Editorial: Goal of zero emissions on public land a futile gesture

Democrats in the House of Representatives this past week unleashed their latest pie-in-the-sky legislation intended to save the planet from frying like an egg due to catastrophic global warming due to carbon emissions.

The bill, if passed, which thankfully is highly unlikely, would require zero emissions from drilling, mining and other activities on federal public lands by 2040, and immediately halt oil and gas leasing for at least a year, according to a Reuters dispatch.

“To solve our climate crisis we need to solve this problem from two sides,” said Rep. Raul Grijalva, chairman of the Democratic-controlled House Natural Resources Committee. He said the bill would slash emissions from energy production on federal land and preserve vegetation and forests so they may absorb carbon.

“Putting a stop to all new fossil fuel leasing on public lands and waters is a vital first step in stopping the climate crisis, and it’s heartening to see Chairman Grijalva propose a framework that could ultimately achieve that,” Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a press release. “But much more is needed to undo the incredible damage the Trump administration has caused through its massive increase in fossil fuel leasing, to say nothing of the decades of reckless fossil fuel leasing that has already occurred.”

The same press release notes that the United Nations Environment Program issued a report this past month stating world governments plan to greatly increase fossil fuels production. So what good will cutting production on public lands do?

Never mind that the brunt of the burden of this foolish venture would fall on the Western states, where the majority of public lands lie and especially on Nevada, 85 percent of whose land is controlled by the federal bureaucracy. This would cost countless jobs and shrink the economies of rural areas of the West. While Nevada is not rich in oil and natural gas, its mining jobs are some of the best paid in the state and mining taxes support many communities.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world is shrugging off its share of the emissions control effort. Of the nearly 200 countries that signed off on the Paris climate accord a couple of years ago, only two have actually met emissions reductions goals, Morocco and Gambia, according to a PBS report in September.

The Wall Street Journal recently reported that China, the top carbon emitter in the world, is adding more coal-fired plants than the rest of the world combined and is building coal plants in other countries, too. The U.S., the world’s second-largest emitter, saw carbon emissions rise 3.4 percent in 2018.

Also, pay no attention to the fact there has been no significant global warming since 2005. Those hottest years on record claims are well within the margin of error.

The bill is a senseless and futile gesture, but Democrats are just the ones try it.

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: Articles of impeachment are flimsy ploys

This past week Donald Trump became only the third president to be impeached by the U.S. House of Representatives. Neither of the other two were convicted by the Senate — Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1999 — and neither will Trump, because Republicans hold a majority of Senate seats and there is no way to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority to remove Trump from office.

Not a single House Republican voted in favor of either article of impeachment, because they were flimsy to the point of being wisps in the Democratically driven wind. Even a couple of Democrats rejected them.

Both “abuse of power” and “obstruction of Congress” are so nebulous that they can be defined as disagreeing with someone or anyone.

“Through their depraved actions today, crazy Nancy Pelosi’s House Democrats have branded themselves with an eternal mark of shame, and it really is, it’s a disgrace,” Trump correctly informed a rally in Battle Creek, Mich., shortly after the vote, according to the Washington Examiner. “They think the Washington swamp should be able to veto the results of an election. That’s what they think. There’s never been a time like this.”

What constituted “abuse of power” was Trump suggesting in a July telephone conversation with the newly elected president of the Ukraine that someone should investigate past dealings by 2020 presidential candidate Joe Biden and his son Hunter. “So, if you can look into it …” Trump said, according to the transcript. This was not a request to “dig dirt” on a potential political opponent as so many in the press have described it, but rather a suggestion that an investigation might be warranted. Trump was accused of withholding military aid to coerce the investigation.

Since Trump has been investigated by countless government bureaucracies since he raised his hand to take the oath of office, might that be construed as abuse of power and an attempt to influence the next election?

As for “obstruction of Congress,” The Wall Street Journal notes that this amounts to nothing more than Trump going to court to protect the powers of his office from politically motivated snooping, something many presidents have done, including Clinton and Barack Obama. Democrats didn’t give the courts a chance to rule on what the law is.

Nevada’s Democratic representatives — Dina Titus, Steven Horsford and Susie Lee — all voted for both articles of impeachment. In a statement Titus said of Trump, “He tried to rig the 2020 elections by soliciting foreign interference, and then engaged in an unprecedented cover-up once he got caught. No president can be permitted to abuse the power of the office for personal, political gain, nor try to hide his misdeeds by demanding that his subordinates withhold key documents and refuse to testify before Congress.”

Republican Congressman Mark Amodei, who represents northern Nevada voted “nay” on both articles. Amodei noted in a statement explaining his votes, “What happened after the phone call is also essentially uncontested. Ukrainian aid was slowed for several weeks but provided by mid-September. There was a meeting between President Trump and President (Volodymyr) Zelenskyy. There is no evidence that the Ukrainian Government has investigated the Bidens and therefore, no announcements regarding the same.”

As for obstructing Congress, Amodei listed a litany of refusals by the Obama administration to cooperate with requests from Congress — everything from Fast & Furious gun dealings with drug cartels to the Iran Nuclear Deal to Obamacare subsidies to Solyndra and Benghazi.

Regarding the attack in Benghazi that left four Americans dead, Amodei quoted the White House counsel’s explanation for refusing to answer questions from Congress, “If the President were to answer your questions, his response would suggest that Congress has the unilateral power to demand answers from the President about his official acts.” Which is what Congress just tried to do with Trump.

The congressman concluded that he didn’t believe Obama should have been impeached for obstructing Congress and neither should Trump.

This entire process has been an affront to American voters, who should remember how their current representatives abused the system for the sake of political power come the November election.

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: All provisions of state Constitution must be adhered to

The lawyers for Nevada’s lawmakers appear to have finally stumbled onto a provision of the state Constitution worthy of being adhered to.

In mid-November the state Department of Conservation and Natural Resources (DCNR) announced that four-term Las Vegas Democratic Assemblywoman Heidi Swank had been selected to head up the Division of Outdoor Recreation, which had been created by the 2019 Legislature and funded with $657,000 during the current two-year budget. The salary of the new director has not been disclosed. The new unit is tasked with promoting outdoor recreation businesses and conservation of public lands.

The agency told The Nevada Independent — a donor-funded, web-based news outlet — that there were dozens of applicants for the job and several people were interviewed.

DCNR’s Director Bradley Crowell was quoted as saying, “Heidi’s extensive professional and legislative experience combined with her vision for the new Division are the perfect match to ensure outdoor recreational opportunities reach every corner of and every community in Nevada.”

Swank chaired the Assembly Natural Resources, Agriculture and Mining Committee in each of the past two sessions. She was quoted as saying, “I look forward to bringing all of these entities together to further Nevada’s outdoor recreation economy and get more Nevadans outdoors.”

Nevada Legislature

Two weeks later, an attorney for the Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB), the lawmakers lawyers, approached Swank and basically said: Not so fast.

It turns out there is a section of the state Constitution that reads: “No Senator or member of Assembly shall, during the term for which he shall have been elected, nor for one year thereafter be appointed to any civil office of profit under this State which shall have been created, or the emoluments of which shall have been increased during such term, except such office as may be filled by elections by the people.”

There is a similar provision in the U.S. Constitution barring members of Congress from being appointed to any civil office they created while in office.

Such provisions are intended to prevent lawmakers from creating lucrative sinecures for themselves. Swank voted for the bill creating the new executive branch job.

“I can’t blame anyone in this,” Swank resignedly told The Independent. “It was a bit of bad luck.” She did not say whether she now plans to seek re-election.

Now that the LCB has discovered this prohibition in the state Constitution, perhaps there are a couple of other sections they should reconsider.

For example, there is the provision approved by Nevada voters in 1994 and 1996 amending the Constitution to state “an affirmative vote of not fewer than two-thirds of the members elected to each House is necessary to pass a bill or joint resolution which creates, generates, or increases any public revenue in any form …”

But during the spring legislative session the LCB — after stating otherwise in 2011, 2013 and 2015 — opined that a two-thirds vote was unnecessary if a bill delayed a scheduled reduction in tax rates — in this case the modified business tax. The bill continued the then-current tax rate, which was scheduled to be cut on July 1, though it failed to garner a two-thirds vote in the state Senate. Senate Republicans are currently suing to overturn the action as unconstitutional.

Then there is the section of the state Constitution that reads, “The powers of the Government of the State of Nevada shall be divided into three separate departments, — the Legislative, — the Executive and the Judicial; and no persons charged with the exercise of powers properly belonging to one of these departments shall exercise any functions, appertaining to either of the others, except in the cases expressly directed or permitted in this constitution.”

But the LCB has determined that public employees can serve in the Legislature so long as their “public employment does not exercise any sovereign functions appertaining to another department of the state government.”

“Any function” became “sovereign function,” whatever that means. In some years, as many as 20 percent of lawmakers have been public employees able to hold life or death sway over the budgets of their bosses.

James Madison wrote in Federalist Paper No. 47, “The accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny.”

The state Constitution spells out these prohibitions in unambiguous terms and for a good reason. The flippant misinterpretation of the language results in abuse of power.

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: What better time to rein in welfare handouts?

By the caterwauling of the Democratic politicians, you’d think federal bureaucrats were stealing into homes in the middle of the night and snatching food out of the pantries of starving families.

The Agriculture Department has announced plans to cut back on the eligibility waivers that states have been liberally granting to increase the number of people getting food stamps under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)

“The Trump administration,” complained Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, “is driving the vulnerable into hunger just as the Christmas season approaches.”

Getty Images via WSJ

“Both the final and proposed rule changes to SNAP are unconscionable, and will have devastating impacts to low-income Nevadans who make up our most vulnerable citizens — including families, children, and veterans,” bemoaned Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak in a press release. “While we appreciate the issuance of a temporary waiver, the Administration’s rule changes, both final and proposed, have created uncertainty for the states, and I will be working with DHHS (Nevada Department of Health and Human Services) to determine next steps on how to address the increased hardship and hunger that will be created by taking away low-income families’ basic food assistance.”

The governor’s press release said 78,000 of the 400,000 Nevadans currently receiving food stamps could lose eligibility due to a tightening of eligibility rules.

In September, the Trump administration announced that it would no longer allow states to automatically issue food stamps to anyone receiving any federal welfare benefits whatsoever. Only those households receiving $50 a month for six months or more from the Temporary Assistance to Needy Families program would be eligible.

At the time Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue said, “For too long, this loophole has been used to effectively bypass important eligibility guidelines. Too often, states have misused this flexibility without restraint.”

But Gov. Sisolak then complained, “This is an absolutely unconscionable act that would have dire impacts on the most vulnerable populations in our state, especially those with disabilities, the elderly, and low-income children on free and reduced-price school meals.”

This past week the administration said it also is tightening the work requirements for childless adults. According to The Wall Street Journal, a 1996 welfare reform act said that childless adults had to work or train at least 20 hours a week to get food stamps. The new rule says waivers for this requirement will only be granted in areas with an unemployment rate in excess of 6 percent. Nevada’s October not seasonally adjusted unemployment rate was 3.7 percent.

This change does not affect families, the disabled or those older than 50 — only able-bodied adults living in a country where there are now 7 million job openings for only 6 million job seekers. The national unemployment rate is at a 50-year low. What better time to rein in the free ride?

Expensive welfare handouts should be reserved only for those truly in need and not become a universal entitlement. The current lax rules waste billions of dollars of taxpayer money.

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: Court should block enforcement of Red Flag law

A citizens’ rights organization has filed a lawsuit in Carson City District Court seeking an injunction to prevent the enforcement of the “Red Flag” provision of a law passed by Nevada lawmakers earlier this year.

Under the Red Flag section of the law persons accused of being a potential danger to themselves or others may have their firearms confiscated by order of a judge.

The suit filed by attorneys for NevadansCAN (Citizens Action Network) argues the Reg Flag section of Assembly Bill 291, which was passed on a near party-line vote with Democrats in favor and Republicans opposed, is unconstitutional, 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 …”

The suit, filed earlier this month, asks that a judge stop the law from taking effect as scheduled on Jan. 1.

“A person accused of being a danger may not even be aware of the court action against him, and his guns can be forcibly taken by law enforcement and his premises searched. Due process never enters into it,” a press release announcing the litigation quotes Mary Rooney, a plaintiff in the suit and a co-founder of NevadansCAN, as saying.

Another plaintiff and co-founder, Julie Chen Hereford, said, “The Red Flag provision violates both the Constitution of the United States and the Nevada State Constitution by giving judges the power to take away an individual’s right to keep and bear arms based on the accusation that the individual is dangerous and should not have a firearm.”

One of the principal arguments by the group’s suit is that a September ruling by the Nevada Supreme Court essentially found that gun ownership is such a fundamental right that it cannot be taken away merely by a judge’s ruling.

The court ruled 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, which was defined as a crime carrying a sentence of greater than six months.

The unanimous Nevada opinion written by Justice Lidia Stiglich stated 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.

NevadansCAN argues that AB291 allows a secret process in which a judge can issue an order for gun seizure from an individual who has not been accused or convicted of violating any law and there is no role for a jury as the state high court deemed necessary.

The lawsuit itself declares, “This 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.”

There are seven legal processes that safeguard due process, the suit states, and this law deprives the accused of five of those: “notice; opportunity to make an oral presentation; means to present evidence; cross-examination and response to evidence; and the right of counsel at critical junctures.”

NevadansCAN’s suit notes that under such Red Flag laws those accused receive notice of the case against them when the police show up to confiscate their firearms. It also points out the accuser need never appear in court but merely submit an affidavit.

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.

An injunction is needed.

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: CCW holders should not undergo background checks, too

It appears that a bill passed earlier this year to require background checks prior to the sale or transfer of firearms from one private party to another is being misinterpreted to apply also to Concealed Carry Weapon (CCW) Permit holders, who are currently exempt from such background checks when buying from a licensed firearm dealer.

First reported by The Nevada Independent, a donation-sponsored online news outlet, Department of Public Safety (DPS) a month ago sent a letter to all licensed firearm dealers telling them CCW holders will have to now undergo a background check. Senate Bill 143 changed the law to require dealers to conduct background checks for private sales.

The letter does not cite any verbiage in the law but rather relies on testimony before a joint meeting of the Senate Judiciary and Assembly Judiciary committees in February to support its conclusion.

The pertinent testimony involves questions to the attorney for the gun-grabbing, Michael Bloomberg-financed Everytown for Gun Safety, which pushed a narrowly approved voter referendum in 2016 to require background checks prior to private gun transfers. Because the initiative required the background checks to be conducted by the FBI and the FBI refused to do so, it was deemed unenforceable.

SB143 fixed that flaw by requiring a state agency to conduct such background checks after submission by licensed firearm dealers, who may charge an unspecified fee for doing so.

In the committee testimony, Everytown attorney William Rosen was asked by Assemblywoman Jill Tolles whether CCW holders would be required to undergo background checks under the law. Rosen replied, “That is correct.”

Tolles followed up, “It makes sense that someone who is licensed for a CCW and shows his or her card should not be subject to additional checks. Why would that not apply to private sales?”

Rosen basically replied that CCW permits last for five years and there is a possibility a disqualifying event such as a restraining order might not get into the system to revoke the CCW. Might?

No lawmaker voiced an agreement with Rosen’s contention that this is what the new law requires. Only Rosen’s contention was relied on to show legislative intent.

As a result, Don Turner, president of the Nevada Firearms Coalition, sent a letter to DPS challenging the interpretation of the law. “A review of SB143 provides no basis for this determination by DPS. Moreover, the minutes of the Joint Meeting of the Senate Committee on Judiciary and the Assembly Committee on the Judiciary have no legal weight or authority and were never incorporated into the statute itself,” Turner wrote.

Turner noted that the statue requires a licensed dealer to treat the private transaction as if the dealer was conducting the sale from its own inventory. A licensed dealer is allowed to accept the CCW permit in lieu of a background check.

He argues the state cannot override federal law as it pertains to background check exemptions for CCW holders and calls on the agency to change its directive to firearm dealers.

The Nevada Independent notes that the change in background check requirements would especially burden rural counties — pointing out for example that 15 percent of individuals in Nye County and 13 percent of the people in Storey County are CCW holders.

DPS should change its interpretation of the law to one that relies on what the law actually says rather than the vague wishes and whims and speculation of East Coast gun grabbers.

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: Give books about Nevada and by Nevadans

With Christmas rapidly approaching you may be casting about for suggestions for what to give that special Nevada friend or family member. What could be better than books about Nevada or by Nevadans? The choices are as varied as the Nevada landscape and its denizens.

Doubly apropos this holiday season is Patricia Cafferata’s “Christmas in Nevada,” a collection of seasonal anecdotes from across the state and across the years.

Cafferata — a former state legislator, state treasurer, district attorney in three counties and daughter of Barbara Vucanovich, the first woman from Nevada to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives — has penned and collected short takes that capture the spirit of giving and community pride. They start with the budding traditions established in mining towns during the territorial days of the 1860s and progress chronologically up the huge modern celebrations.

The small and tall tales from the early days include such scenes as the Virginia City butcher who in 1863 advertised his Christmas wares by parading 184 turkeys down the frozen dirt street to his shop; the huge Christmas fest in the Magnolia Hotel in Winnemucca in 1870 that included fish, oysters, chicken, green vegetables, tea and coffee, liquor and cigars; the “nevergreen” Christmas trees cobbled from scraps of wood in the Tonopah mining camp miles from any real pine trees; the mother in Silver Peak who started making mincemeat in November and preserved it for the holiday by storing it in the cellar draped in brandy-soaked cloths; the Christmas in White Pine County in 1907 during which three miners were trapped inside a collapsed copper mine for 45 days before being rescued and feted with a holiday banquet; and one family’s custom Christmas card tradition that has lasted more than 50 years.

Modern depictions include the Christmas festivities at Opportunity Village in Las Vegas, which helps those with intellectual and developmental disabilities develop life skills and find employment opportunities. It started in 1981 with the Magic Forest of lighted Christmas trees, raising about $3,000, but growing in recent years into a major holiday theme park attended by about 10,000 people and raising $1.5 million. Also mentioned are the “12 Days of Christmas” in Elko, the Santa Pub Crawl in Reno and the Santa Run in Las Vegas that have grown from modest beginnings to huge crowds.

Just out earlier this year is native Nevadan and decades-long newspaper columnist John L. Smith’s “The Westside Slugger: Joe Neal’s Lifelong Fight for Social Justice.” The biography introduces you to Joe Neal, the first African America to serve in the Nevada state Senate. It traces his rise from impoverished Madison Parish, La., through his three decades in the state Senate until he earned a place in the Senate’s Hall of Fame.

Smith uses countless sources as well as his own considerable knowledge of the man and the times — both as a journalist and through his parents’ civil rights and union activism — to paint a detailed portrait of the scrappy Neal, who fought for the things he believed in.

For those who seek to experience Nevada and the region for themselves there is the latest edition of Deborah Wall’s “Base Camp Las Vegas,” a guide to 101 hikes in the region. Packed with photos, the book tells one how to get there, when to go, how to prepare, what to expect and what to avoid. It is a must for the explorer.

Another book published this year, if not about Nevada, is a piece of historic fiction by decades-long Nevada journalist A.D. Hopkins, “The Boys Who Woke Up Early.” Hopkins has penned a fictional account from his boyhood home in western Virginia during the Eisenhower era, looking at the seamy side of life through the eyes of high school boys.

Yes, the boys might’ve awakened early on occasion, but what they “woke up” was rural Early County and Jubal Early High School, named for a Confederate general. The book is laced with homespun conspiracies, displays of chivalry, dirty tricks, righteous revenge and conflicts that frequently result in gunplay, fisticuffs and the strategic use of ax handles and baseball bats. The plot is compelling and the dialog authentic.

For a cornucopia of books about Nevada and the West, turn to Range magazine’s website where you will find books and calendars depicting the ranching and farming lifestyle and attitudes. Among my favorites are the two “Brushstrokes & Balladeers,” coffee table books featuring Western-themed paintings and cowboy poets, including Elko County native Waddie Mitchell.

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: Don’t despoil public lands with wind and solar power

Nevada Democratic U.S. Sen. Jacky Rosen recently announced she is co-sponsoring a piece of legislation titled the Public Land Renewable Energy Development Act of 2019, which is touted as bipartisan legislation to promote the development of renewable energy on public lands — which is the vast majority of the land in Nevada.

“Nevada’s public lands are a source of pride and natural beauty in our state, but they also represent a potential home for clean, renewable power that will benefit Nevada and our country,” the senator is quoted in a press release put out by her office. “At a time when we’re facing the real, dangerous effects of climate change, we must find policy solutions to embrace clean energy alternatives to curb harmful carbon emissions. This bipartisan legislation would help to identify and advance additional renewable energy projects in wind, solar, and geothermal on federal lands, which make up nearly 80 percent of our state. I will continue to support forward-thinking policies that put us on a pathway towards a clean energy future.”

The bill would create another federal bureaucracy called the Renewable Energy Coordination Office, which would be tasked with streamlining the permitting of renewable energy development. The bill would set aside a small portion of the leasing revenue for state and local governments.

The trouble with renewable energy generating facilities — especially wind and solar — is that they are not cheap, are not really all that clean and constitute an incredible eyesore on the pristine landscape — witness the massive wind farm near Ely, the photovoltaic solar panels near Boulder City and the thermal solar mirror installations near Ivanpah and Tonopah.

“Not withstanding the romantic view of wind and solar power held by many, they are not cost-competitive, they are very far from clean, and they would do remarkably little to limit greenhouse-gas emissions and anthropogenic climate change, the ‘crisis view of which is unsupported by the evidence,” writes Benjamin Zycher of the American Enterprise Institute in an October edition of the National Review. “Several available analyses show that a major expansion of wind and solar power would increase the emissions of such conventional pollutants as carbon monoxide.”

Zycher cites Institute for Energy Research estimates that wind power is about twice as expensive as conventional gas-fired power and that solar power is almost three times as expensive. Those costs are passed on to the residential and business power customers or the taxpayers via subsidies. “The ubiquitous claims that wind and solar power now are cost-competitive ignore substantial costs for backup power and much longer transmission lines, and the effects of massive subsidies and guaranteed market shares,” Zycher explains.

And they gobble land. Zycher says that to achieve the renewable energy goals of the Green New Deal would require a land mass 15 percent larger than the entire state of California.

As for preventing global warming, the author says the renewable energy goals of the Green New Deal, even under highly favorable assumptions, would reduce temperatures by the year 2100 by about 0.173 degrees Celsius. He also notes that research suggests that of the 1.5 degree Celsius increase in temperatures since 1850 that mankind is responsible for only about half a degree.

Never mind the number of migratory birds killed every year by wind and solar power plants.

Meanwhile, Mark Mills, a senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute, writing in The Wall Street Journal, points out that one wind turbine requires 900 tons of steel, 2,500 tons of concrete and 45 tons of nonrecyclable plastic, while solar power requires even more cement, steel, glass and other metals, which require massive earth moving by fossil-fuel powered heavy equipment.

Is this really what we should be doing with our public lands?

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.

(Reuters pix via National Review)

Newspaper column: Higher taxes will not solve education woes

It’s never enough.

Despite lawmakers funding 3 percent teacher raises in this year’s legislative session and lawmakers increasing taxes by $750 million a year in 2015 to fund public education, the Clark County teachers’ union is launching a petition campaign that would ask voters statewide to increase taxes by $1 billion a year for public education.

The Clark County Education Association told the news media it has not yet decided specifically whose ox it intends to gore, but its members have voted to increase their union dues to fund a $2 million petition drive.

“We believe that there (are) revenue streams out there that can be increased to the tune of generating $1 billion more for public education a year on top of what we’re currently funding,” the Las Vegas newspaper quoted John Vellardita, executive director of the union, as saying. “We believe that whatever tax that may be that we land on, it’s got to be supported by the public and the public has to be assured that it’s going to the schools.”

To move whatever tax proposition the union comes up with forward the union and its backers must gather signatures amounting to 10 percent of the votes cast in the latest general election — in this case about 24,500 signatures in each of the state’s four congressional districts.

The petitions would have to be submitted by November 2020 and then verified by the Secretary of State’s office. If successful, the tax measure would then go before the 2021 Legislature, which could pass the initiative or kick it to the voters on the November 2022 ballot.

The last time such a proposal was put before Nevada voters was in 2014, when the Nevada State Education Association pushed a margin tax on businesses that it said would raise about $800 million a year in additional funding for K-12 education.

The measure went down in flames, with 78.8 percent of voters voting no. That’s nearly a 4-to-1 margin.

The problem with throwing more money at education and expecting Nevada’s cellar-dwelling education evaluations to improve is that it’s already been tried and found wanting. Since 1960 Nevada has tripled inflation-adjusted public education funding, but college entrance exam scores have actually fallen slightly.

According to the National Education Association, in the 2017-18 school year Nevada educators’ average salaries ranked 26th in the nation. For the past four years Nevada high schoolers had the lowest composite ACT scores in the nation, according to a recent Las Vegas newspaper account. Only 14 states require all students to take the exam. Nevada was the lowest amoung those 14, too.

According to the Nation’s Report Card, in 2015 only three states fared more poorly than Nevada in fourth grade mathematics proficiency.

If one has poorly performing employees, simply paying them more is not likely to improve their productivity.

While the teacher unions keep pressing for higher salaries and funding in general, they have been fighting tooth-and-nail every effort to toughen teacher evaluations and tie compensation to performance in the classroom.

A state law passed in 2011 established teacher evaluations and fully 50 percent of evaluations were to be based on pupil growth or improvement in testing scores over the course of a school year. At some point it was reduced to 40 percent, then in this past legislative session a bill was passed and signed by the governor dropping pupil growth to only 15 percent of an evaluation.

Evaluations are not all that rigorous to begin with. According to the Nevada Department of Education, in the 2017-2018 school year only 25 out of nearly 20,000 teachers in Nevada were evaluated as “ineffective.” That’s 0.1 percent. Another 1.3 percent were pegged as “developing,” while 80 percent were rated “effective” and 16.7 percent were rated “highly effective.” The rest were exempt from being evaluated.

The scores varied wildly from county to county. More than half the teachers in Storey and Eureka were rated “highly effective,” while less than 5 percent were awarded that rating in Lander and Pershing. In 12 counties there were no “ineffective” teachers whatsoever.

Tougher evaluations linked to compensation, not throwing still more money at public education is what is needed. So, if approached sometime in the future and asked to sign a petition to raise taxes to improve public education, we recommend you politely decline.

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.

Teachers protest at a Las Vegas high school earlier this year. (R-J file pix)

Editorial: Conscience rule for doctors just needs a rewrite

Despite what some have implied, a recent decision by a New York federal judge striking down the so-called “conscience rule” promulgated by the Trump administration is not a license to pressgang doctors and nurses into performing procedures abhorrent to their consciences — such as abortions, contraception and gender transitioning procedures.

U.S. District Court Judge Paul Engelmayer sided with plaintiffs, including the state of Nevada, in declaring the rule unenforceable as written, saying it was unconstitutionally coercive because it would have required the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to withhold billions of dollars in funding from hospitals, clinics, universities and others that did not comply. As the judge pointed out in his ruling, “Nevada, for example, received more than $2.6 billion in federal health care funding from HHS in the 2018 federal fiscal year.”

Judge Engelmayer wrote, “The Conscience Provisions recognize and protect undeniably important rights. The Court’s decision today leaves HHS at liberty to consider and promulgate rules governing these provisions.”

But he concluded, “Wherever the outermost line where persuasion gives way to coercion lies, the threat to pull all HHS funding here crosses it.”

It was the enforcement mechanism not the “conscience rule” that was tossed. The Trump administration needs to rewrite the rule.

It is the procedures that matter, not whether the patient is gay, lesbian, transgender or whatever.

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford put out a press release about the New York ruling saying, “My office has opposed every attempt by the Trump Administration to diminish the rights and needs of Nevadans, and access to health care is no exception. Had this rule gone forward, it would have allowed individuals and entire institutions to deny lawful and medically necessary care to patients, even during emergency situations. I’m encouraged that the courts have blocked yet another attempt to implement a discriminatory rule.”

It is hard to envision an emergency abortion or gender altering procedure.

Stephanie Taub, senior counsel for First Liberty Institute, which bills itself as the largest legal organization in the nation dedicated exclusively to protecting religious liberty for all Americans, put out a statement warning, “This decision leaves health care professionals across America vulnerable to being forced to perform, facilitate, or refer for procedures that violate their conscience. The Trump Administration’s HHS protections would ensure that healthcare professionals are free to work consistent with their religious beliefs while providing the best care to their patients.”

In fact, another federal judge, Texas U.S. District Court Judge Reed O’Connor, recently vacated an Obama-era federal regulation that would have required healthcare providers and insurers to perform gender-transition procedures and abortions even if they go against their medical judgment or violate religious convictions.

The Christian Post quoted Nick Reaves, legal counsel at Becket Law, which touts itself as being a defender of religious freedom, as saying, “Doctors shouldn’t have to choose between giving up their faith and being forced out of their profession. In a diverse and free society, we can ensure that everyone will receive needed care without punishing doctors for having a conscience.”

Yes, that should be the case. HHS just needs to quickly rewrite the rule with less onerous enforcement provisions to protect Nevada’s and the nation’s medical professionals from being forced to act against their beliefs.

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.

Vice President Mike Pence and his wife, Karen, at a National Day of Prayer service in the White House Rose Garden earlier this year. Pence advocated religious exemptions for health care workers. Getty Images pix via NYT)