Tag Archives: Sandoval

Catching On To Some Obvious Conclusions: Guns and the Silver State

If you’ve not yet read the Reno Gazette Journal op-ed by Cory Farley on common sense and guns … click over now … you can always come back.  Spoiler:

“Increasingly — not fast enough, but increasingly — society doesn’t care what you think, either. If you’re looking at 50-odd bodies and nearly 500 wounded, maimed, permanently changed people who were just out to hear a little music and drink a little beer, and you’re shrugging that off as the price they had to pay for your stop-the-tyrants or protect-your-family fantasies, you are the problem, and the nation is catching on to you.”

Those fantasies are groomed, massaged, and perpetrated by the NRA and the even more outlandish Gun Owners of America.

The NRA source of income? “The bulk of the group’s money now comes in the form of contributions, grants, royalty income, and advertising, much of it originating from gun industry sources.” [BI]

“Donors include firearm companies like Midway USA, Springfield Armory Inc, Pierce Bullet Seal Target Systems, and Beretta USA Corporation. Other supporters from the gun industry include Cabela’s, Sturm Rugar & Co, and Smith & Wesson.” [BI]

The political money, of course, comes from other streams.  During the upcoming campaign season notice if that pro-gun rights flyer is coming from the National Shooting Sports Foundation, a front group for the NRA.  That’s the primary industry trade association.  However, we won’t see the NSSF, or the CEO of Freedom Group, or the CEO of Beretta, in front of the microphones after another mass shooting, the NRA will take front and center.  The organization acts as a shield (or barrier) between the industry and activists who want more regulation of firearms in this country.

The political money comes from the NRA’s “NRA Political Victory Fund,”  which is where the small ($35.00 arithmetical mean donation) and the not-so-small ($50,000) donors come into the picture.  The lobbying funds come from the “NRA Institute for Legislative Action.” [CNNmoney]  There are two actions they’d like to see on the immediate legislative agenda: the unregulated sale of silencers; and, reciprocity of concealed carry permits across state lines.

There’s nothing like hearing paeans to Liberty, Freedom, and Small Government from the NRA, and then listening to the calls to override state and local restrictions on firearms and accessories.   And, getting an earful of “Freedom” folk who don’t mind the proliferation of weapons as long as they feel their own personal arsenal is secure from government clutches.

One of the less convincing arguments set forth by proliferators states that more regulation won’t solve the last tragedy, and besides most gun deaths are suicides…

The Suicide Trap 

After each mass shooting or other tragic event we get the same rhetoric from the NRA public relations department:  Guns make us safer, and most gun deaths are the result of suicide.  No, and yes.

“The nine states that rank lowest in terms of gun prevalence are the very same nine that rank lowest for suicide rates. Similarly, the three states top-ranked for gun prevalence can be found among the four states ranking highest for suicide rates.” [HarvardMed]

This would make sense, given that there are 44,193 suicides annually, 49.8% of these are firearm related. [AFSPGuidance published in the American Family Physician suggests that treatment for suicidal ideation should include an evaluation of the person’s “plan,” and if the person has access to a firearm.  Poor social support, poor judgment, and access to a gun usually leads to a decision to immediately hospitalize a client.  Sadly, untreated patients with poor social support, poor judgment, and a fun end up in the statistics.  What makes this information relevant for Nevada policy makers is that those with suicidal ideation generally come in three classifications: immediate risk, short term risk, and long term risk.  And, here comes the bad news for those at immediate or short term risk — there is no waiting period in the state of Nevada for the purchase of a firearm.

It is left to the judgment of the gun seller — ranging from a reliable, experienced, and empathetic salesperson to a quick sale artiste in the parking lot at a gun show — to determine if the person making the purchase is looking to make that purchase for all the wrong reasons.  Wrong reasons coupled with the lethality element is a formula for tragedy:

“Firearms suicide accounted for six percent of attempts, and 54 percent of fatalities in one study that examined hospital data from eight states. For comparison, drug or poison overdosing accounted for 71 percent of attempts but only 12 percent of fatalities.” [Trace]

Thus in Nevada we leave it to the gun seller to determine if the person wanting the firearm is someone contemplating suicide, and if the buyer is likely to be one of those 6% of attempts who will be among the 54% of fatalities; a heavy burden since suicide is the 9th (or 10th) most common cause of death in the U.S.

A reasonable waiting period would at the very least absolve the gun dealer from responsibility for those in the immediate risk category and perhaps a few more in the short term risk classification; not to mention preventing the lethal act which never fails to harm families and friends.  Waiting 72 hours for a hand gun shouldn’t be so much of an inconvenience in light of the prospect of preventing an immediate or short term suicide decision.  There is something else we could do as well.

Background Checks

The last public polling done on the subject of universal background checks shows that 94% of all Americans, including 93% of Republicans and 95% of Independents, and 98% of Democrats.   One doesn’t see that kind of agreement in many other topics.  Meanwhile in Nevada:

“Nevada voters in November on a vote of 50.45 percent to 49.55 percent passed a measure requiring federal background checks for sales of guns between private individuals. The new requirement to close what some call the gun-show loophole was in addition to the longstanding requirement for background checks for purchases from licensed gun dealers.”

The ballot measure required both the buyer and seller to appear before a federally licensed firearms dealer to request a background check. The aim was to keep guns from felons, domestic abusers and the dangerously mentally ill, according to the measure’s backers.” [BNS]

Now add an uncooperative Attorney General:

“Adam Laxalt, the state’s Republican attorney general, concluded in December that the measure was unenforceable, citing the FBI letter. Laxalt had opposed the requirement, and his campaign manager, Robert Uithoven, led NRA Nevadans for Freedom, the political action committee that opposed the measure.”   [BNS]

And while the Attorney General digs his heels into the NRA’s topsoil:

“The FBI has said Nevada is already a full “point of contact” state that uses the federal NICS system and a state central repository that also has mental health records, domestic violence incidents, misdemeanor criminal records, arrest reports and restraining orders.

In his letter, Ferrario writes the issue “can and should be easily resolved” with a dual system that would use the federal NICS system for private sales.

The governor’s spokeswoman said Nevada background checks for retail gun sales are “more comprehensive and thorough” than FBI checks.” [LVRJ]

It doesn’t take much more than this sorry impasse to conclude that Nevada’s leadership is intent on finding ways NOT to enforce the election results — when those results don’t comport with the desires of the National Shooting Sports Foundation, the NRA, and the gun manufacturers.

In short, Nevada could reduce the lethality of suicides by firearms, but without a waiting period the odds of a fatal event increase for those disturbed individuals in the immediate and short term classifications.  We probably won’t.

Nevada could do what the voters directed in terms of background checks, but the muddlers will probably cry out that this wouldn’t have prevented the carnage at the Las Vegas music festival, so what’s the use?   So, this procrastination will likely continue.

However, as noted in the op-ed above, what’s different now is that people are, indeed, catching on.  After mentally ill individuals shot up an elementary school and a movie theater, after a maladjusted pair shot up an office Christmas party, after other poorly adjusted misfits shot up two college campuses, after a mentally unfit individual shot up a Planned Parenthood Clinic, after a white supremacist shot up a Bible Study session, after another mentally maladjusted person shot up an IHOP restaurant, and after a gambler with major issues shot up a music concert….  Yes, maybe we’re catching on.

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The Story Almost Lost in Las Vegas

If you haven’t bookmarked the Nevada Independent, please do so.  There’s a reward for you. Stories that almost get lost in the maelstrom of corporate media find a home therein.  Like this one:

“In a letter dated Sept. 25, attorney Mark Ferrario — representing Nevadans for Background Checks, the group that backed the ballot question — gave Sandoval and state officials a deadline of Oct. 9 to begin implementing the ballot measure before they turn to the court system to settle the matter.”

Attorney General Adam Laxalt and Governor Sandoval haven’t covered themselves in glory on gun issues in the Silver State. Did you catch the date? September 25, 2017. In a matter of days the Issue No One Wants To Talk About Now Except For People Who Are Tired Of Not Talking About It raised up in an horrific way.  Lives lost, lives interrupted and disrupted by injuries, lives transformed by heinous nightmares, lives shattered by loss.

One of the saddest elements of this story is that, no, more thorough background checking may not have prevented this act of evil.  But, the GOP test is irrational.  If any legislation must prevent the last carnage then there’s never a way to make any progress.

What would have prevented the shooter at the Pulse Night Club in Orlando being a disaffected disconnected loser with personal and domestic issues, from packaging his issues into a flurry of violence?  Certainly, some mental health therapy might have been useful, but there is more than one element to a crime.  He acted out his anger and disturbance with an AR-15.

The shooter at Virginia Tech in 2007 was a student with a history of mental health issues. Again, those issues contributed to his act, but the act could not have been accomplished without being able to secure a Walther P22 and a  9-mm Glock semi-automatic pistol.

Another misfit with serious social and emotional problems used a Savage Mark II to murder his mother before taking four other guns to the Sandy Hook Elementary School.  He used a Bushmaster Model XM15-E2S semiautomatic rifle to complete his massacre of teachers and little children.

No gun regulation bill is going to solve the psychological, emotional, and social problems of individuals who use guns to act out their various motives and grievances.  However, while the study of motives is informative and interesting it doesn’t address what made the atrocities so deadly.  It doesn’t take rocket science to see that in the three examples given above the acts were increasingly deadly because of the nature of the weaponry involved.

Members of the Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, SC would have benefited had there not been a loophole in the background check laws, exploited by Dylan Roof. [NYT]  More thorough background reviews might have mitigated the shooting at Virginia Tech.  The point is that these examples call for greater care in the process of background checks, and NOT for dismissing the utility of background checks because of some perceived failure to stop a specific atrocity.

Perhaps it’s time for Governor Sandoval and AG Laxalt to move back from their slippery slope arguments against the common sense application of restraints on gun ownership and use, and note that church members, students, theater goers, night club revelers, and concert attendees have the right to be safe from the predations of the devils who invade their public spaces with ever more deadly weapons.

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Filed under Gun Issues, Nevada, Nevada politics, Politics, Sandoval

The Worth of Water: Nevada and its State Drought Plans

NV Drought Map Sept 2015 Consider the following information from the Reno Gazette Journal:

“In Nevada, all counties but White Pine and Lincoln are designated as drought disaster areas. Washoe, Storey, Carson City, Douglas, Lyon, Churchill, Esmeralda, Lander, Mineral and Nye counties are all in conditions of extreme or exceptional drought, with Lovelock’s Pershing County among the “hardest hit areas,” according to the Aug. 17 drought statement issued by the National Weather Service.”

And this:

“It’s difficult to overstate the dire impacts, said Benny Hodges, secretary-treasurer of the Pershing County Water Conservation District. As the drought lowered the Humboldt River and levels of Rye Patch Reservoir — now at about 5 percent of capacity — continued to drop, irrigation water for Lovelock area farmers went from scarce to non-existent. Irrigation allocations went from 80 percent of normal in 2012, the first year of the drought, to only 10 percent in 2013. This year is the second in a row that no irrigation water was available at all.”

There are some actions which are the direct result of a drought designation by the US Department of Agriculture: in 17 of Nevada’s governmental entities farmers and ranchers will be eligible for low interest emergency loans to continue operations. [AgWeb]

A reasonable person would think that an arid state would have some plans on file for dealing with drought conditions – other than directing agricultural operations toward emergency loans.  As of December 28, 2014 Nevada really  didn’t. [RGJ]  Although it must be said there was a document in some filing cabinet, which the Governor had received in 2012 concerning drought planning.  Local water districts and companies have drought plans, but as of December 2014 that didn’t necessarily hold true for the state.

It wasn’t until April 8, 2015 (with Nevada now into the fourth year of drought conditions) that the Governor’s office announced the creation of a “forum” to “craft a blueprint on best practices for water users and conservation.” [LVRJ]

What’s interesting about that the announcement at the shrinking lake side was that Governor Sandoval received a “State of Nevada: Drought Response Plan” (pdf) from the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, the State Climate Office, and the Department of Public Safety, as revised in April 2012.  

“This State Drought Response Plan establishes an administrative coordinating and reporting system between agencies to appropriately respond and provide assistance to address drought and mitigate drought impacts. […] this Plan identifies a system used in monitoring the magnitude, severity and extent of drought within the state on a county by county basis. It establishes a framework of actions based on three states of responding to drought. Drought Watch, Drought Alert, and Drought Emergency.”

Scrolling down through the 2012 executive summary we find, “If a drought reaches Stage #3 (Drought Emergency) upon the decision of the Governor, the Division of Emergency Management may activate the State Emergency Operations Center. This center will be advised by the Drought Response Committee, making drought response policy recommendations as needed, supporting local drought emergency response efforts and carrying out the Governor’s policies.”

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the 2012 document is the insertion of diagrams designating the process for informing the Governor, sorting the activities of various authorities, and assisting the Governor in the setting of “the state’s priorities, drought mitigation, response and recovery policy and resource allocation direction based on information and recommendations given to the Governor by the Drought Response Committee and the needs of affected local jurisdictions, county or tribe.”

Another element in the 2012 document of interest is the insertion of some very tepid language about drought designations and their associated impact on other economic activities. “Formal designation may not substantially reduce economic impacts in drought affected areas but may cause serious economic impacts on tourism, agriculture, finance and other industries within the state. Unless a drought situation is expected to be of extreme magnitude, the safest approach is to aid county and local governments in determining their own situations.”

And with that the 2012 State of Nevada Drought Response Plan dumps the problems back onto the counties, local water suppliers, and tribes.  Thus, it isn’t easy to get an “emergency” drought designation in the first place, and when the designation or announcement is made the plans submitted by the various entities which deliver water within the state are supposed to kick in.

NRS 540 codifies this system.  Water suppliers are defined (NRS 540.121), water conservation plans, which are to be updated every five years, are required (NRS 540. 131) and are to be published “to the extent practicable” for public inspection on websites (NRS 540.141).  Water supplies are to provide incentives for water conservation. (NRS 540.151).

It’s easy to see why initial reports said there really wasn’t a statewide water conservation/drought plan – the plan appears to be that the state will require individual entities to have approved plans, and that the state will announce when the drought emergency elements of those various plans will be implemented – bearing in mind that given the soft language in the 2012 Drought Response document it’s probably going to be difficult to get the state to make that initial emergency announcement.

We return now to Sandoval’s Executive Order 2015-03, April 8, 2015.  After the preliminary “whereas’s” in which it’s admitted that Nevada has a water problem, and that the Nevada Drought Response Committee authorized by the 2012 document has been “continuously monitoring” the drought conditions,  the Governor has decided we need another report, from another layer of administration.

Sandoval established the Nevada Drought Forum in order to: (1) build on the activities of the existing Nevada Drought Response Committee; (2) evaluate key findings and next steps identified in the Western Governors’ Drought Forum Final Report (latest available is the Special Report, June 2015) as they relate to Nevada; (3) meet with relevant stakeholders; and (4) determine, with input from stakeholders and the public, the elements of a final report to the Governor.

As part of the bullet points in the executive order, there will be a Governor’s Drought Summit on September 21-23.  Unless some highly specific topics are generated in periods for “Showcases: Conservation Success Stories in Nevada,” or from the sessions on municipal, resort and recreation, industry and development, and agricultural water conservation – there doesn’t seem to be much emphasis on the development of a state PLAN for dealing with drought conditions.

To add more opacity to the issue, that Western Governors’ Drought Forum Report concluded:

“(1) Drought’s consequences ripple across western economies, communities, and environments. Preventing or halting drought is impossible, but there are useful strategies for enhancing resilience to its effects.  WGA will continue to work on drought by enhancing its Drought Forum online resource library, hosting webinars and workshops and briefing state and federal policymakers. (2)  WGA will perform additional outreach to drought task forces in the western states to identify data gaps that need to be addressed. (3) WGA will also compare  and contrast the approaches of these state task forces in order to identify additional best practices. (4)  In response to one of the key themes identified during the Drought Forum,  WGA will work with state and federal partners to support robust data collection and enhanced analyses and tools for drought management. Furthermore, the governors will consider the policy recommendations that emerged from the first year of Drought Forum as they work to improve the regional response to drought and to influence national decisions affecting water supply and resource management.”  (numeration added) (Special Report June 2015)

There’s good and bad news herein.  In item (1) there’s no indication that the western Governors are aware that one of the ways to mitigate drought is to acknowledge that climate change is a modern reality.  Indeed, there’s no small amount of fatalism – droughts might just be the new reality.  “Prevention is impossible,” is about as fatalistic as it gets. (2) is just about as safe a proposal as one can make – there’s always a need for more and better data collection. However, there’s nothing in this conclusion that insures there will be money in state budgets for such data collection and analysis.  (3) Best practices are also a safe bet.  However, it will require some legislative and executive will power to enact best practices into law, and to administer the statutes with an emphasis on conservation.  (4)  We’re back to data collection and sharing – a fine thing – but someone needs to pay for the collection, analysis, and interpretation of data.  Executive orders are usually good, but appropriations are nearly always better.

Color me a bit cynical, however a look at the sponsors of the WGA Drought Forum leaves some questions about the level of intensity with which they will address governmental actions necessary to address drought in western states.  NOAA and the Walton Family Foundation are “workshop partners,” the State of Oklahoma is a “regional forum sponsor,” “project sponsors” include the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power, Coeur Mining, Water Asset Management LLC, and Layne Inc.  “Report sponsors” include HDR, NHA, Nevada Mining Association, Dairy Farmers of America, Barrick, SRP, Southern Nevada Water Authority, Parjana, Pepsico, and Chevron.  “Communication sponsors” are ASI, Resolution Copper Mining, CAP, ECOS, National Groundwater Association, the Geological Society of America, Paramount Farming, and Irrigational & Electrical Districts Assn of Arizona.

And so, the Nevada Drought Forum has a nice shiny website, with updated information on monthly situations reports (the last up was for June 2015) – in which a person could find out if he or she was experiencing emergency, extreme, or exceptional drought conditions.  Or, discover that there have been three monthly meetings since June 2015, and a fourth scheduled for September 28, 2015.   Since minutes are not yet available online for the August meeting, we’ll not know if concerns expressed in a previous meeting about the lack of representation from wildlife advocates and rural areas were addressed in that session.

Questions?

  1. If the drought in Nevada is particularly extreme in rural areas like Pershing County, why were there no representatives on the Governor’s list of appointments to the Drought Forum from rural agricultural interests? Has this since been rectified?
  2. If we are aware of the effects of drought conditions on wildlife – why no initial representation for those interests? Has this been rectified?
  3. If we know that extreme weather conditions are associated climate change, and with droughts such as the one Nevada is experiencing now, then what elements of climate change science will be incorporated into the state’s planning for drought mitigation efforts?
  4. If the Nevada Drought Forum is directed to present its report to the Governor on November 1, 2015, then what actions has the Governor’s office taken to facilitate the enactment of legislation to implement the report findings in advance of the release?  The WGA Special Report (June 2015) emphasizes data collection.  If the report meshes with the WGA efforts,  do the various departments and divisions have the necessary funding to collect and analyze the data? 
  5. The Governor’s executive order doesn’t indicate any change in the status of the 2012 State of Nevada Drought Response plan, if the November report suggests changes in the SNDR then are the departments capable of implementing those changes?

So we resume our quotidian activities – further illustrating the truth of the old quote: “We never know the worth of water till the well is dry.”  (Thomas Fuller, Gnomologia  1732.

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Filed under Nevada economy, Nevada politics, Sandoval, Water

Battle Born and Still Squabbling: The Waning Days of the 78th Assembled Wisdom

Nevada Flag

Battle Born and still fighting.  Day 116 and the the squabble over revenue plans and priorities continues in the Assembled Wisdom.  See Let’s Talk Nevada for daily details.  The Latin Chamber of Commerce has lined up with the Governor’s proposal. [Slash Politics]  This makes some sense because those business interests which are opposing the Governor’s plan would actually pay very little under it. [Ralston] No, it doesn’t come as any surprise that those who are opposed to the plan don’t bear most of the burden, while supporters would pay a bit more than their share.

This morning’s agenda for Assembly Ways and Means includes SB 491, “Provides for the award of a grant to a nonprofit organization for use in Fiscal Year 2015-2016 and Fiscal Year 2016-2017 for the recruitment of persons to establish and operate high quality charter schools to serve families with the greatest needs..” 

Also on the agenda, AB 480, which would allow mortgage wholesalers from outside the state to act as mortgage brokers.  AB 481 would strike the limitations on the Consumer Affairs Commissioner and B& I Director to provide investigative assistance to the Attorney General in cases involving deceptive trade practices.

The Assembly Taxation Committee will take on SJR 13, the Settelmeyer, Gustavson, Goicoechea proposal to restrict property taxes — “no new taxes, and even less of the old ones” —  “This resolution proposes to amend the Nevada Constitution to limit the amount of certain property taxes which may be cumulatively levied per year on real property to 1 percent of the base value of the property. “ How does this fit with revenue plans and local government interests? It doesn’t.  The beast got out of the Senate on a 12-7 vote.  The city of Reno estimates it will cost about $8 million in lost revenue.

The Assembly Committee on Education will be looking at SB 509 which pertains to charter schools.  From the LCB analysis:

“Existing law requires an application to form a charter school to be submitted by a committee to form a charter school. (NRS 386.520, 386.525) Sections 21 and 22 of this bill authorize a charter management organization to apply to form a charter school. Section 2 of this bill defines the term “charter management organization” to mean a nonprofit organization that operates multiple charter schools. Section 21 also revises the required contents of an application to form a charter school. Sections 21 and 36 of this bill authorize a charter management organization to request a waiver of requirements concerning the composition of a governing body. Section 22 revises the manner in which a sponsor is authorized to solicit and review applications to form a charter school.”

“Existing law authorizes a sponsor to revoke a written charter or terminate a charter contract under certain conditions and requires a sponsor to take such action if the charter school demonstrates persistent underachievement. (NRS 386.535, 386.5351) Sections 5 and 27-29 of this bill: (1) authorize a sponsor to reconstitute the governing body of a charter school in such situations; and (2) revise the conditions under which such action is authorized or required.”

The Senate Education Committee will be looking at SB 92, which requires a teacher deemed minimally effective after the three year probationary period is reverted to probationary status.  And, then there’s the predictable assault on “seniority” as defined in master contract agreements:

“Existing law provides that when a reduction in the workforce is necessary, the board of trustees of a school district must not lay off a teacher or an administrator based solely on seniority. (NRS 288.151) Section 30 of this bill requires the board of trustees of a school district to consider certain factors when reducing the workforce. Section 30 also provides that, if two or more employees are similarly situated after the application of those factors, the decision by the board of trustees to lay off one or more of the employees may be based on seniority.”

Meanwhile, back at the Battle of the Budget……………..

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The Something For Nothing Crowd in the Nevada Assembly

Nevada Legislature And Nevada’s Assembled Wisdom totters on:

“Remember what happened yesterday. Just after the Senate’s grandiose SB 252 floor vote, the Assembly devolved into pure “TEA” powered madness with constant recesses, shouting matches over those recesses, a floor fight over blatantly unconstitutional bill language, mind-numbing flip-flopping over outrageously discriminatory legislation, and an epic freakout over online sales tax. Are you scared yet? Ralston and others clearly are.” [LTN]

Why are we not surprised?  The bill now goes to the Assembly, in which the ideologically pure (sort of) and constitutionally correct (rarely) will have a whack at the funding for Governor Sandoval’s budget.

“The scariest prospect is that with a third of the session left, the biggest issue before the state has been left in the hands of a body populated by some GOP members who don’t understand policy, who don’t live on the same planet the rest of us do and who are the most embarrassing legislators the state has ever seen.” [Ralston/RGJ]

For those keeping score, Steve Sebelius provided a handy list of the good, the bad, the ugly, and the almost comprehensible measures before said Assembled Wisdom this season. It’s a handy reference.  … Which gets us to the Something For Nothing Crowd.

Consider this release from the Assembly Policy Committee, and its spokesperson Assemblywoman Michele Fiore (R-Bundyville):

“With all due respect, much of the governor’s proposal is based on the mistaken idea that the way to fix public education in Nevada is to pump more taxpayer dollars into the existing failed system rather than dramatically reforming that system and providing far more school choice to Nevada parents, including the financial assistance necessary to exercise that choice for low-to-moderate income families.

“That said, the unemployment rate in Nevada remains, as Bill Anderson of the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation put it last week, ‘stubbornly high’ at 7.1 percent.  As such, the last thing the Legislature should be doing is taking money out of the private sector, where it’s needed to create jobs, and transferring it to the public sector so that government can continue to spend beyond its means.

“Conservatives in the Nevada State Assembly cannot and will not support  SB252 as passed out of the Senate today.”

Let us Parse. First, nothing good ever happens after someone begins with “with all due respect.”  Thence to the heart of the matter – the old privatization refrain, which goes back to the 1874 Kalamazoo Case.

“Kalamazoo Union High School, which many believed to be a necessity for bridging the gap from common school to university, operated with some minor opposition, until 1873. In January of that year, three prominent Kalamazoo property owners filed a suit intended to prevent the school board from funding the high school with tax money. They argued that the 1859 state law had been violated when the high school was established without a vote of the taxpayers. Charles E. Stuart, a former United States Senator from Michigan, along with Theodore P. Sheldon and Henry Brees, initiated the suit. At the time, it was believed to be a “friendly” suit intended to settle the issue legally in favor of the school. However, Stuart’s comments to the Kalamazoo Board of Education years after the suit had been settled, suggest that he and his companions sincerely resented the tax burden that the public high school placed on them. Stuart, like many others of his time, believed that a common school education was sufficient for anyone, and anything beyond that should be paid for privately.” [KPL]

The School Board prevailed in the 1874 litigation, and thus we have public funding for education k-12. [MLive]  The fact that if a school board is charged with administering a k-12 system then it must have the funding to do so raises the second portion of the argument – the part concerning the level of that financial support.

Enter the Something For Nothing Crowd.  What else explains the phrase: “fix public education in Nevada is to pump more taxpayer dollars into the existing failed system rather than dramatically reforming…?” This statement assumes (1) the current level of funding is adequate, or perhaps less is necessary; (2) the schools are failing with the present level of funding and therefore no additional funding is desireable; and, (3) the system needs to be “fixed.”

None of these assumptions can be asserted without challenge.  The first problem is the general issue of the Disappearing Dollars often cited by conservatives. The notion of “pumping in” dollars infers that the dollars are a measure of educational support in themselves.  The concept is a great leap to a highly ideologically framed conclusion.  No. money doesn’t solve educational issues but it does purchase: The services of highly qualified personnel, specialists, aides and assistants, and administrators; school physical facilities, books, libraries, equipment, supplies, etc. 

It’s difficult to avoid the conclusion that the Something For Nothing Crowd is channeling the spirit of Charles E. Stuart from the 19th century – if a family wants a better education for their children they should pay for it themselves.  Witness: “dramatically reforming that system and providing far more school choice to Nevada parents, including the financial assistance necessary to exercise that choice for low-to-moderate income families.”   The translation is fairly simple.  School choice equates to a voucher system for attendance at private schools. and “far more schools” usually equates to the establishment of private charter operations.

We’ve touched on the rationales for this thinking before:

“The K-12 schools are “failing” and therefore we should augment the resources for privatization in the form of charter or private schools.  This contention is most often wrapped in “parental choice” camouflage covering.  That the proposed choice doesn’t exist in many rural communities, or that the proposed choice is extremely limited in urban ones, doesn’t enter into the discussion often enough.  Nor is it observed often enough that school voucher programs are a way to siphon off public funds for public schools and channel the money to private ones. [DB 2012]

In addition to the questionable rational for the conservative philosophy as it pertains to public education, there’s the problem of educational standards. What’s “failing?”

The most common measurement of “educational attainment” and the one most often cited by conservatives is standardized test scores.  Standardized testing has its uses.  However, placing them at the center of the argument is to risk overemphasizing their usefulness:

“We can stipulate that most tests manufactured for use in public schools by major publishing houses are statistically reliable and generally statistically valid. What we cannot say with any statistical certainty is whether or not we are measuring what we value in public education.” [DB 2011]

We appear “not to test well” and there may be some valid reasons for that, such as the generally low salaries for teachers, “Teacher salaries have a huge impact when it comes to attracting good instructors. The innovative, smart, highly skilled people you want teaching your kids aren’t exactly in love with the idea of making $38,000 per year (the average for first-year high school teachers) when they could go somewhere else and earn more while doing less.” [ABC]

Or perhaps we should place greater emphasis on early childhood education: “

The OECD found in a separate study that 15-year-olds who had attended at least a year of preschool performed better on reading tests than kids who had not, even when socioeconomic factors were taken into account.  The U.S. spends more on preschool than other countries but money doesn’t do any good unless kids are enrolled, and the U.S. lags on that measure.” [ABC]

The ASCD offers an enlightening summation:

“For several important reasons, standardized achievement tests should not be used to judge the quality of education. The overarching reason that students’ scores on these tests do not provide an accurate index of educational effectiveness is that any inference about educational quality made on the basis of students’ standardized achievement test performances is apt to be invalid.

Employing standardized achievement tests to ascertain educational quality is like measuring temperature with a tablespoon. Tablespoons have a different measurement mission than indicating how hot or cold something is. Standardized achievement tests have a different measurement mission than indicating how good or bad a school is. Standardized achievement tests should be used to make the comparative interpretations that they were intended to provide. They should not be used to judge educational quality.”

Even if we do apply standardized test score to measure “temperature with a tablespoon” there’s no guarantee that the privatized or charter schools will achieve better results.

Researchers at Stanford University’s Center for Research on Education Outcomes looked at test data from charter schools in 26 states and the District and found that 25 percent of charters outperformed traditional public schools in reading while 29 percent of charters delivered stronger results in math. That marked an improvement over a similar 2009 study by the same research team.

But 56 percent of the charters produced no significant difference in reading and 19 percent had worse results than traditional public schools. In math, 40 percent produced no significant difference and 31 percent were significantly worse than regular public schools. [WaPo]

So, we have the Something For Nothing Crowd in the Nevada Assembly decrying the essence of the Governor’s budget for education with all the old clichés from time gone by, and the tautological statement that if an underfunded school is failing the way to make it better is to further cut its funding.

We can only hope that after the tempers, the tantrums, the protestations, the gnashing of teeth, and the rending of cloth the membership of the Nevada Assembly will manage some form of civility and citizenship, and recognize another time honored statement – You Get What You Pay For.

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Filed under education, nevada education, nevada taxation, Sandoval

Home Defects, Budget Shortfalls, and Picking Losers

Jig Saw Puzzle

Interesting items, each worthy of a post, but in the interest of keeping up to date – here are some newsworthy items deserving of a click and read.

Nevada Legislature: Take a moment to read Eli Segall’s piece in the Las Vegas Sun about the interest taken in the Assembled Wisdom about homeowner complaints in regard to construction defects.  Here’s a taste:

“Supporters say the proposal will boost construction jobs, but outside analysts say it will hammer trial lawyers, a political and business foe of builders, and, despite the bill’s name, will make it harder for homeowners to sue for shoddy workmanship.”  Why?

“As proposed, AB 125 would, among other things, strip homeowners’ ability to recover reasonable attorney fees in defect cases; require homeowners to state each problem in “specific detail” rather than in “reasonable” detail as current law allows and to give the defects’ “exact” locations in the house; and change the definition of a constructional defect, eliminating the provision that such flaws are made in violation of law and local codes and ordinances.”

Republicans in Disarray?  There is an effort to recall Assemblyman Hambrick (R-NVAD2).  Hambrick, GOP opponents say, has Strayed From the No New Taxes Pledge. [LVRJ]

School Daze: There’s this from Let’s Talk Nevada:

“8:00 AM: H/T Ralston for this. Pedro Martinez, the man Governor Brian Sandoval (R) hand-picked to run the new “Achievement School District” where he wants to transfer 10% of Nevada public schools into, is so dedicated to improving public education in Nevada… That he’s now running for School Superintendent in Boston. And yes, that’s Boston, Massachusetts.”

Meanwhile in Wisconsin under the Austerity/Trickle Down Hoax regime of Scott Walker – the governor’s solution to the $283 million budget shortfall created by his tax cuts is to skip $108 million in debt paymentsAnd in Kansas, the legislature backed down and decided to allow governor Brownback to sweep $475 million over the next two years from KDOT into the budget hole created by his tax cuts. [Kansas.comGet ready Ohio, governor Kasich is gearing up his 23% cut in the state income taxes over the next two years.

And in Congress, the Republican leadership is operating on the same theme:

“House leaders plan to schedule votes this week on seven bills recently approved by the Ways and Means Committee to make permanent an array of “tax extenders,” a set of primarily corporate tax provisions that policymakers routinely extend for a year or two at a time.  The seven measures, which will likely be packaged into a smaller number of bills for floor consideration, are the first installment in a series of bills that House leaders are expected to move to make many of the largest tax extenders permanent, while offsetting none of the cost.”

I think we’ve seen this before, and labeling it “Credit Card Capitalism,” wherein the Bush Administration turned the Clinton Administration surplus into a massive deficit – and then blamed the Democrats for “tax and spend” policies.  We might get the drift – the Republicans get into control, lower the taxes and revenues, thereby piling up a massive debt. The Democrats take back the control, enact taxes to fill the holes in the state budgets – and the GOP screams about “Tax and Spend?”

About those “economic development” and “job creating” ideas – a report (pdf) from North Carolina documents that 60% of the recipients of their incentive awards were cancelled because the firms failed to live up to their promises. H/T Angry Bear.  The story is about the same in Wisconsin:

“The Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation, a public-private body set up by Walker shortly after he took office in January 2011, was supposed to help the state climb out of recession by shedding bureaucratic rules and drawing on private-sector expertise.

But the WEDC has fallen short of its own goals by tens of thousands of jobs and failed to keep track of millions of dollars it has handed out. One reason for the agency’s disappointing performance: Walker’s overhaul of the state bureaucracy drove away seasoned development workers, economic development experts who work closely with the agency told Reuters.” [CapBlue]

There are other ways to create jobs and improve our economy; take a look at the CAP proposal for the Appalachian region.

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Filed under Economy, Nevada legislature, Nevada politics, tax revenue, Taxation

Well now, that was embarrassing: NV Treasurer Diss’es Governor

Schwartz bus  The following masterpiece of understatement captures what happened yesterday at the Assembled Wisdom in Carson City:

“Things did not go well for newly elected Nevada Treasurer Dan Schwartz Thursday at the Nevada Legislature.” [RGJ]

It really doesn’t do to garner headlines like: “Nevada lawmakers tell treasurer his budget proposal is embarrassing.” [LVRJ] Or, “Nevada treasurer blasted by own party for submitting alternative budget.” [LVSun]  Then the Elko Daily Free Press chimed in, “Nevada treasurer’s budget called ‘absurdity’.”  And, to ice the cupcake, there’s the part wherein some conservative members of the Assembled Wisdom may have tossed Mr. Schwartz under the venerable clichéd bus:

“Schwartz told The Associated Press last week that he met with a group of Assembly and Senate Republicans interested in drafting a bill reflecting the alternative budget. Several conservative Republican lawmakers say they’re trying to block Sandoval’s plan, which will need the votes of two-thirds of the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass.” [EDFP]

Needless to say, Mr. Schwartz back-tracked after the Debacle, saying the whole thing was his idea.  Treasurer meet the underside of the bus tires? Newly elected State Controller Ron Knecht seems to have had the good sense to remain quietly in the background after initially approving of Mr. Schwartz’s proposition. [LVRJ]

When the Dynamic Duo launched their Alternative Budget on or about February 3rd, it did have some numbers in it…they just weren’t the Governor’s numbers.  Nor did the Duo think through the implementation of their specifics, all three pages of them.  For example, precisely how would the state collect their Quarter a Plate restaurant tax? Then, there was the infamous, and illegal, airport tax notion. [LVRJ] It’s not like he wasn’t warned the ill-fated proposal wouldn’t have a glorious reception.

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Filed under Nevada economy, Nevada news, Nevada politics