Tag Archives: ALEC

Heads Up Items: Infrastructure, ALEC, Social Security, Financial Reform

Jig Saw Puzzle

There are items which don’t lend themselves to a full blog post, but are of immediate interest. Here’s a sampling:

#1. ALEC may be down to nine big corporate sponsors, but that doesn’t mean it doesn’t have a full agenda for its 2015 legislative season.  Watch for bills, often crafted from ALEC ‘models,’ on pre-empting efforts to increase the minimum wage. depriving low wage workers of health insurance, deregulating electronic cigarettes, protesting global taxes on tobacco, regulating ride share companies, lowering certification standards for dental practitioners, limiting the ability of individuals or businesses to dispute a denied property insurance claim, and school privatization.

#2. We’d probably ought to be watching the state of pipeline infrastructure in this country.  The current pipelines are aging, and some were constructed during the 1950s when low frequency electric resistance welds were popular – these welds are failing.  There’s more information from Inside Climate News, and from the Department of Transportation’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration reports.

#3.  There are inklings that the Republicans in Congress are planning to turn discussions of Social Security into an Annual Crisis – such as they’ve done with debates about the budget deficit and the national debt.  The process is almost an art form: Declare a CRISIS; mount a full-on publicity campaign complete with constant press releases, comments from members of Congress, and pundits on television; ignore factual refutation and information; then use the CRISIS to leverage concessions from the Democrats.

#4. Expect the Republicans in Congress to step up their attacks on the financial reform regulations enacted in the Dodd-Frank Act.  For some excellent background information see the conversation between Bill Moyers and Simon JohnsonSalon also has a piece on the same subject, and the New York Times weighs in as well.  If you missed these, it might be a good idea to have a click and read.

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Filed under Economy, financial regulation, Infrastructure, Social Security

Heller and the ALEC by the back door minimum wage issue

Heller 2Yesterday’s post concerned Senator Dean Heller’s (R-NV) decision to support the Republican filibuster of an increase in the federal minimum wage, focusing primarily on the economic effects and the number of Nevada workers who might be immediately affected.  However, there was a second element to Senator Heller’s objection to the measure — that the states should be the ones to raise the minimum wage levels in their jurisdictions.   As if they would?

What might prevent a state from opting to increase the minimum wage?  ALEC.

The American Legislative Exchange Council is actively working toward the goal of enacting legislation reducing minimum wages and overtime pay, or stopping localities from doing the same:

“Since 2011, politicians backed by the American Legislative Exchange Council, which has hit the headlines for previous campaigns on voting rights and gun laws, have introduced 67 different laws in 25 different states on the issue.

The proposed laws are generally aimed at reducing minimum wage levels, weakening overtime protection or stopping the local creation of minimum wage laws in cities or states. Using language similar to “model bill” templates drafted by Alec, they were put forward by local politicians who are almost always Republican and affiliated with the powerful conservative group.” [TRS] (emphasis added)

Eleven of those bits of “model legislation” eventually became law, including in New Hampshire, Arizona, and Idaho.  For state legislators not inclined to do their own drafting, ALEC has conveniently provided a piece of fill-in-the-blank model legislation (pdf) for them.  In fact, according to the National Employment Law Project, ALEC is steadfastly opposed to  (1) minimum wage laws, (2) living wage legislation, (3) minimum wage laws for starting workers, (4) increases in overtime pay.  There is model legislation to preempt state efforts in all these areas. [NELP pdf]

However Jeffersonian Senator Heller may wish to sound about “state’s rights,” the design should be reasonably clear — conservative forces backed by deep pocketed corporate sponsors want to eliminate minimum wage legislation, prevent living wage bills, and preempt state and local efforts to enact protections for working people.  So, from the bully pulpit inside the Beltway, Senator Heller is free to pontificate about the desirability of state leadership in this economic realm BUT the practical effect is to toss the issue back into the state legislatures wherein ALEC can work its magic.

Nothing would please the Austerians more than to play the divide and conquer game — happily believing that lower labor costs will entice enterprises into low wage regions.   If, for example, Nevada were to eliminate its minimum wage, then in combination with other states with such draconian statutes, that would create pressure on other states to do likewise in order to be ‘competitive.’  We know this to be a pie in the sky solution because factors like transportation, infrastructure, work force experience and training, and resource availability are essential in the business location formula.  However, it does create the mixture necessary for a race to the bottom in wages and benefits. Just the sort of thing to make corporate revenues whistle and sing to the analysts.

The second problem with this plan is that while labor costs may be a major factor in manufacturing, they are not as crucial in other economic sectors.  We’ve looked at two types of retail operations before (restaurant and grocery); the important element for these small businesses is speed of service.  Long waits and long lines do not profitability make.   The more labor intensive the enterprise the more labor costs will be a factor, and this is illustrated by looking at the labor costs as a percentage of revenue for sole proprietorships, those little businesses the GOP purports to champion.)

The percentage for food service and bars is 36.74%, for agriculture 37.60%, for construction 53.64%, for health care 77.74%, for manufacturing 38.15%, for retailing 19.40%.  [BizStats]  We can drill down into the retail sector and find that the percentages are 20.43% for clothing stores, 13.66% for food and beverage establishments, and 6.48% for gas stations.   Indeed, for all those little sole proprietorship Mom and Pop stores to whom the Republicans appeal for support — the highest percentage never goes above 35%. [BizStats]

If we draw back and look at a large picture of productivity and worker compensation there’s not much to support Senator Heller’s apparent inclination to race to the bottom there either.

Labor productivity, as defined by output per hour, increased in 63% of the 52 service related and mining industries according to a BLS Study (pdf) using 2011 figures.  “Unit labor costs fell in 11 of 47 service providing industries Unit labor costs declined more frequently in industries where productivity rose, as productivity gains offset movements in hourly compensation.” [BLS pdf]

If productivity is increasing and unit labor costs are decreasing, then why would Senator Heller and his allies in ALEC want to eliminate minimum wage laws and prevent living wage legislation?

Let’s hazard the guess that the impetus to get even more productivity (more work per hour) at even less cost has everything in the world to do with Wall Street and not a heck of a lot to do with Main Street.

Nothing so delights the financial markets as the prospect of creating more “shareholder value” by reducing the inputs — reduced costs for materials, reduced costs for fixed assets, reduced costs for depreciation, reduced costs for employee (read: worker not CEO) compensation.  As the lady once said of the turtles:  It’s earnings reports, earnings reports, earnings reports, all the way down to the bottom.  [CarnegieScience]

And there we have it. It’s workers — racing all the way to the bottom, with no federal minimum wage to underpin their economic security — it’s American workers being told that if their counterparts in China are willing to work for $1.74 per hour then they are being “overpaid” here.  And — with Senator Heller’s state’s rights excuse greasing the downward ramp.

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Filed under Economy, Heller, Politics

Sandoval’s Session: GCSB Menu — To Serve Man?

To Serve ManNevada’s economic plan — hold another conference? There’s nothing like a lovely conference to get the juices flowing in regard to economic development.  Not that there’s anything essentially unproductive about getting small business leaders in the same room with government officials and inspiring speakers…but.   The Governor’s office and the Chamber are teaming up to present panels on “Access to Capital, Educating Tomorrow’s Workforce and Healthcare: Myths and Facts.” [NV2013]

The “grand sponsor” of the event is NV Energy.  Other sponsors include Heritage Bank, AT&T, Advantage Capital Partners, and IQ Technology Solutions.   [NV2013]

Skeptics may wonder what AT&T, whose petition to the FCC in 2013 is straight out the of ALEC model plans book, [HuffPo] wants to say to small business owners and managers in Nevada, other than to promote the idea that they should continue to utilize their old copper wires to offer U-Verse services over their system without all basic obligations and regulations on the state and federal level.  We might wonder about AT&T’s grand plans for broadband access for small businesses when these observations come to light:

“In 2009, AT&T’s started the federal ball rolling with comments outlining that the states should not have jurisdiction over broadband and it should be the exclusive purview of the FCC — read federal law. Moreover, regulations should be removed on virtually all aspects of their business that would be applied by either the FCC or the commission — including removing service quality requirements.”  [HuffPo]  (Emphasis added)

NV Energy is the self-same corporation purchased by Warren Buffet’s MidAmerican Energy Corp. for $5.6 billion this past May. [USAT] This would also be the self-same energy corporation looking for a rate increase:

“NV Energy’s residential power and natural gas customers would see rate increases starting in January under the utility’s three-year general rate case filed Monday with the state Public Utilities Commission.

The increases, which include a profit and must be approved by regulators, would add $1.48 per month to the average single-family residence power bill across Northern Nevada and $3.96 to the typical monthly bill for natural gas customers in Reno-Sparks. Commercial customers in Northern Nevada would see an average 2.81 percent decline in electricity rates under the filing.”  [RGJ] (June 4, 2013)

Thus far we have one corporate sponsor that wants to “transition” its communications services without making any real technological progress, and desires to do so without state “interference” or those “burdensome regulations” on quality of service; and, another that has a rate increase proposal before the PUC.  What could possibly get skewed?

Heritage Bank is pleased to tell one and all that it is the Number One processor of SBA 504 loans in northern Nevada:

Heritage Bank of Nevada has been named the #1 SBA lender for 2012 in Northern Nevada as the largest processor of SBA 504 loans.  In FY2012, Heritage Bank partnered with Nevada State Development Corp. to provide funding on 15 projects totaling $22,014,750. Heritage Bank’s portion of the loans totaled $9,812,788 and the SBA’s 504 loans totaled $8,179,000. [Heritage Bank]

SBA 504 loans are made to business owners for purchasing or refinancing commercial real estate.  As of January 2013, Heritage Bank had lent out funding for 15 small business projects totaling $22 million, with 90% of the funds for commercial real estate loans.  [RGJ]

A firm is eligible for a SBA 504 loan if it has a tangible net worth less than $15 million and an average net income less than $5.0 million after taxes for the preceding two years. [SBA]  It’s safe to say that most of Nevada’s small businesses would be eligible for these loans.

Grinding down a bit on the SBA 504’s:  A Certified Development Company (CDC) is a nonprofit corporation set up to contribute to the economic development of its community. CDCs are located nationwide and operate primarily in their state of incorporation (Area of Operation). CDCs work with SBA and private-sector lenders to provide financing to small businesses through the CDC/504 Loan Program, which provides growing businesses with long-term, fixed-rate financing for major fixed assets, such as land and buildings. [SBA-CDC]

The typical SBA 504 CDC has the following components:

  • A loan secured from a private sector lender with a senior lien covering up to 50 percent of the project cost;
  • A loan secured from a CDC (backed by a 100 percent SBA-guaranteed debenture) with a junior lien covering up to 40 percent of the total cost;
  • A contribution from the borrower of at least 10 percent equity.

So, a “project” would get its real estate, or equipment, loan in blocks —  50% from the lender/bank ; 40% from a CDC; and, a contribution of 10% equity.

What we’re not seeing in the Heritage Bank numbers are  7 a loans, those made to entrepreneurs and business persons who are launching start ups, or expanding businesses.  The 7a, or general business loans are the kind we’d most often associate with the start up, financing, or expansion of new businesses.

Between October 2012 and May 2013, the major players in the 7(a) program were Wells Fargo, Meadows Bank, Seacoast Commerce, Republic Bank, Hanmi Bank, U.S. Bank NA, Pacific Enterprise Bank, and further down the list, Heritage Bank with five 7 (a) loans out for a bank total of $1,170,000.  [SBA lenders]

If Heritage is seeking to inform more small business owners and managers of the availability of SBA 7 (a) loans that would be an excellent panel. However, if financing in Nevada is getting increasingly sucked into the “income generating property” business there are some questions which need to be raised.  How much money is getting resourced to real estate development firms seeking to buy up distressed property and make conversions to rental units?  Would a subsidiary of one of the Really Big Banks qualify as a business eligible for 504 loans?

Advantage Capital Partners is another of the highlighted sponsors of the Governor’s economic gathering.   The firm describes itself:

“Since 1992, we have raised more than $1.6 billion in institutional capital, often involving innovative structured financing solutions. Our capital has been provided by a large number of the nation’s leading insurance companies and commercial banks.”  [ACP]

Excuse me, but after the Debacle of 2007-2008, when I see phrases like “innovative structured financing solutions” my immediate reaction is to curl into a fiscal fetal position.  Why?  The very definition of structured finance is enough to bring on tremors:

A service that generally involves highly complex financial transactions offered by many large financial institutions for companies with very unique financing needs. These financing needs usually don’t match conventional financial products such as a loan. [Investopedia]

And what might be included in those “highly complex financial transactions?”   Some of our old and not-so-dear friends like: Collateralized Bond Obligations, Collateralized Debt Obligations, syndicated loans, and those wonderful Synthetic CDO’s etc.  I think we’ve seen this movie before, and the ending was — if not pleasant — at least memorable.

And, who’s paddling in these waters? “Our capital has been provided by a large number of the nation’s leading insurance companies and commercial banks.”  — What could possibly go wrong?

To Serve Man

On August 28, 2013 the Governor and the attendees of the GCSB conference will be under the Grand Sierra roof with (1) a communications firm that wants ever so much to be rid of pesky government regulations concerning customer service, (2) bankers who are delighted to offer SBA backed loans for real estate transactions, (3) a “high” finance firm still promoting the joys and profitability of synthetic CDO’s and other financial exotics that contributed to the Great Mortgage Meltdown, and an Energy corporation looking to increase its rates …

It could indeed be a menu To Serve Man.

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Filed under Economy, Nevada economy, Sandoval

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):

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