Time to change the rules of the game at the Nevada Legislature

Once again an all-powerful committee chairman has thwarted the will of Nevada’s lawmakers by single-handedly tabling a resolution.

This week the chairman of the Legislative Committee on Public Lands, Assemblyman Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, essentially locked in his desk a resolution that would ask Congress to release some the 87 percent of the state land controlled by the federal government.

The resolution was put forward by a task force set up Assembly Bill 227 in the 2013 Legislature. The bill passed unanimously in the Senate, but in the Assembly Aizely was one of the 18 Democrats who voted against it. All Republicans supported it.

Aizley told the Elko newspaper that he receives more emails from constituents asking him not to support a public land transfer than any other issue and he believed the general population didn’t have an opportunity to participate in the discussion.

Aizley told the Las Vegas newspaper he was concerned that the transfer of federal employees to state service and the costs of fire suppression would cost the state $57 million a year.

“We don’t have $57 million to do that,” he said. “Those are two that are fairly persuasive to me.”

State Sen. Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, countered that the initial transfer would be only a small portion of the land and that the state could actually make money from the transfer. Also, he said that with proper management fire costs could be zero.

Goicoechea plans to make the the resolution one of his bill draft requests.

Aizley appears to have fallen for the same logic trap as the  Western Center for Priorities, which put out a study claiming states can’t afford the firefighting cost. Neither notes that those costs are due largely to mismanagement of fuels control.

The federal government would not have to spend so much on fire suppression if it properly managed the land in the first place, allowing grazing, logging, cutting fire breaks and letting small fires burn and reduce the fuel that causes the huge blazes. States and private land owners would be more likely to protect the forests and prairies and the wildlife there.

It is time to change the rules at the Legislature so that a single panel chairman can’t basically veto a bill that the majority of both houses approved.

Paul Aizley (R-J photo)

Newspaper column: Time to end warrantless searches and seizures

Civil asset forfeiture has turned into a fundraising scam for federal and local law enforcement agencies, who use the excuse that seized cash, cars and homes are the product of suspected criminal endeavors and thus forfeitable to the government, usually the agency doing the seizing.

It is happening in jurisdictions all across the nation and here in Nevada. A year ago a deputy in Humboldt County pulled over a California tourist in a rental car and grabbed $50,000 in cash that the tourist said he won in a casino, as reported in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times and Elko Daily Free Press.

The day after that tourist’s money was seized, Humboldt County Sheriff Ed Kilgore sent out a news release along with a photo of the deputy posing with the cash and a police dog. “This cash would have been used to purchase illegal drugs and now will benefit Humboldt County with training and equipment,” the release boasted. “Great job.”

Deputy seized tourist’s cash.

According to a recording from a dashboard-mounted camera in the patrol car, the tourist asked why he was being searched, and the deputy replied, “Because I’m talking to you … well, no, I don’t have to explain that to you. I’m not going to explain that to you, but I am gonna put my drug dog on that. If my dog alerts, I’m seizing the money. You can try to get it back but you’re not.”

He also told the tourist, “You’ll burn it up in attorney fees before we give it back to you.”

The tourist sued and eventually got his cash back.

A couple of months later another man had cash seized by the same deputy.

And you thought the Fourth Amendment guaranteed: “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

In Philadelphia, the Institute for Justice, a nonprofit civil liberties law firm, has taken the police to court to try stop what one judge called state-sanctioned theft.

IJ has three clients, all of whom had their homes seized by police. In each case the police claim the property was used to commit minor drug crimes, none of which involved the actual owners.

“The class-action lawsuit challenges several aspects of Philadelphia’s forfeiture scheme. First, Philadelphia routinely seeks orders authorizing its officials to ‘seize and seal’ homes and other real properties — which they accomplish by throwing people, like Chris Sourovelis and their families, out onto the streets,” IJ reports. “But the city does not provide the families with any notice when it seeks such an order, and the homeowners never get a chance to argue why they should not be evicted before they are thrown out.”

A bill has been introduced in Congress to reform the civil forfeiture law.

Read the entire column Ely or Elko.

Stop chasing the renewable energy snipe

Dear Warren Buffett:

Now that you own NV Energy  and are trying to figure out how to comply with the law that replaces coal-fired plants with renewable and gas-fired plants, perhaps you should look to Germany a hint at what works.

The Wall Street Journal reports that average electricity prices for companies there have jumped 60 percent in the past five years because of government subsidies for renewable energy plants. German  power now costs more than double the U.S. price.

“German industry is going to gradually lose its competitiveness if this course isn’t reversed soon,” said Kurt Bock, chief executive of BASF, the world’s largest chemical maker, the WSJ relates.

If companies can’t afford power, they won’t buy any. Then where will your profits come from?

And for what?

Despite this cost, German carbon out has actually increased in each of the past three years, according to The Daily Caller.

The newspaper that should be called the no-news paper

Remember the promises Brian Greenspun made when he took over the ownership of the Las Vegas Sun from his siblings and prevented a dissolution of the joint operating agreement that would have stopped the paper from appearing as a section in the daily Review-Journal?

He wrote:

We’re committed to continuous innovation. In the next few months we’re going to unveil bold new plans for high impact and enterprise reporting that could create a model for the rest of the nation. And we’ve got new approaches to other publications as well. I’ve been in media for nearly my whole life and I’ve never been more excited. The doom and gloom come only from people who have run out of ideas. And we have a talented team with a deep pool of ideas.

That was on July 2. It is now nearly September.

Today’s front page of the innovative Sun has two wire feature stories and a thumb-sucker about smoking in casinos by a freelancer who doesn’t even live in Las Vegas any more. Inside there is a Mike Smith cartoon and two entertainment columns, both on the opening of the SLS several days ago. The rest is wires and syndicated columns.

The next few months are obviously not two months.

Today's Las Vegas Sun no-news paper

Today’s Las Vegas Sun no-news paper

Might as well disband state and local governments, there’s nothing left for them to do

“The powers delegated by the proposed Constitution to the Federal Government, are few and defined. Those which are to remain in the State Governments are numerous and indefinite. The former will be exercised principally on external objects, as war, peace, negociation, and foreign commerce; with which last the power of taxation will for the most part be connected. The powers reserved to the several States will extend to all the objects, which, in the ordinary course of affairs, concern the lives, liberties and properties of the people; and the internal order, improvement, and prosperity of the State.”

— James Madison, Federalist No. 45, Jan. 26, 1788

Federalism is a fetid corpse. All money and power and decisions are made in the Kremlin on the Potomac.

The latest example comes not from the socialized medicine scheme that is ObamaCare, as is usual, but from the federal bureaucracy at the Department of Education.

This past Thursday Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, according to The New York Times, arbitrarily announced that states could delay for another year the use of test results in teacher-performance ratings, which can affect a teacher’s pay. (Funny how this comes before the November election and will be welcome news to a huge Democratic constituency.)

The testing requirement was part of No Child Left Behind — yes, a law signed by George W. Bush — which dictates what states must do to get federal education handouts.

Duncan wrote in a blog post, “I believe testing issues today are sucking the oxygen out of the room in a lot of schools,” and “States will have the opportunity to request a delay in when test results matter for teacher evaluation during this transition. As we always have, we’ll work with them in a spirit of flexibility to develop a plan that works, but typically I’d expect this to mean that states that request this delay will push back by one year (to 2015-16) the time when student growth measures based on new state assessments become part of their evaluation systems – and we will work with states seeking other areas of flexibility as well.”

Over the past four years, the Times reports, nearly 40 states have adopted laws that link pay to teacher evaluations based on student performance standardized tests, coerced by Race to the Top grants.

That sound you hear is the 10th Amendment flapping in the breeze: “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”

 

Arne Duncan, the secretary of Education, in June. (Getty Images photo via NYT)

Somehow this minor Reid gaffe makes the front page … why?

As far as gaffes go, these were certainly well down the list for gaffe master Harry Reid.

In fact the local newspaper didn’t even notice them until someone pointed them out.

Harry Reid at Asian Chamber of Commerce, as depicted in Thursday’s newspaper. (R-J photo)

The story about Harry appearing at the Asian Chamber of Commerce was posted on the newspaper’s website Thursday afternoon. His crack about how smart Asians are was the last paragraph on the jump in the B section in Friday’s paper: “I don’t think you’re smarter than anybody else, but you’ve convinced a lot of us you are.”

His ad lib crack about not being able to keep his Wongs straight, whatever that means, did not make the paper at all.

Yet, as if Harry making offensive remarks were somehow now newsworthy — ask the Koch brothers and the owner of the Washington Redskins — the Las Vegas newspaper put Harry’s apology on the front page.

Apparently nobody realized they were offended until some group called America Rising posted a video of Reid’s remarks on YouTube.

The newspaper today helpfully recounted Reid’s 2008 racially insensitive remark:

“Over the years, Reid has gained a reputation for verbal gaffes, including once saying of Barack Obama that his chances of winning the presidency were good because he was ‘light-skinned’ and had ‘no Negro dialect — unless he wanted to have one.’ The remarks were reported in the book ‘Game Change,’ and Reid apologized in 2010 after it came out.”

Apparently there wasn’t enough room to recount how he called the majority in the Hobby Lobby case “five white men,” including Clarence Thomas, or how he said he did not know how any Hispanic could be a Republican, much less him calling the Southern border secure or all people with ObamaCare horror stories are liars.

Also rich people are willing to pay more in taxes, except Mitt Romney who hadn’t paid any income taxes in 10 years.

No mention of him saying, when asked if he would put forward for a vote a bill to fund children’s cancer research, “Why, why, why would we want to do that?”

But everybody knows tea party members are anarchists, Republicans are fanatics, Ted Cruz is a schoolyard bully, Obama did not lie when he said you could keep your doctor and Washington tourists smell bad.

But, hey, Harry can handout compliments, too, like when he called New York’s junior senator, Kirsten  Gillibrand, “the hottest member” of the Senate while she sat nearby.

Never mind the Redskins. Harry should be red-faced, but he isn’t.

 

Newspaper column: Doling out tax favors doesn’t improve state’s economy

Largely overlooked at first during all the congratulatory back slapping — which came with the news that Tesla Motors had built an earthen pad in an industrial park east of Sparks for its new $5 billion lithium-ion battery “gigafactory” that would employ as many as 6,500 workers — was a statement by Tesla CEO Elon Musk about what he expects the state getting the plant to shell out.

Musk insisted that the company is still evaluating sites in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Texas, as well as Nevada, as reported in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times, the Elko Daily Free Press and the Mesquite Local News.

In a telephone conference call on July 31 about company plans, Musk, 43, said of the $5 billion plant: “Of that number, we see Tesla probably providing 40 to 50 percent of the total; Panasonic probably about 30 to 40 percent; the state maybe 10 percent; and other industrial partners maybe 10 to 15 percent, depending on how vertical we go with the factory.”

That 10 percent from “the state” could be $500 million or more.

Security guards stop a car at the gate to the site Tahoe Reno Industrial Center east of Sparks, where Tesla Motors has built a pad that could be for a battery factory. (AP Photo)

But the name Elon Musk is known to make Nevada politicians swoon. Perhaps you recall how the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) this past year doled out $1.2 million of your money to another Musk-headed business. That tax money from a $10 million Catalyst Fund went to attract SolarCity to open an office in Las Vegas and create 100 jobs. SolarCity erects solar panels on rooftops, something nearly a dozen or so taxpaying Nevada companies already do.

GOED board member Secretary of State Ross Miller fawned, “You had me at Elon Musk,” while voting to award the handout, despite the fact Article 8, Section 9 of the Nevada Constitution states: “The State shall not donate or loan money, or its credit, subscribe to or be, interested in the Stock of any company, association, or corporation, except corporations formed for educational or charitable purposes.”

That little Mexican hat dance on the state constitution prompted the legal arm of conservative think tank Nevada Policy Research Institute to file suit in state district court in Carson City.

The suit was filed by the Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation.

As a part of its ongoing litigation in that case involving a Musk handout, CJCL retained an expert witness, Dr. Randall G. Holcombe, DeVoe Moore Professor of Economics at Florida State University.

In written testimony filed in the court case, Holcombe said, “Government subsidies to businesses are a drain on the economy, and do not provide any net benefit to the state or its citizens. If the business would be profitable without the subsidy, there is no public purpose served by paying it. If the business would not be profitable without the subsidy, then the subsidy supports a business that takes more out of the economy than it puts back in.”

Or perhaps the state could offer a tax abatement as it did with the Apple facility in Reno. Never mind that the state constitution also calls for a “uniform and equal rate of assessment and taxation,” well, except for mining.

Read the entire column at Ely, Elko or Mesquite.