Category Archives: Nevada news

A Small But Significant Win? NV Voting Rights Case sent back to Federal District Court

ballot box There was a small but perhaps significant win yesterday for those who believe that ALL eligible citizens in Nevada should have to opportunity to register to vote.

“A federal appeals court on Thursday revived a lawsuit alleging that the Nevada Health and Human Services Department has been disenfranchising potential low-income and disabled voters by not providing registration materials to clients at its offices as required by federal law.

The civil rights lawsuit, filed in 2012 by the National Council of Las Raza and two branches of the NAACP, had been dismissed by U.S. District Court Judge Robert Clive Jones after he determined the groups had no standing to bring the claims.

A panel of the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals reversed that decision, reviving the complaint that Nevada state officials are violating Section 7 of the National Voter Registration Act of 1993 by failing to make voter registration materials available to people who visit their offices.” [LVRJ]

Note, the Appeals Court isn’t saying that the NV HHS was, in fact, in violation of federal statutes, but that the District Court erred in declaring that the original plaintiffs didn’t have standing to file their suit.  Voting rights groups were pleased with the decision:

Voting rights groups Demos, Project Vote, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which represented the plaintiffs along with the law firms Dechert LLP and Woodburn and Wedge, applauded the decision.

“Today’s decision is a victory for low-income voters in Nevada and the community groups that serve them,” said Brenda Wright, Vice President for Legal Strategies at Demos. “The Ninth Circuit’s decision recognizes the fundamental importance of access to the courts in protecting the right to vote. We are pleased that the Ninth Circuit has rectified a miscarriage of justice by reinstating our clients’ voting rights claims.”

In its opinion, the Court rejected Nevada’s argument that the plaintiffs—organizations that conduct voter registration drives in low-income communities throughout the State—were not harmed by the state’s violations of the National Voter Registration Act (NVRA) and therefore lacked “standing” to challenge them. 

“The Court recognized that Nevada is answerable to community groups that have been forced to pick up the slack for the State’s failure to fulfill its legal obligations,” said Sarah Brannon, Director of Project Vote’s Government Agency Voter Registration Program.”  [more at Demos]

This, of course, will not please the “election integrity” crowd who will assert that voting is a sort of privilege, a reward for being a “taxpayer” – as if members of minority groups, and those who need social services aren’t “real” taxpayers.  They will, no doubt, continue to whine that their lack of success in some elections can’t possibly be because they lack candidates who appeal to a majority, ergo it must be because the “other side” cheated in some conspiratorial way.  In short, any election they don’t win must necessarily be fraudulent.

No, a “fraudulent” election is one in which there is ample evidence of voter suppression, indications that minority community members were sent misleading and downright inaccurate information, activities such as those of the infamous Nathan Sproul, sweeping voter roll purges, and such suppressive legislation as photo IDs which are difficult for rural, elderly, and non-white voters to access.

Here’s hoping the Federal District Court will take a more constructive view of the issues raised in this case, and will direct that more eligible individuals will be encouraged to participate in Nevada elections.

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Filed under elections, Nevada news, Nevada politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

Income Inequality Matters for Nevada’s Children

child poverty

We ought to be embarrassed.  The Kids Count Data Book 2015 edition is out, and the numbers aren’t pretty.

“Nevada ranks 47th among states in overall child well-being, up one spot from last year. The study found that Nevada ranks 43rd in family and community development indicators, like children living in high-poverty areas; 46th in health statistics, like low birthweight babies; 46th in economic well-being, including parents lacking secure employment; and 50th in educational achievement, including 69% of Nevada’s children not attending pre-school.” [LVSun]

Yes, there we are, ranked down there with Louisiana, Mississippi, and New Mexico.   Overall, things aren’t looking up for children, and there’s an explanation:

“Although we are several years past the end of the recession, millions of families still have not benefited from the economic recovery,” Patrick McCarthy, president and CEO of the Casey Foundation, said in a statement. “While we’ve seen an increase in employment in recent years, many of these jobs are low-wage and cannot support even basic family expenses.” [LVSun]

And why might this be a correct assessment of the situation? There has been income growth since the end of the Great Recession, but the recovery has benefited those at the top –thus much for anything trickling down:

“The states in which all income growth between 2009 and 2012 accrued to the top 1 percent include Delaware, Florida, Missouri, South Carolina, North Carolina, Connecticut, Washington, Louisiana, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Massachusetts, Colorado, New York, Rhode Island, and Nevada.” [EPI]

Nevada has made some improvements – if bouncing off the bottom is an indication of progress – in health, for example, 5% fewer children are without health insurance, and education in which 69% of our kids aren’t attending pre-schools, up from a previous 72%.  But, the economic picture is bleak at best.  23% of the youngsters live in poverty, 34% are in families experiencing what’s euphemistically called “employment insecurity,” and 39% of the kids live in a situation in which housing costs are eating up the family budget.  [AECfnd]

If we tread deeper into the income inequality waters we can see why the numbers for Nevada youngsters didn’t improve. Here’s the answer: “In four states — Alaska, Michigan, Nevada and Wyoming — average income increased exclusively for the top 1% and declined for the bottom 99%.” [247Wallst]  So, in the Silver State, not only did all the income growth get sucked up by the top 1% during the recovery, but the bottom 99% actually saw their incomes decline.

Most analyses get the first part right.  In the last downturn the bottom fell out of the construction sector in Nevada; the housing bubble burst, and employees were laid off.  Laid off employees have less discretionary income to spend, and less income equates to fewer purchases.  Fewer purchases yield less economic activity in the community, and everyone starts to go down hill.  When we get to the middle part of the explanation some analysts start getting fuzzy.

First Law of Staffing

The question in the middle is how to encourage more employment.  For the umpteenth time here’s the answer:  There is no rational reason to hire anyone to do anything unless the DEMAND for goods and services is greater than the capacity of current staffing levels to provide an acceptable level of customer service.  Amen. Again.

The Small Business Chronicle offers some very sound advice which expands on this generalization.  Their five step process asks: (1) Are your projects or other business activities getting done on time? If yes, then you probably don’t need any additional employees. If no, or the business is thinking of more marketing to drive up revenues then ask (2)  if you were to increase your marketing efforts could your present staff handle the additional work load? The next step (3) is to look at your overtime records. One sure sign that the business is understaffed is increased overtime from current employees.  In the first step the business owner gauged the project or work time, in the next (4) step it’s important to look at the issue from the customer or client’s perspective – if the business is monitoring customer wait time and it seems (or is reported to be) excessive, then the business is understaffed. Finally, in Step (5) a savvy business owner will determine if the increases in demand are continual or seasonal. If seasonal, then temporary employee hiring may be the solution.

What’s not under consideration here?  The advice offered above didn’t include a question about whether Nephew Lester needs a job. Familial ties are wonderful, but they don’t constitute a reason to hire an employee.  Hiring veterans is a healthy business practice – but again, no matter the benefits, if his or her skills aren’t necessary to get things done or made on time, and if a barrel of overtime isn’t on the current books, there’s no rational reason to make a new hire.  Tax breaks for hiring the unemployed are fine – but just as in familial or socially beneficial cases, there’s NO reason to hire anyone for any tax break if there is insufficient good old fashioned demand for the products and services.   It’s at this point that the conservative, trickle down, no new taxes, barrage of talking points becomes almost ludicrous.

tax incentives accounting There is a wonderful leap of logic, stretching that term to its extrapolated limits, in asserting that more tax incentives, tax breaks, tax forbearance, tax limits, tax deductions, and tax treatments will magically yield more employment.   What is required is to believe that if a company is more profitable it will automatically hire more people.   Yes, a more profitable firm is capable of hiring more but NOT if there is no increased demand for the goods or services.  A more profitable firm has the potential for more hiring – but not if it is corporate policy to put more effort into mergers and acquisitions than into actual plant expansion. A more profitable company may hire additional workers but not if the firm has decided that it will put its revenue into stock buy-backs, dividends, or management compensation. Potential may be a powerful argument, but unless it is translated into a realistic appraisal of company or corporate intentions and vision it’s as ephemeral as a fruit fly.  And it’s not really useful for putting food on the table for the kids.

And, now we return to the economic problems of children. If the jobs available for their parents are seasonal, temporary, or permanent but low wage then all the job “expansion” in the nation isn’t going to improve their prospects.

Seasonal employment is relatively easy to understand.  It’s everything from harvest time to Christmas sales.  The sector of the labor market into which more parents are finding themselves is the temporary work force.  About 75% of Fortune 500 firms are relying on third party logistics companies to handle their warehousing, and employment in transportation and materials moving and production now accounts for some 42% of temporary hiring. [NELP]   The advocates of temporary hiring note that only about 3% of the workforce is on temporary status, which is true but doesn’t include the fact that temporary employment grew from just a bit over 0.5% in 1983 to over 2.5% as of 1999. [BLS] Further, the trend is increasing as this graphic from Staffing Industry illustrates in YOY growth from 2013 to 2015:

temp jobs trendsAs this sector of the labor market increases the “employment security” of parents becomes more tenuous.  As long as this trend continues we’ll likely find more youngsters in that “parents lack secure employment category.” 

There’s no reason to believe that corporations in Nevada are functioning any differently than those in the rest of the country in terms of staunch adherence to the Shareholder Value Theory of Management, the interest in mergers and acquisitions rather than plant expansion in general, and the interest in utilizing temporary labor for logistics, warehousing, and service jobs.

In sum, there’s no rational explanation for hiring (temporary or permanent) which doesn’t relate directly to demand – and there’s no reason to expect demand to increase if the jobs created are temporary, low wage service or retail sector, and with reduced hours or misclassification of employees. Meanwhile the kids need housing, clothing, food, medical attention, and school supplies.

We ought to be embarrassed, but we probably won’t be until we can shake the 1% awake to the fact that profitability doesn’t necessarily equate to employment. To the fact that potential employment isn’t actual employment. To the fact that temporary employment isn’t secure employment, and to the fact that taxation has precious little to do with hiring the parents of Nevada’s children.

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Filed under Economy, family issues, Nevada economy, Nevada news, Nevada politics, poverty, Taxation

Cliven Bundy: How Can We Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?

Bundy Riders

Let’s Talk Nevada covered the adventures of Senator Rand Paul (R-KY) in Mesquite, NV complete with pictures, and an interesting exchange:

“Cliven Bundy’s son, Ryan, stated there is no place in the U.S. Constitution that allows the federal government to hold land and he asked Paul what he would do to correct that problem. Paul agreed that public land should belong to the states and local governments, but that private ownership is best.”

Tricky Answer: The notion that the federal government may not own land, (pretty well covered by Article IV, section 3, clause 2 if we want to get specific about it, put to one side for the moment) – Notice that Senator Paul really didn’t answer the question.  What Bundy 2.0 wanted was reassurance that his outlandish right wing theory was correct, but what he got was pure corporate libertarian-speak. The candidate didn’t say he would actually do anything about the reversion of public domain lands, to the state, to the locality, or to any other public entity. He merely recited the corporate mantra that private ownership is always best.  If Bundy 2.0 was listening carefully, the response could easily mean that corporate interests would be able to purchase land and then charge users (ranchers) for the use of the property.   If for-profit entities were in charge, does Bundy 2.0 believe they would be under any compulsion to perform  land management activities other than that which would enhance the corporate bottom line?  Re-seeding? Noxious weed control? Grazing management? Would Bundy be able to evade paying for land use under corporate control, as his father has tried to avoid paying grazing fees?  And, if a higher bidder came along – would Bundy be looking for grazing property elsewhere?

But wait, there’s more:  There was more than a question from the audience.  Politico reports:

“The encounter came after Bundy attended an event for the Kentucky senator’s presidential campaign at the Eureka Casino in Mesquite, Nevada. When the larger group dispersed, Bundy said, he was escorted by Paul’s aides to a back room where he and the Republican 2016 contender spoke for approximately 45 minutes. (“There were no scheduled meetings at Senator Paul’s stop in Mesquite. He spoke to many people who came to this public event, none for 45 minutes and none planned,” Paul spokesman Sergio Gor said.)”

Cliven Bundy seems to have picked up the point about state ownership, “The state already owns the land…”

“The Nevada rancher said that he had expected only to have an opportunity to shake hands with Paul and make small-talk. He was surprised when campaign aides found a private room and allowed Bundy, his wife and son to speak with the candidate for the better part of an hour.

According to Bundy, the two mainly discussed federal land oversight and states’ rights, in addition to education policy — a theme Paul brought up in his speech.

“I don’t think he really understood how land rights really work in the western United States,” Bundy said. “I was happy to be able to sort of teach him.” [Politico]

How nice of Mr. Bundy to be so “educational?”  He doesn’t claim ownership, he claims “rights.”  Bundy 1.0 apparently understands that private ownership means private responsibilities – for fire prevention and fighting, grazing management, re-seeding, and maintenance – and he doesn’t want to pay for these.  He’d like the state to do it and let him put his livestock on the ground for free. Because? Freedom. Freedom as in Free loader.

Reprise:  Little wonder the Rand Campaign staff was anxious to tell us that the session between the Bundys and the candidate wasn’t “scheduled.” The candidate has already had to back away from Mr. Bundy once before:

“I want to tell you one more thing I know about the Negro,” Bundy told supporters shortly after the standoff, according to video footage captured by an onlooker. He recounted a time he drove past public-housing in Las Vegas “and in front of that government house the door was usually open and the older people and the kids — and there is always at least a half a dozen people sitting on the porch — they didn’t have nothing to do.

“And because they were basically on government subsidy, so now what do they do? They abort their young children, they put their young men in jail, because they never learned how to pick cotton. And I’ve often wondered, are they better off as slaves, picking cotton and having a family life and doing things, or are they better off under government subsidy? They didn’t get no more freedom.” [Politico]

Thus much for any outreach to African American voters? So, are the Bundys “in tune with” the Paul Campaign? [MSNBC]

And even more:  Last June two Las Vegas Police officers were gunned down by anti-government extremists.  Officers Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo were assassinated and the motivation was reasonably clear:

“…a “Don’t Tread on Me” flag and a Nazi swastika the couple placed on one of the police officers they ambushed Sunday at a pizza restaurant. They pinned onto the other officer’s body a note saying something to the effect of “this is the beginning of the revolution,” Second Assistant Sheriff Kevin McMahill told reporters.” [CNN]

Later reports said the Millers were too much even for the Bundyland bunch, not necessarily because of their views, but because of Jerad Miller’s criminal past.

“Jerad Miller was eager to support Bundy, who was confronted by federal officials after years of refusing to pay grazing fees. On April 9, he wrote on Facebook:

“I will be supporting Clive Bundy and his family from Federal Government slaughter. This is the next Waco! His ranch is under seige right now! The federal gov is stealing his cattle! Arresting his family and beating on them! We must do something. I will be doing something.”

I was out there but they told me and my wife to leave because I am a felon. They don’t seem to understand that they are all felons now for intimidating law enforcement with deadly weapons. So don’t tell you that they need people. We sold everything we had to buy supplies and quit our jobs to be there 24/7. How dare you ask for help and shun us dedicated patriots.” [MJ]

And here comes another Rand Paul connection:

“Jerad Miller’s Facebook “likes” include the NRA, American Patriot Media Network, Support the 2nd Amendment, The Patriot Party, Rand Paul 2016, Ron Paul, the Washington Examiner, Legalize Weed, Draft Judge Andrew Napolitano, the Heritage Foundation, FreedomWorks, American Crossroads, and Allen West.” [MJ]

Granted, any campaign gets its share of whackies. However, the Millers were making connections which the Paul campaign isn’t avoiding: Guns + Ultra Libertarianism + Candidates who espouse the connections between guns and ultra-libertarian views.  And, if one Paul campaign in Nevada could create chaos, there were some people imagining what a second one could do to the state’s clout in national elections.  (AB 302, SB 421, 2015)

The Ron Paul Campaign, which made the 2008 Republican state caucus such an interesting debacle for all to watch unfold, could be the prologue to a 2016 version of chaos created by Rand Paul’s version?  Efforts to convert Nevada’s caucuses into primary elections failed in the latest session of the Legislature. [Ralston]

In Nevada it’s hard to find room to wield a fly swatter without slapping at least one Tea Party enthusiast.  However, with that enthusiasm comes some perilous ground:  Association with dead beat rancher and resident racist Cliven Bundy; Association with the circumstances that left two police officers murdered in a Las Vegas pizza parlor; and, Association with one of the most controversial (but entertaining for Democrats) presidential season caucuses the Republicans have ever convened.  However, there are 496 days until the next presidential election so the GOP could find ways to skirt the impact of the Paul campaign in the Silver State.

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Filed under conservatism, elections, Nativism, Nevada legislature, Nevada news, Nevada politics, public lands, Republicans, Rural Nevada

School Dazed in the NV Assembled Wisdom

NV Legislature wide It’s School Daze for the Nevada Legislature and its Raucous Caucus, as AB 448 comes forward.  This is the Achievement District bailiwick in which all pretense of “local control” is pitched into oblivion

AN ACT relating to education; establishing the Achievement School District within the Department of Education; (1)  authorizing certain underperforming schools to be converted to achievement charter schools sponsored by the Achievement School District; (2)  prescribing requirements for the conversion of a public school to an achievement charter school and the operation of an achievement charter school; (3) providing for the use of certain school buildings by an achievement charter school without compensation; (4) authorizing a school district to provide services to an achievement charter school under certain circumstances; prescribing certain conditions of employment for a teacher at an achievement charter school; (5)  authorizing the conversion of an achievement charter school to a public school in a school district or a charter school; revising provisions governing the use of school buildings owned by the board of trustees of the school district by a charter school; making reassignment of the employees of an achievement charter school (6) outside the scope of collective bargaining;  [AB 488]

Let’s not bother to pretend this has anything to do with “smaller government,” or other pillars of conservative wisdom.  If a school is categorized as “underperforming” the local school district loses control of it and its operations.  That would be, of course,  the duly elected school board of a school district in this state – losing control of its facilities and operations to the state. Small government this isn’t. More on this point a bit later.

There are three ways a school can be removed from local authority:

Sec. 20. 1. A public school is eligible for conversion to an achievement charter school if: (a) Based upon the most recent annual report of the statewide system of accountability for public schools, the public school is an elementary school or middle school that was rated in the lowest 5 percent of elementary or middle schools in this State in pupil achievement and school performance for the most recent school year; (b) The public school is a high school that had a graduation rate for the immediately preceding school year of less than 60 percent; or (c) Pupil achievement and school performance at the public school is unsatisfactory as determined by the Department pursuant to the criteria established by regulation of the Department.

Let’s look at the first one, based on the annual report.  For all intents and purposes this categorization is based on standardized test scores. Growth measures of achievement,  status measure of achievement, and reduction in achievement gaps are all based on … test scores.  There is one other criterion, and only one other, to date, and that’s average daily attendance.  [NVDoE]

Here’s what I don’t see in the description of the measurements. Does the school serve a struggling socio-economic group?  Is the school over-crowded? Does the school have a teacher-student ratio that indicates some classes are overcrowded? How many of the youngsters are classified as in need of Special Education?  What is the transient rate in that particular school? Is the school adequately staffed with counselors, language specialists, social workers, psychologists, aides and other support personnel? If the school is a secondary one, then what does it mean to say the students are “ready for college?”  Let’s be honest here, not everyone is prepared for or even interested in a four year college program.  So, what does it mean to say a child is ready for… a vocational program? An apprenticeship program? A School to Work transition program?  We know that about 41% of American students continue their education beyond high school.  [NCES]

What of the other 60%? Does this mean that if a student elects to be a truck driver, construction worker, apprentice plumber, landscaper, or apprentice mechanic, or heavy equipment operator they “don’t count?”

What I do see is that if the kids show up and they test well then the school is said to be successful. The bias here appears to be that if the local school district isn’t churning out academically successful students, even if the school has prepared numerous and sundry mechanics, truck drivers, beauticians, file clerks, plumbers, etc., it isn’t “successful.”

A graduation rate? 60% is doable. The state average – one of the worst in the country is 63%. [LVSun] There are diploma options, for example in Clark County one can earn a standard diploma, an advanced diploma, or an advanced honors diploma. [CCSD] Students with learning disabilities can opt out of the “college and career readiness” track, and be evaluated according to their Individual Education Plan.

Statewide there are standard diplomas 63% receiving this form, advanced diplomas 27.2%, adjusted diplomas 4.8%, and certificates of attendance 4.9%. [NVASB pdf]

Nevada is a state with 37% white, 40% Hispanic, 9% black, and 1% Native American students. 19% of the students are classified as Limited English Proficient, 11% have diagnosed learning disabilities, and 54% are come from low income families. [NVASB pdf] By at least one standard – if the schools are majority low income, and the graduation rate is over 60% then some might call this successful? While it may not be ideal, it certainly doesn’t deserve the opprobrium of abject failure.

Item (c) is bureaucracy personified. A school may be declared “unsuccessful” based on Department of Education regulatory criteria. For those who purport to eschew “bureaucracy” and support “local control” by “locally elected officials” this ought to be enraging?  This isn’t small government, it’s grasping government, and personnel policy isn’t all it’s grasping.

Welcome to our accounting nightmare.  As set forth in Section 22.

“2. An achievement charter school must continue to operate in the same building in which the school operated before being converted to an achievement charter school. The board of trustees of the school district in which the school is located must provide such use of the building without compensation. While the school is operated as an achievement charter school, the governing body of the achievement charter school shall pay all costs related to the maintenance and operation of the building and the board of trustees shall pay all capital expenses.”

This is a go broke slowly scheme?  While the charter pays for the maintenance and operations, the local school board has lost control of its building and the capital expenses associated therewith.  If the school district approved a bond issue for the construction of the school (over which it now has no control) it must still pay off the bonds – without any compensation from the entity now using the facility.  But wait, there’s more…

Any financial operation from the lowliest back yard garage service to the most complex corporation has to deal with depreciation expenses, and accounts for capital replacement.  So, we have here a building on which  there are outstanding bonds or not, someone has to pay into accounts for depreciation expense, and into accounts for capital replacement – without any compensation from the charter management firm in charge of the building.  We’re not dealing with insignificant numbers here.

The Clark County School District reports $2,245,000 in depreciation expenses in 2012-2013.  Let’s assume that the “average” functional age of most schools is about 40 years, and that this functionality is dependent on (a) use and (b) renovation.  If we use straight line depreciation then we take the cost of original construction and divide it by the number of years the building is assumed to be serviceable.  If the school district, or any district, is functioning with fiscal intelligence, then the older the building the more must be added to the capital replacement accounts.

Clark County has 8 buildings constructed before 1949, 20 schools constructed during the 1950s, 39 during the 1960s, 31 during the 1970s, 23 during the 1980s, 98 during the 1990s and 119 constructed recently after 2000. [CCSD pdf]   In 1996 the Clark County School Board authorized $89 million in bonds for elementary schools (9), and $104.9 for four middle schools. [LVSun]   We can use these numbers to create an illustration of how expensive depreciation can get for a school district.  The CCSD numbers yield a cost of about $9,888,888 per elementary building included in that bond issue.  If the buildings have a life expectancy of 65 years then the depreciation for those would be $152,136 per building annually.

The way I’m reading this section of the proposed law, the Clark County School District would be responsible for the $152,136 annual depreciation expenses on a building over which it was forced to relinquish control if that school were to be declared “unsuccessful.” And, the charter management firm would be using the building without contributing to the depreciation expenses.

And, now the nightmare compounds.

“4. An achievement charter school may: (a) Acquire by construction, purchase, devise, gift, exchange or lease, or any combination of those methods, and construct, reconstruct, improve, maintain, equip and furnish any building, structure or property to be used for any of its educational purposes and the related appurtenances, easements, rights-of-way, improvements, paving, utilities, landscaping, parking facilities and lands; (b) Mortgage, pledge or otherwise encumber all or any part of its property or assets; (c) Borrow money and otherwise incur indebtedness; and (d) Use public money to purchase real property or buildings with the approval of the Achievement School District.”

Whoa Nelly!  The charter management firm may encumber, mortgage, or pledge any part of its property – the school building – on which the local school district is (a) still paying off capital construction bonds and/or (b) still paying for depreciation expenses?  In a nightmare scenario, the hypothetical  Chatter Charter Achievement School (formerly operated by the local school district) which is still being paid for – can be modified by the Chatter Charter NPO, and who books the depreciation on the renovations? Who’s on the hook for the mortgage if the Chatter Charter outfit goes bankrupt?  If the local school district is “still responsible” for the capital expenses, then is it also ultimately responsible for the  payment of capital outlays for renovation?

There’s something else here I’m not seeing.  The Charter may acquire all manner of equipment and furnishings – but can it sell off equipment and furnishings without the approval of the original donor – the local school district?   Buildings, furnishings, and equipment (anything not classified as supplies and personnel costs) may also be an integral part of the school districts accounting. In our good old fashioned double entry system of bookkeeping in this country, the non-perishable or consumable items are booked as ASSETS of the school district and thus any donation of those items (voluntary or involuntary) depletes the assets of the school district. Deplete enough assets and you deplete the capacity of the district to qualify for future financing.  

In short what we have here is a fiscal system in which the taxpayers who paid into the local school district make all the contributions and the charter firms take all the donations, just keep the floors mopped and the lights on.   Therefore, the penalty for having an unsuccessful school is not only the loss of policy control but the loss of financial assets to boot.

It’s a double whammy for any school district, and one that doesn’t appear to have been entirely thought through to the obvious financial conclusions.

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Filed under education, Nevada, nevada education, Nevada legislature, Nevada news, Nevada politics, nevada taxation

Everybody Wants to Bargain: Nevada’s SB 158


The intent of SB 158, currently being discussed in the Nevada Assembled Wisdom, is relatively apparent – make the provisions of collective bargaining agreements between local governments and teachers, firefighters, police and law enforcement personnel, etc. publicly available 10 days prior to the meeting during which the agreement is to be voted upon.

If I’m reading the current law correctly, such agreements must be part of a public meeting agenda, duly posted, and subject to all the rigmarole associated therewith.  A copy of the “supporting material” available to the board or commission is also to be made available to the public. [NRS 288.153].  So, why SB 158?  Time.  From three working days prior to the hearing to “ten days before the date of the hearing.”

Superficially speaking this might allow for more time for public commentary and consideration of the agreement or master contract.  Realistically speaking, there are very few interest groups which are enamored of plowing  through contractual language and financials – the negotiating committees from labor and management, and the “anti-government” organizations which delight in microscopically examining supporting materials for clues to how “over-time is being abused,” or how “teachers are overpaid and underworked.”

SB 158 clearly gives the latter a few extra days to gather opponents of the collectively agreed upon contract prior to the hearing.  School Board members and County Commissioners already know the contents – they’ve been scrutinizing them throughout the bargaining process.  Members of union negotiation committees already know the contents – they, too, have been engaged in the same proposal, counter-proposal, amended proposal, process as their counterparts across the table.

The object is always that the employer (Commission or Board) will give the most they can without jeopardizing the priorities of the government entity, and the employees’ representatives will accept as little as they can without having to face a truly unpleasant mass meeting session with their membership.  The bargaining process itself can be competitive without being combative.  When things get combative there are ways out of the bind – mediation and arbitration.  And, herein lies the problem with SB 158.

Let’s assume that both sides in a bargaining agreement between, say. the Firefighters and the City have been negotiating in good faith.  The city has been forthcoming about its revenue projections, and the firefighters have been rational in their wage breakdowns.   They discussed hours and working conditions along with other related matters in a rational way.  They’ve avoided mediation and arbitration processes by agreeing to a collectively bargained contract. Now, we come to the question – why do opponents of the agreement need those extra days to round up their forces prior to the meeting?

  • Is it that the opponents of the agreement don’t trust the negotiating team from the city, district, or county?
  • Is it that the opponents of the agreement want to scuttle any deal which includes a modification of hours, adjustments in working conditions, or increases in pay?
  • If the negotiations hit a hard patch, and mediation or arbitration has adjusted the proposed agreement, then do the opponents want to scuttle the decision of the mediator or arbiter?

If the “scuttle strategy” is in place and the anti-government types want extra time for their media releases, press conferences, and the like, then what we have is an instance of obstruction at a key moment – a moment in which the intentions of both sides (both labor and management) are questioned and if the strategy is successful they’re both back at the bargaining table – and not where they want to be, which is home for a nice evening with the families.  In other, less delicate terms, Gridlock.

Public employee union representatives and members of school boards, city councils, and county commissions have donated countless hours of their own time to bargain these agreements.  They’ve authored proposals, revised them, spoken to them, adjusted them, and agreed upon compromise positions, usually on their own time and their own resources.  In this they should be praised – and should not be subjected to more organized (often professional) opposition which seeks to shoot down their efforts with shots below their Plimpsol Lines.

The burden of proof is on the proponents of SB 158 to demonstrate that the posting and publication of materials associated with the bargaining efforts of labor and management in the public arena, must allow for extra days for the processing and analysis of those materials – and NOT merely more time for the professional nay-sayers to advance their own narrow agendas.

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Well now, that was embarrassing: NV Treasurer Diss’es Governor

Schwartz bus  The following masterpiece of understatement captures what happened yesterday at the Assembled Wisdom in Carson City:

“Things did not go well for newly elected Nevada Treasurer Dan Schwartz Thursday at the Nevada Legislature.” [RGJ]

It really doesn’t do to garner headlines like: “Nevada lawmakers tell treasurer his budget proposal is embarrassing.” [LVRJ] Or, “Nevada treasurer blasted by own party for submitting alternative budget.” [LVSun]  Then the Elko Daily Free Press chimed in, “Nevada treasurer’s budget called ‘absurdity’.”  And, to ice the cupcake, there’s the part wherein some conservative members of the Assembled Wisdom may have tossed Mr. Schwartz under the venerable clichéd bus:

“Schwartz told The Associated Press last week that he met with a group of Assembly and Senate Republicans interested in drafting a bill reflecting the alternative budget. Several conservative Republican lawmakers say they’re trying to block Sandoval’s plan, which will need the votes of two-thirds of the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass.” [EDFP]

Needless to say, Mr. Schwartz back-tracked after the Debacle, saying the whole thing was his idea.  Treasurer meet the underside of the bus tires? Newly elected State Controller Ron Knecht seems to have had the good sense to remain quietly in the background after initially approving of Mr. Schwartz’s proposition. [LVRJ]

When the Dynamic Duo launched their Alternative Budget on or about February 3rd, it did have some numbers in it…they just weren’t the Governor’s numbers.  Nor did the Duo think through the implementation of their specifics, all three pages of them.  For example, precisely how would the state collect their Quarter a Plate restaurant tax? Then, there was the infamous, and illegal, airport tax notion. [LVRJ] It’s not like he wasn’t warned the ill-fated proposal wouldn’t have a glorious reception.

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Gavel Unravel: Appellate Court Proposal in Nevada

What do Delaware, Maine, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, South Dakota, Vermont, West Virginia, and Wyoming have in common?  Ans: None of these states have an intermediate appellate court.

Nevada Supreme Court Justice James Hardesty is now among those advocating for the latest proposal to incorporate an intermediate court into the Nevada judicial system. [LVRJ]  What’s different this time,  different from the last time Nevada voters rejected an intermediate court plan in 2010?   The 2014 proposal is a “push down” system, in which all cases on appeal go to the Nevada Supreme Court but cases such as appeals of driver’s licenses revocation and inmate writs of habeas corpus could be sent (pushed down) to the appeals court.

The problem is essentially a numbers game. There are approximately 2,200 cases coming to the Nevada Supreme Court each year, and some 733 of these fall into categories that would be under the jurisdiction of the appeals court.  Each Nevada Supreme Court judge is now handling an average of 333 cases (2013 figures) which is about 100 more than is recommended by the American Bar Association. [LVRJ] Under the latest proposal the Supreme Court would be taking on 1467 cases per year, or 209 cases per judge per year.

When Question 2 came to the voters in 2010 the results were closer than might have been expected, 313,769 voted “yes,” while 53.8% or 356,356 voted “no” on the appeals court creation. [Bllped]  Opponents argued there might be a need for an appeals court, but “There may be a need for an appellate court, but now is not the time fiscally. There is no way to create an entire separate level of courts without creating funding to support it on the taxpayers’ dime down the line.” [RGJ]

The funding question appears to be answered for the moment, with the appellate court needing about $800,000 in start up funds, and about $1.3 million per year for operations. [LVS] And, the support is bipartisan with both Republican Governor Sandoval and Democratic Attorney General Masto both advocating the new system.

Before anyone jumps on that rather tired “Taxpayer Dime” argument once more, consider the costs for Nevada citizens and businesses if nothing is done.

Under the current system it is taking about two years from the time an appeal is filed until the Nevada Supreme Court issues a response. [LVRJ]  That’s two years worth of an attorney on retainer, two years worth of waiting for a decision, two years worth of unnecessary delay – and the old saw is true: Justice delayed is justice denied.

There are some important cases coming before the Supreme Court this term, one is a 2013 Lincoln County case of child sexual abuse one of the central questions of which is does the defense have the right to demand an independent psychological examination of the victim(s)? [63563] In Hallenback v. Hallenback the Nevada Supreme Court is asked to decide if in a community property state one person is entitled to a full pension earned while separated from the other spouse.  In Slade v. Caesars Entertainment the court is asked to decide if an eviction from one casino property (in this case Mississippi) means a person is prohibited from attending any event in any other property owned by the casino corporation. The corporation has been involved in this litigation since March 2013.   These and other decisions pertain to civil liberties for both individuals and businesses, [NVSC] and should not have to compete with the justices’ time amid disputes over the revocation of driver’s licenses and inmate habeas corpus filings.

On the other hand it can be argued that a person who feels his or her driver’s license has been unfairly revoked, or an inmate who sincerely believes his habeas corpus rights have been violated, shouldn’t have to wait for a decision while cases involving community property, multi-state casino operations, and defense rights in important prosecutions, etc.  take up more of the court’s time.

Neither the aggrieved driver’s license litigant nor the multi-state casino corporation is well served by having a prolonged wait for the adjudication of their complaints, and there are costs associated with both kinds of cases, certainly beyond the cost of judicial operations and administration.  To argue that the state “can’t afford” to expand its judiciary because it might “ride on the Taxpayers’ dime” is also to contend that citizens and businesses in this state will have to spend more of their income and resources on delayed litigation and adjudication in a truncated system.

Or to put it more simply – it makes fiscal and judicial sense to adopt the appeals court proposal.

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