Newspaper column: Expect long lines come Election Day 2020

Democracy is a chaotic endeavor. Nevada lawmakers have made it more so.

Expect long lines and delayed results come the next Election Day.

Assembly Bill 345, which passed on a party line vote with Democrats favoring and Republicans opposed, will allow people to register to vote on the same day of an election rather than several weeks earlier. This will inevitably mean much longer lines on Election Day and during early voting and require as much as 10 days for election results to be tabulated, because votes cast on Election Day and absentee ballots mailed on Election Day will have to be counted and verified.

It will also cost millions of dollars to implement and might not be fully rolled out in time for the 2020 elections, officials warned. It will require hiring thousands more poll workers. Lawmakers were undeterred by the merely impossible.

Wayne Thorley, deputy Nevada secretary of state in charge of elections, warned lawmakers implementing the changes in time for the 2020 election would be “extremely difficult if not impossible,” because it takes two years to make such changes, according to a Las Vegas newspaper account.

Only 17 states and the District of Columbia now have same-day registration.

One argument for this scheme is that it will greatly increase participation in the democratic process. An argument against it is that it will greatly increase participation by the lazy and the uninformed. Another argument is that same-day voter registration is susceptible to voter fraud.

Hans von Spakovsky, a senior legal fellow at the Heritage Foundation, calls same-day voter registration a prescription for fraud and says it does almost nothing to increase voter participation.

“Allowing a voter to both register and vote on Election Day makes it nearly impossible to prevent duplicate votes in different areas or to verify the accuracy of any information provided by a voter,” von Spakovsky writes.

Further, the new law actually eliminates requirements for informing the public prior to elections. Existing law requires clerks to publish in a newspaper of general circulation the names of candidates and the offices they are seeking. AB345 removes that requirement.

Current law also requires publication of any statewide ballot measure along with an explanation, as well as arguments, rebuttals and fiscal notes. AB345 removes that requirement.

The Nevada Appeal newspaper in Carson City recently published a story quoting public officials as reaffirming the potential problems with the changes in election law.

Carson City Clerk Recorder Aubrey Rowlatt said that in smaller counties, where voters are used to getting to a voting machine within minutes of arrival at the polls and having final results within two hours of the polls closing, the lines will be longer and the results delayed for days.

“There are going to be lines,” she said. “There are going to be late election results.”

Thorley repeated to the newspaper the issues he had raised earlier before lawmakers. “The biggest concern is the delay in election results and educating the public about that,” he told the newspaper.

He warned that changes between election night counts and the final counts more than a week later can lead to accusations of fraud.

Thorley noted, “AB345 allows absentee ballots to be counted after election day so any ballot postmarked by election day but received up to seven days after the election will be counted.”

He also said election officials will have to confirm that people don’t go hopping from county to county registering to vote.

Thorley said the Legislature gave him about a half-million dollars to hire three staffers to set up a process for verifying voter registrations electronically, because doing so by hand would be impossible.

The story ends with Thorley saying he tried to convince lawmakers to give him until the 2022 elections to implement the new law, but Democratic leaders said they wanted it in place by 2020 because of the importance of that election, which is a presidential one. Democrats will stop at nothing in their quest to oust President Trump.

“We will make it work,” Rowlatt was quoted as saying. “It’s just going to be painful so I would just ask for a lot of patience because it’s not going to be fast.”

Remember which lawmakers voted for those long lines come Election Day, as you inch your way toward the voting booth, knowing you may not learn of the outcome for another week to 10 days.

Democracy need not be this chaotic just to make it more convenient for laggards to vote for Democrats.

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.

Editorial: ObamaCare costs keep soaring

Premiums for ObamaCare-eligible health insurance plans are soaring this year, according to an analysis by the Urban Institute.

The study, sponsored by the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, found that the lowest priced of the so-called gold plans that cover 80 percent of medical expenses for a 40-year-old non-smoker increased 19 percent nationally this year and 25 percent in Nevada. The lowest cost silver plans for that individual, which covers 70 percent of medical costs, went up 32 percent nationally and 45.6 percent in Nevada. The second lowest priced silver plans jumped 34.3 percent nationally and 48.3 percent in Nevada.

But not to worry, the Nevada Appeal newspaper in Carson City reports that more than 85 percent of the nearly 100,000 Nevadans who are covered by such plans through the Silver State Health Insurance Exchange will not pay much if any of that premium increase because they receive federal subsidies. Guess who pays those federal subsidies? All of us.

The Appeal reports that, according to a recent report by the Congressional Budget Office, the nationwide increase in premiums will cost the taxpayers $10 billion more in subsidies this year.

Of course, a state health exchange executive blamed the premium spikes on “instability in the health insurance market — much of it caused by tactics designed to undermine the Affordable Care Act. That includes the decision to stop paying insurance companies for the Cost Sharing Reduction subsidies mandated by the ACA for consumers making between 138 and 250 percent of the poverty level,” the Appeal explained.

The taxpayers get stuck with the bill either way — subsidize the insurer or subsidize the rate payer. Six of one, a half dozen of the other.

During the debate this past year over those Cost Sharing Reduction subsidies, The Wall Street Journal reported, “In an ironic twist, stopping the subsidies would also wind up costing the federal government more in the end, the (Congressional Budget Office) report said. Higher premiums for mid-priced plans would require the government to pay larger tax credits to consumers to help offset coverage costs. The federal deficit would increase by $194 billion through 2026, the report said.” Instead of paying $7 billion in subsidies to insurers, we are paying $10 billion to ratepayers.

Pay no heed to the fact ObamaCare premiums have been rising sharply since the law was passed in 2010 without a single Republican vote and using dirty tricks devised by Nevada’s own Sen. Harry Reid. According to the website eHealth, from 2013, the year before ObamaCare went into effect, through 2017, health insurance premiums had already increased 140 percent. Forget repeal and replace, just repeal. Remember at the ballot box this fall just who brought us this expensive boondoggle and would vote to keep it.

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.

A million here, a million there, pretty soon it adds up

On Friday, Gov. Brian Sandoval signed a bill that increases the pay raises of state workers from the 2 percent a year he had proposed to 3 percent.

Previous stories indicated the 2 percent raises would cost $100 million over the next two years, so the increase should add more than $50 million to the budget when compounding is included.

Now, how much the governor seek for those education savings accounts before throwing in the towel? Oh yes, $60 million, half of what was really needed to fund those who had already signed up. Couldn’t find the scratch for that.

Sandoval tweeted:

Tourism panel recycles an old commercial — targeting wrong audience in wrong way, perhaps?

Most of the news stories called the latest Nevada Tourism Commission advertising campaign fresh or new — taking a couple of paragraphs before admitting the commercials are recycled from two and half years ago.

“Nevada is launching a fresh tourism campaign focused on attracting adventure-loving millennials to the state — especially to the rural areas less trafficked than Las Vegas,” was the lede on the Carson City newspaper account.

The new commercials, like previous ones, feature rapid clips of scenes from around the state, including outdoor activities with the Las Vegas-based Killers band playing a rocked out version of the old ballad “Don’t Fence Me In.”

According to the Las Vegas paper, instead of showing images of the Strip and Lake Tahoe, the initial ads were shot at the Pioneer Saloon at Goodsprings and in Genoa — pronounced GIN-oh-a for the uninitiated.

But maybe this isn’t the time to be ignoring the gambling aspect of Nevada. Gaming revenues have fallen three months in a row, and room rates fell even though the number of visitors increased. Nevada hotel-casinos do account for nearly 45 percent of state general fund revenue.

Another story in the Las Vegas paper reports that basically those “adventure-loving millennials” don’t gamble and the industry isn’t doing much to attract them.

Of course, tax supported advertising to persuade taxpayers to do what’s good for them has always been a bit off-putting. The ads telling people to conserve water by getting their heads out of the grass are cheesy and sophomoric. The old “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas” ads were salacious, though possibly effective for a certain type.

Here is a tourism commercial from two years ago (the one from April 2013 is labeled private now for some unknown reason):

The summer 2015 version is similar to the 2014:

Head in grass ad:

One of the stays in Vegas ads:

Frankly, I have always thought there should be some truth in labeling required of such ads. Nevada’s slogan should be: “Bring money, lose it, go home.” And I’ll take half the going rate, because two and half years ago the Nevada tourism panel spent $3 million for a six-word slogan: “A World Within. A State Apart.”

According to Vegas Inc., by the time they bought air time to broadcast commercials and created a mobile app with this amazing slogan — created by geniuses in Seattle and New York, who wouldn’t know a jackalope from a Fallon cantaloupe — the price tag would hit $9 million.







Private sector Peter robbed to pay public sector Paul

The Legislature did it. The Republican-majority body approved the tax hikes for the Republican governor to give more money to the public school system and give across-the-board raises of 3 percent to state public employees.

When you couple the $1.3 billion per biennium general fund spending the with school bond rollover approaching $4 billion over the next decade that taps every household budget in Nevada for more than $1,000 a year to give to government instead of pay the rent. And that assumes no more tax hikes in the next 10 years — a most unlikely assumption. This means the percent of state GDP going to government will increase and money available for business-growing investment will decrease.

Pay no attention to the fact the average private sector Nevada worker, according the state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, had an increase in pay from 2013 to 2014 of only $11 — from $826 to $837 — while the average state employee had an increase of $15 — from $919 to $934.

Of course, 10 years from now we will be able to look back and determine finally that all the additional education funding did nothing whatever to improve education, any more the increases over the past decade have. What do they call doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different outcome?

And you thought your vote counted?

The taxes will raise not nearly what is projected and the money will already be spent, so be ready for the upward spiral to continue — or downward spiral in terms of disposable income for private sector workers and retirees on fixed incomes. Businesses don’t pay taxes. Households do. This is pure redistributionism.

Governor’s cronies outline tax plans. (R-J photo)


Newspaper column: Nevada collects more per capita in taxes than 38 states, but spends less per pupil on education than 44 states

Cowboy humorist, philosopher and rope-twirling raconteur Will Rogers once said, “It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.”

Well, everybody knows Nevada is a low-tax state. Ask anyone. Why our very state Constitution prohibits an income tax. Sure our sales tax is pretty high but tourists contribute more to the state coffers because of it. And this is the topic of this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times, Mesquite Local News and Elko Daily Free Press.

So surely it is understandable why the state agencies are poor-mouthing as the next session of the Legislature approaches, crying that the state needs to spend $1 billion more in the next biennium to just keep up current inadequate service levels. And that doesn’t take into account the $1.2 billion in temporary taxes that are scheduled to sunset next June, leaving the shortfall at a jaw-dropping, wallet-sucking $2.2 billion.

The big fear is that new Republican majorities in both the state Senate and Assembly will balk at raising or extending taxes.

For his part, Gov. Brian Sandoval has been coy on the topic of taxation.

Asked point blank by newspaper reporters about whether his budget might include new taxes, he replied, “You’ll find out.”

He told the editorial boards of the Reno and Las Vegas newspapers, “I have a unique opportunity, I feel, hopefully as second-term governor, going into the session and having the relationships I have with the Legislature to lead this effort in terms of looking at how we fund the state.”

As for the taxes set for sunset in June, Sandoval in both 2011 and 2013 agreed to extend them.

The state’s new Republican Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson was quoted as saying at an education forum in Las Vegas recently, “We have really two choices. We can either reform our tax structure in a broad-based, fair way in collaboration with the community … in a way that generates more revenue. Or we’re going to be in a situation where we’re going to have to cut education significantly.”

Everybody knows Nevada already is a piker when it comes to spending on education and has the results to show for it with poor test scores and graduation rates. In fact, according to the latest Census Bureau data from 2012, Nevada ranked a pathetic 45th in the nation in K-12 education spending.

Since we’re perusing Census data already, how does Nevada stack up in that taxation department?

The most recent Census report on this is the “Quarterly Summary of State and Local Government Tax Revenue” from the second quarter of this calendar year, when Nevadans paid nearly $2.9 billion in taxes to the state, cities, counties and other taxing districts. Divide that by a population of nearly 2.8 million from the 2013 Census estimate and you find the per capita state and local taxation for the quarter was a little more than $1,000.

That was the 13th highest per capita tax revenue in the nation — 12th if you exclude the District of Columbia. Nevada collected more per resident than the presumptive high-tax state of New York. Thus, low-tax Nevada governments collect more per capita in taxes than 38 other states, but can’t seem to find as much to spend per pupil on education as 44 other states.

According to the Tax Foundation, Nevada’s average sales tax — state and local — is the 13th highest in the nation.

Nevada’s property tax rate is the 28th highest in the nation, according to

When you break down the revenue sources for Nevada elementary and secondary education as reported by the Census Bureau, you find Nevada ranked 47th in federal revenue. (Tell me again about how the U.S. Senate majority leader from Nevada is bringing home the bacon.) When it came to funding levels from the state, Nevada ranked 25th, but only 45th for local level funding.

Nevada ranked in the mid-40s in most education spending categories, but 22nd highest in spending on school administration.

The money is there, but apparently it is being spent on other things.

When it comes to government salaries, Nevada’s state and local governments have been able to keep up with others in the same taxation neighborhood. Admittedly, the most recent figures available from the Census Bureau are for 2009, but in that year the state of Nevada ranked 12th in the nation with an average monthly salary level of just more than $5,000. Local governments paid a similar salary level, and ranked sixth in the nation compared to local governments in other states.

The problem isn’t that Nevada collects too little in taxes. It is how it spends it.

Members of the Economic Forum on Wednesday release revenue forecast. (R-J photo)

But don’t expect any of this to be heard in the halls of the Legislature or inside the Capitol building.

They will just be talking about how the Economic Forum predicts the state will have “only” $6.3 billion to spend on the general fund in the coming biennium, if you discount those sunsetting taxes.

“Today’s Economic Forum report reminds us yet again that our revenue structure is not built to meet the demands of our changing economy nor our continued increase in statewide population,” Sandoval was quoted as saying. “Before I finalize and submit the state budget, I will ask my Cabinet to further scale back agency budget requests so that we can factor into account today’s projections.”

There’s never enough of our money to satisfy the avarice of the bureaucrats.

On the other hand Victor Joecks, NPRI executive vice president, released a statement that puts the revenue forecast in proper perspective:

Today’s Economic Forum revenue projections show why Nevada lawmakers do not need to consider tax increases during the 2015 Legislative Session.

The forecast of $6.3 billion in revenue for the next two-year budget cycle is the highest amount ever projected for Nevada. Combined with reversions of existing funds from agency accounts back to the general fund and other transfers, Nevada will be able to finance a spending plan comparable to its current $6.6 billion budget without raising taxes.

It’s important to compare the Economic Forum projection to Nevada’s historical levels of spending, not wish-lists from government bureaucrats.

The 2011 Legislature passed a budget of $6.2 billion, which included re-authorizing of supposedly “temporary” 2009 taxes the Sandoval administration had earlier pledged would sunset. Then, in 2013, lawmakers approved a general fund budget of $6.6 billion, which also included around $600 million in tax increases from the “sunset” taxes.

Taxed enough already?

States ranked by state and local government revenue per capita:





Federal agencies plans to take control of every drop of rain that falls

Might have to get an EPA permit to move a rock.

Might have to get an EPA permit to move a rock.

Is there nothing the federal government will not micromanage into a bureaucratic knot of red tape?

Now the Environmental Protection Agency has rewritten the rules for the Clean Water Act in such a way that gives it authority over just about any stream, dry creek bed or backyard wading pool in the country, even though the law as originally written was meant to protect navigable interstate waterways from pollution.

The proposed rule was published in the Federal Register on April 21. The public comment period will be open for 91 days and will close on Monday, July 21.

According to the Nevada Appeal, at a recent meeting of the Nevada Conservation Commission, state engineer Jason King, whose office determines who in Nevada has rights to various water sources, said, “I look at this as an attempt to get into the regulation of the amount of water — an attempt to get their nose under the tent.”

The commission was told the new rules would require federal permits for the most minor changes to the smallest of tributaries, dry creek beds and just about anywhere rain might fall. It would be devastating to farmers, ranchers and others who use water as a part of their business.

An article in the Nevada Cattlemen’s Association newsletter quoted National Cattlemen’s Beef Association President Bob McCan of Victoria, Texas, as saying:

“This is a step too far, even by an agency and an administration notorious for over-regulation. This proposal by EPA and the Corps would require cattlemen like me to obtain costly and burdensome permits to take care of everyday chores like moving cattle across a wet pasture or cleaning out a dugout. These permits will stifle economic growth and inhibit future prosperity without a corresponding environmental benefit. This proposed regulation and the burdensome federal permitting scheme will only hinder producers’ ability to undertake necessary tasks and, in turn, result in an exodus of ranchers from the field.”

The definition of the nation’s waters is changed in the rules to include “rivers, streams, ditches, wetlands, ponds, lakes, playas, and other types of natural or man-made aquatic systems.”

Even without the new rules the EPA is threatening to fine a Wyoming couple $75,000 for building a cattle pond on their property after getting full approval from that state’s water engineer, and there was no evidence of pollution.

The conservation commission voted to protest the rules.


Nevada Supreme Court ruling ties headline writers in a knot

Nevada Supreme Court justices. Can you name all seven? Click on photo to see how you fared.

The headline in the Reno newspaper reads: “Nevada court says PERS records are public.”

The headline in the Carson City newspaper reads: “PERS files are confidential, court rules.”

They are both right.

This past week the Reno Gazette-Journal obtained a unanimous Nevada Supreme Court ruling in its favor. The paper had sued the Public Employees’ Retirement System of Nevada (PERS) under the public records law, seeking the names of all 47,000 individuals who are collecting pensions, the names of their government employers, their salaries, their hire and retirement dates, and the amounts of their pension payments.

The court opinion, written by Justice Ron Parraguirre, noted that a lower court had  granted the newspaper’s petition for a writ of mandamus and ordered PERS to produce a report for the newspaper containing the requested information while excluding home addresses and Social Security numbers.

Parraguirre wrote that the “court begins its analysis of claims of confidentiality under the Act with a presumption in favor of disclosure. … The state entity bears the burden of overcoming this presumption of openness by proving by a preponderance of the evidence that the requested records are confidential.”

The court found the requested information is indeed a public record and the lower court was correct in “ordering PERS to provide the requested information to the extent that it is maintained in a medium separate from individuals’ files.”

But here’s the rub.

An attorney for PERS said during oral arguments before the court that the data on retirees is kept only in individual files, which are confidential by state law.

The court opinion vacated the part of the lower court ruling that required PERS to create a customized report for the newspaper.

The Reno paper and the public in general has a right to know who the pensioners are and how much they are being paid, but has no means of accessing that information.

The public records are commingled with private records and PERS doesn’t have to separate the two.

Having a right to something, without means of exercising that right, is a farce.

Solar power savings: Nobody ever does the math

Solar panels at Seeliger Elementary School in Carson City.

There is a news story in today’s Nevada Appeal in Carson City in which a school district manager boasts about all the money being saved since the installation of solar panels at five school campuses — close to $300,000 in a year.

Mark R. Korinek, manager of district operation services, was quoted as saying the payback on the solar panels is less than five years.

He said the panels cost $12 million, but $9.7 of that came from NV Energy rebates, in other words: ratepayer money. He also said the life expectancy of the panels is 25 to 30 years.

But the reporter never did the math. If you lump together the school district tax money and the ratepayer contribution, the return on investment takes 40 years. So there is no payback. It is just tax and rate money frittered away because they can. OPM: other people’s money.

Also, pay no heed to the fact solar panels decline in productive output every year.


More crocodile tears from state workers in Carson City

About 50 people rallied outside the Legislature in Carson City Wednesday to demand pay raises and an end to unpaid furlough days, according to the Nevada Appeal. (Most of the story is behind a pay wall.)

The story quotes Shara Lynn Kern, a DMV worker for 13 years, as saying, “We have state employees who live in their cars, are on public assistance.”

Rally for more pay at the state Legislature. (Nevada Appeal photo)

Perhaps, but according to there is a Sheralynn Kern, who works as a DMV Services Technician 3 and saw her base pay cut about $1,600 from 2011 to 2012. One can’t determine what happened to state workers’ total compensation, including benefits, because those weren’t reported to the Nevada Policy Research Institute, which maintains, for the years 2008 to 2011.

By comparison, according to the Census Bureau, the median household income in Nevada has fallen 14 percent since 2008, when the recession kicked in.

Since 2008 this Kern’s base pay actually increased a couple hundred dollars, and, going back to 2007, when total compensation was last reported, her total compensation — what comes out of the taxpayers’ pocket — has increased from $37,000 in 2007 to more than $58,000 in 2012.

The Appeal also quoted a Jennifer Cooper, described as a 20-year veteran of NDOT, as saying, “The cuts have been excruciating to my family. We’ve lost our home; we can no longer afford preventative medical care.”
Meanwhile, a Jennifer L. Cooper, who is listed as a Transportation Planner/Analyst 2, did see her pay reduced 6.4 percent since 2008. In 2012 she racked up nearly $43,000 in benefits. There was no listing in 2007.
Vicky McVeigh, a welfare employee for 22 years, told the newspaper the cuts have been so severe that “we will never regain the things we had prior to the decline.”
And neither will many of those in the private sector, I suspect.
A Vicki Y. McVeigh, who apparently was promoted from Family Services Specialist 2 in 2011 to Business Process Analyst 1 in 2012, actually got a pay increase of $5,000. Though her base pay was cut by nearly $20,000 since 2008, and there could be many reasons for that, her total compensation since 2007 is actually up nearly $6,000.
“We have lost buying power,” the paper quoted Janet Brooks, a 13-year state worker, as saying. “We’ve lost our house, our security, our dignity.”
A Janet R. Brooks, a Revenue Officer 2, had a $2,000 cut in base pay between 2011 and 2012, but the base pay is about the same as in 2008. Since receiving a promotion in 2007 her total compensation has more than doubled — from less than $30,000 to more than $68,000.
Keith Uriarte, chief of staff for the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, was quoted as saying some state workers have had pay cuts exceeding 20 percent. Perhaps he should have brought a few of them to the rally.
And perhaps the reporter should have looked up a couple of those salaries on
Here is some data from “Governing” on public and private sector job losses during the recession:
nevada job loss jpg