Tag Archives: ALEC

Roundup: Guns and Games Edition

Cattle RoundupAgain, it’s been too long since the last aggregation of interesting articles and excellent posts concerning Nevada and its politics. Let’s begin with some local items.

**  Remember when Governor Sandoval vetoed SB 221, the bill which would have expanded background checks to private gun sales to insure that individuals who were felons, fugitives, undocumented aliens, juveniles without parental supervision, those restrained by a court from possessing firearms because of spousal abuse and domestic violence, and seriously mentally ill individuals could not obtain guns?  The Governor claimed the bill was “too broad,” but now we have a very specific example of precisely the kind of activity the proposed law was designed to prevent — a seriously mentally ill individual purchased a gun from a Reno police officer, and Nevada Progressive has a good summation of the situation.

For background information see:  “RGJ Exclusive: Mentally ill man who bought gun from Reno cop was prohibited from having a gunReno Gazette Journal, July 16, 2013.  “Gun issue smolders in Nevada political landscape,” Ray Hagar, Reno Gazette Journal, July 17, 2013.

** The Nevada Rural Democratic Caucus would like to remind Senator Dean Heller (R-Big and Bigger Banks) that it is often a good thing to read laws one is complaining about, and to refresh one’s memory about how the Congress of the United States of America functions prior to launching aggrieved letters to the Executive Branch.   See: “Heller Has No Clue How Congress Works and He Apparently Can’t Read Either,” at the NRDC site.   Senator Heller’s latest nod to the Tea Party in regard to the Affordable Care Act substantiates the NRDC’s headline.

** Senator Harry Reid (D-NV) got tired of the GOP obstructionism in the Senate and played the anti-filibuster card.  Why?  As Sebelius explains:

“Not a single cabinet secretary nominee was filibustered in President [Jimmy] Carter’s administration. Not a single cabinet secretary nominee was filibustered in President George H.W. Bush’s administration. Only one cabinet secretary was filibustered in President [Ronald] Reagan’s administration. And only one cabinet secretary was filibustered in President George W. Bush‘s administration. But already in President Obama’s administration, 4 cabinet secretaries have been filibustered, and more filibusters are likely. Yet the Republican Leader says there is no problem here. The status quo is fine.”

And then came The Deal, as explained by the Washington Post:

“The clear winner from the ugly debate was the president, who will have a full slate of his nominees confirmed and will settle the messy staffing issue at the CFPB and the NLRB. Those agencies are the subject of a legal battle that will reach the Supreme Court over Obama’s method of making an end run around Senate confirmation to install interim appointees, threatening to undermine more than 1,000 rulings issued by the labor board in the past 18 months.”

In this instance it appears as though Senator Mitch McConnell (R-KY) isn’t quite as “necessary” as he thought he might have been?   E.J. Dionne, Jr. offers more analysis in his column.   And, Bingo!, we have Thomas Perez confirmed as the new Secretary of Labor.

** Speaking of undermining the system.   The Republican controlled House of Representatives, which just can’t seem to help itself from repeated attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act, has voted to delay the individual mandate section of the law — an action which will die in the Senate, and would meet a veto from the White House — The latest exercise in futility passed 264 to 121, with Nevada Representatives Heck (R-NV3) and Amodei (R-NV2) voting in favor of the bill; Representative Titus (D-NV1) voted no.

Perhaps those voting in the affirmative, such as Reps. Heck and Amodei, didn’t take the time to read the latest reports concerning the implementation of the ACA and Patients Bill of Rights — especially the one which reports that health care insurance premiums are projected to drop by 50% in New York, or the release this morning from HHS:

“The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is set to release a report on Thursday morning that analyzes the 2014 premiums in the Obamacare insurance marketplaces in 11 different states, including Virginia, Colorado, Ohio, and Oregon. Officials said that the data will show that the weighted average of the least expensive mid-level health plans in those states’ marketplaces are 18 percent lower than what the CBO thought they would be when the law first passed.”  [TP] (emphasis added)

In essence, since insurance companies are factoring in the increased demand for their products under the individual mandate — what Representatives Heck and Amodei just voted to do is Increase the Cost of Health Insurance Premiums?

** You can’t make this stuff up.

ALEC’s Back — this time with bills crafted for state consumption which would privatize the nation’s educational systems, state by state.  There are 139 bills awaiting passage in 43 states and D.C., but before we jump on the ALEC “reform” bandwagon, it’s advisable to read “Cashing In On Kids.”  There were three bills in the last session of the Nevada legislature related to the ALEC campaign to cash in on kids:  AB 254 was the ALEC sponsored “Parent Trigger Bill,” and SB 314, the ALEC supported “Parental Rights Amendment.”  SB 407 was the “Great Teachers and Leaders Act.”   AB 254 was sponsored by: Hansen, Hickey, Hambrick, Fiore, Hardy, Kirner, Livermore, Wheeler, Gustavson — no surprises there?

Beautiful Downtown Deer Trail, CO is pondering whether to offer a bounty to those who shoot down drones.   For $25 dollars, the ordinance proposes, you can get a hunting license for a drone, and take target practice on your very own Spy Ship.  This is interesting because Congress has directed the FAA to make airspace more readily available for surveillance drones, and most serious legislation on the subject calls for a probable cause warrant before police utilize a drone.  [ACLU] So, if the Colorado State Patrol gets a probable cause warrant to send a drone over a suspected meth lab or marijuana farm — the residents of Deer Trail could shoot it down?  And, please tell me the people advocating the Drone Shoot aren’t some of the same individuals who are all for using drones to spot undocumented workers trying to cross the deserts?

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Filed under education, Filibusters, Gun Issues, Nevada politics

ALEC Inspired Assault On Public Employee Retirement in the Nevada Legislature

Nevada Legislature BuildingA bill introduced in the Nevada Assembly, AB 342, (pdf) should be carefully watched.  Once more the Public Employees Retirement System is under assault from ALEC inspired Republican interests in, transforming PERS from a defined benefit system to a defined contribution system.  In the case of AB 342 there’s a gimmick.  The bill would create a hybrid system for those who are hired after July 1, 2014, including the creation of a defined contribution individual trust account paid into by the employer (at a 6% rate.)

The first, and the most obvious, reason to oppose this bill is that We Don’t Need It.  RPEN reports “Due to careful management, PERS’ unfunded liability has decreased recently and the system’s assets have grown to a record $28.6 billion which speaks to this time-tested system’s viability.”   [Review, April 2013]

Why would anyone think we do need to change the PERS system from a defined benefit to a defined contribution, or in the case of AB 342, some kind of hybridization?

The “privatization” of public employee retirement has been a common motif of narratives spun by conservative organizations, among which ALEC is one of the most notable.

“The solution to the funding crises in state pension plans will require fundamental reform. Everything should be on the table, including changes in benefits and increased employee contribution rates, as well as employer contribution rates. These plans should consider replacing their defined benefit plans with defined-contribution plans for new employees.” [ALEC]

First, ALEC and related organizations would like us to believe that Public Employee Pensions are IN CRISIS! Crisis, I Say!   However, even if we revert to the wake of the last financial meltdown the situation nationally (and in Nevada) was not quite so alarming as the advocates of defined contribution plans would have us believe.

Information from the GAO should have been reassuring back in that day:

“Government Accountability Office said last summer, “our analysis shows that state and local governments on average would need to increase pension contribution rates to 9.3 percent of salaries— less than .5 percent more than the 9.0 percent contribution rate in 2006 to achieve healthy funding on an ongoing basis.”  Divided between employees and employers in whatever way negotiated, this is hardly an earth-shaking departure from the status quo.” [PS.org]

In short, the logic in the aftermath of the financial collapse was that defined benefit plans for public employees were in crisis because there was a down turn in the value of their investments and therefore the plans should be transformed into defined contribution plans which place retirement accounts in greater jeopardy during times of financial market volatility.  If this doesn’t make sense to you give yourself a Big Gold Star — because it doesn’t.

Secondly, the push toward defined contribution plans, or some variations thereon, obfuscates the result — that the defined contribution plans mean lower benefits for retirees and more expenses for the state to maintain the program. [FLPE]

There have been some analytical studies to support this conclusion, (using DC to mean defined contribution, and DB to mean defined benefits):

Generally, the reports found that the DC plans carried a higher price-tag than maintaining the current DB systems. In both the Michigan and New Hampshire reports, the proposed employer DC contribution rates were scored to be comparably higher than the normal DB cost. The studies cite that higher costs derive primarily from administrative costs – whether they are outsourced to a third-party or expanded internally, legal and consulting fees assumed by public pension fund handlers, and additional operating costs.  [FLPE]

Thus, moving from a defined benefit plan to a defined contribution plan primarily augments the coffers of the administrators, legal consultants, and fund managers — not the state or the retired state employees.   If defined contribution plans are more beneficial to Wall Street, then who benefits from the defined benefit plans?

We do. There is evidence of this:   Traditional defined benefit plans reduce employee turnover and aid in employee recruitment. They pay higher benefits at lower administrative costs than the DC plans.  The benefits are expended in local communities adding to their economies.  Individuals with predictable incomes tend to contribute more to the economy as consumers.  [SDCERA]

AB 342 is not a particularly useful addition to the fiscal discussions in the Nevada Assembly.  We don’t need it. It won’t save anyone any more money — and may, in fact, end up costing the state more.  Nor will it serve to do anything more than line the pockets of those wonderful people who brought us the Financial Meltdown of 2008 — who now want public employee retirement accounts to add to their funds to gamble in the Wall Street Casino.  The bill should be watched — from a distance — in what ever dark and hidden corner it now resides.

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Filed under labor, public employees

It Could Have Happened Here? Vote Suppression Attempts 2011

Nevadans may be partially excused for smugly watching the vote suppression sagas in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Florida, and Texas — BUT before we become entirely too self-congratulatory about our inclusive voting system and our generally competently run elections — we need to recall there were several bills introduced in the 2011 Legislature which were ALEC’s progeny.  Here’s one, introduced by state Senator Mike Roberson (R-Clark5):

SENATE BILL NO. 373SENATOR ROBERSON
AN ACT relating to elections; requiring photographic identification for voting; requiring  county clerks to issue voter identification cards under certain circumstances; requiring  persons who apply for absent ballots to provide certain information to county and city  clerks; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.

Section 2 provides a definition of “photographic identification” that is limited to a driver’s license or identification card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles, an identification card issued by a branch of the Armed Forces of the United States, a United States passport, an identification card issued by an Indian tribe or a voter identification card issued by a county clerk.

The bill failed “the deadline” and was not considered after April 16, 2011.  In other words, Senator Roberson sought legislation to prevent voter impersonation fraud in Nevada, the only election irregularity addressed in this bill —  a problem that frankly doesn’t exist.  News21’s investigation of voting problems in the United States yielded 2,068 cases of alleged election fraud since 2000.  The only two cases cited in Nevada dealt with the zealous prosecution of ACORN which did NOT involve impersonation fraud, but with two organization leaders who improperly paid employees associated with ProjectVote to collect voter registration applications.

Busefink/Howell: A former supervisor affiliated with the political advocacy group ACORN agreed to a plea deal Monday in a case alleging illegal bonus payments to workers registering voters in Nevada during the 2008 presidential campaign. [LVRJ]

Senator Roberson’s bill captured the spirit of the right wing American Legislative Exchange Council’s model legislation on voter identification at the polls, but did not address the only actual election management issues in the only prosecutable cases known in the state.  In short, it was legislation in search of a problem.  Had Roberson’s bill been enacted the problem would have been how to get a voting ID card.

(1) Department of Motor Vehicles: Full service offices are located in Carson City, Elko, Ely, Fallon, Hawthorne, Henderson, (2) Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Laughlin, Mesquite, Pahrump, Reno, Tonopah, Winnemucca, and Yerington.  That’s 16 full service offices to serve a state of 109,806 square miles.

(2) Military ID:  The primary types of U.S. military ID cards being issued today are the CAC for active duty and Reserve members, the Department of Defense (DD) Form 2 for retirees, and DD Form 1173 for dependents.  So far, so good.  Now, here comes the fun.  Military service numbers for identification purposes began in 1918 and were discontinued in 1974, moving to the use of Social Security numbers for identification until 2011 when the military reverted to service numbers in an effort to prevent members of the armed forces from being victims of identity theft.   All service members will have the “new” numbers in 2015.

Note that the legislation proposed by Senator Roberson doesn’t appear to include the Veterans’ Administration identity card which, also for security reasons, doesn’t put personal information on the document:

The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) provides eligible Veterans a Veterans Identification Card (VIC) for use at VA Medical Facilities. The VIC protects the privacy of Veterans’ sensitive information, as it no longer displays the Social Security Number or Date of Birth on the front of the card. The VIC will only display the Veteran’s name, picture, and special eligibility indicators – Service Connected, Purple Heart and Former POW, if applicable, on the front of the card. Only Veterans who are eligible for VA medical benefits will receive the card.

Thus, including the VA card doesn’t address Senator Roberson’s “concern” for vote integrity, but NOT including it could cause an unfortunate repeat of the story of 86 year old WWII veteran Paul Carroll of Portage County, Ohio: “A Portage County World War II veteran was turned away from a polling place this morning because his driver’s license had expired in January and his new Veterans Affairs ID did not include his home address.” [CPD]  Nothing like preventing members of the Greatest Generation from ‘fraudulently voting?’

(3) A passport:  I’m looking at my passport, the identification portion of which contains a very unflattering photograph, my nationality, my place of birth and birthday, and an expiration date.  As far as the Department of State is concerned I could be living in West Moose Fart, Montana.  How this form of identification is supposed to insure I am legally voting in Nevada is a very good question — in addition to which these things are expensive.  The going rate for a new one is $110.00.

(4) Tribal Identity Cards:  Once upon a time there were federal “Certificates of Indian Blood.” A Certificate Degree of Indian Blood does not establish membership in a tribe. Tribal membership is determined by tribal laws and may or may not require a CDIB or may require a separate tribal determination of ancestry or blood degree.  The Nevada list of recognized tribes shows which groups could issue tribal identity cards.  However, one doesn’t need to live on the reservation to be a tribal member.  Nor are all tribal people enthusiastic about handing over sovereign powers to determine membership based on documentation from federal authority (birth certificates and Social Security cards.) [TDT]  Some tribes have moved into the ID Age with their own photo-identification documents.  The Navajo Nation launched its tribal ID card program in November 2011:

The photo ID card is the size of a driver’s license, and shows much of the same information – name, birth date, gender, physical characteristics, mailing address, signature and a date of issue and expiration.

But it also lists the person’s tribal enrollment number and Navajo officials say it is an acceptable replacement for the federal Certificate of Indian Blood to prove tribal membership.  [NavTimes]

Note that the $17.00 Navajo Nation identification card shows “mailing address.”  Like much of Nevada, home delivery of mail, so common an identifier in urban areas, isn’t reality in rural regions.   I could tick off 50 or so tribal and non-tribal people in this area, Democrats, Republicans, American Independents, Libertarians alike who all “live” in Post Office Boxes.   While Senator Roberson’s bill addresses voter impersonation fraud — which hasn’t happened in Nevada — it obviously doesn’t concern any other form of voting irregularity.

(5) Voter ID from the County Clerk:  Nevada has 16 counties and one independent city.  Humboldt County has 9,648 sq miles, mostly of miles. Lincoln County has 10,635 sq miles, also mostly of miles.  The aforementioned Nye County has 18,147 sq miles, also mostly of miles.  So, residents of Railroad Valley have to go to Tonopah? Denio residents have to travel to Winnemucca?  Residents of Alamo need to go to Pioche?  How … inconvenient.

Suppression by Paperwork

In short all Senator Roberson’s bill did was to demand that every voter in the Silver State obtain some form of photo identification to prevent a problem we’ve not had from happening.   To put it rather unkindly, the provisions of the bill were not very short of intentional voter harassment.

You are a citizen of Nevada living in Esmeralda County with no DMV office, or you are a citizen of Nevada living in the Railroad Valley area? Then pony up for the ride into Tonopah to get an ID?  Are you a veteran who doesn’t have the DoD Form 2 ID and all you have is your VA card?  OK, gran’dad, start doing your paperwork.   Are you a citizen of Nevada, living anywhere without a passport?  Remember, not all Post Offices can do passports, and those things will cost you $110, whether you use it to visit your bank account in Switzerland or not.   Are you a tribal member? Does your tribe have fancy new ID’s?  Some do, some don’t.  Should your RIGHT to vote be determined by which tribe you belong to?

And all this just to “prevent” a problem of voter impersonation we don’t have.

Worse still, Senator Roberson wasn’t alone.  Other bills were introduced in the 2011 session of the Nevada legislature to harass voters and suppress voting.  They came from Assemblyman Hambrick’s AB 327, from Assemblymen Stewart and Woodbury’s AB 425, from Assemblyman Hansen’s AB 431, and from Assemblyman Hardy’s AB 434.

And all this just to “prevent” a problem of voter impersonation we don’t have.

Voting in a democracy isn’t a privilege; it’s a RIGHT.  The burden of proof that you aren’t who you say you are still rests with the State.  You are not “guilty until proven innocent.”  Register, vote, and participate.  And, during this campaign season ask prospective members of the state Senate and Assembly what they’re doing to promote democracy, and if they intend to re-introduce legislation into the next session of the legislature to stifle it.

We have enough real  issues in Nevada to deal with,  more than enough to avoid wasting time on imaginary ones.  The arguments about “preventative measures to protect your vote,” are nothing more than smoke screens to obfuscate proposals making it harder for you to vote.  The contentions that our elections are rife with fraud and abuse are hot air inflating an issue by conflation, obfuscation, and some very creative definitions of what constitute voting fraud.  Be especially mindful of the Circular Echo Squad: A person alleges “voting fraud,” then the newspaper picks up the story, and then the person or group alleging the fraud uses the newspaper article as “prof” of its existence.

A good politician in a democracy is one who is both aware of popular opinion and wise enough to know when it is contrary to the requisites of good governance.  A poor representative is one who fears his or her constituents and the processes of democracy and therefore seeks to exclude all those who don’t reflect his illusions.

There are choices to be made in 2012, and we should be thankful the 2011 session of the Nevada Legislature didn’t artificially limit the voices and votes of those who will be making them.

 

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Filed under 2012 election, civil liberties, Nevada politics, Politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

Amodei’s Five Parrot Performance on Health Care

Leave it to Nevada’s entry in the Karl-Rove-Look-And-Sound-Alike Contest, Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV2), to keep chucking out the talking points long after the parade has turned the corner.

“ObamaCare fails to accomplish real reform and instead harms health care, job creation, and the federal deficit at a time when our country can ill-afford such government-inflicted damage.   [Amodei]

Debunk:To date, 360,000 businesses that employ 2 million workers have already benefited from the small business tax cuts in the law.  And once the Affordable Care Act takes full effect, about 18 million individuals and families will get tax credits for health insurance coverage averaging about $4,000 apiece.”  [Fact Sheet] (emphasis added)

So, what businesses might be affected? There are a few, some 2.6% of the business operations in this country, which will pay the Free Rider Penalty because they do not offer health care plans and thereby force their employees into the subsidized coverage under the insurance exchange plans.  [TNR] It’s interesting that Congressman Amodei opposes provisions in the Affordable Care Act that promote individual responsibility, and seek to minimize the number of people receiving subsidized insurance?

Attaching the unsubstantiated epithet “Job Killing” to any and all legislation to which one objects doesn’t mean it will stick.

Debunk:  About that deficit – the Congressional Budget Office and Joint Committee on Taxation cranked out new estimates after the Supreme Court’s ruling:

“CBO and JCT now estimate that the insurance coverage provisions of the ACA will have a net cost of $1,168 billion over the 2012–2022 period—compared with $1,252 billion projected in March 2012 for that 11-year period—for a net reduction of $84 billion. (Those figures do not include the budgetary impact of other provisions of the ACA, which in the aggregate reduce budget deficits.)”  [CBO]

The usual right wing think tanks and astro-turf organizations continue to beat the old drum head, manipulating assumptions and recalibrating the inputs to get the desired results — but, the CBO/JCT numbers are as accurate and genuinely conservative as we’re likely to get.  The current score is Affordable Care Act 1 – Amodei 0.

The next section of Amodei’s tiny tantrum is replete with talking points unsubstantiated by anything in the real world.

“ObamaCare will cause premiums to skyrocket, forcing millions of Americans off of their current coverage and putting unelected Washington bureaucrats between patients and their doctors. With respect to the uninsured, ObamaCare drives up the cost of health care and takes us further away from real solutions to improve health care access.”  [Amodei]

Debunk:  About those skyrocketing premiums?  The information from the survey on which these claims are made came from BEFORE the act was passed.  The premium reductions may not meet the President’s optimistic predictions, but ” that’s no excuse for the RNC to cherry pick a single year of data out of the Kaiser report and suggest the law, which largely has not gone into effect, is already responsible for a rise in premiums.” [Kessler]

Debunk: Forced off your coverage? No.  The HHS rules are clear on this point:

“The rule announced today preserves the ability of the American people to keep their current plan if they like it, while providing new benefits, by minimizing market disruption and putting us on a glide path toward the competitive, patient-centered market of the future.  While it requires all health plans to provide important new benefits to consumers, it allows plans that existed on March 23, 2010 to innovate and contain costs by allowing insurers and employers to make routine changes without losing grandfather status.” [DHHS] (emphasis added)

What part of “keep your current plan if you like it” is incomprehensible to Congressman Amodei?

But wait, the Congressman isn’t finished:

“According to a survey by the non-partisan Doctor Patient Medical Association, 83 percent of American physicians have considered leaving their practices over ObamaCare, which would worsen the existing doctor shortage and threaten access for those who need it most, particularly in rural areas.”

Debunk:  Really non-partisan?  That DPMA cited by Amodei is associated with the National Tea Party Federation and American Grassroots Coalition. The DPMA is also a member of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC).  [SourceWatch]  OK, the DPMA is about as “non-partisan” as 4th of July stump speaker, but what about the survey?

The trick to getting the results one wants is to ask a really vague question and then interpret the data to taste.  The DPMA survey was classic: “How do current changes in the medical system affect your desire to practice medicine?”  Well now — that leaves a couple of barn doors wide open for a variety of interpretations!  Whether the “current changes” are federal, state, local, regional, economic, social… is left unspecified; the results then must be equally intangible, and for purposes of credible reporting — worthless.

How many people actually responded to the survey?  The methodology is a classic study in how NOT to conduct statistically credible opinion research.  The DPMA got 36,000 clinical FAX numbers, and sent out 16,227 faxes.  Out of the 16,227 faxes only 699 were completed, for a survey response rate of a less than dazzling 4.3%.  Not only is the “result” culled from a poor response rate, but most of the actual respondents were from the South.  [MMA]

Most researchers would advocate for a much better return rate in order to maintain a statistically representative sample size. [MIP pdf]  This doesn’t mean we always toss small responses out — there are at least six major factors which may relate to response levels — however, what a really small response level does mean is  that “Nonrespondents are often different from respondents, so their absence in the final sample can make it difficult to generalize the results to the overall target population.” [Relevant Insights/Small Business] *

The methodological problems alone would get this report tossed into the medical waste receptacle at once had not Fox News and other right wing sources picked up “the story,” and thus the National Tea Party Federation fable is incorporated into Congressman Amodei’s repertoire of parroted talking points.

Debunk: The Congressman also has a bit of misleading information to impart of his own. “CBO analysis also estimates that ObamaCare could cause 20 million people to lose their employee-sponsored insurance by 2019.”  Representative Amodei has left out just one little thing — like the other 75% of the analysis by the CBO.  The CBO analysis to which he refers was one of FOUR possible scenarios explored by the CBO analysts as a “worst case” instance.  A more rational estimate might be about 3 million, some of whom may voluntarily opt out of employer sponsored insurance plans.  [Fact Check]  Congressman Amodei, who is increasingly sounding like a person who has never had an original thought, is parroting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in this instance.

Congressman Amodei is winding down when he gets to this part:

“As if these consequences were not bad enough, you hear every day in Nevada and across the country of small business owners who cannot hire and expand because of the increased regulatory costs and red tape of ObamaCare.” (emphasis added)

Debunk: We do? This would be amazing since much of the Affordable Care Act isn’t in place yet.  The insurance exchanges are just now in the works.  Some small business owners may have very reasonably waited for the outcome of the Supreme Court decision, while others may in fact need assistance getting information about getting those tax credits for providing employer sponsored plans.

Small business owners who need assistance or information will find the Internal Revenue Service’s pages of interest — in very readable and clear prose.  The Department of Health and Human Services also makes simplified fact sheets and explanatory information available.

Debunk: Finally, Representative Amodei rationalizes his vote to repeal the Patients Bill of Rights and Affordable Care Act: “It is making things worse, which is why I voted to repeal ObamaCare and will continue to work for patient-centered solutions to lower costs and to improve quality health care access for all Nevadans.

What’s a “patient centered solution?”   The phrase is the spawn of the Republican Study Committee, and is essentially a tax deduction for privately purchased health care insurance, capped at $5000 per family.  Hint: a $450 monthly premium for 12 months would be $5,400.  All those with previously existing medical conditions would be served by high risk pools — not individual or employer sponsored plans.   Not to put too fine a point to it, the Republican Study Committee proposal is a lovely gift wrapped present to the health insurance corporations of America.

And thus we have Representative Mark Amodei (R-NV) parroting the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the ALEC member DMPA, Fox News and the Drudge Report, and the Republican Study Committee.  That’s a Five Parrot Performance!
———-

* There are some very useful resources on surveys and sampling available online.  See also:  Gardner-Bonneau, University of Michigan – Kalamazoo Medical Center, Office of Research.  Ellison Research, Sample Size Questions.  The Government of Queensland, Australia has a simplified guide to survey research that touches most of the basics.

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Filed under 2012 election, Amodei, Health Care, health insurance

Bits and Pieces

** Will the Hispanic vote be crucial in the upcoming Nevada general election. Maybe, maybe not. Full article Las Vegas Sun.

** Before dismissing the Buffett Rule as a “gimmick,” it should be noted that several important concepts are directly related to it. [TPM] It’s interesting that for the right wing/financialist crowd no amount brought in (even $47 billion over ten years) is supposedly enough to “really do any good,” ergo nothing should be done. Whatever happened to saying, in regard to reducing the deficit and paying for essential services — Every little bit helps?   Secondly, how will Republicans handle both refusing to adopt the Buffet Rule AND campaigning for the further extension of the Bush Tax Cuts?  Third, as TPM points out the only “tax reform” the Republicans are willing to discuss comes in the form of exceedingly regressive Flat Tax proposals which are a direct hit on the Middle Class, or in proposals which raise no revenue.

** By the way, the Financialists are already calculating ways to avoid the Buffett Rule.  [BloombergNews]  This might be the time to dig out the Congressional Research Service’s 2011 publication: “Changes in the distribution of income among tax filers, 1996 to 2006” (pdf), and review.

**  Would any of the Nevada Representatives in Congress who voted for the Ryan Budget 2.0 (Amodei, Heck) like to comment on this analysis?

“Paul Ryan wants to turn Medicaid into a “block grant” while reducing its funding level by about one-third over ten years. The details of his proposal are murky, but from past conservative moves in this direction, it’s likely he’s talking about giving states a fixed, capped sum in federal funds while eliminating most conditions for its use, as a way station to total state assumption of responsibility for low-income health care needs at some point in the future.” [TWM]

Were they truly elected to Congress to shift more of the burden of providing basic medical care for low income citizens back onto the state?

** ProgressVA issued a report on ALEC legislation enacted by the Virginia Legislature and connections between the corporation sponsored organization and Virginia politicians.    The Virgina House Speaker objected to the report, but when asked for specific examples of inaccuracies challenged the lady with whom he was speaking, “I guess I’m not speaking in little enough words for you to understand.”   The lady replied that words with multiple syllables would be just fine.  [Karoli, Crooks&Liars] Speaker Howell could cite no example of any inaccuracies in the report.

** The American Factfinder tells us — in management positions women earn 73.4% of men’s earnings. In law related occupations women earn 51.2% of men’s earnings, and in sales related occupations women earn 64.5& of men’s earnings.

** What GOP War on Women? It’s real. [ABC Biden] It’s official — at least in Arizona — Life can begin before contraception. [RT] Maybe the Grover Norquist phrase should be reworded, to “government should be small enough to fit in everyone’s bedroom?”

** Science says: “Dramatic Increase In Oklahoma Earthquakes Is Man Made.”  [AUG] And, there’s this: “We are really seeing a structural change in the US energy environment because of falling domestic demand and expanded output from fracking. For the first time since oil became a major issue in the 1970’s we are starting to see a real possibility that over the next decade the US could really achieve energy self sufficiency.”  [AngryBear]

** That study which says that Obamacare will increase the deficit was sponsored by GOP donors, and the numbers only work IF Congress slashes Medicare funding (thus putting all the costs into the ACA category.) [Bernstein] Speaking of Gimmicks…

** Historical Flashback:

Some Individuals of our Countrymen, by the Smiles of Providence or some other Means, are enabled to roll in their four–wheel’d Carriages, and can support the Expence of good Houses, rich Furniture, and Luxurious Living. But, is it equitable that 99, or rather 999 should suffer for the Extravagance or Grandeur of one? Especially when it is consider’d, that Men frequently owe their Wealth to the Impoverishment of their Neighbours.   New York Gazette, 1765.  [Liberty Street Econ]

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Filed under 2012 election, Amodei, ecology, Economy, Heck, income inequality, Medicaid, Medicare, Nevada politics, tax revenue, Taxation, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Nevada’s not-so-smart ALEC’s?

Who are the ‘smart-ALECs’ in the Nevada Legislature?  Marc Morial, head of the National Urban League sums up the problem with the ultra-conservative organization which promotes ‘model legislation’ for the consideration of state legislatures:

It is bad enough that since its founding in 1981, ALEC has been the shadow author of numerous pieces of legislation aimed at boosting corporate power and profits, reducing worker rights, weakening environmental protections, and restricting voter rights.  Now, the organization is actively supporting a law which is moving this country back to the lawless days of the Wild West when it was common practice to “Shoot First and Ask Questions Later.”  That is not the kind of America we or our children deserve in the 21st century. [NUL]

What does ALEC want, and who in the Nevada legislature might be willing to introduce and support their legislation?

What’s on the ALEC agenda?

1. Bills to privatize public lands, and promote the interests of exploiters and polluters.   In 1995 ALEC supported the Sagebrush Rebellion Act, drafting model legislation to transfer ownership of unappropriated lands from the federal government to the states.   There is serious doubt that any of the bills introduced in western states, and passed in Utah, will withstand judicial scrutiny, but that doesn’t matter to the exploiters and polluters who want to bypass federal environmental rules.  [RSN] ALEC also sponsored a 1995 resolution encouraging rolling back the Endangered Species Act.

In case the federal government doesn’t get the message by 2013, ALEC has a draft resolution ready for members of state legislatures to introduce severely limiting the designation of national monuments, unless there is unanimous agreement from all parties.

2. Promote the interests of corporations, and corporate profitability.

“ALEC works fervently to promote laws that would shield corporations from legal action and allow them to limit the rights of workers. The group’s model legislation would roll back laws regarding corporate accountability, workers compensation and on the job protections, collective bargaining and organizing rights, prevailing wage and the minimum wage. ALEC is a main proponent of bills that undermine organized labor by stripping public employees of collective bargaining rights and “right to work” laws.They also push “regulatory flexibility” laws that lead to massive deregulation. It is no surprise that the director of ALEC’s Commerce, Insurance and Economic Development Task Force previously worked as a Koch Associate at the Charles G. Koch Charitable Foundation.”  [PFAW]

It’s no secret from whence came all the anti-labor legislation in Michigan, Wisconsin, and Indiana.  Nor is it any dark secret about the source of model prevailing wage, or anti-collective bargaining legislation.  “In 2011, Republican governors and GOP-dominated legislatures introduced more than 500 anti-labor bills, many carbon copies of ALEC model legislation, all of them inspired by the group’s work. These proposals restricted collective bargaining, limited project labor agreements and shredded living wage laws and other labor standards.”  [IAFF] 2013 will, no doubt, not be any different.

There was a bit of leftover legislation, S.B. 41 which would have eliminated collective bargaining for local government employees, which by April 16, 2011 was a dead letter issue.   However, this wasn’t the only anti-union bill introduced in the last legislative session.  S.B. 342 removed all supervisors from bargaining units, and removed recognition from the scope of mandatory bargaining. The bill also made dues deductions optional.  S.B. 342 was sponsored by State Senators Roberson, Cegavske, Brower, Gustavson, Halseth, Kieckhefer, and Settelmeyer.   State Senator Barbara Cegavske (R-8) proudly lists her affiliation with ALEC, since 1997, in her official bio.

There is confirmation in public sources of ALEC membership for Dean Rhoads, Greg Brower, Ben Kieckhefer, and Barbara Cegavske, current members of the Nevada Legislature.  [DB]

Senator Gustavson introduced S.B. 162, which prohibited school districts and teachers from negotiating transfers and reassignments. AB 555 was introduced on behalf of the governor on March 28, 2011, and included among other provisions a statement legislating one year contracts for all public school teachers.  ALEC has model legislation for these topics too.   Someone forgot to note that in Nevada all teachers already have one year contracts?

However, nothing says ‘promotion of corporate interests’ quite like legislation to repeal the minimum wage, and Senator Joe  Hardy (R-12) obligingly introduced S.J.R. 4 in the Nevada legislature to do precisely that.   Not surprisingly, ALEC has a model for this legislation as well.

3.  Bills to restrict voting rights and promote corporate influence.   There has been a deluge of anti-voting rights bills in recent state legislatures, and they are directly related to ALEC activity:

“ALEC is directly tied to the emerging trend among state legislatures to consider voter ID laws. Using false allegations of “voter fraud,” right-wing politicians are pursuing policies that disenfranchise students and other at-risk voters,–including the elderly and the poor–who are unlikely to have drivers’ licenses or other forms of photo ID. By suppressing the vote of such groups, ALEC’s model “Voter ID Act” grants an electoral advantage to Republicans while undermining the right to vote. In addition, ALEC wants to make it easier for corporations to participate in the political process. Their Public Safety and Elections taskforce is co-chaired by Sean Parnell of the Center for Competitive Politics, one of the most vociferous pro-corporate election groups, and promotes model legislation that would devastate campaign finance reform and allow for greater corporate influence in elections.” [PFAW]

Enacting burdensome regulations regarding voter identification and access to the polls has been a hallmark of ALEC model legislation.   Thirty three state legislatures considered such legislation in 2011 alone.  Wisconsin, Alabama, Kansas, South Carolina and Tennessee have passed such bills. [Nation]

Compare this piece of model legislation in regard to voter identification from ALEC to the inclusions of A.B. 327 in the 2011 Nevada Legislature. The legislation was introduced by Assemblyman John Hambrick (R-Dist.2). Assemblyman Hambrick does not list ALEC as one of his affiliations, but his sponsorship of A.B. 327 certainly places him firmly in the category of those doing ALEC’s bidding.  A.B. 327 wasn’t the only piece of legislation in the 76th Session which sought to suppress voting,  Assemblymen Lynn D.  Stewart (R-22) and Melissa Woodbury (R-23) sponsored A.B. 425, which would have required specific forms of voter identification.  Again, while their official bio’s do not reference membership in ALEC, they were more than willing to support ALEC’s voter suppression agenda.

The assault on voting rights didn’t stop with Hambrick, Stewart, and Woodbury, because Assemblyman Ira Hansen (R-32 ) sponsored his own vote identification legislation, A.B. 431.   Assemblyman Cresent Hardy (R-20) placed yet another voter ID bill in the hopper, A.B. 434.  For those keeping score, no less than four members of the 76th Session of the Nevada legislature were ready and more than willing to place their imprimatur on bills to suppress the vote in Nevada elections, as per the ALEC agenda.

4. Bills to restrict the application or implementation of federal statutes in the states and territories.   This is the realm of the 10th Amendment campaign, launched by ALEC in 1995. There is, once more, a handy bit of model legislation from ALEC to be used to draft a “10th Amendment” resolution by a state legislature.  We should not be surprised then that AJR 4, introduced in the 76th Nevada legislative session sounds almost exactly like the ALEC model.   The sponsors of AJR 4 were Assembly representatives Goedhart, Goicoechea, Hansen, Grady, Hambrick, Hammond, Hardy, Kirner, Kite, Livermore, Stewart, Woodbury, and Halseth.

5. Bills to promote the NRA’s campaign to remove restrictions on firearms.   Perhaps the most topical item on ALEC’s agenda is the organization’s promotion of the NRA agenda on guns.   Senator Gustavson’s S.B. 176 would have removed any restrictions on concealed firearms, and section 2 of A.B. 231 would have accomplished the same end. A.B. 231 was sponsored by  Assembly members Goedhart, Hardy, Ellison, Goicoechea, Grady, Hambrick, Hickey, Kirner, Kite, Sherwood, and Stewart, along with Senators  Gustavson, McGinness, and Rhoads.

While not the blanket permission sought in ALEC/NRA “carry on campus” [MMA] model legislation, S.B. 231 would have allowed guns on campuses with approval. At the risk of repetition, the bill was sponsored by Assembly members Goedhart, Hardy, Ellison, Goicoechea, Grady, Hambrick, Hickey, Kirner, Kite, Sherwood, and Stewart.

Even more to the contemporary point, NRS 200.120 was amended in 2011 to incorporate a “stand your ground provision” as sought by ALEC and the NRA.   Assembly Bill 231 (NRS 200.120) is summarized as follows:

“Under existing case law, there is no duty to retreat before using deadly force if the person using deadly force is not the original aggressor and reasonably believes that he or she is about to be killed or seriously injured. (Culverson v. State, 106 Nev. 484 (1990)) This bill provides that under the defense of justifiable homicide there is no duty to retreat if the person using deadly force: (1) is not the original aggressor; (2) has a right to be present at the location where deadly force is used; and (3) is not actively engaged in conduct in furtherance of criminal activity at the time deadly force is used. [NVLeg]

Now, find the names in the list of sponsors of A.B. 231 we’ve seen before: Assemblymen Oceguera, Anderson, Kirkpatrick, Atkinson, Hambrick; Aizley, Benitez-Thompson, Bobzien, Bustamante Adams, Carrillo, Conklin, Daly, Diaz, Dondero Loop, Ellison, Flores, Frierson, Goedhart, Goicoechea, Grady, Hammond, Hansen, Hardy, Hickey, Hogan, Horne, Kirner, Kite, Livermore, McArthur, Munford, Neal, Ohrenschall, Segerblom, Sherwood, Smith, Stewart and Woodbury.”

If past practice is any guide at all, the members of ALEC in the Nevada Legislature in 2013, and those who are not ALEC members but who promote ALEC’s corporate sponsored agenda, will be relying yet again on the “model legislation” offered by those corporations which feel they should be subject to less oversight and regulation, lower taxes, and more influence in our elections.

The health of a representative democracy requires citizen participation.  What ALEC and its allies are offering are auctions instead of elections, and corporatism and financialism instead of free market capitalism.  This perspective is all the more reason for citizens to be vigilant in regard to who is promoting what legislation in our state legislatures — and Nevada is no exception.

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Filed under 2012 election, conservatism, labor, Nevada economy, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, privatization, public lands, Vote Suppression

ALEC’s Plan for the 2013 Legislature: Part 2 The Assault on Public Employees

The American Legislative Exchange Council’s “State Budget Reform Toolkit” (pdf) is a 1.99mb download, but any Nevada citizen who wants a preview of the upcoming legislative session should take the time to look at it. There are portions of its content which clearly inform some of the recent battles and predict new areas of ideological conflict.  Witness: Public Employees.

The first recommendation in this regard is to implement a statewide hiring freeze, the rationale is presented on page 23 of the ALEC document:

During a budget crisis, all state agencies will argue their services are essential. These cries will become even louder if layoffs are discussed. Unions and other special interests will line up against layoffs and cry loudly against disrupting the status quo. This can be avoided by implementing a hiring freeze and analyzing which needs are the most pressing. Adopting a flexible freeze on state hiring would reduce state employment growth while allowing agency
managers to maintain existing staffing levels—prioritizing new hiring where it is most needed, while ensuring the overall size of state government doesn’t grow. This approach maintains the flexibility necessary for agency managers to focus on the most important programs and maintain adequate service levels.

Note, that the proposed auditing of state services assumes a re-prioritization of state services, and does not assume increases in population which might drive a needs assessment, nor does it assume any changes in needs.  The bottom line is that “the overall size of state government” doesn’t grow. When ALEC speaks to the “overall size” what they are saying is that they want NO increase in the number of public employees. No matter changes in population or demographics, no matter the changes in economic conditions, and no matter any new needs or demands for state services which might arise.

This is a Zero Sum game. If there is a greater “need” for social services case workers, then perhaps this might be balanced by a reduction in the number of persons hired by NDOT.  If there is a greater “need” for NDOT workers then this might be offset by a reduction in the number of health inspectors. If it is felt we need more state health inspectors, then perhaps these positions might be obtained by cutting the number of state park personnel….and so on.

ALEC assumes that “unions and special interests” are the drivers behind the opposition to reductions in force.  ALEC’s disdain for public employee unions is palpable, and such organizations as the PTA, or associations of school administrators and school boards are “special interests.”  Should local county commissions request increased program funding and support for services like Senior Centers, local health care services, or water treatment improvement support personnel — these may very well fall under the epithetic categorization of “special interests.”

Nevada’s already under this gun. On May 15, 2008 the state personnel office issued a memo saying: (pdf)

Due to the continuing decline in the State of Nevada’s General Fund revenues sources, the State is faced with serious financial challenges. One of the proactive steps we can take at this time is to limit the hiring of current and future vacant positions. Therefore, effective May 16, 2008, the Department of Personnel is stopping all hiring activities for all open positions that are not on the exempt list.

More recently, the State Board of Prison Commissioners implemented a hiring freeze on March 9, 2011 which purports to save the state some $16 million over two years. [LVRJ] Even a cursory look at the state budget yields the information that the state is not hiring.  ALEC has an answer for this too: Vacate unfilled positions. The assumption appears to be that if we don’t need the position now we never will.

Mental health services in Nevada demonstrate an  unfortunate example of what happens when budgets are cut, and then funding is never significantly restored.  The Nevada Disability Advocacy and Law Center issued a report in February 2005 documenting the paucity of services available and the meager funding in this area. (pdf) When the NAMI compiled results of a survey of state funding in 2011 it found that Nevada’s cuts to mental health care services were 5th in the nation, at 28.1% behind only South Carolina, Alabama, Alaska, and Illinois.

The second area of attack on state and other public employees has been and will continue to be public employee pensions. ALEC says, “In recent years, state governments have encountered a funding crisis in their pension plans for public
employees.”

On February 20, 2012 the ultra-conservatives were sounding off about freezing defined benefit programs:

“It is time for state government to accurately account for and begin reducing massive deficits,” Williams said in the letter. “By freezing defined benefit pensions, you are taking one step closer to truly balancing budgets. Our nation can no longer ignore the realities and push our budget problems onto future taxpayers.” [NNB]

This is a classic illustration of a manufactured crisis. The same article reports:

“Nevada PERS officials say the current state plan is actuarially sound, and that the unfunded liability will be covered over time. They also note that the contribution rates required to keep the plan healthy are set by an independent actuary and are fully funded by the Legislature. The Legislature also made several changes to the existing PERS plan in 2009.”

The current state defined benefits plan will face more attacks, in spite of the fact that it IS actuarially sound, and in spite of the fact that contribution rates are adequate. What the privatization advocates from the right wing, as represented by ALEC, want is a defined contribution plan, such a form of 401(k).

A paper prepared for global institutional investors (pdf) in December 2006 highlights the problem with the move from defined benefits to defined contribution plans in the private sector:

“The transition from DB to DC plans in private sector pensions is shifting investment risk from the corporate sector to households. Households are therefore becoming increasingly exposed to financial markets, and retirement income may be subject to greater variability than before. This is not only the case in countries with a mature occupational pension system, but also interestingly in emerging markets, where pension reforms (aimed at either setting up private occupational pension schemes or funding pay-as-you-go systems) are adopting a structure predominantly based on that of DC or hybrid schemes.” (emphasis added)

Two red flags wave before us: (1) the investment risk is shifted from the employer to the employee; and (2) the employees are “increasingly exposed to financial markets.”  This is YOYO (You’re On Your Own) writ large. It is also a nice scheme by which the financial markets — and the financialist marketeers — gain access to more money (retirement contributions) for their Wall Street Casino. For the Financialists this is a double win. Heads they get retirement funds to invest, and Tails they get more people increasingly dependent on their financial manipulations such that they might secure more political support from the now-more-dependent contributors.

These recommendations are precisely what we might expect from an organization like ALEC which has secured support from the Charles G. Koch Foundation, the Scaife Foundation, Coor’s Castlerock Foundation, the Bradley Foundation, and the Olin Foundation.  Surely State Senator Dean Rhoads, who has served on the ALEC Board of Directors [PRW] will not advocate legislation too far out of step with the interests of State Farm Insurance Inc., the Altria Group, AT&T, Bayer Pharmaceutical, Coca-Cola, Exxon-Mobil, Koch Companies, Pfizer, Peabody Energy, and WalMart. [AExp] Nor might we expect any dissent from State Senator Barbara Cegavske (R-Clark 8) who includes ALEC membership in her official bio.

The Zero Sum Game hiring freeze will no doubt emerge in the next session of the Nevada legislation, in tandem with the ALEC recommendations for changing the public employees retirement systems from a defined benefits to a defined contribution format. Forewarned is forearmed.

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Filed under Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, public employees

ALEC’s plans for 2013 Nevada Legislature

The Nevada Policy Research Institute just released its “Solutions 2013” policy manual for conservative legislators (pdf); it doesn’t take much digging to see some remarkable consistency with ALEC’s “Budget Took Kit,” (pdf) and with some traditional anti-government proposals from time out of mind.

It shouldn’t surprise anyone that one of the initial recommendations from NPRI is the rejuvenation of the TASC proposal.  “TASC would offer long‐term certainty to potential investors and job‐creators in Nevada by curtailing the perpetual drive for new taxes.”   There’s absolutely nothing new here.  TASC is simply TABOR with another acronym.  The so-called “Taxpayer Bill of Rights” has long been the darling of Americans for Prosperity, a front group for Koch Industries.  In November 2005, voters in Colorado found that they had had all the “improvements” they could stand with their version of TASC, and loosened most of the restrictions. [Dkos]

Moving beyond the large graphs, we find NPRI recommending “Charter Agencies,” as a surrogate for government divisions: “The charter agency framework can be modeled after the 2003 enabling legislation from Iowa, SF 453 and HF 837. Agency directors who opt in should be signed to performance contracts that outline their responsibilities for meeting legislatively defined goals. These contracts should reward each increase in agency excellence with more and more agency discretion.”   Now, where might the think tank have derived this notion?

First from their own “Better Budgeting” (pdf) offerings, derived in no small part from ALEC’s “Priorities of Government Budgeting Model” (page 15).  While there is nothing intrinsically wrong with establishing priorities and monitoring the performance of government agencies — there is something to be feared if the priorities are skewed toward privatization, and the performance measured by money saved instead of efficacious services rendered.

The NPRI further recommends: “The position of an elected, independent state auditor should be established under Nevada law, free of manipulation by incumbent politicians. The state auditor should be free to select any state or local government or program for review. Existing auditors’ offices in the legislative and executive branches should be consolidated with the office of the state auditor.”  (page 10) And, this would not be all that different from ALEC’s recommendation: “The state auditor should have the discretion to conduct comprehensive performance audits on a routine basis to identify waste and overlapping regulations, and ensure that taxpayers are getting the best value.” (page 28) The question becomes, if the auditor is elected, do we not have just one more “incumbent politician?”

NPRI recommends: “Incorporate a competitive bidding process into the performance based budgeting method. Nevada taxpayers deserve the highest value possible for their tax dollars. Competitive bidding is crucial to that effort.” (page 12)  ALEC has another, more compact title for this concept: “Embrace the Expanded Use of Privatization and Competitive Contracting.” (page 29) Privatization by any other term is still privatization.

NPRI continues: “Through constitutional provision or statute, limit the growth in local government spending to the rate of population growth plus inflation. Also, reform or repeal NRS 288, Nevada’s collective bargaining statute, to eliminate upward pressure on local government spending from special interest groups.”

If you noticed the formula in the first section of the recommendation, and it seemed familiar, you were correct — it is simply a restatement of the TABOR/TASC formulation we’ve seen before.  The second part is a blunt statement asking for the repeal of collective bargaining for public employees. Those “special interests” are more commonly known as public employees,  teachers, firefighters, and law enforcement personnel.

ALEC has some model legislation to deal with these pesky public servants.

If we were thinking that the fight over public employee pensions were a thing of the past, we’d be wrong.  NPRI has a “plan” and asserts that PERS doesn’t properly account for risk, is over enthusiastic,  and is not “market-modeled.”  Translation: Public employees should have a defined contribution plan, not a defined benefits plan. The NPRI states it ever so much more politely:

Require PERS to incorporate a market based accounting approach. If policymakers and taxpayers want to uphold the promises made to public employees in Nevada, they first need to have a clear understanding of what those promises entail. The current PERS accounting method obscures the magnitude of those commitments.” (page 22)

The rejoinder to this recommendation: “... state-based conservative groups like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) have called for cutting public employee pension and health care benefits and replacing them with less secure 401k-style plans that would inevitably leave many retirees in poverty.”   This would be the “market based approach.”

It’s not just public employees NPRI and ALEC would assault, private sector employees are also a target:

NPRI: “Reduce construction costs by repealing prevailing wage requirements. The bulk of local‐government bonds are issued to finance the construction of public infrastructure. These costs — and the bond issues required to finance them — can be dramatically reduced by repealing the state’s prevailing wage requirements, which artificially inflate labor costs by about 45 percent, on average.”   Repealing prevailing wage requirements? Who else is calling for this?

Not surprisingly, ALEC has a piece of fill in the blank legislation for this target too:

Judging from the length of the NPRI’s segment on public education we ought to expect another frontal assault on that topic, and perhaps there will be time in the next few days to compare the ALEC approach and the NPRI’s recommendations in that battle field.

In short, the NPRI’s recommendations fit smoothly into the general framework of the ALEC proposals, and for this the Koch brothers should be pleased.

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Filed under Nevada budget, Nevada legislature, TASC

Coffee and the Papers

** Winners (casinos, golf courses) Losers (small business owners, residential customers) in the latest round of Nevada Water Games. [TheNVView] And, the “other” potential loser, of course — rural Nevada, because there’s still that Gorilla sitting in the back of the room: The Pipeline. [8News]

** The continuing Soap Opera (aka Nevada GOP chairmanship) continues; for more information see this article in the Las Vegas Sun.  It is enough to make one wonder that if a major qualification for office is “He’s not been indicted for anything” — if that isn’t faint praise?

** The NPRI has its talking points ready in a pre-digested format for the 2013 term. [NNB] “Solutions 2013” (pdf) Its 88 pages of the same old stuff.  Witness. Among the recommendations is the time tested (and failed) TASC, ostensibly to “protect” taxpayers — which was unceremoniously dumped in Colorado.  Then there’s Performance based budgeting — which sounds remarkably like the ALEC recommendation for “Performance Assessment and Management” in their “Tool Kit.” (pdf) Same old. Same old.

** NV Energy is looking at cuts to programs to assist energy efficiency efforts (weatherization, Energy Star lighting, Solar Water Installation, 2nd refrigerator recycling).  [Reno Gz/Jr]

** Be careful what you wish for, you might get it? The Senate is poised to vote on the Blunt Amendment (anti-contraception) [TPM] Message: This controversy isn’t about “religious liberty,” it’s about the license given to one religious faction to dictate to other believers in different factions. It’s also about allowing health insurance corporations to offer employers plans which do NOT include basic preventative health care options like vaccinations, contraception, or any other coverage the employer would like to exclude from basic coverage.

Sam Fullwood III addresses the religious issues succinctly:

Our nation doesn’t lack religious faith. What we lack is uniformity of religious expression. There are black Mormons, Latino evangelicals, Asian Protestants, and Muslims of all hues and races. Religion thrives in the fertile diversity of American culture. This is a good thing.

Unfortunately, some political and religious leaders fail to understand or appreciate the value in the blooming of faith traditions within a secular government. For them, religion is a one-size-fits-all edict, or a blunt weapon used to bludgeon anyone who disagrees with their narrow and exclusive views.

** The STOCK Act is limping toward passage, but only after House Republicans stripped out provisions regulating “intelligence consultants” who pick up and then disseminate economic tid-bits to those who pay for the information. [Politico] And they wonder why they have low approval ratings?

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Filed under Water, water rights, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Of Happy Bells and Dogs In Mangers

Happy Jingle Bells To Nevada Deputy Secretary of State Bob Walsh for calling out those who are perpetually screeching about “voter fraud” without providing a scintilla of actual evidence that such activity is rampant in our election processes:

“Walsh said the claims that Nevada’s electoral process is or will now be susceptible to widespread fraud are unfounded and “erode confidence in our electoral process.”

“If these individuals have any actionable evidence of election law violations in prior elections, they should report it immediately to our Election Integrity Task Force so that we can aggressively investigate,” said Walsh. “Without any evidence, it is simply irresponsible to broadcast unsupported claims challenging the integrity of Nevada’s electoral process.” [Nevada News Bureau]

It’s important to note that those who would restrict voting RIGHTS are often pointing NOT to voting irregularities, but to registration problems.  Additionally, the Anti-ACORN crowd was only too pleased to cite registration issues with that organization, but was only too reticent to investigate allegations of registration improprieties in 2004 perpetrated by Nathan Sproul and his associates.  [GW.edu]  Most of the “evidence” for voter fraud is “potential,” i.e. the state may be making it too easy for members of ethnic minority communities and working people to vote.   The cycle is simplicity itself: Allegations are published by conservative organs, and then the publications is cited to “substantiate” the charges, and a “fraud is born.”

Over and over again, the myth of widespread voter fraud is used to justify stronger restrictions on voting and voter registration (like voter ID laws), as well as voter roll purges. It has also been used to attack organizations which register large numbers of low income and minority voters, by painting simple mistakes made during registration drives as organized efforts to commit voter fraud. These kind of made up scandals have helped the right wing convince the public that voter fraud is real and voter ID laws are necessary to protect the integrity of elections.

The truth is that voter ID laws are discriminatory — Black people, Latinos, the elderly, students, people with disabilities, and the poor are all less likely to have the photo IDs necessary to vote under these laws.  For example, if you’ve recently moved because of foreclosure or some other economic circumstance, you’re more likely to have recently ended up in a new state which won’t accept your out of state driver’s license. If you don’t have a car, you’re less likely to have a driver’s license in the first place.  [C&L]

The Koch Brothers funded ALEC has model legislation available, and introduced in 34 state legislatures to further the vote suppression agenda.  [Nation] ALEC’s model legislation to restrict voting rights is almost identical to the language in Arizona’s Prop 200. [PFAW page 58+ pdf]  Similarities to proposed legislation in Nevada has been reported previously.

Dog In The Manger To Senator Dean Heller whose proposal to extend the payroll tax holiday for working Nevadans was offset by cutting wages and jobs for public employees.  His unpopular S. 1931 [Heller] attracted only 22 adherents, and carefully avoided any additional imposition on millionaires and billionaires — which Heller classifies as “small businesses.”  97% of small businesses in the United States earn less than $250,000 annually.  [WaPo]  Only 3% of  LLC’s, partnerships, and S corporations report income over $250,000 per year. [BFC]

Happy Jingle Bells To Carson City District Judge James Wilson who decided that the Personhood proposal was too vague to be on the Nevada ballot. [NNB]  The proposal, presented by the aptly named Mr. Kreep, would bestow personhood on any form indicating biological development.    If any level or form of biological development confers personhood, then any form of contraception might be considered illegal.  For that matter, debris from any menstrual cycle might, under these vague terms, also be considered the destruction of human life.

Dog In The Manger To Nevada Representatives Heck and Amodei who feign disappointment that there wasn’t a year long extension of the pay roll tax holiday.   Heck posted, “I urge the Senate to put Nevadans above their own personal comfort by returning to Washington and working with the House to give our struggling families the certainty and stability only a yearlong extension can provide.”   Really?  House Republicans originally opposed the bill (H.R. 4853, 2010) to create the payroll tax holiday, and the Heritage Foundation sniffed that the bill would not be a “job creator.”

Representative Amodei (R-NV2) thought H.R. 3630 was a much better bill than the Senate version, with just what the American people wanted.  Unless, of course, you didn’t want additional corporate tax deductions, the Keystone Pipeline, cutting mandatory flood insurance, drug testing for unemployment benefit recipients,… and the remaining pro-corporate Wish List from Wall Street.

Happy Jingle Bells To economics writer Joe Nocera, NYT, who’s tired of the Big Lie that housing policy caused the Great Recession.   AEI’s Peter Wallison’s Victory Lap on the occasion of SEC charges against Fannie and Freddie executives completely misses the point, and Nocera noticed.  The bust was not a product of housing policy, but a maniacal and singularly narrow focus on achieving Market Share.   “But the S.E.C. complaint makes almost no mention of affordable housing mandates. Instead, it charges that the executives were motivated to begin buying subprime mortgages — belatedly, contrary to the Big Lie — because they were trying to reclaim lost market share, and thus maximize their bonuses. ”  (emphasis added) And, how was this done?

“For instance, in February 2007, Fannie Mae for the first time disclosed its subprime exposure and claimed that 0.2% (approximately $4.8 billion) of its Single Family mortgage credit book of business consisted of subprime mortgage loans or structured Fannie Mae MBS backed by subprime mortgage loans. This disclosure did not, at minimum, include an additional $57.1 billion worth of loans that fell squarely within the company’s broadly stated subprime definition of loans made to borrowers with weaker credit histories. Nothing in Fannie Mae’s disclosure alerted investors about the excluded subprime loans.”  [SEC]

Hence, the problem is not that Fannie Mae held mortgages of those who had weak credit histories — but that it failed to reveal its exposure to subprime mortgage loans to its investors.  Nocera knows whereof he speaks, and All The Devils Are Here, co-authored with Bethany McLean, is highly recommended reading for those who would like to ignore the partisan apologists and concentrate on what actually went wrong on Wall Street.

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Filed under Amodei, Heck, Heller, Taxation, Vote Suppression