Tag Archives: Nevada legislature

Shady Lender Protection Act heard in Nevada Legislature Committee

AB 282

Perhaps this was a good week to revisit “Margin Call?”  Why? Because Fiore and Friends are promoting AB 282 in the Nevada state Legislature.

“AB 282: AN ACT relating to real property; revising provisions governing mediation of a judicial foreclosure action; revising provisions requiring certain actions related to the foreclosure of owner-occupied property securing a residential mortgage loan to be rescinded after a certain period; revising provisions governing civil actions brought by a borrower for certain violations of law governing the foreclosure of owner-occupied property securing a residential mortgage loan…”

This bill is on today’s agenda in the Assembly Judiciary Committee.  Might it be suggested that the informal title of the bill be “The Shady Lender Protection Act of 2015?”  Here’s why:

“Existing law provides that in a judicial foreclosure action concerning owner- occupied property, the mortgagor may elect to participate in the program of foreclosure mediation. (NRS 40.437) Section 1 of this bill removes provisions governing the process of such mediation and the documents required to be brought to the mediation. Section 1 instead requires the Nevada Supreme Court to adopt rules governing the mediation.” (emphasis added)

Let’s start with the part wherein the Nevada foreclosure mediation process has been successful.  It’s been especially beneficial for borrowers in owner occupied homes who want to avoid foreclosure. [nolo] Perhaps this is why Fiore and Friends and so dead set against it?  So, what are those documents required in the process?

“Nevada’s mediation program requires that borrowers and the lender provide the mediator and each other with certain documents prior to the mediation. The borrower must provide appropriate documentation, such as financial information, so that the lender can make a determination about whether the borrower is eligible for a loan workout. The lender must provide documents such as the original note, deed of trust, and assignments (or certified copies).” [nolo]

Remember those bad old days, the ones in the wake of the housing bubble debacle?  Those were the days during which lenders were seeking to foreclose properties on which they didn’t have the paperwork necessary to prove who held the mortgage.  And at this point we return to the messy problem of MERS.

MERS was an ‘electronic’ recording of mortgages which was supposed to facilitate the assignment of mortgages etc. at high speed – speed high enough to sate the demand from Wall Street for more and more and more mortgages to slice, dice, tranche, and otherwise divide into financial products for marketing.  The idea was that county recorders weren’t fast enough to keep pace with the Wall Street demand for mortgages in the secondary market.  The fall out from the MERS mess is still being felt in parts of the country. [Harpers]

Thus, what AB 282 does is to (1) eliminate a mediation process which has been successful in Nevada, and (2) eliminates the documentation requirements now on the books according to which the borrowers must provide their financial information and the lenders must prove they own the paperwork on the property.  We can guess who’s having problems with the paperwork, but an article in the Reno Gazette Journal in 2012 provides some interesting details:

“Data from the same report (on program effectiveness) , however, have some questioning what the program’s definition of good faith is. Out of the 3,183 total cases from the same time period, banks did not bring all the required documents in 1,149 cases — a rate of 36 percent.

JPMorgan Chase topped the list, failing to bring all necessary documents in 52 percent of its cases. Ally/GMAC was second at 50 percent, followed by Bank of America at 41 percent, US Bank at 32 percent and Wells Fargo at 31 percent. Citigroup posted the lowest rate of the six banks mentioned at 12 percent.”

And, why did the banks have problems with the paperwork?  They didn’t have it. The Great Wall Street Mortgage Mill had shredded the mortgages into sliced and diced financial products in which nobody knew who really owned what – much less what the paper was really worth.

“They want the original paperwork and not a certified copy, which becomes an issue for mortgages that have been securitized (into investments),” Uffelman said. “Once a mortgage gets securitized, the paperwork ends up in a different place and can be tough for a servicer to track down and pull back together. The more you securitize stuff, the easier it is to screw things up.” [RGJ 2012]

And screw things up they did. Since Wall Street was in such a glorious rush to manufacture asset based securities on offer in the Casino, the recording and other record keeping practices were lost in the great paper shuffle.  Only in the imagination of Wall Street sycophants does this create a problem to be borne solely by the homeowner.

If we look at the latest report (pdf) from the program we see the nature of the continuing documentation problem:

“Of the 1,894 mediations held during FY 2014, 73 percent resulted in the homeowner and the lender not coming to an agreement to retain or relinquish the property. In 28 percent of these cases, no resolution was reached because the lender failed to prove it had the authority to foreclose, or the lender failed to prove ownership of the deed of trust or the mortgage note.”  

“For example, in 319 cases, the beneficiary failed to bring the required certifications for each endorsement of the mortgage note. By statute, the lender must provide a certified deed of trust, a certification of each assignment of the deed of trust, a certified mortgage note, and a certification of each endorsement and/or assignment of the mortgage note.”

And just so borrowers aren’t inclined to take on the banks in a questionable foreclosure, AB 282 limits the time line for the mediation process, drops awards from $50,000 to $5,000, and eliminates the recovery of attorney fees by a prevailing borrower.

The Legislature already has AB 360 The Annuities Saleman’s Friend Bill in the hopper, and now the financialists must be rubbing their palms at the prospect of the Ultra-Big-Bank-Friendly AB 282!

AB 282 is a bill for the Banks, for the Wall Street Casino Players, for the Speculators, for the Financialists – and it is NOT a bill which does anything for average Nevada families.   As the session progresses it’s becoming ever more clear who the Nevada Republicans are supporting – and it’s definitely not Nevada homeowners.

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Filed under Economy, financial regulation, Foreclosures, Nevada economy, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics

Vote Suppression Bills Emerge in Nevada Legislature

Vote suppression 2 Here they go again: SB 433AN ACT relating to elections; requiring the county clerk and city clerk to publish the voter turnout for each day of early voting by midnight of the following day; prohibiting an election board officer from displaying a political preference or party allegiance while serving; requiring the county clerk and city clerk to use certain criteria in determining polling places for early voting; revising the hours and days for early voting;…  And they’re off, galloping toward making it more difficult to cast a ballot in Nevada elections —

Sections 4, 5, 12 and 13 of this bill provide that no permanent or temporary polling place may open before 7 a.m., remain open after 7 p.m. or open on Sundays during early voting.”

This in a state in which one of the leading employers is the “hospitality” sector, and people in that sector work various shifts which are generally not associated with so-called ‘standard hours.’   Here’s a conservative idea: How about allowing local governments some discretion in how they conduct their elections?

Consider for a moment the section in the bill which alleges to be “fair” about the location of polling stations.  Heretofore, county clerks and local election officials have had some latitude to establish these on the basis of local returns and traffic.  However, SB 433 adds some language which contains another wrinkle.  The Bill says,

“2. The county clerk shall: (a) Provide by rule or regulation for the criteria to be used to select permanent and temporary polling places for early voting by personal appearance . [; and] The criteria used to select permanent and temporary polling places for early voting by personal appearance must, without limitation: (1) Ensure that permanent and temporary polling places are located near residential areas of the county, to the extent possible. (2) Ensure that a permanent or temporary polling place is located in every geographic area of the county, to the extent possible. (b) At a meeting of the board of county commissioners, inform the board of the sites selected as permanent and temporary polling places for early voting by personal appearance. 3. The number of permanent and temporary polling places for early voting by personal appearance in a county with multiple assembly districts must be divided equally among the assembly districts.” (emphasis added)

First, there’s the waffling language inserted “to the extent possible,” without specifying what criteria should be used to determine whether a location is feasible.  Secondly, take a another look at the portion underlined above.  What counties have multiple assembly districts?  Clark (Las Vegas), Washoe (Reno-Sparks), and in general members of the Nevada Assembly represent about 64,299 residents.

The 42 Assembly districts include 30 districts wholly within Clark County, 8 districts in the Washoe County/Carson City/western Nevada area, and 4 Assembly districts within the 2 rural Senate districts.”  [nvleg]

Now, if each of the Assembly elections in multi-district counties have the same number of polling stations what would the impact of this be on those districts which have more than the average number of residents and those which have less?  This is a problem which could easily be sorted by local officials who know how many people live where – but the Republican bill would treat everyone “equally” when such a solution might not in itself be equitable. 

There are three “overpopulated” districts in Nevada after the 2010 census:  Clark Senate District 9, 173.9% overpopulated;  State Assembly District 22 at 246.7% overpopulated; and,  Nevada Assembly District 13 with 298.8% overpopulation. [ballot]  Perhaps we might want to think about installing more polling stations in those districts which are overpopulated rather than being “fair” by allowing all districts an equal number no matter the overpopulation figures? Interestingly enough those two overpopulated Assembly seats are currently held by Republicans, as is Senate District 9.  It’s hard to conceive of Republicans advocating long lines in polling places for their own incumbents – but perhaps when ideology trumps common sense that could be the outcome?

This could also prove to be the case in the infamous SB 169, photo ID bill.  What makes SB 169 of special interest is that it only recognizes state, federal, and tribal identification forms of identification.  The result is essentially disenfranchisement.  And, disenfranchisement with a big price tag for taxpayers:

“The bill was referred to the Senate Finance Committee because of its undermined cost of providing voter identification cards to those who lack other acceptable forms for photo ID.

There’s also the expense of educating voters on the requirement, Story said, adding Indiana, on which the Nevada bill is modeled, spent millions of dollars on such efforts.’ [LVRJ]

Additional, costly, voter identification measures to solve a non-existent problem, combined with the shrinking number of hours available for voters is a recipe for vote suppression, exactly what Republicans have been clamoring for in recent years.  Bill Moyers compiled a short but illustrative guide to GOP vote suppression thoughts, which deserves a review at this point before the Republicans in Nevada make voting the preserve of the rich and all but impossible for the poor.

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

Legislative Headaches: The Tax Man Cometh

Take Two Aspirin

If the three major tax plans in the Nevada Legislature, and their varied explications, are giving you a head ache, the Las Vegas Sun offers a good comparison of them.  There’s a major problem with the Assembly GOP plan which:

“Would change modified business tax rate from 1.17 percent for general business and 2 percent for financial sector businesses to 1.56 percent for all businesses. Exempts companies with payrolls less than $50,000 per quarter and removes a deduction for health care premiums.”

This is a form of “flat tax.” And, there’s one group of businesses which benefit most from a “flat tax,” – the big ones. I know, it sounds counter-intuitive, but what gives the appearance of equity (the flat tax) actually ends up being one of the most inequitable forms of revenue raising.

Beloved by such think tanks as the ultra-conservative Cato Institute, flattening taxes works against middle income groups, both domestic and business.  Let’s assume that the 1.56% tax were to apply to all businesses in the state with payrolls more than $50,000 per quarter ($200,000 per year.) This would apply to all forms of enterprises except those in the financial sector.  For clarity, the financial sector includes commercial banks, investment banks, insurance companies, investment companies, unit investment trusts, face amount certificate companies, management investment companies (closed/open), and three types of non-bank investment companies: (1) savings & loans, (2) credit unions, and (3) shadow banks. [Investopedia]

Current law and the Sandoval Plan keep the tax on those financial sector enterprises at 2%.  The Assembly Republicans would provide them with a 0.44% tax break. At this point, it ought to be asked – Why is a bank like Wells Fargo with a reported revenue of $21.4 billion (up 4% YOY) getting a tax break when a supermarket is running on a 6% margin?  Or, why is a hedge fund, and those similar firms which operated in the shadows in the run up to the crash of 2007-2008, getting a break?

One conclusion is that the Banking Lobby and associated financialists are running full bore at the tax proposals.  Hedge fund managers already have one of the sweetest tax breaks imaginable in the form of the Carried Interest Loophole, and now the Assembled Wisdom is proposing they get a nice break from the state. [See also: TO.org, BusinessInsider]  If nothing else, the Assembly proposal indicates that Financialism is alive and well in the Legislature’s bailiwick.

In short, what looks superficially “equitable” actually makes it easier on the financial sector firms, and places more of the revenue raising responsibility on those businesses which operate on a local level – retailers, wholesalers, and the like.  “Shadow” financial institutions, already the beneficiary of copious tax avoidance strategies, are paying the same “freight” as the supermarket chain and the retailers.

There’s another point which ought to be addressed:  Who is at greater general risk during an economic downturn?  In case we hadn’t noticed – the financial sector is no longer directly connected to the commercial sector. The advent of the Shareholder Value theory of corporate management is what drives stock prices – it doesn’t matter if employment is dropping, if the cuts in payroll are assumed to be part of the management plan to boost the value of the shares.  However, in the real economy it matters very much if employment is reduced because that in turn yields lower demand for goods and services.

In this instance, “sharing the load fairly” actually means that the businesses most likely to be hurt by any economic downturn, and those businesses which are dependent on local economic conditions, are to “share” an equal burden in terms of revenue raising with those which are all too often the perpetrators of commercial difficulties in the “real economy.”

Putting it less diplomatically, the Assembly proposal really isn’t very fair at all.

*And by the way – doesn’t eliminating the deductions for health care insurance make it less likely employers will sponsor such plans, making it all the more necessary that the health insurance exchange markets under the Affordable Care Act be sustained?

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Filed under banking, Economy, Nevada economy, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, nevada taxation

There’s a reason tenure cannot be taken from a Nevada public school teacher, and it’s simple.

teacher tenure

There is nothing to take, Nevada public school teachers do not have tenure.  Nevada teachers have either probationary or post-probationary statusAB 378, which is purported to be a ‘reform’ bill is another of those ALEC/AFP dream lists inserted into the Legislative discussion.  Here’s the meaty part:

“Existing law provides for the evaluation, discipline and discharge of public school teachers and administrators. (NRS 391.311-391.3197) Generally, during a 3- year period, probationary teachers and administrators are subject to more intensive evaluation, have no right to continued employment after any school year, and have limited procedural rights if they are suspended or dismissed during a school year. (NRS 391.3125, 391.3127, 391.3128, 391.3197) The admonition, demotion, suspension, dismissal and nonreemployment provisions that apply to postprobationary teachers and administrators are generally inapplicable to probationary teachers and administrators. (NRS 391.3115) However, existing law provides that a collective bargaining agreement supersedes these statutory provisions if the agreement contains provisions relating to dismissal and nonreemployment. (NRS 391.3116) Section 10 of this bill generally eliminates the existing distinctions between probationary and postprobationary employees, except for the purposes of the evaluation requirements applicable to them. Notwithstanding the provisions of any collective bargaining agreement or contract of employment to the contrary, section 10 provides that a postprobationary employee has no status or rights of employment different from those of a probationary employee and may be denied reemployment after any school year.”

Got this? Because it really isn’t very difficult.  There are no “tenured teachers” in Nevada – there are only those with “postprobationary status” who have a less stringent evaluation procedure, and have DUE PROCESS rights if they are to be dismissed, demoted, or refused a contract for the next school year.  That’s all, simply DUE PROCESS rights to answer the allegations of mismanagement or incompetence if they are not offered another one year contract; and – every teacher in Nevada signs ONE year contracts with the local district.  Therefore, what AB 378 does is NOT to eliminate tenure (which doesn’t exist) but to eliminate DUE PROCESS, which does.

Now class, hands up, all in favor of removing  DUE PROCESS for teachers who are challenged by the school administration for mismanagement, incompetence, or generally not being popular with the administration?

This is a piece of legislation entangled with all manner of potential unintended consequences. A few examples:

Which evaluation regime is to be adopted for all teachers in the district if the distinction between probationary and post probationary teachers is eliminated?  It sounds like the probationary model might be the one most aligned with the intent of the legislation, but have the authors of the measure calculated the amount of time a school administrator would have to add to an already busy schedule to implement the enhanced processes in place for probationary teachers to everyone in the building?  Do the bill’s authors intend to fund additional administrators for school districts to fulfill all the evaluation tasks assigned?

If there is no advantage in staying with a school district for any length of time because there is no distinction between probationary and postprobationary teachers, then why should a “highly effective,” or “effective” teacher bother to stay longer than three years in a district if some other district or school offers higher pay or better incentives? 

Frankly, if I were in charge of an affluent school or district I’d be delighted with the prospect of “picking off” the best and brightest in the not-s0-affluent areas, by hinting to the best and brightest that since there was no advantage for them to stay longer in the Not So Affluent district or school,  I could offer, say, smaller class sizes, a lighter schedule, and more input into curriculum design and implementation?  This often happens anyway, but why encourage it?

If due process is denied to an individual who has received “highly effective” or even “effective,” ratings for three years running does the prospect of demotion, dismissal, or refusal of re-employment invite more litigation? The elimination of the hearing process means that the “administrative remedies” are exhausted as soon as the announcement is made to the teacher in question.  So, if there aren’t any “administrative remedies” available, then the next step is into the courtroom.  Expensive? Probably.  This situation leads to the next question.

Does eliminating the due process and related contractual provisions place more school administrators in jeopardy?  Possibly yes.  If administrative remedies are eliminated and any questions remain about the intent or source of the decision to demote, dismiss, or refuse to re-employ, then the administrator or district must demonstrate (as a potential defendant) that the decision made was not arbitrary, capricious, or vindictive.   If there’s  system in place governing the demotion, dismissal, or employment refusal decision making process then the administration has a documented ‘trail’ and it is much more difficult to substantiate allegations that the decision was made arbitrarily, capriciously, or even vindictively.

Other than completely eliminating the due process protections for both teachers and administrators, there’s another element in the bill that should make a person’s skin crawl.

“Existing law requires the State Board of Education to establish by regulation the maximum pupil-teacher ratio in each grade and for each subject matter each school district in this State. (NRS 387.123) Generally, the ratio of pupils teachers in kindergarten and grades 1, 2 and 3 must not exceed a specified and each school district must develop a plan to reduce the ratio within the limits available financial support. (NRS 388.700-388.725) Sections 3-5, 12, 13 and this bill repeal those provisions and eliminate existing references to them.”

It’s difficult enough to be “effective” or “highly effective” as a teacher or administrator in a school anyway… but in which situation are they more likely to be successful:  School A with 40 students in primary grade classrooms; or, School B with no more than 20 students in primary grade classrooms?  Or, put less stridently, in which classroom is a youngster more likely to receive attention to his or her questions?

Assemblywomen Victoria Dooling (R-NV41 and Freedom Works) and Shelly Shelton (R-NV10), the sponsors of this bill, should have paid a bit more attention to the details in NRS 391 before putting this bill forward.  Additionally, they should have noticed that when the subject of employment and due process arise the potential for mischief (and protracted litigation) increases.  Sometimes things aren’t as simple as anti-government activists like Matt Kibbe says. 

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Filed under education, FreedomWorks, nevada education, Nevada legislature, nevada taxation

Spooks, Haunts, and other Scary Things in the Nevada Legislature

Nevada Legislature Scary Things

The GOP controlled Nevada Legislature is haunted. Specters and spooks dog the steps of the members of the Assembled Wisdom, wraiths point toward things of which we must be afraid, very afraid.

We must be afraid of voter impersonation fraud.  The fact that it hasn’t happened doesn’t mean that we ought not to writhe in terror at the prospect.  Speaking of ghosts of elections past, we have Sharron Angle to add her wail to the cries of alarm:

“Former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle, who lost the 2010 U.S. Senate race to Harry Reid, testified for the bill, saying “we do have a voter impersonation problem across the country.”  Anderson asked if she has found examples of voter impersonation in Nevada in her investigations. Angle said no, but that there is “anomalous activity that goes on in Nevada elections that is not easily explained.” [LVRJ]

One might reasonably guess that “anomalous activity” is one of those terms which might be analogous to the Spectral Evidence allowed in the Salem Witch Trials?   However, we might just as well place this within the glossary of meaningless phrases, which while sounding erudite, mean almost nothing, such as “stocks are down on profit taking,” or “there’s lots of cash on the sidelines.” [Ritholtz] Or, such unverifiable and empty notions like “highway miles.”  Or, those gratuitous and equally meaningless phrases which appear in job opening announcements, “self starter,” “team player,” and “highly qualified.”

The point being is that bills like SB 169 (photo ID) are necessary to solve the Republican problem of not being able to win elections if lower income, non-white, young people, and the elderly are allowed to vote.

We must be very afraid of criminals.  Not only must we quake in alarm, according to the GOP Gun Club we must arm ourselves and await the day when we will be called upon to open fire on the evil-doers in our midst. Unfortunately, this serves to remind us that one person who tried this at the Las Vegas Wal-Mart ended up as a victim. [SFgate] No matter, by the lights of the Gun Club we must all be allowed to carry concealed weapons – anywhere – unless maybe not on school grounds.  (AB 148) 

As of 2013 there were 2,790,236 people in the state of Nevada.  There were 16,496 violent crimes reported.  We should put this in some perspective.  First, if we divide the number of violent crimes (victims) by the total population the result is 0.00591.  Shift the decimal to create a percentage and we have 0.59%. [TDC]  Is the likelihood of victimization in a violent crime in Nevada so high that all the dangers associated with carrying a concealed weapon worth the effort? Secondly, there were 163 murders, 1,090 rapes, 5,183 robberies, and 10,060 assaults in Nevada as of the 2013 reporting period.  [TDC]   The numbers don’t suggest a need for a proliferation of arms among ordinary citizens.

But but but… What if the criminals think there will be armed opposition to their nefarious endeavors! That will prevent them from carrying out their heinous designs! Really?  The armed robber already has his or her gun in position, ready to fire. The gun in my purse or holster is going to take a moment to get “into position.” Thus, the obvious outcome is that the robber gets the money, and the firearm.  Then there is the “collateral damage” consideration.  What if the “burglar” isn’t a criminal after all, but some family member who has lost a key?  In public spaces, how does Our Concealed Carry Hero determine if another Concealed Carry Hero is, or is not, a perpetrator of the shooting? The questions go on, but the bottom line is that in the fanciful world of the gun enthusiasts every hero can make practical decisions at 2 in the morning, make every shot count, and insure that every shot is aimed at and will hit the criminal.  It’s a scenario right out of the made for TV melodramas. Legislation should be crafted upon a foundation of facts and rationality, not the fevered imaginings of the frightened.

We must be afraid that someone somewhere is taking money away from us, and that every accumulation of government revenue is robbery, and every public service employee is unworthy.  Those comfortably ensconced in the upper 0.01% of income earners may very well be able to buy all the books they want (therefore there is no need for public libraries) or to spend a vacation on a private island or in a private resort (therefore there is no need for any public parks), and they may elect to spend money on private security, or pay for service firefighting, or pay the tolls on roads and highways, or send the kids to private schools.  When money is no object, other people’s money is little more than a object of attraction. 

Unfortunately, the upper 0.01% has been effective over the last three decades in convincing ordinary people earning $50,000 per year that a public school beginning teacher earning $37,000 is a Pig At The Public Trough.  The median wage of an employee of the State of Nevada is currently $46,590.  Hardly a figure, when agency heads are included, to describe an opulent living.   Yet, public employees are taking fire in this edition of the Legislature.

However, it’s not just the public sector employees who are drawing the attention of the Needy Greedy.   State Senator Joe Hardy (R-Boulder City) wants to repeal the state’s minimum wage.  Hardy’s SJR 6 (pdf) would repeal Nevada’s minimum wage provisions and let the legislature determine if an employer is providing health insurance if the cost is not more than 10% of the employee’s gross taxable income.  Here’s a thought – How about, instead of allowing more employers to pay less than $8.25 per hour, Nevada enacted an increase in the minimum wage? Period.

Want to see fewer people have to rely on housing subsidies to keep roofs over their heads? Raise the minimum wage.  Want to see fewer people have to resort to the SNAP programs? – raise the minimum wage. Want to see fewer individuals have to avail themselves of Medicaid assistance? Raise the minimum wage. 

For too many years we’ve been told the people (including the disabled and the elderly) aren’t working hard enough.  They should get more education (despite the costs and time involved), get more gumption (this in the face of a 5% multi-job rate), work more hours… take individual responsibility!  This is all lovely palaver from the heights, the concepts tend to disintegrate when applied in the real world.  The question could as easily be reversed. For example, the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, with sales and revenue reported as $14.58 billion in 2014, and net income of $2.84 billion, couldn’t spring for more than a paltry $8.25 per hour?  The question ought to be why can’t employers pay more than $10.10 per hour, or a living wage of $15.00?

In the real world most employers do pay more than the minimum already.  Minimum wage workers comprise about 4.7% of the total employed workforce.  The chart shows national trends for minimum wage workers:

Minimum Wage workers

“Leisure and Hospitality,” where have we seen that category before? L&H is the largest employer in the state, accounting for approximately 398,000 jobs earning an average annual wage of $31,600 (net of benefits.)  So, here we sit in a state in which most employees are engaged by a sector most likely to pay earnings at or below the federal minimum wage – and we can’t figure out that those who need housing or SNAP assistance might not fall into those categories if the wages were increased? So, let’s ask again: Why are Nevada employers unwilling to pay wages which would support their employees above the rate at which they are eligible for public assistance?

There are some things about which we should be legitimately concerned, those just don’t seem to have made it into the consciousness of the Legislature’s majority. Here are two examples:

Nevada has an income inequality problem.

“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.” [EPI] (emphasis added)

This situation is economically unsustainable.  As middle income and lower income earners tighten their belts and shave their budgets, there are simply not enough high income earners to create the demand for goods and services over time.

Nevada has infrastructure issues.  Only in the categories of waste water and solid waste does the state of Nevada get a ‘good’ grade, a B, from the ASCE.  We seem to be handling the excremental elements of our state rather better than our school buildings and our dams.

If the Legislature can move past Guns Galore!, Labor Bashing, and Vote Suppressing, we might want to address these and other pressing issues in the Silver State.

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Filed under Crime Rates, Gun Issues, Nevada economy, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, Vote Suppression, Voting

A Second Look At AB 182: ALEC’s assault on Nevada Public Employees

AB 182

REVIEW: If one feels the need for a bit of background information, the origin of bills like AB 182 can be found in the ALEC model legislation package known as “The Public Employee Freedom Act.”  (pdf)  The bill is a veritable laundry list of the ALEC bill-mill wishes:

“(1) AN ACT relating to local governments; prohibiting a local government employer from entering into an agreement to pay dues to an employee organization through deductions from compensation; (2) prohibiting such an employer from providing paid leave or paying compensation or benefits for time spent by an employee in providing services to an employee organization; (3) prohibiting the inclusion of certain employees in a bargaining unit; (4) revising provisions relating to a reduction in force; (5) providing that a collective bargaining agreement between a local government employer and a recognized employee organization expires for certain purposes at the end of the term stated in the agreement; (6) requiring public notice of certain offers made in collective bargaining; (7) eliminating final and binding fact-finding except upon the election of the governing body; (8)  removing a portion of the budgeted ending fund balance of certain governmental funds from the scope of collective bargaining and from consideration by a fact finder; (9) eliminating statutory impasse arbitration for firefighters, police officers, teachers and educational support personnel;…”

Nothing would so please the corporate masters of ALEC and the Koch Brothers alliance than to see public employee unions brought down, scuttled, and preferably stricken branch to root.

Every provision in this bill is strategically calculated to prevent unions from providing their services to their members.  No dues check off, making dues collection more costly and cumbersome for members; combined with the  attack on union leadership – after all, if the leaders can’t afford the volunteer time then service is necessarily reduced.  Eliminate “supervisory personnel,” if they so much as think about making an “independent judgment.”  No lawyers, no doctors, no supervisory personnel, may by involved in a bargaining unit?  No “confidential employee?”

Allow a government agency to reallocate resources such that there is a reduction if force – translation: layoffs – and then say “We did it because we moved the money elsewhere.” Anywhere? Any budget category? For any purpose? For the purpose of laying off personnel?  No “evergreen provisions?” No cost of living adjustments without a new master contract?

AB 182 assumes there will be no employee strikes – illegal for public employees in this state – but there won’t be any resolution options either. No fact finding, mediation, or arbitration results shall impinge on the employer to do whatever the agency wishes.  It’s take it or leave it time.

And, 16.6% of the total “budgeted expenditures” must be kept in reserve.  Really?  While this sounds “financially responsible” it really isn’t.  There are supposed to be funds allocated at the local level for “extraordinary maintenance and repairs or improvements, funds for contingencies, and funds to stabilize operations, and to provide a cushion in case of a natural disaster. [See: NRS 354]  There’s really little more to this than pulling 16.6% away from the bargaining table.

CONSIDER THE SOURCEWho is supporting ALEC?

The corporate sponsorships include:  The American Bail Corporation; the Altria Group (tobacco), AT&T, Diageo, Energy Future Holdings. Exxon Mobil Corporation, Koch Companies  Public Sector, Peabody Energy (coal), Pfizer Inc. PhRMA, State Farm Insurance, United Parcel Service, Amerian, American Express, US Airways, Anheuser Busch, Bayer Corporation, Bell Helicopter, BP America, Burlington Northern, Catepillar, Century Link, Chevron, Comcast, Conoco Phillips (under Phillips 66 brand), Dow Chemical, Eli Lilly Inc, Farmer’s Group, Georgia-Pacific (Koch Bros), Honeywell, Insight Schools Inc, JR Simplot, Marathon Oil, Raytheon, Reynolds American, T Mobile, Transcanada, (yes, THAT Transcanada)Verizon, and Xcel Energy.

However, a more interesting list is who has dropped membership in the organization which provides models for legislation like AB 182: Pepsi, Coca-Cola, Pepsi, Kraft, Intuit, McDonalds, Wendy’s, Mars, Reed Elsevier, American Traffic Solutions, Blue Cross Blue Shield, Yum! Brands, Proctor and Gamble, Kaplan, Amazon.com, Medtronic, Wal-Mart, Johnson and Johnson, Dell Computers, John Deere, MillerCoors, Hewlett-Packard, Best Buy, General Motors, Walgreens, Amgen, Dreyfus, Amgen, General Electric, Western Union, Sprint Nextel, Symantec, Entergy, Merck, Bank of America, Wellpoint, Bristol Myers Squibb, Brown-Forman, Publix Markets, Glaxo Smith Kline, Unilever, 3M, Darden Restaurants, IBM, Intel, Nestle USA, Berkshire Hathaway, NV Energy, Alliant Energy, Microsoft, Pacific Gas and Electric, Yahoo Inc, International Paper, Occidental Petroleum, Overstock.com, Facebook, Google, Union Pacific, eBay, Wells Fargo, and Northrop Grumman. [link]

Not to put too fine a point to it, but the Nevada legislators sponsoring AB 182 – Republicans Kirner, Dickman, Gardner, Oscarson, Wheeler, Edwards, Jones, Hambrick, Ellison, and Nelson – are still promoting legislation (and an ideology) which is no longer all that popular among major corporate sponsors.  The ALEC bill mill has lost some of its patina of late, but 10 Nevada Republicans haven’t quite noticed the train’s left the station?

While ALEC may be headed off to the horizon, the Koch Brothers and their Americans for Prosperity are alive and well.

“AFP adopts the anti-union positions held by its libertarian funders, David and Charles Koch.[56] A video published on YouTube on February 26, 2011 shows Scott Hagerstrom, the executive director of Americans for Prosperity Michigan, advocating “taking unions out at the knees so they don’t have the resources” to fight for workplace benefits or political candidates.” [Sourcewatch]

One has only to look at Michigan, Ohio, and especially Wisconsin under the Koch financed Walker regime, to see that AFP can simply adopt the legislative packages from ALEC, and insert these into state legislatures – like Nevada.

Thus, Republicans Kirner, Dickman, Gardner, Oscarson, Wheeler, Edwards, Jones, Hambrick, Ellison, and Nelson are simply doing the bidding of the Koch Brothers and promoting their reactionary agenda.

CONSEQUENCES:   This assault on unions, and specifically the attack on public employee unions, are part of the general hostility of corporations toward labor, and toward government.  The results are obvious.  As union membership has declined over the years so have middle class incomes.  [MJ] [APO] [EPI]  And, how did many families move into the middle class in the first place?  By becoming police officers, firefighters, teachers, community health nurses, librarians, land management specialists, transportation specialists, heavy equipment operators, social workers, public health service workers, and so on.

The wages and salaries earned by public employees, as determined by negotiated master agreements, put more families into the middle class, and more money into local economies.  Once again – the Koch Brothers aren’t interested in Bob’s Bodega or the Smith Family Furniture Store, or Jill’s Fashions —  the kinds of small businesses which form the core of local economies.  Possibly the view from inside the 0.001% bubble doesn’t allow for the possibility that products such as Koch Brother’s brands wouldn’t sell in such quantities without local retailers – local retailers who rely on middle income consumers to produce their revenue?

The anti-union, anti-labor perspective is ultimately unsustainable.  Yes, paper towels (like Koch’s Brawny brand) are basic household items, but put too much downward pressure on household income and people will discover that re-washable rags will work as well.  Every household needs toilet paper, like Koch’s Angel Soft, but households under pressure to save pennies may find cheaper brands to purchase.  While the Koch’s can fall back on Flint Hills energy products, local grocers can’t fall too far back from their local demand.  Grocers average a margin of 1-6%, [AZBus] which is not a large cushion to sustain too much drop in customer demand.

Perhaps it’s easier to sit back insulated by a top 0.001% annual income and think of Liberty, Freedom, Personal Accountability, and other abstractions, but the middle class consumer, including the middle class firefighter, police officer, teacher, social worker, or public health nurse doesn’t have that luxury.  Freedom for most people comes down to what Franklin D. Roosevelt called “Freedom from Want.”  The freedom which allows a family to procure all that’s necessary for basic needs, and leave  little left over for a home, for retirement, for an education for their children.  They want, and need, the freedom to breathe between paychecks.

Bills like AB 182 take the air out of the room.  If Republicans Kirner, Dickman, Gardner, Oscarson, Wheeler, Edwards, Jones, Hambrick, Ellison, and Nelson would pull this bill, people could all breathe a little easier.

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Filed under Nevada economy, nevada education, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, Politics, public employees

ALEC and Nevada GOP launch vote suppression bills

vote suppression

It isn’t quite true to say that vote suppression bills are “a solution in search of a problem,” because the “problem” as seen by ALEC and associated Republicans is that too many people are voting, thus placing a permanent GOP majority in doubt.  Here’s a portion of AB 266, the perfectly predictable photo ID bill:

“Section 2 sets forth the acceptable forms of proof of identity which are: (1) certain government-issued documents or identity cards that show a recognizable photograph of the person to whom the document or card is issued; (2) a voter identification card; or (3) certain documentation from an administrator of certain health care facilities that are licensed by the State.”

What’s the problem? Just show the election officials your driver’s license? That, according to the Brennan Center isn’t a solution to the real problem – encouraging more people to participate in our electoral politics.

“Approximately ten percent of voting-age Americans today do not have driver’s licenses or state-issued non-driver’s photo ID. Based on Americans’ moving patterns, many more do not have photo ID showing their current address. And getting ID costs substantial time and money. A would-be voter must pay substantial fees both for ID cards and the backup documents needed to get them-up to $100 for a driver’s license, up to $45 for a birth certificate, $97 for a passport, and over $200 for naturalization papers. The voter may also have to take several hours off of work and travel significant distances to visit government offices open only during select daytime hours. Finally, many identifying documents cannot be issued immediately, so potential voters must allow for processing and shipping, which may take from several weeks to an entire year.”

As the Brennan Center relates, there’s nothing “free” about the documentation needed to get voting photo identification cards, even though the card itself is supposed to be issued at no charge.  And, who are those most likely to be suppressed by this legislation?  No surprise here:

“The impact of ID requirements is even greater for the elderly, students, people with disabilities, low-income individuals, and people of color. Thirty-six percent of Georgians over 75 do not have a driver’s license. Fewer than 3 percent of Wisconsin students have driver’s licenses listing their current address. The same study found that African Americans have driver’s licenses at half the rate of whites, and the disparity increases among younger voters; only 22% of black men aged 18-24 had a valid driver’s license. Not only are minority voters less likely to possess photo ID, but they are also more likely than white voters to be selectively asked for ID at the polls. For example, in New York City, which has no ID requirement, a study showed that poll workers illegally asked one in six Asian Americans for ID at the polls, while white voters were permitted to vote without showing ID.”

Whose vote is in jeopardy?

Predictably that would be elderly people, students, people with disabilities, low income Americans, and people of color.  We’ve covered this territory before in terms of Nevada voting, especially in rural areas.  The geography of this state, and the fact that most of the population tends to live in just two counties, means that rural voters are also at risk.

It’s also no surprise that some of the same people who walked off the ALEC gang plank into the depths of vote suppression are the same who made the same march previously, see here.  AB 266 also brings back memories of Senator Roberson’s 2011 SB 373.

How does this fly in the face of American judicial principles? 

Here’s a reminder:

“If you signed your registration form in Nevada declaring under penalty of perjury that you are at least 18 years of age, are a citizen of the United States, are not among the classes of persons held ineligible, and are a resident of the state.  The burden of proof that you have committed perjury rests with the state.

The burden of proof always rests with the state — in any prosecution for anything.  If a person is alleged to have voted once in Clark County and again in Nye County that would call for a prosecution of a crime under NRS 293 — but the burden of proof rests with the state.   If a person is alleged to have voted using an assumed identity, then this calls for prosecution, and once again — the burden of proof rests with the state.

Any suggestion that the citizen be required to “show proof of citizenship” at the polls is not only redundant, but shifts the burden of proof from the state to the individual.  That’s not the way the American system of jurisprudence works.  It’s not the way the American judicial system has ever worked.

A person in any court in the United States is never presumed guilty until he or she can demonstrate innocence.  A person need never prove beyond a reasonable doubt that he or she did not commit a burglary, an arson, a theft, a manslaughter — the burden of proof always rests with the state.  Demanding “proof of citizenship” at the polling stations presumes that unless a person can “prove” otherwise he or she is a fraudulent voter upends the very foundation of our criminal justice precepts.” [DB]

Fancy Focus Group Terms Don’t Hide The Intent

Conservative Republicans are fond of using terms like “election integrity,” as if there was something amiss in our current system.  There isn’t.  The one question these advocates of vote suppression don’t want to answer is:  How many cases of voter impersonation fraud have been identified in this state?  As of August 2014, there were 31 cases of voter impersonation fraud in the entire country, and not one case was associated with a Nevada election. [WaPo]

But, but, but…sputter the advocates, “Photo ID will make people feel better about their elections.”  That’s false, too.  When researchers from Harvard and Columbia put this to a statistical test, the results didn’t support this contention:

“Because actual evidence of voter impersonation fraud is rare and difficult to come by if fraud is successful, reliance on public opinion as to the prevalence of fraud threatens to allow courts to evade the difficult task of balancing the actual constitutional risks involved. In this short Article we employ a unique survey to evaluate the causes and effects of public opinion regarding voter fraud. We find that perceptions of fraud have no relationship to an individual’s likelihood of turning out to vote. We also find that voters who were subject to stricter identification requirements believe fraud is just as widespread as do voters subject to less restrictive identification requirements.” (emphasis added)

Conclusions

Vote suppression bills are precisely that – legislation intended to make it more difficult for groups least likely to need or afford photo identification to vote in state and national elections.  They are promoted by associations like ALEC, which produces the model legislation, in order to secure a permanent GOP majority in elected bodies.  Let’s slip out on the tree limb and conjecture that if the elderly, students, the disabled, and the poor were voting for eliminating the minimum wage, enhancing corporate tax breaks, and terminating the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau … the GOP would be demanding same day registration, and ALEC’s bill mill would be going full bore.

Vote suppression bills are unconstitutional. Discrimination should be the last thing found in polling stations. Further, to place the burden of proof on a “defendant” is counter to the very basic principles of American justice.

Vote suppression bills serve no one except corporate interests, as the Harvard/Columbia research reports – they don’t even make people feel any better.

AB 266, and its companions SB 169, and AB 253 should find their way to the bottom of some committee file cabinet – and not their way to the Governor’s desk.

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