How is that first special session gift — the one for Tesla — turning out?

Tesla gigafactory (R-J photo)

Tesla gigafactory (R-J photo)

There have been three special legislative sessions in three years in Nevada specifically to dole out generous gifts to billionaires based on base assumptions that those gifts might someday prove beneficial to the economy of the state and generate more tax revenue than the handout.

You know the gifts — tax breaks and abatements and roadwork and land for a Tesla Motors battery factory near Sparks, tax breaks and infrastructure for a planned electric car plant for Faraday Future in Clark County and now $750 million in tax money to build a football stadium for casino and newspaper owner Sheldon Adelson and the NFL Raiders.

So, how’s that first handout working out?

Montana Skeptic at Seeking Alpha reports that Nevada is getting the shaft.

As of the latest report in late August, even with generous amortization allowances, the 272 jobs created by the so called gigafactory have cost Nevada $179,000 each.

Tesla has said the $5 billion, 10 million-square-foot factory eventually will employ 6,500 workers and add $100 billion to the state economy over the next 20 years.

There were supposed to be 700 full-time jobs in 2015 instead of 272 and 1,700 this year instead of only 419 so far. For 2017 the prediction is 4,700 jobs, reaching that pie in the sky 6,500 in 2018.

Capital expenditures by Tesla also have fallen well short of projections.

The plant is supposed to be 10 million square feet in size, but now is less than 2 million.

Watchdog is muzzled

For decades the Las Vegas newspaper aggressively fought for transparency in state and local government affairs, pressing for stronger public records and open meetings laws and urging vigorous enforcement of those laws — even going to court itself when necessary on behalf of the public’s right to know how its money is being spent and its affairs are being conducted.

Casino executive Sheldon Adelson, who bought the paper less than a year ago, has muzzled the watchdog.

Coiled in Senate Bill 1, just passed in a special session of the Nevada Legislature to fund $750 million for Adelson’s bid to build a domed NFL stadium, is a rattlesnake, and the Las Vegas newspaper has taken no notice of its rattle.

The bill reads in part:

Sec. 30. 1. Except as otherwise provided in subsection 3 and NRS 239.0115, the Stadium Authority shall keep confidential any record or other document provided to the Stadium Authority by a developer partner, the National Football League team or the Stadium Events Company, which is in the possession of the Stadium Authority, if the person providing the information:

(a) Submits a request in writing that the record or other document be kept confidential by the Stadium Authority; and

(b) Demonstrates to the satisfaction of the Stadium Authority that the record or other document contains proprietary or confidential information.

2. If the Stadium Authority determines that a record or other document contains proprietary or confidential information, the Chair of the Board of Directors shall attach to the file containing the record or document:

(a) A certificate signed by him or her stating that a request for confidentiality was made by the requesting entity and the date of the request;

(b) A copy of the written request submitted by the requesting entity;

(c) The documentation to support the request submitted by the requesting entity; and

(d) A copy of the decision of the Stadium Authority determining that the record or other document contains proprietary or confidential information.

3. Records and documents that are confidential pursuant to this section:

(a) Are proprietary or confidential information of the requesting entity;

(b) Are not a public record; and

(c) Must not be disclosed to any person who is not an officer or employee of the Stadium Authority unless the requesting entity consents to the disclosure.

So, not only do all the profits accrued by the “public” stadium go solely to the private investors, but the taxpayers will never know just how much that is — or much of anything else for that matter.

Instead of addressing state’s problems lawmakers give us diversion

Football is, appropriately enough, a gladiatorial sport.

Nevada public school graduates scored worst in the nation on ACT tests, which measure college preparedness.

The state Supreme Court ruled the education savings accounts law, which would help students escape failing public schools, funding method was unconstitutional, but it was not urgent enough to consider in a special session of the Legislature.

Wild horses overpopulate the range and are running ranchers out of business.

Federal public land restrictions are hampering mining, ranching, oil and gas exploration and other economic uses.

Ten counties face monopolies and higher premiums and deductibles when it comes to access to ObamaCare.

Nevada needs to improve its transportation infrastructure and is asking voters in each county to allow fuel taxes to be indexed to inflation.

Nevada faces more than $40 billion in unfunded liabilities for public employee pensions.

The next biennium budget faces a $400 million shortfall in revenue even though lawmakers in 2015 raised taxes $1.5 billion, the highest increase ever.

So what do the governor and the state lawmakers do during this past week’s special session? They agree to spend $750 million in tax money to help build a football stadium for a billionaire casino owner and a billionaire NFL team owner.

On top of that the Nevada Department of Transportation says $900 million in road projects will be needed to be accelerated to accommodate the stadium traffic, which means $900 million in roadwork elsewhere will be delayed.

Instead of addressing the public service needs, they give us bread and circuses — without the bread.

Editorial: Voters should reject gun background check initiative


One of the most harebrained, fetid proposals ever to waft out of the cesspool of New York City has landed with a sickening splat on Nevada’s November ballot and it just might become law — jeopardizing our freedoms and constitutional rights without accomplishing so much as a scintilla of its intended purpose.

Question 1 would require “universal” background checks on all gun purchases. It is being pushed by Nevadans for Background Checks, which is funded by former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety.

A summary of the measure reads in part: “This initiative requires that an unlicensed person who wishes to sell or transfer a firearm to another person conduct the transfer through a licensed gun dealer who runs a background check on the potential buyer or transferee. A licensed dealer may charge a reasonable fee for this service.”

Failure to comply is punishable by up to a year in jail, a $1,000 fine or both.

A recent statewide survey conducted on behalf of the Las Vegas newspaper found that 58 percent favor passage of Question 1 compared to only 32 percent opposed.

So far, a majority of Nevada sheriffs have come out against the background check initiative, as well as the governor and the attorney general. The consensus is that the measure will do nothing to stop criminals from getting their hands on guns — well, they are criminals after all — but the complexity of the law will doubtless ensnare innocent gun owners and waste the time of gun owners and those in law enforcement, as well as the taxpayers’ money.

The National Rifle Association, which obviously opposes Question 1, points out that the assumption that background checks will keep guns out of the hands of criminals is a total hallucination. Criminals get firearms on the black market, street purchases and theft. A Department of Justice analysis found 77 percent of criminals in state prison for firearm crimes got their guns in one of those ways or from friends or family. Less than 1 percent got firearms from dealers or non-dealers at gun shows.

The law is so strict that a gun seller whose purchase fails to go through for some reason will have to pay for and undergo a background check to get his own weapon back from the licensed federal firearm dealer.

Opponents note that if passed Question 1 would not allow a person to lend a weapon for hunting or target shooting until both parties appear before a licensed firearms dealer, pay a fee and relinquish the weapon until the background check is completed.

Attorney General Adam Laxalt said in a statement: “As the state’s chief law enforcement officer, I take seriously my duty to ensure that my fellow Nevadans are safe. I have carefully reviewed the Question 1 initiative and have concluded that it would not prevent criminals from obtaining firearms and would instead cost Nevadans time, money, and freedom.”

A spokesman for Gov. Brian Sandoval released a statement saying: “The governor does not support Question 1. He has concerns that this measure would dilute the legitimate rights of law-abiding Nevadans and that it does not actually address the complex issue of keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals.”

Typical of the views of most sheriffs was a comment to the press by Elko County Sheriff Jim Pitts: “Only the citizens who follow the law are going to be the ones who follow it, and the ones that are the criminals aren’t going to follow it anyway. … This comes back again to unfunded mandates that they’re passing on to the local law enforcement that we just don’t have the manpower or the money to do this.”

Nye County Sheriff Sharon Wehrly said: “It merely places more restrictions on good people, will make it more difficult, and incur unnecessary costs for law-abiding citizens to manage their personal property.”

This newspaper urges Nevada voters to soundly reject Question 1.

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: Nevada taking lead in challenging new overtime rule

New labor rules being arbitrarily foisted on the private and public sectors by the Obama administration in his final year in office will cost the economy $80 billion — nearly half of that, $33 billion, due to a new rule raising the number of workers who must be paid overtime by 12.5 million — and eliminate 150,000 jobs over the next decade, according to the the National Association of Manufacturers.

Nevada is leading the way in challenging the overtime change that increases the wage floor for executive, administrative and professional (EAP) workers who must be paid time and half for any hours worked in excess of 40 hours from $455 per week to $913 per week, starting on Dec. 1.

Recently Nevada’s three Republican Congressmen Joe Heck, Cresent Hardy and Mark Amodei joined in a near-party-line vote in the House to delay the overtime rule change for six months. Democrat Dina Titus, of course, opposed it. On to the Senate.

But the challenge most likely to be effective is a legal challenge by 21 states in which Nevada is taking the lead — Nevada v. U.S. Department of Labor — which was filed recently in the Eastern District of Texas. In addition to Nevada and Texas, the challenging states are: Alabama, Arizona, Arkansas, Georgia, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Michigan, Mississippi, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and Wisconsin.

The suit challenges the new overtime rule as a usurpation of the powers granted Congress by the Constitution and a violation of the Federalism principle embodied in the Tenth Amendment.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt said in a press release announcing the litigation, “Longstanding federal law requires an overtime exemption for ‘bona fide executive, administrative, or professional’ employees. Ignoring this federal law, the Department of Labor by executive fiat is forcing state, local and private employers to pay overtime to any employee who earns under a certain amount, regardless of whether that employee is actually performing ‘executive, administrative, or professional’ duties.”

The Fair Labor Standards Act was passed in 1938 and required that workers engaged in interstate commerce be paid a federal minimum wage and overtime for any hours worked in excess of 40 hours a week. It included an exception for “any employee employed in a bona fide executive, administrative, or professional capacity …”

Later amendments applied the law to all state and local government employees, but in 1976, according to the lawsuit, the Supreme Court ruled the Tenth Amendment limited Congress’s power to impose such rules on the states.

The court backed off that finding a decade later and said, “The political process ensures that laws that unduly burden the States will not be promulgated.”

Au contraire, says the lawsuit, “Subsequent Commerce Clause, Tenth Amendment, and Eleventh Amendment decisions call the continuing validity” of that decision into question.

In March Obama ordered the labor department to change the overtime rule. “Because these regulations are outdated, millions of Americans lack the protections of overtime and even the right to the minimum wage,” his memo said.

Nevada v. Labor spells out the especially onerous burden the overtime rule places on state and local governments, “Because the Plaintiff States cannot reasonably rely upon a corresponding increase in revenue, they will have to reduce or eliminate some essential government services and functions. For example, certain infrastructure and social programs may be reduced or cut. The Plaintiff States’ budgets will have less discretionary funds available because, as result of the new federal overtime rule, a greater percentage of their funds will be devoted to employment costs against the States’ will. These changes will have a substantial impact on the lives and well-being of the Citizens of the Plaintiff States,” adding that private employers will suffer the same ill effects.

The plaintiffs note that the Supreme Court tossed out as unconstitutional a provision in ObamaCare that required states to expand Medicaid coverage, calling that “economic dragooning” — an apt comparison.

The press release accompanying the lawsuit quoted the Nevada Resort Association, whose members employ nearly a third of Nevada workers and provide almost half the state’s tax revenue, as saying, “By nearly doubling the threshold amount for exempt employees, the regulation results in abrupt increases in taxes and labor costs. Such dramatic increases are particularly difficult to manage in an industry with tens of thousands of employees and in which labor costs are a significant percentage of total expenses.”

The courts and Congress can’t act quickly enough to fend off this job and economy killing move by Obama.

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.

Will the Assembly sell out the taxpayers for the casino owners?

Possibly today we will find out whether the principles of the Republican Party — small government, lower taxes and free enterprise — have been sold out in Nevada, bought and paid for by the billionaire casino owners who want the public to foot a major part of the bill for an amenity to fill their hotel rooms.

On Tuesday, during a special session of the Legislature in Carson City the Senate voted 16-5 for Senate Bill 1 to raise room taxes in Las Vegas to pay for nearly 40 percent of the cost of a  new domed football stadium to house the Oakland Raiders and the UNLV football team and to expand the convention center.

They took the day off Wednesday for Yom Kippur but reconvene today with the focus on whether 28 Assembly members — a required two-thirds majority — will also approve SB1.

SB1 hikes the Clark County room tax rate by 0.88 of a percentage point to fund $750 million of the potential $1.9 billion, 65,000-seat stadium.  The bill also adds 0.5 of a percentage point to the room tax to raise $400 million toward a $1.4 billion upgrade of the Las Vegas Convention Center.

The stadium is being pushed by casino and newspaper owner Sheldon Adelson who promises to shell out $650 million from his rather deep pockets to pay for construction.

Oddly enough, as an alert reader has pointed out, SB1 includes a section creating a special oversight committee for the convention construction aspect of the bill, even though there already is the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority.

Adelson has long opposed the expansion of the publicly funded convention center, contending it unfairly competes with his privately owned Sands Convention Center.

The Oversight Panel for Convention Facilities would consist of five “members who are executives or directors of construction for a resort hotel in the County and who have experience in managing the design, engineering, cost-estimating and construction of commercial conference or convention facilities” and two members who have experience in the financing of capital projects in the state.

Would this redundant oversight panel have veto power over the convention expansion? Might Adelson be able to stack the panel with his experienced executives? Is this a poison pill?

The bill, in fact, says if the oversight panel disapproves a request for a project it would require a two-thirds majority of the convention center board to override that decision.

Just how Machiavellian is Adelson?

Also, pay no heed to the fact that the Nevada Constitution specifically states: “The State shall not donate or loan money, or its credit, subscribe to or be, interested in the Stock of any company, association, or corporation, except corporations formed for educational or charitable purposes.”

That’s why it is being touted as a “public” stadium even though all the profits go into private hands.

Protesters oppose stadium funding.

Protesters oppose stadium funding.


What if the public tax money were building something other than a stadium?

Imagine an alternative universe in which today’s banner newspaper story reads something like this:

CARSON CITY — The Nevada state Senate on Tuesday passed a bill raising the hotel room taxes in Nye County to fund a 65-bed brothel to spur economic activity in the county and create jobs.

Next the Assembly will take up the measure.

Proponents say the $1 million construction project will create temporary construction jobs and then create permanent part-time jobs for the brothel employees, as well as ancillary jobs in linen and limo services.

Backers said it matters not that the state budget is already reeling from a $400 million shortfall due to underperforming taxes because of overly optimistic projections. They say the bonds to build the brothel will be repaid by the room tax, even though it could have been used to build schools, roads, parks or libraries.

What’s good for the brothel industry is good for the state, industry leaders assured the lawmakers. They also told lawmakers to ignore the fact that every other such publicly financed project in the country has failed to live up to projections.