Public education superintendent: Wait till next season

Losing sports teams are wont to declare: Wait next season.

Losing education systems are not much different.

After Education Week’s 2018 Quality Counts report ranked Nevada dead last in education quality, behind all 50 states and the District of Columbia, Nevada Superintendent of Public Instruction Steve Canavero proffered in a press release: “Nevada’s poor rating in School Finance doesn’t take into account the new programs that were created in the 2015 session that received $343 million in funding. The 2017 Legislature added an additional $152 million to programs that were created in 2015. The new education initiatives funded by the legislature that the Quality Counts report doesn’t take into account include Zoom schools for English learners; Victory Schools for high poverty, Read by Grade 3, Nevada Ready 21 for technology education, Great Teaching and Leading Fund; Underperforming Turnaround Program, Career and Technical Education, and the College and Career Ready Grant.”

In 2017, when Nevada also ranked dead last, Canavero said, “I don’t dispute the findings, but the investments and reforms that were put forward by Governor Sandoval and passed by the Legislature in 2015 have only begun to take root and are not fully measured by this report. If carried out with fidelity and with a focus on student outcomes we believe Nevada can be the fastest improving state in the nation.”

I seem to recall that back in 2015 they were talking about those Zoom schools for English learners. At the time Nevada ranked 50th in the nation.

In fact, the so-called Zoom Schools for English learners that the governor then planned to spend $100 million on had not succeeded in Clark County, which spent nearly $40 million on 14 Zoom Schools and not one of them improved in the statewide academic five-star ranking. Four actually lost a star.

The Read by Grade 3 program is not yet being enforced. The Las Vegas newspaper reported in October that data compiled by the state Department of Education indicated only 43 percent of the schools that received grants to help struggling students improve their reading actually bettered their test scores in third grade, while the majority showed a decline.

If the law were in place, the paper reported, about 55 percent of third-grade students would be in danger of being held back.

But wait till next season.

R-J pix

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Editorial: Anti-conversion therapy law tramples free speech rights

With the turning of a page of the calendar to a new year comes a host of new laws on the books in Nevada, among them is a law banning therapists from engaging in something dubbed conversion therapy.

The new law makes it illegal for any psychotherapist in Nevada to provide conversion therapy to anyone under the age of 18. That is defined as “any practice or treatment that seeks to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a person.”

This therapy is barred “regardless of the willingness of the person or his or her parent or legal guardian to authorize such therapy.” The bill description justifies this usurpation of individual and parental rights by claiming the practice is ineffective and potentially harmful.

What is therapy? It is speech.

The bill specifically prohibits a professional health care provider from talking to an underage patient about whether their gender confusion is real or not, but just as specifically allows support or confirmation for “a person undergoing gender transition …” or provides “acceptance, support and understanding of a person or facilitates a person’s ability to cope, social support and identity exploration and development …”

One may not discourage a patient’s gender feelings but may encourage. Thus only speech that contains the government-approved content is permitted.

The courts have repeatedly ruled that laws that limit speech based solely on its content violates the First Amendment.

In a recent article, Michelle Cretella, president of the American College of Pediatricians, reported that she had a male patient who between the ages of 3 and 5 increasingly played with “girl toys” and said he was a girl. She referred the parents and the boy to a therapist, who discovered that the boy had a younger special needs sister who required a significant amount of attention from her parents. The boy perceived that his parents preferred girls and thus he would become one.

“With family therapy Andy got better,” Cretella wrote.

In Nevada, that therapist now could have his or her license revoked for engaging in conversion therapy.

Presumably under this law, a therapist could be punished for telling a patient that 80 to 95 percent of all children who express feelings of gender dysphoria abandon those feelings upon maturity and that more than 80 percent of youth claiming to experience same-sex attractions in late childhood and adolescence identified themselves as exclusively heterosexual upon becoming adults.

Would telling a minor to wait and let nature take its course violate the law?

In the waning days of the 2017 legislative session the bill that is now law was amended in an attempt to protect religious counselors from being punished under the law, but it is a contortion that adds only confusion.

That amendment stated “there is nothing in this bill that regulates or prohibits licensed health care professionals from engaging in expressive speech or religious counseling with such children if the licensed health care professionals: (1) are acting in their pastoral or religious capacity as members of the clergy or as religious counselors; and (2) do not hold themselves out as operating pursuant to their professional licenses when so acting in their pastoral or religious capacity.”

So, which hat is the professional licensee wearing when talking to a child about gender? The pastor hat or the doctor hat?

Unfortunately, the federal circuit courts have rejected arguments that a similar California law violates both the free exercise of religion and free speech aspects of the First Amendment and the Supreme Court has thus far declined to hear appeals.

Now that the law is on the books in Nevada and livelihoods are in jeopardy, someone should take another stab at challenging the constitutionality of this law in court.

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.

Gov. Sandoval signs anti-conversion therapy law.

Newspaper column: Nevada should challenge constitutionality of federal pot law

A week ago the Trump administration rescinded a series of Obama administration memos instructing federal prosecutors to back off enforcing federal marijuana laws in states that have legalized it, sending legal pot businesses into a dither, including those in Nevada.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions said he would leave it up to federal prosecutors to decide what to do when state law clashes with federal drug law. Justice Department officials said the previous administration’s stance allowed states to flout federal law.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt sent out an email saying his office is reviewing the change in the Justice Department’s stance on federal pot law enforcement and evaluating the ramifications for the state

“Although I opposed the Question 2 ballot initiative proposing the legalization of recreational marijuana in Nevada, I also pledged to defend the measure were it approved by the voters,” Laxalt stated. “Since Questions 2’s enactment, my office has vigorously defended it against two related lawsuits that threatened to slow or even halt the implementation of the law, and has further assisted with the formulation and adoption of regulations to allow dispensaries to commence sales of recreational marijuana within just six months of the law’s enactment. My office has expeditiously facilitated the implementation of the law in the face of considerable uncertainty about the status of federal enforcement activity.”

We suggest that the state’s attorney do what attorneys do: Sue.

The states aren’t flouting federal law, Congress is flouting the Constitution. If it took a constitutional amendment to allow Congress to make alcohol illegal during Prohibition, the same should be true for marijuana.

The 10th Amendment clearly states, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” Nowhere does the Constitution grant that power to Congress.

In fact, the divided Supreme Court decision upholding Congress’ power to ban marijuana is an absurdity constructed from a fatuity and makes a mockery of the principles of federalism.

In the case of Gonzales v. Raich, the high court found that Congress had the power under the Commerce Clause to prohibit a person from growing marijuana for her own consumption because it could affect interstate commerce. The court cited as precedent the New Deal-era case of Wickard v. Filburn, which said a farmer who grew wheat for his own consumption affected interstate commerce because, if he had not done so, he would’ve had to purchase wheat, thus affecting the market and price for wheat.

Thus the court essentially erased any distinction between interstate and intrastate commerce or even no commerce at all. Whatever the imagination can conjure.

 In his dissent in the pot case, Justice Clarence Thomas fumed, “Respondents Diane Monson and Angel Raich use marijuana that has never been bought or sold, that has never crossed state lines, and that has had no demonstrable effect on the national market for marijuana. If Congress can regulate this under the Commerce Clause, then it can regulate virtually anything — and the Federal Government is no longer one of limited and enumerated powers.”

Thomas added, “This makes a mockery of (James) Madison’s assurance (in Federalist Paper No. 45) to the people of New York that the ‘powers delegated’ to the Federal Government are ‘few and defined,’ while those of the States are ‘numerous and indefinite.’”

Justice Sandra Day O’Connor also raised the issue of federalism, writing in dissent in Raich, “Relying on Congress’ abstract assertions, the Court has endorsed making it a federal crime to grow small amounts of marijuana in one’s own home for one’s own medicinal use. This overreaching stifles an express choice by some States, concerned for the lives and liberties of their people, to regulate medical marijuana differently. If I were a California citizen, I would not have voted for the medical marijuana ballot initiative; if I were a California legislator I would not have supported the Compassionate Use Act. But whatever the wisdom of California’s experiment with medical marijuana, the federalism principles that have driven our Commerce Clause cases require that room for experiment be protected in this case.”

With the court now more originalist in its composition, the arguments of Thomas and O’Connor might hold sway in a constitutional challenge of the federal marijuana law, should Laxalt and the attorneys general of the states that have legalized pot press the matter.

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.

Morning newspaper is a ‘non-profit’ operation, says Greenspun

Brian Greenspun — the putative editor of the Las Vegas Sun, the tiny printed insert in the morning newspaper and the website of the same name — has just confirmed what many have presumed for the past few years.

He has posted online a note telling readers that the Sun is about to start charging for access to online articles after free access to 10 articles. The reason is simple. He is not making money from the joint operating agreement with the Sheldon Adelson-owned print newspaper. Not that he is contributing much of anything to attract print readership.

Here is his explanation about the paucity of funds coming his way from the JOA:

A major source of our newsroom funding has dried up. Years ago, the Las Vegas Sun stopped publishing our print newspaper and stopped selling newspaper advertising in competition with the Las Vegas Review-Journal. In 1990, we combined our print operations (as well as our circulation) with the Review-Journal. The Review-Journal took responsibility for printing, distributing and selling advertising for the Sun and benefited mightily from this arrangement. The quid pro quo was that the Las Vegas Sun would get a small percentage of R-J profits that we could use to help fund the continuing operations of our newsroom. In short, the combination with the Review-Journal provided much of the money necessary to pay for the quality journalism the Las Vegas Sun provides.

For decades this approach benefited the R-J, and every management team there delivered a profit — a little less of a profit each year, but still healthy enough to help us offset the significant costs of our news operations.

Unfortunately, that has changed.

The current management of the Review-Journal plunged the newspaper into a loss immediately after purchasing the newspaper in 2015. To date, the Review-Journal’s management continues to run a money-losing newspaper. We hope they find a way to turn the R-J around in the face of ongoing revenue and circulation decline. (And no, purchasing a print subscription to the Sun and R-J doesn’t benefit the Sun in this current scenario.)

Our initiative with the metered paywall is an effort to replace some of that lost funding for the newsroom.

Perhaps Greenspun continues the contractual JOA just out of spite, because it is surely costing Adelson a lot of money for wasted newsprint for the wasted Sun section, whose only worthwhile content is the cartoon Dilbert.

Donald W. Reynolds, the former owner of the morning Vegas paper, is reputed have declared that the only measure of the success of a newspaper is its profitability.

Will remaining Bundy defendants face a new trial?

Bunkerville standoff (Reuters pix)

On Monday federal Judge Gloria Navarro will hear arguments as to whether Cliven Bundy, two of his sons and a Montana militia man should again face trial on charges growing out of the Bunkerville standoff with BLM agents attempting to impound Bundy’s cattle in 2014.

The judge declared a mistrial in December when she ruled the prosecution had failed to timely turn over evidence to the defendants.

Now she must decide whether that mistrial is with prejudice, meaning no retrial, or without prejudice, meaning still another trial.

The first trial also ended in a mistrial for four of six defendants when the jury could not reach unanimous verdicts. Of the remaining four, two were acquitted during retrial and two others pleaded guilty to misdeamnors and were released on time served after the jurors again could not reach unanimous verdicts.

One of those convicted was sentenced to 68 years in prison. In doing so Navarro called the man and other protesters “playground bullies,” adding, “You don’t just go to the tax office and threaten them to not collect taxes.”

During the sentencing to seven years in prison of a protester who copped a plea, Navarro called him “a bully vigilante, threatening peacekeepers of the community.”

What are the chances of Navarro declaring the mistrial is with prejudice?

All the remaining defendants, except Cliven Bundy, have been released on what amounts to house arrest. Bundy refused to agree to the conditions of release and remains jailed for almost two years now.

Six more defendants, including two more Bundy sons, Dave and Mel Bundy, are scheduled to be tried 30 days after the end of the current trial, if there is one. What will become of that trial if this one does not go on?

Millions have been spent prosecuting this case. What are the odds?

 

 

Editorial: BLM moving forward with fire prevention effort

The Bureau of Land Management posted on the Federal Register a couple of weeks ago a notice that it is beginning the tedious paperwork process to finally do something to prevent the devastating wildfires that have plagued the Great Basin region in recent years.

The notice states the BLM will create two Environmental Impact Statements (EIS)— one will analyze the effects of constructing fuel breaks that clear flammable material along a swath of land to curb the spread of wildfire and another to study the effectiveness of restoring rangeland to counteract the spread of invasive species such as cheatgrass and conifers that burn too easily. The states involved include portions of Nevada, Idaho, Oregon, California, Utah and Washington.

According to the National Interagency Fire Center, wildfires consumed nearly 10 million acres in 2017.

In September Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, whose responsibilities include the BLM, promised, “This Administration will take a serious turn from the past and will proactively work to prevent forest fires through aggressive and scientific fuels reduction management to save lives, homes, and wildlife habitat. It is well settled that the steady accumulation and thickening of vegetation in areas that have historically burned at frequent intervals exacerbates fuel conditions and often leads to larger and higher-intensity fires.”

The EISs, which are required by federal law, mark the beginning of fulfilling that promise. Comments may be submitted in writing until Feb. 20. Those comments may be submitted via:

* Website: https://go.usa.gov/ xnQcG.

* Email: GRSG_PEIS@blm.gov.

* Fax: 208-373-3805.

* Mail: Jonathan Beck, 1387 S. Vinnell Way, Boise, ID 83709

Meetings to discuss the proposed fire prevention efforts will be scheduled throughout the region and will be announced 15 days in advance in the local media and on the BLM website.

One of the reasons for the current initiative, according to the Federal Register notice, is that wildfires tend to increase the the risk of still more wildfires — a positive feedback loop.

“In warm, dry settings, sagebrush-steppe usually takes, at a minimum, many decades to recover, even where invasive annual grasses or other invasive plant species do not become dominant,” the notice states. “Invasive species and conifer encroachment can be exacerbated as a result of wildfires in sagebrush ecosystems, resulting in an increased risk of wildfires …”

Among the concerns that will need to be addressed and evaluated during the comment period and subsequent meetings is that fuel breaks and the accompanying road improvements, by their very nature, improve access for firefighters but also for the general public, which might lead to an increase in the number of human-caused fires. Also, such breaks reduce the cover for small wildlife to avoid predators.

The Associated Press quoted Matt Germino, a research ecologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, as saying fuel breaks are a bit of a paradox. “Fires, especially large fires, are so unambiguously damaging to wildlife habitat in general — that is the motivating factor for getting these fuel breaks out,” he said. “At this point, it’s really difficult to predict which animal species will benefit and which ones won’t. Sometimes you have to just act in light of the uncertainty.”

That cautionary note aside, we strongly endorse this effort by the current administration to protect not only the environment but also those who earn their living from the land by ranching, farming, logging and mining and those who use the public lands for hunting and recreation. We encourage our readers to submit comments and attend meetings to counter the likely resistance by self-styled environmentalists.

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.

Firefighters battle blaze near Wells this past summer. (Photo submitted to Elko Daily News)

Newspaper column: Why Nevada must hit the brakes on taxes

WSJ illustration

It’s called voting with your feet.

A remarkable number of well-heeled Americans are doing just that, and it should serve as a warning to Nevada voters and candidates as we enter an election year. Though Republican governors in recent years have shepherded through the Legislature record-high tax increases, Nevada still fares fairly well in comparison to other states when it comes to the tax burden borne by citizens of the Silver State.

According to the Tax Foundation’s analysis of state and local tax burdens per capita for fiscal year 2012 — which is after Gov. Kenny Guinn’s billion-dollar tax hike but before the $1.5 billion tax hike pushed by Gov. Brian Sandoval — Nevada ranked 43rd lowest in the nation, while neighboring Taxafornia ranked sixth highest.

Nevada tax collectors grabbed 8.1 percent of the state income through state and local taxes or $3,349 per capita. Meanwhile, California snatched 11 percent of state income or $5,237 per capita.

Perhaps that explains why, according to Internal Revenue Service data on taxpayer migration, from 2014 to 2015 about 10,500 Nevada taxpayers moved to California, while 17,700 California taxpayers moved to Nevada. Even more telling is the fact that the Californians fleeing to lower-taxed Nevada averaged $91,000 in gross adjusted income, while the Nevadans heading to California averaged only $47,400 in adjusted gross income.

It seems people with higher income have a tendency to find ways to keep more of it for themselves.

From 2014 to 2015 Nevada netted an increase in total adjusted gross income reported to the IRS of $1.43 billion. Of that, $1.1 billion came due to the influx of Californians changing residencies.

An analysis of a sampling of that IRS data shows the California-Nevada migration pattern is no anomaly.

In that one year, the state of New York, which has the highest state and local tax burden of any state at 12.7 percent of income and $6,993 per capita, lost $4.4 billion in income.

No. 2 highest Connecticut lost $1.3 billion in income. No. 3 highest New Jersey lost $2.46 billion. No. 5 Illinois lost $3.47 billion. No. 6 California lost $2.09 billion.

Meanwhile, state income tax-free Texas, ranked 46th lowest, added $3.61 billion, and state income tax-free Florida, though only 34th lowest, added $11.65 billion. The latter might have something to do with weather as well, since $2.62 billion of that came in from former New Yorkers, $1.49 billion from former New Jersey residents and $1.47 billion from former Illinoisans.

The New Jersey residents who moved to Florida had an average income of $121,000, while Floridians moving to New Jersey averaged $72,500.

This is hardly surprising nor a new phenomenon. In an article in The Wall Street Journal in 2009 under the headline, “Soak the Rich, Lose the Rich,” economist Arthur Laffer and WSJ economics writer Stephen Moore updated previous studies and found that from 1998 to 2007, more than 1,100 people every day of the year relocated from the nine highest income-tax states — such as California, New Jersey, New York and Ohio — mostly to the nine tax-haven states with no income tax — including Florida, Nevada, New Hampshire and Texas.

Laffer and Moore determined that over that period of time the no-income tax states created 89 percent more jobs and had 32 percent faster personal income growth than the high-tax states.

“Did the greater prosperity in low-tax states happen by chance? Is it coincidence that the two highest tax-rate states in the nation, California and New York, have the biggest fiscal holes to repair?” they asked. “No. Dozens of academic studies — old and new — have found clear and irrefutable statistical evidence that high state and local taxes repel jobs and businesses.”

A recent WSJ editorial noted that billions in income are still flowing out of New York, New Jersey and Connecticut and into Florida.

“As these state laboratories of Democratic governance show, dunning the rich ultimately hurts people of all incomes by repressing the growth needed to create jobs, boost wages and raise government revenues that fund public services,” the editorial concluded.

Voting with the feet is sure to increase since the recent tax reform limits federal income tax deductions for state and local taxes.

Let this be a lesson for Nevada. Chase the rich, they’ll run away.

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.