Editorial: Federal bill would negate right-to-work laws

A month ago the U.S. House passed on a near party line vote of 224-194 a bill dubbed the Protecting the Right to Organize Act, or PRO Act. Among other things the bill would nullify state right-to-work laws, such as Nevada’s 66-year-old right-to-work law and those of 26 other states. Workers would be forced to pay union dues in order to keep their jobs.

All three of Nevada’s Democratic representatives — Dina Titus, Steven Horsford and Susie Lee — voted for the bill. Titus and Horsford were co-sponsors. Republican Rep. Mark Amodei voted against it.

The chances of the bill passing the Senate this year are nugatory, but if Democrats retake a majority of the Senate in November its chances are much more likely.

Nevada’s right-to-work law specifically states, “No person shall be denied the opportunity to obtain or retain employment because of nonmembership in a labor organization, nor shall the State, or any subdivision thereof or any corporation, individual or association of any kind enter into any agreement, written or oral, which excludes any person from employment or continuation of employment because of nonmembership in a labor organization.”

In addition to killing such right-to-work laws the PRO Act dramatically tilts the playing field in favor of union bosses at the expense of employers and employees. For example, it would adopt a California law that forces many independent contractors to be covered by rules requiring overtime, meal breaks, leave time, workers compensation and unemployment benefits among other things.

It also would weaken workers’ basic right to a secret collective bargaining ballot instead of coercive card checks.

Union contracts could also be imposed via arbitration.

The PRO Act would ban employers from permanently replacing striking workers.

The National Law Review said of the legislation, “In all, the PRO Act would introduce a great deal of potentially harmful changes to the labor law landscape that may negatively affect American businesses and their employees. The bill seeks to institute increasingly complex legal strictures when labor law is already profoundly complicated and confusing. Instead of simplifying matters or assisting companies and unions in facilitating their businesses, the act would create a tangled web of regulations that would benefit organized labor at the expense of both employers and employees. Political prospects for the bill are dim in the U.S. Senate, but the PRO Act will now be the baseline for labor reform proponents should political winds blow differently in the future.”

This past September, Mark Mix, president of the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation and National Right to Work Committee, wrote an op-ed for the Las Vegas newspaper explaining the economic impact of Nevada’s right-to-work law.

“Business owners correctly view states that have passed right-to-work laws as being more welcoming and business-friendly than high-tax, forced-dues states such as California,” Mix wrote. “That is why federal Bureau of Labor Statistics data show that from 2013-18, factory employment growth in Nevada was more than three times greater than in Western forced-union states such as Colorado, Oregon and Montana.”

Mix further noted that in the past decade total employment for right-to-work states grew twice as much as it did in forced-unionism states.

Keep this in mind as you go to vote this fall. Your job may depend on 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.

Editorial: Federal spending by both parties must be reined in

There is always one issue on which both parties in Washington never fail to agree — more and more spending.

President Trump’s proposed 2021 fiscal year budget of $4.8 trillion includes a deficit of $1 trillion dollars, almost double the deficit for the Obama administration’s final year in office, but the squawking isn’t about the deficit and the mounting national debt. It is that there is not enough spending. 

While the Nevada delegation was largely pleased with the fact the proposed budget doesn’t include spending to license Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste dump for a change, but rather includes $27.5 million for “exploring innovative approaches for storing long-term waste,” our Democratic delegates complained about spending “cuts.”

Of course, there is the possibility that those innovative approaches might not be as good as arid, isolated Yucca Mountain in a county hungry for well paying jobs.

According to the Las Vegas newspaper, during a Senate Finance Committee hearing Nevada’s Democratic senior Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto “grilled” Treasury Secretary Steve Mnuchin on proposed budget cuts of nearly $200 million for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, that’s food stamps, and reductions of $90 million in Social Security programs. Mnuchin replied that those were not cuts at all but rather decreases in the projected increases in spending. 

Sen. Jacky Rosen and Reps. Dina Titus and Susie Lee, all Democrats, complained of less funding for education and environmental programs.

During a House Ways and Means Committee hearing, again according to the Las Vegas newspaper, Democratic 4th Congressional District Rep. Steven Horsford accused the Trump administration of using the social program cuts to offset $1.9 trillion in tax cuts pushed through by Republicans earlier.

“Sweeping money from the children of Nevada to balance your budget on the backs of working Americans after giving a tax cut to the very wealthy and big corporations is not going to happen,” Horsford was quoted as saying.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal editorial, revenues have continued to rise “despite” the tax cut. Or perhaps a more robust economy is generating more tax revenue “because” of the tax cuts. 

“Revenues are expected to be 16.7% of GDP, not far off the 17.2% before the tax cut,” the Journal editorial points out. “The problem is that outlays are rising faster — to 21.6% of GDP this fiscal year, the most since 2012 and well above the Bush and late Clinton years.” It’s the spending.

The Trump budget proposal also makes some rosy and unlikely assumptions. In another article, Wall Street Journal columnists note that the 10-year forecast in the Trump budget projects $50.7 trillion in federal revenue, which is 7 percent more than the Congressional Budget Office forecast, which assumes the 2017 tax cuts will expire as scheduled in 2025. Trump’s budget assumes the tax cuts will be extended. Not likely if the Democrats continue to hold the House.

Meanwhile, a New York Times writer also raises questions about the Trump budget’s overly optimistic forecasts for economic growth, pointing out that the Trump budget foresees the total national debt declining from the current 79 percent of the overall economy to 66 percent in 2030. The Congressional Budget Office sees it rising to 98 percent, a level not reached since 1946, the end of World War II. 

It is time to rein in the spending and sending the bill to the next generation, which might have to default. 

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.

Welcome to Bernie’s ‘Brave New World,’ where parents and achievement no longer exist

Together, we will make sure that no child in Nevada goes hungry. Hundreds of thousands of Nevada school children are in need of school lunches. Instead of saddling families with debt and stigma, we will fund universal school meals — breakfast, lunch and dinner.

Yes, an op-ed in the morning paper by Bernie Sanders advocates providing children three hots a day, so why not a cot, too? Children can’t learn if they don’t sleep well, and parents are so unreliable about providing such necessities, aren’t they?

He goes on to call for raising teacher starting pay to $60,000 a year and providing grants for out-of-pocket expenses.

As for achievement standards, Sanders dismisses those out of hand:

Instead of forcing teachers to “teach to the test,” we will respect their professional expertise in setting standards of student evaluation. We will not condition school funding on testing outcomes. In Nevada, the “high stakes” aspect of standardized tests means some underperforming schools will be converted into charters, which are less accountable. That is a perversion of what testing and evaluation is all about, and it is undermining public education.

Just give everyone a participation trophy, I mean diploma.

Sanders concludes, “You are a critical part of the political revolution that is needed to transform our country. When we stand together, there is nothing we cannot accomplish.”

Accomplish?

From Aldous Huxley’s “Brave New World“:

There was a silence; then, clearing his throat, ‘Once upon a time,’ the Director began, ‘while Our Ford was still on earth, there was a little boy called Reuben Rabinovitch. Reuben was the child of Polish-speaking parents.’ The Director interrupted himself. ‘You know what Polish is, I suppose?’

‘A dead language.’

‘Like French and German,’ added another student, officiously showing off his learning.

‘And “parent?”?’ questioned the D.H.C.

There was an uneasy silence. Several of the boys blushed. They had not yet learned to draw the significant but often very fine distinction between smut and pure science. One, at last, had the courage to raise a hand.

‘Human beings used to be…’ he hesitated; the blood rushed to his cheeks. ‘Well, they used to be viviparous.’

‘Quite right.’ The Director nodded approvingly.

‘And when the babies were decanted…’

‘”Born”,’ came the correction.

‘Well, then they were the parents–I mean, not the babies, of course; the other ones.’ The poor boy was overwhelmed with confusion.

‘In brief,’ the Director summed up, ‘the parents were the father and the mother.’ The smut that was really science fell with a crash into the boys’ eye-avoiding silence. ‘Mother,’ he repeated loudly rubbing in the science; and, leaning back in his chair, ‘These,’ he said gravely, ‘are unpleasant facts; I know it. But, then, most historical facts are unpleasant.’

He returned to Little Reuben–to Little Reuben, in whose room, one evening, by an oversight, his father and mother (crash, crash!) happened to leave the radio turned on.

(‘For you must remember that in those days of gross viviparous reproduction, children were always brought up by their parents and not in State Conditioning Centres.’)

Those are the Alphas and Betas, not the the Gammas, Deltas and Epsilons, who are bred to be workers in Huxley’s world. What will become of Bernie’s Epsilons?

 

Who may apply a ‘balancing test’ for access to public records?

A story in today’s newspaper about police denying the paper access to certain arrest records stated:

The denial also cited a “balancing test” established by a 1990 state Supreme Court decision, now a common method of blocking public access to government records. Donrey of Nevada v. Bradshaw allowed governments to withhold records not deemed confidential if officials decided secrecy was in the best interest of the public.

Actually, Donrey v. Bradshaw stated that the courts could apply a balancing test, not every bureaucrat in custody of records deemed public by virtue of the Nevada Public Records Act. Also, the balancing test that the court applied did not withhold records but rather declared that records otherwise deemed confidential by law could be made public if it was in the best interest of the public. It was a victory for the media and the public, not a loss.

A Reno television station, which was then owned by the same company that owned the Las Vegas newspaper, requested a police investigative report on brothel owner Joe Conforte. The Reno city attorney had dismissed charges of contributing to the delinquency of a minor against Conforte even though police opposed the dismissal. Such reports are by law confidential.

The Nevada Supreme Court applied a “judicial” balancing test and found that “weighing the absence of any privacy or law enforcement policy justifications for nondisclosure against the general policy in favor of open government” that the scales tipped in favor of release of the records.

In overturning a district court ruling denying the disclosure of the requested records, the state Supreme Court stated:

There is no pending or anticipated criminal proceeding; there are no confidential sources or investigative techniques to protect; there is no possibility of denying someone a fair trial; and there is no potential jeopardy to law enforcement personnel. Even the district court acknowledged in its order that “if a [balancing] test were applied under the circumstances of this case, petitioners would undoubtedly prevail.”

But, ever since then local governments have been applying the balancing test to argue that records clearly defined by law as public could be kept confidential under their own balancing test — even though there is no specific law allowing this and no court precedent. That argument has been used to deny access to everything from employee evaluations and salaries to cell phone records of county commissioners.

Judges, not bureaucrats with vested interests, are the only ones who may apply a balancing test to determine whether a record is open for public inspection. That is what Donrey v. Bradshaw actually says.

Jim Day cartoon

A poll of not-so-likely voters

The banner story in today’s newspaper reports that nonpartisan voters prefer the top Democratic presidential contenders over Donald Trump.

“The results of the poll, which surveyed 402 likely nonpartisan voters from Feb. 2-4, found that former Vice President Joe Biden, Sen. Bernie Sanders and Sen. Elizabeth Warren each have slight leads over Trump in hypothetical, head-to-head November matchups,”  the story says, noting that nonpartisans make up only about 22 percent of active registered voters.

Just how likely are they to vote? Well, not so likely after all.

The third paragraph from the end notes, “A staggering 40 percent of the respondents had not voted in any of the past four elections.”

What’s the margin of error?

Editorial: Homeland Security concerned about illegals driving legally

The acting head of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has ordered all the agencies under his purview to review the ramifications of state laws that allow illegal aliens to obtain driver authorization cards and restrict sharing data with immigration enforcement authorities.

Nevada is one of those 14 states.

Lawmakers passed Senate Bill 303 in 2013 and it was signed by Gov. Brian Sandoval. Ostensibly, the bill was intended to reduce the number of uninsured motorists on the roads, because it is difficult to obtain car insurance if one can’t legally drive.

But the bill, now ensconced in law as NRS 481.063, also dictates that the DMV “shall not release any information relating to legal presence or any other information relating to or describing immigration status, nationality or citizenship from a file or record relating to a request for or the issuance of a license, identification card or title or registration of a vehicle to any person or to any federal, state or local governmental entity for any purpose relating to the enforcement of immigration laws.”

This apparently was intended to assuage illegal aliens of the notion that obtaining a driver authorization card — which allows one to drive in Nevada but cannot be used for such things as boarding an aircraft — would subject them to actual enforcement of existing immigration law.

A March article in The Nevada Independent reported that there were at the time 49,000 active driver authorization cards issued in the state and another 3,500 learners’ permits for the cards.

What prompted Chad Wolf, the acting director of Homeland Security, to issue his memo this past week was the passage of similar laws in New York and New Jersey recently, according to The Daily Caller.

“Accordingly, I am instructing each operational component to conduct an assessment of the impact of these laws, so that the Department is prepared to deal with and counter these impacts as we protect the homeland,” Wolf’s memo read. Those components include U.S. Customs and Border Protection, the Coast Guard and the Transportation Security Administration.

After passage of the illegal alien driver authorization law in New York numerous county clerks pointed out that such a policy could pave the way for voter fraud, identity theft and even terrorism.

“Laws like New York’s greenlight law have dangerous consequences that have far reaches beyond the DMV,” Homeland Security spokeswomen Heather Swift was quoted as saying. “These types of laws make it easier for terrorists and criminals to obtain fraudulent documents and also prevent DHS investigators from accessing important records that help take down child pornography and human trafficking rings and combat everything from terrorism to drug smuggling.”

Wolf’s memo ordered agencies to determine what DMV information is currently available and what the consequences would be if that data were restricted.

“Never before in our history have we seen politicians make such rash and dangerous decisions to end all communication and cooperation with the Department of Homeland Security law enforcement,” The Daily Caller further quoted Swift. “The Secretary is prepared to take every measure necessary to ensure the safety and security of the homeland and we look forward to the recommendations of our agents and officers in the field.”

Las Vegas newspaper columnist Victor Joecks pointed out in an April 2018 column that the DMV uses the same forms for those getting a driver authorization card as for those getting a regular driver’s license. At the bottom of the form is a voter registration application. The form asks whether the applicant is a citizen and old enough to vote, but requires no proof whatsoever. Neither does the Secretary of State’s office, which processes the voter registration.

Highway safety concerns are important, but state abrogation of federal immigration law and voter registration integrity is hardly justifiable.

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.

Two news accounts of same event are widely disparate

Seldom is seen such disparate accounts of the same event.

Today’s morning newspaper and its inert insert both carried reports about a court ruling Wednesday. The morning paper’s lede was about a Clark County judge staying a final ruling in the state litigation between the two newspapers until a federal court resolves an antitrust suit filed by the owner of the insert. The final paragraph of the insert’s story mentions this fact.

The lede in the insert is that the county judge agreed with an arbitrator that the morning paper’s accounting practices denied the insert a fair share of the morning paper’s actual profits — an amount that could well be in the millions of dollars. In the middle of the morning paper’s account there is a mention that the judge refused to include the arbitrator’s decision in his stay, concluding that part of the case has been resolved. No mention was made of the dollar value.

Seldom do both papers cover the same event. In fact the insert seldom covers hard news at all, except in its online version and most of that is about entertainment, sports or crime.

The papers combined printing and business operations in 1989 under the Newspaper Preservation Act of 1970, which allowed newspapers to avoid antitrust laws while preserving what the law saw as “a newspaper press editorially and reportorially independent and competitive …” by keeping a failing newspaper from going out of business.

At first the failing paper was printed in the afternoon, but later it was converted into a 6- to 10-page insert when the so-called joint operating agreement (JOA) was renegotiated and the contract extended to 2040. The insert’s owner was to receive a share of the morning paper’s profits, which apparently have been near zero of late.

For the past two years the two have been fighting it out in the courts with the morning paper saying the insert has failed to live up to the intention of the Newspaper Preservation Act and the JOA should be terminated. A morning paper editorial explained its suit by saying, “We are asking a court to rule that the Sun has not met a contractual obligation to produce a high-quality metropolitan print newspaper.”

The editorial went on to charge:

The Sun would be free to have someone else print, sell and distribute their newspaper, if they wish. The Sun has a website loaded with breaking news and timely features, as well as sister publications that are filled with content produced by Sun staff. The vast majority of this content never appears in the printed Sun edition, anyway.

And that’s a major reason why we’re bringing this court action. In our opinion, the Sun’s print edition is a stale combination of dated wire service stories and columns packaged around a couple of staff reports and photos that are sometimes a week old.

The insert countered with an editorial under the headline: “The Sun refuses to kneel before Sheldon Adelson — and you should too.” It declared, “It is a desperate move and behind a tissue of dishonesty lies the real motive: the R-J longs to silence the Sun and be the only voice in daily newspapers in this community.” Casino owner Adelson’s family bought the morning paper in late 2015.

Coverage of this internecine conflict is as “competitive” as the two papers have gotten in years.

According to Wikipedia, there are only five JOAs left, while two dozen JOAs have been terminated.

Morning newspaper file pix.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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)

Whither — or wither — the newspaper industry?

This week the newspaper industry giants Gannett and GateHouse Media announced that they are merging and will make cuts on the expense side of the ledger, including layoffs, though pledging to avoid big cuts to the newsrooms, according to The Wall Street Journal. The combined company will own 261 daily newspapers and of weeklies in 47 states, publishing about 30 percent of all newspapers circulation in the country. Gannett owns the newspapers in Reno and St. George.

This past Friday, after announcing the company was having liquidity problems — including announcing it cannot make a $124 million payment to its pension plan next year, asking its largest creditor to restructure its debt and taking a $300 million write-down on the value of its newspapers — McClatchy stock fell 66 percent, according to Forbes. The financial situation is so dire the company may face bankruptcy.

GateHouse briefly owned the Las Vegas newspaper in 2015, buying it and 60 other Stephens Media newspapers for $102.5 million and selling the R-J and two weeklies for $140 million to casino owner Sheldon Adelson, according to Politico.

The possible outlook for the newspaper industry is getting even more gloomy. WSJ quotes Pew Research Center as saying newspaper editorial jobs in the U.S. fell from 71,000 in 2008 to 38,000 in 2018.

Despite its pledge otherwise, GateHouse has a reputation for laying off journalists to save money on the bottom line.

(Getty Images pix via WSJ)