Editorial: Conversion therapy ban violates First Amendment

Gov. Brian Sandoval signed into law this past week a legislatively passed bill that makes it illegal for any psychotherapist in Nevada to provide conversion therapy to anyone under the age of 18.

Senate Bill 201 defines conversion therapy as “any practice or treatment that seeks to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a person.”

It states 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.

In a statement released to the press, the bill’s chief sponsor, state Sen. David Parks of Las Vegas, said, “Banning conversion therapy makes Nevada a safer place for children who are at a higher risk of anxiety, depression, substance abuse and even suicide.”

But what is therapy? These days it is not torture, electric shock or some emersion in aversion straight out of “A Clockwork Orange.” It is talk. You know, free speech.

Aversion therapy in “A Clockwork Organe”

But SB201 dictates that some speech is permissible while other speech is not. While it prohibits speech that might prompt a person to reconsider his or her sexual orientation or gender identity, it 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 …”

It is a one-way street. The courts have repeatedly ruled that laws that limit speech based solely on its content violates the First Amendment.

Presumably, if a professional merely talked to a minor about the results of years of research and studies and that talk resulted in a change of attitude about sexual orientation, that would be illegal under the law. Facts matter for naught.

Drs. Paul McHugh and Lawrence Mayer of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine have written 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 let nature take its course violate the law?

A late amendment to the law makes a ham-fisted attempt to protect religious counselors from being punished under the law, but it is so convoluted as to be indecipherable and totally useless. It tries to tiptoe around the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment, but instead does a Mexican hat dance.

It states “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.”

They have to take off their professional licensee hat and put on their clerical hat.

A group called the Alliance Defending Freedom points out the Catch-22 in that.

Nevada law states that it is “unlawful for any person to engage in the practice of marriage and family therapy … unless the person is licensed …” the Alliance points out. “Telling licensed professionals that they can only engage in certain speech and activities if they do so outside of the umbrella of their license exposes them to ethical and legal liability. It places them between a rock and a hard place. If they do the counseling under their license, they violate SB 201; if they do it outside the scope of their license, they violate” another law.

What a tangled web lawmakers weave when they decide they know what’s best for young people, and they and their parents don’t.

The Latin phrase is in loco parentis, meaning “in the place of a parent.” The emphasis should be on the loco. Someone should challenge 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.

Newspaper column: The path to mandated diversity leads to an absurdity

When you boil it down to its fundamental essence, what she is proposing is an affront to democratic principles and an absurdity.

Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, who picks up the liberal agenda from where Harry Reid left off, stated in a recent interview with Politico, “We should be mandating diversity in our committees, mandating diversity in our hiring practices, mandating diversity throughout the United States Senate.”

She later is quoted as saying, “You just have to walk in the room and look at the senators that are there — the 100 senators, right? You could see the lack of diversity.”

In response to this inanity, the editorialists at the Las Vegas newspaper asked the next logical question: “Does Sen. Cortez Masto seek a constitutional amendment to replace the democratic process with a federal quota system to ensure the ‘proper’ distribution of pigments and chromosomes in the nation’s highest legislative body?”

How do you determine successful diversity? Do you know it when you see it, as Cortez Masto apparently does — just like the way Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart said he could spot pornography: “I know it when I see it”? Or can it be precisely calculated? How can one determine when one has succeeded in achieving the lofty goal of diversity?

The chief absurdity is how to explain what is “proper” diversity. Equal amounts of certain properties, traits, characteristics and proclivities? Or matching the current distribution in the population of those characteristics? For that matter, is that distribution fair? Or is it merely a quirk of fickle fecundity?

If one were to demand that “proper” distribution of chromosomes, a Senate that is half male and half female would have only 50 Y chromosomes and 150 X chromosomes. Hardly diverse.

Even if the first elected Latina member of the U.S. Senate, as both the Politico interview and the newspaper editorial pointedly observe, is talking about skin pigments and/or ethnicity, that too gets to be a mathematical absurdity.

Are we going to return to the days when states like Louisiana had a law on the books that stated any person with so much as 1/32nd black heritage was, ipso facto, black? Or does one pure bred ethnic person equal two mixed race persons? Should the ratio of black, brown, yellow, red, white and other pigments match the population from the latest census or extrapolate for changes in the future? May a person identify as any race or gender or sexual orientation they choose? Or would that upset the diversity quotient?

And what about IQ levels? Should the senators and their staffs be required to match the median IQ of the nation? For every staffer or senator with an IQ of 130, you’d need to hire or elect someone with an IQ of 70. (Uh, we may already have.)

What about age? The median age of senators is 62. The median U.S. population age is 38. Seems clearly to be a lack of diversity. And that tacky constitutional requirement that a senator has to be at least 30 years of age certainly flies in the face of the all-important diversity objective.

Also, aren’t there too many lawyers in the Senate and not enough hod carriers?

Lumping people into categories and pigeonholes for the sake of achieving a counterbalance for some past perceived affront or discriminatory behavior is itself discriminatory, counterproductive and contrary to democratic principles.

By the way, the Politico interview was conducted for a section called “Women Rule Podcast.” Not very diverse.

And isn’t there a bit of hypocrisy in demanding diversity while engaging in blatant stereotyping?

At one point the “Women Rule” interview reports: “There is a tendency for women to over think things, right? And so we think, ‘Oh, can I really — if I decide to run for office, am I qualified? Do I have the educational experience? Do I have the background? Do I have the ability?’” Cortez Masto says. “And I will tell you, there are men who look at the same office and say, ‘Well, how much does it pay and let me jump in and see.’ I think we need to do a better job of talking with women to say, ‘No, you don’t need to do that analysis.’”

May we be so bold as to point out that each of us is a minority of one, and that not all members of every group think and act alike. Diversity mandates are futile, insulting and ultimately absurd.

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

Newspaper column: Now Democrats find fault with visa program that Reid abused

Democrats are highly selective about the things that send them into high dudgeon.

Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said this past week that Congress should end the EB-5 visa program that grants visas to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in job-creating projects in the U.S., calling it a “citizenship-for-sale” program.

Her umbrage was prompted by reports that President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner’s sister mentioned the visa program to potential Chinese investors in a family-owned project.

Where was the outrage four years ago when Nevada Sen. Harry Reid twisted arms at Immigration and Customs Enforcement to reverse a decision that was blocking EB-5 visas for Chinese investors in a Las Vegas casino with ties to Reid’s son Rory?

An ethics complaint was filed against Reid, then Senate Democratic majority leader, but it was buried in the bureaucracy.

The SLS built with foreign investment money (USA Today pix)

In fact, four days after that complaint was filed, the Senate voted to confirm the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to become the second in command at the Department of Homeland Security. Mayorkas was the one who granted the visas after personally talking to Reid. The vote was 54-41. Had Reid not just nuked the Senate filibuster rules the nomination would have failed to achieve the previously required 60 votes.

Mayorkas was confirmed despite the fact he was under investigation at the time for expediting visa applications for certain applicants despite the rejection of those visas by career staffers.

Reid had made a personal call to Mayorkas in January 2013, according to the Washington Times, and Mayorkas promised him his agency would take a “fresh look” at the SLS hotel and casino visa request. Soon after that the agency expedited visas for about two dozen foreign SLS casino, formerly the Sahara, investors. The Times reported that Federal Election Commission records show executives for two companies involved in the hotel project had made $127,000 in political donations over the previous three elections, mostly to Democrats.

The ethics complaint by Cause of Action said, “Despite the fact that these applications were ineligible for appeal, Senator Reid’s efforts to lobby USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) resulted in the reconsideration and approval of those applications … Even more troublesome is the fact that Senator Reid’s son, Rory Reid, and his law firm, Lionel, Sawyer & Collins P.C., are legal counsel to the SLS Hotel and Casino.”

The U.S. Senate Code of Official Conduct says: “The decision to provide assistance to petitioners may not be made on the basis of contributions or services, or promises of contributions or services, to the Member’s political campaigns or to other organizations in which the Member has a political, personal, or financial interest.”

Homeland’s Inspector General issued a report in March 2015 accusing Mayorkas of showing favoritism and providing special access to EB-5 visas for Democrats —  specifically Harry Reid, Terry McAuliffe and Anthony Rodham, brother of Hillary Rodham Clinton.

Instead of attacking, as Democrats are doing with Trump’s kin, the Obama administration circled the wagons. Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson said Mayorkas had been “impatient with our sluggish government bureaucracy.” It wasn’t sluggish. The expedited visas were denied and that decision was, according to agency rules, not appealable.

Later an ICE agent who tried to block the SLS visas was fired. She refused to accept a $100,000 severance package that would have required non-disclosure and testified before Congress about the abuses of the EB-5 program. She later accepted an undisclosed settlement.

The agent testified that EB-5 visas were approved in as little as 16 days and “lacked basic necessary law enforcement” screening.

She told Congress: “In 2013, after disclosing gross mismanagement, waste and fraud that threatened the general public’s safety, National Security Risks and public corruption surrounding an EB-5 project, I was subjected to a significant amount of harassment and retaliation. … Some of the violations I was investigating surrounding this EB-5 project include Title 18 statues; Major Fraud, Money Laundering, Bank and Wire fraud. In addition, I had discovered ties to Organized crime and high ranking officials and politicians, who received large campaign contributions that appeared to have facilitat(ed) the EB-5 project.”

Back then nothing could be heard from Democrats over the chirping of crickets, but now Feinstein ruminates that it is “crystal clear that the EB-5 regional center program presents a stark conflict of interest for the Trump White House.”

Reid got a pass and a coverup, but Trump is not a fellow Democrat.

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

Editorial: Give state revenue windfall back to those who created it

State workers demand higher pay raises. (R-J pix)

Riddle: What is the difference between the Nevada Legislature and a drunken sailor?

Answer: Eventually the drunken sailor sobers up.

The Economic Forum, which is tasked with estimating state general fund revenues so lawmakers can dodge blame for overestimating, has found a few million more coins in between the couch cushions — $96 million more in the coming biennium and a $44 million surplus from the current year for a total of $140 million. So immediately the governor and lawmakers on both sides of the aisle started calculating just how they could spend it. The added funds hike the general fund budget to $8.2 billion over the next two years.

Not one person suggested letting the taxpayers keep some of that windfall to blow on groceries and new shoes for their children.

Gov. Brian Sandoval wants to spend the windfall on education. “I introduced the weighted student funding formula last session, and this additional money provides a unique opportunity to invest directly in students who are economically disadvantaged, English learners, gifted and talented and in special education,” he was quoted by the press as saying.

For all the good that has done over the years. Over the past four decades, according to a Cato Institute analysis, Nevada has increased K-12 public school funding by 80 percent per pupil, adjusted for inflation. During those four decades student test scores have actually fallen slightly.

Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson and Democratic Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford said in a joint statement, “While these newly projected revenues will not be enough to fully meet our needs in public education, mental health, job training, and other vital services, we are committed to putting our tax dollars to work for the hardworking Nevadans who still feel left behind.”

How about some concern for the hardworking taxpayers who keep paying more and getting no recognizable return on their investment?

A few days later several dozen state government workers rallied near the legislative building demanding that the $140 million windfall be used to give them higher pay raises. Though the governor has included 2 percent raises in each of the next two years, the workers were demanding 5 percent each year, complaining that wages are so low many state government employees are on public assistance programs. They complained about how workers’ pay was reduced by furloughs during the recession, failing to note that they were paid the same rate of pay for the time they did work.

They also did not talk about how their pay compares to those in the private sector. According to census data maintained by the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, the weekly wage of a Nevada state government worker in the third quarter of 2016 was $1,093 a week, compared to $922 for a private sector worker in Nevada. Also, the state worker’s pay has increased 21.7 precent since 2012, compared to an increase of 13.1 percent for the private sector.

To add insult to injury, we note that the windfall-inflated $8.2 billion general fund budget is a 12.3 percent increase over the previous biennium’s $7.3 billion spending, while inflation in the past two years amounted to 2.5 percent. And the general fund is only about a third of the total state spending.

Since 2011 the state general fund budget has grown by 32.3 percent, while inflation amounted to 7.9 percent. Since 2001 that budget has grown by 122 percent, compared to 37.5 percent growth in the cost of living.

Meanwhile, the Economic Forum forecasts that the commerce tax passed in 2015 at the urging of Gov. Sandoval will raise less than $200 million in each of the coming years — less the millions the state is spending to create what is basically a Nevada version of the Internal Revenue Service.

The commerce tax is a tax on gross receipts on all businesses grossing more than $4 million a year. It has different tax tables for 27 different industries — ranging from a low of 0.056 percent for mining to a high of 0.362 percent for rail transportation — and there are 67 different tax brackets.

It is costing businesses in the state untold millions to comply with all the paperwork needed to enforce and collect the tax.

Take that $140 million windfall, add a few nips and tucks in the budget, then repeal the commerce tax. That’s the sober thing to do.

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

 

Newspaper column: Democratic lawmakers trying to ration free speech

Nevada’s Democratic lawmakers in Carson City are seeking to enforce their egalitarian philosophy on everyone: All people are equal and deserve equal rights — and only equal amounts of those rights. You have the right to free speech, but no more than anyone else.

This past week an Assembly committee heard testimony on Senate Joint Resolution 4, which would urge Congress to amend the Constitution to strike the free speech portion of the First Amendment. SJR4, sponsored by Las Vegas Democratic state Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro, would erase the Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United v. FEC, which held that it was unconstitutional to forbid the broadcast of a movie critical of then presidential candidate Hillary Clinton just because it was paid for by a corporation.

But SJR4 goes even further. It limits spending by individuals as well. The summary reads: “Urges Congress to propose an amendment to the United States Constitution to allow the reasonable regulation of political contributions and expenditures by corporations, unions and individuals to protect the integrity of elections and the equal right of all Americans to effective representation.”

It basically declares democracy is dead because the citizens are too stupid to hear vigorous and boisterous debate and make rational decisions.

The resolution argues that large political donations corrupt candidates and dilute the power of individuals. Pay no heed to the fact that in the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump was outspent by Hillary Clinton by two-to-one — $600 million to $1.2 billion.

The resolution would not only overturn Citizens United but also McCutcheon v. FEC.

Democrats think all money belongs to the state except what the state allows you to keep, and now they demand to take control of how you spend that.

In addressing an Assembly committee on her bill Cannizzaro said it “addresses a growing and rather troubling influence of large donations by corporations and other organizations in our sacred policymaking process as a result of significant and uncontrolled political contributions.”

Jeff Clements, president of American Promise, an organization pressing for such a constitutional amendment, testified to the Assembly committee by phone.

He said we need to get back our constitutional foundation that “really has gone back in a non-partisan and cross-partisan way for over a century. It is not to say there is anything bad about corporations and unions or the very, very wealthy … If we allow unlimited deployment of the financial resources from those and other sources, it overwhelms the rights we have as Americans and the duties we have to participate in our self-governing republic, as equal citizens with equal representation.”

He argued that politics is not a marketplace to be bought and sold.

Yes, it is a marketplace — one of ideas. But no matter how much someone spends trying to persuade us to buy, we don’t have to buy.

As for it being a non-partisan issue as Clements claimed, the vote on SJR4 in the state Senate was on a party-line vote of 12 Democrats for and nine Republicans against.

Let’s hear what the court had to say about free speech in McCutcheon: “The Government has a strong interest, no less critical to our democratic system, in combatting corruption and its appearance. We have, however, held that this interest must be limited to a specific kind of corruption — quid pro quo corruption — in order to ensure that the Government’s efforts do not have the effect of restricting the First Amendment right of citizens to choose who shall govern them.”

In Citizens United, the late Justice Antonin Scalia wrote: “The (First) Amendment is written in terms of ‘speech,’ not speakers. Its text offers no foothold for excluding any category of speaker, from single individuals to partnerships of individuals, to unincorporated associations of individuals, to incorporated associations of individuals — and the dissent offers no evidence about the original meaning of the text to support any such exclusion. We are therefore simply left with the question whether the speech at issue in this case is ‘speech’ covered by the First Amendment. No one says otherwise. A documentary film critical of a potential Presidential candidate is core political speech, and its nature as such does not change simply because it was funded by a corporation. Nor does the character of that funding produce any reduction whatever in the ‘inherent worth of the speech’ and ‘its capacity for informing the public,’ … Indeed, to exclude or impede corporate speech is to muzzle the principal agents of the modern free economy.”

I’ll put those words up against the Democrats’ bleating about money corrupting.

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.

 

Suddenly the abuse of a visa program for foreign investors is a problem

Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein asks questions at a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Monday. (Reuters pix via the San Diego Union-Tribune)

Only now that the shoe is on the other foot does there appear to be a problem.

Democratic California Sen. Dianne Feinstein said Monday that Congress should end the EB-5 visa program that grants visas to foreigners who invest at least $500,000 in job-creating projects in the U.S., calling it a “citizenship-for-sale” program, according to news accounts.

Her umbrage was prompted by reports that President Trump’s son-in-law Jared Kushner representatives marketed the visa program to potential Chinese investors over the weekend.

 

Where was the outrage four years ago when Nevada Sen. Harry Reid twisted arms at the Immigration and Customs Enforcement to reverse a decision that was blocking Chinese investors in a Las Vegas casino with ties to Reid’s son Rory?

An ethics complaint was filed against Reid but it was buried in the bureaucracy.

In fact, four days after that complaint was filed, the Senate voted to confirm the nomination of Alejandro Mayorkas to become the second in command at the Department of Homeland Security. Mayorkas was the one who granted the visas after personally talking to Reid. The vote was 54-41. Had Reid not just nuked the Senate rules of filibuster the nomination would have failed to achieve the previously required 60 votes.

Mayorkas was confirmed despite the fact he was under investigation at the time for expediting certain visa applications for certain applicants despite the rejection of those visas by career staffers.

 

Reid had made a personal call to Mayorkas, according to the Washington Times, who promised him his agency would take a “fresh look” at the SLS hotel and casino visa request. Soon after that the agency expedited visas for about two dozen foreign SLS investors. The Washington Times reported that Federal Election Commission records show executives for two companies involved in the hotel project had made $127,000 in political donations over the previous three elections, mostly to Democrats.

The Cause of Action ethics complaint said, “Despite the fact that these applications were ineligible for appeal, Senator Reid’s efforts to lobby USCIS resulted in the reconsideration and approval of those applications … Even more troublesome is the fact that Senator Reid’s son, Rory Reid, and his law firm, Lionel, Sawyer & Collins P.C., are legal counsel to the SLS Hotel and Casino.”

Later an ICE agent who tried to block the SLS visas was fired. She refused to accept a $100,000 severance package that would have required non-disclosure and testified before Congress about the abuse of the EB-5 program. She later accepted an undisclosed settlement.

The agent testified that EB-5 visas were approved in as little 16 days and “lacked basic necessary law enforcement” screening.

 

In a June 2016 story The Daily Caller listed some of the questions left unanswered following the agent being fired:

–Did Reid’s office specifically demand she be fired so the visa application could go through? When (ICE Special Agent Taylor) Johnson was re-assigned to clerical duties was Reid’s office informed?

–When Johnson spoke with Democratic Senate Homeland Security Committee staffers in preparation for her June 2015 testimony at a whistleblowers hearing they coerced her into not fingering Reid. They said mentioning him would violate the Hatch Act, Johnson later told this reporter.

The Hatch Act, of course, limits overt political activities by federal employees, not congressional testimony by whistleblowers.  Who authorized the staffers to employ such obvious falsehoods to coerce Johnson into silence?

The political kneecapping certainly worked. In-remarks, Johnson spoke of suffering retaliation for her opposition to the EB-5 program but left Reid’s name out of it.

–DHS fired Johnson in February 2016 after she declined a $100,000 severance package with a confidentiality agreement that would have allowed her to leave the agency with a clean work record. Who at DHS thought it would be a good use of taxpayer money to pay Johnson not to talk publicly about something she had already testified before Congress?

None of that has been answered.

Back then nothing could be heard from Democrats over the chirping of crickets, but now Feinstein ruminates that it is  “crystal clear that the EB-5 regional center program presents a stark conflict of interest for the Trump White House.”

Reid got a pass and a coverup, but Trump is not a fellow Democrat.

Congressional testimony of Johnson in 2015:

 

 

Here there be gods

Apparently when one is handed the power to write laws, one immediately becomes omniscient and omnipotent — knowing how everything should be done and how everyone should behave and do their jobs, even physicians.

On Friday the Senate Committee on Commerce, Labor and Energy approved Assembly Bill 105, which requires doctors and other health care providers to undergo ongoing suicide prevention training. Like doctors don’t go through enough training already and doctors have no incentive to keep their patients alive and paying the bills.

State law already requires a litany of training requirements, including how to spot terrorism and weapons of mass destruction, but it would change the law from encouraging ongoing suicide prevention and awareness training to requiring it.

 Meanwhile, the Assembly is expected to vote next week on a bill that would prohibit so-called “conversion therapy” for minors, even with their consent and the consent of their parents. Such therapy is intended to alter the minor’s sexual orientation — generally, we presume, from homosexual to heterosexual. Senate Bill 201 has already passed the state Senate on a vote of 15-5 despite concerns to any conversation with a young person about sexual orientation might to construed as therapy under the law.
While the law specifically prohibits treatment that “seeks to change the sexual orientation or gender identity of a person,” despite their actual chromosome composition, it 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 …”
Our lawmakers know what’s best for you, no matter what you might think. For their next trick: Laying on of hands.