SCS Q&A with Bitch Magazine co-founder Andi Zeisler - If you’ve ever picked up a copy of Bitch Magazine, or in recent years shared one of the many viral-worthy posts from its Bitch Blog, you can thank Andi Zei...
4 hours ago
Republican Sen. John Ensign gives his first, full-length interview this morning since disclosing an affair last summer with a staffer, and says he is getting Republican requests to campaign in 2010, has no plans to resign and cannot understand the health care bill as it is written.
About the affair, Ensign said, “It’s something I deeply regret and wish I wouldn’t have done.”
He reiterated previous terrain -- that he made some calls to help the woman’s husband, Doug Hampton, one of his top aides at the time, land another job, but said he did nothing wrong and would comply with any federal investigations.
As for the belief that Ensign is hurting the embattled Republican Party in Nevada – Republican Rep. Dean Heller has said part of his decision not to challenge Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was because Ensign would be sidelined – the senator, who is not up for re-election, may indeed show up on the trail for Republican candidates.
“They want me involved in their campaigns,” Ensign said. “I want to be helpful, not hurtful.”
As a child, Kerry Bell dreamed of growing up to become a policeman -- both a police officer and a man.
Becoming a cop was relatively simple -- Bell joined the Bountiful Police Department 14 years ago. Becoming a man took more time.
Born female, Bell came out as transgender about a year and a half ago and started a transition to a new life as a man. He always had felt male, but did not think switching genders was a viable option until he saw transgender people gaining wider acceptance, along with advances in medical technology.
Surprisingly, the 42-year-old -- working in what many perceive as a super-macho culture -- says he did not fret about telling the police chief or his co-workers to start referring to him as "he," not "she."
"I wasn't worried about coming out at work," says Bell, who has had hormone treatments and surgeries. "I've worked for Bountiful for 14 years. I know everybody I work with."
Although some employees have trouble remembering to use masculine pronouns, Bountiful Police Chief Tom Ross says, "everyone's done a great job of accepting Kerry and staying focused on why we're here in the first place."
Bell, a corporal and SWAT member, is a "well-rounded police officer," Ross adds. "We're glad that he works here."
That many LGBT officers now serve openly at several Utah law-enforcement agencies speaks volumes to how far society has progressed, says Salt Lake City Capt. Kyle Jones, a founding member of the [LGBT Public Safety Committee].
"Twenty years ago, they wouldn't have been [welcome]," says Jones, who was inspired to get involved with the LGBT community after his son came out as gay. "The current crop of officers, by and large, don't give it a second thought."
Jones, along with other committee members, recruits potential new officers at the annual Utah Pride Festival for the Salt Lake City Police Department.
"Our department has tried for years to recruit from the populations that we represent," Jones says. "Anywhere from 8 to 12 percent of [Salt Lake City] is thought to be LGBT so we should have 8 to 12 percent of our cops who are LGBT."
The Administrative Office of the U.S. Courts reported that nationwide, bankruptcies for the fiscal year ended Sept. 30 surged 34.5 percent to 1.4 million -- with Nevada posting the highest rate in the nation.
Nevada led the nation in filings for the year with a rate of 10.49 per 1,000 people, well above the national rate of 4.52 filings per 1,000 people.
In 2008, Nevada was No. 2 in the nation with a filing rate of 6.39 per 1,000 people and the national rate was 3.38 filings per 1,000 population.
In Nevada in the 2009 fiscal year, bankruptcy filings totaled 27,560 -- up 64.5 percent from 2008.
Also, credit report company TransUnion.com issued third-quarter credit card delinquency statistics, with Nevada again leading the nation with a rate of 1.98 percent.
That's the ratio of bankcard borrowers 90 days or more delinquent on one or more of their credit cards and compares to the national rate of 1.1 percent.
The national rate was down from 1.17 percent in the second quarter.
Despite leading the nation in this category, Nevada's numbers improved from the second quarter (2.19 percent) and the first quarter (2.44) percent.
In terms of dollars, the average credit card balance in Nevada was down 3.16 percent from $6,517 in the second quarter as Nevadans reduced spending and banks limited lending.
TransUnion.com projected that by the end of the year, the rate in Nevada is expected to drop again -- yet still lead the nation at 1.9 percent. Nationwide, the rate is expected to remain steady through the fourth quarter at 1.1 percent.
The new forecast reflects slightly more optimism about credit card performance in Nevada and around the country. Just three months ago, the national rate was expected to hit 1.2 percent and Nevada's rate was expected to grow to 2.25 percent by the end of the year.
“These folks are pretty motivated to show up at events and carry signs, but they don’t quite get how to take that enthusiasm and put it into political action,” said Chuck Muth, a conservative activist and political consultant. “This is the next step for Tea Party activists. If they want to show up at rallies and complain about things, that’s fine. But now is the time to take their words and put them into action.”
Reno businessman Dana Allen, whose been active in local Tea Party rallies, has formed a committee to recruit volunteers for a potential recall petition against Raggio, a veteran lawmaker whose been the head of Senate Republicans since the 1980s.
Allen said he plans to file official recall documents this week. That would start a 90-day clock for collecting 14,281 valid signatures from voters in Raggio’s west Reno district to force a special recall election. [...]
Allen said the Tea Party activists, many of whom are [Ron] Paul supporters, are different from those who have failed to deliver in the past.
“It has gone farther than I was expecting,” Allen said of the Tea Party rallies. “They’ve helped create associations where people can start working together on things. This time is different.”
This has sent shockwaves through the markets, even though the problems in Dubai have been known about for two years,” Emil Wolter, a Hong Kong-based strategist the Royal Bank of Scotland, said. “But it is not the trigger for a brand-new crisis. Yes, the magnitude of the situation is dramatic for Dubai. But Dubai is not America — and a property crisis in Dubai will not cause the same global crisis as a property crisis in the States.”
Traders were also reacting to what might be, analysts said, given that the actual exposure of banks to the Duba debt is still unknown.
“Dubai is really a symptom, a legacy, from the previous boom, rather than symptomatic of a start of a whole new set of issues that are going to create a systemic crisis in emerging markets,” Kevin Grice, senior international economist at Capital Economics in London, said. “Markets assume the worst-case scenario.”
The uncertainty in Dubai did not suggest a coming collapse of the global real estate market, Mr. Grice said. [...]
Paul Schulte, head of multi-strategy research at Nomura in Hong Kong, commented in a note on Friday: “Dubai was a carbon copy of Thailand’s disastrous foray as an ‘international financial center’ in the 1990s. Happily, the U.A.E. has oil. Thailand did not.”
Like many Western consumers during the good times, Dubai gorged on debt and borrowed too much to finance a building boom that has gone bust in the downturn.
When credit markets froze last year, Dubai, like Iceland, found itself overextended. But Dubai, which has little oil, was backed by its Arab emirate neighbors, especially oil-rich Abu Dhabi — or so investors had assumed.
“Dubai was fairly much the worst example of overextension. It had the worst debt per capita in the world by far,” Christopher Davidson, an expert in Gulf politics at Durham University in Britain, said Thursday. “I would like to put it down as a really enormous white elephant that doesn’t have much in common with the regular economy of a regular state.”
Casino operator MGM Mirage said Friday that its CityCenter joint venture with Dubai World, the investment arm of the Dubai government, is not affected by Dubai World's request to delay repaying billions in debt and will still open on time.
Dubai World, which has about $60 billion in debt, said Wednesday it asked creditors if it could postpone forthcoming payments until at least May.
The news revived worries about bad debt and sparked concerns of a ripple effect around the global financial system. World markets dropped on Thursday when Wall Street was closed for the Thanksgiving holiday.
MGM representative Yvette Monet said in a statement that the joint venture is unaffected by Dubai World's announcement.
"CityCenter is fully funded, on schedule and ready to begin welcoming guests starting next week," Monet said.
CityCenter is an $8.5 billion casino complex in Las Vegas that is half-owned by Dubai World. The 67-acre development of plush resorts, condominiums, a retail mall and one casino on the Las Vegas Strip will start opening in phases on Tuesday.
Congresswoman [Diana] DeGette's comments - “I gotta tell you, last I heard we had separation of church and state. I don’t think the Catholic bishops are in charge of writing our healthcare bill. I think that they are one of many groups that we should listen to, but in the end they should be concerned that 36 million more people in this country will get healthcare. Many of them are their parishioners.”
[Family Research Council]'s version of her comments - “religiously-affiliated groups…should be shut out of the process” in the health care debate because of their support for the Stupak/Pitts amendment. She told The Hill, “Last I heard, we had separation of church and state in this country,” she said. “I’ve got to say that I think the Catholic bishops and all of the other groups shouldn’t have input.”
It was a narrowing of Catholic theology to strip issues like poverty and social justice from the forefront of the Church, and replace them with opposing abortion, gay marriage, and stem cell research. It was also a call to Catholic politicians: oppose abortion and gay marriage at all costs, or risk the threat of the Church denying you Communion and publicly tarring and feathering you as a sinner.
Bishop Tobin's action toward Rep. Patrick Kennedy doesn't have anything to do with gay marriage on its surface (Rhode Island doesn't allow gay marriage, and Rep. Kennedy has kept a relatively low profile on the issue). Rather, Rep. Kennedy's sin in the eyes of the church was voting against the Stupak amendment to the U.S. House's health care bill, and siding with reproductive rights activists.
But the question is that if the Church is now ready to do this on the issue of abortion, are they also ready to do this on the issue of gay marriage, an issue the Church says that they view with as much disgust? Do Massachusetts politicians who support gay marriage or abortion rights now have to wonder whether they'll be denied Communion at weekly mass? What about Catholics in Vermont, Iowa, Connecticut or New Hampshire?
Time will tell. But we've already seen bishops with the Catholic Church threaten to stop caring for the poor in Washington, D.C. over the issue of gay marriage. There's no reason to think that Church leaders won't head to even deeper depths, politicizing one of their oldest traditions in Communion to simply toe a line on gay marriage that is increasingly out of step with public opinion.
The hotel-casino had a grand opening celebration for its Rush Tower, the first new hotel tower to be added to the downtown area since Golden Nugget’s Carson Tower opened in 1989.
Mayor Oscar Goodman and Tilman Fertitta, president, chairman and chief executive of the Golden Nugget’s parent company, Landry’s Restaurants Inc., cut the ribbon in the Rush Tower lobby at a ceremony Monday evening while welcoming the news media, VIPs and Las Vegas notables.
Goodman praised Fertitta for investing in downtown Las Vegas and for his commitment to finishing the project, even through the economic downturn.
“When Tilman came to town, the two of us met and he said, ‘Mayor, I’m going to do for you what I’ve done for other parts of the country where we have our businesses and that is help you revitalize your downtown.’” Goodman said. “A lot of folks come see me in city hall and make promises and, unfortunately, many of them are unkept, but not his promise.”
The Golden Nugget officially welcomed its first guests to the $150 million Rush Tower on Friday. The 25-story, 500-room tower includes four penthouses, 70 junior corner suites and standard rooms that are 20 percent larger than the property’s other standard rooms. Guest rooms range from 439 square feet to one-bedroom parlor suites at 1,326 square feet.
In 2004, the Utah Legislature became one of the first in the country to enact a 10 percent tax on sexually explicit businesses in an effort to pay for sex offender treatment. The tax covered everything a sexually explicitly business sold -- admission, T-shirts and hamburgers included.
A group of escort agencies and strip clubs challenged the constitutionality of the law, saying it was overbroad and violated their First Amendment rights. Meanwhile, a host of other states held off on passing their own sexually explicit business taxes while the case made its way through Utah's court system.
The Utah Supreme Court ruled that the Sexually Explicit Business and Escort Services tax is not a violation of First Amendment rights but that it is unreasonably vague when it comes to escort services.
"The Tax fails to provide adequate information for a person of ordinary intelligence to distinguish between those types of compensated companionship that the Legislature intended would trigger application of the Tax and those that it intended would not," the court wrote.
Andrew McCullough, an attorney who represented the coalition of adult businesses, said if he can get his clients to agree, he will try to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court.
"The implication is that the Supreme Court said that they're not taxing dancing, they're taxing nudity. Frankly, that's just preposterous. They are taxing artistic expression and it's just wrong," he said.
McCullough acknowledged that getting the U.S. Supreme Court to hear any case is difficult, but he believes this one has merit.
"I think honestly, this one is going to be accepted because it's a very important, very unique and very new question and because there are in fact at least 12 other states out there who are going to be doing this soon based on the tenor of the decision here in Utah," he said.
Investor Carl Icahn today offered $141 million to buy Fontainebleau Las Vegas, outbidding Penn National Gaming.
Penn National has not yet disclosed whether it will offer a higher bid.
Icahn's bid was presented to Fontainebleau's bankruptcy judge today, and a hearing on the issue was under way in the afternoon Miami time.
Penn National last week offered $101.5 million -- $50 million in cash and a loan of $51.5 million.
An attorney for Fontainebleau, Scott Baena, told Bankruptcy Judge A. Jay Cristol today that Icahn initially offered a bid last week exceeding Penn's bid by $25 million. He said Penn National then matched that higher bid.
Icahn then offered another $10 million today, bringing his bid to $136 million, Baena said.
During today's hearing, an attorney for Penn National left and called his client, returning with a bid $500,000 higher than Icahn's and sweetening the deal with other provisions. An attorney for Icahn then countered by boosting Icahn's bid by $5 million to $141 million.
The Culinary Union heightened the drama in its fight with Station Casinos last week, blaming a management-led buyout for the company’s bankruptcy filing and aligning itself with the company’s creditors.
The union issued a detailed report on the company’s financial woes, arguing that Station could have avoided bankruptcy had it not pursued a $5.7 billion deal to take the company private in 2007. It concluded with a call for creditors to demand that Station’s owners reinvest a significant part of the profits from the deal to help the company recover.
The move is the latest chapter in the Culinary’s ongoing battle to organize the 13,000 workers of the nonunion casino giant, and piggybacks on a lawsuit filed by a group of aggrieved creditors that claim the company relied on unrealistic, rosy financial assumptions. [...]
Among the union’s findings: Company insiders, led by the Fertitta family, nearly tripled Station’s long-term debt from 2005 to 2007, borrowing money to buy back 14 million shares and complete the buyout. Forty percent of the proceeds — more than $660 million — went to company insiders. The Fertittas alone received $495 million.
“Clearly, the owner-managers and other insiders were more interested in extracting wealth from the company for themselves than ensuring its and its employees’ future,” said D. Taylor, Culinary secretary-treasurer. “Now it’s time for them to give back.”
Nevada’s unemployment rate leveled out a bit in October, at 13 percent.
The state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation said Friday that a dip in the state jobless rate from September’s record high of 13.3 percent was the first month-to-month decline since November 2005.
Unemployment dropped from 13.9 percent in September to 13 percent in October with 129,700 persons out of work in Clark County. In September there were 141,000 jobless.
By comparison, the jobless rate in October 2008 was 7.5 percent with 76,400 jobless.
The state Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation reported that the Nevada rate dropped from 13.3 percent in September to 13 percent in October with 175,300 out of work.
Department economist Bill Anderson said the last time the state saw a month-to-month decline in the unemployment rate was in November 2005.
“As we head into the holiday season, this is welcome news,” said Anderson. “However it is not a reason to be overly optimistic. The state’s well-chronicled economic difficulties are far from over.”
[He] said consumer spending both by residents and tourists will be a key to any recovery in the state.
“Consumers have been hard-hit by this downturn and may continue to exercise caution in the early stages of a recovery,” Anderson said. “As a result, Nevada may lag the national rebound, given the relatively important role that consumer spending, especially discretionary spending, plays in our economy.”
Separately, however, the bill includes $100 million for hurricane-hit Louisiana — an extra Republicans pounced on Thursday as special treatment for Democratic Sen. Mary Landrieu, whom Reid has been courting as one of the final votes needed to advance the bill during Saturday’s vote.
Actually, as ABC News first reported, the $100 million goes for “certain states recovering from a major disaster” in the past seven years, noting that only one state fits that description.
In the halls this afternoon, the provision was being called the “Louisiana purchase.” [...]
Reid’s office dismissed the criticism, saying the Republican campaign arm is trying to have it both ways — criticizing Reid when he secured the deal, and again now for delivering full funding for all states, including hard-hit Louisiana.
“As a result of his work for Nevada, he was able to help the entire country,” [Reid spokesguy Jon] Summers said.
The increased Medicaid funding Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid initially scored for Nevada is now being proposed for all 50 states in his new health care bill.
The bill also includes a separate, $100 million bonus for hurricane-stricken Louisiana, the state whose senator is one of the Democratic holdouts on advancing the legislation.
Reid came under fire earlier from Republicans for having secured the special Nevada deal last month. But the majority leader proudly defended the move saying repeatedly he made “no apologies” for helping his home state with full Medicaid funding. Reid helped Nevada and three others suffering from high unemployment. [...]
Now, in the bill unveiled this week, Reid is offering 100-percent funding for Medicaid expansion in all states for the first three years of the program.
“As he worked on this issue for Nevada, he saw other states needed help as well,” said Reid spokesman Jon Summers. “The fact that he took action for Nevada and was able to extend it to other states is significant.”
Reno has a $3.5 million shortfall in the current $180 million general fund budget and can expect another gap of at least $9.35 million in the budget for the year that starts July 1, the city council learned Wednesday.
After getting the bad news, Mayor Bob Cashell asked for one or two council members to be involved in building the budget rather than the council getting a report few days ahead of a meeting.
“This next year is going to be ugly,” Cashell said.
The anticipated 2010-11 shortfall would include a property tax revenue decline of about $2½ million, with the rest from revenue sources used in 2009-10 that won’t be available again.
“The funds just won’t be there,” Jill Olsen, interim finance director, said of money in risk management, contingency, health insurance and workers compensation accounts.
This year, Reno Police Protective Association members agreed not to take a cost-of-living raise in 2010-11, and other employees gave up raises or other benefits equal to their 4.2 percent raises this year.
Of the $3.5 million shortfall in 2009-10, $1.5 million is expected to be needed to pay retiring firefighters. Under their contract, they are paid for up to 79 days of unused vacation.
More than 57 firefighters have more than 25 years service. Tim Alameda, interim fire chief, said many may retire soon.
To erase part of the $3.5 million shortfall, Olsen said she will use $600,000 from the parks department and $600,000 set aside some years ago for a Reno emergency command center.
Nevada’s tax system hits hardest at low and middle-income wage earners and gives the rich a break, according to a new tax study.
Nevada’s tax system is the nation’s eighth most regressive, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy said in the study released today. [...]
Bob Fulkerson, executive director of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada, says the study by the institute shows Nevada’s tax structure “soaks the worker and coddles the wealthy.” He said the multi-millionaires or multi-national corporations, such as big-box discounters and gold mining companies pay less in taxes and ship their profits out of state.”
The progressive leadership alliance has strongly pushed for improving services to the poor and lower income citizens in Nevada.
The study says that those who make less than $21,000 a year pay 8.9 percent of their income in state and local taxes in such levies as sales, gas, cigarettes, alcohol and property taxes. Compared to those who earn $574,000 or more, the tax burden is 1.6 percent of their income.
Middle income earners in the $34,000 to $53,000 category shell out 6.4 percent of their income in taxes.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid has convened a late-evening meeting tonight of the Democratic caucus to present to fellow senators the $849 billion health care reform bill he has been crafting behind closed doors for weeks.
After an intense day of talks, including a huddle with Vice President Joseph Biden, Reid emerged from the east doors of the Senate chamber at 5 p.m. for the short walk across the hall to the room where senators were assembling. A giant monitor was set for Reid's power-point presentation.
An aide said the $849 billion bill Reid had crafted would reduce the federal deficit by $127 billion in 10 years, and would ensure 94 percent of Americans would be covered by insurance at that time. The bill's price tag is less than the nearly $1.1 trillion bill passed by the House earlier this month.
Another Democrat, Oregon Senator Ron Wyden, said his support for proceeding is in doubt unless the government-run insurance program, or public option, is included in the plan.
“I’m not going to support a bill that’s a competition-free zone,” Wyden told reporters yesterday.
... [I]n order for this bill to break through the delays and gain enough momentum for final passage, HR 3017 needs more cosponsors.
Lambda Legal filed a federal lawsuit in U.S. District Court in Tucson today to block a move to strip gay and lesbian state employees of domestic partner benefits.
"This is an issue of equal pay for equal work," said Tara Borelli, staff attorney for Lambda Legal. "By stripping away these vital benefits from loyal state employees, the state isn't just paying them less for the same work than their heterosexual colleagues - it's pulling away a vital lifeline that all workers need. This is simply cruel and saves the state next to nothing."
Lambda Legal represents 10 state employees - including from the Arizona Highway Patrol, the State Department of Game and Fish and state universities - who rely on health benefits from their employers to keep their families safe.
Arizona's domestic partner benefits for gay and lesbian public employees were adopted in the fall of 2008 under the leadership of former Governor Janet Napolitano, who left in January 2009 to become Secretary of the Department of Homeland Security. This summer Arizona legislators approved a budget bill with a provision revoking the benefits while retaining the comparable health benefits for heterosexual public workers. Current Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed it.
The most important advice is to stay in touch. People are frightened. None of us here in Nevada have experienced such a challenging economy. Next year is going to be every bit as challenging as 2009.
Elected officials need to be very candid with the public, say, ‘Look, there is no quick fix here. There is no magic elixir that will immediately transform us from a difficult recession to an overnight recovery.’
Some of this is going to take time. Some of the things the Congress has done make some sense, like extending unemployment benefits. If there’s a silver lining to this, hopefully some lessons may be learned.
I still think that the fact we are so dependent on tourism as an industry, strong as the industry is here, continues to make the point that we’ve got to diversify and broaden our base. That’s not new, but it comes back: Our economy really is more vulnerable to an economic cycle because we’re so dependent on tourism.
The revenue structure has got to be revised. It’s got to be broadened with a broad-based business tax. It may not be politically doable, but it’s got to be done.
Are you optimistic for the future of your grandchildren in Nevada?
I am optimistic. There’s an entrepreneurial side that runs through the state’s history, from mining to easy divorces to casino gaming. Now it could be energy.
What do you think of Sen. Harry Reid’s reelection chances?
He has a very difficult race, but never count him out. My prediction is that he wins in a hard-fought contest.
Four groups that for more than 30 years have fought for anti-abortion legislation say they are opposed to a proposed constitutional amendment aimed at banning abortions.
Janine Hansen, president of Nevada Eagle Forum, says that while the backers of the initiative petition have good intentions it will not stop abortions.
The Forum, the Independent American Party, Nevada Families and Nevada Life issued a statement opposing the “Personhood” initiative petition, saying the proposed constitution amendment “is so vague and general that it may not even apply to abortion at all.”
They said, “This amendment will harm the Pro-Life movement by giving pro-abortion courts more power to decide all matters relations to abortion, such as parental notification, informed consent and taxpayer funding of abortion.”
Richard Ziser, a spokesman for the “Personhood” plan, said that's another opinion and "everybody has their own.” He said those who drew up the initiative petition believe it is clear.
Ziser said this was a peoples’ amendment, not the courts.
Penn National Gaming Inc. on Monday made a $50 million "stalking horse" bid to buy the stalled Fontainebleau casino-resort in Las Vegas, with plans to spend another $1.46 billion to complete the project.
Penn's offer, filed in Miami's bankruptcy court, sets in place an auction process in which other investors will have an opportunity to bid for the property.
Fontainebleau also said in a court motion Monday that Penn National and unnamed lenders have agreed to provide $51.5 million in debtor-in-possession financing to cover its costs since filing for bankruptcy and to keep the company afloat during the sales process.
Court papers indicated Penn National has committed $50 million to buy the project, less unspecified "remediation costs" and costs to cure defaults on leases and contracts it would inherit.
The Penn affiliate offering to buy the project is Nevada Gaming Ventures Inc. Penn for some time has been looking at opportunities to enter the Las Vegas gambling market, the nation's largest.
But attorneys for Fontainebleau said they're hopeful Monday's bid is not the only offer for the project, which was developed by affiliates of Miami-based Turnberry Associates. Turnberry is known in Las Vegas for developing high-rise luxury condominiums and the Town Square Shopping Center.
"The debtors are both hopeful and optimistic that finalizing the purchase agreement marks the beginning of a competitive sale process that will drive substantial incremental value to the debtors' estates and their creditors over and above the purchase price offered by Nevada Gaming Ventures," Fontainebleau attorneys said in Monday's court filing.
Once valued at $2.9 billion, $1.675 billion has been borrowed against the 3,815-room Fontainebleau, where construction shut down this summer after Bank of America and other big banks canceled a loan agreement because of cost overruns and other problems.
Pressing to begin the Senate's landmark floor debate on healthcare legislation this week -- and to finish by the end of the year -- Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) is considering new ways to fund the bill by raising the payroll taxes that upper-income workers pay for Medicare.
Reid is studying the idea, senior Democratic aides say, because of criticism of a plan approved by the Senate Finance Committee that would impose new taxes on insurance companies that offer expensive healthcare plans. [...]
Labor unions and other critics say the Cadillac tax would hit too many middle-income consumers whose health premiums are high because they live in high-cost areas, not because the plans offer luxury benefits.
Reid, who is facing a tough reelection campaign with the strong backing of organized labor, is exploring ways to scale back the Cadillac tax. He is considering the Medicare payroll tax hike to make up for the revenue that would be lost if the Cadillac tax applied to fewer plans.
Under the current system of financing the Medicare hospital insurance trust fund, employers and employees pay a tax of 1.45% on wages.
Reid is reportedly considering increasing the rate about half a percentage point for workers earning more than $250,000 a year.
Some Democrats and analysts see the proposals as a way to offset the cost of the healthcare bill, shore up the Medicare trust fund -- and keep the burden of both efforts on upper- income people.
Another approach under consideration would expand the tax to cover unearned income, such as capital gains, not just wages.
Sandoval, who has been seen as a moderate vulnerable to Mike Montandon and Jim Gibbons on the right, is being feted by some very conservative folks, including at least two members of the Reno Tea Party (George and Jo Ritter). The event is hosted by Washoe Commissioner Bonnie Weber of the well-known conservative Weber family and ex-GOP Chairwoman Earlene Forsythe (Incestuous NV note: Her son-in-law, Steve Wark, is Montandon's chief political adviser.) at the Forsythe's Reno home. The list also includes Mendy Elliott, an ex-Gibbonsite just forced from her second state job.
Not sure this event isn't more about showing he can appeal to the right than raise a lot of cash (donations are suggested at $250).
And the quote on the invite from Sandoval gives me a reason to believe again: "These are trying times that require unique leadership, a roll up your sleeves and fight to get Nevada working again type mentality. That's why I'm running for governor."
I'm all lachrymose here.
State Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, said today he is taking a run at the Clark County Commission seat that Rory Reid is vacating.
Parks, 65, said he hopes to use his four decades of government experience to tackle the county’s pressing budget problems.
Parks is the third to declare candidacy for the District G seat. Former Clark County School Board member Mary Beth Scow and Greg Esposito, a planning commissioner, entered the race last month.
Reid is running for governor.
Nevada had 13,842 foreclosure filings, which was a 26 percent decline from September. Filings fell 4.4 percent from October 2008.
The firm reported one filing for every 80 households in October. Nationwide, foreclosure filings fell 3 percent from September, but were up 19 percent compared with October 2008.
In Nevada, notices of default on home payments dropped 10 percent from October 2008 and scheduled foreclosure auctions were down 6 percent. Bank repossession, however, rose 8 percent in October.
RealtyTrac spokesman Daren Bloomquist said a new state mediation program implemented July 1 may have caused the declines in Nevada because it slowed the flow into the foreclosure pipeline. Under the program, homeowners have the option of going through mediation with lenders.
Recently, the non-profit National Consumer Law Center released a report saying that none of the foreclosure mediation programs they reviewed (a list which does not include Nevada) are providing significant benefits to homeowners. [...]
Why? Because the existing programs routinely fail to impose significant obligations on mortgage servicers, according to the article.
In contrast, Nevada's Foreclosure Mediation Program gives homeowners facing foreclosure the option to request a mandatory foreclosure mediation session. This means someone from the mortgage company with authority to negotiate must attend the foreclosure mediation session. Additionally, Nevada has now trained a number of professional foreclosure mediators who also sit in on and participate in the foreclosure mediation session.
It would be great if the other states could create laws with similar teeth in them. And it would be even better if Congress or the Treasury could come up with uniform protections and solutions for homeowners. However, the mortgage industry's lobby is strong. And according to the NCLC report:
"It is unfortunate that the [mortgage] industry has so far prevailed in blocking Congressional action on court-ordered loan modifications, the one step that would level the playing field for consumers and ensure the necessary accountability from all parties....With the industry's encouragement, crucial elements of accountability have been omitted from the Treasury Department's Home Affordable Modification Program (HAMP). Now, over six months after its inception, this new federal initiative serves only a small percentage of eligible homeowners."
The important takeaway, for now, is that Nevada homeowners have some unique tools at their disposal.
Nevada Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley testified today before the [California Assembly Banking & Finance Committee], stating that she believes Californians can benefit from a program similar to the one she sponsored in Nevada. “No matter where we live, it is critical that we do all we can to help reduce the number of foreclosures and help people stay in their homes. Our program in Nevada has shown initial success in stemming foreclosures. While I understand the obstacles California faces as a non-judicial foreclosure state, I look forward to working with the California Legislature to find ways that a similar program could be implemented, said Speaker Buckley.”
Over the next several weeks, Assemblymember [Pedro] Nava [D-Santa Barbara] will analyze the testimony given at the hearings regarding loan mediation programs and work with stakeholders to determine how to best move forward to address the current crisis and lessen the detrimental impact on California families.
“I am honored to have Nevada Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley at the State Capitol today to testify on her successful foreclosure mediation program. I look forward to working with her as we make progress with California’s own monitored mortgage workout program,” said Nava.
Executives with MGM Mirage and Las Vegas Sands have recently said their companies are booking more rooms in 2010 for convention groups on the heels of a record bad year for convention business. The convention business could return to pre-recession levels by the second half of 2010 or 2011, which would allow MGM Mirage to significantly boost room rates and company profits, the company said. [...]
Industry consultant Bill Lerner of Union Gaming Group has a similarly bullish outlook based on an expected 5 percent increase in visitors to Las Vegas atop a 4 percent increase in available hotel rooms — an estimate that assumes that certain rooms won’t be available for rent until later in the year. In that category he includes the under-construction Cosmopolitan and Vdara, a condo-hotel at CityCenter where buyers may be reluctant or unable to close escrow.
“You’re seeing stabilization in the business and that’s underscored by the end of meaningful declines in visitation, smaller declines in gaming revenue and hotel rate declines that aren’t worse than previous quarters,” Lerner said.
MGM Mirage’s Las Vegas properties were among the most highly occupied on the Strip in the third quarter, though at lower rates than some of their competitors at the high end. Overall, the company’s hotel occupancy was 95 percent, same as the year-ago quarter, but at rates that were $31 less, on average.
By comparison, Wynn and Encore combined were 84 percent full compared with 96 percent last year, and at rates that were $62 less, on average. Venetian and Palazzo combined were 88 percent full compared with 93 percent last year, and rates were $46 less, on average. It’s a sign of how far the Strip’s megaresorts have fallen since the boom years, when hotels abandoned the age-old strategy of practically giving away rooms to lure gamblers and embraced a new business model of companywide profit centers.
The third quarter contains two of the slowest business months of the year for Las Vegas, when the summer heat keeps visitors away and prices low. A smaller year-over-year decline in Strip gaming revenue in September than previous months, and a 5 percent increase in Las Vegas visitors in September, are positive signs that the bottom could be near.