Also, feel free to comment. I may engage in discussion, or I may ignore it. If it strikes me as ill-thought, poorly supported, insulting, degrading, or overly personal in nature, I am liable to just delete it.
OK, so I’ll start with Ballot Questions.
Question 1 has been variously referred to as Marcy’s Law and and the Crime Victim’s Bill of Rights. The question provides that that a number of rights will be guaranteed to crime victims by the Nevada Constitution. For a complete enumeration, see here: https://ballotpedia.org/Nevada_Question_1,_Marsy%27s_Law_Crime_Victims_Rights_Amendment_(2018)
I don’t necessarily object to much of the policy forwarded under this initiative, but I will be voting against it for a few reasons:
- Marsy’s Law is a cookie cutter initiative that is being pushed by a National organization which is seeking to have a similar victim’s bill of rights adopted through the initiative process in every State. As such, it really does not take into account existing state law. Most of the requirements of this initiative are already a part of Nevada law, so I don’t see how it does any good to enshrine them in the constitution.
- It seems to me that there is at least some risk that some provisions will create unforeseen conflicts with existing due process guarantees for people accused of crimes. For example, the victim notification requirements can create conflicts with constitutional speedy trial guarantees.
- I find the ads supporting this initiative to be really obnoxious. Asserting that this initiative gives crime victims “equal rights” to criminal is just nonsensical. The constitutional due process guarantees afforded criminal defendants are very different than the rights set forth in Question One. Referring to these as “equal rights” for crime victims makes as much sense as saying that apartment complexes should have the same rights as blue whales.
- The set of policies embodied by Marcy’s law can be adopted by the legislature after hearings, revisions, and thought. There is just no reason why the state Constitution needs to be amended to include them.
Question 2 provides that feminine hygiene products should be exempted from sales tax. The general argument in favor is that necessary items should not be taxed because such taxes are regressive in nature; they disproportionately impact the less affluent. Obviously, the more specific argument in favor is that a sales tax on necessary items only used by women is inherently discriminatory.
The argument against this initiative will be sleeping on the couch. Vote yes.
Question 3, the Energy Choice Initiative, would, if passed, incorporate into the Nevada Constitution a provision requiring that, by 2023, would require the Nevada Legislature to:
- Establish an open, competitive retail electric energy market;
- Ensure that protections are established that entitle customers to safe, reliable, and competitively priced electricity;
- Protect against service disconnections and unfair practices; and
- Prohibit the grant of monopolies and exclusive franchises for the generation of electricity.
This is easily most hotly contested ballot initiative this year. For a full list of the major supporters and opponents, see the Ballotpedia entry here:
In 2016, when this came on the Ballot the first time (Constitutional Amendments generally need to pass two initiative votes) my position was that we should vote for the question so that we could see (1) what the final draft of the initiative was, and (2) how the debate unfolded.
Having read and reflected on the current initiative, and having seen the debate unfold, I strongly recommend a No Vote.
First, there are a lot of reasons to be doubt the wisdom of energy deregulation as a general matter. Many states that have deregulated energy have found that consumer costs went up and quality of service went down. While proponents of the initiative say that this will result in lower energy costs, that has not been the experience in many states that have experimented in deregulation.
Second, this initiative articulates a policy mandate without really stating how the legislature is going to achieve this mandate. I see the reason for this; if the details of energy deregulation were cemented in the constitution, they could not be changed by legislative action even if such action was desperately needed. However, we have recent history to show how badly the Nevada Legislature can foul up energy regulation. In 2015, as rooftop solar installations were approaching a previously set cap, the solar industry pushed the legislature to agree to legislation lifting that cap. The legislature agreed to a compromise by enacting SB 374. At least a few of the legislatures who voted for SB 374 thought they were paving the way for the rooftop solar industry to go forward. In fact, SB 374 had the effect of killing the industry entirely until the 2017 legislature fixed the problem. You can read my blog post about that here, if you are so inclined: http://www.jerrysnyderlaw.com/sensible-solutions/utility-regulation-is-hard. The point is that the Legislature has a demonstrated track record of being bad at utility regulation. If we require the state legislature to restructure the states utility industry, I have no confidence that they will be able to do so. The chances of this ending badly are much higher than the chances of it ending well.
Third, this initiative is backed by Sheldon Adelson, MGM Resorts, Switch, Walmart, and other large users of energy. Call me jaded, but I don’t think they are supporting this initiative so that you and I can enjoy green energy that is too cheap to meter. I think they are likely supporting because, under current rate structures, large commercial users subsidize residential users. If you take that subsidy out, the costs for residential users will increase. Opposing the initiative are many labor unions and environmental organizations.
Finally, if there is one guy in the state that you should listen to when it comes to clean energy policy, it is Bob Johnston at Western Resource Advocates. Here is what he says: “NV Energy has changed course on renewable energy and is proposing new solar projects that will double its current level of renewable generation by 2023. By taking NV Energy out of the electricity generation business at this critical juncture, passage of Question 3 not only will kill these important projects, but it is likely to create a cloud of legal and regulatory uncertainty that could chill the development of new renewable projects by anyone else over the next 4-5 years while the Legislature figures out the complicated details of restructuring Nevada’s electricity markets. We urge Nevadans to vote No on Question 3.”
There are many more detailed arguments on both sides. If you are curious or just plain dissatisfied with my analysis, please dig deeper. This issues are complex and warrant as much thought as you can spare.
Question 4 would provide that medical devices are exempt from sales tax. Again, I guess there is a general argument that we shouldn't tax people on necessities, like food. The counter argument is that we shouldn't erode the tax base by making various exemptions from a sales tax. These issues don't need much explanation. I will probably vote yes, but I don't feel terribly strongly.
However, I think it is worth pointing out the the general reason that we want to exempt certain items from sales tax is because we feel that it is unfair to place an undue tax burden on people who can least afford it. However, sales taxes by their very nature place a greater burden on poor people because people at the lower end of the economic spectrum spend a larger portion of their income on consumer goods.
In addition, sales tax revenue tends to be pretty volatile; it is tied to consumer spending, which is cyclical.
And this leads me to the reason why I will never be elected to political office in the State of Nevada: I think we should grow the fuck up and think about putting a state income tax into place.
Question 5 provides for automatic voter registration through the DMV. If a person applies for issuance or renewal of a driver’s license or ID, that person (if over 18) is automatically registered to vote, unless they elect not to be.
Look, I think we should make it as easy as possible to vote. The arguments against automatic registration are (1) it obliges people to register to vote, which they should be able to choose not to do, and (2) it will allow people who aren’t legally able to register to do so. These arguments are specious. First, under the express terms of the initiative, there must be a process to opt out. If you really don’t want to be registered, you can do so. Second, there is absolutely no evidence that automatic DMV registration will lead to an increase in any kind of voter fraud. Vote yes.
Question 6 would increase the state’s renewable portfolio standard (“RPS”), or the amount of electricity that electric utilities need to obtain from renewable sources, to 50% by 2030. Currently, about 20% of the energy supplied by NV energy comes from renewable resources. Under current law, that will increase to 25% by 2025. I strongly urge you to vote Yes on 6.
It is way past time to stop fucking around on climate change. Increasing the RPS portfolio obviously isn’t the whole solution, but it is a good sized step in the right direction. A 50% target seems like a bit of a challenge, but well within the scope of what can be accomplished by a society that has figured out how to get people to pay $6 for goddamn cup of coffee. PV solar is cost competitive with natural gas and coal. Storage technology is advancing quickly. Let’s make this happen.
Obviously, there are legitimate concerns. While the long term cost of solar and wind generation cost competitive with coal and natural gas, taking fossil fuel plants offline before their cost is fully amortized leaves Nevada Energy with stranded assets. Warren Buffet wont eat that cost with a grin; it will be passed on to rate payers. I don’t know how much of a burden that will actually impose, but it doesn’t seem unmanageable; after all, NV energy has stated that it intends to double its renewable portfolio in the coming years without impacting ratepayers; the burden posed by the additional renewable capacity cannot be that massive. Given that climate change poses an imminent and existential threat, I don’t care if I have to pay a little more every month.
WC-1 is a Washoe County ballot question that would increase property tax by about a quarter for every 1000 of assessed property value in order to pay for flood control initiatives.
I am almost always going to tell you that we need to pay for infrastructure, and this is no exception. The argument opposing this measure seems to be based on the notion that it is taxing all county residents for the benefit of only those folks that live on the Truckee River. That argument does not seem very persuasive to me; any infrastructure project is going to benefit some people more than others. It isn't really practical to pass a single omnibus bond question that contained all infrastructure projects for the next 10 years; we do that stuff piecemeal.
Three Nevada Supreme Court seats are up for election this year, but only two of these races are contested.
Elissa Cadish is running against Jerry Tao. I have known Judge Cadish since we both worked at Hale Lane back in the day. She is fair minded, she works hard, and she goes where the facts and the law lead her. Cadish has served as a district court judge in Las Vegas since 2007. Her opponent, Jerry Tao, has served on Nevada’s court of appeals since 2015 and was a trial court judge before that. He seems bright and experienced enough, but his campaign has been weirdly partisan; he published a campaign pamphlet stating: “Is the Court going to drift even further to the left, or can we change the direction? Do we want a Court that gets even more liberal, or can we make it one that follows the Constitution and believes in individual liberty?” This borders on an ethical violation, and it is, at the very least, inappropriate rhetoric in a judicial race. I strongly recommend Judge Cadish.
Abbi Silver is running unopposed.
Judge Lidia Stiglich is running against Judge Matthew Harter. Stiglich was a District Court Judge in Washoe County for several years before she was appointed to the appellate court. I have been impressed with her. She shows up prepared, she asks questions showing that she understands the law and has read the file, and her analysis is well-thought. She is exactly the kind of judge you want on the Nevada Supreme Court. Her, opponent, Judge Harter, is a family court judge in Las Vegas. I don’t know much about him, so I visited his campaign website. I’m not sure what I find more off-putting: his hyperbolic rhetoric; his not-so-veiled appeals to nativism and homophobia (“my opponent is a native of the San Francisco area, she moved to a home in Nevada in 2008 with her life partner”); or his regrettable graphic design choices. However, any one of these problems takes him out of serious consideration. I strongly recommend Judge Stiglich.
With respect to races for the Second Judicial District Court in and for the County of Washoe, Kathleen Drakulich, Egan Walker, and Barry Breslow are running unopposed for a new term.
Dixie Grossman who was appointed as a family court judge earlier this year is running against challenger Aaron Bushur. I don’t practice family law, so I can’t really claim any firsthand knowledge here. Bushur does not have a campaign website. Indeed, I have not been able to find any readily available source in which he articulates a basis for his candidacy. I don’t know, maybe he has kin what owns a sign company that he wanted to help out. In contrast, every family lawyer who I have spoken with on that matter has told me that Judge Grossman is the clear choice. So I am going to recommend her strongly.
State Constitutional Offices:
I’m just going to discuss the top two candidates for all constitutional offices. If you are really thinking about voting for Ryan Bundy, this is not the voter guide for you.
The governor’s race between Steve Sisolak (D) and Adam Laxalt (R) is polling within the margin of error, so this is one where every vote matters. And look, I get it. Progressives really wanted Chris G to win the nomination. Also, Sisolak kinda looks like he stepped out of central casting as the heavy in a movie where a plucky kid takes on corrupt city hall. When Sisolak was a regent, he was not really regarded as a friend to Northern Nevada. I don’t care. Vote for him anyway. Laxalt has, from the beginning, demonstrated nothing so much as a desire to do the bidding of the social conservative right. The list of issues on his website is a virtual laundry list of stupid ideas. Sisolak doesn’t offer much to get really excited about, but he at least seems to be reasonable pragmatic and sensible. I strongly recommend Sisolak.
For Lt. Governor, Kate Marshall (D) and Michael Roberson (R) are running for an open seat. Marshall was the State Treasurer from 2006 to 2014. She seemed to do that job competently. As a legislator, Roberson showed a lot more interest in partisan posturing than in legislative solutions. Strong recommendation for Marshall.
In the Attorney General’s race, Aaron Ford (D) is running against Wes Duncan (R). Duncan was Laxalt’s assistant attorney general. Ford is a State Senator. It seems to me that Duncan will represent a continuation of Laxalt as AG. I am just not terribly impressed; I don’t think Duncan has either the experience, the talent, or the political bent to make much of an AG. Ford’s personal story is amazing. Raised by a single mom, first one in his family to go to college, he obtained all the degrees (M.A., J.D., Ph.D). People who know him from his work as a Senator say he is bright, open minded, and works his ass off. Strongly recommend Ford.
For the Secretary of State race, Barbara Cegavske (R) is running for reelection against Assemblyman Nelson Araujo (D). I don’t know much about either candidate. From where I sit, it seems to me that the Secretary of State’s office is working fine, so I tend to think the person running it should keep doing so. But hey, I’m open to persuasion. Weak recommendation for Cegavske.
For State Treasurer, Zach Conine (D) faces Republican Bob Beers (R). Beers has enjoyed a long political career as a knee-jerk anti-tax gadfly. Conine seems to have no real political experience. I’ll take the new guy over the idiot any day. Strong recommendation for Conine.
For Controller, Ron Knecht (R) is facing Catherine Byrne (D). Knecht distinguished himself in 2015 by introducing a tax plan that, he said, would pay for Governor Sandoval’s educational program without raising taxes. It was totally crackheaded. Byrne is a CPA; that is about the extent of my knowledge. I will take a CPA who I do not know to be crackheaded over a known crackhead (just so we are clear, I am using that term colloquial. I don’t know anything about Mr. Knecht’s recreational drug use). Strong recommendation for Byrne.
City of Reno and Washoe County Races:
For Mayor, Hillary Schieve is running for reelection against Eddie Lorton. I think that Mayor Schieve has been an outstanding Mayor. She has been outspoken and active in supporting the arts, she has worked hard to make infrastructure improvements, and she has been reasonably fiscally disciplined, and she has generally been a decent and compassionate leader. I’m sure I don’t agree with everything she has done, but I am generally impressed.
In contrast, Lorton has been a passionate advocate for dumb ideas. From what I can tell, Lorton’s campaign is based on 3 policy positions. (1) The City of Reno should sell City owned land to retire city debt; (2) The City should solve the problem of homelessness by suing Washoe County, and (3) Space Whales are stupid. As Anjeanette Damon pointed out in the recent mayoral debate, the value of any City land that is unencumbered and reasonably available for sale is on the order of $20 million, not the $450 million claimed by Lorton. I don’t really see how suing the county helps either the homeless or City taxpayers; over half the population of Washoe County is in the City of Reno, even if a lawsuit shifted the financial burden to Washoe County, its really just taking money out of one pocket and putting into another. Finally, I think Space Whales are cool. Very strong recommendation for Schieve.
For City Council Ward 2, Naomi Duerr is running against Joe Lawrence. I think Ms. Duerr has been doing a fine job. Also, a couple years ago, she had a drink in my bar at Burning Man. So I know, as a point of fact, that I could grab a beer with her. Joe Lawrence has never raised a glass with me, at Burning Man or elsewhere. Strong recommendation for Duerr.
In City Council Ward 4, Paul McKenzie is running for reelection against former County Commissioner Bonnie Weber. I have found MacKenzie to be stubborn, non-responsive, and not very curious. I remember a particular workshop in which a local businessman asked questions about levels of police staffing. McKenzie stated, and I am close to quoting verbatim, that he “thought is was never appropriate to question police decisions.” Really??? The Council has no oversight role at all? Fuck that. Moreover, McKenzie approaches a problem with the assumption that he has already solved it; he is not very interested in hearing the concerns raised by the people he represents. On the other hand, Bonnie Weber is a conservative Republican. I can’t get excited about either candidate. Pick your poison, Ward 4. I was in that Ward, I might vote Weber. I’d rather have someone I disagreed with who I felt would listen occasionally.
For City attorney, Karl Hall is running for reelection against former city attorney John Kadlic. I don’t think that Hall has been an ideal City Attorney. This is not the moment in history to ask the plaintiffs in a sexual harassment lawsuit to disclose their sexual histories. Nonetheless, I can’t help but admire a guy who is willing to draw the ire of people who program the content on digital billboards. The problems that I hear people complain about with the City Attorney’s office certainly existed when Kadlic had that job. Finally, the folks who I have spoken to who have worked with both recommend Hall. Medium recommendation for Hall.
County Commission: I guess the most significant issue for me here is protection of public lands in light of the Washoe County Lands Bill, which I think is not a great idea. As such, I recommend Wolgast, Jung, and Judd.
Sheriff: Darin Balaam and Heidi Howe are running to replace Chuck Allen. I hear reasonably positive things about both. I like the idea of having a woman in a leadership position in such a traditionally male dominated field, so I’m likely to vote for Ms. Howe. Plus, it is really fun to say “Heidi Howe” in your best Mr. Hanky voice.
County assessor: Chip Evans just comes across as a smart guy who is devoted to public service.
Public Administrator: Verita Black Prothro has always impressed me. I’m not really sure what the public administrator does, but I have every confidence that she will do it well.
It is amazing to me that we vote for things like County Recorder and Treasurer. I don’t have strong feelings here, although people who I respect recommend the current recorder in strong terms. If anyone does, chime in.
Federal Congressional Candidates.
I’m not going to spend much time here, because it seems to me that most people have probably made up their mind based on party affiliation. I do think that the Republican Congress has been an absolute embarrassment. What called itself the “Party of Ideas” in 2014 and 1016 has failed to pass infrastructure legislation, has failed to do a thing to provide affordable access to health care, and has failed to address immigration reform. What they have done is pass a massive tax cut. If you think that was a good idea, then you must forevermore refrain from feigning a concern about the deficit.
Strongly recommend Rosen and Koble.