue and to the state is clear.

“If you have a client, you take the case if it has merit and if you are ordered to do so,” said Sandoval. “The governor is that client. And the case does have merit.  As the state’s attorney, she should take the case.”

High Court to Review Ruling in Gibbons Email Case

By Elizabeth Crum | 2:18 pm February 27th, 2010

As kicked off by Anjeanette Damon’s Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request for emails between Governor Gibbons and various parties (10 of ‘em) between January and June 2008…and continued through the decision of District Judge Todd Russell who ruled that only six of 110 emails could be released…the matter now goes before the Supreme Court.

The LV Sun has the story here.

Las Vegas Culinary Union Boss Calls U.S. Supreme Court Decision “Recipe for Disaster”

By Elizabeth Crum | 3:46 pm January 28th, 2010

I wouldn’t normally post on the comments of a local union boss re: a Supreme Court ruling, but I felt creativity points were warranted for working a culinary theme into the criticisms.  Plus, it’s always interesting when Big Labor complains about Big Business, or v/v.  So:

Las Vegas Culinary Union boss D. Taylor today blasted the recent U.S. Supreme Court ruling giving corporations and unions the right to spend unlimited amounts of money on behalf of candidates and on political issues, saying it was a “recipe for disaster.”

Taylor, secretary-treasurer of Culinary Workers Union, Local 226, said the ruling gives big corporations the ability to influence elections at the expense of the average person – but that it will not change the way the culinary union handles its election-related activities.  Other statements:

“I think it is bad for Democracy.  I think it is bad for the American public.”

“I think it is absurd to state that a corporation has the same free speech rights as an individual.”

“Because of this ruling, if a legislator proposes a measure that might harm a corporation’s bottom line, that corporation could spend millions to defeat the lawmaker.”

Taylor’s statements were made on Nevada NewsMakers.

I guess he’s in good company because last night, President Obama also blasted the SC decision in his State of the Union speech.

U.S. Supreme Court Opens Up 2010 Elections in Major Free Speech Ruling

By Sean Whaley | 3:41 pm January 21st, 2010

CARSON CITY – Like it or not, the 2010 campaign season is likely to dominate the airwaves more than ever nationally and in Nevada following a decision today by the U.S. Supreme Court repealing a limitation on political spending by corporations.

In what is being hailed by supporters as a major First Amendment free speech ruling, the 5-4 decision will allow corporations and labor unions to spend freely on behalf of political candidates and on political issues. The ruling overturned a key section of the McCain-Feingold Act.

Janine Hansen, executive director of the Independent American Party of Nevada and a lobbyist in Carson City for the party and the Nevada Eagle Forum, welcomed the ruling as a victory for free speech and challengers to the political establishment.

“The more campaign finance laws we have had enacted, the fewer successes challengers and non-incumbents have had,” she said. “Anything we can do to restore free speech is very important.

“These laws are why we have a government that is unresponsive to the will of the people,” Hansen said.

Lee Rowland, northern coordinator for the ACLU of Nevada, also welcomed the ruling, saying the ACLU had filed a “friend of the court” brief with the U.S. Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the section of the law repealed in today’s decision.

The case involved a type of speech, called an “electioneering communication” as opposed to limits on the expenditure of money in political races, and was clearly a violation of the First Amendment, she said.

“We are dealing with core political speech,” Rowland said. “It was a very black and white issue to us.”

Rowland said it is too early to know what effect the ruling may have on Nevada’s state campaign finance laws. But the ACLU of Nevada spoke out against a bill in the 2009 session of the Legislature that would have established similar restrictions that Rowland said were also unconstitutional. The changes did not win approval.

“This is precisely the type of core political speech the First Amendment is designed to protect,” she said.

The case arose when a Washington, DC-based conservative nonprofit group called Citizens United, sought to run advertisements for a film called Hillary: The Movie, right before the Democratic presidential primaries in 2008. The ads were rejected by the Federal Election Commission citing limitations on campaign spending under the McCain-Feingold Act.

A lower court found the film’s purpose was political speech, while Citizens United argued the film was nonpartisan and not an electioneering communication.

Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision overturned the lower court ruling in favor of Citizens United.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the majority opinion, said: “Some members of the public might consider Hillary to be insightful and instructive; some might find it to be neither high art nor a fair discussion on how to set the Nation’s course; still others simply might suspend judgment on these points but decide to think more about issues and candidates. Those choices and assessments, however, are not for the Government to make.”

David Bossie, president of Citizens United, called the decision a “complete victory” for the group.

“This is a monumental day for Citizens United,” he said. “So we have been waiting a long time for this day.”

Critics of the decision who are saying it will “shake the core” of our Democracy are guilty of “tremendous hyperbole,” Bossie said. Corporations aren’t all the size of the Exxon Mobile Corp. Some corporations are run by lone individuals, he said.

Not everyone welcomed the ruling. Nationally, two leading national campaign finance reform organizations, Common Cause and Public Campaign, criticized the decision, saying it will “enhance the ability of the deepest-pocketed special interests to influence elections and the U.S. Congress.”

“This decision means more business as usual in Washington, stomping on voters’ hope for change,” said Nick Nyhart, president and CEO of Public Campaign. “Congress must take on the insider Washington money culture if it wants to make the changes voters are demanding.”

Washington, DC, based attorney Tom Josefiak, a former chairman of the Federal Election Commission that was the target in the Citizens United case, called the decision a landmark day for the First Amendment and free speech.

“In issuing its sweeping Citizens United opinion today, the Supreme Court reversed decades of its own precedent prohibiting corporate independent expenditures and recognized once and for all that the First Amendment right of free speech applies to everyone, including corporations,” he said.

Josefiak, who also formerly served as chief counsel for the Republican National Committee, said the ruling allows corporations to spend their funds on political issues as long as they do so independently.