Six odd things that happened while I was on vacation


Seriously, people, I can’t leave you alone for two weeks without the world spinning completely off its axis! That will teach me to take a late-summer vacation. Just in case any of you were gone, too, here’s a quick list of Six Odd Things That Happened While I Was On Vacation.

1. Endorsement craziness: We already saw how the Latin Chamber of Commerce’s PAC changed its endorsement after getting some calls from Senate Majority LeaderHarry Reid. But even more bizarre was the Hispanics in Politics endorsements. First, the group endorsed Republican Annette Teijeiro over incumbent Rep. Dina Titus in CD-1. To put that in perspective, Teijeiro has the same odds of beating Titus as I do of being elected president. And there’s no presidential election this year.

Even more bizarre, members of the group voted to endorse Republican Rep. Joe Heck in CD-3, but the board of directors overrode the endorsement and selected Democratic challenger Erin Bilbray instead! But then, the board reversed itself, handing the endorsement to Heck after all.

At this point, Heck could be forgiven for saying, “Uh, yeah, thanks guys, but I think I’m good.” Meanwhile, Hispanics in Politics will soon learn that it would be better to face the Wrath of Khan than the Wrath of Titus!

2. Roberson’s award: Republican state Sen. Michael Roberson got the 2014 Legislator of the Year Award from the National Education Association’s Pacific Region. (And no, it’s not a gag gift just because the Nevada Legislature doesn’t even meet in 2014. It’s a real award!)

Democrats are seething, but Roberson won because he totally proposed a special tax on the mining industry to fund Nevada schools during the 2013 session, a tax that Democrats failed to embrace. Roberson got (and is still getting) plenty of grief from his fellow Republicans, however, although he easily survived a primary challenge from an anti-tax conservative this year.

Hey, Democrats: If you want an award from the National Education Association, you could always, oh, I don’t know, pass a tax to increase education funding yourselves! Until then, we hear Roberson will let you take a selfie with his award for a $5 contribution to his re-election fund. There are rumors that he’s got a Democratic opponent on the November ballot, although evidence is scarce.

3. UNLV and taxes: So, the UNLV Center for Business and Economic Research did a study of The Education Initiative, the 2 percent tax on business revenue that will appear on November’s ballot as Question 1. And that study apparently concluded that the tax would create 13,000 new jobs in Nevada. But then interim UNLV President Don Snydercalled the study’s conclusions into question by asking the Brookings Institution to take another look at the numbers, and the authors indicated they’d put a disclaimer on future research for private clients.

But the real story here seems to be why it is that everybody who has commissioned a study on The Education Initiative seems to come up with a different result (and, shockingly, a result that buttresses their pre-existing opinion of the tax!). Why, I bet I could commission two different analysts to come up with two different studies, one that says the margins tax will kill us all and the other that says not passing it will kill us all.

Part of that is explained by the tax itself; it’s complicated, and its implementation depends on how individual businesses take deductions offered under its terms. Part of it — a big part — is underlying economic modeling assumptions. And part of it is the hype that political types put on purely academic research.

4. Reid unplugged. It didn’t get a lot of play, but Reid called the Legislature a bunch of cowards. No, really, he did. Asked why lawmakers didn’t follow his 2011 call to ban prostitution in the state, Reid didn’t hesitate with his reply: “The Legislature, they’re all a bunch of cowards. They were afraid to do anything about it,” he told the Asian Chamber of Commerce.

Yeah, that’s the Legislature. Cowering in fear of Big Hooker!

That’s also Reid: He’s totally right about the Legislature — its members are a bunch of cowards on a whole range of important issues — but he’s totally wrong ascribing cowardice to lawmakers on this particular issue.

5. Gov. Brian Sandoval saves Mt. Charleston!: It’s difficult to find winners in the bureaucratic tussle that sidelined a flood-control project that might very well have saved some Mt. Charleston homeowners from serious flood damage in late July. The federal government, Clark County and the state were all restrained by the rules before a July 28 flash flood on the mountain.

But even after the story came to light and county officials were still stubbornly refusing to take responsibility for a flood control project built on federal land, Sandoval toured the area and said the state would step in. Looks like we know how that precinct is going to vote in November.

6. No more secret payments!: District Attorney Steve Wolfson announced that his prosecutors would tell defense lawyers well before trial whether or not witnesses against their clients had received payments from a special fund, which could affect how those lawyers decide to proceed with a case. (If a witness’ expenses are being paid by the state, that witness’ testimony could be more easily impeached at trial, for example.)

Previously, those payments weren’t disclosed until trial, and in some cases, not even then. A motion to set aside a guilty conviction has already been filed in one case because of the payments.

So, you know, transparency here is probably a good thing for the justice system.