Victor Joecks: Gun debate shows what government can’t do

By Victor Joecks ~ Special to the Pahrump Valley Times ~ April 5, 2019 – 7:00 am

New gun laws from Carson City are going to make life harder for the wrong people.

Legislative Democrats have been aggressively pushing gun control. On Monday, the Assembly and Senate Judiciary committees held a joint hearing on Assembly Bill 291. It would ban bump stocks and allow local governments to pass additional restrictions on firearms. This comes after Democrats rushed through a bill expanding background checks to private party sales during the second week of the session.

The language of AB291 is so broad that it would ban common firearm modifications, such as trigger pull adjustments, and even ban polishing certain parts of weapons. The bill’s sponsor, Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, D-Las Vegas, said during the hearing that she’d be willing to limit the ban solely to bump stocks. Assuming she makes those changes, that’s a good thing.

Some local government officials are eager to impose additional restrictions on firearm ownership, too.

“Without the ability to pass stronger laws to keep guns out of the hands of those who should not have them, all of our counties are vulnerable to further acts of gun violence,” former Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said.

Underlying this belief are two assumptions. First, that guns and gun accessories are inherently dangerous. Second, that government can pass laws to reduce the access criminals have to firearms.

There are problems with both of these presumptions. A gun can kill someone, but so can a car, knife or pillow. It’s not the object itself that commits violence. It’s the person using it.

For instance, on Oct. 1, 2017, an evil man used semiautomatic rifles fitted with bump stocks to kill 58 people in Las Vegas. Jauregui survived that horrific attack.

On Oct. 5, 2017, a man attempted to kidnap a young boy in Las Vegas. Justin Pearson, legally carrying a Heckler & Koch VP9 pistol, used the threat of his weapon to break up the kidnapping.

In one situation, a person using a firearm took an innocent life. In the other, he helped save a life. The variable was the person — not the presence of a firearm.

If AB291 had been in effect, Clark County could have passed a law preventing Pearson from carrying his weapon. But this is the limitation of passing laws. They affect only the law-abiding. It was illegal for the Oct. 1 killer to murder. He did it anyway. Kidnapping is illegal. The man Pearson stopped tried it anyway. The only one the law would have stopped is Pearson — the person who used his firearm for good.

With this in mind, even the bump stock ban looks like little more than window dressing. You can simulate the action of a bump stock with a rubber band or stick.

If passing a law was enough to keep people safe, there’d be no reason to restrict guns. It’s precisely because criminals don’t follow the law that legislators shouldn’t restrict the ability of law-abiding citizens to defend themselves.

Victor Joecks is a columnist for the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

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Victor Joecks: Gun debate shows what government can’t do


VEA Board Calls Special Membership Meeting

Valley Electric Association’s board of directors has called a special member meeting to address concerns over the board’s fiduciary responsibilities and the process of recalling members of Valley’s board, according to a news release from Valley.

The special meeting, pegged to occur following Valley’s annual meeting on April 27, is set to answer questions that have arisen on these topics, following the announcement by a members’ group on its intentions to recall Valley’s current board of directors in February, said Ken Derschan, president of Valley’s board of directors, in the news release.

“We have heard member concerns, and we are listening to what members say,” said Derschan in the news release. “Questions and comments revolving around the board’s fiduciary responsibilities and how a recall can occur have come up. Members have a right to elect board members, and they have the right to recall them. That process is spelled out in the bylaws. We want our members to hear firsthand about what being a fiduciary means and how a recall needs to be conducted in accordance with the bylaws and the articles of incorporation.”

The special meeting is set to occur at approximately 2 p.m. on April 27, following Valley’s annual meeting, at the high school. Registration for the annual meeting begins at 11 a.m. with that event getting underway at 1 p.m., also at the high school, according to Valley’s news release.

According to Valley’s release, it takes three board members to call for a special meeting, though all six of the current directors signed a notice to call for a special meeting at the end of April, following the annual meeting.

On another front, hundreds of area member-owners have signed a petition being circulated by organizers of VEA Members for Change, a members’ group that is working to remove several of Valley’s board of directors.

That action could occur at a special meeting that the group is working on calling via a petition of Valley’s members.

According to organizers for the group, new directors can be voted in by Valley’s members at the special meeting if any of the current directors are voted out at that meeting.

Members for Change was launched amid increased rates announced by Valley earlier in 2019 for its broadband customers and on energy rates for residential customers. The members’ group saw an influx in people signing the petition in light of allegations of a financial cover-up of sexual harassment at Valley and embezzlement.

Ken Johnson, an organizer for Members for Change and a former executive of Valley, said in prior interviews with a reporter from the Pahrump Valley Times that the group has put efforts into finding replacements for the current board should they be voted out during a special meeting.

Members for Change has not publicly named any potential replacements of Valley’s board of directors should the group be successful.

Organizers of VEA Members for Change have commented that Valley is not following the bylaws by not calling a special meeting of the membership following the group’s obtainment of a signature requirement under the bylaws.

The group surpassed what it said is a required number of signatures equating to 5 percent of Valley’s members and has asked Valley to schedule a special meeting, according to Johnson.

To start the process on removing any of the directors, VEA Members for Change has to obtain enough signatures equating to 10 percent of the membership; the 5 percent marker is to call the special meeting, according to organizers of Members for Change.

According to the Members for Change’s Facebook page, the effort has amassed just under 1,600 signatures. The group needs to collect enough signatures to match 10 percent of the membership. According to Members for Change’s social media page, that number is approximately 18,750.

Kathleen Keyes, who ran unopposed in Valley’s District 4 (Fish Lake Valley), for a seat on the board, is not listed on Members for Change’s petition.

A reporter from the Pahrump Valley Times reached out to Michael Hengel, vice president of corporate communications for Valley, on the upcoming special meeting, not connected to any action by Members for Change, that was recently called by Valley’s board and on other topics.

Hengel said Dick Peck, Valley’s interim chief executive, “has gone on record as saying that we have one interpretation of the bylaws. You’d have to ask them (VEA Members for Change) about their interpretation. According to our interpretation of it, there’s still some work to do.”

In Valley’s news release, Derschan was noted stating that Valley’s independent auditor, Lubbock, Texas-based Bolinger, Segars, Gilbert &Moss LLP will make a presentation on Valley’s 2018 audit. Representatives for the firm will also discuss the board’s fiduciary responsibility, according to Derschan.

Valley’s corporate counsel, Tammy Peterson of Peterson Baker PLLC, also plans to make a presentation on Valley’s bylaws and the “intricacies of a recall election,” Valley’s release stated.

“The bylaws and articles of incorporation are there to protect the cooperative and the members,” said Peck in Valley’s release. “If members wish to go down that road, that is their right. Everyone needs to follow the bylaws, however, or little will be accomplished.”

Lunch is set to be served prior to the annual meeting at the high school starting at 11:30 a.m. until the annual meeting begins at 1 p.m.

Several vehicles and items currently held by Valley will be auctioned off following the conclusion of the special meeting, according to the news release.

Vehicle auction

Valley Electric Association is planning to auction off 13 vehicles and two trailers following a special meeting at the end of April.

The auction will occur following the conclusion of Valley’s annual meeting and a subsequent special meeting at Pahrump Valley High School at 501 E. Calvada Blvd. on April 27.

“We have too many vehicles in our fleet, so it’s time to move them out,” said Valley’s Interim Chief Executive Dick Peck. “If a member needs a vehicle like one of the ones we have, this will be a good opportunity to get one at a good price.”

Valley is scheduled to start its annual meeting at 1 p.m. at the high school with a special meeting pegged to begin at 2 p.m. Following those meetings, the auction will get underway.

The auction includes late models cargo vans, along with vehicles from the mid-2000s and prior: trucks, SUVs and other “articles from Valley’s warehouse” will be included in the list of auction items, according to a press release from Valley.

Source: VEA board calls a special meeting


Autopsy Results – Dennis Hof, Nevada brothel owner, died of heart attack

Brothel owner Dennis Hof, who won a Nevada Assembly seat after his October death, died of a heart attack, according to his autopsy.

Hof, 72, suffered a heart attack due to atherosclerotic and hypertensive cardiovascular disease, the Clark County coroner’s office report said. Other significant conditions in his death included diabetes and obesity.

Hof also had marijuana chemical compound THC and sildenafil, which can treat erectile dysfunction, in his system at the time of his death, the report said.

The autopsy was released by the Nye County Sheriff’s Office on Thursday afternoon, several months after his Oct. 16 death.

In November, Hof won a seat representing District 36 in the Nevada Assembly.

Source: Dennis Hof, Nevada brothel owner, died of heart attack


Rick Perry agrees to provide timeline on removing plutonium from Nevada

By Colton Lochhead ~ Special to the Pahrump Valley Times ~ March 27, 2019 – 7:00 am

Earlier this month, Cortez Masto pledged to hold up nominees for the U.S. Department of Energy until she received a commitment from Perry that no more plutonium would be shipped into the state and a time frame for when the half-metric ton that the Energy Department already shipped to a federal site roughly 100 miles northwest of Las Vegas last fall would be removed.

Rick Perry, during his confirmation hearing before the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Capitol Hill in Washington, Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017.

Cortez Masto, speaking to reporters in Carson City after addressing a joint session of the Nevada Legislature, said Perry called her earlier this month to voice his concerns with her hold on his department’s nominees. She said she wanted his commitment in writing before she would lift her hold.

“We had a very good, cordial conversation. He said he would give me that commitment, so we left that conversation with both of us agreeing to have designated staff to work on the written letter, and we’ll go from there,” Cortez Masto said March 20.

The state’s senior senator said they discussed a three- to five-year time frame, but she added she’s “waiting to see what I have in writing.”

In August, the Energy Department sent a letter to Nevada officials, notifying them of plans to ship half a metric ton of weapons-grade plutonium from South Carolina to the Nevada National Security Site in Nye County.

The state filed an injunction in late November asking a federal court to block the Trump administration from shipping the radioactive material.

But weeks after the case was argued in federal court, the Energy Department disclosed that it already had shipped the plutonium into the state sometime before November, which drew rebukes from Gov. Steve Sisolak, Cortez Masto and Nevada’s other federal delegates.

U.S. Sen. Cortez Masto, D-Nevada, was one of 10 Democrats to support Rick Perry’s nomination as energy secretary in 2017.

Cortez Masto was one of 10 Democrats to support Perry’s nomination as energy secretary in 2017.

Last week, she said she regrets that vote because of the way he and the Energy Department handled the plutonium shipment and Perry’s push to revive Yucca Mountain.

“The conversations we had in private in my office at the time there in the Senate turned out to be very different than what his commitment is now,” Cortez Masto said. “What I was looking for was somebody who was willing to work with me and with the state of Nevada and be candid. What I saw here, just shipping this plutonium here, they weren’t even candid with the federal court.”

“I think it was outrageous and unconscionable that not only would the Energy Department disregard the governor and governor’s staff, but then lie to a federal court about it,” she said.

Source: Rick Perry agrees to provide timeline on removing plutonium from Nevada


Board elections begin for some of co-op’s districts

Two candidates are vying for a spot on Valley Electric Association’s board of director seat in Amargosa Valley.

Incumbent Dave Hall, running for his second term on Valley’s board of directors to keep hold of his District 2 seat, is being challenged by Gerald Nalepa, who has been in Nevada for over 10 years.

Voting for directors in District 2 began on Wednesday when members were to start receiving their ballots in the mail, according to a spokesman for Valley.

The last votes are to be tallied at the District 2 annual district meeting in Amargosa Valley. According to information on Valley’s website, that meeting will occur from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on March 19 at the Amargosa Community Center at 821 E. Amargosa Farm Road.

Valley Electric Association/Special to the Pahrump Valley Times Kathleen Keyes, candidate for Valley Electric Association’s District 4 (Fish Lake Valley) seat is running unopposed. Incumbent John Maurer is not seeking re-election.

A seat is also open on Valley’s District 4 (Fish Lake Valley).

Only one candidate is running (unopposed) for the District 4 seat for Valley’s board of directors: Kathleen Keyes. Incumbent John Maurer is not seeking re-election to Valley’s board.

The annual district meeting for Valley’s District 4 is from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. on March 21 at the Fish Lake Valley Community Center.

Valley’s annual meeting is set for April 27 at Pahrump Valley High School. According to Valley’s website, the meeting is set to run from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Dave Hall

Valley Electric Association/Special to the Pahrump Valley Times Dave Hall, District 2 (Amargosa Valley) board of directors for Valley Electric Association, is looking to keep his seat as he has one opponent for the 2019 race. Hall currently serves as secretary on Valley’s board of directors.

Hall is seeking a second term on Valley’s board of directors. He currently serves as the board’s secretary.

According to a summary of Hall’s background and qualifications released by Valley, he “has helped craft VEA’s plans for the future.”

The release continued stating, “He also emphasizes the importance of member education so everyone in the co-op understands where VEA is going and why. From his position on the board of directors, Dave is helping VEA grow, because by growing, VEA will be able to generate the revenues necessary to keep costs down and provide new and better services for members.”

Hall has been a resident of Amargosa Valley for 25 years and is currently serving as chairman for the Nye County Water District Governing Board. He is also a board member for Amargosa Seniors Inc.

Hall worked 27 years for the General Electric lighting division, where he served in a number of management roles as well as in human resources and engineering, according to the release.

“Hall also was involved in his community in northeast Ohio as a volunteer firefighter for 12 years and chief for the last five,” the release stated. “He was the farm manager for Ponderosa Dairy until his retirement in 2014. With his work on the Amargosa Planning Board and farming, he has had experience in the VEA service area, including distribution, service installations and efficiency programs for irrigation.”

Gerald Nalepa

Valley Electric Association/Special to the Pahrump Valley Times Gerald Nalepa is a candidate for Valley Electric Association’s District 2 board of director’s seat. Voting began on Wednesday and will come to completion at District 2’s annual district meeting on March 19.

Nalepa is a retired Marine Corps Reserve colonel, according to a summary of Nalepa’s background and qualifications released by Valley. Nalepa spent 16 years in active duty and 14 years in the reserve.

“I was raised and mostly worked on the East Coast, but began to visit Southern Nevada when my grandparents retired in Las Vegas (1978),” the release stated. “After a year-long tour in Iraq, I drove cross-country in 2007 and stumbled across a piece of property for sale in Crystal and purchased it, as well as several lots in Pahrump, establishing myself in Nevada.”

Nalepa holds a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in history and a master of business administration from the University of Chicago, according to the release. Nalepa also holds a master’s in public administration from Harvard University.

Nalepa was an infantry officer and held numerous command and staff roles while serving in the Marine Corps. During his time in the reserves, he worked in the “corporate world as a marketing manager and government affairs representative,” according to the release from Valley.

“I am fully retired and have time to fully serve on the board. I do travel often, and have family obligations (my mother is 90, living in Utah), but if elected, I will do my best to not let these interfere with my board duties,” the release stated.

Source: Board elections begin for some of co-op’s districts

Opening brief filed on Pahrump water order appeal

Special to the Pahrump Valley Times Acting Nevada State Engineer Tim Wilson took over the office after former state engineer Jason King resigned early this year.

The Nevada State Engineer’s Office has filed its opening brief in its appeal over water Order #1293A, which was overturned by a district court judge late last year.

In its brief, the engineer’s office, now under the leadership of Acting State Engineer Tim Wilson, argues that the findings of the district court judge were made in error and pleads with the Nevada Supreme Court to reverse the district court’s ruling. Wilson took over for former state engineer Jason King in January.

Water Order #1293 was issued in Dec. 2017 and was followed six months later by amended Order #1293A. The order restricts the drilling of new domestic wells in Pahrump unless two acre-feet of water rights have been relinquished in support of the well.

A group of local real estate agents, property owners and well drilling companies quickly formed Pahrump Fair Water LLC to fight the order, filing a lawsuit in which the group prevailed in December 2018.

Now the battle has moved to the Nevada Supreme Court and while the appeal moves through the legal process, the supreme court has issued a stay on the district court’s ruling. This means that Order #1293A is currently in effect and will remain in effect until the court makes its ultimate decision on the appeal.

“This appeal arises from the district court’s Dec. 6, 2018 order granting Pahrump Fair Water’s petition for judicial review, whereby the district court found that the state engineer exceeded his statutory authority in issuing amended Order #1293A, the state engineer should have provided notice to property owners prior to issuing amended Order #1293A, substantial evidence does not support amended Order #1293A and that Pahrump Fair Water, LLC had the requisite standing to challenge amended Order #1293A,” the state engineer’s opening brief details.

Throughout the 66-page document, the engineer’s office attempts to refute each of these findings of the district court, stating that it believes the engineer had full authority to issue the water order under existing Nevada law.

Citing a declining water table and an over-appropriated basin with the potential for nearly 100,000 acre feet of water use annually, the office claims that without the order in place, significant damage to local water resources could occur.

Further, the engineer’s office declared that if the Nevada Supreme Court does not reverse the district court’s ruling, then the engineer’s office will be placed in the precarious position of not knowing what control it can exert over domestic wells.

“Without amended Order #1293A the state engineer’s only option for addressing groundwater problems in Pahrump will be to regulate, or curtail, by priority, whereby any new domestic wells would be the first water use restricted,” the brief reads. “However, the district court’s findings even call into questions that legal directive and authority of the state engineer. If this court does not reverse the district court’s findings, the statutory authority of the state engineer to regulate domestic wells by priority is uncertain.”

In conclusion, the brief states, “Prior to issuance of amended Order #1293A, domestic wells represented the last unaccounted groundwater use in the Pahrump Basin, and yet water levels continued to drop, threatening thousands of existing wells. Amended Order #1293A is necessary to protect the existing water users in the Pahrump Basin and is a necessary component to the overall long-term management of the groundwater basin.

“Absent authority to intervene and manage the water resources, the state engineer may be required to curtail by priority, resulting in all new domestic wells being the junior most rights and the first to be curtailed,” the conclusion continued. “Allowing unrestri

Robin Hebrock/Pahrump Valley Times Pictured are pages from the Nevada State Engineer’s opening brief for its appeal in the case of water Order #1293A.

cted proliferation of new domestic wells in this context represents poor management of the groundwater resource and would have dire consequences.” 

Pahrump Fair Water now has until March 21 to file its answering brief.

Documents related to the appeal, including the opening brief, can be found on the Nevada Supreme Court’s website under case number 77722.

Source: Opening brief filed on Pahrump water order appeal