Editorial: Senate should quickly confirm Kavanaugh

Trump nominates Kavanaugh to Supreme Court. (Reuters pix)

When it comes to Nevada politics, principles be damned, it is all about partisanship, no matter the topic.

President Trump’s nomination of federal Judge Brett Kavanaugh to replace retiring Justice Anthony Kennedy on the Supreme Court is still another case in point.

The Senate must now exercise its constitutional advise and consent role to confirm the nomination — by simple majority now, thanks to Nevada’s now retired Sen. Harry Reid, who nuked the filibuster for judicial appointments.

Nevada’s senior Republican Sen. Dean Heller promptly put out a statement saying, “Judge Kavanaugh has a record of adherence to the Constitution and has demonstrated a commitment to interpreting the law — not making it. I expect the U.S. Senate to conduct a fair, thorough confirmation process, and I look forward to meeting with the nominee.”

Nevada’s junior Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto — unlike other Nevada Democratic politicians — did not leap to judgment but spelled out her concerns, “President Trump’s nominee for the Supreme Court will hold immense power over the most critical issues facing our nation, including a woman’s right to choose, protection for those with preexisting conditions, LGBTQ rights, money in politics, and workers’ rights. We need a Justice who respects the rights and freedoms enshrined in our Constitution, not someone who is beholden to special interest groups. I plan to meet with Judge Kavanaugh in the coming months and will review his qualifications thoroughly.”

Back when Kennedy announced his retirement, Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is running for Heller’s seat, promptly spelled out her agenda, “The future of the Supreme Court is in play, and the outcome will have a major impact for generations on issues that matter to Nevadans, like health care and women’s reproductive rights. Another Supreme Court justice backed by President Trump could jeopardize Roe v. Wade, undermine coverage protections for people with pre-existing conditions, threaten workers’ rights, perpetuate the damage of big money in our political system, and so much more.”

Apparently Democrats see nothing contradictory about their stance that the Roe v. Wade court opinion, which federalized abortion rights, is inviolate and written in stone, while the court’s Citizens United opinion, which opened up those big money pockets to express political views, is something that should be whisked away by any means available.

In naming Kavanaugh as his nominee Trump stated, “In keeping with President Reagan’s legacy, I do not ask about a nominee’s personal opinions. What matters is not a judge’s political views, but whether they can set aside those views to do what the law and the Constitution require. I am pleased to say that I have found, without doubt, such a person.”

As far as Kavanaugh himself, he stated on the evening of his nomination, “My judicial philosophy is straightforward. A judge must be independent and must interpret the law, not make the law. A judge must interpret statutes as written. And a judge must interpret the Constitution as written, informed by history and tradition and precedent.”

The Constitution was not written on an Etch A Sketch. The Founders pored over its wording, attempting to balance powers so that individual freedoms and rights would remain paramount for centuries to come and not subject to popular whims.

As Cortez Masto so rightfully stated, “We need a Justice who respects the rights and freedoms enshrined in our Constitution, not someone who is beholden to special interest groups.” Like so many politicians we can name.

The Senate and our senators should quickly confirm the nomination of Judge Kavanaugh by applying principles instead of partisanship.

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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Bill to cap prescription costs would be counterproductive

It is redistribution.

Today Nevada Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is trying to unseat Republican Sen. Dean Heller, announced that she has introduced a bill called Capping Prescription Costs Act of 2018 that would cap out of pocket prescription drug expenses to $500 a month for families and $250 a month for individuals. The bill would affect all group health plans, including employer-sponsored plans, and individual market plans, including ObamaCare. Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

(Shutterstock)

“I hear from constituents every week who are concerned about the rising cost of prescription drugs, leaving them wondering how they will afford their medications,” a Rosen press release quotes her as saying. “This legislation will help rein in prices for many Nevadans by capping out-of-pocket prescription drug copay costs for anyone on the exchange. I’m proud to introduce this bill in the House that will help us hold big pharmaceutical companies accountable and bring down the cost of prescription drugs for Nevada’s hardworking families.”

Except, if it works like every other Democratic proposal on this topic, it will do nothing to hold drug or insurance companies accountable, but saddle taxpayers with the cost.

In fact, Dan Gorenstein, writing at marketplace.org, says such plans take the pressure off pharmaceutical firms to cut prices.

A cap would limit what the seriously ill pay, but taxpayers would pick up the difference, Gorenstein writes, quoting Vanderbilt professor Stacie Dusetzina as saying capping out-of-pocket costs for patients can backfire, because those stories of patients who are forced to pay exorbitant drug prices to stay alive are politically powerful.

“When you think about those stories that puts the drug pricing issue in the face of policymakers, if you cap out-of-pocket spending many of those stories disappear,” Dusetzina is quoted as saying, adding that the better route is make insurers pay more so they will negotiate more toughly with drug companies.

Bills like Rosen’s just shift the cost to the taxpayers and actually provide a disincentive to bringing down costs of prescriptions.

 

 

Newspaper column: Free speech issues ‘on the ballot’ in Nevada

The right to free speech includes the right to not be compelled to speak.

That includes not being required to pay dues to a union whose political views might be different from yours, not being required to advertise abortion availability at your faith-based pregnancy counseling service, not being required to use your cake baking talent to create a special cake or your flower arranging expertise for a gay wedding.

All of these have come down from a closely divided U.S. Supreme Court in the closing days of this year’s court calendar.

This past week, the court ruled that public employees could not to be forced to pay dues to unions with which they might not agree.

“The First Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, forbids abridgment of the freedom of speech,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito in the 5-4 opinion. “We have held time and again that freedom of speech ‘includes both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking at all.’”

Public employee unions that advocate higher wages that require higher taxes are intrinsically political.

Just the day before the court ruled, again 5-4, that a California law that required pro-life, religious-oriented unlicensed pregnancy centers to place extensive disclaimers in their ads and on billboards telling people about abortion services was an unconstitutional impingement on free speech.

“Here, for example, licensed clinics must provide a government-drafted script about the availability of state-sponsored services, as well as contact information for how to obtain them” wrote Justice Clarence Thomas in the majority opinion. “One of those services is abortion — the very practice that petitioners are devoted to opposing. By requiring petitioners to inform women how they can obtain state-subsidized abortions — at the same time petitioners try to dissuade women from choosing that option — the licensed notice plainly ‘alters the content’ of petitioners’ speech.”

A little more than a week earlier in a 7-2 ruling the court held Colorado could not force cake shop owner to make a special cake for a gay wedding.

Shortly thereafter. the court remanded a Washington case involving a florist who declined to arrange flowers for a gay wedding, citing the Colorado ruling.

The state of Nevada, under the direction of Attorney General Adam Laxalt, had joined in both the public employee union case and the California abortion law case on the winning side.

Laxalt’s office put out a press release about the California law ruling stating: “The ruling, which rests exclusively on free speech grounds, does not affect abortion providers; it neither requires them to change their practices nor infringes on their ability to provide abortions. The Supreme Court correctly held that compelling private organizations to promote the government’s preferred message under those circumstances is inconsistent with the First Amendment. This is an important holding ensuring that the government cannot simply force private speakers with whom it disagrees to also promote the government’s preferred message, especially when there are other ways for the government to promote its own message without interfering with private speech.”

Republican Laxalt’s Democratic opponent for governor in November, Steve Sisolak, put out a statement reported by The Nevada Independent saying, “I believe that women deserve access to all of their options when it comes to their reproductive health care. I still have concerns over the lack of information given by these crisis pregnancy centers and the harm it can cause.”

Sisolak continued, “As governor, I will fight to protect a woman’s constitutional reproductive rights and her consistent access to comprehensive care. Adam Laxalt has shown repeatedly that he will pursue an anti-choice agenda that will roll back the clock on women’s rights and bring Nevada down a dangerous path.”

This has nothing to do with abortion rights and only to do with speech rights.

This point was lost on Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen who is running for Republican Dean Heller’s Senate seat. She sent out an email saying, “Deceiving women about their health care options is an attack on women’s fundamental reproductive freedom, and I will continue to stand against this Administration’s attacks on women’s rights and access to health care. Nevadans support a woman’s right to make these personal decisions.”

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.

Supreme Court hears free speech case

Bias in the media? We’re shocked! Shocked we tell you!

Did a political columnist for the morning newspaper just accuse his own publication of political bias?

Columnist Victor Joecks noted that the media jumped all over an obscure Nye County commissioner disendorsing Republican gubernatorial candidate Adam Laxalt for failing to endorse the Republican primary winner in Assembly District 36, brothel owner Dennis Hof who has been accused of sexual harassment, but totally ignored a press release two weeks ago from Republican Sen. Dean Heller accusing Democratic primary senatorial nominee Jacky Rosen of resume enhancement.

In fact, the same day’s paper carried a lengthy story about the commissioner’s disendorsement of Laxalt along with quotes from Hof about how the move might hurt Laxalt in Nye County and a prepared statement by Laxalt stating, “Adam respects the will of the voters in District 36, however, as a husband and a father of two young daughters, he has stated that he will not be supporting Mr. Hof’s campaign.”

The story also quoted a Democratic Party spokeswoman accusing Laxalt of being two-faced on the topic by being silent about political supporters accused of sexual misdeeds — including a rural sheriff and former casino executive Steve Wynn.

The story did not quote any of the usual university professorial suspects as to whether Laxalt’s stance might help or hurt him or be of no consequence.

Heller’s press release noted that Rosen was quoted by the morning newspaper in 2016 as saying she couldn’t get a degree in computer science from the University of Minnesota because it didn’t exist when she graduated:

She fell in love with the emerging field of computer sciences. The field “just clicked” with her, Rosen said. But back in the 1970s, those degrees weren’t widely available, so she graduated with a degree in psychology while spending most of her free time in the school’s math lab honing her computer skills.

But the Heller press release noted that a story in The Atlantic in January said Rosen had a degree in computer science. The story was corrected online on the same day as Heller’s press release was issued.

Joecks also noted that Rosen told CSPAN3 a year ago she had a degree in computer science. He went on to note that several people’s political ambitions have been crushed when they were caught fudging their resumes.

Joecks concluded:

So why the disparity in coverage between Hof and Rosen? On the merits, it’s baffling. That’s what makes you start thinking about alternative explanations. In a 2013 national survey, just 7 percent of reporters self-identified as Republican. If Heller wins his election, Democrats have no chance of regaining control of the Senate.

Sometimes media bias is blatant. But often, it’s more subtle, like the media passing on telling you about Rosen’s résumé lie that could end her political career.

The owner of the morning newspaper may be a big Republican backer, but what about those in the trenches?

 

Democrat co-opts Republican opponent’s proposal

Heller and Rosen (R-J pix)

That was quick. The ink hasn’t dried on the morning newspaper report that Democrat Rep. Jacky Rosen will face Republican Dean Heller in November for this Senate seat, but she is already embracing a Heller proposal to get Congress off the dime on passing a federal budget.

Rosen today sent out a press release touting her proposals to reform Congress. Why she hasn’t done this during her past year and a half in office was not explained. The second item on her list is: No budget, no pay. Specifically: “This measure would tie Members’ pay with whether or not Congress fulfills its constitutional responsibility of passing a budget and funding the federal government.”

Heller has been pushing for this since last least 2011, when he put out a press release saying,

“It has been more than 800 days since the Senate passed a budget, ignoring one of the most fundamental responsibilities of governing. Avoiding budget votes for political reasons is not what people want to see from their public officials. If Congress doesn’t do its job, its Members shouldn’t get paid. My amendment is a straight forward measure, and should be brought to the floor for an up or down vote.”

The amendment would prevent members of Congress from being paid their salaries if they fail to pass a budget by the beginning of any fiscal year. Retroactive pay would be prohibited.

In December 2016 Heller put out another in a long string of press releases touting his proposal:

“The only way to achieve the long-term fiscal solution Americans deserve is through the U.S. House and Senate passing a budget and all appropriations bills on time.  As the Senate begins the consideration of a continuing resolution, I am filing the ‘No Budget, No Pay’ Act as an amendment. The amendment puts the needs of our nation’s citizens ahead of the next Washington-manufactured crisis.”

Now Rosen is glomming on to Heller’s idea. Welcome to the general election season.

It could be a tight race. According to the Secretary of State, 143,320 Democrats voted in the Senate primary and 110,530 voted for Rosen. In the Republican primary, 142,175 Republicans voted in the Senate primary and 99,472 voted for Heller.

 

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)

 

Editorial: BLM publishes new plans to protect sage grouse

A greater sage grouse male struts for a female. (Pix by Jeannie Stafford for U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service)

The Bureau of Land Management under the Trump administration has followed through on its promise to give states greater flexibility on protecting greater sage grouse. On Friday a 204-page draft management plan for Nevada and northeastern California was published in the Federal Register.

The plan specifically states that its purpose is to enhance cooperation with the states by modifying sage grouse management to better align with the plans created by Nevada and California, covering more than 45 million acres under the jurisdiction of the BLM.

Though it was determined that sage grouse did not qualify for protection under the Endangered Species Act, in 2015 the Obama administration violated the law and ignored scientific evidence when it concocted a 341-page pronouncement that 10 million acres of public land in 16 Western states — nearly a third of that in Nevada — would be taken out of consideration for future mining claims, as well as oil and gas drilling near breeding grounds and that there would be additional reviews on grazing permits. The plan envisioned restrictions on grazing, resource development, solar and wind energy, and public access to public land in Nevada.

According to a press release put out by the BLM announcing the new plans, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval welcomed the more cooperative stance by the agency. “I look forward to reviewing the draft Environmental Impact Statement and I trust that the Department of the Interior will continue to engage with and value the opinions of the impacted western governors,” Sandoval was quoted as saying. “I am confident we can find success by working together.”

Nevada’s senior U.S. Sen. Dean Heller was quoted as saying, “The Department of the Interior’s proposed changes represent an important step toward returning power back to our local communities, and lifting the Obama Administration’s heavy-handed regulations that have put major restrictions on millions of acres of land in Nevada and stifled economic opportunities.”

Congressman Mark Amodei, who represents northern Nevada, commented, “I would like to thank the secretary for doing a much-needed revisit of the previous administration’s policies regarding sage hen habitat. I look forward to hearing back from our stakeholders in Nevada regarding the proposed changes and plan to familiarize myself with this draft and provide further input.”

The publication of the draft plan opens a public comment period. The BLM will accept comments through Aug. 2. Comments may be submitted by mail:  BLM – Greater Sage-Grouse EIS, Nevada State Office, 1340 Financial Blvd., Reno, NV 89502; or online at https://goo.gl/uz89cT.

The Nevada-California plan is posted online at: https://eplanning.blm.gov/epl-front-office/projects/lup/103343/143703/176904/NVCA_GRSG_DEIS_201805_508.pdf

The BLM also will conduct public meetings during the public comment period, which will be announced later.

The agency expects to publish a final Environmental Impact Statement and plan amendments by October.

Nevada’s BLM Associate State Director Marci Todd stated, “Two important developments have occurred since the 2015 plans were adopted. First, we’ve had two to three years to invest time and effort into improving sage grouse habitat. Second, we have received a great deal of feedback from our state partners about how the plans are working on the ground and needed changes.”

We welcome the fact that someone in the federal land bureaucracy is finally listening and recognizing the fact that people need to earn a livelihood in rural Nevada and can do so without endangering the sage grouse population.

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.