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.

Newspaper column: These are the best choices to send to Washington

It is vital for rural Nevada that we send representatives to Washington who will defend us from the encroachment of the federal bureaucracies.

When it comes to the race for the Senate seat, the choice is obvious. Republican Sen. Dean Heller knows rural Nevada and what its residents need to survive and prosper.

His opponent — one-term Democratic representative Jacky Rosen — would modify the Trump tax cuts, block the nomination of conservative judges and justices, bar the use of public lands, push socialized medicine, big government spending and generally side with the radical left that is so entrenched in Washington.

Heller would continue to work to create jobs and improve the economy.

“As a lifelong Nevadan and rancher, I am fighting hard to ensure that Nevadans have access to our public lands for multiple-use purposes such as grazing, economic development, and recreation,” Heller says on his campaign website. “Without a doubt, the federal government owns too much land in the West. Because 87 percent of Nevada’s land is managed by the federal government, I believe Congress should transfer some of our lands to the state and local governments.”

Heller also promises to work to responsibly develop energy resources on public lands to keep fuel prices low.

He also opposes the government takeover of health care, saying, “Now, Obamacare is costing jobs, stifling economic growth in our nation, and the cost of care has increased.”

The Republican senator also has a track record of pushing for border security and immigration reform.

“Big government is not the answer to fixing our economy,” Heller warns. “Congress needs to control wasteful spending and shrink the size of government. Adopting pro-growth policies that expand tax relief across the board and allow Americans to keep more of what they earn will lead to job creation and economic prosperity in the future. Capitalism is the foundation of America’s prosperity. We should embrace these principles, not run from them.”

As for the candidates for the House of Representatives for rural Nevada, Republicans Mark Amodei and Cresent Hardy are the clear choices.

Amodei has represented the 2nd Congressional District in northern Nevada since 2011.

His Democratic opponent Clint Koble opposes selling public land and advocates reinstating ObamaCare and expanding Medicaid. Koble bemoans what he calls a wealth gap and claims the tax cuts have not benefited workers and “its worst provisions should be reversed.” He also favors instant background checks of all gun sales and promotes expensive renewable energy boondoggles.

Amodei is a strong defender of the right to keep and bear arms. He has sponsored bills that encourage economic development in rural counties.

“A significant issue for Nevadans, which dovetails with economic growth, is public land management. I believe that it is possible to leverage our natural resources in an economically and environmentally responsible way,” Amodei relates on his campaign website. “As a member of the House Interior Appropriations Subcommittee, I am advancing legislation to strengthen local control over the federal lands, which compromise more than 85 percent of the state. I think that local communities should be able to decide for themselves the best uses for public lands to spur economic growth.”

The congressman was a strong supporter of the tax cuts bill and advocates legislation to undo the worst problems with ObamaCare.

Republican Cresent Hardy is seeking a return to southern Nevada’s 4th Congressional District seat, which he won in 2014 by defeating incumbent Democrat Steven Horsford but lost in 2016 to Democrat Ruben Kihuen, who is not running for re-election after being accused of sexual harassment. Horsford is the Democrat nominee again this year.

Hardy is the clear choice for southern Nevada.

One of the starkest differences between Hardy and Horsford is on health care. Horsford backs ObamaCare and has said he favors transitioning to the socialized medicine proposal known as Medicare-for-all being pushed by socialist Sen. Bernie Sanders.

“Management of healthcare policy at the state level would help to mitigate fraud and abuse, while ensuring that each state develops programs that best suit the needs of their residents,” Hardy says on his campaign website. “A one-size-fits-all approach does not work on an issue as complex as healthcare coverage. Reform is needed. However, the ACA (Affordable Care Act or ObamaCare) is far over-reaching, expensive, and detrimental to our fragile economy.”

Horsford supports raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, while Hardy opposes it as harmful to small businesses and to younger unskilled workers.

Hardy favors state and local control of public lands, while Horsford opposes this.

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.

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.

 

 

 

 

 

Editorial: Which Senate candidate is right about Social Security?

We find Democratic Senate candidate Jacky Rosen’s sanguine and naive response to the recent 83rd anniversary of Social Security Act disturbing to say the least.

Rosen put out a press release touting the fact she had met with a senior citizen group in Henderson to mark the anniversary.

“Social Security successfully lifts millions out of poverty and helps ensure economic security for Nevada seniors when they retire after a lifetime of hard work,” Rosen was quoted as saying. “These are benefits our seniors have earned, and Nevadans deserve another Senator who is committed to protecting and strengthening Social Security. Unfortunately, Senator (Dean) Heller is yet another Washington politician who wants to cut programs like Social Security and Medicare to pay for tax cuts for his ultra-wealthy donors.”

She paid no heed to the fact the so-called Social Security trust fund that she apparently wants to “save” is not going broke, but already is broke.

According to an article in The Hill by Merrill Matthews, this year Social Security must pay out more money than it receives from the payroll tax of 12.4 percent on current paychecks. This is the first time that has happened since 1982.

You see that trust fund of $2.9 trillion has already been spent and replaced with what are essentially IOUs. “Thus the government must borrow the money — or raise taxes — to redeem its IOUs so Social Security can pay benefits,” Matthews writes.

If some reform is not instituted in a few years benefits will have to be cut to 75 cents on the dollar or less.

Some have suggested cutting benefits for the rich and raising the retirement age. Others have suggested allowing younger workers to invest a portion of their payroll tax in private accounts.

Rosen specifically chastised her Senate opponent, Republican incumbent Heller, for having supported partial privatization in the past. Historically, such private accounts would likely pay retirees far more than Social Security ever can.

Rosen’s press release also screeched, “Sen. Heller is an architect of the reckless Republican tax bill that will add nearly $2 trillion to the debt and put Medicare and Social Security at risk,” paying no heed to the fact tax revenue has actually increased since the tax bill was enacted and the increased deficit and debt are due entirely to continued excessive spending by both political parties.

According to The Wall Street Journal, in the first 10 months of fiscal year 2018 revenues were up $26 billion, but spending increased by $143 billion.

No Band-Aid will stanch the hemorrhaging at the Social Security. It is fundamentally flawed. Eight decades ago when the Social Security Act was passed there were 40 workers for every retiree. The ratio is rapidly approaching 2 to 1.

Social Security was and is a Ponzi scheme. That’s when early investors are paid with money invested by newcomers. When the newcomers stop coming, the scheme goes bust.

Stephen Moore wrote an op-ed in Investor’s Business Daily a couple of years ago explaining, “From the moment Franklin Roosevelt created Social Security in 1935, the system was set up as a classic Ponzi scheme.”

Moore said there are options to fix the program, such as giving younger workers the option of partial privatization. For example, giving them the option of putting 10 percent of their 12.4 percent payroll tax dollars into an individual account. Moore estimated, “At historic rates of return, this would give workers a 7% return per year, which would let them retire as millionaires after 40 years of work. They’d receive two to three times more than Social Security promises.”

Or we can do like Rosen suggest — just wait for the whole darned thing to collapse.

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.

Poll shows tight races for senator and governor

A poll for the Reno Gazette-Journal by Suffolk University of Boston shows both the race for Nevada’s governor and U.S. senator to be almost dead even. The paper concluded undecided voters could play a major role come November.

The poll of 500 likely voters has a margin of error of 4.4 percent.

This is how the race for governor stands:

This how the race for senator stands:

It looks like the campaign to defeat the Energy Choice Initiative, Question 3, is being effective. The measure passed with 72 percent of the vote two years ago:

Notice who has the highest unfavorable rating in the state:

Then there is the question of turnout by county. Those polled were:

The current active voters, according the Secretary of State, breaks down as Clark 69.3 percent, Washoe 17.7 percent and others 13 percent. But in the last mid-term election in 2014, the actual turnout was Clark 61.8 percent, Washoe 21.1 and others 17.1 percent. So, if the rural turnout is greater than the turnout in heavily Democratic urban centers that might make a difference. But as June the number of active voters in the rurals had dropped to 13 percent, down from 15 percent in 2014.

 

Newspaper column: Rosen’s DISCLOSE Act really CHILL Act

Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is seeking Republican Sen. Dean Heller’s seat in the November election, has come out strongly in support of a bill that would require disclosure of donors to groups seeking to influence political issues and campaigns.

Rosen announced that she is a co-sponsor of the Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting Light On Spending in Elections (DISCLOSE) Act of 2018. She touted the bill using the latest Democratic hot button — the alleged use of foreign money to influence elections.

“Foreign money and influence have no place in American democracy,” Rosen proclaimed in a press release. “This legislation will help restore people’s trust in our democracy by shining light on dark money spending influencing our federal elections. Congress needs to step up and reform our broken campaign finance system, and I will keep fighting for measures that protect the integrity of our elections.”

The DISCLOSE Act has been backed by both Nevada Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and her predecessor Harry Reid. In 2010, Heller voted against the DISCLOSE Act and in 2012 he missed the vote while campaigning.

One of the chief sponsors of the bill, Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, recently declared, “The American people should control our democracy, not special interests. Since the Supreme Court’s disastrous Citizens United decision, corporations and a small group of wealthy donors have smothered our democracy with sophisticated influence campaigns. Attack ads from their dark money groups flash on our screens with no way to know who’s behind them. And the same loopholes Citizens United opened for those special interests are available to the likes of Vladimir Putin or other foreign actors looking to undermine American democracy.”

But the bill, which has been stalled in Congress for years, would do far more than require disclosure of foreign cash.

It would mandate any group spending more than $10,000 on political ads to file a report within 24 hours with the Federal Election Commission and reveal the names of those who donate more than $10,000.

The Citizens United ruling in 2010 overturned a part of the McCain-Feingold campaign finance law that prohibited corporations and unions from spending money on “electioneering communication” 30 days before a primary or 60 days prior to a general election. Specifically, the law prevented the private group Citizens United from showing a video called “Hillary: The Movie.”

Though the ruling barred the censorship of electioneering communication, it did not go so far as to allow anonymous spending, thus leaving the door open for Congress to require spending reporting.

But in a dissent to this aspect of Citizens United, Justice Clarence Thomas took issue, saying the disclosure, disclaimer, and reporting requirements in McCain-Feingold were also unconstitutional.

“Congress may not abridge the ‘right to anonymous speech’ based on the ‘simple interest in providing voters with additional relevant information’ … In continuing to hold otherwise, the Court misapprehends the import of ‘recent events’ that some amici describe ‘in which donors to certain causes were blacklisted, threatened, or otherwise targeted for retaliation.’”

Thomas was referring to the 2008 California ballot initiative that attempted to prohibit same-sex marriage, noting that many supporters suffered property damage, and threats of physical violence or death. He wrote that requiring disclosure would chill protected speech.

“I cannot endorse a view of the First Amendment that subjects citizens of this Nation to death threats, ruined careers, damaged or defaced property, or pre-emptive and threatening warning letters as the price for engaging in ‘core political speech, the “primary object of First Amendment protection,’” Thomas concluded.

Then there is the 1959 case in which the Supreme Court held that Alabama could not require the discloser of the names of donors or members of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People because such disclosure had resulted in “economic reprisal, loss of employment, threat of physical coercion, and other manifestations of public hostility.”

There was a reason Paine and Locke and Montesquieu wrote anonymously — lest they be hanged. There was a reason the Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers were penned anonymously. There was a reason why Thomas Jefferson was an anonymous backer of Philip Freneau’s National Gazette, which savaged President Washington while Jefferson was in his cabinet.

Perhaps, instead of calling it the DISCLOSE Act, they should call it the CHILL Act — Citizen Harassment Initiative to Limit Locution.

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.

Bill to cap prescription costs would be counterproductive

It is redistribution.

Today Nevada Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen, who is trying to unseat Republican Sen. Dean Heller, announced that she has introduced a bill called Capping Prescription Costs Act of 2018 that would cap out of pocket prescription drug expenses to $500 a month for families and $250 a month for individuals. The bill would affect all group health plans, including employer-sponsored plans, and individual market plans, including ObamaCare. Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren has introduced a companion bill in the Senate.

(Shutterstock)

“I hear from constituents every week who are concerned about the rising cost of prescription drugs, leaving them wondering how they will afford their medications,” a Rosen press release quotes her as saying. “This legislation will help rein in prices for many Nevadans by capping out-of-pocket prescription drug copay costs for anyone on the exchange. I’m proud to introduce this bill in the House that will help us hold big pharmaceutical companies accountable and bring down the cost of prescription drugs for Nevada’s hardworking families.”

Except, if it works like every other Democratic proposal on this topic, it will do nothing to hold drug or insurance companies accountable, but saddle taxpayers with the cost.

In fact, Dan Gorenstein, writing at marketplace.org, says such plans take the pressure off pharmaceutical firms to cut prices.

A cap would limit what the seriously ill pay, but taxpayers would pick up the difference, Gorenstein writes, quoting Vanderbilt professor Stacie Dusetzina as saying capping out-of-pocket costs for patients can backfire, because those stories of patients who are forced to pay exorbitant drug prices to stay alive are politically powerful.

“When you think about those stories that puts the drug pricing issue in the face of policymakers, if you cap out-of-pocket spending many of those stories disappear,” Dusetzina is quoted as saying, adding that the better route is make insurers pay more so they will negotiate more toughly with drug companies.

Bills like Rosen’s just shift the cost to the taxpayers and actually provide a disincentive to bringing down costs of prescriptions.