Archive for March 2011

Big Brother crawls up your nose

March 25, 2011

The state’s war on cold medicine continues, driven by the federal effort to curb its use as an ingredient in methamphetamine.

You, the stuffy-nosed, desert-dwelling Nevadan, should consider the following choice that’s currently before your legislature. Would you like Sudafed and similar medicines to be classified as prescription drugs, requiring a visit to the doctor before you can get them?  Or would you prefer your Sudafed purchases were monitored by a company that logs you in an online database, and rats on you when you turn up at a different drug store to buy more, because your kid took yours, or your briefcase was stolen, or you left town without it?

A former law enforcement officer who now works with drug makers demonstrated the tracking system yesterday in Carson City.  He estimated that between one and two percent of pseudoephedrine purchases end up in a meth lab. The tracking scheme is the drug industry solution. A consortium of pharmaceutical companies picks up the tab when retail pharmacies are persuaded to participate in the system. The industry closes the deal by seeking a state mandate on the pharmacies.

Then they work with law enforcement, turning over purchase records on demand, exposing the entire law-abiding population of cold and sinus sufferers to police scrutiny, in order to identify the one percent who might be mixing up a batch of meth.

The tracking system puts your personal identifying information in a web-based document (that’s name, driver’s license, date of birth, address, and frequency of purchase). It’s a juicy target for identity thieves. Ironically, it’s not protected by HIPAA, since the drugs – at least for the moment — are not prescription drugs.  The records follow you from store-to-store and state-to-state. Currently, the individual pharmacies must keep a record of your cold medicine purchases. It remains in-store, although still available to the police.

The legislature will shortly consider reclassifying the medicine, harmless when used as directed on the package, as a prescription drug. Chief cheerleader for the prescription-only bill is the district attorney of Carson City.  The industry will counter with a cost-free proposal to track, setting up an either-or proposition. Doing nothing, most likely, will not be an option. (See SB 203.)

Senate Majority Leader appeals to tax commission for immediate changes to net proceeds

March 21, 2011

Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford addressed an emergency meeting of the Nevada Tax Commission today during the public comment period.  Horsford appeared as a Nevada citizen and a taxpayer, he said.  He presented a petition asking the Commission to enact emergency changes to the regulations governing mining deductions as they apply to the net proceeds of minerals tax.

Hear his entire statement (8 minutes and 32 seconds) by clicking on the flash player below.

If you do not have a flash player you may download the file directly by clicking here.

Effective tax director caught in political crossfire, defenders say — an early casualty of a battle yet to heat up

March 14, 2011

The sudden retirement of Executive Director Dino DiCianno from the Department of Taxation is a severe blow to the state’s revenue collection arm, according to sources familiar with the operation of the department, and an illustration that knock-down-drag-out politics is alive and well in Carson City, despite rhetoric about civility in a declared atmosphere of bipartisanship.  Read more at Nevada News Channel.

State budget proposes to cut eyeglasses for seniors, while donated eyeglasses are sent elsewhere – tort reform, anyone?

March 8, 2011

Until now, it seemed silly, but not tragic.  Thousands of pairs of used eyeglasses collected in Nevada for charitable purposes end up perched on the noses of needy recipients in other countries. None of the donated specs are distributed in Nevada.

Now the state is facing Health and Human Services budget cuts that could eliminate prescription glasses to seniors, and this is no longer a merely unfortunate situation.  It’s enough to make you cry.

“There is a central collection warehouse right here in Reno,” Dr. Troy Humphreys told the Reasonable Reporter.  Humphreys is an optometrist, and a member of the Lions Club, a service organization long devoted to the needs of the visually impaired. The Lions’ ranks include guide dog trainers and many optometrists who volunteer examination services. But the docs don’t dispense the used glasses.

“All glasses are organized and sent to Vallejo (California), to be catalogued for Lions in Sight mission trips,”  Humphreys wrote in an email, referring to good works abroad by the Lions International organization.

Here at home, used glasses could be matched so that prescriptions are close, but probably not precisely corrective to  the eyesight of the pro bono patients.  But, Troy said,  a car accident or a tumble down the stairs could expose the volunteer optometrist to a lawsuit. So the patients don’t receive the glasses because of the potential legal liability.

It’s all the more unfortunate, Troy said, because from a dollars-and-cents  standpoint, helping seniors see clearly averts accidents, and saves healthcare money on the other end.  Troy cites a CDC study documenting medical expenses attributable to seniors with fractured bones, or worse, because they didn’t see obstacles or couldn’t gauge proximity to dangerous objects.

In the Gazette Journal’s Sunday piece on the state budget, Senator Sheila Leslie said the budget cut will affect 7,500 people whose eyeglasses are currently picked up by the state.

“We can pay for the examinations, but not for the eyeglasses,”  Leslie told the RGJ. Leslie sits on the joint Senate and Assembly committee that’s been reviewing the Health and Human Services budget.

If the state is going to cut off money for eyeglasses, this is a great opportunity to discuss tort reform, said Humphreys.  The Lions would love to see the glasses going to Nevadans, but doctors have to take measures all day long to protect themselves legally, and this is just one example, he said.

Cyberbullies everywhere, breathe a sigh of relief! If SCOTUS gives a pass to the Westboro Baptists, snotty tweets are a no-brainer.

March 4, 2011

Thank God — the real God, not the unfathomable deity who watches over the Westboro Baptist Church  — that the First Amendment falls hard.  The Supreme Court of the United States, as it occasionally must, has vindicated our most blessed right,  which is the right to express ignorant, repulsive, and contemptible ideas in public, even when it hurts someone’s feelings.

First Amendment absolutism requires defense of creepy lunatics like the Westboro Baptists and sociopaths like Julian Assange.  They are, in fact, the most critical cogs in the free speech wheel, and defend them we must, like them or not. (Absolutism is the Reasonable Reporter’s position.  You need not, of course, be an absolutist to appreciate the decision.)

We can only hope that the so-called “cyberbullies” are next to have their rights upheld.  Most cyberbully laws seem almost deliberately heedless of the First Amendment, overly broad, and failing to distinguish between authentic threats and mere taunts causing emotional distress (the initial cause of action in Snyder v. Phelps).

Long live the eight Supreme Court Justices who honored the document they’re sworn to defend, and long live nasty people whose unacceptable speech requires protection.  Their protection is protection for all of us.

Nevada’s long, uphill push for recovery: public works, prevailing wage, and it’s not a union versus non-union thing. Or is it?

March 1, 2011

The union and non-union sectors have so far been best model of civility in the hallways and hearing rooms of the Nevada legislature, presenting a unified front in the service of their respective workers, who are suffering 60 percent unemployment.  But deep political differences remain, with large practical implications in a construction market shrunk beyond recognition. Read the story at Nevada News Channel