Judge dismisses ACLU constitutional challenge to education savings account law

On Wednesday Clark County District Court Judge Eric Johnson released a 45-page ruling dismissing a constitutional challenge to the state’s education savings account (ESA) law by the American Civil Liberties Union.

The ACLU challenged the law on the grounds it violated the state Constitution’s prohibition against funding religious institutions, because parents taking advantage of the state-established savings accounts could spend the money at religion-backed private schools.

A separate challenge to the law — Schwartz v. Lopez — is still pending before the state Supreme Court. Plaintiffs in that case argue that money set aside for public schools funding may not be used for any other purpose.

The Legislature set statewide per pupil funding at $5,710 per pupil in the Distributive School Account (DSA). The ESA bill dictated that most parents who pull their children from public school would be given 90 percent of that amount to fund education by whatever means they choose — private school, tutoring, homeschooling — thus reducing the population and the needed funding.

Judge Johnson writes, “The United States Supreme Court’s ‘decisions have drawn a consistent distinction between government programs that provide aid directly to religious schools, and programs of true private choice, in which government aid reaches religious schools only as a result of the genuine and independent choices of private individuals.’ … Where a school aid program, such as the ESA program, is neutral with respect to religion, and provides assistance available directly to a wide spectrum of citizens, or as in this case, essentially all parents of Nevada school children, who, in turn, direct the financial assistance to religion affiliated schools ‘wholly as a result of their own genuine and independent private choice, the program is not readily subject to challenge …'”

According to Attorney General Adam Laxalt, whose office represented the state in seeking to have the law upheld, 6,000 students have applied under the ESA program, which is on hold pending the outcome of legal challenges.

“This is a huge and important step in getting certainty for the thousands of families waiting to participate in Nevada’s ESA program,” said Laxalt. “The Court correctly dismissed these speculative and tenuous claims. The decision today clears the way for the Nevada Supreme Court to meaningfully address the remaining uncertainty caused by the injunction in the other case challenging Nevada’s ESA program. We are one giant step closer to helping thousands of Nevada families choose the best educational option for their children.”

The ACLU is considering whether to appeal, according to the Las Vegas newspaper.

The judge’s ruling repeatedly emphasized that the state Constitution instructs lawmakers to encourage education by “all suitable means,” which is in addition to the requirement to “provide for a uniform system of common schools.”

Johnson also noted that the plaintiffs alleged that certain schools might illegally discriminate in admissions and hiring. If that is the case, he stated litigation could be brought when that happens. “Whether illegal discrimination occurs and a school may participate under the program can be dealt with in the specific context of the facts of an actual controversy rather than in the hypothetical,” he wrote twice in the ruling.

Gov. Brian Sandoval released a statement saying, “Today’s decision by Judge Johnson is a victory for thousands of Nevada families who are pursuing the opportunity to choose the best education path for their children. School choice was an important part of the legislative education reform package enacted in 2015. I hope that all pending litigation challenging these critical reforms will soon be resolved for the sake of our students who deserve every opportunity to succeed.”

Judge Johnson addressed and dismissed many of the financing issues raised in the Schwartz v. Lopez case pending before the Supreme Court, writing that “even if large numbers of parents enroll in the program, so long as there is a ‘uniform public school system,’ open to the ‘general attendance’ of all, the Legislature has fulfilled the duty imposed …”

More previously undiscovered presidential powers

Let’s see, Article II of the Constitution says the president is vested with the executive power of the country, is the commander and chief, has the power to negotiate treaties with the advice and consent of the Senate, is to fill vacancies, inform the Congress of the state of the Union and take care that laws are faithfully executed.

Funny, I don’t see where the president has the power to tell public schools nationwide who may use what bathroom or shower.

Neither does Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who sent out a press release this week that was widely ignored.

His statement reads:

“Once again, President Obama has gone well beyond his constitutional authority by issuing coercive guidance on Title IX,” said Laxalt. “As this Administration surely understands, but chooses to ignore, the founders — in their wisdom — intended for state and local officials to govern themselves and decide what is best for their students and community. By ignoring the balance of power between the federal, state and local governments, President Obama has usurped democratic participation from all necessary stakeholders. This is especially troubling when he has done so by threatening to withhold funding to struggling Nevada schools unless they comply.”

As for “identifying” as a federalist republic, forget about it.

The Education Department’s “dear colleague” letter spells out what schools must do under pain of having federal dollars disappear:

As a condition of receiving Federal funds, a school agrees that it will not exclude, separate, deny benefits to, or otherwise treat differently on the basis of sex any person in its educational programs or activities unless expressly authorized to do so under Title IX or its implementing regulations.4 The Departments treat a student’s gender identity as the student’s sex for purposes of Title IX and its implementing regulations. This means that a school must not treat a transgender student differently from the way it treats other students of the same gender identity.

Of course, the bureaucrats at the Education and Justice departments know more about what is best for everyone than trained and experienced psychiatrists who have done actual, but apparently frivolous, scientific studies.

Do the algebra. No matter how hard you concentrate, no matter how you dress and even if you cut off or add parts — you can’t delete or add a Y chromosome.

(AP photo via NPR)



ObamaCare contraceptive mandate compromise? Or sleight of hand?

How do you compromise core principles of your religion, the exercise of which is guaranteed in the First Amendment?

The U.S. Supreme Court sent the case of Zubik v. Burwell — in which petitioners argue the ObamaCare mandate to provide contraceptive coverage in company insurance plans violates their religious beliefs — to lower court where it says a compromise should be worked out.


The court’s order states:

Following oral argument, the Court requested supplemental briefing from the parties addressing “whether contraceptive coverage could be provided to petitioners’ employees, through petitioners’ insurance companies, without any such notice from petitioners.” Both petitioners and the Government now confirm that such an option is feasible. Petitioners have clarified that their religious exercise is not infringed where they “need to do nothing more than contract for a plan that does not include coverage for some or all forms of contraception,” even if their employees receive cost-free contraceptive coverage from the same insurance company. The Government has confirmed that the challenged procedures “for employers with insured plans could be modified to operate in the manner posited in the Court’s order while still ensuring that the affected women receive contraceptive coverage seamlessly, together with the rest of their health coverage.”

Cost free to whom? Somebody pays and it is usually in the form of higher premiums. So the company is paying for something its owners believe is a sin.

This is nothing but sleight of hand trickery and a way for the court to avoid a 4-4 tie by delaying.

Protesters outside Supreme Court building this past week oral arguments in case involving ObamaCare mandate to provide contraceptives in insurance plans. (USA Today photo)



Newspaper daily circulations appear to be in a death spiral, while weeklies are thriving

In 2007 newspaper still enjoyed a fairly healthy paid print circulation, though they have been in decline for years.

Compare those numbers to ones put together by a writer at Medium.com this past January:

As your can see the Las Vegas newspaper paid circulation has been cut nearly in half since 2007, which is fairly typical across the industry.

The writer, Richard Tofel, president of ProPublica and a former newspaper executive, reports:

Nearly everyone in publishing with whom I shared the 2015 paid figures found them surprisingly low. There is no question that they are dramatically lower than the widely available 2013 numbers.

— If the 2013 numbers represent the “reality” that even industry professionals have in their heads, but the 2015 numbers represent the facts on the ground, how long can it be before print advertising prices (and thus newspaper revenues) come under further severe pressure?

— Finally, and to return to the McKinsey report (which speculated that circulation declines had bottomed out) with which we began, if print circulation is much lower than generally believed, what basis is there for confidence the declines are ending and a plateau lies ahead?

But it is not just the paid print circulation that is in decline it is also the revenue, which is not being saved by the digital side of the business:

Revenue growth in digital is not stanching the print hemorrhage.


Household penetration is in steady decline.

This statistic may be the most telling one of all:

People used to ask me what the newspaper’s biggest competitor was. They generally expected me to reply the Internet, I suspect, but I told them the biggest competitor was anything that took time away from the reading the paper, whether that is jogging, brushing their teeth longer, reading a book, etc. If the paper is not holding peoples’ attention, it is in trouble.

Meanwhile, there are a number of accounts reporting that weekly community newspaper are not just surviving, but many are thriving.

Judy Muller, a journalism professor at USC, reports:

In 2010, the National Newspaper Assn. provided some heartening survey statistics: More than three-quarters of respondents said they read most or all of a local newspaper every week. And a full 94% said they paid for their papers.

And what of the Internet threat? Many of these small-town editors have learned a lesson from watching their big-city counterparts: Don’t give it away. Many weeklies, from the Canadian Record in the Texas Panhandle to the Concrete Herald in Washington’s Cascade Mountains, are charging for their Web content, and, because readers can’t get that news anywhere else, they’re willing to pay.

About 67 percent of people who live in rural America prefer a printed newspaper over a digital format.

Editorial: Rural HEALTH Act a worthy step toward saving rual hospitals

Tonopah hospital is closed. (R-J photo)

After the closure of Tonopah’s only hospital nearly a year ago left area residents hours away from an emergency room, Republican Rep. Cresent Hardy, whose district covers southern rural Nevada, began researching ways to protect the financial well-being of rural hospitals.

A couple of weeks ago, he and an Alabama Democratic congressman introduced a bipartisan bill called the Rural Health Enhancement and Long Term Health Act of 2016, known by the acronym Rural HEALTH Act.

The bill reauthorizes the State Offices of Rural Health Grant Program and increases its five-year funding from $10 million to $15 million. It also allows matching grants for building new and updating existing hospitals of up to $100,000.

The bill also requires additional oversight from the Department of Health and Human Services, requiring it to report on the state of the nation’s rural health system — something that hasn’t been done since 2003. The report must include the number and cause of rural hospital closures and examine how those hospitals might have been saved.

Rep. Hardy said in a statement, which closely followed his speech on the floor of the House, “What we found was shocking. More than 30 percent of America’s rural hospitals are vulnerable to conditions that have caused the closure of 71 facilities since 2010. Rural communities are home to some of our most resilient people, but they are too often overlooked for that very reason. We need to act now to prevent more families from losing their lifelines in times of emergency.”

A press release from Hardy’s office quotes Teryl Eisinger, executive director of the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health, as saying, “Rural health care systems throughout the country continue to operate in a fragile state. By reauthorizing the State Office of Rural Health grant program, this bipartisan legislation will help provide improved access to quality health care for the 61 million Americans living in rural areas.”

The Rural HEALTH Act is supported by the Nevada Hospital Association, the Nevada State Office of Rural Health, the National Organization of State Offices of Rural Health and the American Osteopathic Association.

The hospitals that would be affected by this bill include: Banner Churchill Community Hospital in Fallon, Battle Mountain General Hospital, Boulder City Hospital, Carson Valley Medical Center in Gardnerville, Desert View Hospital in Pahrump, Grover C. Dils Medical Center in Caliente, Humboldt General Hospital in Winnemucca, Incline Village Community Hospital, Mesa View Regional Hospital in Mesquite, Mount Grant

General Hospital in Hawthorne, Northeastern Nevada Regional Hospital in Elko, Pershing General Hospital in Lovelock, South Lyon Medical Center in Yerington and William Bee Ririe Hospital in Ely.

Though we generally favor regulatory relief rather than further expenditures of tax money, this bill is hardly a drop in the black hole of federal spending and should provide the oversight that might indeed find that regulatory burdens are too cumbersome for rural hospitals.

We encourage Nevada’s congressional delegation to get behind this bill and examine still more ways to protect rural health availability.

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

I must be accommodated!

I am a rich person trapped in a poor person’s body.

Therefore, the government must accommodate me.

“There is no room for discrimination of any kind, including discrimination against transwealth persons on the basis of their poverty,” Attorney General Loretta Lynch said in a statement. “This guidance gives administrators and elected officials the tools they need to protect transwealth persons from peer harassment and to identify and address unjust policies.”

Her order will provide we transwealth persons with Section 8 housing vouchers so we may occupy the mansions of our choice, as well as food stamps redeemable at the gourmet markets and the finest restaurants. We will also be staked for the high stakes tables at the casinos and provided a private jet for our world travels and a yacht for our ocean cruises.

Government hairdressers will take care of our combovers and our personal tailors fit our custom clothing.

“No person should ever have to go through the experience of feeling unwelcome in our society. …” said another U.S. government agency head. “We must ensure that our trans people know that whoever they are or wherever they come from, they have the opportunity to live in the lap of luxury in an environment free from discrimination, harassment and violence.”

How dare anyone throw a person out of a store simply because they can’t pay the bill. That is blatant discrimination, harassment and violence.

A letter obtained by the Washington Post explains the administration’s rationale for its decision: “As is consistently recognized in civil rights cases, the desire to accommodate others’ discomfort cannot justify a policy that singles out and disadvantages a particular class.”