Archive for May 2007

Size Matters

May 30, 2007

Originally Published on NevadaNewsmakers.com, 5/30/2007 2:23:40 PM

An interesting bit of north-south contrast observed in the Senate Finance Committee, as a pitch for more family court judges turned into a discussion of where to put the judges if such positions are approved. There’s little disagreement on the need for the judges, but what will it cost to expand the brick-and-mortar capacity of court facilities? This is a relevant question since the state pays judicial salaries, but the counties are on the hook for all other expenses resulting from an expanded court.

 

Clark County says it would have to undertake a complex reconfiguration of its “justice center,” as court houses are known in the evolved language of the latter 20th century. Some 30 million dollars, more or less, to move district attorneys to a different building — displacing other district attorneys to yet another location, unidentified at this point — and therefore, it would seem, in doubt as to cost. Clark has projected annual operating costs to support five additional judges at 5.7 – 9.9 million dollars. A range of 4.2 million, depending on whether the judges are assigned to the criminal, civil, or family division.

 

Clark has has approved the range, without knowing concretely where the new judges will be assigned.

 

As the committee’s questioning intensified, one of Clark’s representatives began to testify against the other, declaring her account of things to be “just wrong.” Ultimately, we learn, the other person had never set foot in the facility she was describing.

 

Washoe County, meanwhile, would receive two additional family court judges under the terms of AB 246. Washoe’s representative came to the table, and in exactly 30 seconds, she summed up the manner in which Washoe has precisely anticipated the expenses, and the need for physical space, and plugged all of it into the next three years’ budgets.

 

All of which led the Reasonable Reporter to wonder whether this difference in presentation and planning is characteristic of the two counties in all matters. Or even in most matters. This too, is a relevant question, since we are constantly reminded that southern issues dominate the lawmaking process because 70 percent of the population resides in the south. And that’s the way it is, period, so there.

 

The committee’s vice-chair, Senator Bob Beers, is from Clark. So it seemed reasonable to ask him whether this episode illustrates any typical differences in county operation. He wasn’t prepared to go that far, but offered something else — a theory that incompetence and bureaucratic chaos correlate to the size of government. Beers also offered a caveat to Washoe County: “Don’t let this happen to you.”

Here’s to the Contrarians

May 21, 2007

Originally Published on NevadaNewsmakers.com, 5/21/2007 11:13:14 AM

The objective in the lawmaking process often appears to be achieving 63-0.
An astonishing number of bills in this highly partisan atmosphere end up passing one house or the other, or both, with unanimous approval. The process begins with strong advocacy of a proposal. The proposals rarely go unchallenged. The opponents and advocates alter the proposals until they’re acceptable to everyone. And once they’re acceptable to everyone, they lose a lot of their initial appeal. But on they go, and then they’re law.

The point here is that occasionally — far too occasionally from the Reasonable Reporter’s perspective — there are contrarians. Agree or not with their positions, the arguments are fabulous to hear in a place where everyone is working toward unanimity. And here are a few who come to mind for recent actions.

Senator Bob Coffin, who cast the only “nay” when both houses passed a resolution asking the Congress to repeal the Real ID act. He says his colleagues have supported a lot of feel-good border control and immigration measures that won’t really protect the nation from terrorism, but the Real ID measure has some validity, and they’ve nixed it because of the cost.

Sticker shock is a bad reason, says Coffin.

Senator Joe Heck, who voted against the notion that the state is entitled to receive abandoned funds that paid for an unused gift card. He says the state is not entitled to touch money from a private transaction, just because the gift goes unused by its intended recipeint. (Bob Beers and Barbara Cegavske cast the other two no votes on this one. But they are more regular and recognizable contrarians.)

Assemblyman Kelvin Atkinson, who refused last week to allow a committee vote on the primary seatbelt law, and didn’t hesitate to say something approximating “it won’t happen on my watch.” Senators Terry Care, Dina Titus, and Maggie Carlton were contrarians on the seatbelt issue weeks ago, questioning whether it would facilitiate “pretext” stops. There was a time when this would not have been a contrarian question. But the mainstream thinking now favors public safety first, and all else follows.

Senator Mike McGinness, who cast the only nay on a bill that add killing or injuring an animal to the definition of domestic violence. McGinness feared unintended consequences when violators are deprived of the right to carry firearms.

The Reasonable Reporter

May 13, 2007

Originally Published on NevadaNewsmakers.com, 5/13/2007 12:31:27 PM

Assemblyman William Horne (D, Clark 34) is an attorney who works in criminal defense. He’s been promoting a bill that would prohibit a district attorney from taking a “bite of the apple” in criminal prosecutions.

Persuasive argument in favor of this prohibition requires expertise in criminal law. But dwell, if you will, on the simple notion the government should get one shot at sending a citizen to trail in a criminal matter. One shot. Prosecutors are supposed to take a suspect either to a preliminary hearing, or to the grand jury. One or the other, not both, according to testimony on AB 364 by proponents.

If the preliminary hearing fails to produce enough evidence to send a suspect to trial, that’s supposed to be the end of the matter. The prosecutor is not granted an automatic second chance, by taking the same suspect to the grand jury – where, we are told, a ham sandwich can be indicted. Nonetheless, in certain Nevada counties, the grand jury process is being regularly employed as a routine backup procedure in case the prelim is unsuccessful.

Assemblyman Horne’s bill is AB 364. As of this moment, it appears the bill may not make it, not because Horne is wrong, but for lack of support from jurisdictions where regular abuse does not occur.

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The state forks over $6- 10 million per year in credit card fees. This is the cost of convenience for taxpayers. The figure was thrown out in the course of discussion about SB 517, which would require payments over $10,000 to be paid by electronic transfer. The proposed law would create some efficiencies and lower the payment cost for large transactions. (Think registration for a vehicle fleet, or sales tax payment from a retailer.) But the expense to the state may not change a lot even if the bill passes. Many transactions generating credit card fee are much smaller than $10,000. (Think individual DMV transactions.) The figures are instructive on many levels, in contemplating the process of tax collection.

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Senator Barbara Cegavske ( R, Clark 8 ) is the only female Republican in the Senate. What’s it like to be the lone woman in a conference room full of Republican testosterone? The Reasonable Reporter envisions a range of possibilities. a) They treat her like a sister; b) they treat her like one of the guys; c) they treat her like a space alien; d) they treat her like a fragile flower.