Editorial: Same-day voter registration invites fraud

Progressives are always clamoring to make it easier to vote. To that end Democratic state Sen. James Ohrenschall of Las Vegas has introduced Senate Bill 123 that, among other things, would allow people to register to vote on Election Day.

“The purpose of SB123 is to make it more feasible for people to be part of the government of ourselves, by making it easier to register to vote, and offer a few more options to vote during the early voting period,” Ohrenschall said during a recent hearing on his bill, according to The Nevada Independent.

Election officials testified that the bill will cost millions of dollars to implement and take years to adequately change the system to comply.

Additionally, Clark County Registrar Joe Gloria warned, “If same-day registration process is handled with a paper form, other than signing an affidavit affirming that the voter has not already voted in the election, there can be no guarantee that the voter has not registered to vote at another location on Election Day. Not until after the election will clerks have the ability to identify that the voter has not voted at another site, which is problematic.”

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. “Election officials are unable to check the authenticity of a registration or the eligibility and qualifications of a registrant by comparing the registration information to other state and federal databases that provide information not just on identity, but also on citizenship status and whether the individual in question is a felon whose voting rights have been suspended. Since Election Day registrants cast a regular ballot, even if election officials determine that the registration was invalid after the election, they have no means of discounting the ballot.”

He notes that Wisconsin allows same-day registration and after a comprehensive investigation of voter fraud in the 2004 election, the Milwaukee Police Department concluded that the “one thing that could eliminate a large percentage of fraud or the appearance of fraudulent voting in any given Election is the elimination of the On-Site or Same-Day voter registration system.”

Von Spakovsky also points out that Oregon dumped its same-day registration law after a cult tried to take over a county by planning to bring in large numbers of nonresidents, many of them homeless, to flood the polls with ineligible voters.

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach said at a Heritage Foundation meeting in 2013 that voters can make up names and addresses and go from poll to poll to vote, and there is no automated system that can stop such nefarious deeds.

While Election Day registration invites fraud, it does little to actually increase turnout.

In 2008, according to von Spakovsky, four of the eight states with same-day registration reported lower turnout than in 2004. The state with the largest decrease in turnout in 2008 was Maine, which also has Election Day registration.

“It has always been abundantly clear that, after four decades of making it easier to vote and having turnout decline (among most groups) except for elections driven by fear and anger,” wrote Curtis Gans of the Center for the Study of the American Electorate in 2008, “the central issue governing turnout is not procedure but motivation. These new procedures, except for Election Day registration for some states, don’t help turnout and pose some discrete dangers for American democracy.”

In Nevada one can already register online or at the DMV or any county elections office.

The risks of fraud due to Election Day registration far outweigh any convenience for those too lazy or disinterested to register to vote by the deadline before each election.

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.

EPA Clean Power Plan will drain the economy of U.S. and Nevada

The EPA is inviting states to their own hanging and telling them to bring a rope.

By next summer the states are being told by the EPA to submit plans for compliance with its Clean Power Plan to reduce carbon output from power plants or it will impose its own stringent orders.

According to the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the EPA proposal will increase the price of electricity in Nevada an average of 18 percent between 2020 and 2029. That’s money that can’t be spent elsewhere on goods and services and to create jobs.

It is unclear whether these calculations take into account the 2013 Legislature’s decision to prematurely shut down all coal-fired power plants in Nevada, a move that already will destroy 2,630 jobs by 2020 and cut real disposable income by $226 million per year, according to one study.

Reid Gardner coal-fired power plant. (Sun photo)

ACCCE says the EPA proposal would drive up the cost of electricity by about $335 billion. It also will increase the price of natural gas for non-generating purposes by $144 billion. The net cost to the economy would be $479 billion between 2017 and 2031.

Writing in The Wall Street Journal, Kenneth Hill, a director of the Tennessee Regulatory Authority, has called on states to ignore the EPA directive to create compliance plans and let it try to impose sanctions. He notes the agency is legally shaky ground. Remember, the court said the feds could not coerce states into expanding Medicaid by denying funds.

“But the problem for the EPA is that the federal government lacks the legal authority under either the Constitution or the Clean Air Act to enforce most of the regulation’s “building blocks” without states’ acquiescence,” Hill writes. “This severely limits the EPA’s ability to tailor a federal plan to a state’s unique needs.”

After all the spending and draining of the economy, what will be the benefit of these new restraints on carbon output? Nil.

There has been no global warming for 17 years, according to NASA data, and the world has warmed only 0.36 degrees Fahrenheit since they started keeping track in 1979. The bulk of that warming came between 1979 and 1998, and since then temperatures have actually dropped.






Lieutenant governor race will be one to watch

Sue Lowden

Mark Hutchison


This could get interesting.

A month ago Mark Hutchison, the governor’s hand-picked candidate for lieutenant governor, spoke to the Nevada Republican Men’s Club. On Monday his Republican primary opponent Sue Lowden — though there may be others yet to announce — spoke to the same group.

Shall we say, the two have some differences?

A month ago Hutchison explained that he voted for SB123 — which prematurely closes coal-fired power plants and orders NV Energy to build new plants that will use natural gas and renewables, such as wind and solar — after talking to members of the power company board of directors who supported the bill and have a fiduciary responsibility to operate the company properly. He indicated the Obama administration would have shut the coal plants soon anyway.

On Monday Lowden said she would have opposed the bill because it will increase electricity rates, while mentioning this country has 300 years worth of coal in the ground.

Lowden also announced strong support for legislation that would allow concealed weapons permit holders to carry those weapons on college and university campuses, noting that Hutchison declined to sign on as a sponsor to such a bill in this past session. But in hearings Hutchison did question why campuses should be off-limits for concealed carry any more than any other location and voted for the bill, which died in an Assembly committee.

The issue that may resonate most outside of Clark County is Hutchison’s joining five other Republicans to put forth a measure to raise taxes on the mining industry. A month ago Hutchison told the audience he did so simply to counter the margins tax being put on next November’s ballot by the Nevada State Education Association. He said that tax would destroy businesses and kill jobs, and his mining tax support was a tactical move to head off the far worse margins tax.

On the margins tax, both candidates agree it is dreadful. Lowden said it is already affecting jobs because companies will not move operations to Nevada in fear that margins tax might be approved by voters. But she slammed Hutchison’s mining tax proposal and promised to oppose all tax increases.

Sprechen sie Deutsch? — It translates as a ‘green’ energy boondoggle

When the Nevada Legislature passed Senate Bill 123, everyone was so thrilled about shutting down all that dirty coal-fired power plants and building millions of dollars worth of bright new clean energy solar and wind farms.

Perhaps, they should’ve asked the German electricity customers how saving the planet is working out for them.

According to Der Spiegel, Germans this year will be forced to pay $26 billion for electricity from solar, wind and biogas plants — electricity with a market price of just more than $4 billion. 

And about that saving the planet, the magazine notes:

“On the other hand, when the wind suddenly stops blowing, and in particular during the cold season, supply becomes scarce. That’s when heavy oil and coal power plants have to be fired up to close the gap, which is why Germany’s energy producers in 2012 actually released more climate-damaging carbon dioxide into the atmosphere than in 2011.”

Soon the average three-person household in Germany will be paying about $120 a month for electricity, twice the price in 2000 and with two-thirds of the increase due to new government fees, surcharges and taxes. “But despite those price hikes, government pensions and social welfare payments have not been adjusted,” Der Spiegel says. “As a result, every new fee becomes a threat to low-income consumers.”

And if the solar and wind policy continues in place, the story says, electricity in 2020 will cost more than 50 cents per kilowatt-hour, up 40 percent from today’s price. Nevada residential customers currently pay less than 12 cents per kWh, but with SB123 in place don’t expect that to last long.

Wind turbines off the North Sea island of Borkum are currently rotating without being connected to the grid. The connection cable will probably not be finished until next year. In the meantime, the turbines are being run with diesel fuel to prevent them from rusting. (DPA photo)

Last ditch efforts being made to scuttle NVision and its huge power bills

Never let it be said that the Nevada Manufacturers Association Executive Director Ray Bacon is ambiguous when it comes to Nevada Energy’s 20-year plan, otherwise known as Senate Bill 123 or NVision: “In our view it looked like a open check book for Rape Pillage and Plunder at ratepayer expense in the name of closing coal fired generation and doing more green energy.”nmajpg
In an email sent out today he calls on association members, friends and other manufacturers who are not members to take action and to oppose the bill as well as calling on business friends to recruit them to the cause, too.
Bacon noted that power cost can be a huge expense in manufacturing. For some it is 40 percent of total costs.
Under SB123 the power company would close coal-fired plants prematurely and saddle customers with all of the cost of doing so and then build and contract for gas-fired and “green” energy also at the expense of ratepayers

Bacon writes:

“A bill much like this in Colorado was pushed 4 years ago as costing only 2% and it is now looking like it will be at least 21%. Warren Buffet doesn’t buy things which will won’t make money. (See today’s newspaper.) If SB 123 passes as it is now, PUCN will have limited ability to slow Buffet’s capital spending which will assure the 10.5% ROE (rate of return on equity) that all ratepayers will pay.  Independent Power Producers (private investors) making efficient power generation operation of all types will be pushed out. Jobs will be lost and power bills will be higher — much higher.  I think we have the potential to see rate hikes HIGHER than those in Colorado, but that is only my guess.”

NV Energy said rates would increase only 4 percent more than they otherwise would, but PUC staffers have questioned the figures.

One PUC commissioner called the bill “more smoke and mirrors.” Another said it fails to “provide real protection for ratepayers.” And the third one called it a “huge gamble for ratepayers and shareholders.”

PUC staff adviser Anne-Marie Cuneo said the plan would keep rates down in the short-term but would load higher costs at the end. “Your kids will end up paying for electricity that you used nine to 10 years ago, with interest,” Cuneo said.

The bill has already passed the state Senate unanimously and is likely to easily pass the Assembly. Gov. Brian Sandoval in a joint press release with Sen. Harry Reid endorsed the bill.

The governor is probably the last feint hope. Interestingly he has a re-election web page posted asking for people’s opinions. If you don’t mind giving his campaign your email, you good give him your thoughts on this at: http://www.briansandoval.com/ideas.

The Review-Journal this week editorially called on the governor to use a pocket veto so the Legislature cannot override.

The session ends Monday.

Or, as they said in “Animal House“:

Otter: Bluto’s right. Psychotic … but absolutely right. We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part!

Bluto: We’re just the guys to do it.

Warning, rough language:

Politicians keep pulling the strings but can’t figure out what caused this tangled mess

Politicians have so much hubris they think they can pull the strings of the marketplace and make it dance to their tune. Invariably the result is a tangled, strangled pile of rubble.

Take the “negotiated” settlement with a handful of lending institutions that will redistribute $25 billion nationally due to what is being called questionable foreclosure and lending practices. In Nevada alone 20,000 Nevada homeowners have been handed an average of about $97,000 apiece. The costs will be passed on to customers and future borrowers.

In the vast majority of cases people purchased homes they could not afford, urged on by federal policies that threatened punishment of lenders for redlining and discriminating and aided and abetted by gimmicks such as balloon payments, ARMs and mortgages packaged as securities.

This is tantamount to urging people to bet their life savings on red and then forcing the casino to give back money to the losers by tightening the slots and table odds.

But politicians think they can better handle your money than you can in a free marketplace.

It is the same with higher education, where government entities have been urging people to go to college by providing grants, loans and scholarships, which has resulted in skyrocketing tuitions and degrees of little practical value.

Then there is the Nevada Legislature, as fine an example of incompetent puppet masters as one could find.

There is a bill working its way through the halls in Carson City that would cap the cost of an emergency room visit. Assembly Joint Resolution 9 seeks to amend the state Constitution to set a price cap at no more than double whatever Medicare pays. That’s the ticket.

Why stop at emergency room visits? Let’s cap grocery prices and gasoline and power bills, too.

No, wait, on power bills they have a couple of strings they are pulling there.

Senate Bill 252 would require NV Energy to buy even more overpriced renewable energy, which currently costs at least triple the cost of power from natural gas and coal, and pass the cost along to ratepayers for the next 20 years no matter what happens to the price of fuel or technical breakthroughs.

Then there is Senate Bill 123, which basically spells out how, when, where and what NV Energy must do for the next two decades without any regard whatsoever to cost. It also appears to turn the Public Utilities Commission from being a guardian for the ratepayers to being protectors of the shareholders of NV Energy.

The bill would require NV Energy to decommission its coal-fired power plants years early and require ratepayers to cover every dime of the cost of tearing down the plants, paying off any long-term contracts and even the value of any coal left lying around unused. Then ratepayers would have to cover the cost of building or contracting for new natural gas and renewable energy facilities.

One PUC commissioner called the bill “more smoke and mirrors.” Another said it fails to “provide real protection for ratepayers.” And the third one called it a “huge gamble for ratepayers and shareholders.”

Though NV Energy estimates power prices will increase only 4 percent more than is already expected, PUC staff adviser Anne-Marie Cuneo said the plan would keep rates down in the short-term but would load higher costs at the end.

  • “Your kids will end up paying for electricity that you used nine to 10 years ago, with interest,” Cuneo said.

Of course Gov. Brian Sandoval and Sen. Harry Reid have endorsed it.

“This bill will help strategically position Nevada as a leader in clean energy,” said Reid. “Retiring coal plants while developing new, renewable energy projects is right for Nevada.”

And a leader in power bill costs?

“The benefits of this energy proposal for Nevada are many,” said Sandoval. “SB 123 would create over 4,000 new jobs while ensuring Nevada remains the renewable energy capital of the country. I look forward to working with the Legislature on this important public policy and urge the Legislature’s support so that I can sign it into law.”

And the rest of us will be paying the salaries of those 4,000 new jobs, mostly temporary construction jobs, if we still have jobs as companies cut back expenses so they can pay to keep the lights on or even turn off the lights and shut down entirely.

But the puppet masters insist they know more about how the marketplace should work than the millions making daily transactions to each other’s mutual benefit.

As Adam Smith wrote in “The Wealth of Nations“:

“Every man, as long as he does not violate the laws of justice, is left perfectly free to pursue his own interest his own way, and to bring both his industry and capital into competition with those of any other man, or order of men. The sovereign is completely discharged from a duty, in the attempting to perform which he must always be exposed to innumerable delusions, and for the proper performance of which, no human wisdom or knowledge could ever be sufficient …”

Smith has been proven correct countless times since he wrote that in 1776, but the puppet masters keep pulling the wrong strings.

Newspaper column: NVision has hidden costs

In testimony to a state Senate committee, NV Energy spokesman Pete Ernaut estimated the company plan to scrap coal-fired generators early and replace them with natural gas and renewables, cutely labeled NVision, would add no more than 4 percent to power bills over the next 20 years. Instead of rising by 32 percent under current plans, rates would climb 36 percent, plus inflation.

But there are hidden costs and a myriad of assumptions that may not pan out, as reported in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press.

As part of its plan, NV Energy submitted Senate Bill 123 to the Legislature. The bill would cut the company’s risks and assure ratepayers and taxpayers cover the costs.

To replace the coal generation, the company plans to build 2,000 megawatts of natural gas-fired power plants as well as 150 megawatts of renewable energy and contract out for another 450 megawatts of “green” energy.

Reid Gardner plant would close early. (Sun photo)

While the impact on ratepayers appears relatively minor, left unsaid was what the impact of adding 600 megawatts of “green” power might have on federal, state and local taxes. SB123 takes nearly $300 million of ratepayer money and gives it to those who build solar and wind generation at homes, businesses and government agencies, covering as much as 50 percent of the cost of construction.

Additionally, smaller solar panel projects are exempt from both sales and property taxes. Larger facilities are eligible for various tax abatements, too, as well as millions in federal Energy Department grants and production tax credits and nearly free public land.

Such hidden costs are not easily quantified and affect even those who are not served by NV Energy.

Once these renewable energy projects are built the price per kilowatt-hour of electricity will be locked in with 20-year contracts with annual price increases, no matter what happens to the price of natural gas or technological breakthroughs.

Dan Jacobsen of the attorney general’s Bureau of Consumer Protection, which represents ratepayer interests at the Public Utilities Commission, said, “In addition to replacing about 1,000 megawatts of coal capacity, the bill also would be replacing a very large amount of power purchase agreements right now that ratepayers don’t have to provide a return on.”

NV Energy’s profits come from a rate of return on equity, which is currently about 10 percent, but the more equity in power plants and power lines the greater the return.

Jacobsen also said SB123 could deter the PUC’s ability to control costs. One part dictates the “Commission shall approve” costs, and another says emissions reduction “shall be deemed to be a prudent investment. The electric utility may recover all just and reasonable costs …”

Read the full column at the Ely or Elko websites.

Newspaper column: Bill would make power purchases trade secrets

In the summer of 2010, I persuaded the Public Utilities Commission to make public the prices NV Energy was paying for renewable energy — wind, solar, geothermal, biomass.

The PUC commissioners were easily convinced. The Legislature, not so much. Lawmakers in 2011 promptly passed a bill providing tax abatements for renewable energy producers, but also tacked on a provision declaring the pricing information, and just about everything else in a power purchase contract, confidential trade secrets.

Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed the bill, because it also had a section that could have cost NV Energy ratepayers as much as $1 billion to build power transmission lines to send renewable power out of state.

Obama remarks on energy after a tour of Copper Mountain Solar 1, in Boulder City, March 21, 2012. (Official White House Photo)

As reported in this week’s newspaper column, available online at The Ely Times and the Elko Daily Free Press, that bill — without the transmission line language but with the trade secret provision — has been reintroduced this session as Senate Bill 123. The bill states that any contract, lease or agreement to purchase power would be “deemed to be proprietary and to constitute a trade secret …”

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, said the current language is a starting point and working groups will hammer out particulars. He would not commit to removing the trade secret provision, but said, “Some of this language was put in at the 11th hour on the last day last session, so we all have to do our due diligence and see what’s still applicable or not. We all believe in openness and transparency, so, as I said, the bill will no doubt have some updated language.”

In 2010, NV Energy released pricing information on seven contracts initially and a total of 13 so far, showing prices as high as 13.5 cents per kilowatt-hour, none even close to being competitive with the cost of natural gas-fired power generation. By state law, 25 percent of Nevada’s electricity must come from renewable sources by 2025 — the renewable portfolio standard (RPS).

This past week, when told the trade secrets provision had been reintroduced all of the PUC commissioners expressed opposition to the proposed secrecy provision. (Read their comments in the column.)

The Las Vegas Review-Journal also editorialized against the sweeping secrecy, saying:

If the state Legislature has any role in setting energy rates, it should be limited to making sure energy providers compete on a level playing field, where those who can offer the most reliable power at the lowest price have a fair chance to advertise those advantages, and prosper.

When the Legislature plays favorites, requiring power companies to buy a certain percentage of their power from alternative producers — regardless of cost — they’re already way out of bounds. In addition to inviting graft and corruption (for who’s to decide who’s favored?) this artificially drives up rates, crippling any economic recovery, while also sending false signals that indicate alternatives to fossil fuels are a good investment. (If they really were, why would anyone need to keep the numbers a secret?)

But to do all that, and then slap on a blanket of secrecy so consumers can’t even calculate for themselves what it’s really costing to allow lawmakers to use our electric-bills-on-steroids to reward lobbyists, campaign donors, and tree-huggers singing Kumbaya?

That’s priceless.

An economic impact study in 2011 by The Beacon Hill Institute in Boston and the Cascade Policy Institute in Portland, Ore., estimated that Oregon’s mandate for 25 percent of power from renewables by 2025, the same as Nevada’s, could increase power bills by somewhere between 14 and 34 percent and reduce the number of jobs in the state by between 10,000 and 25,000.

The reason why is the cost of “green” energy, even with grants and tax breaks is too costly.

For example, the PUC in April 2012 released the following prices for renewable power for the first year of the contracts with NV Energy. The contracts allow an annual increase of 1 percent per year. For comparison purposes, natural gas produced power has been costing about 4 cents per kWh, and the price of natural gas has been falling.

Tuscarora Geothermal: 8.8 cents/kWh

Waste Management Lockwood: 8.1 cents/kWh

San Emidio Geothermal: 8.975 cents/kWh

Enel Stillwater Solar: 6.9 cents/kWh

Silver State Solar North: 13.2 cents/kWh

Apex Solar: 12.85 cents/kWh

Spring Valley Wind: 9.8 cents/kWh

McGinness Hills Geothermal: 8.6 cents/kWh

Spectrum Solar: 11.1 cents/kWh

Crescent Dunes Solar: 13.495 cents/kWh

Mountain View Solar: 11.605 cents/kWh

Clayton Valley Geothermal: 9.8 cents/kWh

Dixie Meadows Geothermal: 9.2 cents/kWh

It is one thing to have secrecy, it is another to have a remarkably incurious press. So far as I can find, only the orignal seven of these contracts have ever been reported anywhere other than here.

There are eight bills pending in Carson City that mention renewable energy. Not one calls for outright repeal of the RPS.

Read the entire column at Ely or Elko websites.