Trump pen scratches out Obama’s expensive and futile Clean Power Plan

What Obama could do with his pen, Trump can undo with his — and has.

On Tuesday Trump signed an order telling the EPA to rewrite Obama’s Clean Power Plan that would have closed down most coal-fired power plants so they could be replaced with windmills and solar panels. Obama had committed to cutting so-called greenhouse gas emissions by 26 percent by 2025, while shrugging off the fact his plan would suck $1 trillion out of the economy and kill 125,000 jobs, as The Wall Street Journal reports today in an editorial.

The WSJ further points out the utter futility of Obama’s senseless and futile gesture, because a year of U.S. emission cuts in 2025 would be canceled out by three weeks of Chinese emissions. Besides, though emissions continue to increase, temperatures globally have remained much the same.

Also in today’s WSJ, Paul Tice, a business prof and energy research analyst, recommends that Trump’s EPA needs to conduct a study that would show whether or not the agency’s 2009 “endangerment finding” that tagged carbon dioxide as a pollutant is indeed valid. He suggested the decision was rushed and based on flawed data. Until that finding is confirmed or more likely refuted, he notes some future liberal president can scratch through Trump’s order.

Tice notes the “breakdown in correlation between the world’s average surface temperatures and atmospheric carbon dioxide levels” has called into “question both the predictive power and input data quality of most global climate models, and further highlights the scientific uncertainty surrounding the basic premise of anthropogenic climate change.”

Throwing money at faulty theories is hardly a wise endeavor.

The WSJ editorial concludes: “As for climate change, President Trump’s order will have the same practical effect on rising temperatures as the Clean Power Plan: none.”

 

 

Raiders’ deal gives new meaning to the term Black Hole

They apparently call the section of the stadium taken over by the most ardent, raucous, symbol bedecked and loudest fans of the Oakland Raiders the Black Hole.

On Monday the NFL owners voted to allow the Raiders to move to Las Vegas, opening just a bit wider the chasm that will become a black hole into which Nevada taxpayers money will be endless, relentlessly sucked.

That $750 million in Clark County room tax money is just the first of the piles of tax money that will be swallowed by the supposedly $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat domed (doomed?) stadium that someday might house the Raiders and possibly UNLV football.

Artist depiction of a black hole (NASA)

Remember, the Nevada Department of Transportation estimates it will take $900 million to improve the roads to access the most likely stadium site. Don’t think for a minute that the billionaire Raiders owners are going to pay for that.

In any other development the developers pay for the roads. You see all those sawtooth roads around the valley — ones that switch back and forth from two lanes to four lanes? That is because first builders in the rural areas were only required to pay for two-lane roads, while later builders were asked to pay for wider roads. Who do you think paid for the parkway that provides access to Howard Hughes’ Summerlin development?

Then there will be demands for upgrades, just like at every other NFL stadium in the history of the world, fleecing the taxpayers for billions.

As for economic improvement, most workers will be minimum wage and part-time, adding more to the welfare rolls than lifting people off.

When billionaire hotel, casino and newspaper owner Sheldon Adelson floated the idea of building a $1 billion stadium for the Raiders, I thought it would be like any other hotel amenity — just something to attract a few more suckers to the gambling tables and into the beds. But somehow Adelson wriggled out of his supposed $650 million commitment, though the stadium project lives, meaning he gets the amenity without footing the bill.

And who is to say it will ever cost $1.9 billion to which the price tag is said to have grown? Perhaps it can be built for less and stick the taxpayer with the bulk of the cost.

A stadium is a liability, not an asset. It is an insatiable maw that swallows tax money in perpetuity.

Black hole indeed.

The Black Hole

Editorial: Time to stop police from extorting cash and property

The appalling Constitution-bending practice by which law enforcement agencies have for years seized private property under the presumption it is the product of criminal activity without ever having to go the bothersome effort of actually, you know, obtaining a criminal conviction continues apace.

The latest ignoble example of what is called civil asset forfeiture comes to us from Texas in the case of Leonard v. Texas.

The U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case because the attorneys for Lisa Olivia Leonard, whose $200,000 in cash was confiscated when her son was detained during a traffic stop, were arguing the seizure violated the Due Process Clause of the Constitution, but they had failed to make that argument before the lower courts. So, it was not yet ripe for the high court.

The Fifth Amendment provides: “No person shall be … deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law …”

Humboldt County deputy with K-9 and $50,000 in seized cash.

In April of 2013, a police officer stopped James Leonard for a traffic infraction, and, during a search a safe was found in the trunk. Leonard told police the safe belonged to his mother. After a search warrant was obtained, police found the safe contained $201,100 and a bill of sale for a home in Pennsylvania.

Texas filed for civil forfeiture of the money, claiming it was the profits from illegal drug sales, though Lisa Leonard said the money was from the sale of a house. A trial court and an appellate court did not believe that, even though no one was convicted of a crime.

Though he agreed the court should not yet hear the case, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote a six-page commentary on the evils of civil asset forfeiture.

Justice Thomas said of civil asset forfeitures, “This system — where police can seize property with limited judicial oversight and retain it for their own use — has led to egregious and well-chronicled abuses. According to one nationally publicized report, for example, police in the town of Tenaha, Texas, regularly seized the property of out-of-town drivers passing through and collaborated with the district attorney to coerce them into signing waivers of their property rights. …In one case, local officials threatened to file unsubstantiated felony charges against a Latino driver and his girlfriend and to place their children in foster care unless they signed a waiver.”

Nevada has its own record of suspect civil asset forfeiture cases. Over a two-year period Humboldt County deputies seized $180,000 in cash from motorists.

In one case a dashboard camera caught a deputy seizing $50,000 from a man who claimed he won it at a casino. “You’ll burn it up in attorney fees before we give it back to you,” the deputy said. The man was threatened with having his car impounded, too, if he did not cooperate and waive his rights.

Some states have passed laws to curb the extortionate practice by police by requiring that an actual criminal conviction before assets may be taken.

During the 2015 legislative session Republican state Sens. Don Gustavson of Sparks and James Settelmeyer of Minden sponsored a bill that would have established just such a requirement, but by the time the bill came out of the legislative sausage grinder it merely required police agencies to report their confiscations to the state and specifically declared convictions would not be necessary.

No one has deigned to try to challenge civil asset forfeitures this year in Carson City, but someone should.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

UPDATE: On Monday state Sen. Don Gustavson filed Senate Bill 358 that would require proof of a criminal conviction, a plea agreement or an agreement by the parties before property could be taken under a civil asset forfeiture.

Newspaper Column: Prevailing wage law change will cost taxpayers

A fool and his money are soon parted.

In Nevada those fools are the taxpayers who keep electing Democrat majorities to send to Carson City to pick their pockets.

Assembly Bill 154, sponsored by a raft of Democrats, would roll back the minor headway made just two years ago to cut the cost of public works. It would raise the cost of construction of university and public school buildings by reimposing the so-called prevailing wage on more projects.

Prevailing wage laws require that workers on public construction jobs to be paid no less than the “prevailing” wage in the area where the work is being done. The wage rate is set by the state Labor Commissioner based on a survey of contractors. The survey is so time consuming that in reality only union shops bother to comply, meaning the prevailing wage is the highest union wage.

AB154 would require that contractors doing any university or public school work exceeding $100,000 pay prevailing wage, down from the current $250,00. It also requires the full prevailing wage instead of the current 90 percent.

Las Vegas Democratic Assemblyman Chris Brooks, chief sponsor of the bill, testified before the Assembly Government Affairs Committee recently and actually claimed the bill would save money.

“Research shows that prevailing wage laws lead to more workforce training, a more educated and experienced workforce, safer construction and government savings because workers depend less on social programs,” Brooks said. “Prevailing wage laws are better for the economy because they support the middle-class incomes that boost consumer spending. Eliminating the prevailing wage does not save money and can actually cost more money.”

Warren Hardy of the Associated Builders and Contractors contested this allegation of savings by pointing out that a contract for construction of a middle school in Clark County received a low bid of $2.7 million during a brief period a couple of years ago when the prevailing wage was dropped for schools, but when the prevailing wage was reinstated the low bid jumped to $3.6 million.

In 2000, A.D. Hopkins wrote a series of articles for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, outlining the profligacy of the prevailing wage law. One article stated: “Nevada’s prevailing wage law costs taxpayers about $2.3 million extra on every new public high school being built in Clark County, according to a database analysis by the Review-Journal.”

In 2012, Geoffrey Lawrence penned a column for the Nevada Policy Research Institute website on Nevada’s expensive prevailing wage law. He noted how a plumber in Mesquite might expect to be paid less than $20 an hour for most jobs, but, if it is a public works project by a state or local government entity, that same plumber would be paid, by law, more than $70 an hour.

Lawrence’s piece pointed out that an NPRI analysis estimated that prevailing wage requirements cost Nevada taxpayers nearly $1 billion extra over 2009 and 2010. The state’s biennial general fund budget is less than $7 billion. “That’s why prevailing wage reform needs to be at the top of the agenda for the Nevada Legislature in 2013,” Lawrence wrote.

NPRI in its “Solutions 2015” handbook estimated the law required the state, cities, counties, school districts and other government entities to pay 45 percent higher wages than necessary — a cost to taxpayers of $1 billion a year.

For a little historical perspective, the prevailing wage law is a vestige of the Jim Crow era and is modeled on the Davis-Bacon Act of 1931 that was expressly intended to keep cheaper Southern black laborers from getting jobs on public works projects.

The discriminatory nature of prevailing wages persists to this day.

Hardy of the Associated Builders and Contractors said during testimony on the bill that his organization does not have a problem with federal prevailing wage law but does object to the way the wage is calculated in Nevada, which results in unions setting the prevailing wage.

“The overwhelming majority of small businesses, the overwhelming majority of minority-owned businesses, the overwhelming majority of women-owned businesses are non-union,” Hardy said. “These folks are not union contractors. So what you’re saying is, we need to build laws, which is what the prevailing law does in this state quite frankly, to incent the hiring of union contractors. That disenfranchises small businesses, women- and minority-owned businesses because they are overwhelmingly nonunion contractors.”

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Bill would start compulsory education at the age of 5

It is one thing to throw other people’s money at a feel-good, but senseless and futile gesture. It is entirely another to spend money on something that may actually do more harm than good.

North Las Vegas Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz has introduced a bill that would lower the mandatory school age from 7 to 5 and require schools to create prekindergarten education programs for children as young as 4. It is Assembly Bill 186. The fiscal note says this will cost $352 million in the next biennium and $420 million over the next two years.

Diaz claims this will benefit children.

But the federal Head Start program has been around since 1965 and costs $8 billion a year and continues, despite the fact a massive federal study found it has no lasting educational impact.

“In summary, there were initial positive impacts from having access to Head Start, but by the end of 3rd grade there were very few impacts found for either cohort in any of the four domains of cognitive, social-emotional, health and parenting practices. The few impacts that were found did not show a clear pattern of favorable or unfavorable impacts for children,” reported the Office of Planning, Research and Evaluation in 2012.

Worse, a study by Stanford and Berkeley universities in 2005 found that early education programs can be harmful. “The biggest eye-opener is that the suppression of social and emotional development, stemming from long hours in preschool, is felt most strongly by children from better-off families,” said UC Berkeley sociologist and co-author Bruce Fuller in a press release.

The study found that the earlier a child enters a preschool center, the slower his or her pace of social development. It also noted that prekindergarten education actually “hinders social development and created poor social behavior, such as bullying and aggression, and a lack of motivation to take part in classroom activities.”

Some things look like a good idea but don’t turn out to be so.

We may also recall that the Nevada since 1990 has spent close to $2.5 billion on class-size reduction in the early grades with nothing to show for it. A 2001 report by the Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau found that achievement data did not produce results. Students in larger classes outperformed those in the smaller classes.

Over the past four decades, according to a Cato Institute analysis, Nevada has increased K-12 public school funding by 80 percent per pupil, adjusted for inflation. During those four decades student test scores have actually fallen slightly.

A number of people testifying against AB186 Wednesday afternoon suggested the state is taking away too many parental rights.

 

 

 

Governor vetoes measure to automatically register drivers to vote

May there be many more.

Gov. Brian Sandoval issued his first veto of the legislative session Tuesday, rejecting Initiative Petition 1 that would have required the Department of Motor Vehicles to send information about anyone obtaining a driver’s license to voting registrars to facilitate voter registration.

Since the measure cleared the Legislature on party line votes, there is no way Democrats can muster enough votes to override the veto. So now it goes to the voters in November 2018 election.
IP1 would have changed the current DMV voter registration from an opt-in to an opt-out. Sandoval said this substantive change would create the unnecessary risk that people who are not qualified to vote could unintentionally (or perhaps intentionally?) apply to vote, thus subjecting themselves to a fine of up to $20,000.
“IP1 fails to account for substantial differences between differences between the qualifications to vote the qualifications to obtain driving privileges or identification cards,” the governor writes. “For instance, one must to 18 years old to to be eligible to vote, but one can be 16 years old to drive (and even younger to drive with an instructional permit). Non-citizens, some ex-felons and others may obtain driving privileges and identification cards, even though they cannot apply to register to vote.”
The current procedures applicants must swear they are eligible to vote, under penalty of perjury, and attest that they are citizens.

Assembly bill would dilute the voting power of Nevadans

There is a bill pending in the Legislature that would — and we are not making this up — dilute the voting power of every Nevadan in presidential elections.

A passel of Democrats have hatched Assembly Bill 274 that would rope Nevada into the conspiracy to subvert the Constitution and deny the wisdom of the Founders by joining an “Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote.” The change would take place when enough states join to constitute a majority of electoral votes.

The bill is to go before the Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections at 1:30 p.m. today.

Currently the president and vice president team that wins the majority of votes in Nevada gets the state’s six electoral votes, one for each representative and senator in Congress. AB274 would have those six votes go to whoever wins the national popular vote. This essentially cuts Nevada’s votes from six to four, since the votes nationwide would be proportional to population and exclude the power of our two senators.

Why would any sane person want to do that and let California and New York elect every president?

Yes, Hillary Clinton won more popular votes than Donald Trump, but he won more state electors, which is what the Founders envisioned, because ours is a federalist system, not a democracy. The Electoral College provides more power to the states. (Trump won the Electoral College vote by 304 to 227. Clinton won the popular vote by 2.9 million. She won California by 4 million votes. So Trump won the combined popular vote in the 49 other states. What about that California secession movement?)

Former Nevada Sen. Harry Reid has joined the fray, calling the Electoral College undemocratic.

“I believe that focusing on the Electoral College is important no matter how you do it, because what’s happened this decade, these last several elections, where we have clearly two elections, the Gore election and this election. In this election Hillary Clinton will wind up getting almost 3 million votes more than Trump. It’s time the system goes away. It is very undemocratic,” Reid said in an interview. “And we have a number of states that have taken care of this. It doesn’t have to be done with a constitutional amendment. And I think people should join together and get rid of this. It is unfair that presidential elections are focused on seven states. It’s wrong.”

Pay no attention to the fact Reid served in the Senate for 30 years, where each state gets two votes no matter the size of its population. Most undemocratic.