Silver Bullets and Straw Man Arguments: Gun Legislation in Nevada (Updated)

OK Corral Here we go again.  Another spate of gun violence yields another editorial assault on common sense gun regulation from conservative sources, this time the editors of the Las Vegas Review Journal.  The title says it all, “Expanded gun background checks not a cure all.”  There are at least a couple of things wrong with this argument.  First, it’s a straw man argument. No one is claiming that universal background checks will cure the American violence problem.  The claim is that closing the gun-show loophole and requiring background checks for sales to non-family members will reduce the probability of gun violence.  Secondly, as the editorial itself acknowledges, background checks can prevent gun sales to domestic abusers.

Even this legislation, SB 175, didn’t really go far enough, and in some respects represents a step backward in terms of controlling access to firearms.  Those guilty of domestic violence, who are subject to an extended order of protection, are forbidden from purchasing or otherwise acquiring a firearm during the period the order of protection is in effect. To get this small attempt at controlling firearm access by domestic abusers, meant the NRA won state control of all gun related issues, county concealed carry permits in Clark County went by the wayside, and expanded language was added to liability in instances in which a “reasonable person might be afraid” for his or her life.

The second logical issue with the editorial is good old fashioned circular reasoning.  The authors logic appears to be that (1) effective background checks require efficient offender databases; (2) Nevada has an inefficient offender data base system; therefore (3) Nevada cannot have effective background checks.  This logic works IF one is prepared to skip blithely over the question of how to make the Nevada offender data base more efficient – and is perilously close to the old Undistributed Middle.

And then comes the perfectly predictable: “Regardless, as has been shown countless times, criminals are not going to follow any gun control law.”  So, if we extrapolate this to its obvious, and much referenced conclusion, there is no reason to enact sanctions against bank robbery and bear baiting because criminals are not going to follow the law?

Now back to the Domestic Violence issue.  What was gained by victims of domestic abuse in SB 175? Answer: Precious Little. [DB April 2015]  Under Section 5 of the bill a domestic abuser (the Adverse Party) was forbidden to purchase firearms for the duration of an extended order of protection.  Please recall that Nevada has two types of restraining orders, temporary and extended, and it can take up to 45 days to get an extended order. [NRS 33.031]   Meanwhile, the statistics are available for the period from April to June 2015. (pdf)

Between April and June 2015, there were 16,245 “contacts” made by authorities concerning domestic violence, and 10,637 were “first time,” another 3,537 were “repeats,” and there were 2,071 “follow up contacts.” Of the 10,637 victims 9,938 were women (93.4%), 699 were men (4.27%).  The age of the victim was not reported in 4,316 instances.  There were 1,479 female victims between the ages of 18-29; 2,577 female victims between the ages of 30-44; and, 1,193 female victims between the ages of 45-64.  Arrests were made in 1,490 cases, no arrest was made in 1,648 cases, and 135 cases are pending.  During the period between April and June 2015 there were 3,327 temporary orders of protection prepared.  2,402 temporary orders of protection/restraining orders were provided.

Assuming that law enforcement and the judicial system were functioning effectively, we had 2,402 cases in a three month period in which it was determined that the victim – most likely a woman – was deserving of a temporary order of protection.  However, the “adverse party” would be free to retain possession of firearms during the length of the temporary order, and for 45 days until an extended order of protection could be issued.

These numbers take on some urgency when put in the context of domestic violence in Nevada.  Back in 2012 25 of the 84 homicides within Las Vegas police jurisdiction were related to domestic violence, the numbers were worse in 2013 when 33 of 105 homicides were related to domestic disputes. [LVRJ]

More alarming still, the national report published by USA Today, on mass killings and family problems.  We have a “mass killing” about every two weeks (since 2006);  the FBI counted 172 between 2006 and 2011.  These numbers may be an undercount because of erroneous and excluded cases, leaving the FBI with a 57% accuracy rate.  And here comes the disturbing part:  Of those mass killings, in 53% the victims were family members. (Other 21%, Public 15%, Robbery/Burglary related 11%) A break up of some kind is the tipping point in 1 out of every 4 mass killings that aren’t connected to strangers, gang violence, or a robbery gone wrong. One in four victims were close family members, children, siblings, spouses, etc. In 77% of the mass killings the weapon used was a gun.  One-third of the victims were under the age of 18; and, 75% of the guns involved were handguns.

The USA Today report drilled down further: semi-automatic hand guns were involved in 49.6% of the shootings; handgun/revolver in 22.4%; and automatic pistols in 0.9%.  Single shot rifles were used in 9.5%; semi-automatic rifles in 8.6%; and automatic rifles in 0.4% of the cases. A shotgun was used in 8.6% of the deadly events.  One third of the perpetrators will be dead at the scene.

It’s certainly true, a domestic abuser will resort to whatever weapon may be at hand from guns to kitchen knives to baseball bats and to manual strangulation… however, as these statistics suggest the outcome is more likely to be deadly if a firearm is involved.

So, should the “little woman” be armed, does the gun in the home constitute an “equalizer?” The answer is no.

“A recent meta-analysis concluded what many people already knew: the availability of firearms is a strong risk factor for both homicide and suicide. But the study came to another conclusion that is rarely mentioned in the gun control debate: females are uniquely impacted by the availability of a firearm. Indeed, the study found that women with access to firearms become homicide victims at significantly higher rates than men.

It has long been recognized that higher rates of gun availability correlate with higher rates of female homicide. Women in the United States account for 84 percent of all female firearm victims in the developed world, even though they make up only a third of the developed world’s female population. And within American borders, women die at higher rates from suicide, homicide, and accidental firearm deaths in states where guns are more widely available This is true even after controlling for factors such as urbanization, alcohol use, education, poverty, and divorce rates.” [LATimes]

In another study, published in the American Journal of Public Health, researchers interviewed 417 women across 67 battered women’s shelters. Nearly a third of these women had lived in a household with a firearm. In two-thirds of the homes, their intimate partners had used the gun against them, usually threatening to kill (71.4 percent) them. A very small percentage of these women (7 percent) had used a gun successfully in self-defense, and primarily just to scare the attacking male partner away. Indeed, gun threats in the home against women by their intimate partners appear to be more common across the United States than self-defense uses of guns by women. [LATimes]

Another large case-control study compared women who were murdered by their intimate partner with a control group of battered women. Only 16 percent of the women who had been abused, but not murdered, had guns in their homes, whereas 51 percent of the murder victims did. In fact, not a single study to date has shown that the risk of any crime including burglary, robbery, home invasion, or spousal abuse against a female is decreased through gun ownership. Though there are examples of women using a gun to defend themselves, they are few and far between, and not statistically significant. [LATimes]

Thus much for the advocacy of yet more guns, and yet more permits to be able to conceal those guns?  And yet more reason to take note of the statistics on domestic violence, the presence of guns in unstable households, and the need to remove firearms from volatile domestic situations.

Questions Remain

  • When do the NRA talking points asserting there is no magic single solution to gun violence become stale and hackneyed?  When does the public come to understand that this is a straw man argument which does little good for the safety of the state and the families residing in this state?
  • When does the profoundly illogical argument that because something might be difficult, or even require more effort, that the desired outcome (less gun violence) is therefore impossible, become a clear example of circular reasoning and unfounded assertion?
  • When do we act on the statistics which strongly suggest that the presence of a firearm in a home increases the probability of lethal domestic violence and suicide? Not to mention tragic incidents involving children.
  • When do we take into consideration the fact that there are some 45 days under Nevada law during which a domestic abuser is free to retain firearms, indeed, free to obtain more “firepower” during that period?
  • What additional arguments must be made before those who advocate for zero restrictions on firearm ownership/possession understand that in a civilized society the temporary removal of firearms from a volatile domestic situation doesn’t mean there is a violation of a Constitutional right?

Update: The Violence Policy Center released its national report today. Nevada is 5th in the nation in female homicide rate.

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Filed under domestic abuse, Gun Issues, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, Women's Issues

Three Stooges Diplomacy: Nevada Republican Representatives Oppose Iran Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty

The voting records of Nevada Representatives Amodei, Heck, and Hardy are recorded here, on roll call votes 491-494.  Unfortunately, those votes are almost perfectly predictable.  Their explanations even more so.

Three StoogesIt takes something, I’m not sure what, to oppose an agreement which intends to curtail Iran’s capacity to develop a nuclear arsenal.  However, Nevada representatives Amodei (NV2), Heck (NV3), and Hardy (NV4) have whatever that is.

Representative Amodei has nothing specific to say about his votes on “the Deal,”  Representative Cresent Hardy (R-BundyLand) made this statement in his press release:

“Americans have learned for themselves that this deal puts the region and the global community at risk. It amounts to inadequate inspections, a frightening implementation timeline, and provides $150 billion in sanctions relief to the world’s single largest state sponsor of terrorism.

Under this agreement, Iran will be allowed to pursue intercontinental ballistic missiles after eight years and conceivably attack any nation in the world. Worse still, in 15 years the regime will have all limitations on uranium enrichment removed. If Iran is only two or three months away from devising a nuclear weapon today, imagine how close will they be with a robust economy and no enrichment limitations?

Supporters contend that we should accept a bad deal over no deal. This is a false choice. We owe it to the American people and future generations to do everything we can to prevent a nuclear-armed Iran.

This deal fails miserably.” (emphasis added)

Logic fails to adequately analyze this statement.  However, there’s more, from Representative (Running for Senate) Heck:

“My initial concerns with the deal stem from the fact that we caved on anytime-anywhere nuclear site inspections, even giving Iran a say in which sites get inspected, and that the deal lifts the conventional arms embargo on Iran. According to reports, Russia and China were the two biggest proponents of lifting that embargo, no doubt to pursue their own nefarious purposes and regional ambitions.” One thing this deal will not change is Iran’s continued sponsorship of terrorist groups in the Middle East and their influence peddling in Iraq. Those aren’t qualities I look for in a partner on an agreement over nuclear weapons development. In the past Iran has not adhered to international norms and obligations when it comes to their nuclear program, and so Congress now has a chance to review this deal and every aspect of this agreement.” [Heck]

Yes, if it isn’t to be THIS deal then what deal might have been possible?  At least Heck’s statement is slightly more specific than Hardy’s talking point spew.  But taken together they represent the usual oppose anything anytime strategy of the Republican in Congress, even if the outcome of an executive action is positive.  Nor, do they make any common sense.

Representative Hardy is concerned that under the terms of the agreement Iran will develop nuclear weapon capacity in eight to fifteen years.  Let’s inject the specter of the current situation – before the “freeze” during negotiations spurred by the sanctions, and without an agreement:

“In the absence of this agreement, the most likely outcome would be that the parties resume doing what they were doing before the freeze began: Iran installing more centrifuges, accumulating a larger stockpile of bomb-usable material, shrinking the time required to build a bomb; the U.S. resuming an effort to impose more severe sanctions on Iran.” [Atlantic]

So instead of a timeline stretched out to 8 to 15 years to build the bomb, Iran could go back to its pre-negotiations strategy – continue to install, accumulate, and develop on a timeline that puts it about two months from nuclear weapons capacity.   How this puts the region and “global community” at less risk is frankly beyond me.   And we’ve covered this territory before.   Someone needs to ask: What kind of unilateral sanctions  would be so effective that Iran would agree to stop nuclear weapon development in 60 days?

What do we know about sanctions? Let’s Review: “Since 1973, the last quarter-century, only 17 percent of U.S. sanctions have worked. That’s whether they’re unilateral or multilateral. But less than one in five of the cases we have applied have, according to our scoring system, had positive effect.” And, “They almost never work when they are applied unilaterally rather than multilaterally, which in these days is almost always the norm. There is no case—repeat, no case—where unilateral sanctions have ever worked to induce a sizable country to make a major change in policy, no case in history that we have been able to discover.” [DB/Bergsten]

Hardy 2

Representative Hardy is quoting all the right GOP talking points, especially the one about rejecting a bad deal over no deal.  Whatever that’s supposed to mean because there is no other deal.  And, no deal puts the Iranians right back on track to build their nuclear weapons in the next 60 days.

Joe Heck

Representative Heck complains that the U.S. “caved” on anytime, anywhere inspections.  However, when 2/3rds of Iran’s current centrifuges are eliminated and 98% of its enriched uranium stockpile is gone, that puts an effective stop to the program.  As for “ultra-secret, really really really secret, so secret we don’t know about them” installations – how is the United States, or the allies, or the IAEA supposed to know what it can’t know?  Remember, if Iran violates the deal the current sanctions snap back into place for ten years with the option on the part of the allies to hold those sanctions in place for another five.  

Perhaps Representative Heck isn’t familiar with the inspection elements, which include the continuous monitoring of: uranium mining and milling, uranium conversion, uranium enrichment, fuel manufacturing, nuclear reactors, spent fuel, and “suspicious locations.”   What’s not covered under “suspicious locations?”

Representative Heck’s next point, that we’re not dealing with a suitable partner in these negotiations because Iran is a state sponsor of terrorism, begs for an answer to at least one question:  If we never negotiated with those who do things we don’t like – then how do we get them to stop doing those things?  There are two options – negotiate or go to war.  Which answer does Representative Heck prefer?

Laboring Under Delusions

All three of the Republican Representatives from Nevada appear to be laboring under some non-productive delusions. 

The first delusion, noted above, is that somehow economic sanctions form a third option in international relations.  And, as noted previously, they don’t.   Only 17% have had positive results since 1973, and they’ve almost never been effective when applied unilaterally.  For example: Cuba.

The second delusion, is that someone, anyone, other than President Obama, could have negotiated a better deal.  This isn’t only “our deal.” The agreement was worked out by representatives from the U.S., the U.K., France, China, Russia, and Germany – along with the European Union. And yes, the Chinese and the Russians may have their own agendas, but so do we, the French, the British, the Germans, and the representatives of the European Union.   To act as if a treaty or agreement is only valid if and only if the U.S. gets everything it wants, when it wants it, is to render this country an outlier in international relations.  The results are splintered relationships and doubts on the part of our allies that we’d ever negotiate in good faith about much of anything.

The third delusion is that past behavior – in this case on the part of Iran – is always predictive of future behavior under different circumstances.  Here’s one central example of the changed circumstances:

“There are also aspects of the deal that Iran can’t easily undo. Iran must dismantle two-thirds of its installed centrifuges, remove 98% of its uranium stockpile, and permanently alter the Arak Plutonium reactor before it receives any relief from economic sanctions. These actions will be verified by the IAEA and will greatly increase the time it would take Iran to obtain weapons-grade nuclear material.” [ACC]

There will perhaps always be those who will cry that this doesn’t change the circumstances “enough” – whatever the standard might be —  but, that opinion doesn’t challenge the fact that the circumstances have changed, and inspection regimes will be far more comprehensive than any suggested in the past, and will have far more force because the negotiations were not unilateral or regional.  (Those wanting additional information about the timeline of negotiations between European countries, the Russians, the Chinese, and the American might want to start here for background information. )

The fourth delusion is that “going it alone,” and “packing big heat,” makes the U.S. look stronger.  We might more politely refer to this as the Militarist Option, wherein we swagger upon the international stage threatening to bomb into gravel piles those who annoy us.   This, of course, isn’t strength, it’s bullying, and we know bullies don’t approach their interpersonal issues from a position of personal strength.

However much opponents of the non-proliferation deal may ignore facts, distort provisions, and rail on about negotiations with our enemies, the deal is done.  All they can do now is whine and enjoy the benefits?

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Filed under Foreign Policy, Nevada Congressional Representatives, Nevada politics, Politics

Ready for the Sunday Shows?

Advice Never Asked For

Enough said?

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Filed under Politics, Republicans

100 Days, ESAs and Sectarian Education in Nevada

Sectarianism There was this announcement from the State Treasurer’s Office this past August regarding the eligibility of homeschooled students to qualify for the school voucher (ESA).

“The Treasurer’s Office has been notified by the Nevada Department of Education that pursuant to NRS 388.850, a private school or “home school” student may not participate in a program of distance education (online class) to satisfy the 100 school day requirement. Nevada Revised Statute 388.850 prevents a private school or “home school” student from enrolling in a program of distance education (online class). However, a private school or “home school” student may qualify for an ESA by taking one or more classes in a public or charter school, pursuant to NRS 386.580(5) and 392.070(3).” [NPRI]

Thus, a child can be enrolled in a public or state chartered school for 100 days, then be eligible for a voucher to pay for homeschooling curricula.  And, here we run into some problems – or, perhaps one big problem. Sectarian classroom materials.

Sectarianism is mentioned seven times in the Nevada Constitution. The first reference comes in Article II, and the fundamentals are clear as a bell.   “The legislature shall provide for a uniform system of common schools, by which a school shall be established and maintained in each school district at least six months in every year, and any school district which shall allow instruction of a sectarian character therein may be deprived of its proportion of the interest of the public school fund during such neglect or infraction, and the legislature may pass such laws as will tend to secure a general attendance of the children in each school district upon said public schools.”

[Amended in 1938. Proposed and passed by the 1935 legislature; agreed to and passed by the 1937 legislature; and approved and ratified by the people at the 1938 general election. See: Statutes of Nevada 1935, p. 440; Statutes of Nevada 1937, p. 550.]

In  Section 9:  “Sectarian instruction prohibited in common schools and university.  No sectarian instruction shall be imparted or tolerated in any school or University that may be established under this Constitution.”

And Section 10: “No public money to be used for sectarian purposes.  No public funds of any kind or character whatever, State, County or Municipal, shall be used for sectarian purpose.”

Home Sweet Home

In the home-school proponent perspective, a child who enrolls in 100 days of online (homeschool/distance) education should be eligible for ESA grants.  However, what distance learning or home-school curricula matters.  Thus, we’d have to ask if an ESA grant may be used to pay for sectarian home-school curricula and support materials?   If we look to Article II, sections 9 and 10, the answer appears to be a resounding NO.

The parent of a  child who is to be home-schooled must submit an “educational plan” for the child in order to be exempt from state mandatory attendance laws.  And:

“No regulation or policy of the State Board, any school district or any other governmental entity may infringe upon the right of a parent to educate his child based on religious preference unless it is:

  1. Essential to further a compelling governmental interest; and
  2. The least restrictive means of furthering that compelling governmental interest.” [NHSN]

Okay, a parent may choose to home-school a child, using a religious curriculum, without discrimination.  The question becomes: Can the state funds be used to pay for it?

So far the parent may choose any curriculum – the district cannot discriminate based on religious affiliation – and who pays for the Stuff?

Stuff from Abeka K-12? Their 8th grade science book explains:

“From earthquakes and volcanoes to clouds and galaxies, show your child the features of God’s Creation here on earth as well as the Great Beyond with Science: Earth and Space! This textbook guides your child through a study of geology, oceanography, meteorology, astronomy, and environmental science. A thorough study of rocks, soil, and fossils will give your child ample proofs that this earth was created by God and not evolutionary processes.”

In brief, the last time I looked such an explanation was described as “creationism,” and “creationism” isn’t science, it’s theology.  Perhaps some materials from Bob Jones University Press?  Right off the bat the website tells us, “We want students to think, so we use inductive teaching, discovery activities, and probing discussion questions to develop thinking skills.”   Let’s step back a moment, there’s inductive and deductive reasoning; and, inductive reasoning makes broad generalizations from specific observations.  By contrast deductive reasoning, the basis for most science, proposes an hypothesis and then tests observations. [LiveSci] Inductive reasoning is used in the crafting of theories and hypotheses, after which deductive reasoning is appropriate for testing those theories.  So, if we’re going to start and stop with inductive instruction we won’t get to the part where the evidence is truly tested?  However, there’s more, as the Bob Jones University curriculum describes its Biblically based instructional mission:

“The Bible teaches that in the Fall, human cognition and affection became broken. Verses like Jeremiah 17:9 and I Corinthians 2:14 teach that the fallen human mind cannot understand the world the way it was meant to be understood. Proverbs 1:7 teaches that “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge.” Here we learn that proper affection (“fear”) for God is the key to proper cognition (“knowledge”) regarding His world.”  […]

Good biblical integration has not happened until the student learns how the Bible is relevant to the subject at hand. This involves three levels of effort.

“In Level 1 biblical integration, the Bible is referenced while the subject is being taught, using biblical analogies or examples. In Level 2, the teacher shows the student how the Bible should guide him as he applies the academic discipline to real-life situations. The final level focuses on rebuilding the academics for the glory of God. Remembering the fallenness of the human mind, the teacher should call into question the secular assumptions of each subject and then encourage the student to rebuild the discipline from biblical presuppositions. The work of Christian education is the work of redeeming what has fallen.  We study all aspects of human culture because we see in that study the potential for redemption. As we view the academics through the lens of Scripture, we learn how we may be used to redeem those disciplines back to God.” [BJUpress]

If this isn’t sectarian, then I’m really not sure what would be.  To cut this bit short before it becomes a litany of examples of sectarian based instruction readily available from all manner of sources, and ranging widely in terms of quality, it’s fair to ask if a home-schooling parent should be remunerated for materials and supplies which teach creationism and centralize “redemption” as a focus of instruction?

Of course, there’s the other side of the issue – there are other religions which provide instructional materials – the Islamic Bookstore devotes a page to materials geared for young people, from pre-school to grade six.  One quick Google and you can find support groups for humanist and atheist home-schooling parents.  Seriously pagan or Wiccan? There’s a page for that too.

Meanwhile back at the Establishment Clause

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;…”

Somewhat lost in all the recent rhetoric about “religious Freedom,” are the two pieces related to “religious liberty” incorporated in the First Amendment. Fundamental to understanding the first part, or the Establishment Clause, is the nature of the word “respecting:”

“The first of the First Amendment’s two religion clauses reads: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion … .” Note that the clause is absolute. It allows no law. It is also noteworthy that the clause forbids more than the establishment of religion by the government. It forbids even laws respecting an establishment of religion. The establishment clause sets up a line of demarcation between the functions and operations of the institutions of religion and government in our society. It does so because the framers of the First Amendment recognized that when the roles of the government and religion are intertwined, the result too often has been bloodshed or oppression.”  [1st AmdCent]

Witness: the wars associated with the Reformation – the German Peasants’ War (1524-1525); the battle of Kappel (Switzerland 1531); the Schmalkaldic War (Holy Roman Empire 1546-1547); and then we move on to the Eighty Years War in the Low Countries (1568-1648), the French Wars of Religion (1562-1598) and the Thirty Years War (Holy Roman Empire, Austria, Bohemia, France, Denmark, Sweden (1618-1648).    Not that the British Isles escaped the religiously based slaughter – there was the Scottish Reformation and attendant civil wars; and, the wars probably best recalled by the founders of this nation – the English Civil War (1642-1651).  The carnage is difficult to assess for the English Civil Wars – historical records count 84,830 dead as a result of the conflicts, other estimates range as high as 190,000 dead out of a total population of about 5 million people.

One doesn’t have to go too far back to be reminded of the effects of sectarianism in Northern Ireland, or do much more than turn on a television news broadcast of the latest atrocities perpetrated by Sunnis on Shias or Shias on Sunnis.

Little wonder the founders inserted the Establishment Clause.  And the State of Nevada acquiesced to this in Article I:

“All political power is inherent in the people[.] Government is instituted for the protection, security and benefit of the people; and they have the right to alter or reform the same whenever the public good may require it. But the Paramount Allegiance of every citizen is due to the Federal Government in the exercise of all its Constitutional powers as the same have been or may be defined by the Supreme Court of the United States; and no power exists in the people of this or any other State of the Federal Union to dissolve their connection therewith or perform any act tending to impair[,] subvert, or resist the Supreme Authority of the government of the United States.” (emphasis added)

Loud rhetoric, and even imprecations, from the radical religious right don’t change the overall framework – we do have an Establishment Clause, it was enacted with a mind to historical precedent and human nature, and the state of Nevada adopted it in its own Constitution.

What Does This Mean At the Bookstore?

According to the provisions of SB 302, money from the ESA may be spent to pay for:

Textbooks required for a child that who enrolls in a school that is a participating entity; … Textbooks required for the child at an eligible institution that is a participating entity or to receive instruction  from any other participating entity; … Purchasing a curriculum or any supplemental materials required to administer the curriculum.

A science text book that teaches “Creationism?” A “Biblically-Centered” curriculum?  Supplemental materials which amplify and explain doctrines such as: “When a child is born it is a cause for much happiness and celebration.  In Islam there is no preference for either a male or female child.  Quran says that both the male and the female were created from a single person (Adam) and that are equal except in terms of piety and righteousness.” [IslRel] And, that the Prophet categorically stated female children are a blessing and that raising them to be righteous believers is a source of great reward.  [IslRel]  Materials for Torah study?  Have we missed the Hindi? The Sikhs? The Jains? The Buddhists? The spirituality of Native Americans? …

If the state allows remuneration for the purchase of some sectarian materials and curricula then it must do it for all?  In light of the Establishment Clause, the question is reversed – Is there any condition in which the state is allowed to subsidize sectarian education? And, the answer is … NO.

To say that the state may not discriminate against those whose educational plans are religiously based is one thing, to say that the state must pay for the materials to implement religiously based education is quite another. It’s certainly going to take more than 100 days to get this mess sorted.

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Filed under education, nevada education, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, religion, schools

Washington Ruling and Nevada’s School Voucher Cases

School Corridor Lockers No sooner do I post a piece on whether some forms of private education are prohibited by Nevada’s Constitution from receiving public funds than a ruling from the Washington Supreme Court strikes down funding for some charter schools in that state. [NewsTrib]

“In a 6-3 ruling issued late Friday afternoon, the high court said that the privately operated, publicly funded charter schools do not qualify as common schools under Washington’s Constitution and thus cannot receive public funding.” [NewsTrib]

Don’t be deceived by headlines declaring “court strikes down charter schools,” the ruling itself is far narrower.

“In the lead opinion, Chief Justice Barbara Madsen said the case wasn’t about the merits of charter schools, simply whether they were eligible for public funds. Citing state Supreme Court precedent from 1909, she said they are not eligible because they are not under the control of local voters. Washington charters are run by private nonprofit organizations that appoint their own boards. Most, including Tacoma’s charters, are also under the oversight of the appointed Washington State Charter School Commission.” [NewsTrib]  (emphasis added)

And, this was the point addressed in yesterday’s post.  The crux of the Washington matter was RCW 28A.150.010:

“Public schools means the common schools as referred to in Article IX of the state Constitution, including charter schools established under chapter 28A.710 RCW, and those schools and institutions of learning having a curriculum below the college or university level as now or may be established by law and maintained at public expense.”

And Washington, also, has a definition of a “common school.”

“Common schools” means schools maintained at public expense in each school district and carrying on a program from kindergarten through the twelfth grade or any part thereof including vocational educational courses otherwise permitted by law.

[1969 ex.s. c 223 § 28A.01.060. Prior: 1909 c 97 p 261 § 1, part; RRS § 4680, part; prior: 1897 c 118 § 64, part; 1890 p 371 § 44, part. Formerly RCW 28A.01.060, 28.58.190, part, 28.01.060.]

These provisions are similar to those in NRS 388.020.   We should pay particular attention to the portion of the Washington decision which clarified the definition of a Common School:

“…a common school, within the meaning of our constitution, is one that is common to all children of proper age and capacity, free, and subject to and under the control of the qualified voters of the school district. The complete control of the schools is a most important feature, for it carries with it the right of the voters, through their chosen agents, to select qualified teachers, with powers to discharge them if they are incompetent. “ [LWV v. Washington pdf]

The central point in the Washington decision is that because the charter schools are governed by non-elected boards and managers they are not within the scope of the Washington Constitution’s mandates on school funding.  The context is important because Article IX of the Washington Constitutions is explicit:

“The legislature shall provide for a general and uniform system of public schools. The public school system shall include common schools, and such high schools, normal schools, and technical schools as may hereafter be established. But the entire revenue derived from the common school fund and the state tax for common schools shall be exclusively applied to the support of the common schools.”

Nevada’s Constitution is not so explicit in its language. [NVConst Article XI]  This raises questions about the cases filed against the school voucher law (ESA’s) filed in Nevada.  (1) In order to be categorized as a “common school” must an entity be ‘common to all children of the proper age and capacity, free, subject to district control?’   Does the classification of a charter operation as a Local Educational Agency qualify a charter corporation to be a recipient of funds from the State?

(2) Can the state confer LEA status to a private corporation, given the standard definition of an LEA?

“The term “local educational agency” means a public board of education or other public authority legally constituted within a State for either administrative control or direction of, or to perform a service function for, public elementary schools or secondary schools in a city, county, township, school district, or other political subdivision of a State, or of or for a combination of school districts or counties that is recognized in a State as an administrative agency for its public elementary schools or secondary schools.” [Cornell.Law.Edu]

The federal Department of Education defines a Local Educational Agency as:

“As defined in ESEA, a public board of education or other public authority legally constituted within a State for either administrative control or direction of, or to perform a service function for, public elementary schools or secondary schools in a city, county, township, school district, or other political subdivision of a State, or for a combination of school districts or counties that is recognized in a State as an administrative agency for its public elementary schools or secondary schools.”

Both definitions of a Local Educational Agency emphasize that an LEA must be a governed by a PUBLIC board or PUBLIC authority.  So, it may follow that in order to be considered part of the uniform system of common schools, a local school or local educational agency must be governed by those who are elected by the public.  Where the Nevada Constitution may be a bit fuzzy on the subject (except for the contents of the Permanent School Fund), federal standards for the categorization of a Local Educational Agency are more specific.

Nevada’s work-around appears to be to have the State Public Charter School Authority (1) ostensibly is subordinate to the State Board of Education (with elected members), and (2) to have created a “school district” composed of all the charter schools. [BalPed]  However, the authority to approve charter school applications is given to the Nevada State Public Charter School Authority, in NRS 386.509.  

Now, the situation is removed a step from the voters.  The members of the NSPCSA are:  Two members appointed by the Governor, Two members appointed by the Majority Leader of the Senate, Two members appointed by the Speaker of the Assembly, and one member representing the Charter School Association of Nevada (or successor organization.)  [NRS 386.5095]   Not to put too fine a point to it, but the organization determining the membership of the 3rd largest school district in the state of Nevada is composed entirely of appointed members.   This doesn’t seem to conform to the standard, or the federal, definition of a Local Educational Agency.  The legislature has declared the charters to be an LEA, [NRS 385.513] however, saying so doesn’t necessarily make it a constitutional practice.  So, there’s the question: Has the State of Nevada erred in declaring its “charter district” an LEA given it is not governed by elected members?

Further Into The Weeds

Another question raised by the enactment of the ESA school voucher program is that of “delegated authority” that is,  the authority of a board to delegate its authority to some other entity.  Did the State err in deciding that a separate authority could approve or disapprove of charters to operate public schools in this state?

This question has been raised before, in regard to the State Board of Regents (University System), in January 1968.  At the time the state was considering the establishment of vo-tech schools in the state which would not be subject to the direct jurisdiction of the Board of Regents.  The Attorney General was asked for an official opinion, and the response was:

“In our present analysis, however, the lines of demarcation from secondary education to university level are clear. If college level courses are taught, the school is functioning on a university level and, if tax supported, should be established and controlled by the Board of Regents through the University facilities. The faculty should be hired and paid through the Board of Regents. The institution should be financed by legislative appropriation to the Board for that purpose.”

In short, if there were to be community colleges the legislature could not unilaterally pull them out of the domain of the elected representatives who govern public higher education.  We might argue, by inference, that if courses are taught, and a school is functioning, in the manner of a “common school” then it should be under the control of the local school district.  And, thus we return back to the question of whether or not the legislature erred in establishing a “district” without boundaries, and without direct public control?

Then there is the matter of assigning responsibility for public education funds, and there has been a question regarding this topic.  Dial the Way-Back Machine to 1961, and the consideration of who would be responsible for the handling of federal funds to local school districts.  Back in the day, there were questions about how funds for special educational services would be accounted for; the AG’s opinion was:

“Regulations prescribing conditions under which funds, commodities or services from federal agencies may be accepted for use by public schools”) designates and authorizes the State Board of Education to regulate the execution of all state contracts and agreements for funds, services, commodities or equipment which may be provided by agencies of the Federal Government. The State Plan submitted by the State Education Department to qualify the State of Nevada for the federal funds here involved provided for responsibility and accountability of the State Education Department, on the state level, for proper use and expenditure of any federal funds which might be made available and allocated to the State of Nevada.”

Short version:  The State Board of Education was responsible for the “proper use and expenditure” of all funding from the Federal Government, and could establish rules for the allocation of county school district funds, i.e. “all moneys received from the federal government and any other receipts, including gifts, for the operation and maintenance of the public schools in the county school district.”

Now we have a nice hash developing.   If we accept the proposition that all public school funding is subject to the jurisdiction of the State Board of Education, then how does one justify the administration of school funds by the Office of the state Treasurer?

“SB 302 provides a means for Nevada Parents with children enrolled in a public/charter school to choose a different option to meet their educational needs. A parent who wishes to choose something other than a public school simply can apply for an Education Savings Account and a percentage of what the state funds for their child’s public education will be deposited into an account for that child. The funds can then be used for education related expenses at approved participating entities. Nevada’s ESA program is being administered by the State Treasurer’s Office (STO), who ultimately will be responsible for establishing the regulations, timelines, and program processes.”

Again, if it is constitutional to state that the money received from all sources comes under the province of the State Board of Education how is it constitutionally justified that a portion of those funds may be diverted into individual accounts, administered by an agency other than the elected Board of Education?

The situation in terms of the administration and financing of charter schools in Nevada isn’t quite as black/white as the situation and legal context in Washington, but several pertinent questions are in order.

  • Can a local educational agency be one which does not have elected leadership?
  • Are schools designated as “common” but under the direct administration of those not elected by the public be part of a “uniform system?”
  • Can the state create an “artificial district” not subject to the direct control of elected officials?
  • Can state funds under the oversight of the elected State Board of Education be diverted, and the administration be delegated to, another state agency?
  • If federal funds for public education coming to the several district must be administered by the state Department of Education, then must districts establish fully separate accounts so that these funds may not be diverted and their administration delegated?

These and other questions could keep Nevada courts busy for months? Years? Decades?

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And then there were two: 2nd Lawsuit filed against Nevada’s school voucher law

School Corridor Lockers There are now two lawsuits filed against the “Education Savings Account” law enacted by the last session of Nevada’s Assembled Wisdom.  The first came late last month from the ACLU, and now a second comes from parents who are disturbed that the law takes revenue collected for public education and diverts it to private and religious schools.

“The lawsuit filed Wednesday claims ESAs violate the state constitution by diverting funds “exclusively” meant for public schools to private schools and other private expenses. It also argues the ESA bill undercuts funding for public schools to a less-than-sufficient level and does not mandate private schools to follow the same non-discrimination and accountability rules that state law requires of public schools.

The lawsuit includes a request for a judge to permanently block the Nevada treasurer’s office from implementing the ESA program, according to a news release.”  [LVRJ]

The notion that private is always better than public seems to undergird the assumptions of the proponents of public support for private education.  There are several streams that converge into this ideological river, some stronger than others.  Some relevant to the issues at hand, and others less so. The arguments are worth exploring.


Proponents of the measure argue that since it’s the parents who make the funding request from the State Treasurer’s office, they have every right to make the diversion.  There’s a slippery slope question herein: Does an individual have the right to request the diversion of public funds for the benefit of a private enterprise?

For the sake of the general argument, let’s assume that we are not talking about schools in particular, but any state or local function.  A hypothetical might be illustrative, if not analogously probative – there is a reservoir stocked with fish by the Nevada Department of Wildlife, subsidized from about $231 million is expended in total on “fisheries management.” [NDW pdf] The sale of Trout Stamps brings in about $650,000 annually. [NDW pdf]  Approximately 1% of Nevada’s Department of Wildlife budget comes from the General Fund, and 2% from other state sources.  86% of the budget comes from wildlife fees and grants. Those fees include fishing licenses. A fishing license costs $13, and the Trout Stamp adds another $10 to the total.   Now, imagine an enterprise in close proximity to our hypothetical reservoir which charges admissions and fees to fish in the waters of its reservoir; no state license or special stamps required.

May a individual who doesn’t want to fish in public waters get $23 returned to a “fishing savings account” because he or she doesn’t want to fish in the public reservoir, and prefers to engage in that recreational activity on private lands, under private control?  Taxes and fees are combined to form the revenue base of the Department of Wildlife, so what is the justification for diverting funds from the Department of Wildlife back to those who do not wish to utilize its services?

We might apply the same analogy to other services like local libraries?  If a subscription library were to be established could local residents request a voucher for funds to subsidize their fees to the subscription library?  Could local residents request vouchers to reduce the burden for their payments to use private parks and pools?  May a local resident demand a voucher from a county government which collects property taxes, a portion of which are allocated to the operation of a hospital, if the resident chooses not to use the services of that local hospital?  Might a resident who pays for private security request a voucher for a “protection savings account” to subsidize his or her fees to the private security firm from taxes collected to finance the local law enforcement agencies?

There’s a tricky precedent here in the form of the “individual choice” argument.  The implications go far beyond the funding of private or parochial education, and range from the relatively minor (such as our fishing example) to the more serious (such as the public subsidies for public health or public safety services.)  Extrapolating this precedent could yield a chaotic system in which each individual is only obligated to pay for the “things” he or she personally wants. 

The Grass Is Greener

The “School Choice” argument has been framed as one of allowing parents to choose between the public and private system, with the private or charter schools held to be superior.  This argument branches out into several other strands.  In strand one, the question arises: Should public funds be used for the inculcation of religious ideals and dogma?

Article II of the Nevada Constitution is clear on this subject. “The legislature shall provide for a uniform system of common schools, by which a school shall be established and maintained in each school district at least six months in every year, and any school district which shall allow instruction of a sectarian character therein may be deprived of its proportion of the interest of the public school fund during such neglect or infraction, and the legislature may pass such laws as will tend to secure a general attendance of the children in each school district upon said public schools.”  Art II, Section 2 (emphasis added)

Sections 9 and 10 are equally exclusive: “No sectarian instruction shall be imparted or tolerated in any school or University that may be established under this Constitution.” And, “No public funds of any kind or character whatever, State, County or Municipal, shall be used for sectarian purpose.”

When the topic comes up three times in one brief segment of the State Constitution, we have to believe that those who crafted the document were serious about the subject.   So, when Bishop Gorman High School schedules Mass during the school day, would this violate the funding proscriptions in Article II of the State Constitution?  The answer seems clear in Section Ten. NO public funds of any kind or character whatever….”  Would this proscription also apply to the Southern Baptist Academy (K-12) online home schooling curricula?  Most likely.

Strand Two assumes parents want to make the best choices for their children, while the state has an obligation to create a “uniform system of common schools.” And at this point the categorization gets complicated.  There are parochial schools which are required to accept the children of any member of the parish.  There are also parochial schools, such as Bishop Manogue in Reno, NV which offer applications including recommendations from at least two teachers (math and English), and high school placement test results.  We should probably guess that those scoring higher will swim faster in the decision pools.  The Meadows is a non-sectarian school in Las Vegas, and its exclusivity is emphasized by the $15,500 to $24,025 tuition fees.  Neither exclusive (as opposed to totally inclusive) schools such as Bishop Manogue or The Meadows quite constitutes a “common” (as in totally inclusive) school.  Now, does a voucher – in the form of an ESA – violate the provisions of the State Constitution that revenue collected for educational purposes be used for schools which are not part of a “uniform system of common schools ” and really don’t intend to be?

Strand Three raises other categorical questions, such as when are other educational alternatives to be considered part of a “uniform system of common schools?”   For example, there are three forms of charter schools in Nevada depending on their sponsorship: District, University/College, and those approved by the State Public Charter School Authority.  The latter category gets us into some Alphabet Soup.  A private charter hires an ESP (Educational Service Provider) to handle day to day operations, and this management comes in two forms, the CMO and the EMO.  (Charter Management Organization, and Educational Management Organization) The EMO’s are more often those corporations which can afford to purchase school facilities.  Once the Alphabet Soup is sorted, it’s easier to examine the program management to see if it fits the template of a school’s definition of an institution fitting into a framework of “a uniform system of common schools.”

The extensive provisions of NRS 386 on Charter Schools should give some assurance of public accountability. There is an annual report from the Sponsor  NRS 386.610: For each charter school that it sponsors with a written charter, an evaluation of the progress of each such charter school in achieving the educational goals and objectives of the written charter. And, For each charter school that it sponsors with a charter contract, a summary evaluating the academic, financial and organizational performance of the charter school, as measured by the performance indicators, measures and metrics set forth in the performance framework for the charter school.  Three consecutive years of underperformance and determined by the CMO/EMO evaluation standards, and they’re out.

Not surprisingly, most of the Nevada charter schools are located in the Las Vegas suburban area.  Nor is it any great surprise that the ethnicity of 61.61% of the state charters is White, as compared to 35.98% statewide, and while the composition of public schools is about 40.56% Hispanic, the state charters enroll only 16.11% of that student population subset. [NVReport Card]  Surely, schools part of a “uniform system of common schools” would have enrollment statistics which better mirror those of the public schools? 

Thus, the question: If a school, while adhering to the testing regime of the State, isn’t representative of the enrollment of the “common schools” using even the most broad statewide description, does it qualify for public funding for its operations?  And, may a school, with the permission of the state, expend public funds if it fails to offer the same programs for special students as are required in the public schools?  In other words, do we have one system of common schools or two?

Who’s Choosing?

Heaven forbid I’m bashing private schooling – I’m one of its products.  However, I am also one who believes that private schooling is a choice, a choice made by parents who don’t want to avail themselves of the choice to send the kids to the public school.  Taxes are paid into state and local coffers for the maintenance of “a uniform system of common schools,” so that every other youngster in town who isn’t a parish member or having the luck to be born to parents who can afford private education,  isn’t denied  schooling.   The passage of the ESA legislation simply means I don’t have the choice NOT to pay for someone else’s choice to attend a private school.

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The Worth of Water: Nevada and its State Drought Plans

NV Drought Map Sept 2015 Consider the following information from the Reno Gazette Journal:

“In Nevada, all counties but White Pine and Lincoln are designated as drought disaster areas. Washoe, Storey, Carson City, Douglas, Lyon, Churchill, Esmeralda, Lander, Mineral and Nye counties are all in conditions of extreme or exceptional drought, with Lovelock’s Pershing County among the “hardest hit areas,” according to the Aug. 17 drought statement issued by the National Weather Service.”

And this:

“It’s difficult to overstate the dire impacts, said Benny Hodges, secretary-treasurer of the Pershing County Water Conservation District. As the drought lowered the Humboldt River and levels of Rye Patch Reservoir — now at about 5 percent of capacity — continued to drop, irrigation water for Lovelock area farmers went from scarce to non-existent. Irrigation allocations went from 80 percent of normal in 2012, the first year of the drought, to only 10 percent in 2013. This year is the second in a row that no irrigation water was available at all.”

There are some actions which are the direct result of a drought designation by the US Department of Agriculture: in 17 of Nevada’s governmental entities farmers and ranchers will be eligible for low interest emergency loans to continue operations. [AgWeb]

A reasonable person would think that an arid state would have some plans on file for dealing with drought conditions – other than directing agricultural operations toward emergency loans.  As of December 28, 2014 Nevada really  didn’t. [RGJ]  Although it must be said there was a document in some filing cabinet, which the Governor had received in 2012 concerning drought planning.  Local water districts and companies have drought plans, but as of December 2014 that didn’t necessarily hold true for the state.

It wasn’t until April 8, 2015 (with Nevada now into the fourth year of drought conditions) that the Governor’s office announced the creation of a “forum” to “craft a blueprint on best practices for water users and conservation.” [LVRJ]

What’s interesting about that the announcement at the shrinking lake side was that Governor Sandoval received a “State of Nevada: Drought Response Plan” (pdf) from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the State Climate Office, and the Department of Public Safety, as revised in April 2012.  

“This State Drought Response Plan establishes an administrative coordinating and reporting system between agencies to appropriately respond and provide assistance to address drought and mitigate drought impacts. […] this Plan identifies a system used in monitoring the magnitude, severity and extent of drought within the state on a county by county basis. It establishes a framework of actions based on three states of responding to drought. Drought Watch, Drought Alert, and Drought Emergency.”

Scrolling down through the 2012 executive summary we find, “If a drought reaches Stage #3 (Drought Emergency) upon the decision of the Governor, the Division of Emergency Management may activate the State Emergency Operations Center. This center will be advised by the Drought Response Committee, making drought response policy recommendations as needed, supporting local drought emergency response efforts and carrying out the Governor’s policies.”

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the 2012 document is the insertion of diagrams designating the process for informing the Governor, sorting the activities of various authorities, and assisting the Governor in the setting of “the state’s priorities, drought mitigation, response and recovery policy and resource allocation direction based on information and recommendations given to the Governor by the Drought Response Committee and the needs of affected local jurisdictions, county or tribe.”

Another element in the 2012 document of interest is the insertion of some very tepid language about drought designations and their associated impact on other economic activities. “Formal designation may not substantially reduce economic impacts in drought affected areas but may cause serious economic impacts on tourism, agriculture, finance and other industries within the state. Unless a drought situation is expected to be of extreme magnitude, the safest approach is to aid county and local governments in determining their own situations.”

And with that the 2012 State of Nevada Drought Response Plan dumps the problems back onto the counties, local water suppliers, and tribes.  Thus, it isn’t easy to get an “emergency” drought designation in the first place, and when the designation or announcement is made the plans submitted by the various entities which deliver water within the state are supposed to kick in.

NRS 540 codifies this system.  Water suppliers are defined (NRS 540.121), water conservation plans, which are to be updated every five years, are required (NRS 540. 131) and are to be published “to the extent practicable” for public inspection on websites (NRS 540.141).  Water supplies are to provide incentives for water conservation. (NRS 540.151).

It’s easy to see why initial reports said there really wasn’t a statewide water conservation/drought plan – the plan appears to be that the state will require individual entities to have approved plans, and that the state will announce when the drought emergency elements of those various plans will be implemented – bearing in mind that given the soft language in the 2012 Drought Response document it’s probably going to be difficult to get the state to make that initial emergency announcement.

We return now to Sandoval’s Executive Order 2015-03, April 8, 2015.  After the preliminary “whereas’s” in which it’s admitted that Nevada has a water problem, and that the Nevada Drought Response Committee authorized by the 2012 document has been “continuously monitoring” the drought conditions,  the Governor has decided we need another report, from another layer of administration.

Sandoval established the Nevada Drought Forum in order to: (1) build on the activities of the existing Nevada Drought Response Committee; (2) evaluate key findings and next steps identified in the Western Governors’ Drought Forum Final Report (latest available is the Special Report, June 2015) as they relate to Nevada; (3) meet with relevant stakeholders; and (4) determine, with input from stakeholders and the public, the elements of a final report to the Governor.

As part of the bullet points in the executive order, there will be a Governor’s Drought Summit on September 21-23.  Unless some highly specific topics are generated in periods for “Showcases: Conservation Success Stories in Nevada,” or from the sessions on municipal, resort and recreation, industry and development, and agricultural water conservation – there doesn’t seem to be much emphasis on the development of a state PLAN for dealing with drought conditions.

To add more opacity to the issue, that Western Governors’ Drought Forum Report concluded:

“(1) Drought’s consequences ripple across western economies, communities, and environments. Preventing or halting drought is impossible, but there are useful strategies for enhancing resilience to its effects.  WGA will continue to work on drought by enhancing its Drought Forum online resource library, hosting webinars and workshops and briefing state and federal policymakers. (2)  WGA will perform additional outreach to drought task forces in the western states to identify data gaps that need to be addressed. (3) WGA will also compare  and contrast the approaches of these state task forces in order to identify additional best practices. (4)  In response to one of the key themes identified during the Drought Forum,  WGA will work with state and federal partners to support robust data collection and enhanced analyses and tools for drought management. Furthermore, the governors will consider the policy recommendations that emerged from the first year of Drought Forum as they work to improve the regional response to drought and to influence national decisions affecting water supply and resource management.”  (numeration added) (Special Report June 2015)

There’s good and bad news herein.  In item (1) there’s no indication that the western Governors are aware that one of the ways to mitigate drought is to acknowledge that climate change is a modern reality.  Indeed, there’s no small amount of fatalism – droughts might just be the new reality.  “Prevention is impossible,” is about as fatalistic as it gets. (2) is just about as safe a proposal as one can make – there’s always a need for more and better data collection. However, there’s nothing in this conclusion that insures there will be money in state budgets for such data collection and analysis.  (3) Best practices are also a safe bet.  However, it will require some legislative and executive will power to enact best practices into law, and to administer the statutes with an emphasis on conservation.  (4)  We’re back to data collection and sharing – a fine thing – but someone needs to pay for the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data.  Executive orders are usually good, but appropriations are nearly always better.

Color me a bit cynical, however a look at the sponsors of the WGA Drought Forum leaves some questions about the level of intensity with which they will address governmental actions necessary to address drought in western states.  NOAA and the Walton Family Foundation are “workshop partners,” the State of Oklahoma is a “regional forum sponsor,” “project sponsors” include the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Coeur Mining, Water Asset Management LLC, and Layne Inc.  “Report sponsors” include HDR, NHA, Nevada Mining Association, Dairy Farmers of America, Barrick, SRP, Southern Nevada Water Authority, Parjana, Pepsico, and Chevron.  “Communication sponsors” are ASI, Resolution Copper Mining, CAP, ECOS, National Groundwater Association, the Geological Society of America, Paramount Farming, and Irrigational & Electrical Districts Assn of Arizona.

And so, the Nevada Drought Forum has a nice shiny website, with updated information on monthly situations reports (the last up was for June 2015) – in which a person could find out if he or she was experiencing emergency, extreme, or exceptional drought conditions.  Or, discover that there have been three monthly meetings since June 2015, and a fourth scheduled for September 28, 2015.   Since minutes are not yet available online for the August meeting, we’ll not know if concerns expressed in a previous meeting about the lack of representation from wildlife advocates and rural areas were addressed in that session.


  1. If the drought in Nevada is particularly extreme in rural areas like Pershing County, why were there no representatives on the Governor’s list of appointments to the Drought Forum from rural agricultural interests? Has this since been rectified?
  2. If we are aware of the effects of drought conditions on wildlife – why no initial representation for those interests? Has this been rectified?
  3. If we know that extreme weather conditions are associated climate change, and with droughts such as the one Nevada is experiencing now, then what elements of climate change science will be incorporated into the state’s planning for drought mitigation efforts?
  4. If the Nevada Drought Forum is directed to present its report to the Governor on November 1, 2015, then what actions has the Governor’s office taken to facilitate the enactment of legislation to implement the report findings in advance of the release?  The WGA Special Report (June 2015) emphasizes data collection.  If the report meshes with the WGA efforts,  do the various departments and divisions have the necessary funding to collect and analyze the data? 
  5. The Governor’s executive order doesn’t indicate any change in the status of the 2012 State of Nevada Drought Response plan, if the November report suggests changes in the SNDR then are the departments capable of implementing those changes?

So we resume our quotidian activities – further illustrating the truth of the old quote: “We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.”  (Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia  1732.

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