Tag Archives: Nevada legislature

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

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