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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Historic update from Wikipedia:

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

Judge blocks enforcement of California law requiring abortion advertising by opponents

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

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

The Daily Caller reported:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

 

 

 

 

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

Laxalt and Sisolak (R-J pix)

Plans or platitudes?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That sounds like a sound plan.

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

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: Free speech issues ‘on the ballot’ in Nevada

The right to free speech includes the right to not be compelled to speak.

That includes not being required to pay dues to a union whose political views might be different from yours, not being required to advertise abortion availability at your faith-based pregnancy counseling service, not being required to use your cake baking talent to create a special cake or your flower arranging expertise for a gay wedding.

All of these have come down from a closely divided U.S. Supreme Court in the closing days of this year’s court calendar.

This past week, the court ruled that public employees could not to be forced to pay dues to unions with which they might not agree.

“The First Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, forbids abridgment of the freedom of speech,” wrote Justice Samuel Alito in the 5-4 opinion. “We have held time and again that freedom of speech ‘includes both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking at all.’”

Public employee unions that advocate higher wages that require higher taxes are intrinsically political.

Just the day before the court ruled, again 5-4, that a California law that required pro-life, religious-oriented unlicensed pregnancy centers to place extensive disclaimers in their ads and on billboards telling people about abortion services was an unconstitutional impingement on free speech.

“Here, for example, licensed clinics must provide a government-drafted script about the availability of state-sponsored services, as well as contact information for how to obtain them” wrote Justice Clarence Thomas in the majority opinion. “One of those services is abortion — the very practice that petitioners are devoted to opposing. By requiring petitioners to inform women how they can obtain state-subsidized abortions — at the same time petitioners try to dissuade women from choosing that option — the licensed notice plainly ‘alters the content’ of petitioners’ speech.”

A little more than a week earlier in a 7-2 ruling the court held Colorado could not force cake shop owner to make a special cake for a gay wedding.

Shortly thereafter. the court remanded a Washington case involving a florist who declined to arrange flowers for a gay wedding, citing the Colorado ruling.

The state of Nevada, under the direction of Attorney General Adam Laxalt, had joined in both the public employee union case and the California abortion law case on the winning side.

Laxalt’s office put out a press release about the California law ruling stating: “The ruling, which rests exclusively on free speech grounds, does not affect abortion providers; it neither requires them to change their practices nor infringes on their ability to provide abortions. The Supreme Court correctly held that compelling private organizations to promote the government’s preferred message under those circumstances is inconsistent with the First Amendment. This is an important holding ensuring that the government cannot simply force private speakers with whom it disagrees to also promote the government’s preferred message, especially when there are other ways for the government to promote its own message without interfering with private speech.”

Republican Laxalt’s Democratic opponent for governor in November, Steve Sisolak, put out a statement reported by The Nevada Independent saying, “I believe that women deserve access to all of their options when it comes to their reproductive health care. I still have concerns over the lack of information given by these crisis pregnancy centers and the harm it can cause.”

Sisolak continued, “As governor, I will fight to protect a woman’s constitutional reproductive rights and her consistent access to comprehensive care. Adam Laxalt has shown repeatedly that he will pursue an anti-choice agenda that will roll back the clock on women’s rights and bring Nevada down a dangerous path.”

This has nothing to do with abortion rights and only to do with speech rights.

This point was lost on Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen who is running for Republican Dean Heller’s Senate seat. She sent out an email saying, “Deceiving women about their health care options is an attack on women’s fundamental reproductive freedom, and I will continue to stand against this Administration’s attacks on women’s rights and access to health care. Nevadans support a woman’s right to make these personal decisions.”

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.

Supreme Court hears free speech case

Free speech includes the right to be silent

The right to free speech includes the right to not be compelled to speak.

That includes not being required to pay dues to a union whose political view might be different from yours, not being required to advertise abortion availability at your faith-based pregnancy counseling service, not being required to use your cake baking talent to create a special cake or your flowing arranging expertise for a gay wedding.

All of these have come down from a closely divided U.S. Supreme Court in a matter of days.

Today the court ruled that public employees could not to be forced to pay dues to unions with which they might not agree. Justice Samuel Alito writes in the 5-4 opinion:

The First Amendment, made applicable to the States by the Fourteenth Amendment, forbids abridgment of the freedom of speech. We have held time and again that freedom of speech “includes both the right to speak freely and the right to refrain from speaking at all.” … The right to eschew association for expressive purposes is likewise protected. … (“Freedom of association … plainly presupposes a free­dom not to associate”) … (“[F]orced associations that burden protected speech are impermissible”). As Justice Jackson memorably put it: “If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constella­tion, it is that no official, high or petty, can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein.”

Just the day before the court ruled, again 5-4, that a California law that required pro-life, religious-oriented unlicensed pregnancy centers to place extensive disclaimers in large fonts and in as many as 13 languages in their ads and on billboards telling people about abortion services was an unconstitutional impingement on free speech. The ruling overturned a 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in the majority opinion:

Here, for example, licensed clinics must provide a government-drafted script about the availability of state-sponsored services, as well as contact information for how to obtain them. One of those services is abortion — the very practice that petitioners are devoted to opposing. By requiring petitioners to inform women how they can obtain state-subsidized abortions — at the same time petitioners try to dissuade women from choosing that option — the licensed notice plainly “alters the content” of petitioners’ speech.

A little more than a week ago in a 7-2 ruling the court held the Colorado Civil Rights Commission was inconsistent in its rulings relating to issues of the First Amendment’s guarantee of free exercise of religion and free speech.

Writing for the majority, Justice Anthony Kennedy noted that on at least three occasions the state Civil Rights Commission held that bakers who refused to create cakes with images that conveyed disapproval of same-sex marriage did so lawfully.

“The treatment of the conscience-based objections at issue in these three cases contrasts with the Commission’s treatment of Phillips’ objection,” Kennedy wrote. “The Commission ruled against (Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack) Phillips in part on the theory that any message the requested wedding cake would carry would be attributed to the customer, not to the baker. Yet the Division did not address this point in any of the other cases with respect to the cakes depicting anti-gay marriage symbolism.”
Shortly thereafter the court remanded a Washington case involving a florist who declined to arrange flowers for a gay wedding, citing the Colorado ruling.
The state of Nevada, under the direction of Attorney Adam Laxalt, had joined in both the public employee union case and the California abortion law case on the winning side.
Laxalt’s office put out a press release about the California law ruling stating: “The ruling, which rests exclusively on free speech grounds, does not affect abortion providers; it neither requires them to change their practices nor infringes on their ability to provide abortions. The Supreme Court correctly held that compelling private organizations to promote the government’s preferred message under those circumstances is inconsistent with the First Amendment. This is an important holding ensuring that the government cannot simply force private speakers with whom it disagrees to also promote the government’s preferred message, especially when there are other ways for the government to promote its own message without interfering with private speech.”

Republican Laxalt’s Democratic opponent for governor in November, Steve Sisolak, put out a statement reported by The Nevada Independent saying, “I believe that women deserve access to all of their options when it comes to their reproductive health care. I still have concerns over the lack of information given by these crisis pregnancy centers and the harm it can cause.”Sisolak continued, “As governor, I will fight to protect a woman’s constitutional reproductive rights and her consistent access to comprehensive care. Adam Laxalt has shown repeatedly that he will pursue an anti-choice agenda that will roll back the clock on women’s rights and bring Nevada down a dangerous path.”

This has nothing to do with abortion rights and only to do with speech rights.

This point was lost on Democratic Rep. Jacky Rosen who is running for Republican Dean Heller’s Senate seat. She sent out an email saying, “Deceiving women about their health care options is an attack on women’s fundamental reproductive freedom, and I will continue to stand against this Administration’s attacks on women’s rights and access to health care. Nevadans support a woman’s right to make these personal decisions.”

Lame-duck Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen sent an email saying, “It is disappointing that today’s Supreme Court decision will allow unlicensed facilities to continue misleading women about the health care services they provide. No woman seeking accurate information about her health care options should be lied to, shamed, or denied access to basic medical care. This ruling is a huge setback in our nation’s fight to protect and advance women’s rights and will make it harder for women to access the health care services they need. We must continue fighting to ensure that every woman has the right to make her own health choices and has access to the full range of options.”

Laxalt’s political campaign sent out an email crowing about the two most recent court ruling and rubbing Sisolak’s nose in it:

The Supreme Court has reaffirmed that the government cannot force Nevadans to advocate political positions against their beliefs. We know Steve Sisolak disagrees. Steve said it was “shameful” when Adam visited a Nevada pregnancy care center, and he favors zero restrictions on abortion — a position to the left of most Nevada Democrats. He is benefiting from the government union in this case, AFSCME, that is running over a million dollars in attack ads against Adam right now — attack ads that PolitiFact has called “false.”

These were great victories for free speech. Adam protected pregnancy care centers from a radical California law that would have forced these pro-life centers that offer care for pregnant women to advocate for policies they disagree with. Adam protected workers from being forced to give up their wages to a government union that pays for political lobbying and advertising that they may disagree with.

Steve Sisolak’s fringe agenda is being exposed. This is a great week for freedom of speech in Nevada, and a terrible week for Steve Sisolak’s radical political machine.

Anti-abortion activists celebrated outside the Supreme Court on Tuesday. (Reuters pix via NYTimes)