Minimum wage: The 3 percent solution?

There for a while I felt like Jeremiah crying in the wilderness in pointing out that the state Legislature could not raise the minimum wage in Nevada, because the voters in 2006 set the minimum wage and determined how it would be raised by voting for a constitutional amendment. It would take another constitutional amendment to change that, not a mere change in law.

Senate Bill 106 and Assembly Bill 175 propose to raise the minimum by different amounts.

But this week a writer at The Nevada Independent weighed in with a piece asking: “Can the Nevada Legislature raise the minimum wage?”

The writer concluded that at the Legislative Counsel Bureau opinion that lawmakers can do it is not binding law and if it passes someone is likely to file suit.

Today a Las Vegas newspaper columnist also broached the question of whether the Constitution bars lawmakers from raising the minimum wage.

He too concluded that, if either bill passes and the governor for some reason signs it, the issue will land in the courts.

In 2006 the constitutional amendment established the minimum wage would be $5.15 an hour if an employer provided health insurance and $6.15 if not. It provided for raising that minimum wage to match any increase in the federal minimum or raise it to account for an increase in the cost of living, whichever is greater. Today the minimums stand at $7.25 and $8.25.

The voters established both the minimum wage and the method for increasing it. How can lawmakers simply say that is merely the minimum minimum and they can increase it to whatever level they wish?

The Senate bill would raise the minimum wage 75 cents a year until it reaches $11 or $12, depending on health insurance, while the Assembly version would raise it $1.25 a year until it hits $14 or $15.

An Assembly committee was told by its LCB lawyer last week: “I spoke with the Legislative Counsel Brenda Erdoes. She told me that our office thoroughly researched this during the 2015 legislative session and then updated and confirmed that research during the drafting of AB175 this session. She said that as result of their research it is the opinion of LCB legal, based on the rules of statutory and constitutional construction, that the provisions of the minimum wage amendment to the Nevada Constitution do not limit the inherent power of the Legislature to establish by statute a new minimum wage that is higher than the minimum wage that is currently required by law.”

A Senate LCB lawyer told a committee hearing its bill this week: “In this case with this bill the constitutional amendment clearly states the employers must pay a wage of quote ‘at least’ the amounts set forth in the language of the constitutional amendment. Thus increasing the minimum wage by legislation would not conflict with the constitutional amendment and because there is no conflict with the constitutional amendment the Legislature has the power to enact legislation to increase the minimum wage. And that has been the opinion of the Legislative Counsel.”

But a previous fact sheet posted by LCB in 2015 stated: “Because provisions governing the minimum wage rate are included in the Constitution, any changes to the minimum wage provisions require a constitutional amendment.”

The Las Vegas columnist was told that was an error. The fact sheet has since been altered to delete that section.

But as the Nevada Supreme Court has stated: The expression of one thing is the exclusion of another.

The constitutional amendment states how the minimum wage is to be raised and that does not include permission for the lawmakers raise it by some other means.

In fact, in the portion of the amendment that states how minimum wages may be raised to account for increases in the Consumer Price Index it clearly states: “No CPI adjustment for any one-year period may be greater than 3%.”

That indicates the voters intended to prevent rapid increases in the minimum wage even if the CPI were to jump, say 10 percent in one year.

The proffered $1.25 and 75 cents a year both exceed that 3 percent cap established by the voters. One more argument for the courts to contemplate should either bill become law.

 

 

How not to pick and choose who to erase from history

If you thought Nevada lawmakers meeting now in Carson City were engaging in petty political correctness by seeking to change the purely ceremonial and entirely vacuous non-holiday of Columbus Day to Indigenous Peoples Day, wait till you read what pompous administrators at Yale University are doing.

Roger Kimball, in a brilliantly executed op-ed in today’s Wall Street Journal, takes apart the decision at Yale to rename one of its 12 residential colleges to remove the name of 19th century politician, orator, senator, secretary of war, vice president and slave owner John C. Calhoun.

Stained-glass image of John C. Calhoun at Yale

Stained-glass image of John C. Calhoun at Yale

As Kimball points out, once you start down this path of erasing people from history for the crime of doing what was completely normal at their time in history, where do you stop? After all, five other colleges at Yale are named for slave owners. Calhoun’s name is simply the most prominent. He graduated as valedictorian from Yale College in 1804.

Among the criteria for renaming something at Yale is: Does the person’s legacy conflict with the university’s mission and did the person pay a substantial role at Yale?

Kimball then introduces us to the foibles of the university’s namesake: Elihu Yale.

Mr. Yale helped found Yale College with a gift of £800 in books and other goods.

While Calhoun was said to have been kind to his slaves, according to Kimball, Yale was an active slave trader and administrator in India, who flogged his slaves, had a stable boy hanged for horse theft, was removed from his post in India for corruption and never set foot in New Haven.

There are a lot names on a lot of things. Indian fighters Kit Carson and John C. Fremont come quickly to mind.

And don’t let them tell you Carson City is really named after the Carson River, which was named by Fremont for his scout Carson.

Kit Carson with John C. Fremont (Library of Congress)

Kit Carson with John C. Fremont (Library of Congress)

 

 

 

 

 

Editorial: Lawmakers should repeal football stadium funding

Lawmakers were summoned this past fall to Carson City and asked to pitch in $750 million toward financing a $1.9 billion domed football stadium that would house the Oakland Raiders and the UNLV football program.

The Raiders and the NFL would add $500 million to the pot and Las Vegas casino and newspaper owner Sheldon Adelson’s family would tip in another $650 million.

Since then Adelson has walked away from the deal, taking his money. He was miffed at the fact the Raiders’ owner never told him before hand about a proposed lease agreement with the stadium authority that legislators created to handle the “publicly owned” stadium.

The lease proposal envisions the Raiders paying $1 a year in rent, and the team owners pocketing all revenue from tickets, events, naming rights, etc., as well as having total control over the use of the stadium by UNLV and the Las Vegas Bowl.

“In addition to being discouraged by the surprise submission, I was deeply disappointed for the disregard the Raiders showed our community partners, particularly UNLV, through the proposed agreement,” Adelson said in a statement given to his Las Vegas newspaper. “It was certainly shocking to the Adelson family,” the statement also said. “We were not only excluded from the proposed agreement; we weren’t even aware of its existence. … It’s clear the Raiders have decided their path for moving to Las Vegas does not include the Adelson family. So, regrettably, we will no longer be involved in any facet of the stadium discussion.”

It is high time lawmakers, now meeting in regular session, reconsider the state’s commitment of room tax money to this harebrained, half-baked scheme to enrich billionaires.

Instead of sticking tourists with a 0.88 percent hike in the room tax, lawmakers should let them keep that money to spend on food, drink and gambling, which net nearly 10 times as much in tax revenue.

Sam Boyd, where there are more people on the field than in the stands.

Sam Boyd, where there are more people on the field than in the stands.

Now, we are reticent to suggest that the proponents of this stadium deal are so Machiavellian as to have plotted this from the start, but …

Lawmakers should note that there is no stadium price tag in the bill they passed, and the stadium backers flatly refused to consider capping public funding at 39 percent of the cost of construction. It was $750 million or no deal. The cost of the stadium when first proposed was a mere $1 billion. It ratcheted up from there. What is to stop the Raiders from building a $1 billion stadium, tapping the taxpayers for three-quarters of the tab and getting the state to make the estimated $900 million in road improvements needed to access the stadium?

Besides, does UNLV really need a new football stadium, when it can’t fill the one it has? One that has adequate traffic access off a major freeway and abundant parking. Why is there a need for a stadium on or near the campus, when 93 percent of students live off campus? And never mind the problems it might create for air traffic into McCarran International Airport.

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

The Kingdome in Seattle was repaired in 1994, costing more than $50 million in 20-year bonds, which were paid off in 2015. The stadium was imploded in 2000.

Renovate Sam Boyd Stadium if that is needed and forget this domed stadium boondoggle. If Adelson can take a hike, so can the state.

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.

Can lawmakers raise the minimum wage since it is ensconced in the state Constitution?

miniwage

Democrats in the Nevada Legislature have introduced Senate Bill 106, which proposes to raise the minimum wage by 75 cents a year until it reaches $11 an hour for employers who provide health insurance and $12 an hour for those who do not.

This would affect profitability of employers, tend to push all hourly wage earnings up, possibly result in higher unemployment and increase the cost of goods and services in general — thus affecting nearly everyone in Nevada. The story was relegated to the bottom of the business page in the Las Vegas newspaper, but was the lede story in the Elko paper. AP gave it short shrift.

One minor problem with this proposed law is that the voters approved an initiative petition in 2004 and again in 2006 that amended the state Constitution to require that the minimum wage be tied to the federal minimum wage or inflation, whichever is higher. The current federal minimum wage is $7.25 an hour. The amendment also said the minimum wage would be a dollar higher for employees who failed to provide health insurance. So far as I can find, the amendment does not give lawmakers the option to alter this without asking the voters to again change the Constitution.

According to Legislative Counsel Bureau fact sheet published in 2015:

“Because provisions governing the minimum wage rate are included in the Constitution, any changes to the minimum wage provisions require a constitutional amendment. There are two ways to amend the Constitution. One way is through the citizen initiative process. Citizen initiatives for constitutional amendments must be approved in identical form in two consecutive general elections. This is the process that enacted the current minimum wage requirements in the Constitution. The second way to amend the Constitution is through the legislative process. The Senate or Assembly may propose a constitutional amendment, which must pass in identical form with a majority of members of both houses in two consecutive biennial sessions. After that, the proposal must pass a popular vote during the next general election.”

Just such a constitutional amendment was proposed in late 2015, but was dropped during the hectic election year, reportedly because the difficulty of getting enough signatures to put it on the ballot.

SB106 proposes to rewrite NRS605.250 to alter the minimum wage. That law currently reads: “Except as otherwise provided in this section, the Labor Commissioner shall, in accordance with federal law, establish by regulation the minimum wage which may be paid to employees in private employment within the State. The Labor Commissioner shall prescribe increases in the minimum wage in accordance with those prescribed by federal law, unless the Labor Commissioner determines that those increases are contrary to the public interest.”

Las Vegas newspaper columnist Victor Joecks quoted Gov. Brian Sandoval’s press secretary as saying:

“Due to the predicted loss of jobs and harm to small businesses, the potential to block young people and individuals with less work experience from open positions, and an increase in consumer prices, the Governor has historically opposed a legislative mandate to increase the minimum wage.”

This implies the governor might veto such a bill even if it passes constitutional muster.

As I’ve pointed out on a number of occasions the impact of such a bill is far ranging and carries unintended consequences.

“Unfortunately, the real minimum wage is always zero,” economist Thomas Sowell points out, “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.”

The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that if the federal minimum wage were increased to $10.10 an hour — as proposed by President Obama and others — up to a million workers would lose their jobs.

According to the American Enterprise Institute, when the minimum wage rose 41 percent between 2007 and 2009, the jobless rate for 16- to 19-year-olds increased by 10 percentage points, from about 16 percent in 2007 to more than 26 percent in 2009 — even higher for minorities.

These are entry level jobs without which younger Americans cannot build the skills needed to earn higher pay.

Another Heritage study reported that every dollar increase in minimum wage really only raises take-home pay by 20 cents once welfare benefits are reduced and taxes are increased.

Then there are the affects on everyone. A Cato Institute analysis reports that a “comprehensive review of more than 20 minimum wage studies looking at price effects found that a 10 percent increase in the U.S. minimum wage raises food prices by up to 4 percent and overall prices by up to 0.4 percent.”

Minimage wages also tend to push younger workers with less worthy skills out of the job market, and Nevada already has the 10th highest youth unemployment rate in the nation at 13.5 percent.

Did someone ratchet up the stadium price tag to hoodwink lawmakers? Nah …

So, according to the Sheldon Adelson Review-Journal (SAR-J, pronounced sarge), NFL executives in Houston for the “Big Game,” as all the ads say because they can’t say Super Bowl, say that $1.9 billion price tag for a 65,000-seat domed stadium in Las Vegas to house the Oakland Raiders might be “exorbitant.”

Now, who’d’ve thought that?

No other stadium has cost that much so far, the paper says, though one being built is estimate to top $2 billion.

Back in October when lawmakers were contemplating Senate Bill 1, which proposed to raise room taxes to help pay for such a stadium — the special session vote was 16-5 in the Senate and 28-13 in the Assembly, satisfying the two-thirds requirement — someone wrote:

The stadium is being pushed by billionaire casino and newspaper owner Sheldon Adelson who promises to shell out $650 million from his rather deep pockets to pay for construction. The National Football League and the Oakland Raiders are supposed to contribute $500 million toward construction. The $750 million public sop is the largest ever by any public entity for a sports facility in this country.

All profits from stadium operations accrue strictly to the private investors.

At one point during the Assembly hearings, Assemblyman Ira Hansen of Sparks asked what happens if the stadium comes in under the $1.9 billion estimate. Would the taxpayers still be on the hook for the full $750 million?

Steve Hill of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, which had touted the project, replied: “Technically that’s correct.”

Before Hill could elaborate, Hansen cut him off with a terse: “Thank you.”

So, if the project comes in closer to the original estimate of $1 billion, the taxpayers will pick up 75 percent of the cost and the billionaires keep their money.

Now that Adelson has walked away from the deal, might taxpayers be facing just such an outcome? The stadium proponents rejected a proposal to cap taxpayer funding at 39 percent of the actual cost. It was $750 million or no deal. Don’t forget the $900 million in tax dollars it will take to improve roadways to access the stadium.

The article in the paper asks the billion-dollar question: “Does (Oakland Raiders owner Mark) Davis really need the $650 million that was coming from the Adelsons, or does he need far less to build the Las Vegas stadium?”`

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis. (AP pix via SAR-J)

Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis. (AP pix via SAR-J)

Editorial: Voter registration version of don’t ask, don’t tell

After President Trump proclaimed to the world that the only reason Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million was that 3 million or more ballots were cast fraudulently — by noncitizens, by the dead or by Box 13 in Alice, Texas, where ballot stuffing first elected Lyndon Johnson to Congress, perhaps — the media dutifully reported that there is no evidence, no proof, no foundation for such a claim.

Even Nevada’s Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske put out a statement saying her office was unaware of any “evidence” to support claims of voter fraud here.

“There is no evidence of voters illegally casting ballots at the most recent election in Nevada,” reads a statement posted on her website. “The Secretary of State’s office is aware of attempted fraud related to voter registration in Nevada; however, with the help of local election officials, we were able to investigate and make one arrest.”

There is no evidence because voters are not required to prove they are citizens or to show valid ID to prove they are who they say they are. How many people after the fact are going to come forward and volunteer that they voted fraudulently?

Recently a former newspaper columnist, Vin Suprynowicz, dredged up a 2012 column by fellow columnist Glenn Cook that found there really is “evidence,” but only if you really look for it and actually, you know, ask questions. (I also wrote about it at the time.)

Cook spoke shortly before the election that year with two immigrant noncitizens who had been registered to vote by a representative of their union, Culinary Local 226 in Clark County. They spoke English but didn’t read it very well. They told Cook the Culinary official who registered them to vote didn’t tell them what they were signing and didn’t ask whether they were citizens. Later, Culinary canvassers started seeking them out and ordering them to go vote.

Cook verified their identities, their lack of citizenship and their status as active registered voters.

The two said they did not have to show a photo ID to register and merely showed a Culinary health insurance card and a power bill.

“One would establish identity and one would establish residence,” then-Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax told the columnist. “Just like every other voter in Nevada, they will not be asked to prove citizenship.”

The Culinary political director denied the union canvassers do such things.

Shortly before the election this year The Associated Press reported that the Culinary union in Las Vegas had registered 34,000 of its members to vote and had reassigned 150 of its members to full-time political work, intending to knock on 200,000 doors and confront their co-workers in casino cafeterias and by phone. The union also chartered buses to shuttle casino workers to an early voting site during their paid lunch break, and handed each a boxed lunch.

According to a New York Times account shortly before the election, 56 percent of the Clark County Culinary union’s 57,000 members were Latino. No indication how many were citizens.

According to Pew Research Center, in 2014 Nevada had the highest ratio of illegal alien workers in the nation at 10.4 percent.

Cook spoke to just two people who should not have been registered to vote and should not have been pressured to vote nor pressured to vote for the union ticket. How many more there might have been is unknown, because no one is asking.

And, while we are not speculating about the impact such votes might’ve had on the 2016 election, we will note that Hillary Clinton lost in every county in Nevada except Clark and Washoe, while newly elected Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto lost in every county save Clark, as did the new Congressional District 4 Rep. Ruben Kihuen.

Nevada lawmakers should take the opportunity in the coming session to require proof of citizenship and a photo ID. Our current honor system is just too risky, especially in close races.

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.

State should pull the plug on funding football stadium

Casino and newspaper owner Sheldon Adelson walked away from the proposed $1.9 billion domed stadium and took his $650 million with him. The state of Nevada should renege on its $750 million commitment.

Sheldon Adelson

If Adelson can’t make a suitable deal with Oakland Raiders owner Mark Davis to move the team to Las Vegas, what makes anyone think UNLV will be able to deal with him and get a fair share of playing time and money from the stadium, should it ever really get built?

Adelson apparently was miffed that the Raiders handed the new stadium authority a lease deal without consulting him. “In addition to being discouraged by the surprise submission, I was deeply disappointed for the disregard the Raiders showed our community partners, particularly UNLV, through the proposed agreement,” Adelson’s said in a statement given to his Las Vegas newspaper.

“It was certainly shocking to the Adelson family,” the statement also said. “We were not only excluded from the proposed agreement; we weren’t even aware of its existence. … It’s clear the Raiders have decided their path for moving to Las Vegas does not include the Adelson family. So, regrettably, we will no longer be involved in any facet of the stadium discussion.”

Under the proposed lease the NFL team would pay$1 a year for the stadium and would keep all the revenue from concessions, events, naming, etc. Uses by UNLV and the annual Las Vegas Bowl would be subject to the whims of the Raiders.

Reportedly Goldman Sachs stands ready to step into the fray and pick up the funding gap left by Adelson’s departure. Reportedly. ESPN is reporting the Goldman Sachs is re-evaluating its role in the deal.

That $750 million in room tax money could be spent on more worthwhile endeavors, including a less ostentatious football stadium for UNLV. It would also mean the state would not have to spend $900 million in road improvements for the stadium. Lawmakers meet in Carson City in a week or so and bill draft could ready for them when they arrive.

Adelson’s sports columnist speculated that other NFL team owners did not want an unsavory casino owner dabbling in their pristine pastime, or, just perhaps, they did not want to associate with someone whose company has paid $16 million in fines to the feds in the past year over allegations of bribery involving overseas operations.

How long will it take for that little italicized disclaimer at the bottom of stories about the stadium to disappear, just as Adelson has? And what will be the paper’s editorial stance on the stadium proposal?