All-mail balloting rife with problems

by Thomas Mitchell

What could possibly go wrong?

Just put more than 1.6 million ballots — and that was the number of active registered Nevada voters back in January, before the push to register voters prior to the November General Election — in largely unsecured mailboxes. No one would ever think to follow the mail carrier around and pluck said ballots from said boxes. Why that would be a crime.

But with the passage of Assembly Bill 4 on a party-line vote in a special session of the Nevada Legislature, already signed by Gov. Steve Sisolak, the governor can use the excuse of the coronavirus pandemic to order November ballots be mailed to all active registered voters. It’s not as if they are being dropped out of airplanes. And hopefully no county will do like Clark County did in the primary and demand that ballots be mailed to inactive voters who have mostly already moved from the addresses on file with the registrar of voters. That resulted in many blank ballots piling up in trash cans.

Surely there’ll be no problem with the part of AB4 that says that the validity of a ballot signature may only be challenged if “at least two employees in the office of the clerk believe there is a reasonable question of fact as to whether the signature used for the mail ballot matches the signature of the voter …” What is reasonable? “There is a reasonable question of fact as to whether the signature used for the mail ballot matches the signature of the voter if the signature used for the mail ballot differs in multiple, significant and obvious respects from the signatures of the voter available in the records of the clerk,” AB4 spells out.

Under previous law, it was illegal to “harvest” ballots. Only a family member or certain other persons were allowed to return a mailed ballot for a voter. AB4 allows the voter to designate anyone, though the law prohibits that person from failing to return the ballot or altering, changing, defacing, damaging or destroying the mail ballot. Who would ever do such a thing.

No one would ever be intimidated by their union shop boss, for example, into just turning over their blank but signed mail ballot. Nor would anyone, say at a nursing home, dare to collect such ballots. Turn in your ballot in exchange for a free beer at the neighborhood bar?

The law firm of Campbell & Williams has already filed suit on behalf of the Trump campaign, the Republican National Committee and the Nevada Republican Party. The suit notes the new law authorizes ballot harvesting and that, along with other provisions, dilutes “Nevadans’ honest votes. Dilution of honest votes, to any degree, by the casting of fraudulent or illegitimate votes violates the right to vote.”

What could possibly go wrong?

What could possibly go wrong? Just put more than 1.6 million ballots — and that was the number of active registered Nevada voters back in January, before the push to register voters prior to the No…

Source: All-mail balloting rife with problems

Nevada churches denied the same capacity allowances given to casinos

Let’s get this straight, according to a 5-4 one-sentence U.S. Supreme Court ruling Friday, if a Nevada church were to hold a bingo night in its 500-seat auditorium, under Gov. Steve Sisolak’s diktat, 250 people could attend, since the governor’s orders allow 50 percent capacity for casinos, but, if someone were to say a prayer, 200 would have to leave, since the governor says only 50 people may attend church services.

Four justices thought that a little bit duplicitous.

Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote in his dissent:

This is a simple case. Under the Governor’s edict, a 10-screen “multiplex” may host 500 moviegoers at any time. A casino, too, may cater to hundreds at once, with perhaps six people huddled at each craps table here and a similar number gathered around every roulette wheel there. Large numbers and close quarters are fine in such places. But churches, synagogues, and mosques are banned from admitting more than 50 worshippers — no matter how large the building, how distant the individuals, how many wear face masks, no matter the precautions at all. In Nevada, it seems, it is better to be in entertainment than religion. Maybe that is nothing new. But the First Amendment prohibits such obvious discrimination against the exercise of religion. The world we inhabit today, with a pandemic upon us, poses unusual challenges. But there is no world in which the Constitution permits Nevada to favor Caesars Palace over Calvary Chapel.

Justice Samuel Alito, joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Brett Kavanaugh, was equally incensed at the disparate treatment, writing:

The Constitution guarantees the free exercise of religion. It says nothing about the freedom to play craps or blackjack, to feed tokens into a slot machine, or to engage in any other game of chance. But the Governor of Nevada apparently has different priorities. Claiming virtually unbounded power to restrict constitutional rights during the COVID–19 pandemic, he has issued a directive that severely limits attendance at religious services. A church, synagogue, or mosque, regardless of its size, may not admit more than 50 persons, but casinos and certain other favored facilities may admit 50% of their maximum occupancy — and in the case of gigantic Las Vegas casinos, this means that thousands of patrons are allowed.

That Nevada would discriminate in favor of the powerful gaming industry and its employees may not come as a surprise, but this Court’s willingness to allow such discrimination is disappointing. We have a duty to defend the Constitution, and even a public health emergency does not absolve us of that responsibility.

The suit was brought by Calvary Chapel Dayton Valley, a church in Lyon County east of Reno. It wanted to conduct services for 90 congregants, about 50 percent of its fire-code capacity. According to Alito, it planned to ask attendees to adhere to proper social distancing of six feet separation, would cut the length of services in half, prohibit items being passed among the congregation, guide congregants to designated doorways along one-way paths, and to leave time between services so the church could be sanitized.

Do casinos require as much?

Justice Kavanaugh wrote in a separate dissent:

But COVID–19 is not a blank check for a State to discriminate against religious people, religious organizations, and religious services. There are certain constitutional red lines that a State may not cross even in a crisis. Those red lines include racial discrimination, religious discrimination, and content-based suppression of speech. This Court’s history is littered with unfortunate examples of overly broad judicial deference to the government when the government has invoked emergency powers and asserted crisis circumstances to override equal-treatment and free-speech principles. The court of history has rejected those jurisprudential mistakes and cautions us against an unduly deferential judicial approach, especially when questions of racial discrimination, religious discrimination, or free speech are at stake.

But Chief Justice John Roberts — joined by Justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — denied the church’s appeal without deigning to comment on such a significant constitutional matter.

Dayton Courier file photo

Source: Nevada churches denied the same capacity allowances given to casinos

Consistency sacrificed for the sake of kowtowing

Consistency sacrificed for the sake of kowtowing

That’s Discriminatory — with a capital D.

A month ago The Associated Press edited its Stylebook to declare that the word black, “when referring to people in a racial, ethnic or cultural context,” should be capitalized in news stories. The Stylebook is almost universally followed in newsrooms. It is gospel.

John Daniszewski, AP’s vice president of standards, said at the time that this change conveys “an essential and shared sense of history, identity and community among people who identify as Black, including those in the African diaspora and within Africa. The lowercase black is a color, not a person.”

The AP said it would decide within a month whether to also capitalize white when referring to people.

On Monday, the AP announced it would not capitalize white when referring to people.

Daniszewski’s rationale was contorted.

“We agree that white people’s skin color plays into systemic inequalities and injustices, and we want our journalism to robustly explore these problems,” he wrote in a memo to staff Monday. “But capitalizing the term white, as is done by white supremacists, risks subtly conveying legitimacy to such beliefs.”

Legitimacy to white supremacists? What about consistency? What about equal treatment?

The dithering and navel gazing began shortly after the death of George Floyd, a Black man, while being arrested by police. This resulted in protests and riots and the tearing down of statues and the near universal presumption of systemic racism, though evidence of this was entirely lacking.

What’s fair is fair. This decision by AP is kowtowing to the blindly stampeding herd and distorting the language in an Orwellian manner, conveying editorialization instead of fair and objective reporting.

The definition of racism is: “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against a person or people on the basis of their membership of a particular racial or ethnic group, typically one that is a minority or marginalized.”

Marginalized?

Source: Consistency sacrificed for the sake of kowtowing

Diverse “transparency” coalition in Nevada holds government accountable

By Robert Fellner, Nevada Policy Research Institute and Tod Story, ACLU of Nevada

Sunshine Week is dedicated to celebrating the principles of a transparent and accountable government, which makes it the perfect time to announce the launch of the Nevada Open Government Coalition.

The ideologically diverse Coalition was created to continue the success of our efforts to update the Nevada Public Records Act (NPRA) in 2019, and ensure that governments are transparent with the public as we seek information in the pursuit of accountability. The law aims to “foster democratic principles” by requiring that “all public books and public records of a government entity” are open to the public.

The latest example of a government agency trying to avoid their statutory obligations was highlighted in a state Supreme Court ruling from last month.

The case centered around efforts to obtain the results of an investigation by the Clark County School District into reports of inappropriate behavior by an elected school trustee.

While it’s hard to imagine an example of a document that more clearly falls within the realm of public records — the report about the conduct of an elected official seeking re-election was created by a public agency with public money — the school district nonetheless refused to disclose the report in response to a public records request submitted by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The newspaper was forced to sue and thankfully obtained the report just two weeks before the election, but only because it had the resources necessary to file a lawsuit.

One reason the newspaper was willing to take on the significant cost of litigation, however, was because of a provision within the Public Records Act that requires the government to reimburse the legal costs incurred by the requesting party, if a court finds that the government did, in fact, violate the law by withholding public records.

Absent this provision, the NPRA would be far less effective because government agencies could unlawfully withhold documents knowing that few organizations would be willing to pay the tens of thousands of dollars it would cost to force the government to comply.

This was precisely what CCSD argued for in its appeal.

Not content with wasting tax dollars to keep the investigation itself secret, the school district engaged in a lengthy appeal asking the Court to require the newspaper to pay its own legal fees.

The Nevada Supreme Court ultimately rejected the school district’s frivolous and self-serving argument. However, the whole ordeal will still end up consuming more than $125,000 of public money that should have gone instead towards education.

More must be done to ensure compliance with the Public Records Act. The importance of this law and government transparency cannot be overstated.

Using the public records law, the Reno Gazette-Journal recently discovered that Tesla defied a court order and search warrant by refusing to allow federal investigators access to their property. Given the enormous subsidies the state has provided to Tesla, the report is of significant public importance, but would never have seen the light of day if not for the public records law.

The Review-Journal used the law to help uncover numerous scandals and examples of corruption that officials would have preferred remained hidden, including failed oversight by the state Dental Board, improper use of government funds at the Las Vegas Convention Visitors Authority that would ultimately lead to criminal charges, and highly questionable activities at the Nevada DMV, where employees are alleged to have sabotaged a botched $75 million computer upgrade in an attempt to obtain bribes.

Thankfully, many public agencies comply with the law without a court order. But as this latest ruling reminds us, some agencies have no problem squandering significant amounts of tax dollars on frivolous legal efforts in an attempt to keep the public in the dark.

By educating, training, and providing resources on government transparency, the Nevada Open Government Coalition hopes to empower citizens with the knowledge and tools they need to hold public officials accountable.

The Coalition will also advocate for legislative changes designed to discourage the type of noncompliance exemplified in the recent CCSD case, which is sadly far too common.

To that end, the Coalition believes that public officials who violate the NPRA should face a penalty for doing so. This would ensure all Nevadans, taxpayers and public officials alike, are treated fairly under the law, while also providing the accountability needed to ensure Nevadans receive the fully transparent government to which they are entitled.

Robert Fellner is Vice President & Director of Policy of the Nevada Policy Research Institute, an independent organization that promotes free markets and individual freedom in the Silver State. Tod Story is the Executive Director of the ACLU of Nevada, which works to defend and advance the civil liberties and rights of all Nevadans. They are founding board members of the Nevada Open Government Coalition.

Source: Diverse “transparency” coalition in Nevada holds government accountable

Editorial: Bill language should not allow water grab

by Thomas Mitchell

A growing number of public and private entities are joining a concerted effort to make sure a bill pending before Congress does not inadvertently create a means for Clark County to tap rural groundwater, though Clark County officials protest that is not the intent of the proposal.

According to Great Basin Water Network (GBWN) — a coalition of conservationists, rural officials, tribes and agricultural interests — there are fears that the wording in the proposed Southern Nevada Economic Development and Conservation Act, whether intentional or not, could skirt a federal judge’s ruling blocking a proposed 300-mile right-of-way for a network of water pipelines.

The bulk of the bill, not yet introduced in Congress, proposes freeing up more than 40,000 acres of public land in Clark County for economic development, but two sections at the end of the 21-page bill call for the Interior Department to give the Southern Nevada Water Authority rights-of-way for an electric power line that “shall be subject only to the terms, conditions and stipulations identified in the existing rights-of-way, and shall not be subject to further administrative or judicial review. The right-of-way shall be granted in perpetuity and shall not require the payment of rental fees.” Opponents fear that a right-of-way for a power line could just as easily be used for pipelines.

Two years ago a federal judge ruled that the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) could grant the water agency right-of-way for its network of pipelines to take groundwater beneath White Pine, Lincoln and Nye counties, but first it had to come up with plans to mitigate the potential loss of wildlife habitat due to a draw down of the water table, as is required by the CleanWater Act and the Federal Land Policy and Management Act.

That might prove to be impossible, since federal studies show the interconnected aquifers are already at equilibrium — meaning water that is now being drawn from the aquifers is being replaced gallon for gallon annually with no leeway for additional withdrawal. The water agency proposes to withdraw 84,000 acre-feet of groundwater per year. The project is projected to cost more than $15 billion and could triple water rates in Clark County.

This past week more than a dozen entities joined in opposition to Congress approving the right-of-way proposal. These include several Nevada and Utah counties, three Indian tribes and a number of environmental groups.

Nevada State Sen. Pete Goicoechea and Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, discuss efforts by Clark County to tap rural groundwater. (Pix by Roger Moellendorf)

“What Clark County is proposing is a pro-pipeline bill,” said Kyle Roerink, executive director of the GBWN. “Elected officials, attorneys, and non-profit organizations that span Nevada, Utah and the region all agree: The SNWA wants the congressional delegation to carry its water by surreptitiously advancing a project that has consistently lost in federal and state courts. The Nevada delegation deserves better than sneaky end-runs masked as technicalities. For now, the name of the bill should be the Great Basin Water Grab Act of 2019.”

A resolution passed by the Duckwater Shosone Tribe warned, “Science has shown that the pipeline would ultimately destroy B

ashsahwahbee, killing off Swamp Cedars and drying up the Sacred Water Valley’s springs and aquifers that plant and wildlife currently depend upon.”

A spokesman for the water authority told the Las Vegas newspapers there is no intention to use the right-of-way for anything other than power lines. Though he thought the language was sufficiently clear, he said it has been modified recently. Another official offered that it might be further altered to allay concerns.

Clark County could use the economic development. Changing the language in the bill should satisfy the opposition.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Source: Editorial: Bill language should not allow water grab

Costly Nevada Legal Fight Over Taxes Was Unnecessary

It was a senseless and futile gesture, but our Democratic lawmakers and governor were just the ones to do it.

Despite the fact Nevada voters in 1994 and 1996 amended the state Constitution to declare “an affirmative vote of not fewer than two-thirds of the members elected to each House is necessary to pass a bill or joint resolution which creates, generates, or increases any public revenue in any form,” the 21-member state Senate approved the extension of taxes and fees that were supposed to be curbed with a 13-8 vote, one vote short of the constitutionally mandated two-thirds. Gov. Steve Sisolak signed the tax extensions into law.

The eight Republican senators who voted against the tax extensions and three companies that would have to pay the higher taxes have sued in district court in Carson City, asking the court for a temporary restraining order and a permanent injunction against enactment of the laws.

The Democrats charged ahead with tax and fee extensions after their compliant Legislative Counsel Bureau (LCB), the lawmakers’ lawyers, issued an opinion that a two-thirds vote was not necessary since the taxes were not being “raised” but merely allowed to continue at a rate that was scheduled to be reduced, paying no heed to the fact the bills in question “generate” public revenue. Asked nearly the same question in 2011, 2013 and 2015, the LCB said a two-thirds vote was necessary.

When Republicans first threatened to sue, Sisolak confidently stated, “We’ve got legal opinion from LCB that, you know, a simple majority is what’s needed. I’ve been in government for 20 some-odd years, and if you don’t trust your attorneys, you’ve got a problem. So I’m confident that the attorneys gave us a good opinion. We’ll move forward from there.”

After the suit was actually filed, a somewhat less assured Sisolak was quoted by the pressas demurring, “I remain absolutely committed to taking action if necessary following the court’s decision to ensure our schools continue to receive the total amount of funding approved by the Legislature for the … biennium.”

According to the governor’s executive budget at the end of that biennium there is expected to be a rainy day fund balance of $415.2 million, more than enough to cover the $98 million that the extension of the modified business tax rate and the $7 million that the $1 Department of Motor Vehicles technology fee extension are expected to generate.

The modified business tax extension is scheduled to begin being collected on Oct. 1 and the technology fee was set to end on July 1, 2020.

So, what was the point in pushing the constitution-ignoring legislation?

Senate Republican Leader James Settelmeyer said in a statement released to the media after the suit was filed, “We have checks and balances for a reason and eroding the two-thirds requirement is an unprecedented disregard for the constitution and creates a dangerous precedent. While there was ample money to fund education and other vital programs, Sisolak and (Senate Democratic Leader Nicole) Cannizzaro acted recklessly and their behavior created an unnecessary constitutional crisis at the expense of over 23,000 small business in Nevada.”

The lawsuit itself makes abundantly clear the stakes involved here: “This action involves an issue of of significant public and statewide importance as it seeks to uphold and protect the constitutional amendment proposed by citizen ballot initiative adopted and overwhelmingly approved by Nevada voters in 1994 and 1996. As provided in Article 1, Section 2 of the Nevada Constitution, political power is inherent in the people. Government only has power from the consent of the governed, and the residents and citizens of the State of Nevada twice voted strongly in favor of amending the Nevada Constitution to add the two-thirds requirement, and the two-thirds requirement has, at least prior to 2019, been applied consistently to legislative bills extending sunsets by the Nevada Legislature.”

The Republican senators and three companies, of course, are asking for recovery of reasonable attorney fees and costs. So, the taxpayers are likely to get stuck with all the costs from both sides.

The suit further noted that lawmakers “had enough money to fund the State’s budget without the public revenues created, generated or increased as a result of the changes to the payroll tax …”

So the passage with less than two-thirds votes was senseless, and, once the courts correctly rule that a two-thirds vote was constitutionally necessary, it will have been futile.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Nevada Legislature

Source: Costly legal fight over taxes was unnecessary


Editorial: BLM proposes firebreaks to reduce size of wildfires

The Bureau of Land Management is currently conducting a series of public hearings across the West to get input on an audacious proposal to limit the unchecked spread of rangeland wildfires.

The BLM says wildfires have increased dramatically in size and frequency in the past decade in six Western states — Nevada, Utah, California, Idaho, Oregon and Washington. During that time, 21 fires have exceed 100,000 acres. A total of 13.5 million acres have burned. Efforts to suppress wildfires by the BLM alone have cost $373 million over the past decade

“These wildfires result in increased destruction of private property, degradation and loss of rangelands, loss of recreational opportunities, and habitat loss for a variety of species, including the conversion of native habitats to invasive annual grasses,” the BLM reports. “The conversion of rangeland habitats to invasive annual grasslands further impedes rangeland health and productivity by slowing or preventing recovery of sagebrush communities.”

To counter this, the federal land agency is proposing to create up to 11,000 miles of firebreaks as a way to keep the fires from spreading into mammoth infernos, like the Martin Fire in northern Nevada this past year, which consumed nearly half a million acres of rangeland.

The draft proposal calls for fuel breaks being created along roads and rights-of-way by mowing, grazing, mechanical and chemical clearing, as well as prescribed burns. Some of the breaks could be brown strips — areas where all vegetation has been removed. Others could be green strips — areas where vegetation that is more flammable has been replaced with less flammable vegetation.

In some areas invasive cheatgrass — a perennial that grows knee high in the spring but dries out in the summer — would be replaced with native plants less susceptible to fire. Also, grazing permits could be adjusted to allow for spring time clearing of cheatgrass.

Cheatgrass and wildfires create a vicious cycle. Cheatgrass recovers more quickly than native species after a fire. Thus the more fires, the more cheatgrass. The more cheatgrass, the more fires.

John Ruhs, once the head of the BLM in Nevada and now the head of BLM operations in Idaho, was quoted in an agency press release as saying, “Fuel breaks have proven to be very effective in slowing rangeland wildfires, making them easier and safer for wildland firefighters to control. We believe that creating a system of fuel breaks will help us enhance and improve our working landscapes.”

The BLM’s principal deputy assistant secretary for land and minerals management, Casey Hammond, was quoted as saying, “Wildfires devastate forests, rangeland and communities across Idaho and throughout the West, and without strategic planning they’re likely to continue in the years ahead. With this initiative and others like it, we’re working proactively to curb wildfires’ destruction and make it safer and more effective for firefighters to protect people and property.”

Environmentalists have expressed concerns that firebreaks may fragment wildlife habitats, including that of the threatened greater sage grouse, but the fragmentation should be less threatening than a wall of flames threatening the animals’ very lives and food source.

Brian Rutledge, a vice president of the National Audubon Society, notes, “The safety of a sage-grouse is utterly dependent on its cryptic coloring and cover from overhead predators. If the birds didn’t get burned up in the fire, there’s nowhere to hide eggs in cheatgrass.” Additionally, unlike soft sage leaves, cheatgrass provides little nutrition for the species.

The BLM is accepting comments on the proposal through Aug. 5.

Scoping meetings are scheduled for 5 to 7 p.m. on July 16 at the Red Lion Inn in Elko and July 17 at the Bristlecone Convention Center in Ely.

Firebreaks would be a valuable tool in the effort to cut down the size of rangeland wildfires.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.
BLM proposes firebreaks along 11,000 miles of roads and rights-of-way.

Source: Editorial: BLM proposes firebreaks to reduce size of wildfires


VICTOR JOECKS: Controversial gun control measure could pass without a hearing

The Legislature could pass a controversial gun control measure without ever holding a public hearing.

At issue is a red flag law, which allows courts to order the confiscation of weapons from people who pose a threat to themselves or others.

Narrowly tailored, these laws can be beneficial. For instance, the Parkland, Florida, school shooter had a history of disturbing and dangerous behavior. Police went to his house 39 times in seven years. It could have prevented a mass murder had a court taken away his weapons.

In the aftermath of the Parkland shooting, some prominent conservatives, such as David French with National Review, came out in support of red flag laws. But getting the details wrong can turn a good idea into a bad law. It’s a tough balancing act to design a statute that allows government to seize someone’s weapons while respecting an individual’s right to due process.

Finding that balance requires discussion and compromise. That could have happened. Early in the session, state Sen. Julia Ratti, D-Sparks, proposed a very broad red flag bill, Senate Bill 120. For instance, included in the definition of high-risk behavior was the act of acquiring a firearm within six months of displaying a firearm.

A judge who determined someone engaged in those behaviors and posed a risk could order that individual to turn over his or her firearms to law enforcement. The bill also required only “clear and convincing” evidence, a lower standard than beyond a reasonable doubt. Under the proposal, a judge could have ordered an individual’s firearms be confiscated without the subject knowing he’d been accused of threatening behavior.

If the court issued such an order — potentially without the person’s knowledge — the information would have been sent to the Nevada Records of Criminal History. Subjects would thus be prevented from passing a background check if they tried to legally buy a firearm. That makes sense. No point in taking someone’s firearms away if they’re allowed to just buy another one. What doesn’t make sense is that if the information doesn’t get removed automatically from the database if the court removes the protection order. The individual must petition a court to remove it.

This means the government could take your guns without you even knowing you’d been accused. And if you cleared your name, you’d have to return to court to restore your ability to purchase firearms. So much for innocent until proven guilty and due process.

Public and behind-the-scenes input would have improved this bill. But SB120 died in mid-April without a hearing.

That should have been the end of it. But Democrats are now considering amending a red flag law into Assembly Bill 291, which bans bump stocks.

If that happens, there won’t be a public hearing and gun owners may not even find out what’s in the bill until after it has passed.

That would be a mistake. A conversation about a red flag law is worth having, but getting the details right won’t happen if Democrats rush it through.

VICTOR JOECKS: Controversial gun control measure could pass without a hearing

Victor Joecks’ column appears in the Opinion section each Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Listen to him discuss his columns each Monday at 10 a.m. with Kevin Wall on 790 Talk Now. Contact him at vjoecks@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-4698. Follow @victorjoecks on Twitter.

Source: VICTOR JOECKS: Controversial gun control measure could pass without a hearing


Editorial: Give wild horse and burro plan a chance

by Thomas Mitchell

An unprecedented collaboration between various government agencies, animal welfare groups and ranchers has created a plan aimed at finally bringing the wild horse and burro population on the Western range under control.

The disparate groups include the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, the National Cattleman’s Beef Association, the Humane Society of the United States, the American Farm Bureau, American Mustang Foundation, the Public Lands Council and others.

The plan calls for removing 15,000 to 20,000 wild horses a year from the range in the next three years, drastically increasing the use of temporary and permanent sterilization, moving horses to cheaper cost-effective private grazing land and promoting adoptions. The removal number would drop drastically as fertility control takes effect.

The Path Forward for Management of BLM’s Wild Horses & burros

 

The primary objective of this proposal is to develop an economically and environmentally viable, humane, non-lethal, and feasible long-term management plan for wild horses and burros in the American West. The current program is unsustainable and needs redirection.As of March, the Bureau of Land Management estimated that the population of wild horses and burros on federal lands is more than 81,951 — more than three times 26,690 the agency believes the range can sustain — and that population can grow 18 percent a year, the plan warns. Meanwhile, the BLM maintains 36,906 wild horses and burros in large pasture facilities, and 14,029 horses and burros in corral facilities at a cost of $50 million a year.

The plan calls from increasing the BLM’s total wild horse and burro management budget from the current $80 million a year to $130 million initially, but with cost declining as fertility control cuts population growth and horses and burros are adopted. The goal is to sterilize 90 percent of the animals on the range.

Nancy Perry, ASPCA’s senior vice president, told The Associated Press, “Not every advocate wants to engage with or work with those that they have been in battle with over the years. But BLM’s current polices are ineffective. If they continue on the road they’re on now, it means disaster.”

In fact, the AP reported that the plan has ignited fierce opposition from the American Wild Horse Campaign and Friends of Animals, groups that are already challenging in the courts earlier horse round-ups.

The American Wild Horse Campaign was quoted as saying, “The groups promoting this plan have been co-opted into supporting the livestock industry’s agenda for wild horses by the BLM’s vague promise to utilize undefined ‘population growth suppression’ methods. By mandating the removal of a startling 15,000 to 20,000 wild horses a year, the plan will result in the reduction of America’s wild herds to extinction levels.”

Despite the hysteria from the horse huggers, the plan is at least putting forward a rational effort to control the horse and burro population on the range. The plan estimates it will take 10 years to reach the population that the BLM says is sustainable. Currently the animals in many herd management areas are so overpopulated that they are starving and damaging water resources. Grazing land needed by cattle and other wild animals is depleted.

The plan also addresses the cost of keeping wild horses off the range.

“Every day, the BLM spends $1.82 per horse in long term holding pastures and an average of $4.99 per horse in corral facilities,” the plan notes. “A shortage of pasture facilities has forced the agency to use corral facilities for long term purposes — at more than twice the expense. … The agency estimates that each of those horses costs approximately $46,000 over the course of their lifetime. We propose that the BLM relocate corralled horses and burros, along with any additional removed horses and burros, to more cost-effective private pastures.”

The status quo is not acceptable. Give this plan a chance.

Wild horses being warehoused at Palomino Valley.
A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Source: Editorial: Give wild horse and burro plan a chance

Editorial: Minimum wage hike will increase prices and crime

by Thomas Mitchell

Despite all the evidence that it will do more harm than good, a bill to raise the minimum wage in Nevada is still wending its way through the halls of the Legislature in Carson City.

Assembly Bill 456 would raise the minimum wage 75 cents per hour each year as it climbs from the current $7.25 per hour for those receiving company health insurance and $8.25 for those not insured until it reaches $11 or $12 per hour.

In his State of the State speech, Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak called for raising the minimum wage and declared, “It’s impossible for an individual, let alone a family, to live on $7.25 an hour,” ignoring the fact almost no one “lives” on minimum wage. Fewer than 3 percent of workers are paid the minimum wage and most of them are under age 25 and working part-time. Most are supplementing family income rather than being self-supporting.

In fact, raising the minimum wage often results in jobs being cut and/or working hours reduced. One study found the average low-wage worker in Seattle lost $125 a month because the minimum wage was raised to $15 an hour.

Now, a recent study released by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that raising the minimum wage can harm even those who are not being paid the minimum wage.

Using national crime data from 1998 to 2016, the study found “robust evidence that minimum wage hikes increase property crime arrests among teenagers and young adults ages 16- to-24, a population for whom minimum wages are likely to bind.”

The study projects that raising the minimum wage to $12 an hour nationally would result in approximately 231,000 additional property crimes, costing the nation $1.3 billion. Raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour would generate over 410,000 additional property crimes and $2.4 billion per year in additional crime costs.

“We conclude that increasing the minimum wage will at best be ineffective at deterring crime and at worst will have unintended consequences that increase property crime among young adults,” the study authors concluded. They said that previous studies that projected a decrease in crime due to raising the minimum wage ignored the possibility of hours being cut and jobs being lost.

Don’t ignore the costs imposed on everyone when the minimum wage is hiked. A Cato Institute analysis in 2012 found that a “comprehensive review of more than 20 minimum wage studies looking at price effects found that a 10 percent increase in the U.S. minimum wage raises food prices by up to 4 percent and overall prices by up to 0.4 percent.”

The Congressional Budget Office in 2014 estimated that if the federal minimum wage were increased to $10.10 an hour — as proposed by President Obama and others — up to a million workers would lose their jobs.

According to the American Enterprise Institute, when the minimum wage rose 41 percent between 2007 and 2009, the jobless rate for 16- to 19-year-olds increased by 10 percentage points, from about 16 percent in 2007 to more than 26 percent in 2009 — even higher for minorities.

Without those entry level jobs younger Americans cannot build the skills needed to earn higher pay for a lifetime.

Still another Heritage study reported that every dollar increase in minimum wage really only raises take-home pay by 20 cents once welfare benefits are reduced and taxes are increased.

It’s the immutable law of unintended consequences. Lawmakers should abandon their support for this bill, which would cause more harm than good.

A version of this editorial appeared this week in some of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel,  Sparks Tribune and the Lincoln County Record.

Source: Editorial: Minimum wage hike will increase prices and crime