Newspaper column: Whither the state’s effort to take control of public lands?

In March 2015 Congressman Mark Amodei, who represents northern Nevada, introduced H.R. 1484, dubbed the Honor the Nevada Enabling Act of 1864 Act, which, if passed, would require the Departments of Agriculture and Interior to convey to Nevada a portion of the federal public lands they now control and thus partly fulfill an implied promise do so when Nevada became a state 152 years ago.

The House Natural Resources Subcommittee on Energy and Mineral Resources finally got around to conducting a hearing on the bill this past week, though Amodei had been seeking such a hearing for more than a year. The subcommittee took no vote and Amodei is under no illusion the bill has a chance of passage in this session of Congress.

The bill calls for the federal government to transfer ownership of 7.2 million acres of public land to the state in its first phase and about 10 million acres in a subsequent phase. That would still leave the feds controlling about 70 percent of Nevada’s land mass, but down from the current 87 percent, the most of any state.

Testifying in favor of the bill was Elko County Commissioner Demar Dahl, who chaired a year-long study of the land transfer proposal by the Nevada Land Management Task Force.

Demar Dahl testifies before House subcommittee.

Demar Dahl testifies before House subcommittee.

“I had an opportunity to meet with President-elect (Donald) Trump in August,” Dahl said in his opening remarks. “I said, ‘If you had a hotel with 10 floors on it and eight of those floors were controlled by a bureaucracy that you had virtually no control over that was over 2,000 miles away, how would that work?’

“And he said, ‘I think that you’re actually closer to 90 percent owned and controlled in the state of Nevada by the federal government than you are to 80.’ And that’s true — 87 percent of the state of Nevada is owned and controlled by the federal government.”

The task force Dahl headed up was created by the state Legislature in 2013 and consisted of one member of every county commission in the state, 17 in all.

At their first meeting Dahl said he asked the members whether they thought at the time it was a good idea to transfer land to the state, and more than half said it was not a good idea or they were not sure.

Over the next year the task force met 13 times to hear testimony from state agencies, the Farm Bureau, the Sierra Club, various sportsman groups and other stakeholders.

“As we went through the year I could see the lights come on of all of the members and by the time we finished every member was supporting the transfer of the public lands,” said Dahl, a rancher.

An economic analysis contracted by the task force found that the state could expect a net revenue of $350 million a year from controlling the land.

All 17 county commissions voted to support the land transfer effort and in 2015 the proposal passed both houses of the Legislature and resulted in H.R. 1484.

“On the issue of transferring the public lands we discovered that there is more among the residents of the state that unites us than divides us. For the sportsmen, the environmental community and resource users there’s much that we can agree on,” Dahl told the subcommittee. “For instance, 1484 calls for the transfer of all valid existing rights and uses. If you can hunt, fish, camp, graze or prospect on the public lands now, you will be able do it after the transfer.”

No parks, monuments, military or Indian land would be transferred.

Subcommittee Chairman Doug Lamborn of Colorado said to Dahl that people in other parts of the country think residents of the West don’t care about the federal lands, that states would allow a few more barrels of oil to be tapped under a world-class trout stream and the people on either coast need to tell us what to do.

Dahl replied, “My question would be: Why would the people who live there and care for the land, who are able to use it more than anyone else, even though after the transfer people from all over the world will continue to be able to use it, but why would the people of Nevada care less about the land and care less about preserving it for their children, their children’s children and for generations to come?”

Two of the bill’s co-sponsors — Republican Joe Heck and Cresent Hardy — were defeated in the recent election. Where will their Democrat replacements stand on this bill?

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.

 

Trump is picky about who he forgives and Heck ain’t one of ’em

Donald Trump is rather fickle, perhaps even flighty.

While Mitt Romney, who called Trump a phony and a fraud during the early part of the campaign, is being considered for the post of secretary of State, Joe Heck, who disavowed Trump only after the profane, boastful, misogynistic recording was revealed, can’t get a crumb from Trump.

From the transcript of the Trump interview with The New York Times:

And a senator in Nevada who frankly said, he endorsed me then he unendorsed me, and he went down like a lead balloon. And then they called me before the race and said they wanted me to endorse him and do a big thing and I said, ‘No thank you, good luck.’ You know, let’s see what happens. I said, off the record, I hope you lose. Off the record. He was! He was up by 10 points — you know who I’m talking about.

Actually a representative who wanted to be a senator.

Newspaper column: In Nevada election the tail wags the dog

Welcome to the state of Clark.

The land mass that is Clark County was added to Nevada three years after statehood, carved from a corner of Arizona. It was a part of Lincoln County until 1909, when the Legislature split off Clark County.

Clark dangles on the map like a vestigial tail on the nether region of Nevada.

On Election Day 2016, the tail wagged the dog.

This past week 1.1 million Nevadans cast presidential ballots, fully 68 percent of those were cast in Clark County — and there was a stark difference in how Clark voted compared to the rest of the state.

Only in Clark County did a majority vote for the Democratic Senate candidate. Thus it was for much of the ballot.

In the presidential contest alone the difference was a spectrum shift from bright Democratic blue in Clark to crimson Republican red just about everywhere else in the state.

While Democrat Hillary Clinton beat out Republican nominee Donald Trump statewide by about 36,000 votes, she bested him in Clark by more than 80,000 ballots, while he out polled her in the rest of the state by 55,000 votes, according to Secretary of State tabulations.

The only other Nevada county Clinton won was urban Washoe and that by only 2,500 votes out of more than 190,000 cast there. In other counties Trump won largely by margins exceeding 2-to-1 and in Lincoln County by 6-to-1.

Meanwhile, in the senatorial race to fill the vacancy being left by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid’s retirement, Democrat Catherine Cortez Masto won statewide, but the only county she won was Clark. She won statewide by about 2 percentage points or 26,000 votes, but won by 80,000 votes in Clark. Republican Joe Heck, who gave up his Congressional District 3 seat to run for the Senate, won every other county, some by more than 4-to-1. Excluding Clark, Heck won the remainder of Nevada by more than 55,000 votes.

Nearly 4 percent of Nevadans chose “none of these candidates” in the Senate race.

In the 4th Congressional District — which includes part of northern Clark County, the southern part of Lyon County and all of White Pine, Nye, Mineral, Esmeralda, and Lincoln counties — Democrat Ruben Kihuen won districtwide by nearly 10,000 votes but won in Clark by about 24,000.

Incumbent Republican Cresent Hardy won every other county, all by about 2-to-1 or more.

After the dust settles, Nevada switches from having four out of its six Washington delegates being Republicans to four being Democrats.

Democrats won all save one of the Clark County state Senate seats up for grabs, giving the Democrats an 11-10 majority in Carson City, instead of the previous 11-10 GOP edge.

Republicans won every rural Assembly seat, while Democrats carried most races in Clark and Washoe, giving Democrats a 27-15 majority, instead of the previous Republican majority.

The gun grabbing Question 1 ballot initiative requiring background checks for almost every gun purchase or gift passed by 100,000 votes in Clark, but failed in every other county, often with 80 to 90 percent voting no.

Question 2, legalization of pot, passed only in Clark, Washoe, Nye and Story, but narrowly won statewide due to Clark’s numbers.

In 2014 Nevada experienced a red shift, when Republicans won all six statewide elective offices — governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer, controller, attorney general — as well as majorities in both houses of the Legislature.

The 2016 reversal of fortune was probably best explained by a little-circulated Associated Press story that appeared about a week before the election. It described how the Las Vegas Culinary union was busing thousands of casino housekeepers and staffers to early voting sites just off the Las Vegas Strip, “speaking in Spanish as they clutched pocket-sized brochures listing candidates endorsed by the powerful Culinary union.”

The union bused workers during their paid lunch break and handed them boxed lunches for the ride back to work.

The story went on to report that the union had registered 34,000 members to vote, had reassigned 150 members to full-time political work, planned to knock on 200,000 doors and place phone calls to co-workers.

There is talk in California since the election of Trump about secession from the Union. Anyone think Clark County should go with them?

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.

Might Nevada’s electoral college votes swing the election?

Obviously, we can ignore the polls that show Hillary Clinton beating Donald Trump by 4 points in the popular vote, because that matters for naught. It is the electoral college count that matters.

You know the electoral college, the system set up to give smaller states like Nevada an outsized voice in the presidential election. In a proportionate system, Nevada would have only four votes, one for each member of the House of Representatives, which is divvied up by population. But Nevada gets two extra votes, one for each senator.

Similarly, instead of having only one vote, Wyoming, Montana, Alaska, the Dakotas and a couple of others get three.

How the swing states swing this time could make a huge difference on Tuesday.

Many have Nevada in the too-close-to-call category.

Such as Survey Monkey:

surveymonkey

 

And Real Clear Politics:

 

realclear

But The Wall Street Journal has Nevada leaning for Clinton:

Considering how the unions are pulling out all the stops by busing members to the polls and telling them how to vote, I suspect the WSJ is closer to being accurate. The paper has Clinton clearing the necessary 270 votes by more than 60.

That union ground game could also spell trouble for Joe Heck’s bid to replace Harry Reid in the Senate.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Editorial: Rural Nevadans need to protect interest in Washington

Hardy, Amodei and Heck on floor of U.S. House (Lisa Helfert photo for R-J)

Hardy, Amodei and Heck on floor of U.S. House (Lisa Helfert photo for R-J)

We cannot emphasize this enough: It is vital for rural Nevadans to turn out next Tuesday and send three conservative Republicans back to Washington for the sake of our economy and our liberty.

Reps. Joe Heck, Cresent Hardy and Mark Amodei already have been fighting for rural Nevada in Congress this past session, working against efforts by the administration to limit agriculture, mining, oil and gas exploration and recreation over misguided efforts to protect sage grouse and wild horses, as well as take control of all water resources and impose draconian carbon emission limits.

Rep. Heck, who currently represents southern Clark County, is seeking to take over Harry Reid’s Senate seat, while Hardy and Amodei are seeking re-election in their House districts.

Heck will be on all ballots statewide, while Hardy will be on the ballots in part of northern Clark County, the southern part of Lyon County and all of White Pine, Nye, Mineral, Esmeralda, and Lincoln counties, and Amodei will appear on ballots in northern Lyon county and all of Douglas, Carson City, Storey, Washoe, Humboldt, Pershing, Churchill, Lander, Eureka and Elko counties.

All three face Democratic opponents who have expressed a disdain for rural Nevadans being able to better control our destinies by having a greater voice in the use of the land — 86 percent of which in Nevada is controlled by the various federal land agencies that treat locals like serfs.

Heck’s Senate race opponent is former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, handpicked by Reid to be his Democratic successor. She has been endorsed by the Sierra Club. Yes, the Sierra Club, which praised her for “protecting Nevada’s vast and unique public lands,” meaning protecting it from productive use by hardworking Nevadans.

”The Sierra Club shares my priorities of protecting and preserving Nevada’s public lands for future generations and I’m honored to have their support in my campaign to be Nevada’s next senator,” Cortez Masto said of the endorsement.

Hardy’s Democratic opponent is state Sen. Ruben Kihuen, who said in a recent statement, “Overwhelmingly, Nevadans across party lines understand that keeping public lands in public hands grows our state’s economy, improves our quality of life and supports outdoor recreation opportunities.” Otherwise, the topic of public lands did not rise to the level of concern to even be addressed on Kihuen’s website as a campaign issue.

Amodei’s opponent is liberal Democrat Chip Evans, who states unequivocally on his campaign website: “I acknowledge that federal lands in Nevada are not and never have been the property of the state.” And, “The state of Nevada is incapable of undertaking the responsibilities and expenses associated with managing public lands.” And, “In general, I oppose the selling of public lands to private parties as this is a finite resource for the public and is virtually irreversible.”

He also supports the EPA’s effort to usurp control of every mud puddle in the country and also wants to heap further regulations and restrictions on the mining industry.

This newspaper unabashedly endorses the election of Heck, Hardy and Amodei.

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: Senate candidates are on opposite ends of political spectrum

Catherine Cortez Masto debates Joe Heck in Senate race faceoff recently. (R-J photo via AP)

Catherine Cortez Masto debates Joe Heck in Senate race faceoff recently. (R-J photo via AP)

The race to fill the U.S. Senate seat of retiring Sen. Harry Reid offers voters a marked contrast in candidates, especially rural voters.

Reid has handpicked former Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto to be his Democratic heir apparent, while Republicans have nominated Congressman Joe Heck, an emergency room physician by profession and a brigadier general in the Army Reserve.

The issue of what to do about federal public lands alone finds the two candidates pegged on opposite ends of the political spectrum.

Rep. Heck argues that far too much of Nevada — more than 86 percent — is controlled by federal government land agencies, which restrict productive uses.

“I believe that the best stewards of our precious lands are the people closest to it, who understand Nevada’s Western way of life, not bureaucrats in Washington,” Heck says on his website. “I opposed the president’s recent unilateral, executive land grab designating the Basin and Range Monument because it went well beyond the intention of the Antiquities Act and it did not have the support of local residents. I also cosponsored legislation called the Nevada Land Sovereignty Act of 2015, which prevents the president from taking executive action designating or expanding national monuments without Congressional approval or local support.”

In Congress, Heck boasts that he has fought to stop the listing of the greater sage grouse as an endangered species because of how it would harm the state’s economy.

“As your Senator, I will fight to transfer more of our public lands back to our state so that Nevadans can decide how to best utilize the land,” the congressman says.

In sharp contrast, Cortez Masto is cut from the same cloth as Reid, who applauded the president’s unilateral designation of Basin and Range Monument and has generally opposed handing over greater control of public lands to the state.

She has said on her website, “I will fight to ensure that future generations are able to experience the incredible natural resources Nevada has to offer, just like I did,” meaning leaving it in the hands of federal bureaucrats who have failed to manage the range to prevent wildfire and have failed to control the overpopulation of feral horses that are starving from overgrazing and jeopardizing other wildlife as well.

She also embraces Reid’s blind allegiance to the not-ready-for-free-market green energy acolytes.

“As U.S. senator, I will work to ensure we are fully utilizing Nevada’s abundance of wind, solar, and geothermal energy resources and increase investments in renewable energy technology to create green jobs here in Nevada,” she says. “I will also work to preserve and protect Nevada’s incredible public lands — a unique, valuable resource in Nevada that creates thousands of jobs and brings in millions of dollars into our state’s economy every year. We must safeguard our natural resources and stop big oil from receiving unnecessary tax subsidies” — unlike subsidies for green energy?

When it comes to ObamaCare and its skyrocketing premiums and deductibles and disappearing providers, Heck has already worked to pass legislation that would exempt residents of counties that have only one ObamaCare provider from the requirement to pay a tax penalty if they fail to maintain minimum health coverage under the so-called Affordable Care Act. Ten rural Nevada counties this next year will have only one provider.

“As an emergency department physician, one of the reasons I ran for Congress was the passage of the disastrous Affordable Care Act,” Heck says “The law has failed to meet its stated goals of increasing access to healthcare and reducing costs. Recent events suggest the law is having the opposite effect. Major insurers are leaving the exchanges and others are predicting significant premium hikes for their customers, making it anything but affordable.”

For her part, as attorney general, Cortez Masto refused then-Gov. Jim Gibbons’ directive to file suit to challenge the ObamaCare law, even though she was required to do so by state law — a dereliction of duty.

Heck recently voted to delay an Obama administration Labor Department rule that would vastly increase the number of workers who would have to be paid overtime and thus cripple many small businesses and result in job losses.

Meanwhile, Cortez Masto is advocating that Congress should raise the minimum wage, another job crushing move.

When it comes to the Second Amendment, Heck has an “A” rating from the National Rifle Association, while the NRA has spent $1 million on ads opposing Cortez Masto.

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.

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.