Newspaper column: Nevada state and local taxes already too regressive

In this presidential election year there has been an ongoing and vigorous debate, nay, a knock-down-drag-out fight over the question of whether the wealthy pay their fair share of federal taxes. There is ample ammo for both sides of that argument.

But when it comes to state and local taxes there is no debate. The tax data from nearly every state shows those tax practices are highly regressive, meaning the poorer citizens pay a disproportionately higher share of their income in state and local taxes than wealthier citizens, which is simply unfair.

This was detailed by an October 2018 analysis by the Washington-based Institute on Taxation & Economic Policy. The study found that on average nationally the lowest-income 20 percent of taxpayers face a state and local tax rate more than 50 percent higher than the top 1 percent of households. The nationwide average effective state and local tax rate is 11.4 percent for the lowest-income 20 percent of individuals and families, 9.9 percent for the middle 20 percent and 7.4 percent for the top 1 percent. 

The institute concludes, “Most state and local tax systems worsen income inequality by making incomes more unequal after collecting state and local taxes.”

The study found that Nevada was the fifth worst state in the nation for taxation inequity. The effective tax rate for the poorest 20 percent of Nevadans was 10.2 percent. For the middle 60 percent the rate was 7.4 percent. For the top 1 percent the rate was a paltry 1.9 percent — the lowest tax rate in the nation for that earnings group. This inequity is due to reliance on sales and excise taxes, because poorer families must spend a higher portion of their income on taxed necessities. 

Of course, when the Clark County teachers union earlier this year launched two tax hiking ballot initiatives to increase funding for education the biggest was a proposal to hike the sales tax by $1.1 billion a year. The other was to hike the gaming tax to raise $330 million a year.

The sales tax initiative would increase the Local School Support Tax — a part of the statewide sales tax — from 2.6 percent to 4.1 percent, a 58 percent increase. If the union gathers enough petition signatures it would go before the Legislature in the spring of 2021, tax loving Democrats already hold a supermajority in the Assembly and are one shy of a supermajority in the state Senate. Thus this November’s General Election is significant at the state level, too. If lawmakers fail to impose the taxes, they would go before the voters on the November 2022 ballot. 

If passed, in Clark and Lincoln counties the overall sales tax would jump from 8.375 percent to 9.875 percent, among the highest rates in the country. In Mineral, Eureka and Esmeralda counties, which have the lowest current sales tax rates in the state, the tax would jump from 6.85 percent to 8.35 percent.

The impact on poorer families would be devastating. 

Earlier this month the board of directors of the Nevada Taxpayers Association (NTA) announced its opposition to both the sales and gaming tax propositions, saying such a drastic change in the taxation policy should be thoroughly debated by all stakeholders and that should be conducted via the standard legislative process, not through a ballot initiative.

“An increase of $1 billion in annual sales tax revenue is likely to affect tax neutrality and change consumer behavior,” the NTA said in a press release. “The exporting of the tax burden to non-residents is also of concern given the importance of tourists to our statewide economy. As with the Sales Tax, an annual increase in the Gross Gaming Tax of $330 million is very likely to cause unpredictable economic consequences. The focus of this tax on one industry is prone to have a harmful effect on gaming companies and their employees.” 

The NTA also pointed out that the two tax hikes would represent an annual increase of 28 percent in taxation, but the propositions contain no performance benchmarks that would assure taxpayers get a return on their investment.

In fact, most of the performance benchmarks enacted when lawmakers in 2015 approved a $1.5 billion tax hike targeted to improve education have been rescinded. No longer are third graders who can’t read required to be held back a year, and while student achievement was once 50 percent of a teacher’s evaluation that has been cut to 15 percent.

These tax proposals will hurt poor families without ensuring education improvements. 

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.

Editorial: Steyer ups ante in bidding war for votes

All of the candidates still seeking the Democratic presidential nomination have at one time or the other advocated doubling the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour. Recently billionaire businessman Tom Steyer upped the ante in his vote buying scheme by calling for tripling the minimum wage to $22 an hour.

As The Wall Street Journal editorialists point out, this is not a serious campaign ploy. It is the punchline of a Republican joke. “When liberals call for a nationwide $15 minimum wage, conservatives often offer a half-serious rhetorical response: Why stop there?” the editorial recounts, adding that Steyer doesn’t get the joke.

Tom Steyer illustration

At a campaign stop in South Carolina Steyer told his audience, “The fair number should be $22 an hour. That should be the minimum wage in the United States of America: $22. Think about what this country would be like if we had a $22 minimum wage: completely different.”

Yes, think about the number of people who would be unemployed. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25, though a number of states and cities have raised their minimum wages, with often counterproductive results. One study found the average low-wage worker in Seattle lost $125 a month because the minimum wage was raised to $15 an hour and hours were cut.

This past year the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) estimated that somewhere between 1.3 million and 3.7 million would lose their jobs if the minimum wage were raised to $15 an hour. What would that number be at $22? How many businesses would be bankrupted by such a wage hike?

A Cato Institute analysis in 2012 found that a 10 percent increase in the U.S. minimum wage raises food prices by up to 4 percent. Image what a 200 percent increase would do.

The problem is that study after study has found that raising the minimum wage does not lift more people out of poverty, but rather its net effect is to actually increase the portion of families that are poor and near-poor, according to an analysis of those studies by the Heritage Foundation. This is because a few will see higher income, others will have their work hours reduced and some will drop from minimum wage to zero wage due to layoffs and businesses closing their doors.

But all the Democratic candidates are on board for raising the minimum wage.

Former Vice President Joe Biden has called for $15 an hour and indexing to the median hourly wage so low-wage workers keep up with middle-income workers.

Sen. Bernie Sanders said, “A job must lift workers out of poverty, not keep them in it,” calling $7.25 a starvation wage.

Pete Buttigieg could also phase out the subminimum for tipped workers.

Warren also would index the minimum wage to median hourly wages.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar would start in her first 100 days in office by raising the minimum wage for federal contractors to $15 an hour.

Mike Bloomberg would hike the minimum wage and index it to inflation.

They are all in the same choir. Just one is singing much more loudly than the others.

As Thomas Sowell points out in his book “Basic Economics,” “Making it illegal to pay less than a given amount does not make a worker’s productivity worth that amount — and, if it is not, that worker is unlikely to be employed. Yet minimum wage laws are almost always discussed politically in terms of the benefits they confer on workers receiving those wages. Unfortunately, the real minimum wage is always zero, regardless of the laws, and that is the wage that many workers receive in the wake of the creation or escalation of a government-mandated minimum wage, because they either lose their jobs or fail to find jobs when they enter the labor force.”

Nevada’s Democratic caucus is Saturday. It doesn’t look like Democratic voters have much choice on this issue.

Now that Nevada has election day voter registration, we wonder how many Republicans might switch over just to keep this bidding war alive. Not suggesting it, of course.

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: Democratic candidates could hurt rural health care

As Democratic presidential candidates sweep across the state in advance of Saturday’s caucus rural voters should pay close attention — as if your life depends on it, because it does — to what they say about their plans for changing how Americans pay for health care.

Two of them — Sens. Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — are advocating what has been dubbed “Medicare for All,” which would basically outlaw private health insurance, such as that offered by employers and unions, and replace it with a taxpayer-funded single payer plan.

The rest have called for creation of a public option that would compete with private insurers and saddle taxpayers with the cost.

One problem is that Medicare reimbursements are estimated to be on average 40 percent less than private insurance. According to a New York Times article from a year ago, Medicare typically pays a hospital $17,000 for a knee replacement, while the same hospital would get about $37,000 for the same surgery on a patient with private insurance. Also, a hospital could get about $4,200 from Medicare for removing a gallbladder, but $7,400 from a private insurer.

This has been exacerbated by Medicare’s method of reimbursement, which is based on wage indexing.

In November the administrator for the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services wrote that, for example, prior to some adjustments this fiscal year, a hospital in a low-wage rural community could receive a Medicare payment of about $4,000 for treating pneumonia, while a hospital in a high-wage urban area could receive a Medicare payment of nearly $6,000 for the same case.

Because of such payments schedules and other factors, according to the Cecil G. Sheps Center for Health Services Research at the University of North Carolina, 166 rural hospitals have closed since 2005, including in 2015 the Nye Regional Medical Center in Tonopah. That closure left residents 100 miles from the nearest hospital and 200 miles from the nearest level one trauma center, though some local clinics now provide some urgent care. Four rural hospitals have closed so far this year.

The Medicare administrator noted that nearly 60 million rural Americans — often living in areas with higher rates of poverty and having difficulty traveling long distances to a hospital or doctor’s office — face higher risks. Recent Centers for Disease Control data found 57 percent of deaths from chronic lower respiratory disease in rural areas were preventable, compared with only 13 percent preventable deaths for people with the same condition in urban areas.

A study this past August for the Partnership for America’s Health Care Future conducted by Navigant Consulting looked at what the impact on rural health care might be at different levels of federal takeover of health care reimbursements.

Under the least intrusive option in which everyone covered by an employer-based insurance program kept that plan while others were swept into the public option, the study estimated that 28 percent of rural hospitals would be at high risk of closure, including three in Nevada.

Under the Medicare for All option, the study estimated that 55 percent of rural hospitals or more than 1,000 could be at high risk for closure, including eight in Nevada.

Even Sen. Warren has recognized that the plan she and Sanders have been backing could have an adverse impact on rural hospitals. A posting on her campaign website says, “Medicare for All will mean access to primary care and lower health costs for patients — and less uncompensated care for rural hospitals, helping them stay afloat. Elizabeth will create a new Medicare designation for rural hospitals that reimburses them at a higher rate and offers flexibility of services to meet the needs of their communities. Elizabeth will also strengthen antitrust protections to fight hospital mergers that increase costs, lower quality, and close rural facilities.”

How it will be paid for is not mentioned.

For his part Sanders blithely states online, “Rural people in particular have suffered the negative consequences that result from a lack of access to affordable, quality health care. Access to health care is a top issue for farmers and have some of the highest uninsured rate, in fact 41% of dairy farmers lack health insurance. With Medicare-for-All, small business owners, including farmers, will no longer have to worry about providing health care to their families or employees.”

Who will worry about paying for it?

According to the University of Nevada, Reno School of Medicine, Nevada already ranks 45th in the nation for active physicians per 100,000 population, 48th for primary care physicians and 50th for general surgeons.

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.

Ramirez cartoon

Editorial: Courts should overturn ‘Red Flag’ law

A number of Nevada counties have passed Second Amendment sanctuary resolutions in response to state lawmakers passing a “Red Flag” law in 2019 that would allow persons accused of being a potential danger to themselves or others to have their firearms confiscated by order of a judge.

But rather than threatening to flout the law, the better route is the one taken by Elko County commissioners recently and that is to challenge the law in the courts. The commissioners voted to join a lawsuit filed in December by attorneys for NevadansCAN (Citizens Action Network) that argues the “Red Flag” section of Assembly Bill 291, which was passed on a near party-line vote with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed, is unconstitutional because it violates the right to due process and the right to keep and bear arms — as guaranteed by the Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution and the Nevada Constitution, which states, “Every citizen has the right to keep and bear arms for security and defense …”

According to the Elko Daily Free Press, at the start of the meeting Elko County Sheriff Aitor Narvaiza declared, “On Jan. 7, 2019, I was elected sheriff of Elko County. I took an oath to protect the constitution of the United States and the constitution of the state of Nevada. I’m here to tell the lawmakers to keep your hands off our guns.”

He was quoted as saying, “Let’s enforce the laws that we have which are reasonable instead of enacting more laws which are unconstitutional. … A great president once said this country cannot be defeated in combat, but it can be defeated within. Right now this country is crumbling, slowly, due to weak-minded politicians and lawmakers who push unconstitutional laws for personal gains and to fill their pockets.”

He received several rounds of applause the newspaper reported.

The litigation appears to have sound legal footing due to a recent unanimous Nevada Supreme Court ruling. The court found that gun ownership is such a fundamental right that it cannot be taken away merely by a judge’s ruling, opining that a person charged with misdemeanor domestic battery is entitled to a trial by jury, because the state Legislature in 2017 enacted a law saying someone convicted of such a crime could have their right to keep and bear arms denied.

The U.S. Supreme Court has held that only those persons charged with a “serious” crime are entitled to a jury trial. The unanimous Nevada opinion written by Justice Lidia Stiglich states the change in state law to prohibit firearms possession by someone convicted of domestic violence effectively increases the “penalty” and makes the crime “serious” rather than “petty.”

“In our opinion, this new penalty — a prohibition on the right to bear arms as guaranteed by both the United States and Nevada Constitutions — ‘clearly reflect[s] a legislative determination that the offense [of misdemeanor domestic battery] is a serious one,’” Stiglich wrote in a case out of Las Vegas.

The NevadansCAN lawsuit declares, “This (“Red Flag”) law makes mincemeat of the due process of law, will endanger law enforcement and the public, and is a tool for stalkers and abusers to disarm innocent victims. Empirical data is available that nearly a third of such orders are improperly issued against innocent people, in states with experience of the operation of such a law.”

Proponents of such laws often cite the Oct. 1, 2017, mass shooting that left 58 country music concert goers dead in Law Vegas as justification, but neither this “Red Flag” law nor the recently enacted tougher background check law would have prevented that tragedy.

AB291 defies the Second Amendment right to bear arms, the Fourth Amendment right to be secure from unreasonable searches and seizures, the Fifth Amendment right to not be deprived of life, liberty, or property without due process of law and the 14th Amendment prohibition against states abridging the privileges and immunities of U.S. citizens.

It must be overturned and litigation is the proper route to do so.

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: No primaries would be better than blanket primaries

An initiative petition filed two weeks ago would, if successful, make political parties in Nevada largely irrelevant.

The proposal filed by Reno Republican state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer seeks to change the June primary elections to a blanket system in which all candidates, regardless of party affiliation, would be voted on by all registered voters no matter their party affiliation or no party affiliation. The top two vote getters would advance to the General Election in November, no matter their party affiliations, if any.

A bill that would have done the same thing failed to get a vote in the 2017 legislative session.

This proposed change applies to statewide constitutional offices and other partisan races, such as the state Assembly and Senate and local political offices, as well as U.S. House and Senate elections. The presidential nomination process would still be determined by party caucuses.

Currently the state conducts primaries for the two major parties — Republican and Democrat — in which only registered voters who are members of those parties my participate. The winner in each party advances to the November ballot. Up until 2015 if one party did not post a candidate in a given race, the top two vote getters of the other party would advance to November. The Legislature changed the law so that only the winner of the party primary advanced. This resulted in some races being uncontested, though third party candidates such as the Independent American Party and the Libertarian Party of Nevada could and did file for the General Election.

In fact, in one Assembly race in 2016 a Libertarian candidate garnered nearly 40 percent of the vote in the General Election.

The blanket system — sometimes pejoratively called the “jungle primary” system — apparently would require all candidates to be on the primary ballot, leaving voters only two choices in November.

Kieckhefer told the online Nevada Independent news outlet, “I’ve always had a fundamental problem with the idea we have taxpayer-funded elections, but citizens are required to join a private organization to participate. That always tasted wrong to me.”

According to data posted by the Secretary of State’s office 29 percent of Nevada’s active registered voters are either nonpartisan or registered as members of a minor party. Democrats account for 38 percent and Republicans 33 percent.

Frankly, we agree with the state senator about the unfairness of the state funding only the primaries of the two major parties. The whole concept of partisan party politics is to facilitate persons of like-minded political persuasions to organize and select candidates that promise to advance a given philosophy of governance.

We’ve never been in favor of forcing all taxpayers, including nonpartisans and members of other parties, to pay for the primaries the state conducts for just two parties. Let them pay for their primaries or caucuses or smoke-filled backrooms.

A blanket primary system makes it more difficult for the average voter to weigh the various candidates based on past allegiances and opens the opportunity for Fifth Column candidates to claim to be what they are not. Faux Democrats or faux Republicans could flood the ballot and split the vote for a party’s real favorite. It also lessens the visibility and potential for third party candidates who likely would be eliminated in the primary.

There is currently talk of South Carolina Republicans being encouraged to vote for socialist Bernie Sanders in that state’s primary to keep the Democratic presidential contest in turmoil. This is reminiscent of Rush Limbaugh’s self-styled “Operation Chaos” in 2008 in which he encouraged Republicans to vote for Hillary Clinton over Barack Obama to weaken Obama’s chances in November.

Politics is messy. Blanket state-run primaries create a different mess. One problem is called splintering, in which one party has perhaps only two candidates in the primary and another has a dozen office seekers, increasing the likelihood of one party winning both General Election slots.

Adding to the potential tumult, in 2019 lawmakers approved a law allowing people to register to vote on the day of an election.

For this proposal to advance backers must gather nearly 100,000 valid signatures by November with about 25,000 coming in each congressional district. If successful, the initiative would be presented to the 2021 Legislature, which would have 40 days to approve it. If not, it would appear on the 2022 ballot.

No primary would be better than a blanket primary. Let the parties choose their candidates as they see fit and at their own expense. That is freedom of association, and gives voters clearer choices.

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.

Newspaper column: Is the Equal Rights Amendment really worth implementing?

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford has joined the attorneys general of Virginia and Illinois in filing a lawsuit seeking to force the recognition of the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) as the 28th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.

The ERA would dictate that no rights could be denied or abridged “on account of sex.” A constitutional amendment must be approved by two-thirds of both the House and Senate and ratified by three-fourths of the states, or 38. In January Virginia become the 38th state to ratify the ERA. Illinois was the 37th in 2018 and Nevada the 36th in 2017.

The problem is that Congress set a 1982 deadline for ratification. Further, five states have since rescinded their ratifications.

The lawsuit argues that Article 5 of the Constitution, spelling out the amendment process, does not permit either a deadline or rescinding of ratification.

The suit asks the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to declare the amendment valid and order U.S. Archivist David Ferriero to certify the ERA as such.

Ferriero has refused to certify the amendment since receiving a Justice Department opinion stating Congress has the right to impose a deadline, citing a 1921 case in which the Supreme Court found that Congress was within its authority to impose a seven-year deadline for passage of the 18th Amendment, which established Prohibition.

Nonetheless, the 18-page suit contends Article 5 does not allow imposing such deadlines on the states, nor does it allow rescinding ratification.

During a conference call this past week announcing the filing of the lawsuit, Attorney General Ford declared, “Let me begin by saying something that I firmly believe and I have always believed, and that’s that women have always been endowed with equal rights, even though our country has wrongly failed to recognize them. These rights are entitled to the rightful place in the Constitution, and I am committed to ensuring that they are permanently written to our nation’s history in its features. Advancing civil rights is one of my administration’s main areas of focus. It is a focus I have communicated to all the members of my office the second day on my job. Today I’m proud to file this lawsuit on behalf of women in Nevada, women all over the country. The gravity of this moment should not be underplayed.”

Ford quoted the key portion of the amendment, “Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.”

He pointed out that the original text of the Constitution did not even refer to women, and the only known use of the pronoun “she” in the Framers’ deliberations appeared in an ultimately rejected clause referring to fugitive slaves.

The ERA was first proposed in 1923, Ford recalled, and was backed by feminists in the late 1960s and early 1970s, including his mother Denise Claiborne, who saw ratification as the only clearcut way to eliminate all legal gender-based discrimination in the United States.

“Opponents of the time viewed ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment as a move that would unravel what they called the traditional American society,” Ford continued. “It would unravel what they called protective laws like related to sexual assault and to alimony. … The tendency for a mother to receive child custody in a divorce case would be eliminated. The all-male military draft would be rendered unconstitutional. And those opposed to the ERA even suggested that single-sex restrooms could be outlawed by future courts.”

Frankly, in addition to the questions about whether the ERA should be recognized, those concerns Ford cited are far more real and possible today than when the ERA passed Congress in 1972.

In an era in which males who “identify” as females are granted access to women’s restrooms, locker rooms and allowed to compete in women’s athletics is it too far fetched to envision the courts interpreting the ERA as requiring gender neutral policies that sacrifice privacy and safety?

Might women have to register for the draft? Might the ERA eviscerate Title IX, which has increased opportunities for female athletes? What would become of the Violence Against Women Act and the Women, Infants and Children welfare program? What about accommodations in the workplace for pregnant women?

The ERA could also end any reasonable restrictions on abortions.

If courts side with these attorneys general, Congress and the states might soon have to consider an amendment repealing the ERA.

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.

Getty Images file photo

Editorial: Why the NEPA rules needed streamlining

While Democrats in Congress were having palpitations and forecasting climate catastrophe as a result of the Trump administration’s streamlining of rules governing the review of federally funded infrastructure projects under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) of 1970, Nevada’s lone Republican representative in Congress took the time to review the rules and finds the changes long overdue.

President Trump announced earlier this month that environmental reviews of such things as roads, bridges, pipelines and power transmission lines were taking far too long and were too burdensome. The average review was taking four-and-a-half years and ran nearly 700 pages, one of the longest was for a 12-mile expansion of Interstate 70 in Denver. That took 13 years and exceeded 16,000 pages, according to The Wall Street Journal.

The new rules prepared by the Council on Environmental Quality limit major projects to two years and 300 pages or a year and 75 pages for smaller environmental assessments. More difficult cases could be extended with approval of federal officials.

Rep. Mark Amodei (AP pix)

Nevada Republican Congressman Mark Amodei, who represents Northern Nevada, concluded that the process had been weaponized by those with a political agenda rather than a legitimate concern for natural resources and the environment.

“If the answer for something needs to be no, then fine, say no and say why and let people get to the courts or not, whatever they want, but using the due process — and I use that phrase loosely — the administrative process of NEPA to de facto kill things through basically, ‘It’s going to take you a decade and we’re hoping that you shrivel up and die,’ was not intended by anybody,” Amodei said in a recent interview. “Those procedures have been weaponized to the point that there’s nothing really to do with the resources or the facts on the ground.”

Amodei noted as an example of this weaponization the prolonged debates and litigation over the habitat of the greater sage grouse in Nevada and other Western states — especially attempts to block mining permits.

“If it’s about your political agenda that’s one thing, but if it’s really about the resources, we went through a lot of that on the sage hen stuff. If it is really about fragmentation and loss of habitat, then let’s talk about that,” the congressman said. “Talk about how we fix that, but if it’s just really about you just hate mining companies. While we’ve permitted in the last 20 years 150,000 acres of mining in the Great Basin, woodland fire has consumed, I don’t know, somewhere around 8 (million) or 10 million acres. If you really care about sage hens you ought to be talking about fuels management. While you may have permitted 150,000 acres of mining, they’ve also rehabbed habitat for mule deer and stream zones for fish.”

Amodei concedes there is a need for reviews, saying he knows there was a time when rivers caught fire. That was the low point, he said, and was why President Nixon created the Environmental Protection Agency.

He noted that when he came into office eight years ago mining permits were constantly being challenged, but the big mining companies had the resources and staff to fight and win.

“Listen, nobody’s afraid of the truth but it shouldn’t be something where it is really not about the truth but it is about how long we can draw out getting to that,” he said. “I interact with a lot of the federal land managers around the state on a regular basis in my oversight capacity and I can tell you this, it is my opinion and I’m not criticizing any of them. Frankly, those agencies give a lot of thought to the probability or possibility that they are going to get litigated. These folks who have abused the NEPA process count that as money in the bank: ‘We’re gonna sue you,’” noting this is why a deadline is necessary.

Amodei again pointed out that there is nothing in the rules saying the federal land agencies can’t say no to a project that would truly be demonstrably harmful. “So somebody puts an application in where it’s like, hey, this is in the middle of the last known habitat of the desert pup fish and you propose to fill in the spring and obliterate the whole of the species forever. If the answer to that is supposed to be no, say no,” he said.

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.