Rosen said to be planning to run against Heller

Jacky Rosen (AP pix via Politico)

Half the search engine alerts about Nevada this morning seemed to contain a link to some story about first-term Democratic Congresswoman Jacky Rosen of Las Vegas, who has a year and a half to go in her first term, planning to soon announce a bid to unseat Republican Sen. Dean Heller.

Politico first broke the news at 7:44 p.m. Monday, followed a couple of hours later by The Nevada Independent and a half dozen others, except the Las Vegas newspaper. Most cited unnamed sources, though a couple led with the National Republican Congressional Committee reacting to the news.

Politico reported that a poll released Monday showed Heller getting just 39 percent of the vote while a generic Democrat polled 46 percent among Nevada voters.

“Heller is widely considered the most vulnerable Republican up for re-election in 2018 and is the only GOP senator this cycle who represents a state won by Hillary Clinton in 2016,” Politico reported.

NVIndy reported:

The first-term congresswoman has spoken with former Democratic Sen. Harry Reid and his successor, Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, about getting into the race and is the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee’s top choice to run against the senior senator, the source said. Heller is considered the most vulnerable Republican up for reelection in 2018 and is the Democrats’ best pickup opportunity in the midterm.

The website also said she has the backing of the Culinary union, which has a strong voter turnout organization. In the 2016 presidential election Hillary Clinton outpolled Donald Trump by 2 points, largely due to the unions getting members to the polls.

CNN quoted an NRSC spokesman as saying, “With today’s news, Jacky Rosen confirmed to Nevadans the only reason she’s in elected office is to serve her own ambitions. Rosen’s radical liberal stances might please her puppet-master Harry Reid, but they will leave Nevadans worse off.”

Election season is never ending.

Arbitrator says school district can afford to give administrators a pay raise

When it comes to arbitration of public union and local government collective bargaining contracts, apparently the only thing that really matter is whether the local government’s taxpayers can afford to give a raise in pay — not whether the employees have earned a raise.

On Friday an arbitrator ruled that the Clark County School District must give raises to its unionized school principals and administrators and pay nearly $20 million in retroactive raises, according to the contribution-funded online news site The Nevada Independent. Though the decision came this past week, a search of the morning newspaper found no trace of the news.

According to the arbitrator the school district’s final offer fell $13 million below the union’s demand.Arb

The arbitrator stated:

The District offered no specific evidence indicating that teachers would be laid off if the Association’s final offer was granted, class sizes would be increased, days in the school year would be curtailed, or the District’s ability to educate children within the District would otherwise be adversely impacted.

The evidence did establish that cuts in the District’s budget would have to be made, but there was no compelling evidence indicating the District would be unable to fulfill its primary obligation of providing education to the children residing within the school district if the Association’s Final Offer was granted. In the absence of such evidence, the Arbitrator concludes the District has the financial ability to pay the Association’s requested Final Written Offer without compromising its obligation to provide an education to the children residing within the School District.

All that matters is the ability of the taxpayers to pay and pay without regard to the quality of the education outcome, which has been long established as subpar.

In Nevada, arbitrators are not allowed the split the baby and compromise between the two final offers but must choose one or the other. It seems the unions’ final offers invariable is chosen and the main reason seems to always be that the taxpayers can afford it.

Newspaper fails to uncover name of ‘mystery’ gaming licensee

Sheldon Adelson, owner of casinos and newspaper. (Reuters pix via NY Times)

Often the most significant aspect of a news story is what it doesn’t report.

The morning newspaper today reports that Democratic Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton of Las Vegas is seeking to conduct a hearing on a surreptitious recording made by Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett of a conversation with Attorney General Adam Laxalt concerning “a certain licensee” — in other words, a casino owner.

Near the end, the news account informs readers that neither Carlton nor the AG’s office would name that “certain licensee.”

Now who on earth could that “certain licensee” be?

Back in February an online news operation called The Nevada Independent reported that Burnett had secretly recorded a meeting with Laxalt in which the AG asked that the gaming board file an affidavit in a civil lawsuit in Las Vegas demanding that certain records concerning the Las Vegas Sands be kept confidential. The Sands is owned by Sheldon Adelson, whose family owns the Las Vegas Review-Journal. Adelson is also a major contributor to Laxalt’s political campaigns.

The Nevada Independent is funded by contributions, a large portion of which come from Sands competitors, and is headed up by former Review-Journal, Las Vegas Sun and television commentator Jon Ralston.

Both the Independent and Battle Born Media newspaper sought a copy of the recording under the state public records law but were turned down. “Even if the requested material was a public record,” the gaming board custodian stated, “it is declared confidential and privileged by law and, therefore, exempt from disclosure.”

Laxalt issued a statement at the time in an attempt to explain his meeting with Burnett on behalf of Adleson, “The Attorney General’s Office was approached by the Sands Corporation asking us to file an amicus brief about NRS 463 — a statute that protects the confidentiality of documents submitted to the Gaming Control Board. I’ve made it a practice to personally advise and meet with my clients on a regular basis. As a Nevada statewide elected official, I also meet with constituents all the time on issues that are important to the State and our clients.”

In the story first filed online Tuesday evening, the morning paper quoted Carlton as saying in a statement, “Last week I issued a subpoena for information regarding actions Attorney General Laxalt took to interfere with the Gaming Control Board’s oversight of a certain licensee. … The information is unsettling and warrants a hearing. We will work with the Chairman of the Gaming Control Board to bring more light to this situation.”

At about 4 a.m. today The Nevada Independent, which bills itself in social media as @TheNVIndy, posted a lengthy story recapping its previous reporting on the topic and attaching a 14-page notarized affidavit filed by Burnett on April 27. Why he created the affidavit is unclear.

That affidavit explained for the first time why Burnett, who was appointed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, decided to record the conversation. “Further, because said licensee had in recent months been part of the purchase of the Las Vegas Review-Journal, and as previously noted, there were news articles implying that agents or employees of the newspaper had sent reporters around to monitor particular judges, including the judge presiding over the wrongful termination case, I was concerned reporters might be monitoring me, as well.”

Burnett also said, “I was shocked and in disbelief due to the nature of these unusual circumstances. I was also extremely worried about what the conversation might entail. Based on my knowledge of Nevada statutes, including past discussions with federal authorities, I determined it was in my best interest, and those of the state and the GCB, to record the upcoming oral conversation.”

Burnett reportedly turned over a copy of the recording to the FBI, which found no criminal behavior.

The Independent reported that Laxalt sent this statement to the news outlet: “Today’s news proves the point — Nevada democratic (sic) politicians will stop at nothing — including twisting and politicizing a routine action that previous attorneys general, including Catherine Cortez Masto, have taken. … We look forward to exposing this for what it is: a political attack designed to distract from the Democrats’ radical agenda that harms Nevada’s working families.”

Laxalt is said to be planning to run for governor. In March the Sun reported that Democrats filed public records request seeking copies of Laxalt’s official communications with Adelson and his representatives. The Sun story also mentioned the secretly recorded conversation that remains a mystery to the newspaper into which it is inserted.

The Sun reported, “Laxalt has faced criticism over an April 2016 meeting with Gaming Control Board Chairman A.G. Burnett. Democrats have asked the FBI to release any audio recordings and documents related to the case and called for a state ethics investigation, saying Laxalt was attempting to push Burnett into supporting Adelson in a lawsuit.”

A year ago the Gaming Control Board fined the Sands $2 million for failing to maintain the reputation of the gaming industry. This was based on the company settling with the Securities and Exchange Commission for a $9 million civil penalty, which follow on a $47.4 million settlement with Treasury a couple of year earlier.

 

Bill would repeal ‘Read by 3’ law

A bill wending its way through the Nevada Legislature would undo one of the few educational reforms pressed by Gov. Brian Sandoval that could actually be effective and provide a return on investment.

Assembly Bill 409 — sponsored by the Assembly Education Committee, so no Democrats had to leave fingerprints — proposes to repeal the law that requires third graders who fail to read at grade level be held back and not promoted to fourth grade. The law, which doesn’t take effect until July 2019, met resistance from educrats from the beginning. A former State Board of Education member was quoted as saying another test is “not going to improve reading.”

This was back in 2011 when former Florida Gov. and future presidential candidate Jeb Bush was writing in The Wall Street Journal: “While preparing kids for college and careers starts on the first day of kindergarten, the first good indicator of their chances for success may come in fourth grade. That is when students transition from learning to read to reading to learn.”

Bush explained what Florida did: “Florida ended automatic, ‘social’ promotion for third-grade students who couldn’t read. Again, the opposition to this hard-edged policy was fierce. Holding back illiterate students seemed to generate a far greater outcry than did the disturbing reality that more than 25% of students couldn’t read by the time they entered fourth grade. But today? According to Florida state reading tests, illiteracy in the third grade is down to 16%.”

Sandoval embraced Bush’s concept and added it to his education reform package of laws.

According to a reporter for The Nevada Independent, Sandoval just might veto AB 409 if it makes it to his desk. She has posted on Twitter what is apparently a statement attributed to the governor: “The Read by Grade 3 initiative placed nearly $30 million directly in classrooms in more than 300 schools across Nevada with a clear line of accountability and singular focus on developmental reading. The Governor will not compromise on the goal of ensuring every student in Nevada is reading at grade level by third grade.”

 

 

 

 

Walters goes in one day from millionaire winner to loser

Billy Walters arrives for court in New York (Bloomberg pix)

His winning streak is over.

As John L. Smith reports in a column for The Nevada Independent, Las Vegas sports bettor and golf course developer Billy Walters, having beaten several investigations and indictments, has been convicted in New York of insider trading.

As Smith relates, “He collected pliable politicians and malleable reporters like posies, and nearly always managed to get the best of it. Even law enforcement, which in the past three decades had suspected him of everything from illegal bookmaking to money laundering, could never seem to bust him out.” Until Friday, when a jury convicted him in an insider trading deal that netted him $43 million.

Smith has been keeping an eye on Walters for years and in 2011 got a chuckle and a newspaper column out of a “60 Minutes” swooning interview with the smooth-talking Kentucky-born gambler and huckster.

Of course, the columnist took the opportunity to tell the story that “60 Minutes”missed:

Walters was a founding member of the infamous and feared “Computer Group,” the breakthrough collective of gamblers, handicappers and investors who processed the day’s sports schedule at such a high level they consistently produced better odds than those on the wall of your local sports book. The Computer Group banked millions, and the bookies took a beating. The Computer Group spawned a generation of imitators, some of whom pounded the sports books to pieces.

But the FBI and Metro were watching, and indictments followed. A trial came later, and Computer Group lawyers mopped the floor with the feds. The FBI and U.S. attorney’s office were so embarrassed they put gambling cases on the back burner of their list of prosecutorial priorities.

Walters & Co. seemed to have the opposite effect on Nevada gaming regulation. The sports book industry was so routed it sought protection against Walters from the Gaming Control Board. That led to big rule changes, but Walters managed to adjust.

One of my favorite Walters stories is the time he scored an uncanny, and statistically improbable, winning record at roulette at the Golden Nugget. Casino bosses were sure he had to be cheating. So they had the wheel analyzed by engineers, who found nothing wrong with it. And the legend of Billy Walters grew.

Some of Walters’ biggest scores have come in the chambers of local government. His golf course land proposals at the city and county were tailored like Sinatra’s suits to fit his needs. The fact the public didn’t get the best of it rarely crossed the minds of mesmerized members of the City Council and County Commission.

I could go on, but you get the idea. Daffy souls who hoped to see Walters embarrassed or exposed on television surely were disappointed. They should have known better.

Billy Walters always gets the best of it, and his “60 Minutes” valentine is just another example.

One of those tailored deals was the lease of land from McCarran International Airport for Walters’ Bali Hai Golf Club for 10 years without paying a dime in rent. McCarran was to receive 40 percent of the course’s net profit, but there was no profit because Walters paid his own company a management fee of $6 million.

Walters, 70, now goes from being worth $500 million, the owner of seven homes and a $20 million jet, to facing a cramped jail cell.

Minimum wage: The 3 percent solution?

There for a while I felt like Jeremiah crying in the wilderness in pointing out that the state Legislature could not raise the minimum wage in Nevada, because the voters in 2006 set the minimum wage and determined how it would be raised by voting for a constitutional amendment. It would take another constitutional amendment to change that, not a mere change in law.

Senate Bill 106 and Assembly Bill 175 propose to raise the minimum by different amounts.

But this week a writer at The Nevada Independent weighed in with a piece asking: “Can the Nevada Legislature raise the minimum wage?”

The writer concluded that at the Legislative Counsel Bureau opinion that lawmakers can do it is not binding law and if it passes someone is likely to file suit.

Today a Las Vegas newspaper columnist also broached the question of whether the Constitution bars lawmakers from raising the minimum wage.

He too concluded that, if either bill passes and the governor for some reason signs it, the issue will land in the courts.

In 2006 the constitutional amendment established the minimum wage would be $5.15 an hour if an employer provided health insurance and $6.15 if not. It provided for raising that minimum wage to match any increase in the federal minimum or raise it to account for an increase in the cost of living, whichever is greater. Today the minimums stand at $7.25 and $8.25.

The voters established both the minimum wage and the method for increasing it. How can lawmakers simply say that is merely the minimum minimum and they can increase it to whatever level they wish?

The Senate bill would raise the minimum wage 75 cents a year until it reaches $11 or $12, depending on health insurance, while the Assembly version would raise it $1.25 a year until it hits $14 or $15.

An Assembly committee was told by its LCB lawyer last week: “I spoke with the Legislative Counsel Brenda Erdoes. She told me that our office thoroughly researched this during the 2015 legislative session and then updated and confirmed that research during the drafting of AB175 this session. She said that as result of their research it is the opinion of LCB legal, based on the rules of statutory and constitutional construction, that the provisions of the minimum wage amendment to the Nevada Constitution do not limit the inherent power of the Legislature to establish by statute a new minimum wage that is higher than the minimum wage that is currently required by law.”

A Senate LCB lawyer told a committee hearing its bill this week: “In this case with this bill the constitutional amendment clearly states the employers must pay a wage of quote ‘at least’ the amounts set forth in the language of the constitutional amendment. Thus increasing the minimum wage by legislation would not conflict with the constitutional amendment and because there is no conflict with the constitutional amendment the Legislature has the power to enact legislation to increase the minimum wage. And that has been the opinion of the Legislative Counsel.”

But a previous fact sheet posted by LCB in 2015 stated: “Because provisions governing the minimum wage rate are included in the Constitution, any changes to the minimum wage provisions require a constitutional amendment.”

The Las Vegas columnist was told that was an error. The fact sheet has since been altered to delete that section.

But as the Nevada Supreme Court has stated: The expression of one thing is the exclusion of another.

The constitutional amendment states how the minimum wage is to be raised and that does not include permission for the lawmakers raise it by some other means.

In fact, in the portion of the amendment that states how minimum wages may be raised to account for increases in the Consumer Price Index it clearly states: “No CPI adjustment for any one-year period may be greater than 3%.”

That indicates the voters intended to prevent rapid increases in the minimum wage even if the CPI were to jump, say 10 percent in one year.

The proffered $1.25 and 75 cents a year both exceed that 3 percent cap established by the voters. One more argument for the courts to contemplate should either bill become law.