Tag Archives: Nevada legislature

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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Filed under health, Health Care, nevada health, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, public health

School Dazed in the NV Assembled Wisdom

NV Legislature wide It’s School Daze for the Nevada Legislature and its Raucous Caucus, as AB 448 comes forward.  This is the Achievement District bailiwick in which all pretense of “local control” is pitched into oblivion

AN ACT relating to education; establishing the Achievement School District within the Department of Education; (1)  authorizing certain underperforming schools to be converted to achievement charter schools sponsored by the Achievement School District; (2)  prescribing requirements for the conversion of a public school to an achievement charter school and the operation of an achievement charter school; (3) providing for the use of certain school buildings by an achievement charter school without compensation; (4) authorizing a school district to provide services to an achievement charter school under certain circumstances; prescribing certain conditions of employment for a teacher at an achievement charter school; (5)  authorizing the conversion of an achievement charter school to a public school in a school district or a charter school; revising provisions governing the use of school buildings owned by the board of trustees of the school district by a charter school; making reassignment of the employees of an achievement charter school (6) outside the scope of collective bargaining;  [AB 488]

Let’s not bother to pretend this has anything to do with “smaller government,” or other pillars of conservative wisdom.  If a school is categorized as “underperforming” the local school district loses control of it and its operations.  That would be, of course,  the duly elected school board of a school district in this state – losing control of its facilities and operations to the state. Small government this isn’t. More on this point a bit later.

There are three ways a school can be removed from local authority:

Sec. 20. 1. A public school is eligible for conversion to an achievement charter school if: (a) Based upon the most recent annual report of the statewide system of accountability for public schools, the public school is an elementary school or middle school that was rated in the lowest 5 percent of elementary or middle schools in this State in pupil achievement and school performance for the most recent school year; (b) The public school is a high school that had a graduation rate for the immediately preceding school year of less than 60 percent; or (c) Pupil achievement and school performance at the public school is unsatisfactory as determined by the Department pursuant to the criteria established by regulation of the Department.

Let’s look at the first one, based on the annual report.  For all intents and purposes this categorization is based on standardized test scores. Growth measures of achievement,  status measure of achievement, and reduction in achievement gaps are all based on … test scores.  There is one other criterion, and only one other, to date, and that’s average daily attendance.  [NVDoE]

Here’s what I don’t see in the description of the measurements. Does the school serve a struggling socio-economic group?  Is the school over-crowded? Does the school have a teacher-student ratio that indicates some classes are overcrowded? How many of the youngsters are classified as in need of Special Education?  What is the transient rate in that particular school? Is the school adequately staffed with counselors, language specialists, social workers, psychologists, aides and other support personnel? If the school is a secondary one, then what does it mean to say the students are “ready for college?”  Let’s be honest here, not everyone is prepared for or even interested in a four year college program.  So, what does it mean to say a child is ready for… a vocational program? An apprenticeship program? A School to Work transition program?  We know that about 41% of American students continue their education beyond high school.  [NCES]

What of the other 60%? Does this mean that if a student elects to be a truck driver, construction worker, apprentice plumber, landscaper, or apprentice mechanic, or heavy equipment operator they “don’t count?”

What I do see is that if the kids show up and they test well then the school is said to be successful. The bias here appears to be that if the local school district isn’t churning out academically successful students, even if the school has prepared numerous and sundry mechanics, truck drivers, beauticians, file clerks, plumbers, etc., it isn’t “successful.”

A graduation rate? 60% is doable. The state average – one of the worst in the country is 63%. [LVSun] There are diploma options, for example in Clark County one can earn a standard diploma, an advanced diploma, or an advanced honors diploma. [CCSD] Students with learning disabilities can opt out of the “college and career readiness” track, and be evaluated according to their Individual Education Plan.

Statewide there are standard diplomas 63% receiving this form, advanced diplomas 27.2%, adjusted diplomas 4.8%, and certificates of attendance 4.9%. [NVASB pdf]

Nevada is a state with 37% white, 40% Hispanic, 9% black, and 1% Native American students. 19% of the students are classified as Limited English Proficient, 11% have diagnosed learning disabilities, and 54% are come from low income families. [NVASB pdf] By at least one standard – if the schools are majority low income, and the graduation rate is over 60% then some might call this successful? While it may not be ideal, it certainly doesn’t deserve the opprobrium of abject failure.

Item (c) is bureaucracy personified. A school may be declared “unsuccessful” based on Department of Education regulatory criteria. For those who purport to eschew “bureaucracy” and support “local control” by “locally elected officials” this ought to be enraging?  This isn’t small government, it’s grasping government, and personnel policy isn’t all it’s grasping.

Welcome to our accounting nightmare.  As set forth in Section 22.

“2. An achievement charter school must continue to operate in the same building in which the school operated before being converted to an achievement charter school. The board of trustees of the school district in which the school is located must provide such use of the building without compensation. While the school is operated as an achievement charter school, the governing body of the achievement charter school shall pay all costs related to the maintenance and operation of the building and the board of trustees shall pay all capital expenses.”

This is a go broke slowly scheme?  While the charter pays for the maintenance and operations, the local school board has lost control of its building and the capital expenses associated therewith.  If the school district approved a bond issue for the construction of the school (over which it now has no control) it must still pay off the bonds – without any compensation from the entity now using the facility.  But wait, there’s more…

Any financial operation from the lowliest back yard garage service to the most complex corporation has to deal with depreciation expenses, and accounts for capital replacement.  So, we have here a building on which  there are outstanding bonds or not, someone has to pay into accounts for depreciation expense, and into accounts for capital replacement – without any compensation from the charter management firm in charge of the building.  We’re not dealing with insignificant numbers here.

The Clark County School District reports $2,245,000 in depreciation expenses in 2012-2013.  Let’s assume that the “average” functional age of most schools is about 40 years, and that this functionality is dependent on (a) use and (b) renovation.  If we use straight line depreciation then we take the cost of original construction and divide it by the number of years the building is assumed to be serviceable.  If the school district, or any district, is functioning with fiscal intelligence, then the older the building the more must be added to the capital replacement accounts.

Clark County has 8 buildings constructed before 1949, 20 schools constructed during the 1950s, 39 during the 1960s, 31 during the 1970s, 23 during the 1980s, 98 during the 1990s and 119 constructed recently after 2000. [CCSD pdf]   In 1996 the Clark County School Board authorized $89 million in bonds for elementary schools (9), and $104.9 for four middle schools. [LVSun]   We can use these numbers to create an illustration of how expensive depreciation can get for a school district.  The CCSD numbers yield a cost of about $9,888,888 per elementary building included in that bond issue.  If the buildings have a life expectancy of 65 years then the depreciation for those would be $152,136 per building annually.

The way I’m reading this section of the proposed law, the Clark County School District would be responsible for the $152,136 annual depreciation expenses on a building over which it was forced to relinquish control if that school were to be declared “unsuccessful.” And, the charter management firm would be using the building without contributing to the depreciation expenses.

And, now the nightmare compounds.

“4. An achievement charter school may: (a) Acquire by construction, purchase, devise, gift, exchange or lease, or any combination of those methods, and construct, reconstruct, improve, maintain, equip and furnish any building, structure or property to be used for any of its educational purposes and the related appurtenances, easements, rights-of-way, improvements, paving, utilities, landscaping, parking facilities and lands; (b) Mortgage, pledge or otherwise encumber all or any part of its property or assets; (c) Borrow money and otherwise incur indebtedness; and (d) Use public money to purchase real property or buildings with the approval of the Achievement School District.”

Whoa Nelly!  The charter management firm may encumber, mortgage, or pledge any part of its property – the school building – on which the local school district is (a) still paying off capital construction bonds and/or (b) still paying for depreciation expenses?  In a nightmare scenario, the hypothetical  Chatter Charter Achievement School (formerly operated by the local school district) which is still being paid for – can be modified by the Chatter Charter NPO, and who books the depreciation on the renovations? Who’s on the hook for the mortgage if the Chatter Charter outfit goes bankrupt?  If the local school district is “still responsible” for the capital expenses, then is it also ultimately responsible for the  payment of capital outlays for renovation?

There’s something else here I’m not seeing.  The Charter may acquire all manner of equipment and furnishings – but can it sell off equipment and furnishings without the approval of the original donor – the local school district?   Buildings, furnishings, and equipment (anything not classified as supplies and personnel costs) may also be an integral part of the school districts accounting. In our good old fashioned double entry system of bookkeeping in this country, the non-perishable or consumable items are booked as ASSETS of the school district and thus any donation of those items (voluntary or involuntary) depletes the assets of the school district. Deplete enough assets and you deplete the capacity of the district to qualify for future financing.  

In short what we have here is a fiscal system in which the taxpayers who paid into the local school district make all the contributions and the charter firms take all the donations, just keep the floors mopped and the lights on.   Therefore, the penalty for having an unsuccessful school is not only the loss of policy control but the loss of financial assets to boot.

It’s a double whammy for any school district, and one that doesn’t appear to have been entirely thought through to the obvious financial conclusions.

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Filed under education, Nevada, nevada education, Nevada legislature, Nevada news, Nevada politics, nevada taxation

The Ammosexual Assembly: Nevada Legislature and SB 175

NV Legislature wide A much amended SB 175 is still alive in the Nevada Legislature.  [LTN]  This “gun bill” contains several items on the ammosexual wish list, and with copious amendments got out of the Senate on a 14-5 vote.  There’s a subtle, but important revision in Amendment 136 which should given reasonable individuals some hope for sanity in an otherwise irrational session.  In the Kill At Will portion – otherwise known as Stand Your Ground – the language changes from “knew or had reason to believe” that the shooter was imperiled, to “reasonably believed” the victim of the shooting was in the act of perpetrating a violent crime.

This is improved language because merely because I have a reason to think a person is in the act of committing a felony doesn’t necessarily mean I have a good reason, or even a rational explanation.  The improved language now specifies that I must provide a rational explanation, something a reasonable person might believe.  The new language sets a higher and better standard.

The second change of note is that the aforesaid ‘knowledge’ must relate to the act of committing a violent crime, not merely any felony.  If a felonious action is all that is necessary then a person embezzling more than $650 may be said to be in the act of committing a Class C felony in this state – and who gets shot for embezzlement?  Or mortgage fraud? Or even running a chop shop?

The language is still a bit sloppy in the sections dealing with reciprocity of concealed carry permitting.  Existing law requires that the out of state permit be “substantially similar to” or “more stringent than” Nevada statutes. The new language merely says the state will describe any training, class, or program required by the initiating state.  That an issuing agency (sheriff’s department) knows the training level doesn’t necessarily mean it is an appropriate training level, or that the restrictions on an individual seeking  a concealed carry permit can be discerned from a description of training, classes, or programs.

The domestic violence issue is also barely resolved.  Here’s the portion, with the line reference numbers retained:

37 Sec. 5. Chapter 33 of NRS is hereby amended by adding thereto a new 38 section to read as follows: 39 1. If a court issues an extended order pursuant to NRS 33.030, the adverse 40 party shall not subsequently purchase or otherwise acquire any firearm during 41 the period that the extended order is in effect. 42 2. A person who violates the provisions of subsection 1 is guilty of a 43 category B felony and shall be punished by imprisonment in the state prison for a 44 minimum term of not less than 1 year and a maximum term of not more than 6 45 years, and may be further punished by a fine of not more than $5,000.”

Here’s the problem – notice that in line 39 the confiscation of firearms is associated with an extended order of protection.  The related statute is NRS 33.030 and 33.033.   It’s necessary at this point to look at the provisions of NRS 33.020 – which says there can be two types of protection orders: temporary and extended.  A temporary order of protection would not, under the language of SB 175, allow the authorities to confiscate firearms from the ‘adversarial party.’ AKA the abuser.  There’s a hair-splitting argument to be made that getting an extended order allows the abuser to have his or her day in court, and thus wouldn’t violate the 2nd Amendment.  This argument works if, and almost only if, the absolutist theory of the 2nd Amendment applies.

If the absolutist theory is attached to other elements in the Bill of Rights then perhaps one couldn’t be immediately arrested for yelling “Fire” in a crowded theater? Or, for indulging in the ancient Aztec religious ceremony of removing the ‘still beating heart’ to offer to the Sun God? One would have to have “his or her day in court” before any preventative measures could be taken to mitigate further damage? Yes, this is a silly argument, but nonetheless it illustrates the limitations of any absolutist theoretical framework. And there is evidence of ‘immediate damage.’

Nevada, Louisiana, Alaska, and South Carolina have the highest rates of homicide for women who are victims of domestic violence, all with a rate in the range of 2.00 to 2.50. [HuffPo] This is not the Top Four in the Nation category of which we should be proud.

We might be able to get out of this unfortunate ranking by inserting language which allows the removal of firearms from a premise if any order of protection is granted, until the expiration of that order.  The firearms have not been permanently taken from the rightful owner, they’ve just been removed temporarily from a volatile environment in which the two ‘adults’ may not be the only potential victims – bullets have been known for going through apartment walls.

If the ammosexual contingent in the Nevada Legislature can contain its enthusiasm for shootin’ up the state, we might want to have a serious discussion about whether we want the least restrictive statutes for firearm possession and ownership, or those which have the greatest potential for removing obvious threats to public safety.

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Filed under domestic abuse, Gun Issues, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics

Tea Party Antics in the Assembled Wisdom

Tea Party Flag

There are 40 days left in the Nevada Legislative Session.  Not that the initial leadership struggles in the Assembly weren’t entertaining, but the decorum on the set appears to be degenerating into sniping sessions worthy of  an agitated  flock of mockingbirds. There’s something about a gun-packin’ right wing Mama telling a fellow member to “Sit your A___ down” which doesn’t quite fit into the image of Legislative debate. Granted, most of what passes for debate in many sessions is essentially soporific and would cure the most intractable insomnia, but Assemblywoman Michele Fiore (R-NRA) has perhaps ventured a step too far into the realm of the theatrical. But then we could muse that most of what passes for Issues in this session is just that – political theater.

There’s nothing fundamentally wrong with Political Theater, when used to good effect we get The Lincoln-Douglas Debates, the Nixon Checkers Speech, and the August 28, 1963 March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.  It’s when the theatrical elements are endowed with more significance than the policy discussions that we get into difficulties.

At the point where posture becomes more important than policy we are treated to things like the offering of 11 gun bills in a single session of the Legislature.  Some of these bills were predictably extreme – guns galore and guns everywhere!  Posturing becomes problematic when the extreme bills are endowed with Sanctity and aren’t part of a compromise process.

In an age of sound bite politics it’s hard to get a good policy discourse going.  If all one side is willing to offer is a parroting of “No new taxes,” then discussions about equitable ways to raise revenue for essential public services is diminished.  If 2nd Amendment rights may not have any responsibilities attached thereto, then common sense legislation to control the proliferation of firearms and the attendant loss of life becomes a stalemate.

If one side is wedded to the notion that the only way to deliver public services is by corporate interests then nothing of much value gets accomplished.

Combining ideological posturing with election politics simply adds another layer of difficulty to an already delicate democratic process.  The fact that SB 169 – a vote suppression bill if there ever was one – was granted an exemption from the Legislature on March 10, 2015 should send chills down the spines of those who are watching the process in the current Legislative session.  It’s companion in the Assembly, AB 253, a photo ID bill which carries with it an unfunded mandate among other baggage, is still percolating through the Assembly.

A restricted electorate plus the sound bite politics of posturing isn’t a recipe for rational legislative decision making.

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Filed under civil liberties, Gun Issues, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, Republicans, Vote Suppression