Tag Archives: ALEC

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

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

ALEC In The Halls Of The Nevada Legislature: Update

NyeGateWay introduced the subject of ALEC and the state of Nevada on July 23, 2011, and referenced the radical right wing  efforts to influence state legislatures by drafting so-called model legislation for adoption by friendly solons.   The topic of ALEC and “tort reform” came up for NyeGateWay’s review on July 13, 2011.  But, wait! There’s more.  About 799 more examples of ALEC’s national templates.   No, we won’t review all of these in this post but there are some pieces of legislation from the recent legislative sessions which bear a remarkable similarity to the ALEC proposals.

Vote Suppression

Background:  ALEC has long sought to limit voting rights by supporting “voter identification” laws which presume that there is (a) massive voter fraud and (b) this always seems to happen when legislators not sympathetic to corporate wishes are elected by the voters.  Nevada has had some issues with voter registration irregularities, but has seen no instances of prosecutable voting fraud in recent elections — e-mail spam and right wing blog outrage noted. [NTB]  ALEC acolytes are quick to respond that ACORN was responsible for “voting fraud,” but the problem wasn’t phony voters at the actual polling sites it was that ACORN illegally compensated those collecting registrations.  [LVSun]  Dodgy forms were self reported by the organization to voting registrars.  The entire, sometimes hysterical, issue drifted off the front pages after one former ACORN field director accepted a sentence of up to 3 years probation for illegally compensating workers.

The ALEC version:  (pdf)

(a) “Proof of identity” means a document or identification card that:
(1) Shows the name of the person to whom the document was issued;
(2) Shows a photograph of the person to whom the document was issued;
(3) Contains an expiration date, and is not expired.
(4) Is issued by the United States or the {State of Arkansas}

The Nevada Version:  (SB 373)  Introduced by Senator Mike Roberson (R-LV)

Sec. 2. “Photographic identification” means one of the  following forms of identification if it bears a recognizable photograph of the person presenting it as identification: 1. A driver’s license or identification card issued by the  Department of Motor Vehicles.  2. An identification card issued by a branch of the Armed Forces of the United States. 3. A United States passport. 4. An identification card issued by an Indian tribe. 5. A voter identification card issued pursuant to section 3 of  this act.Sec. 3.

The Nevada version is clearly more specific than the ALEC model language, but the effect is similar.  SB373 simply designated those kinds of identification which would be considered valid.  The constitutionality of these voter identification statutes is questionable:

“Many Americans do not have the necessary identification that these laws require, and face barriers to voting as a result. Research shows, for example, that more than 21 million Americans do not have government-issued photo identification; a disproportionate number of these Americans are low-income, racial and ethnic minorities, and elderly. “

Voter identification measures are to no small extent solutions in search of a problem.  The problems are usually media generated.  Allegations of voting irregularities are made, and a local broadcaster or newspaper dutifully reports the allegations.  Proponents of voter restrictions promptly cite the newspaper reports and broadcasts as proof the initial stories were true, utilizing an echo chamber propaganda technique.  We should note that voter registration irregularity when perpetrated by conservative organizations rarely rises to the level of interest created by charges made against progressive or liberal groups,  as happened when Nathan Sproul & Associates violated Nevada registration laws in 2004.  [GWU.edu]

Special Needs Scholarships

No one wishes to stifle the education of special needs children, but why ALEC would be interested in the highly specific topic of Special Needs Scholarships isn’t too difficult to fathom since a for-profit online school company was an ALEC corporate co-chair in 2011.

The ALEC education task force met on July 21, 2006 in San Francisco and included the following agenda item:  “The Education Task Force convened with several new legislative proposals to consider.  The School Choice subcommittee reported on a proposal designed to give scholarships to autistic students to attend the private school of their parents’ choice.  Modeled after Ohio’s Autism Scholarship Program, the Autism Scholarship Act is similar to ALEC’s Special Needs Scholarship Act (which includes autistic children), but is tailored in an effort to offer states more legislative options.”

Lo and behold, in the wake of the ALEC interest in Special Needs Scholarships, state Senator Barbara Cegavske (R-LV) introduced SB 81 in the 75th session of the Nevada Legislature, to create a “Special Needs Scholarship” program.  The bill did not emerge from the Senate Finance Committee.

Alternative Teacher Certification

This is another area in which ALEC has expressed an interest.  An ALEC meeting in December 2005 proposed a format for alternative certification in its State and National Policy Summit:

The Task Force also passed a substitute bill of the Alternate Certification Act.  This model legislation permits persons with a comprehensive alternative certification to enter the teaching profession without having to have a bachelors or masters degree in education.  States should enact alternative teacher certification programs to prepare persons with subject area expertise and life experience to become teachers through a demonstration of competency and a comprehensive mentoring program.

The archives of the ultra-conservative Heartland Foundation has model language for an alternative certification bill.  A bill for ‘temporary’ alternative certification, SB 259, was introduced in the 75th Nevada legislative session by state Senator Barbara Cegavske (R-LV).  The bill missed the deadline during the 2009 session, and languished in the Senate Education Committee.

SB 315, sponsored by Senator Ben Kieckhefer (R-Washoe) in the 76th session had more success.  This bill requires the Nevada Commission on Professional Standards in Education to “provide for the licensure of teachers and administrators pursuant to an alternative route to licensure.”  ALEC is getting its message to conservative state legislators.

Qui Bono?

ALEC is not a lobby shop, it is a coalition of corporate interests which contributes to the drafting of model legislation  to the advantage of corporate interests.  The Center for Media and Democracy notes:

“More than 98% of ALEC’s revenues come from sources other than legislative dues, such as corporations, corporate trade groups, and corporate foundations. Each corporate member pays an annual fee of between $7,000 and $25,000 a year, and if a corporation participates in any of the nine task forces, additional fees apply, from $2,500 to $10,000 each year. ALEC also receives direct grants from corporations, such as $1.4 million from ExxonMobil from 1998-2009.”

Who is making those corporate donations?  In addition to ExxonMobil, it is supported by the Charles G. Koch Foundation,  the Koch managed Claude R. Lambe Foundation, the Scaife Family Allegheny Foundation,  the Coors Family Castle Rock Foundation, with less than 2% of its funding coming from dues payers.

We find the usual corporate suspects supporting ALEC’s model legislation.  The Altria Corp. (tobacco) wants moist tobacco products given a ‘tax break’ making flavored tobacco products cheaper.   Humana and UnitedHealth benefit from health savings accounts framed on ALEC model legislation.  Pharmaceutical giant Bayer benefits from ALEC’s model legislation to make it more difficult for consumers to find tort relief after injuries caused by dangerous products.  The Corrections Corporation of America benefits from anti-immigrant legislation.  And, Connections Academy, a large online education corporation, and co-chair of the ALEC Education Task Force, benefits from ALEC sponsored measures to privatize education and promote private on-line schools.

Resources and References

The Center for Media and Democracy has launched a web site, “ALEC Exposed,” which has a categorized listing of those topics of interest to this corporate coalition.  Not surprisingly, ALEC is most interested in “worker’s rights” (read: union busting), tort reform (in the interests of the corporations), privatizing schools and higher education, promoting the interests of pharmaceutical manufacturers and health insurance corporations, diminishing the capacity of the EPA to enforce the Clean Air and Clean Water Acts, and vote suppression legislation, among other items in its wish lists.

We know that at least three members of the Nevada Legislature have sponsored bills aligned with the interests of ALEC in the recent past; we don’t know to date if these members of the Legislature are “card-carrying” water carriers for the corporate interests which support ALEC.

UPDATE:  ALEC members as identified in public sources – Senator Dean Rhoads,
Senator Greg Brower, Senator Ben Kieckhefer, (Senator William Raggio), (Senator Dennis Nolan), (Senator Maurice Washington), (Assemblyman Lynn C. Hettrick)

Citizen Outreach asked for signatures on a petition supporting Senator Barbara Cegavske to be Nevada’s ALEC chairperson  December 4, 2010

ALECWatch pdf,  News Review (Reno)

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Filed under conservatism, Nevada legislature