Tag Archives: Nevada legislature

Kirner’s Folly

Kirner 2

Assemblyman Randy Kirner (R-NV26) is about to secure his position as the poster boy for ALEC in this session of the Assembled Wisdom.  From the ever informative LTN:

“As we discussed yesterday, the Nevada Legislature has devolved into chaos and treachery… Yet again. This time, Assembly Member Randy Kirner (R-Reno) is threatening to kill SB 353, the sexual orientation conversion therapy ban, and possibly additional bills that have nothing to do with union issues, because he’s upset his ALEC bills to blow up unions and hand public servants’ retirement savings (PERS) to Wall Street aren’t moving. Oh, yes. That’s right. He’s going there!

But wait, there’s more. Now that Kirner is hinting that he’s a possible swing vote for the Nevada Revenue Plan, Governor Brian Sandoval’s (R) preferred revenue raising tax reform package, there’s real fear that Kirner is trying to abuse this tense situation to extract some sort of PERS deform (in addition to the bipartisan deal already reached on SB 406).”

Follow The Money

And, why not?  A quick look at the funding behind Assemblyman Kirner’s campaign shows the predominance of right wing money flowing into Kirner’s campaign coffers.  That “Students First” item on the donor list should be a big clue.   “Students First” is Michelle Ree’s anti-union outfit, which was caught working with ALEC in Connecticut to promote the ALEC agenda in 2012.  [BProg]  This year the organization was caught in New Mexico trying to coordinate an anti-union and anti public school campaign using social media and bloggers to promote “educational reform.” [Ravitch]

Kirner’s positions on “reforming” Nevada PERS are straight out of the ALEC playbook. (pdf)  If we’d like a preview of what ALEC and the Koch financed State Policy Network have in mind – handing over public employee retirement funds to the players in the Wall Street Casino – look at Kansas. [Politicususa]

Kirner was also the beneficiary of the Retail Association of Nevada, $5,500 in donations.  Interestingly enough, RAN is a first cousin of the Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs; RAN’s CEO is Mary Lau, who is also listed as the treasurer of CPNJ for 2013.  In August 2013 RAN was pleased to insert a tip of the hat to the Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs for its opposition to the “teacher tax” initiative. (pdf)

The District

Assembly 26 Assemblyman Kirner’s notion that he can blow up this session of the Legislature in search of satisfaction on right wing issues may reflect the district – the 26th is almost exclusively white (86%) and 46% Republican. Most residents live in owner occupied housing, and most are between the ages of 18 and 59. [LegNV pdf] [More: Statistical Atlas]   Kirner ran unopposed in the last election, getting 50.03% of the total vote. [SSE]

Questions

Given the last election results, even considering his close primary, is Assemblyman Kirner functioning as if he were in a safe seat?  Or, given the close primary is he sliding to the radical end of the right wing spectrum because of opposition which emphasized “no new taxes,” “school choice,” and “it’s not government’s job to create jobs?” [Krasner] Little wonder the primary was close given the ideological proximity of the two Republican candidates.

Can Democrats in Assembly District 26 move the needle?  There are 12,077 registered active voting Democrats in AD 25 out of 41,198 total. There are 18,763 registered active Republican voters in the district. There are 1,881 registered members of the Independent American Party, and another 445 registered Libertarians. 7,421 are non-partisan registered voters.  [NVSoS] There are 64,703 residents of the District.  Approximately 63.7% of the residents of the District are active, registered, voters.  First, it’s hard to move the needle without a race, and there is an obvious need for candidate recruitment in AD 26. Secondly, given the 81% turnout in 2012 compared to the 45.55% turnout in Washoe County in 2014, could Democrats “move the needle” if there were a candidate for the Assembly seat in a presidential election year campaign?

In the meantime, we’re treated to what can happen with a “safe seat” ideologically driven incumbent with funding and support from corporate interests and conservative allies – pro gun, anti-union, and anti-gay issues become the basis for retail politics in the District.  Waving these banners shouldn’t be allowed to obscure real issues facing real people in the Silver State.

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Filed under 2012 election, Nevada Democrats, Nevada politics, Politics

Emergencies: Creating and Sustaining Them in Nevada?

lack of planning Someone is asking the right question:

“Assembly Member Elliot Anderson (D-Winchester) then asked the biggest question of them all: Why is this “emergency measure” popping up now, and does it stand any better chance of passing the Senate than AB 148 or the proposed Fiore-Hansen SB 175 amendment. All Oscarson Therecould say was “I certainly hope so.” Meanwhile, a whole lot of students, teachers, and concerned family members certainly hope AB 487 meets the same fate as the dead AB 148 and the failed SB 175 amendment.” [LTN]

The measure under discussion is AB 487, another iteration of the ammosexual agenda Carry Everywhere nightmare, and it’s due for a hearing (of sorts) in the Assembly Judiciary Committee bright and early on Wednesday morning [pdf agenda] if it can get “emergency status.”  The tenacity of the gun advocates seems proportional to their delusion that somehow more guns will make up safer from more guns.  In case you missed it, this Salon piece does an excellent point by point deconstruction of the right wing’s ideological stance on the issue.

There’s another bill coming up on Wednesday which deserves more attention than it’s likely to get in the waning days of a legislative session, SB 292

“Section 1 of this bill provides that a board of trustees of a school district or the governing body of a charter school is not liable for any civil damages arising from any act or omission by a person employed by or volunteering at a school-based health center. Section 1 also defines “school-based health center” for such purposes.”

… Existing law limits the amount of noneconomic damages that may be an action for injury or death against a provider of health care based professional negligence. (NRS 41A.035) Section 3 of this bill limits noneconomic damages that may be awarded in such an action to $350,000, regardless of the number of plaintiffs, defendants or theories of liability. Existing law establishes a rebuttable presumption in actions for negligence”

This is NOT a School Nurse Protection Act, at least not the way it is worded.   Notice the phrase “…by a person employed by or volunteering at a school-based health center.”  So,  volunteers manning the school sick bay, and not school nurses, cannot render the school or charter operation liable for their actions or their failure to act?  If the person is a school nurse there are professional requirements for that.  However, (and this is a pretty big caveat) non-certified personnel may be allowed to administer medication, for which there are no pre-service nor professional development  specified training requirements. [NASBE] What could possibly go wrong?

But wait, there’s more! Senator Roberson seems intent upon his assault on the venerable Collateral Source Rule.  The Legislative Counsel Bureau explains what happens under SB 291:

“A common law doctrine, known as the “collateral source rule,” prohibits a defendant in a tort case from introducing into evidence proof of amounts that the plaintiff received or was entitled to receive from a source other than the defendant in compensation for the harms or injuries caused by the defendant.”

Existing law provides a limited exception to the collateral source rule by allowing a defendant in a case against a provider of health care based upon professional negligence to introduce evidence of amounts paid or payable to a plaintiff pursuant to policies of health or accident insurance, the United States Social Security Act, worker’s compensation statutes and other programs or contracts that pay for or reimburse costs of health care. (NRS 42.021)

This bill replaces the existing limited exception to the collateral source rule and instead requires a court, upon a motion by a defendant in any tort case, to reduce the amount of damages initially determined by the jury or other finder of fact by the amount of past medical expenses paid in relation to the injury or death sustained. However, this bill prohibits the court from reducing the amount of the damages by any amount: (1) paid for any treatment, care or custody provided by a provider of health care or medical facility on a lien; or (2) paid pursuant to medical payment coverage.  (emphasis added)

The “defendant” in this instance would be a negligent or otherwise incompetent health care provider.  Again, whatever success a plaintiff may have had in court against a person who negligently caused their pain, suffering, and possible disability – Senator Roberson would like to see reduced by any amount covered by Social Security disability benefits, worker’s compensation, or health or accident insurance.  The two bills are a double whammy for victims.

This session can’t end soon enough?

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Filed under education, Health Care, health insurance, nevada education, nevada health, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics

GOP Far Away Land: Solutions in Search of Problems

Alien Planet guns

It’s like they live on another planet.  Republican legislators in Carson City appear to be marching to the same off beat drum kit as their Washington, D.C. counterparts.  Have problems with infrastructure? Education? Revenue? Income inequality? Unemployment? The solution is (staccato drum roll) Pass more laws on abortion! Allow more guns everywhere!

The Single Song Sallies of the Nevada GOP are absorbed by these two.  Assemblyman Ira Hansen (R-NV backwater) proposes the following:

“AN ACT relating to abortions; revising provisions regulating an abortion performed on a pregnant woman who is a minor or a ward; requiring notification of a parent or guardian under certain circumstances before a physician performs such an abortion; providing expedited procedures for petitioning a court for judicial authorization to proceed without such notification; providing civil liabilities and criminal penalties; and providing other matters properly relating thereto.”

How this bit of anti-choice legislation addresses employment, economic diversification, educational funding, transportation, infrastructure, local government resources, provisions for mental health services, or any other major issue facing the state is pure conjecture.  The nationwide abortion rate among those under 15 years of age is negligible for the period 1990 to 2007, and abortions for those aged 15 to 18 years has declined from 21,800 in 1990 to 16,200 as of 2007. [CensusCDC]  This decline mirrors the overall decline in teen pregnancies, which in turn is linked to economic considerations, more contraceptives, and more information (read: sex education). [Pew] However, Big Daddy Government Types exemplified by Assemblyman Hansen, won’t be satisfied until every woman has to carry every man’s fetus to term.  And for this, time is being taken from taxation and budget consideration in the Assembled Wisdom.

Meanwhile, Assemblywoman Michele “Take Baking Soda for your Cancer” Fiore (R-NRA) would be happy to attach her Guns Galore amendment to any bit of legislation she can find. [LVRJ]  She lost the vote, 24-18 in the Assembly, but she’ll be back before the end of the session on June 1. [LTN]

What makes coping with single issue ideologues like Hansen and Fiore so frustrating is that Nevada does have some serious issues which need to be addressed.  Education, which was supposed to be the central feature of this legislative session, has some problems. For instance, Nevada schools ranked 50th in “overall state grades,” and 36th in K-12 achievement, 45th in standards and assessments, and 46th in school finance. [leg.state.nv]  The American Society of Civil Engineering grades Nevada a C- in infrastructure.  We “earned” a D+ in dams, and we have 36 bridges which are deemed “structurally deficient.”  The Mental Health Association reports the following in regard to Nevada’s mental health services: “The five states with the highest prevalence of mental illness and the lowest rates of access to care were Louisiana (47), Washington (48), Nevada (49), Mississippi (50) and Arizona (51).”

Speaking to the income inequality issue, Nevada’s not in a very good position in that regard either:  “The states in which all income growth between 2009 and 2012 accrued to the top 1 percent include Delaware, Florida, Missouri, South Carolina, North Carolina, Connecticut, Washington, Louisiana, California, Virginia, Pennsylvania, Idaho, Massachusetts, Colorado, New York, Rhode Island, and Nevada.”

Now, can we please talk about something other than government so small it can fit inside every vagina, and guns galore?

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Filed under abortion, Gun Issues, Mental Health, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, Women's Issues, Womens' Rights

Zombie Guns Blazing in NV Legislature

zombie guns 2

This is the kind of news Nevada can do without:

“A “campus carry” bill believed to be dead in the Senate will be amended into another Second Amendment measure on Friday, Assembly Judiciary Chairman Ira Hansen said Wednesday.

Hansen said that because the Senate Judiciary Committee won’t hear Assembly Bill 148 that would allow those with concealed weapons permits to carry their weapons on college campuses, it will be amended into a Senate bill on the deadline day for committee action on most bills.” [LVRJ]

The bills in question is SB 175 and SB 240.  The Guns Galore crowd, championed by Michele Fiore (R-NRA) and Ira Hansen (R-Ammostan), wants those with concealed carry permits to be able to pack “heat” on college campuses.  Little matter that others may find this uncomfortable or downright dangerous.  Happily, there are some restrictions in place on concealed carry permitting in this state – not that the Ammosexuals wouldn’t like to eliminate those eventually.

The Current Requirements

In Clark County those wanting a permit must the a Nevada resident of Clark County, or an out of state resident who has received firearms training in Clark County; 21 years of age, not prohibited from firearms ownership by state or federal law; and must successfully complete an approved firearms course in Clark County.  [LVMPD]

The requirements in Washoe County are essentially the same. A person must be at least 21, provide documentation of competence with a firearm, meet the standards set forth in NRS 202, have no DUIs in the preceding five years or record of “substance abuse.”  [Washoe pdf]

Campus Numbers

The University of Nevada campus in Reno as of the Fall of 2013 had 15,694 undergraduates, of whom 47%, or 7,454 were male, 8,240 were female.  The average age of a UNR undergraduate was — 21 years of age. [CP]  There were 23,090 undergraduates enrolled in UNLV, 12,824 female, 10,275 male.  The average undergraduate age at UNLV was reported as 18 years. 23% were aged 25 or older. [CP]

One obvious feature of these figures is that there are a significant number of young males on both major college campuses in this state.  We do know from the CDC* and other sources  that firearms and young men aren’t a particularly good mixture.  Pew Social Trends reported:

“Men (and boys) make up the vast majority (84% in 2010) of gun homicide victims. The gun homicide rates for both genders have declined by similar amounts since the mid-1990s, though the male rate is much higher—6.2 gun homicides per 100,000 people in 2010, compared with 1.1 for females.”

… and …

“Males are the vast majority of gun suicides (87% in 2010), and the suicide rate for males (11.2 deaths per 100,000 people) is more than seven times the female rate (1.5 deaths). The highest firearm suicide rate by age is among those ages 65 and older (10.6 per 100,000 people).”

Thus, what the ammosexual alliance is proposing is to place more firearms in a setting in which there are significant numbers of already vulnerable individuals in the setting.

Individual Tragedy and Economic Costs

Aside from the human tragedy there are economic factors to consider before advocating any further proliferation of firearms and the situations in which those guns can be allowed.

In December 2012, Bloomberg Business news reported that gun violence was costing the American economy some $174 billion.  Forbes magazine reported in 2013 that gun violence was costing each American about $564.

And, then there is the “market” argument, which the Minneapolis Post analyzed as follows:

“Treating gun violence as an externality assumes that weapons markets are legitimate and that we must live with the consequences.  However, certain aspects of this market may not be legitimate. Markets do not exist in a vacuum.  They are created and designed by people, and societies can decide to modify or restrict markets depending on its values and goals.

Debra Satz, a professor of philosophy at Stanford University, addresses this in her book “Why Some Things Should Not Be for Sale: The Limits of Markets.” At the heart of her analysis is the concept of noxious markets, i.e. “markets that people find especially objectionable” and which should be curtailed or eliminated.

One important reason why societies deem some markets as noxious is that trade in these goods causes extreme harm to individuals and/or society.  Markets in assault rifles, large-capacity ammunition magazines and related items could be thought of this way. The damage caused by guns used to commit crimes is so great that we must regulate them and, in some cases, eliminate them.”

We know, for example that alcohol and tobacco products are often classified as “noxious markets.”  There are spill-over effects in society, in terms of public health costs, and other related expenses or losses.  Therefore, we regulate and use tax policy to curb the consumption and use of these items.  State legislatures are quick to add “sin taxes” to diminish the ‘noxious’ markets for some products, especially in the tobacco categories. However, they’re remarkably slow to consider taxing/regulating the use of guns and ammunition.  An amended SB 175 merely serves to advance a ‘noxious’ market, rather than curbing firearms proliferation which endangers young people – especially young men.

U.S. News and World Report was more blunt on this subject, when speaking of the economic costs of firearms and school security in America:

“However, the firearms industry has managed to avoid picking up the tab for its externalities. A recent proposal by Wayne LaPierre of the National Rifle Association shows the size of the problem. After the Sandy Hook school shooting, the NRA proposed that the best solution to gun violence in school is to have more guns in school. They argued that every school should post an armed guard (or several) to stop would-be shooters. Let’s set aside the constitutional and practical considerations and just consider the economics of this for a moment: It would cost nearly $5 billion per year to put a trained, equipped, armed guard in each of America’s 132,000 K-12 schools. That calls for a fee—let’s call it the “Schools Security Fee”—of $500 to $750 for every new and used handgun purchased in the United States. The fee is roughly the cost of a typical good-quality new pistol! If imposed, it would double the price of handguns and cripple the firearm industry. Yet it’s ironic that many of the folks who claim to hate taxes and government see no problem in proposing a $5 billion expansion in government, which necessitates taxes to pay for it.”

Whether viewed in macro-terms such as in the classification of firearms as a ‘noxious’ market, or in micro-terms as in a discussion of school safety officers, the message is essentially similar.  The manufacturers of firearms and their Ammosexual Allies are arguing that lethal weapons do not constitute a ‘noxious’ market and therefore should not be taxed or regulated even if the economic costs run into the $174 billion range.

Hostage Taking

While we can have socially oriented or economically based arguments over firearms regulations it must be admitted that there is an emotional factor to consider.  The positions taken by the Nevada Firearms Coalition which calls for legislation to “enhance personal liberty,” perceives proliferation as a ‘beneficial’ market, and a positive social good.**  “Armed” with this emotional attachment to firearms and their retail sales, the Guns Anywhere advocates are perfectly willing to hold other, and better, legislation hostage in order to advance their cause. Witness:

“As I reported earlier this week, Assembly Members Michele Fiore (R-Las Vegas) & Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) are retaliating against Senate Majority Leader Michael Roberson (R-Henderson) & Senate Judiciary Chair Greg Brower (R-Reno) for shelving their “Guns Everywhere” bill (AB 148) in Senate Judiciary. So they just amended SB 240, Roberson’s mental health & “voluntary background checks” bill, to include elimination of Clark County’s “Blue Card” handgun registry…”  [LTN]

Winston Churchill was right: “A fanatic is one who can’t change his mind and won’t change the subject.”

—————————————-

* Warning: Depending, of course, on your download speed this file can be very slow loading. (94.3 mb .zip format)

** See also: The 50 Caliber Institute.

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Filed under Economy, Gun Issues, Nevada economy, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, public safety

Sausage Grinding Nevada Style: The Legislature Scrambles to Sine Die

sausage Ah, the sausage is in the grinder for this session of the Nevada Assembled Wisdom:

“However in order to finally secure the votes to pass the full Uber deal, Roberson may be considering resuscitating a couple other bills previously thought to be dead. Democrats have made it clear they won’t play ball with Republican leaders if they move any further on AB 148(“Guns Everywhere“, including colleges & airports) and/or any of the voter ID/voter suppression bills (such as SB 169 and AB 266). There’s a new rumor swirling in the Building that Senate Republican leaders are considering scheduling hearings on these #Crazytown bills to scare the Democrats into supporting the Uber deal. I’m not sure yet how much force is actually behind it, but I can confirm it’s from a very reliable source.” [LTN]

Just what we need.  There are some tax and revenue issues to deal with, and some important issues concerning education which need attention… thus we’re hearing about Guns Galore! Vote Suppression! and, perhaps one more shot at privatizing (read: raiding) the Public Employees Retirement System, see AB 190. [bill text]

There’s something unseemly about using such egregious bits of Tea Party inanity as the Guns Galore legislation as a bargaining chip.  Some chips are counterfeit and this one is particularly untoward.  How many people are truly enamored of the idea of 18 and 19 year olds stashing guns in dorm rooms?  Of having some 18 or 19 year old “coming to the rescue” gun blazing and most likely untrained in police tactics?  Combine this with the Ammosexual propensity to call for background check repeals and we have a lovely recipe for a slaughter?  Once more with some feeling:

EVERY right comes with some responsibilities. And, truly responsible gun owners aren’t bellowing for proliferation, and are supportive of background checks to weed out the insane, the criminal, and the felonious from gun ownership.

Another counterfeit bit of coinage is the Vote Suppression legislation desired only by those who are afraid they won’t win the next election – or any election in which lower income, possibly people of color, maybe elderly, are allowed to express their options at the voting station.

There are some things that aren’t even allowed in a hot dog. Stuff that’s too toxic to add to an already questionable mixture of ingredients – and Tea Party idealizations about “liberty” and “free markets” (for the top 0.1%) are definitely in that category.

Sine die can’t come fast enough for this assemblage.

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Filed under Nevada economy, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

Unleaded Truth Part II: Nevada’s Lead Contamination Issue

lead paint As noted yesterday, there are three jurisdictions in Nevada which have county health departments.  Health departments in the two metropolitan areas (Clark and Washoe counties) have addressed the issue of lead contamination in their areas.  In the remaining jurisdictions it appears to be a matter of state regulations, and the interest of county commissioners, as to whether particular attention is paid to toxic contamination in homes and businesses; and, it’s a matter of reliance on EPA regulations to protect renters and buyers.

All jurisdictions are required to uphold the provisions of the “federal Residential Lead-Based Paint Hazard Reduction Act enacted in 1992. This law is commonly known as Title X (ten). Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) regulations implementing Title X apply to rental property built before 1978.” [Openjurist]

“Before ratification of a contract for housing sale or lease, sellers and landlords must disclose any known information concerning potential lead-based paint hazards and available records, must provide purchasers and lessees with a lead hazard information pamphlet, and must include specific language in the lease or contract related to lead. In addition, sellers must give buyers time to conduct a lead inspection. Most private housing, public housing, federally-owned housing, and housing receiving federal assistance built prior to 1978 are affected by this rule.” [EPA]

One issue raises up when we look at the forms for renters and prospective buyers.  The rental agents and sellers may check off a box on the forms indicating they have no knowledge of real, potential, or unsuspected lead contamination in housing constructed prior to 1978.  The form does not require the renter or seller to conduct any inspection to determine if lead contamination exists on the premises.  That’s left to the renter or buyer.

“Before ratification of a contract for housing sale or lease, sellers and landlords must disclose any known information concerning potential lead-based paint hazards and available records, must provide purchasers and lessees with a lead hazard information pamphlet, and must include specific language in the lease or contract related to lead. In addition, sellers must give buyers time to conduct a lead inspection. Most private housing, public housing, federally-owned housing, and housing receiving federal assistance built prior to 1978 are affected by this rule.” [EPA]  (emphasis added)

The current provisions require those renting property or selling property to give their renters information about the dangers of lead contamination, any known information about lead in the housing or common areas, and an attachment to the lease about the proper issuance of a lead contamination warning.   The expression caveat emptor comes to mind.

And, this can be a problem for residents of rural Nevada counties because the EPA list of certified lead contamination inspectors,  and those firms which are certified for lead contamination abatement projects are based in Las Vegas, North Las Vegas, Reno, and Sparks.  As we’d suspect, state law (NRS 439.4797) puts those counties having more than 700,000 residents in charge (read: Washoe and Clark) and those with less than 700,000 (every other jurisdiction) under the auspices of the State Board of Health.

Advice from the state board of health might be cold comfort to those seeking affordable rental housing in those outlying jurisdictions, it begins with:

“Tenants and landlords should work cooperatively to investigate and correct lead based paint or other hazards. Nevada law requires that a landlord must provide a habitable condition inside of the dwelling (NRS 118A.290). Check your rental or lease agreement to determine your responsibility to address daily maintenance issues or repairs.”  [health.nv.gov pdf]

Indeed, NRS 118A.290 requires a residence be suitable for human habitation, the operative phrase may be: “A dwelling unit is not habitable if it violates provisions of housing or health codes concerning the health, safety, sanitation or fitness for habitation of the dwelling unit…” and, no, there is no specific mention of lead contamination.

Let’s focus in on rental property for the moment and the problems which may be faced by middle or lower income level inhabitants of these properties when it comes to coping with the state guidelines for lead contamination issues.  A tenant is advised to document instances of lead contamination with letters, photos, “evidence of health problems,” and work orders from private inspectors or contractors. This raises a reasonable hypothetical question.

A landlord in a jurisdiction outside of the two major metropolitan areas has signed off on a statement indicating he or she has no prior knowledge of any lead based paid issues in the building.  A tenant later notices peeling and chipping paint on window sills. The landlord again explains that he or she has no knowledge that lead based paint was ever used in the building, and doesn’t know if the underlying coat(s) of paint were lead based.  It would appear that the landlord has done all that is required at this point. After this point in the process it’s up to the tenant to provide certified mail notification to the landlord; allow the landlord 14 days to respond; and, then if nothing happens (like a certified inspection) launch the legal process. The question becomes: Who is responsible for paying for the certified inspection? For the cost of the “work orders, and private inspections?”  Return with us now to the real world – the one in which a lower or middle income family may not have the monetary resources, or the time required, to get an inspection, and launch into the legal processes required to get an intransigent landlord to move on the issue.

Yes, it would be nice if the tenant and the landlord worked cooperatively to resolve lead contamination issues – and, again in the real world, if this cooperation is going to bite into the landlord’s bottom line how realistic is it to believe that the tenant isn’t have to go to extraordinary lengths to bring the issue to the landlord’s attention, the attention of local authorities, and the attention of those who may assist in the resolution (and abatement) process.  It’s not like legal aid services aren’t already backed up with indigent defense cases, immigration issues, and other legal matters.

There are two elements of the situation in Nevada generally, and the rural areas in particular.  First, the onus moves very quickly to the buyer or renter when it comes to the inspection or abatement of lead contamination problems. A buyer has ten days to “check for lead,” in rural areas this means the buyer has ten days to find the list of certified inspectors (an easy enough task), then find one in the local region (not so easy outside the metropolitan areas), then find one who has time and resources to do the work within the ten days (now things are getting more complicated), and have the certified inspector perform the inspection and file the results —

Secondly, those tenants and buyers outside the metropolitan areas do not have much local support in terms of specific housing regulations other than building codes, state guidelines and statutes, and the federal lead contamination statute with EPA regulations. Again, caveat emptor is alive and well when it comes to the inspection for, and abatement of, lead contamination in local housing.

Surely, some future session of the state Legislature might offer consideration to (1) enacting statutes requiring the creation of a local board of health in areas with over 50,000 residents instead of the current 700,000; (2) empowering the local boards to enact ordinances regarding the inspection for and abatement of lead contamination; (3) requiring that sellers or landlords of property constructed before 1978  conduct an inspection of any properties offered for rent or sale – it not being enough to check off a box saying, “I just didn’t know…” or to have such an inspection record from a previous owner documenting that an inspection was indeed  conducted since 1978; (4) giving prospective buyers more than ten days to have such an inspection conducted before finalizing a sale. 14 would seem more reasonable, and 21 might be better.

The kind of contamination we’re discussing here isn’t an “inconvenience,” or some “tree hugger’s burst of imagination,” it’s a cause of damage to the brain and nervous system, behavioral problems, anemia, liver and kidney damage, hearing loss, hyperactivity, developmental delays, and in extreme cases, death in children. [EPA]  Additionally, in adults it can also cause abdominal pain, fatigue, headaches and irritability, loss of appetite, muscular weakness, and memory loss. [CDC]

There’s really no level of lead contamination that is acceptable, and there should be no question that in some instances caveat emptor isn’t really an appropriate civic response to the problem.

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Filed under EPA, health, nevada health, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, public health

Unleaded Truth: Nevada and Lead Paint Contamination

lead paint One of the side discussions revolving around the death of Freddy Gray in Baltimore concerns lead paint contamination and the hazards it poses for children and adults.  Articles have recently appeared in Salon, and the Chicago Tribune, recently, and in Atlantic in April 2013.  The articles, especially the last one, offer a brief history of the eventual banning of lead paint, and how industry lobbying prevented a ban until 1978.   If it’s banned throughout the country, including Nevada of course, why is it of concern to us now?

Lead paint is still out there.  It might be covered by subsequent layers of paint, or it might have been partially removed but remains under a layer of newer paint, or in the worse instance – the home, room, or apartment hasn’t been painted since ‘78.  In each of these instances it remains extremely harmful.  Popular writing tends to speak of children getting paint flakes or chips in their mouths – toddlers being apt to taste everything in their surroundings – however, lost in some commentary is the fact that the paint turns to dust which is ingested involuntarily – by everyone in the house.

Nor should we forget that the CDC didn’t get involved in lead paint removal and abatement until it was authorized to do so by the Lead Contamination Control Act of 1988.  In addition to including lead in the Safe Drinking Water authority in the EPA, the Lead Contamination Control Act:

“Amends the Public Health Service Act to authorize the Secretary of Health and Human Services to make grants to State and local governments for the initiation and expansion of community programs designed to: (1) screen infants and children for elevated blood lead levels; (2) assure referral for treatment of, and environmental intervention for, infants and children with such blood lead levels; and (3) provide education about childhood lead poisoning. Requires that grant priority be given to programs which will serve areas with a high incidence of elevated blood levels in infants and children. Directs the Secretary to report annually to the Congress on the effectiveness of such programs. Authorizes appropriations for such grant program through FY 1991.”

The CDC has made this a continuing concern, including the abatement of lead paint contamination as part of its Healthy People 2020 program.  From a more critical perspective – this means the CDC hopes we can eliminate lead paint contamination in another five years, although we’ve known it to be a health hazard since the early 20th century.  The program targeting lead poisoning in children is thwarted to some extent because not all states are participating.  When we look at the State Surveillance reports there’s an uncomfortable footnote to the data:

Note: The following states do not submit lead surveillance data to CDC: Alaska, Arkansas, Colorado, Hawaii, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Nevada, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Utah, Washington, and Wyoming

We can’t mitigate what we don’t investigate.  If we aren’t reporting levels of lead contaminants among children, how about the adults? Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology Surveillance program (ABLES) is NOT among the programs in which the state of Nevada participated.

ables Again, we cannot fully mitigate what we don’t investigate, and we cannot eliminate what we don’t survey and report.

Worse still, the federal  budget axe has fallen on lead contamination programs.  The “Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program” was zeroed out in the FY 2015 and 2016 budgets. [ASTHO]  Other analyses of the budget show a $29 million authorization for lead threat removal in 2011 dropping to a $15 million program by 2015. [GHH]  We were in trouble in this department as of 2012:

“The funding for the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (C.D.C.) for its lead poisoning and prevention programs (combined with asthma control in the “Healthy Homes and Lead Poisoning Prevention Program) was cut from $29 million to $2 million for the 2013 fiscal year. What that means, says Rebecca Morley, executive director of the National Center for Healthy Housing, is that “the programs that states run to prevent lead poisoning and to respond to children with elevated blood levels will be eliminated.” [Parenting]

The national and state track record is pretty dismal. We didn’t get around to banning the incorporation of lead in household interior paints until 1978, then we didn’t authorize CDC surveillance and reporting until ten years later. Nor during this time have we fully funded programs to remove the health hazard from American homes.

Lead and lead paint contamination is not uniformly investigated or mitigated in Nevada.  Given the inadequate attention and funding for national risk abatement programs for lead poisoning, it’s easy to see why Nevada didn’t fully devise and promote lead risk surveillance and removal programs.

The relevant statutes concerning lead contamination are NRS 439.479 and NRS 439.490. And, herein we find a ‘permissive language’ problem:

NRS 439.479  Regulations; enforcement; notice to district board of health of failure to maintain rental dwelling unit in habitable condition. 1.  In addition to any other powers, duties and authority conferred on a district board of health, the district board of health may by affirmative vote of a majority of all the members of the board adopt regulations consistent with law, which must take effect immediately on their approval by the State Board of Health, to (a) Regulate any health hazard on residential property;(b) Regulate any health hazard in a rental dwelling unit; an  (c) Regulate any health hazard on commercial property. (emphasis added)

In other words, a district board of health MAY adopt regulations on lead contamination and removal.  The first part of the problem is obvious when we look up the “district boards of health” in Nevada – there are only three of them .  District boards exist in Clark County, Washoe County, and Carson City.  Thus, the three local jurisdictions may enact regulations on lead contamination – and it’s to their credit they’ve all addressed the issue – but are not required to do so; and, that leaves “the rurals” without any systematic way to approach the problem at all under the terms of NRS 439.479.  Additionally, it’s of note that the “health hazard” provisions weren’t enacted until 2009.

Residents in rural counties might avail themselves of the State Health Division’s “Healthy Homes” guidelines, and hope for the best if they have to file a complaint with a landlord or seller.  Citizens are directed to two resources, the Rural Nevada Development Corporation and the Nevada Rural Housing Authority. In short, the state provides three pages of advice, two telephone numbers, and its best wishes for a happy resolution.

The good news is that Nevada is a predominantly urban state with 94.2% of the total population living in two metropolitan areas both of which have lead contamination regulations in place; however, that does leave 156,764 people or 5.8% of the population at greater risk.  The bad news is that the state may be expected to “cover” the remaining 109,013.8 square miles of territory containing that 5.8% rural population.  While there are counties which could not be reasonably expected to maintain a full service Health Board, like Esmeralda (926) or Eureka (1,903) others like Lyon (53,344), Elko (53,358), Douglas (48,553) and Nye (45,456) might be capable of forming a serviceable health district board.

Again, the permissive language issue comes to the fore – while some of the larger rural counties could organize a local health district, nothing in NRS 439.479 requires that the board address contamination standards and removal regulations for such things as lead.

111 years after France and Belgium forbid the use of lead paint for interior use, and 37 years after the Consumer Products Safety Commission  banned the use of lead in interior paint, and 27 years after the CDC was authorized to track and report on lead poisoning … the state of Nevada remains in a state of flux concerning the regulation, removal, and restoration of homes in which lead paint still poses a significant health hazard.

References of Interest:

CDC Lead Poisoning from A to Z, CDC  (pdf); Washoe County Health Department, EPI Bulletin April 2009 Lead Exposure in Northern Nevada (pdf); Nevada Revised Statutes NRS 439; Atlantic Magazine, “Why it took decades of blaming parents before we banned lead paint,” April 2013; CDC Adult Blood Lead Epidemiology and Surveillance Tables ABLES.  The Lead Contamination Control Act 1988. Childhood Lead Poisoning Prevention, Southern Nevada Health District.

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