Newspaper column: Laxalt reflects on term as attorney general

As Adam Laxalt closes out his term as attorney general and transitions the office to his successor in January, he took the time to reflect on what his team has accomplished for Nevada.

“My vision for the office was to be more than an office that just represents state agencies and boards and commissions in areas that we thought we wanted to find ways to lead. The title of top law enforcement officer comes with the attorney general’s office but we really wanted to lead law enforcement, which is why we created the Law Enforcement Summit concept.”

One of the cases in which the office assisted law enforcement that Laxalt cited was out of Elko. In 2008 an Elko police officer stopped a California man named Ralph Torres for suspicion of underage drinking. Torres produced an ID showing he was 29, but the officer detained Torres while dispatch verified the ID and it turned out Torres had a felony warrant.

His conviction was overturned in 2015 by the Nevada Supreme Court, which said his detention violated the Fourth Amendment prohibition against unreasonable searches and seizures.

Laxalt’s office took the case to the U.S. Supreme Court and the arrest validity eventually was upheld.

Attorney General Adam Laxalt, with three children under 5, says he plans to get some sleep once he leaves office.

“That’s just one example among many of things that came out of our coordination and cooperation with rural law enforcement,” Laxalt said, adding that the office also helped cut the backlog in sex offender registry.

Laxalt’s office also filed a lawsuit challenging the Obama administration’s restrictive land use plans intended to protect sage grouse that hurt mining and ranching.

Though the Trump administration lifted many of those restrictions, Laxalt contends that had his office not fought the Obama rules in court they might have been implemented. “We made sure we slowed that train down. Fortunately, the current administration has a more cooperative approach to working with our state,” Laxalt said.

He noted that creating a federalism unit in the attorney general’s office was also important, because, “In the years prior to my taking office you really saw federal overreach. You really saw the expansive interpretation of federal powers.”

Asked to define federalism, Laxalt explained, “I think people misinterpret it a lot. Federalism is, of course, to make sure that we keep as much power at the state level as we possibly can as the Framers intended. We don’t want people 3,000 miles away trying to decide minutiae of how we should be running our state.”

One example of this was the effort by the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers to redefine the waters of the U.S. under the Clean Water Act.

“They were going to redefine that ‘navigable waters’ phrase more broadly than Congress intended or, so we argued, as anyone intended. That would have really hampered our own state and own local ability to be able to take charge of our own water,” the attorney general said, noting that a coalition of states won an injunction that slowed the implementation until the current administration could issue more rational rules.

Since 85 percent of the state of Nevada is controlled by various federal land agencies, the highest percentage of any state, Nevada is more strongly impacted by federal restrictions on land use.

“Right now we think we’re in a better situation in this state,” Laxalt said. “The current administration certainly (Interior) Secretary (Ryan) Zinke and the head of the EPA have a more federalism approach to working with states.”

He expressed a level of satisfaction with his office’s efforts to include rural Nevada counties in the decision making process and fending off federal regulations that could have been an economic death knell for rural counties.

When asked about any future plans, Laxalt said he and the 400 employees in his office are currently working to transition to the next attorney general, Democrat Aaron Ford. He said he’ll think about his future next January and February.

He joked that he is looking forward to getting some sleep. Not only has he been running the attorney general’s office, seeking unsuccessfully to be elected governor, but also raising three children under the age of 5.

Asked whether he might run for public office again in the future, Laxalt said, “You know I care deeply about this state and I certainly hope — you know it is something I’ve talked about a lot this year — that I don’t want our state to turn into California. … I really hope we hold onto our values, such as small government, individual liberties.”

We shall see.

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.

‘Find me candidates who believe in real conservative principles’?

One-note Root today offers his solution to the 2018 Republican election rout.

One can’t argue with his premise that Gov. Brian Sandoval did not live up to his election promises. Instead, he shepherded though the largest tax increase in state history to pay for the highest budget; pushed through the commerce tax on businesses; expanded Medicaid under ObamaCare; allowed illegals aliens to get driver’s licenses; and bailed on school choice.

But Root’s solution is:

Find me candidates who believe in real conservative principles and who know how to proudly and loudly sell that message, and I’ll show you a Nevada that is painted Republican red again. That’s a Christmas message of hope for the Nevada GOP.

Well, they don’t get any more conservative than Bob Beers, who lost the race for state treasurer to an unknown, much less-qualified Democrat. The same could be said for Ron Knecht, who lost his controller re-election bid, and Wes Duncan, who lost his bid for attorney general. And, yes, Adam Laxalt had said he would try to repeal the commerce tax and as attorney general defended conservative principles and values. He lost to a tax-loving Democrat. We’ll skip over tax-hiker Michael Roberson.

Root’s solution has already failed. What now, one-note Root?

Newspaper column: Should each county get a single state senator?

 

Republican Sen. Pete Goicoechea is the District 19 incumbent and was not up for re-election this year.

The blue Clark County tail wagged the red Nevada dog in this past week’s election.

Election results show rural and urban Nevada are of two vastly different states of mind.

For example, in the race for the U.S. Senate, Democrat Jacky Rosen carried only Clark and Washoe counties, while Republican incumbent Dean Heller won every other county handily. In the more heavily unionized, redistribution-favoring and thus Democrat-leaning Clark and Washoe, Rosen gleaned 55 and 50 percent of the votes, respectively. Whereas, for example, in Elko County Heller netted 76 percent of the vote, 72 percent in White Pine, 79 percent in Lincoln, 75 percent in Esmeralda, 63 percent in Storey, 72 percent in Churchill, 79 percent in Lincoln and a whopping 84 percent in tiny Eureka. Quite a spectrum shift.

The state’s only Republican representative in Washington now will be Mark Amodei, whose 2nd Congressional District covers the northern half of the state and excludes Clark. Amodei won in every county and his Democratic opponent only came within spitting distance in Washoe and Carson City. Amodei took Elko with 80 percent of the vote, Humboldt with 79 percent and Lander with 82 percent, for example.

Republican Cresent Hardy won in every county in the 4th Congressional District in the southern half of the state except Clark, while the other two Congressional Districts are solely in Clark and were easily won by Democrats.

Democrat Steven Horsford won the 4th District seat by pulling 52 percent of the total vote by netting 56 percent in the more populous Clark. Hardy netted 73 percent of White Pine’s votes, 80 percent of Lincoln’s votes, 74 percent of Lyon’s, 57 percent of Mineral’s and 65 percent of Lyon’s.

In the statewide races for constitutional offices the numbers broke down largely the same.

In the race for governor, Democrat Steve Sisolak won handily in Clark and eked out a victory in Washoe, while Republican Adam Laxalt won almost every other county by at least 2-to-1. The results were similar in the race for lieutenant governor.

Incumbent Republican Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske edged out 30-year-old inexperienced Democrat Nelson Araujo by less than 1 percentage point, though she won handily in ever county except, you guessed it, Clark.

In the race for attorney general, Republican Wes Duncan won in every county, repeat after me, except Clark. Likewise for Republican treasurer candidate Bob Beers, while incumbent Republican Controller Ron Knecht lost only in Clark and Washoe. Again, in mosts cases the margins in rural counties exceeded 2-to-1 for the Republican.

The Democrats in the state Assembly are all from Clark and Washoe. The rest of the state picked Republicans. Due to the overwhelming population of Clark and Washoe, there is now a supermajority of Democrats — 29 out of 42.

The state Senate is also all red except for Clark and Washoe. The 13 Democrats to eight Republicans leaves the Democrats one seat short of a supermajority. That could happen if a planned recount changes the outcome in a district in Clark in which the Republican won by 28 ballots.

It takes a supermajority in both the Assembly and Senate to pass tax increases, thanks to an initiative pushed through by former Republican Gov. Jim Gibbons.

Now, if the Democrats can wail about how unfair it is that the 2016 presidential election was determined by the Electoral College — in which each state gets a vote for each representative in Congress, which is determined by population, and each state gets two votes for each senator no matter population — and not by popular vote, which, yes, Hillary Clinton and not Donald Trump won, it seems only fair that we be allowed to deign to suggest that Nevada could change its governing bodies to more closing match the federal system created by the Founders.

We could have an Assembly in which representatives are seated from districts of approximately equal population and a state Senate with a single representative from each county. The whole purpose of the U.S. Senate is to assure smaller states are not run over roughshod by more populous states.

So why should the smaller Nevada counties with differing philosophies and priorities and issues be virtually shut out of the decision making process?

Of course, the chances of that ever happening is almost certainly nil. So, consider this a wee Jeremiadic cry from the desert and a whisper in the ears of the near-supermajority to give some slack for the smaller rural counties. Seems only fair. And we know Democrats are sticklers for fairness.

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.

Historic update from Wikipedia:

In 1919 the Senate started a practice called “Little Federalism,” where each county received one member of the Nevada Senate regardless of population of said county. This set the Senate membership at seventeen which lasted until 1965-1967. The Supreme Court of the United States issued the opinion in Baker v. Carr in 1962 which found that the redistricting of state legislative districts are not a political questions, and thus is justiciable by the federal courts. In 1964, the U.S. Supreme Court heard Reynolds v. Sims and struck down state senate inequality, basing their decision on the principle of “one person, one vote.” With those two cases being decided on a national level, Nevada Assemblywoman Flora Dungan and Las Vegas resident Clare W. Woodbury, M.D. filed suit in 1965 with the Nevada District Court arguing that Nevada’s Senate districts violated the equal protection clause of the Fourteenth Amendment of the Constitution of the United States and lacked of fair representation and proportional districts. At the time, less than 8 percent of the population of the State of Nevada controlled more than 50 percent of the Senate. The District Court found that both the Senate and the Assembly apportionment laws were “invidiously discriminatory, being based upon no constitutionally valid policy.[7]” It was ordered that Governor Grant Sawyer call a Special Session to submit a constitutionally valid reapportionment plan.[8] The 11th Special Session lasted from October 25, 1965 through November 13, 1965 and a plan was adopted to increase the size of the Senate from 17 to 20.

Judge blocks enforcement of California law requiring abortion advertising by opponents

A federal judge in San Diego on Friday put the final nail in the coffin of a California law intended to require pro-life pregnancy clinics to advertise the state’s abortion services.

The Supreme Court earlier ruled 5-4 in NIFLA v. Becerra that the state law likely violated the First Amendment by compelling speech and remanded the case to the district court for a hearing on the evidence.

The Daily Caller reported:

The FACT Act required clinics licensed by the state to post a bulletin relaying information about abortion access in a “conspicuous place” within the facility. Unlicensed clinics — which provide various support services but do not offer advanced medical care — must disclose that they are not credentialed to practice medicine on site and in all advertisements.

The National Institute of Family and Life Advocates (NIFLA) challenged the law on constitutional grounds, arguing it violated the First Amendment because it forces a private speaker to spread a message with which they disagree.

Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who is running for governor, signed onto to an amicus brief in the case with 21 other states, challenging the law as an unconstitutional burden on free speech. His Democratic opponent Steve Sisolak criticized Laxalt for taking such a stance.

“Informed consent is required specifically so that the patient can assess the risks and consequences of a procedure that a doctor is seeking to perform. …” the amicus brief in question argues. “In contrast, a State’s desire to compel clinics to disseminate information about the availability of state funding for procedures those clinics do not perform has nothing to do with allowing a patient to assess the risks and consequences of a medical procedure about to be performed.”

Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in a concurrence to Clarence Thomas’ majority opinion:

The California Legislature included in its official history the congratulatory statement that the Act was part of California’s legacy of “forward thinking.” But it is not forward thinking to force individuals to “be an instrument for fostering public adherence to an ideological point of view [they] fin[d] unacceptable.” Wooley v. Maynard, 430 U. S. 705, 715 (1977). It is forward thinking to begin by reading the First Amendment as ratified in 1791; to understand the history of authoritarian government as the Founders then knew it; to confirm that history since then shows how relentless authoritarian regimes are in their attempts to stifle free speech; and to carry those lessons onward as we seek to preserve and teach the necessity of freedom of speech for the generations to come. Governments must not be allowed to force persons to express a message contrary to their deepest convictions. Freedom of speech secures freedom of thought and belief. This law imperils those liberties.

After Friday’s ruling, Michael Farris of the conservative Christian group Alliance Defending Freedom, said, “The outcome of this case affirms the freedom that all Americans have to speak — or not to speak — in accordance with their conscience.”
The court’s have agreed with Laxalt.

Both sides of the national abortion argument, plus free-speech rights, are at the center of Supreme Court case NIFLA v. Becerra. (AP pix).

When you crunch the poll numbers you get something to chew on

Let’s just say the poll that the morning newspaper bannered — the one showing Republicans Dean Heller and Adam Laxalt likely to win their races — is a bit squirrelly.

The highlighted results reported by the paper show that among likely voters incumbent Sen. Heller is beating Democrat Jacky Rosen by 47 percent to 41 percent and governor candidate Laxalt is beating Democrat Steve Sisolak by 46 percent to 41 percent, both outside the margin of error.

First, the poll itself, conducted by Reuters and Ipsos polling in conjunction with the University of Virginia Center for Politics, reports that it interviewed 2,001 adults in English — apparently ignoring those potential voters who primarily speak another language — and 1,137 of those were determined to be likely voters. It said 509 of the likely voters were Republicans, 507 Democrats and 77 independents. Stats for those three categories were used throughout the poll, though they add up to only 1,093, not 1,137. What happened to the others is a mystery.

Further, the poll also shows that among all the 2,001 adults polled 50 percent said they were completely certain to vote by Election Day, while among those 1,137 “likely” voters 79 percent said they were completely certain to vote.

Still further, the Nevada Secretary of State data shows 38.3 percent of currently registered active voters are registered as Democrats and 33.5 percent as Republicans and 28.2 percent as some other party or no party. The poll’s likely voter ratio 46.7 percent Republicans, 46.5 percent Democrats and 7.1 percent “independent.” Not exactly a match to the real world to begin with.

Though the ratio of the “likely” voters polled did not match actual registered voters, the poll did report more Republicans were certain to vote than Democrats — 83 percent vs. 76 percent.

While the paper highlighted the likely voter count, the poll itself found that among all adults — 50 percent of whom say they are completely certain to vote — the outcome shows Heller with 34 percent and Rosen with 35 percent, while Laxalt polled 34 percent and Sisolak 35 percent.

It also could be noted that among the underrepresented “independents” in the poll Rosen out polls Heller 48 percent to 19 percent and Sisolak bests Laxalt 38 percent to 31 percent.

The only poll that counts is Election Day. Just ask Hillary Clinton.

 

 

 

 

 

Newspaper column: Who has the better plan for Nevada’s economic future?

Laxalt and Sisolak (R-J pix)

Plans or platitudes?

That is our choice when it comes to electing the next governor of Nevada.

Republican Adam Laxalt, currently the state’s attorney general, has outlined clear and precise plans for helping grow the economy of the state, while Democrat Steve Sisolak, currently a Clark County commissioner, offers vague platitudes.

“First and foremost, we must recognize that one of the most important things we can do to promote economic growth and opportunity is to protect Nevada’s status as a safe haven from high taxes,” candidate Laxalt says on his campaign website. “Nevada has long been a place where we have recognized that keeping taxes low on our businesses, families and individuals provides them with the economic freedom they need to prosper and get ahead.”

He offers that a low tax burden allows private businesses to innovate, expand and hire more workers. He has specifically called for the repeal of the burdensome and complex commerce tax pushed through the Legislature by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

For his part Sisolak has called for a repeal of the property tax cap that limits annual property tax increases to 3 percent for private residences and 8 percent for commercial property. He also supported increasing room taxes in order to spend $750 million in public money to build a stadium for a billionaire professional football team owner.

Laxalt has opposed raising the minimum wage, which would hurt small businesses’ ability to hire young and low-skilled workers, while Sisolak has supported increasing the minimum wage.

Laxalt supports the Energy Choice Initiative, Question 3 on the November ballot, that would allow businesses and home owners to seek less expensive electricity suppliers, but Sisolak has come out against it.

Laxalt is also calling for reining in Nevada’s burdensome business licensing requirements that are the second-strictest in the nation, second only to California. “Upon taking office, I will propose an immediate freeze on all business license fees at current levels until we can put forward a thorough, open-to-the-public review of the revenue and whether the fees are becoming too disadvantageous and onerous for Nevada’s job-providers, particularly our small businesses,” the Republican candidate proposes.

When it comes to access to public land in Nevada, Sisolak’s platitudinous platform calls for: “Protect Nevada’s natural beauty. Not only does chipping away at our public lands — such as Gold Butte and Great Basin  — damage our environment and communities, it hurts the state’s outdoor tourism economy.”

On the other hand, when President Obama designated the 300,000-acre Gold Butte National Monument, Laxalt put out a press release saying, “Although I am not surprised by the president’s actions, I am deeply disappointed at his last minute attempt to cement his environmental legacy by undermining local control of Nevada’s communities, and damaging our jobs and economy.”

Sisolak wants the government to continue to pick winners and losers as it has with tax breaks and handouts for electric car companies and a football stadium and expand giveaways to small businesses. “Support Nevada’s small businesses with incentives and grants so it’s not just the big companies that benefit from our help,” his website states.

Instead of handouts to a select few, Laxalt calls for creating what he calls a “regulatory sandbox” in Nevada. “Earlier this year, Arizona created the first regulatory sandbox in the United States,” Laxalt explains. “This innovative concept is based on the explicit recognition that financial regulators cannot develop new regulations as quickly as new financial instruments are developed. The sandbox instead gives firms wide latitude to experiment with new products as long as they’re up front with regulators about the risks involved.”

While Sisolak pushes the notion that government knows best, Laxalt understands that government should get out of the way.

“Today, many politicians in our state want to take us in a radical, reckless new direction,” he says. “They believe that bureaucrats, rather than free individuals and entrepreneurs, know best how to create jobs and economic growth. Their vision for Nevada is one with higher taxes, more crippling regulations, and fewer of the choices and opportunities that only liberty can provide. They want to take us away from all that has long made Nevada so unique. They would replace Nevada’s heritage of freedom and opportunity with the failed radicalism of California.”

That sounds like a sound plan.

Thomas Mitchell is a longtime Nevada newspaper columnist. You may email him at thomasmnv@yahoo.com. He also blogs at https://4thst8.wordpress.com/.

Editorial chastises Laxalt for ignoring the will of the voters by not ignoring the will of the voters

The insert in the morning newspaper never misses a chance to promote its progressive/liberal/gun-grabbing agenda and to lash out at a Republican. Today’s editorial is exhibit A.

This past week District Court Judge Joe Hardy ruled that the 2016 Question 1 initiative, which intended to require background checks for the sales of guns between private individuals, was unenforceable, just as Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s office had ruled shortly after passage.

The editorial accused Laxalt of gloating and ignoring the will of the people, saying he and Gov. Brian Sandoval “barely lifted a finger in trying to implement it.”

You see, the backers of the initiative had outsmarted themselves. In trying to get a fiscal note on the ballot measure that said it would cost no Nevada tax dollars, their draft said the background checks would be conducted by the FBI through its National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) and not the customary method of using the Nevada Department of Public Safety. The FBI refused to conduct the checks.

As for ignoring the will of the people, the measure passed with only 50.45 percent of the vote, failing in every county except Clark. Would it have passed at all if the voters were told how much it would cost them?

“When the feds responded to the state’s cursory inquires (sic) about the law by saying they were not obligated to perform the checks, Laxalt and Sandoval were all too happy to drop the matter and move on,” the screed falsely claims. “Instead of demanding, haranguing, maybe even suing, they quickly demurred.”

As for barely lifting a finger and quickly demurring, the editorial ignores the section of Judge Hardy’s ruling that detailed the numerous communications between the state and the FBI. (See pages 6 through 10.)

“But when voters go to the polls this November, they should remember how Laxalt reacted before, during and especially after the ruling,” the putrid polemic pouts. “This is a man who clearly views himself above the will of the people and imagines an imperial governorship in which he can ignore the voters at his discretion.”

Apparently, the insert editorialists believe that members of the executive branch should ignore the voters and rewrite a law that the voters approved, albeit by a slim majority in one urban county. As Judge Hardy noted, the FBI requirement “was not inadvertent drafting on a peripheral point. It was a conscious choice relating to a central provision …”

So Laxalt and Sandoval should have just ignored the will of the stupid voters who had no idea what they were really voting for anyway.