Editorial: Primary candidates we recommend

Early voting begins Saturday for Nevada’s party primaries, so we take this opportunity to offer our two cents worth.

Since none of the candidates for major statewide offices on the Democratic slate would get our backing come November, so we will address only the GOP primary.

For governor the choice is easy and obvious, Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt has proven himself a thorough conservative, fighting for states’ rights while attorney general with principled litigation. He has promised to work to repeal the burdensome Commerce Tax passed by lawmakers in 2015.

Laxalt says he will work to reduce state spending to keep the tax burden bearable.

For U.S. Senate, Republican incumbent Dean Heller has a proven track record. He helped write the tax reform bill and has worked to undo the ObamaCare debacle. He has for years pressed for legislation that would deny members of Congress pay checks until they pass a budget.

Heller has also pushed for a Balanced Budget Amendment that would ultimately force Washington to live within its means instead of running up billions in deficits and trillions in debt.

As a senior member of the Senate Veterans’ Affairs Committee he has worked to eliminate the VA disability claims backlog.

In the 2nd Congressional District — which includes northern Lyon county and all of Douglas, Carson City, Storey, Washoe, Humboldt, Pershing, Churchill, Lander, Eureka and Elko counties — Republican incumbent Mark Amodei deserves to be returned to Washington, where he has faithfully stood up for Nevadans by working to keep taxes low and regulations less burdensome.

Amodei has fought the efforts of past administrations to limit economic and recreational access to public lands.

In the 4th Congressional District — which includes part of northern Clark County, southern part of Lyon County and all of White Pine, Nye, Mineral, Esmeralda, and Lincoln counties — former Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy deserves another chance to represent the residents of Southern Nevada.

After serving one term in Congress, the Mesquite native was narrowly defeated by North Las Vegas Democrat Ruben Kihuen, who is not running for re-election after facing sexual harassment allegations.

Hardy will continue to fight for lower taxes and the creation of an economic environment that is conducive to the growth of job-creating businesses. He also promises to work toward balancing the federal budget for a change.

Though state Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson did vote with the Republican majority to raise taxes, his experience and otherwise conservative bona fides make him the choice for lieutenant governor, a job that includes presiding over the state Senate. He has been endorsed by Laxalt.

Roberson has worked to provide Nevadans with school choice, consolidated government agencies and regulations and worked to save money by reforming  collective bargaining and public employee pensions.

Republican Wes Duncan, formerly Laxalt’s first assistant attorney general, deserves a promotion to attorney general, the state’s lawyer. Duncan helped Laxalt in his many lawsuits defending the rights of Nevada against federal encroachment. He left the Assembly to join Laxalt’s office and left the office upon filing for election.

Duncan promised to make Nevada a safer place to raise a family, including working toward better handling of mental health issues. He once proposed repealing the state’s renewable portfolio standard that has driven up power bills. He has been endorsed by a number of police chiefs and district attorneys.

Barbara Cegavske deserves to be re-elected secretary of state, a job she has handled well — maintaining election integrity, streamlining business licensing and maintaining official records of the state. She has worked to improve the existing electronic voting system. Republican Cegavske has also worked to assure Nevada’s military members who are stationed overseas may vote.

Nevada’s next state treasurer should be Republican Bob Beers, a CPA  who has served in five sessions of the Nevada Legislature and is a former Las Vegas City Councilman. He was one of the “Fearless Fifteen” who stopped Gov. Kenny Guinn from placing a gross receipts tax.

The treasurer’s job is to hold the states purse strings. Beers knows how to do that.

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.

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Newspaper column: How will energy choice affect rural Nevadans?

One of the big questions lingering about a constitutional amendment on the November ballot that would end electric power monopolies and create an open and competitive market electricity is: Just how will it affect customers of rural Nevada’s power cooperatives?

Question 3 on the 2016 General Election ballot — the Energy Choice Initiative (ECI) — passed by an overwhelming 72.4 percent to 27.6 percent. Because the measure would amend the state Constitution, it is back on the ballot this fall for final voter approval, but now a coalition headed by NV Energy is campaigning to defeat it.

David Luttrell — general manager of the Lincoln County Power District No. 1, president of the Nevada Rural Electric Association and a member of the Governor’s Committee on Energy Choice — said his power district has not joined the coalition opposing the initiative, but he is concerned the initiative’s impact on rural Nevada, should it pass, is not being adequately addressed.

“As we’re moving toward energy choice we were hopeful that there would be some recognition that the rural organizations, by definition, offer choice, so there are choices,” Luttrell said in a recent interview. “They were created by the people they serve for the people they serve. So at a very fundamental level that is choice.”

None of the rules will be written until and unless it passes again in November and goes to lawmakers. Luttrell said what is really going on at this stage is a kind of record building and fact finding.

“If you look at some of the comments of proponents of energy choice, one of the things they very strongly believe is that existing utilities do not and are not allowed to be retail energy providers, and their argument, I understand, I get the basis of their argument, is that an existing utility, retail energy provider, they do have an advantage that others that want to come into the area will not be able to compete against,” he said.

The proponents say it would be unfair and hinder real competition intended to lower overall power bills if the existing utilities are allowed to continue to generate power at the facilities they own and maintain existing contracts with outside suppliers.

While that argument is being made, it is not necessarily mandatory. The initiative itself simply requires the Legislature to pass a law providing an open, competitive retail electric energy market by July 1, 2023. The law must include provisions to reduce customer costs, protect against service disconnections and unfair practices, and prohibit the granting of monopolies for power generation, but could leave in place regulation of transmission or distribution systems.

On their website the backers of the initiative say it would be up to lawmakers to decide if current utilities would have to divest their generation facilities.

“In some energy choice states, energy consumers do not have to choose a new supplier. They can choose to remain with the incumbent utility. Other states have chosen to prohibit the utility from generating and selling power to consumers,” the ECI website offers. “In both cases, the utility retains ownership of the transmission and distribution grid and responsibility for maintaining the system and billing customers. Energy choice states simply give consumers the right to choose a new supplier, aggregate a community to purchase electricity, or generate their own power.”

But Paul Caudill, CEO of NV Energy, has told the Governor’s Committee on Energy Choice that, if voters approve the amendment, his company is ready to divest all generation assets and all purchase power agreements. He said the company has no interest in being a provider of last resort and will most likely transform into a wires only company.

NV Energy has suggested divestiture could result in so-called stranded cost of as much as $7 billion that would have to be paid by existing customers.

The Public Utilities Commission of Nevada estimates those stranded costs could cause electricity rates to rise $24.91 a month in Southern Nevada and $6.52 Northern Nevada for residential customers.

But a report by the Garrett Group presented to the Governor’s Committee on Energy Choice recently on behalf of the initiative backers said such a sell off should be profitable, and, when coupled with the recent tax law changes, should cause power bills to drop by $11.16 a month.

If rural power cooperatives have to divest their contracts for cheap hydroelectric power, Luttell says bills will necessarily soar.

Next week: Part 2

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.

Free speech does not require one to provide someone else a soapbox

The First Amendment prohibits the federal government abridging one’s free speech, but it does not, as a federal judge has ruled, require anyone to provide the soapbox for that speech.

U.S. District Judge Naomi Reice Buchwald of New York ruled today President Donald Trump may not block Twitter users who criticize him because that violates their right to free speech.

“While we must recognize, and are sensitive to, the president’s personal First Amendment rights, he cannot exercise those rights in a way that infringes the corresponding First Amendment rights of those who have criticized him,” the judge said.

Any Twitter user can block people from accessing their online posts. The president should be treated no different. He certainly may not block people from commenting on their own social media apps, but he is hardly obligated to accommodate anyone who wants to glom onto his Twitter account.

Just because he is president does not change things.

As Ronald Reagan once said: “I am paying for this microphone, Mr. Green!”

Trump addresses the media at the White House today. (Getty pix)

 

It’s easy to be green, just wish it so and ignore the facts

If you thought the “green movement” was more about self-righteous politics than clear-headed science, here are two  tales that prove the point.

In Arizona a petition is being circulated in an effort get on the ballot an initiative called the Clean Energy for a Healthy Arizona Amendment. This would require 50 percent of the electricity generated in the state to come from renewable sources by 2030.

The petition states:

The Amendment defines renewable energy sources to include solar, wind, small-scale hydropower, and other sources that are replaced rapidly by a natural, ongoing process (excluding nuclear or fossil fuel). Distributed renewable energy sources, like rooftop solar, must comprise at least 10% of utilities’ annual retail sales of electricity by 2030.

If the measure passes it would necessitate the closure the Palo Verde Nuclear Generating Station west of Phoenix, which currently provides about 35 percent of the state’s electricity, even though it produces no carbon emissions.

If the state were to achieve the goal of 50 percent of its power coming from mostly solar and wind, both of which are intermittent there would be no room on the grid for Palo Verde’s power, because reactors can’t be quickly turned off and on — it takes weeks of preparation.

“We would have to shut Palo Verde down during the day every day,” one plant official was quoted as saying. “But that’s not how nuclear plants really work. Nuclear plants can’t just be shut down and then started up again.”

Since battery technology is not yet available, the most likely source of rapid start-up generation would be natural gas, which produces carbon emissions, especially when frequently idling.

Adding wind and solar to the power grid could increase the carbon dioxide output.

Retired electrical engineer Kent Hawkins wrote in February 2010 that “the introduction of wind power into an electricity system increases the fossil fuel consumption and CO2 emissions beyond levels that would have occurred using efficient gas plants alone as the providers of electricity equivalent to the firmed wind.”

This is because every kilowatt-hour of intermittent electricity introduced into the grid must be backed up by a reliable fossil-fuel generator. When the wind don’t blow and the sun don’t shine, the demand for electricity remains.

Starting and stopping gas-fired generators is inefficient, comparable to operating a car in stop and go traffic instead of steady and efficient on the open highway. Just like the car, the fuel consumption can double, along with the carbon emissions, negating any presumed carbon savings by using solar or wind.

Meanwhile, in New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo has announced plans to build $6 billion worth of offshore wind turbines while shutting down the nuclear-powered Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, N.Y.

Robert Bryce, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, explains in an op-ed in The Wall Street Journal that the wind turbines will produce only 60 percent as much power as the nuclear plant being closed.

How will this gap be covered? You guessed it, natural gas.

“The irony here is colossal. Mr. Cuomo, who banned hydraulic fracturing despite the economic boon it has created in neighboring Pennsylvania, and who has repeatedly blocked construction of pipelines, is making New York even more dependent on natural gas, which will increase its carbon emissions,” Bryce writes. “At the same time, he has mandated offshore wind projects that will force New Yorkers to pay more for their electricity, even though the state already has some of the nation’s highest electricity prices.”

Being green is a state of mind … or should we say mindlessness?

Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan, N.Y., in 2017. (AP pix via WSJ)

Editorial: Still time to negotiate on Yucca Mountain

Tunnel inside Yucca Mountain (Energy Department pix)

The U.S. House of Representatives voted overwhelmingly, 340-72, this past week to restart the licensing process to make Yucca Mountain in Nye County the nation’s permanent repository of nuclear waste. H.R. 3053, the Nuclear Waste Policy Amendments Act, also ups the ante, increasing the storage cap from 70 metric tons of highly radioactive material to 110,000 metric tons — a 57 percent increase.

All four of Nevada’s representatives voted nay, even Northern Nevada Congressman Mark Amodei, a Republican who in the past has held out for negotiations that might provide some benefits for Nevada.

Amodei issued a press release explaining that he voted against the bill after the House Rules Committee rejected an amendment he had proposed.

“Since I was elected to Congress, I have always said I do not believe Yucca Mountain should be a simple dumping site for our nation’s nuclear waste,” Amodei said. “Additionally, I have always been cognizant that policy makers should not consider Yucca Mountain to be a ‘dead’ issue, meaning Nevada’s congressional delegation should use this opportunity to dictate the terms of the repository under the best conditions for our state. That’s exactly what I chose to do this week by offering an amendment to H.R. 3053 that would have given Nevada a seat at the table to expand upon the mission of the repository.”

His amendment would have directed that the state’s higher eduction system would head up nuclear research and development, designated proper routes for transportation, cleaned up contaminated facilities in Nevada and required the Department of Energy to locate reprocessing facilities at Yucca Mountain instead of just burying the waste. He said reprocessing could create thousands of jobs and recycle spent fuel for further energy production.

Nevada’s Democratic representatives were all in over-my-dead-body mode.

“I have fought the misguided and dangerous Yucca Mountain nuclear waste dump project for my entire career and I’m not giving up,” said Rep. Dina Titus. “This legislation is fundamentally flawed and going nowhere in the Senate.”

Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is running for Republican Sen. Dean Heller’s seat in the upper chamber, called permanent storage of nuclear waste at Yucca Mountain a “reckless and ill-conceived plan that could put communities across the country in danger, jeopardize our military testing and training, waste billions more in taxpayer dollars, and harm Nevada’s tourism industry.”Though 119 Democrats voted for the bill and only 67 against, Rosen blamed the Republican-controlled Congress.

Lame duck Rep. Ruben Kihuen lamented, “I am disappointed that Congress has once again chosen to ignore the will of Nevadans and residents of Nevada’s Fourth Congressional District. 30 years have passed since Nevada was unfairly targeted by the ‘Screw Nevada’ bill and this new bill is nothing more than lipstick on a pig.”

Perhaps, Nevadans are not as knee-jerk opposed as some would have us believe.

Earlier this year, in an op-ed penned for the Reno newspaper, Dan Schinhofen, vice chairman of the Nye County Commission, noted that a poll taken by that newspaper showed 29.3 percent of respondents believed the project, if it included reprocessing, would be good for the economy, while 17.7 percent said Yucca Mountain would be OK if the state cuts a good deal, and 6.4 percent said Nevada should do it for national security — 53.4 percent open to discussion, as opposed to 43.4 percent who said the state should just fight the project.

Schinhofen wrote, “It is time to stop the unfounded fearmongering just to delay this multigenerational, multibillion-dollar project. Many, if not most, Nevadans want to have an honest discussion about Yucca Mountain, and the state’s politicians and opinion writers should start to listen.”

In a recent online article, retired Air Force Col. Bob Frank, chairman and co-founder of Nevadans CAN (Citizen Action Network), noted that recent breakthroughs in technology make it possible to safely and efficiently recycle spent nuclear fuel.

“The advanced reactors no longer require huge volumes of circulating external water to cool them,” Frank writes. “They can be independently installed anywhere in remote or populated areas where power is needed. They can produce uninterruptible power for 24/7/365 at varying levels for up to 30 years without needing more recycled fuel.”

He argues that Nevada has been an international pioneer in nuclear technology and could continue to lead the nation. Explore the possibilities instead of throwing a futile tantrum.

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.

 

Newspaper column(s): Court should have left sanctuary cities petition up to voters … before and after

Editor’s note: This week there are actually two columns. One was written before the Nevada Supreme Court ruled Wednesday on an appeal about the Prevent Sanctuary Cities initiative petition and one after. The before appears in about half the papers that print it and the after in the other half. Oh well. Who expected the justices move so fast? This how it is done on the fly.

 

Before: 

Sometimes it seems the argument boils down to: Those darned voters just aren’t smart enough to figure it out.

That notion was never stated but seemed to linger in the background this past week at the Nevada Supreme Court during arguments about whether an initiative petition should be allowed to appear on the ballot, if enough signatures can be gathered.

The Prevent Sanctuary Cities initiative proposes to amend the state Constitution to prohibit state and local governments passing laws limiting or discouraging enforcement of federal immigration laws, which has happened in several California cities.

After the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the petition, a Carson City district court judge ruled in January the petition was “excessively broad and general” and likely to confuse voters, thus barring it from appearing on the ballot. Proponents appealed to the state’s high court. 

Though opponents challenged the petition, claiming it violated the law by not addressing only a single subject, as the law requires, and failed to adequately provide a description of potential consequences, Paul Georgeson, the attorney representing the petitioners, argued to the court the only foreseeable effect of passage would be to prohibit state and local government from passing laws deterring enforcement of federal immigration laws. 

“All of the other potential consequences that are identified by the opponents, and which frankly the district court didn’t get into at all in its analysis, are hypothetical and speculative,” he claimed.

Opponents have argued such an amendment might cost local communities money to enforce the law, might harm public safety because immigrants might be reluctant to report crime and they might refuse to enroll in social services.

But attorneys for petitioners note that if the matter is qualified for the ballot there will be an opportunity for both sides to make pro and con statements that will accompany the ballot language. 

Georgeson said in court, “The district court did not make a determination or identify any potential effects that are not included in this petition description that should be included,” adding, “How does someone successfully draft a petition to meet the requirements if they have to anticipate which speculative, hypothetical effect the opponents are going to argue?”

Georgeson said the district judge created a new criteria by saying the topic was too broad, saying the petition is still on a single subject, even if the subject is broad.

Of the description of effect, Georgeson said, “It doesn’t have to be the best description, it just has to be an accurate description. The description of effect in this case is succinct, direct, accurate, non-deceptive …” 

Marc Elias, an attorney for opponents, argued that the single subject rule and the requirement for a description of effect are intended to give the voters a practical sense of what they are signing or voting on. “Both of these two safeguards are in place for the same reason. They are to prevent voter confusion and they are to promote informed decision making,” he said. 

Elias argued federal immigration law covers many subjects and is subject to change, and the petition is, therefore, misleading. He argued that the very name of the petition connotes lawlessness to some but to others it means providing succor. 

He also claimed immigrations laws affect everything from treaties to Social Security and welfare benefits. “The voter doesn’t even know what the laws are that are being rolled. All it knows are that there is this undefined notion of federal immigration law, which, as I point out, is ever changing.” 

Justice Chris Pickering noted that Nevada voters amended the state Constitution to tie the state minimum wage to the federal minimum wage law, which is subject to change.

Justice James Hardesty followed up by saying, “If the federal government enacts an immigration law tomorrow or if there is one on the books today this initiative prohibits state interference with that immigration law. How is that a violation of the rules we’ve enacted? Let’s get focused here — the rules we’ve enacted for determining the single subject rule. My understanding from the briefs is that single subject that’s been articulated, again not speaking to the policy, whether it is good, bad or indifferent policy is a separate question. But the single subject that’s stated here seems pretty clear. Local government, state government isn’t going to adopt any law that interferes with federal immigration laws. Sounds like a single subject to me.”

The court should let the voters decide if they are confused and whether the proposed policy is good or not.

 

After:

Sometimes it seems the argument boils down to: Those darned voters just aren’t smart enough to figure it out.

That notion was never stated but seemed to linger in the background this past week at the Nevada Supreme Court during arguments about whether an initiative petition should be allowed to appear on the ballot, if enough signatures can be gathered.

The Prevent Sanctuary Cities initiative proposes to amend the state Constitution to prohibit state and local governments passing laws limiting or discouraging enforcement of federal immigration laws, which has happened in several California cities.

After the American Civil Liberties Union challenged the petition, a Carson City district court judge ruled in January the petition was “excessively broad and general” and likely to confuse voters, thus barring it from appearing on the ballot. Proponents appealed to the state’s high court. 

Opponents challenged the petition, claiming it violated the law by not addressing only a single subject, as the law requires, and failed to adequately provide a description of potential consequences, Paul Georgeson, the attorney representing the petitioners, argued to the court the only foreseeable effect of passage would be to prohibit state and local government from passing laws deterring enforcement of federal immigration laws. 

“All of the other potential consequences that are identified by the opponents, and which frankly the district court didn’t get into at all in its analysis, are hypothetical and speculative,” he claimed.

On Wednesday, however, the court ruled 6-1 that the petition was a single subject, but both the title of the petition and its description of effect are “confusing and misleading” to petition signers and remanded the matter to the lower court to allow a redrafting of the petition to remedy its defects.

The court ruled the “title ‘Prevent Sanctuary Cities’ is a catch-all that is subject to shifting and imprecise meanings, not a neutral, descriptive phrase.” 

This means signatures already gathered are not valid and the backers would have to redraft the petition to satisfy the court and then gather 112,500 signatures by June 19 to qualify for the November ballot — a proposition that seems unlikely. 

Republican state Sen. Michael Roberson, honorary chairman of the Prevent Sanctuary Cities PAC and a candidate for lieutenant governor, wrote in an email, “Even if we are not afforded enough time to obtain the necessary signatures by June 19, this is a big victory in the longer term. Obtaining certainty on the language enables us to consider a statutory initiative wherein we would have until mid-November to gather signatures.”

Roberson said the Legislature would have 40 days to adopt the language or it would go on the 2020 ballot as a statutory measure. 

But he said the group is considering all options. “It also sets us up to hit the ground running in September 2019 for another attempt at a constitutional measure,” Roberson said. “Justice can be delayed but it will not be denied.”

Opponents have argued such an amendment might cost local communities money to enforce the law, might harm public safety because immigrants might be reluctant to report crime and they might refuse to enroll in social services.

The Supreme Court’s subjective ruling about the sagacity of petition signers is overly nitpicking. Even as the justices note, once the matter is qualified for the ballot “the description of effect plays no further role in the remaining initiative process.” 

This because the law says the Secretary of State must prepare “arguments and rebuttals for or against constitutional amendments,” not the petitioner. Problem solved. It is up to the voters.

During oral arguments, Georgeson said, “It doesn’t have to be the best description, it just has to be an accurate description. The description of effect in this case is succinct, direct, accurate, non-deceptive …” 

Marc Elias, an attorney for opponents, argued that the single subject rule and the requirement for a description of effect are intended to give the voters a practical sense of what they are signing or voting on. “Both of these two safeguards are in place for the same reason. They are to prevent voter confusion and they are to promote informed decision making,” he said. 

The voters would have had ample opportunity to review the arguments for and against.

The court should have let the voters decide if they are confused and whether the proposed policy is good or not and not presumed potential confusion at the petition signature gathering level.

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.

 

Familiar writer tries his hand at poetry and shows his hand


It is a thin tome,

Just 44 pages

Of 17 themed poems

Devoted to a road trip

To find love and commitment.

 

Devoured it in one sitting

With a plate of leftovers

And a goblet of Rioja.

A satisfying repast.

 

It is “Card Trick

By longtime Nevada writer,

Philosopher, commentator

And humorist John L. Smith.

 

John puts his heart on his sleeve,

Sticks it out the driver-side window

Of his high-milage Subaru

And sallies forth,

So to speak.

 

This is no platonic tonic.

While there are pecks on the cheeks

There are also ruffled sheets —

From Tonopah to Kingman,

From Santa Fe to Baltimore,

From Chloride to Goldfield.

 

Names, places and events

All sound quite authentic.

His canvass is splattered

With verbal impressionism

With dollops of winks and nods,

Elbows to the ribs

And a groaner or a dozen.

 

Like: “it’s not the roses that I love.

“If you’re searching for symbols,

“remember that bunch come April

“after the final snow melt,

“and know that spring hopes eternal.”

 

Like the actor who said

His face was like five miles

Of bad Irish country roads,

John says his is straight

From Rand McNally.

He exaggerates … a bit.

 

He hears songbirds sing.

He smells the sent of lilacs.

He feels “carnivorous tenderness.”

He drinks from the hose

And tastes the salad days.

 

He finds not just affection

But a blonde bond

With a lady who, too,

Is of the writerly persuasion.

Longtime Nevadans can and will

Unlock the secret from his hints.

 

It is no card trick, John.

Just shuffle the deck

And shuffle again

Until at last

You draw a pat hand.

 

Plug in “Card Trick” on Amazon,

Pony up $2.99 for Kindle

Or $6.99 for paperback

Plus shipping, of course.

 

Perhaps it will inspire you

To keep dealing the cards

Until you are dealt a pat hand, too.

Or to better appreciate the hand

You’ve already been dealt.