A little sunshine would do the Legislature good

Talk about the tail wagging the dog.

According to the morning paper, the lawyers for lawmakers in Carson City are telling those lawmakers what laws they can make and not make.

Democratic state Sen. Tick Segerblom of Las Vegas tells the paper he asked to have a bill drafted this session that would have made legislators’ emails and calendars public records and thus subject to perusal by the public. He said the Legislative Counsel Bureau told him it could not be done.

 

A time traveling reporter quotes a March 2018 memo as saying lawmakers and their staffs do not fall within the definition of “governmental entity” in the Public Records Law. Pay no attention to the fact that lawmakers wrote the Public Records Law and conceivably may rewrite that law and change the definition of “governmental entity.”

The LCB also was quoted as saying that putting lawmakers under the preview of the Public Records Law would “conflict and interfere with the constitutional doctrines of separation of powers and legislative privilege and immunity.” Such doctrines may be widely embraced but they are not spelled out in the state Constitution, except that lawmakers may not be arrested during a session.

Finally, the memo eventually will say lawmakers’ emails and calendars “do not come within the ordinary definition of ‘public books and public records’ as those terms are used in the Public Records Law.” See above: Lawmakers can change the definition in the law.

But, according the morning paper, the American Civil Liberties Union will plow ahead anyway and try to amend a bill already pending by adding language similar that Segerblom had proposed.

 

The chances of lawmakers voting to expose their own backroom dealmaking and horse trading is slim to none, but it is good to see someone trying to shine a little sunshine into the dark recesses of the Legislature.

Legislative building in Carson City

 

Newspaper has a couple of takes on lawmakers practicing medicine without a license … or a clue

This is one of those days when I really wish the morning newspaper still allowed online comments about its stories and columns. The interplay of comments could be quite interesting and probably quite heated — picture heads exploding.

On the cover of the Nevada section today there is a story about a state senator introducing a bill that would ban psychotherapists from providing sexual orientation or gender identity conversion therapy for people under the age of 18. (Is that practicing medicine without a license, Mr. Legislator?)

“Senate Bill 201, sponsored by state Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, and a host of other lawmakers, would ban the practice, which has been denounced by major medical groups and condemned by critics as leading to anxiety, depression, substance abuse and suicide among LGBT young people exposed to it,” the news story relates, without noting that Parks has been described as the state’s first openly gay lawmaker. Nowhere in the article were Parks’ “scientific” contentions challenged, though opposition for various reasons — such as parental and religious rights — was reported. The word “cure” in the headline is in quotes.

(For the record, SB201 specifically states: “A psychotherapist shall not provide any sexual orientation or gender identity conversion therapy to a person who is under 18 years of age regardless of the willingness of the person or his or her parent or legal guardian to authorize such therapy.”)

Then a couple pages later there is a column by Victor Joecks basically calling the fundamental premise of the bill pure quackery.

Joecks somehow managed to uncover some evidence contrary to the presumptions underlying the bill:

The science, however, isn’t what proponents assert, and looking at the evidence undercuts the bill’s rationale. In a review of almost 200 scientific papers published in The New Atlantis Journal in Fall 2016, Dr. Paul McHugh, a professor from Johns Hopkins University, and Dr. Lawrence Mayer, a scholar in residence at Johns Hopkins University, found that scientific evidence doesn’t show sexual orientation and gender identity are immovable.

“The understanding of sexual orientation as an innate, biologically fixed property of human beings — the idea that people are ‘born that way’ — is not supported by scientific evidence,” they write. “The hypothesis that gender identity is an innate, fixed property of human beings that is independent of biological sex — that a person might be ‘a man trapped in a woman’s body’ or ‘a woman trapped in a man’s body’ — is not supported by scientific evidence.”

McHugh and Mayer find that 80 to 95 percent of youths who have transgendered feelings “abandon them as they mature.”

SB201 would prevent counselors and therapists from helping these youths in any way process and navigate their changing feelings about sexual orientation or gender identity — even if the child is desperate for professional help.

Perhaps someone should recommend to the sponsors of the bill psychotherapy for delusions of grandeur and infallibility?

It is one thing to argue that such therapy is ineffective or even damaging and possibly futile but to deny people the right to try something “regardless of the willingness of the person or his or her parent or legal guardian” is the height of arrogance and presumptiveness. This gives new meaning to the term nanny state.

 

 

Never let the facts get in the way of creating a law banning fracking

Ignorance is no excuse under the law, but apparently creating laws based on ignorance is quite all right.

As we recounted earlier, Democratic Assemblyman Justin Watkins is seeking a ban on fracking.

His Assembly Bill 159 would amend state law by adding: “A person shall not engage in hydraulic fracturing in this State. As used in this section, ‘hydraulic fracturing’ means the process of pumping fluid into or under the surface of the ground to create fractures in the rock to facilitate the production or recovery of oil or gas.”

Watkins is pressing forward with his ban. According an article posted today at the Las Vegas Sun website:

But Watkins said the bill would prohibit only fracking, and that drilling could continue. Because the fracking industry is in such an early stage, he said the legislation would not cost a job. He also said when economic impact is so speculative, legislators should focus on the value of water in one of the country’s most arid states.

“Here, water is the most valuable resource we have,” Watkins said. “To put it into significant danger of contamination … as a trade-off for so little oil … doesn’t make any sense for us.”

The article was not worthy of being printed for the remaining thousands who get the morning newspaper with the Sun insert’s one local story a day.

The “fracking industry” has been around since the Civil War and hydraulic fracking has been used since the World War II, take it from someone who actually worked in the grease orchard.

More than half of all oil production in the U.S. in 2015, whether using horizontal drilling or not, came from fracked wells. Currently, 46 percent of all natural gas production in the country comes from shale, tight sandstone and coal formations that once were not profitable. Also, 90 percent of all natural gas wells drilled require fracking at some point during production.

And threats to groundwater are negligible, as the EPA found despite looking diligently and quibbling in its final report.

The Sun story quotes geologist Bill Ehni as saying, “If that bill were to pass, the oil industry would basically disappear in Nevada.”

 

When haggling over details, it is easy to forget what the rules are

When you are down in the scrum, butting heads and scrambling for the ball it is easy to forget the rules of the game or even what game you are playing.

Now, if it is wrong for Congress to mandate under pain of tax penalties that everyone buy insurance from privately owned and operated health insurance companies or through state or federally operated exchanges, isn’t it just as wrong for Congress to order those health insurers to charge a 30 percent premium penalty to those who let their insurance lapse?

The Commerce Clause has been stretched beyond any semblance of rationality when a person can be fined for growing grain to feed his own cattle because that disrupts interstate commerce, but health insurance is not commonly available across state lines.

Where does Congress derive the enumerated power to micromanage health insurance — whether via ObamaCare or RyanCare?

And why pray tell can you be given Medicaid — basically government insurance that dictates what allegedly private doctors and hospitals may charge for care no matter what it really costs — if your income is 138 percent of the poverty level, but you are on your own if you earn 139 percent of the poverty level?

Overturn the actuarial tables and whole concept of insurance when Congress dictates that those with pre-existing conditions and “children” to the age of 26 must be covered at the same rate as others. What is the difference between only allowing insurers to charge three times as much for older people than healthier younger people than only allowing them to charge five times as much.

Despite what you may have read in the morning paper, RyanCare does not repeal the tax on so-called Cadillac insurance plans. It merely delays it a couple of years.

When you are up to your arse in alligators it is hard to remember your objective was to drain the swamp.

 

 

 

 

Editorial: Trump right to rein in EPA water grab

Ditch would be under federal control under WOTUS.

President Trump this past week signed an executive order telling the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to review the so-called waters of the United States (WOTUS) rule created under the Obama administration, which attempted to usurp dominion over every stream, ditch, wetland or muddy hoof print that might eventually spill a few drops of water into any rivulet that might occasionally be navigable with an inner tube.

“We’re going to free up our country and it’s going to be done in a very environmental and positive environmental way, I will tell you that,” Trump said. “[We will] create millions of jobs, so many jobs are delayed for so many years that it’s unfair to everybody.”

Trump ordered the federal agencies to review a 2006 opinion by the late Justice Antonin Scalia, that reduced the scope of the act by defining “waters of the United States” as only permanent bodies of water and not the occasional result of rainfall.

Nevada was one of 23 states to file suit over the WOTUS rule. The Supreme Court ruled this past summer that property owners had a right to sue in court over permitting decisions. The federal agencies had contended property owners could only go to court once decisions were final, but essentially argued that all permitting decisions are reviewable and potentially reversible and therefore never final.

But litigation is expensive and time consuming. Heading off the designation to begin with is a better solution.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, whose office pressed the federal lawsuit on behalf of the state, said of Trump’s executive order: “The waters of the United States rule proposed by the former administration would drastically expand federal authority over state and local waters, and I am encouraged that this administration is taking action to ensure that the executive branch’s decisions are in line with congressional intent. We are pleased to see that this administration recognizes what the majority of states have already recognized — that federal rules like the waters of the United States rule must be interpreted consistently with the intent of Congress, and that specific needs of individual states must be taken into account by federal agencies like the EPA.”

In December 2010, the Hawkes Co. applied for a permit to mine peat on property in Minnesota. More than a year later the Army Corps denied the application, saying the land contained “water of the United States” because its wetlands had a “significant nexus” to the Red River of the North, located some 120 miles away.

In the opinion of the court, Chief Justice John Roberts pointed out the definition of WOTUS used by the EPA and the Corps includes “land areas occasionally or regularly saturated with water — such as ‘mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, [and] playa lakes’ — the ‘use, degradation or destruction of which could affect interstate or foreign commerce.’ The Corps has applied that definition to assert jurisdiction over ‘270-to-300 million acres of swampy lands in the United States — including half of Alaska and an area the size of California in the lower 48 States.’”
Roberts also noted that a specialized individual permit on average costs $271,596 and 788 days to complete. He said the permitting process can be “arduous, expensive, and long.” He left out futile, since the process never ends.

The Western Congressional Caucus said the EPA spurned public comment and input from the states in the rule making process, “This is nothing short of a federal seizure of state waters, to the point where very few, if any, water bodies will be left for the states to manage. Water rights, economic growth, and local conservation efforts will suffer. Instead of working with the local officials and state agencies who know their needs the best, citizens will have to depend on a disconnected federal bureaucracy for management of our most precious natural resource: our water.”

Trump is to be applauded for reining in the overreach of the EPA and Corps in grabbing powers never envisioned by Congress.

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.

Stop messing with the clocks already!

On Sunday morning we are required to spring our clocks forward an hour, if we wish to remain in synch with the rest of the nation, get to church and work on time and tune in at the proper time to our favorite radio and TV programs.

Mankind once worked from can till cain’t, as my ol’ grandpappy used to say — from the time you can see till the time you can’t — and farmers and ranchers like grandpappy still do. But to make the trains run on time, we strapped ourselves to the clock, even though the clock is uniform and doesn’t change when the amount of daylight does.

Ol’ Ben Franklin, while serving as ambassador in France, accidentally figured out that this out-of-synch arrangement was somewhat uneconomical when he mistakenly arose one day at 6 a.m. instead of noon and discovered the sun was shining through his window. “I love economy exceedingly,” he jested, and proceeded to explain in a letter to a local newspaper how many candles and how much lamp oil could be saved by adjusting the city’s lifestyle to the proclivities of the sun.

Franklin observed:

“This event has given rise in my mind to several serious and important reflections. I considered that, if I had not been awakened so early in the morning, I should have slept six hours longer by the light of the sun, and in exchange have lived six hours the following night by candle-light; and, the latter being a much more expensive light than the former, my love of economy induced me to muster up what little arithmetic I was master of, and to make some calculations, which I shall give you, after observing that utility is, in my opinion the test of value in matters of invention, and that a discovery which can be applied to no use, or is not good for something, is good for nothing.”

Then he did the math, and exclaimed, “An immense sum! that the city of Paris might save every year, by the economy of using sunshine instead of candles.”

Thus, in 1918 in a effort to be more economical during the war, Congress borrowed from Europe the concept of daylight saving time — springing clocks forward during the summer and back in the winter. From shortly after Pearl Harbor until the end of the Second World War, the nation was on year-round daylight saving time, or war time, as it was called.

National Geographic photo

Moving the clock forward in summer might well save a few kilowatt-hours in lighting, but in states like Nevada that savings is more than made up for with increased air conditioning costs and the fuel used to drive about more after getting off work.

One recent study found that springing forward causes enough sleep deprivation to cost the U.S. economy $435 million a year. The New England Journal of Medicine found an association between that one hour loss of sleep from daylight saving time and an increase in car accidents, as well as a 5 percent increase in heart attacks in the first three weekdays after the transition to daylight saving time, while an Australian study found an increase in the suicide rate.

The changing of clocks twice a year is really a bit of a nuisance and, dare I say, a waste of time — or at least that is what I said in a newspaper column a nearly a year ago.

In a futile gesture to end the charade, the state Legislature in 2015 passed Assembly Joint Resolution No. 4 that proposes to make Pacific Daylight Saving Time year-round.

“WHEREAS, Congress also found and declared that ‘the use of year-round daylight saving time could have other beneficial effects on the public interest, including the reduction of crime, improved traffic safety, more daylight outdoor playtime for children and youth of our Nation, [and] greater utilization of parks and recreation areas …’” AJR4 reads in part, also noting possible “expanded economic opportunity through extension of daylight hours to peak shopping hour. ”

It passed both the Assembly and Senate and was enrolled by the Secretary of State.

Changing to year-round daylight saving time might not save electricity, but it could increase productivity and prevent car wrecks.

Alas, as with everything else, the power to fix this lies in Washington, though I can’t seem to find this enumerated power in my copy of the Constitution. Perhaps it is outdated.

In another glaring example of the efficiency and sincerity of our elected officials, this past fall, as we were being required to fall back and reset our clocks again, the morning newspaper was reporting that no one in Washington had ever heard of AJR4.

AJR4 concludes by beseeching Congress to amend The Emergency Daylight Saving Time Energy Conservation Act of 1973 and allow each state to opt out, the same as Arizona and Hawaii have opted out, but rather than sticking with standard time, AJR4 would adopt Pacific Daylight Savings Time all year. Why should it get dark at 4:30 p.m. in the winter anyway?

Don’t hold your breath waiting for Washington to figure out what time it is. They don’t know what century it is.

A version of this posting has appeared here for the past two years.

Newspaper column: Bill proposes to turn Nevada into a ‘sanctuary state’

Return with us now to those thrilling days under the Articles of Confederation when every state made up its own rules regarding immigration and naturalization of foreigners, back before the Constitution gave Congress the sole authority to establish such rules.

In arguing for enactment of the Constitution in Federalist Paper No. 42, James Madison wrote, “The new Constitution has accordingly, with great propriety, made provision against them, and all others proceeding from the defect of the Confederation on this head, by authorizing the general government to establish a uniform rule of naturalization throughout the United States.”

Now along comes Democratic state Sen. Yvanna Cancela of Las Vegas, along with a host of fellow scofflaw Democrats, with a bill in Carson City that would turn Nevada into a “sanctuary state” by forbidding law enforcement cooperating with federal immigration authorities in identifying persons in their custody who are in this country illegally.

Senate Bill 223 states: “No state or local law enforcement agency, school police unit or campus police department shall: (a) Use money, facilities, property, equipment or personnel of the agency, unit or department to investigate, interrogate, detain, detect or arrest a person for the purposes of immigration enforcement …”

Cancela was quoted by the Reno newspaper as saying the bill “limits the ability to participate in immigration enforcement as far as what’s under federal purview.”

She went on to say, “The uncertainty that (President) Trump has created because of his executive orders, because of his political – frankly – hate speech around them has created a lot of problems not only for local law enforcement, but individuals. I think it’s our responsibility as legislators to provide as much clarity not only to law enforcement but families who are affected by those policies.”

Currently, under a program called 287(g), cooperating police departments that take a suspected illegal immigrant into custody notify U.S. Immigration Customs and Enforcement agents and they have 48 hours to pick up that person. In the past, ICE has been notoriously lax in showing up within those 48 hours, but, according to numerous press accounts, this is no longer the case under the new Trump presidential administration.

Under SB223 this would come to a screeching halt, despite the fact all lawmakers are required to take an oath of office swearing to “support, protect and defend the Constitution and Government of the United States … that I will bear true faith, allegiance and loyalty to the same, any ordinance, resolution or law of any state notwithstanding …”

In reaction to the bill, Senate Republican Minority Leader Michael Roberson released a statement to the press, saying, “This ‘Sanctuary State’ bill is, without question, the most recklessly irresponsible piece of legislation that I have witnessed during my six plus years in the Nevada Legislature. This Democrat bill will undoubtedly result in violent criminals, who have no business being in our state, to be released back into our communities to wreak more havoc on Nevadans.”

One of the arguments made by sanctuary proponents is that illegal immigrants are loath to report crimes for fear they will risk deportation and this increases criminal activity. But state and local law enforcement currently does not ask those who report crimes about their immigration status, only those who are in custody, those most likely to continue criminal activity if ICE is not given the opportunity to deport them because they pose a danger to the entire community — illegal immigrants included.

To add potential impact on state taxpayers to real danger of criminal activity, it should be noted that President Trump has threatened to withhold federal funds from sanctuary cities, and presumably sanctuary states.

He signed an executive order directing government officials to identify federal money that can be withheld to punish sanctuary cities.

So what could this mean for the “sanctuary state” of Nevada should SB223 pass in a Democrat majority Legislature?

The state’s total budget for the past two years was $26 billion. Fully $9 billion of that came from federal funds, according to the state budget.

Passing SB223 could have serious consequences to the bottom line of the state of Nevada, but that has never stopped the self-righteous Democrats, has it?

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.