ACLU suit over education savings accounts is a challenge to parental rights

Many of the news stories about the ACLU suing to block implementation of Nevada’s education savings accounts (ESAs), approved by this past Legislature as Senate Bill 302, mention that such accounts were declared unconstitutional in Colorado recently. Like Nevada, Colorado’s state constitution includes a Blaine Amendment prohibiting the use of tax money for secular purposes.

Few bother to mention that Arizona also has a Blaine Amendment in its constitution, but the Arizona Court of Appeals upheld Arizona’s ESAs two years ago.

That court found that ESAs were neutral toward religion by leaving spending decisions to parents, not the state:

The ESA does not result in an appropriation of public money to encourage the preference of one religion over another, or religion per se over no religion. Any aid to religious schools would be a result of the genuine and independent private choices of the parents. The parents are given numerous ways in which they can educate their children suited to the needs of each child with no preference given to religious or nonreligious schools or programs. … The ESA is a system of private choice that does not have the effect of advancing religion. Where ESA funds are spent depends solely upon how parents choose to educate their children.  Eligible school children may choose to remain in public school, attend a religious school, or a nonreligious private school.

Yet the morning Las Vegas newspaper quotes Tod Story, executive director for the ACLU of Nevada, as saying, “The education savings account law passed this last legislative session tears down the wall separating church and state erected in Nevada’s constitution.”

The Nevada Constitution says: “No sectarian instruction shall be imparted or tolerated in any school or University that may be established under this Constitution.” It also says, “No public funds of any kind or character whatever, State, County or Municipal, shall be used for sectarian purpose.”

The ACLU lawsuit argues: “The Program establishes a system whereby, instead of enrolling their children in public schools, parents may obtain and use public money to pay for enrollment in private religious institutions. This is exactly what the Nevada Constitution forbids.”

Once it is in the hands of the parents, is it public money?

After the lawsuit was announced, the Institute for Justice (IJ), which advised Nevada lawmakers drafting the ESA law, issued a statement. Senior Attorney Tim Keller said:

We worked closely with the state legislature throughout the drafting process to ensure the program’s constitutionality, and we fully intend to defend it against this baseless and cynical lawsuit. Nevada’s Education Savings Account (ESA) Program was enacted to help parents and children whose needs are not being met in their current public schools, and we will work with them to intervene in this lawsuit and defeat it.

The Supreme Court of the United States, as well as numerous state supreme courts, have already held that educational choice programs, like Nevada’s ESA Program, are constitutional. We expect the same from Nevada courts.

IJ helped Arizona defend its ESA program. Keller noted that, like Arizona’s ESA program, “Nevada’s ESA program does not set aside a single dollar for religious purposes, but instead gives parents a genuine choice as to how to spend the money deposited in their child’s education savings account.”

Patricia Levesque, CEO of the Foundation for Excellence in Education, said of the ACLU suit, “It is ironic that the ACLU pledges itself to ‘defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person. … Yet today the ACLU opposes giving every parent in Nevada the right to decide where his or her child goes to school. There is no more fundamental right in this country than trying to create a better life for your child.”

The morning paper also noted that a group calling itself Educate Nevada Now also plans a suit to try to strike the ESA law, but will argue that the law runs counter to a constitutional requirement that the state “sufficiently” fund public schools, a rather nebulous concept.

The claim that the law will strip desperately needed funding from already starving local school budgets is blatantly false. It will relieve those schools of overcrowding and will only cost them a portion of the state’s Distributive School Account. Each school would still get 10 percent of state funding for most students who leave, as well as local and federal funds for students zoned in that school but who do not attend. Schools would actually get more funding per pupil for those who remain in public schools and will not have to build as many new schools.

The law allows the state Treasurer to set up savings accounts for parents who choose to take their children out of public schools. For most the annual account will be equal to 90 percent of the public school per-pupil state funding allotment or a little more than $5,000. Parents earning less than 185 percent of the federal poverty level would get 100 percent of state funding.

The money can be spent on tuition at private schools — even church-operated schools, according to backers — textbooks, transportation, tutoring, testing, curriculum, homeschooling and supplemental materials.

The law goes into effect on Jan. 1, but a qualifying child must have “attended a public school for 100 consecutive school days to enter into an agreement …”

Though opponents of the law say there will be no accountability for the quality of education of those receiving ESAs, the law requires students with ESAs to take standardized examinations in math and English and make the results available to the state Department of Education, which must publish aggregate data on the results.

Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt is tasked with defending the Nevada law from such court challenge. His office has a general policy of not commenting on pending litigation.

ACLU announces lawsuit against education savings account law. (The R-J is now so cheap the photo credit and the story byline are the same.)





Newspaper column: Born in the USA — but it is up to Congress to say whether that qualifies for citizenship

When Donald Trump released a position paper on immigration earlier this month, he could not resist taking a potshot at Nevada’s Sen. Harry Reid.

“End birthright citizenship. This remains the biggest magnet for illegal immigration. By a 2:1 margin, voters say it’s the wrong policy, including Harry Reid who said ‘no sane country’ would give automatic citizenship to the children of illegal immigrants,” Trump’s policy paper states.

Donald Trump (Reuters photo)

Yes, Reid used those very words, “no sane country,” though it was in 1993, and, as with so many things, Reid has “evolved” since then.

“If making it easy to be an illegal alien isn’t enough, how about offering a reward for being an illegal immigrant? No sane country would do that, right? Guess again. If you break our laws by entering this country without permission and give birth to a child, we reward that child with U.S. citizenship and guarantee access to all public and social services this country provides,” Reid said on the floor of the Senate in 1993 in support of a bill that would eliminate so-called birthright citizenship. “Now that’s a lot of services. Is it any wonder that two-thirds of the babies born at taxpayer expense at county run hospitals in Los Angeles are born to illegal alien mothers?”

Earlier this year, Republican Sen. David Vitter offered a bill to end birthright citizenship — about 400,000 babies a year.

Reid called the proposal “Vitter’s stupid amendment.” A similar bill has been introduced in the House.

Birthright citizenship is the result of an 1898 Supreme Court interpretation of the 14th Amendment, which, begins: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the state wherein they reside.”

Note the phrase “and subject to the jurisdiction thereof.” At the time this meant American Indians were not citizens and the children of foreign diplomats were not citizens.

The 14th Amendment itself was passed to rectify an 1857 Supreme Court ruling, Dred Scott v. Sanford, which denied citizenship to Dred Scott, a slave, but also to all African-Americans, whether slave or free.

In 1882 Congress passed the Chinese Exclusion Act, which barred Chinese legally living in the U.S. from being deemed citizens.

Wong Kim Ark

In 1898 the Supreme Court in U.S. v. Wong Kim Ark ruled 5-4 that a child born in the United States of parents of Chinese descent is a citizen by virtue of birth under the 14th Amendment. At the time there was no such thing as an illegal immigrant.

Some have argued that because of this 1898 ruling it would take a constitutional amendment to end birthright citizenship, but Wong’s parents were in the country legally and the court never overturned the Chinese Exclusion Act, which was repealed by Congress in 1943.

So, it could be argued that Congress has the power to define who qualifies for citizenship merely by passing a law.

Earlier this year in testimony before Congress, John C. Eastman, a law professor at Chapman University and founding director of the Claremont Institute Center for Constitutional Jurisprudence, explained the origin and meaning of the 14th Amendment citizenship clause.

John C. Eastman

“Historically, the language of the 1866 Civil Rights Act, from which the Citizenship Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment (like the rest of Section 1 of the Fourteenth Amendment) was derived so as to provide a more certain constitutional foundation for the 1866 Act, strongly suggests that Congress did not intend to provide for such a broad and absolute birthright citizenship,” Eastman testified.

“The 1866 Act provides: ‘All persons born in the United States, and not subject to any foreign power, excluding Indians not taxed, are hereby declared to be citizens of the United States.’ As this formulation makes clear, any child born on U.S. soil to parents who were temporary visitors to this country and who, as a result of the foreign citizenship of the child’s parents, remained a citizen or subject of the parents’ home country, was not entitled to claim the birthright citizenship provided in the 1866 Act.”

It appears to be up to Congress to decide, as Harry Reid once argued.

A version of this column appears this week in the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, the Lincoln County Record and the Sparks Tribune — and the Elko Daily Free Press.


Nevada co-op failure a sign of how the single-payer scheme is working?

Nevada Health Co-op office. (R-J photo by Jeff Scheid)

Obamacare is a black hole into which taxpayer money is being poured.

It is bad enough that the union-backed Nevada Health Co-op has gone belly up with little chance of it ever repaying its $66 billion federal start-up loan, since it lost $42 million in the past year and a half, but it also managed to blow through $10 million in in taxpayer money in 2014 through the Transitional Reinsurance Program, which is supposed to pay 80 percent of claims excess of $45,000 up to $250,000. This amounted nationally to $7.9 billion in 2014, on top of the $2.4 billion in loans to start-up those 23 co-ops, like Nevada Health Co-op, several of which has already failed and all but one are losing money.

According to the Federalist, the administration arbitrarily decided to pay 100 percent of those high-cost claims, but it still wasn’t enough to cover the Nevada co-op’s expenses.

The morning newspaper reported that the Nevada co-op had administrative expense-to-premium ratio at 37 percent — almost double the 20 percent allowed — partly due to sky-high salaries paid to executives with ties to a union that represents casino workers. The co-op in 2013 paid more than $1 million to just three executives. That might be one place to start looking for a way to recoup taxpayer money.

The newspaper also quoted an insurance executive who explained that most insurers require a 90-day waiting period to discourage people from waiting to sign up until after they become ill, but the co-op started with no waiting period and later went to a 30-day window in 2014, creating a costlier clientele.

Noting the Nevada co-op failure, Rick Moran at The American Thinker predicts, “The failure of the Nevada co-op serves to highlight the booby traps that are still in Obamacare — too few healthy people paying for too many sick people. Eventually, the numbers won’t add up for anybody, and the system will be threatened with collapse. At that point, Democrats will claim that the only salvation for the program will be a single-payer system run entirely by the government.”

That’s been the plan along, as Nevada Sen. Harry Reid once admitted. Asked on public radio two years ago if the country will eventually work beyond private health insurance, Reid enthusiastically replied, “Yes. Absolutely, yes.”

Reid said the country has to “work our way past” private health insurance.

“What we’ve done with Obamacare is have a step in the right direction, but we’re far from having something that’s going to work forever,” Reid was quoted as saying by the Las Vegas Sun. “We had a real good run at the public option … don’t think we didn’t have a tremendous number of people who wanted a single-payer system,” but he could not get enough votes then.

Perhaps Democrats will have a better shot once the system is totally broken.

Nevada ObamaCare co-op to close, as anticipated

You read it here first.

In July a Louisiana ObamaCare insurer closed, and I asked whether this could happen in Nevada next. Nevada Health Co-op got a $66 million federal loan to enter the market, but, according to The American Spectator, it lost $20 million this past year.

Today the R-J reports that Nevada Health Co-op will close on Dec. 31. Its customer will have to find another insurer by Jan. 1.

Here is a clip from that American Spectator article:

Nevada health co-op has another problem in addition to sky-high salaries, nepotism. Nevada Health CO-OP is top-heavy with members of the long-troubled UNITE HERE union, which represents casino workers in the state and has been accused of corruption by other union officials.

Tom Zumtobell, the co-op’s CEO, received $414,000 in 2013. He is a former UNITE Here vice president and lives in Reno, 450 miles from the co-op’s Las Vegas headquarters. Kathy Silver received $377,000 as the co-op’s treasurer. Silver is the former board president of the local UNITE HERE chapter.

Bobbette Bond, the co-op’s secretary, hauled in $222,000. She was UNITE HERE’s chief lobbyist. Her husband is Donald “D” Taylor, UNITE HERE’s national president and a director of the co-op.

The Co-op’s website today reports:

The Board of Directors of the Nevada Health CO-OP has voted to cease operations beginning January 1, 2016 due to market conditions. At the same time, the Board voted to continue serving members through the end of the year to protect the health insurance of its current membership. Since the closure is voluntary, it should have minimal impact to members and providers.

“It is with deep sadness that based on challenging market conditions, the Board made a painful decision to wind down operations of the Nevada co-op at the end of this year,” said CO-OP Member and Board Director Stacey Hatfield. “Rather than spending resources on next year’s uncertain market, we would rather make sure we protect our current members. This is all about providing the most affordable, effective health insurance and service possible.”

That was no mention of whether that federal loan would be repaid.

Obama preaches his clean energy heresy to the choir

Obama and Reid (AP photo by John Locher)

When Obama took the stage to close out Harry Reid’s traveling planet salvation show Monday at Mandalay Bay, he accused the opponents of his sweeping clean energy plan to prevent climate change of spreading misinformation.

“We refuse to surrender the hope of a clean energy future to those who fear it and fight it, and sometimes provide misinformation about it,” he charged, according to a White House transcript.

But it was Obama who was spreading the misinformation, including his constant drumbeat about the immediate and devastating threat of climate change. There has been no significant increase in global temperatures in 20 years, despite what the climate change models all predicted.

Earlier in the day John Podesta, head of the Center for American Progress, one of the sponsors of the National Clean Energy Summit 8.0, cited the claim that July was the hottest month on record. But satellite readings dispute this and the hundredths of a degree increase from land-based readings was well below the margin of error.

Obama also had the audacity on the same day his administration announced billions of dollars in new loan guarantees for renewable energy projects to claim renewables can compete in the free market against fossil fuel power generation.

“A lot of Americans are going solar and becoming more energy efficient not because they’re tree huggers — although trees, you know, are important — just want you to know — but because they’re cost-cutters.  They like saving money,” Obama said. ” And I’m all for a consumer saving money, because that means they can spend it on other stuff.  Solar isn’t just for the green crowd anymore — it’s for the green eyeshade crowd, too.”

This came days after NV Energy hit a cap on rooftop solar installations and stopped issuing permits until the PUC revamps the pricing structure for rooftop solar. The rooftop panel installers claim the proposal by NV Energy — to charge a connection fee and cut in half the per kilowatt-hour credit for uploading excess power to the grid — will put them out of business, because rooftop panel owners would be paying more for electricity than other power users.

Without tax breaks, tax credits, subsidies and high sell-back rates, solar does not yet pencil out.

Obama also lashed out at opponents he claimed were “trying to undermine competition in the marketplace, and choke off consumer choice, and threaten an industry that’s churning out new jobs at a fast pace.”

Study after study have shown that for every green energy job created by taxpayer subsidies and higher power cost at least two jobs in the rest of the private sector are lost.

Earlier this year Obama linked an increase in hurricanes to climate change, even though no major hurricane has hit the U.S. in nine years.

In introducing Obama, Reid also repeated the false hurricane narrative, “Protecting the earth’s climate is the greatest challenge of our time. Does everybody agree? (Applause) You see this climate change doesn’t affect a particular people or industry or region or country. Climate change affects everybody, every American, every human being on the face of the earth, no matter where they live. From record break droughts in the Southwest to coastal flooding in the East, we’re seeing the impacts of increasing temperatures and rising sea levels. Hurricanes are becoming more frequent and that’s an understatement. …”

He then claimed that rising temperatures are breeding ticks that have killed 30 percent of the moose population in the Northeast. The nexus is tenuous at best.

“Warm weather is preventing in some places bears from hibernating,” Reid said. rated the hibernation claim false.

Obama and Reid never let the facts get in the way of their drive to dole out taxpayer money to their cronies and contributors in the green energy industry.

Obama even joined Reid in his attacks on the Koch brothers:

But while change this fast presents new opportunities, it is invariably going to create resistance from some fossil fuel interests who want to protect the old, outdated status quo.  And there are some legitimate issues around how does a new distributed system work, and folks have some costs and how do we deal with those things, and those are important for us to address.  But when you start seeing massive lobbying efforts backed by fossil fuel interests, or conservative think tanks, or the Koch brothers pushing for new laws to roll back renewable energy standards or prevent new clean energy businesses from succeeding — that’s a problem.  That’s not the American way.  That’s not progress.  That’s not innovation.  That’s rent seeking and trying to protect old ways of doing business and standing in the way of the future.

I mean, think about this.  Ordinarily, these are groups that tout themselves as champions of the free market.  If you start talking to them about providing health care for folks who don’t have health insurance, they’re going crazy — “this is socialism, this is going to destroy America.”  But in this situation, they’re trying to undermine competition in the marketplace, and choke off consumer choice, and threaten an industry that’s churning out new jobs at a fast pace.  (Applause.)  And that has the potential to hurt a lot of communities — and set back America’s leadership in fighting climate change.  They’re even fighting to protect billions of dollars of taxpayer dollars in corporate welfare each year that’s going to fossil fuel companies.

In the same building where Reid held his clean energy show, a coalition of people countered with a group of speakers at what they called the Affordable Energy Summit 8.0 to point out the highly subsidized clear energy is prohibitively expensive and produces few environmental benefits.

“Forcing Americans to spend increasingly high amounts of money on energy deprives us of the means to purchase health care, education, better nutrition, and a wide array of goods and services that make life happier and healthier,” said Heartland Institute senior fellow for environment and energy policy James Taylor. “It also kills jobs throughout the entire economy when people have less money to spend on these desirable goods and services.”


Editorial: Innovation is better solution for energy supply than regulation

Couric and Fiorina on Yahoo! News

The left never lets the facts get in the way of a good harangue or the profits of their cronies in the renewable energy business. The well-being of the citizens and communities be damned.

For example, in 2009, after a three-year battle with Sen. Harry Reid, NV Energy acquiesced to the senator’s pressure and canceled plans to build a $5 billion coal-fired power plant near Ely that would have created 1,600 jobs during construction and 200 permanent jobs upon completion.

Instead, the Ely area got a wind project whose German-made turbines promptly killed a few golden eagles as well as other birds and bats. The wind farm created about a dozen permanent jobs and sells power to NV Energy at about twice the price that the coal plant would have. That is, when it produces electricity.

The latest Energy Information Administration report said the plant produced power only 18.8 percent of the time.

Another company, with Reid’s blessing still plans to put up wind turbines in Reid’s hometown of Searchlight, now that Reid has moved to Henderson. The company recently got a two-year extension on its application.

The major rationale for the tax breaks and subsidies and cheap public land for wind and solar projects is that it will save the planet from global warming because carbon is a greenhouse gas — even though satellites have detected no global warming for more than two decades.

One Republican presidential candidate provided a refreshing alternative to the constant drumbeat by Reid and Obama about climate change.

In an interview with Katie Couric on Yahoo! News earlier this summer, former Hewlett-Packard CEO Carly Fiorina said,“So every one of the scientists that tell us climate change is real and being caused by manmade activity, also tell us that a single nation acting alone can make no difference at all. So when I see a state like California destroy lives and livelihoods with environmental regulation that will make no difference at all to climate change, when I see the Obama administration take that same regulation and apply it nationally, it will make no difference at all. And yet we are destroying people’s lives and livelihoods. I wonder why are we doing this? Why are we doing this when it won’t have any impact. So I think the answer to this problem is innovation not regulation.”

She could as easily have singled out Nevada, because the Silver State, like the Golden State, is awash in deals for solar and wind projects, including a renewable portfolio standard that requires a quarter of all power in the state to come from renewables by 2025.

Nevada opts for regulation, not innovation in clean-coal technology, despite the fact the U.S. has enough cheap coal to last 300 years.

“But I must say it angers me when liberals say I’m prepared for you to lose your job in the name of sending a signal, to whom?” Fiorina continued. “In fact China could care less. In fact China is delighted that we are not spending any time or energy figuring out clean coal because they’re going to go do it.

“We have to focus on how to make coal cleaner. Look, coal provides half the energy in this nation still, not to mention around the world. So to say we’re going to basically outlaw coal, which is what this administration has done, is so self-defeating. It destroys jobs. It destroys communities. It’s not helping us and it’s not helping global warming.”

She went on to say there is no perfect solution, noting that turbines kill birds and solar plants require huge amounts of water.

“I think it is, frankly, ridiculous for the Obama administration to call ISIS a strategic distraction and then go to say that climate change is the single most pressing national security issue of our time. That’s hyperbole,” the candidate reasoned. “I think a far more serious issue right now is the fact that our government is a vast, bloated, unaccountable, corrupt bureaucracy.”

Nevada is an early caucus state and there are a lot of candidates in both parties to evaluate.

We recommend you keep an eye on Fiorina, who everyone said won the so-called Happy Hour debate, because her energy policy is the polar opposite of Reid’s, which makes it right for Nevada.

A version of this editorial appeared this past week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel, the Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Reid’s clean energy paean omits a number of facts

In a run-up to Monday’s National Clean Energy Summit 8.0 at the Mandalay Bay, Sen. Harry Reid has released a slick 20-page report boasting about Nevada’s clean energy “success” stories.

Reid claims that Nevada has 21,800 clean energy jobs as a result of $6 billion in “investments” in clean energy — more than a quarter of a million dollars per job, by the way. Those investments include millions in grants, loan guarantees and cheap federal public land, as well as a state law that mandates public utilities purchase wind, solar and geothermal power no matter what the cost.

As for those jobs, Reid’s report has a footnote showing the source for that figure comes from a January report by the Wind Energy Foundation, which has footnote linking to a Bureau of Labor Statistics website has stats for “Green Goods and Services” jobs in 2010. That Nevada jobs number is from 2011.

But the green jobs listed include: farming, ranching, mining, logging, electricity generation (no breakdown for renewables), water and sewage, construction, manufacturing, trade, publishing, financial services, garbage collecting, education, museums and zoos, auto repair, transportation and warehousing.

During a congressional committee hearing a congressman managed to get a BLS official to admit that green jobs include: Floor sweeper at a solar panel factory, professor teaching environmental studies, anyone who collects, reuses, remanufactures, recycles, or composts waste materials, an antique dealer, clerk at a bicycle repair shop, any bus driver, employee at a used record shop, railroad workers, and even oil lobbyists.


Reid specifically mentions the soon-to-be-operational Crescent Dunes thermal solar power plant near Tonopah, which got a $737 million federal loan guarantee. Reid neglected to mention the plant has a contract with NV Energy to sell its wholesale power at 13.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, though current residential retail power is 11.6 cents per kWh.

Reid singles out Spring Valley wind and mentions it has a capacity of 520 megawatts, without mentioning in has been producing at less than 20 percent of that capacity at a cost of nearly 10 cents per kWh.

Nor does he note that Silver State North Solar, which got a federal grant, is charging NV Energy 13.2 cents a kWh.

Editing of the report was a bit shoddy, too. At one point the report says the One Nevada transmission from Las Vegas to Ely “is estimated to become operational in 2013,”  but a couple of graphs later states the “project was energized in 2014.”

Obama will be the keynote speaker at Monday’s confab. Like Reid, he also tends to omit a few facts when he tries to foment fervor for green energy.

Crescent Dunes thermal solar power plant.

Crescent Dunes thermal solar power plant.