Sunday, February 28, 2010

NV-Sen: Reid Takes Lead in 3-Way R-J Poll, Still Isn't "Dead"

I never thought I'd say this... But it looks like The R-J coughed up a poll with Harry Reid leading. While the two-way race between Reid and either of the GOP front runners still looks lousy according to The R-J, we all know now that this will be at least a three-way race after all with the Tea Party forming its own splinter group with its own candidate. Right after they talked about how far down Reid is in their poll, they managed to spit this out...

But the polling done for the Las Vegas Review-Journal also shows this year's U.S. Senate race could undergo a major shake-up if a Tea Party candidate gets involved.

It would be a new ballgame, and Reid would be the big beneficiary.

A disaffected conservative running under the Tea Party banner would drain support from a Republican candidate, according to polling of a three-way contest.

In that case, Reid would draw 36 percent of voters, while the Republican nominee would get 32 percent and the Tea Party candidate 18 percent if the election were held today.

And according to CQ Politics, Reid even has a lead among independents with another 30% of them undecided in the three-way match-up. OK, so maybe the Tea Party won't really draw this much support in November... Or maybe they will? We don't know for sure, but whatever the case all the news from this month shows that our Senate race is still very fluid and Harry Reid really can't be counted out.

Oh, and here's another reason not to count Reid out. One of his good friends, who happens to be one of Nevada's biggest employers, is promising to be of help.

In an interview after President Barack Obama's first visit to CityCenter on Friday, Murren used strong words to make it clear he would not only remain loyal to Reid for his efforts to save MGM Mirage's $8.5 billion project but he would take on those trying to remove Reid from office.

"I think it's un-Nevadan, unpatriotic, to go against Senator Reid and I will call out those who try," the MGM Mirage chairman and CEO told Vegas Confidential after the world premiere of Cirque du Soleil's "Viva Elvis."

And for better or for worse, the casinos still hold a hell of a lot of sway in Nevada politics. If the Republicans can't lean on them for help, then they're screwed with this Senate race.

And you've been wondering why I keep saying it's unwise to bet against Harry Reid in this state?

Friday, February 26, 2010

Crazy Fun Video Night: EXTRA DIVA!

Are you fierce enough to handle this?

And because I know you want it even fiercer!

Happy Weekend! :-D

ACTION ALERT: Ask the Legislature to Keep the NV Equal Rights Commission Enforcing Our Laws!

I just got an alert from HRC Las Vegas on this. Please read my letter to our legislators below, followed by HRC's and ACLU Nevada's explanation of why it's important to keep the NERC doing its job.

Hello. My name is Andrew Davey, and I'm a registered voter in Henderson. I'm writing today regarding the budget and the proposal by Governor Gibbons to eliminate the Nevada Equal Rights Commission (NERC).

While eliminating this important commission may be considered "penny wise", it's absolutely "pound foolish". Without it, all of Nevada's anti-discrimination laws will be rendered meaningless. Without it, many thousands of Nevadans will be at risk of all types of wrongful discrimination. And especially since SB 207 (passed last year) stipulates that the NERC handles anti-gay discrimination cases, there will be no enforcement mechanism to protect people being discriminated against because of their sexual orientation.

Another reason why eliminating the NERC will be "pound foolish" is that it won't really save the state money. All this would do is shift the burden of handling these racial and gender discrimination cases to the already overburdened Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) and/or the state courts.

The NERC has proven to be a way to resolve employment and public accommodation discrimination cases, and it's very helpful in reducing the load of law suits being filed in state courts. And for LGBTQ Nevadans, this is the only way to resolve anti-gay discrimination in this state. Again, please don't allow Governor Gibbons to abolish the NERC in this special session.

Thank you.

Andrew Davey
My Address
Henderson, NV 89074
(702) My Phone

As part of his budget cuts, Governor Gibbons has proposed to eliminate the Nevada Equal Rights Commission (NERC), the state agency responsible for enforcement of Nevada's civil rights and anti-discrimination law.  This proposal is not acceptable.  It would have dire consequences for civil rights across the board, especially for LGBT rights.

*           Eliminating NERC would make the passage of SB207, the bill that provided protection against discrimination in places of public accommodation based on sexual orientation, meaningless. Without NERC, there is no enforcement mechanism and no relief for victims of anti-gay discrimination.

*           This is not just a severe danger for LGBT rights: NERC extends important resources that the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) is simply too overburdened to grant to Nevadans who have claims that include sex discrimination in employment, or racial discrimination in places of public accommodation. 

The NERC provides a forum for mediation and other less formal methods of resolving employment and public accommodation discrimination claims - frequently without going to state court.  The elimination of NERC would undoubtedly lead to more filings in state court - which of course should be weighed in any serious cost savings analysis.

Please join with us in calling on legislators to resist attempts to balance the budget at the expense of our civil rights.  Call or email your legislators now!  The legislature will vote on eliminating the NERC this weekend.

 1)    Contact Leadership in the Nevada Legislature:
Steven Horsford, Sen Majority Ldr:
Bill Raggio, Senate Minority Leader:
Barbara Buckley, Speaker of the Assembly:
John Oceguera, Assembly Majority Floor Ldr:
Heidi Gansert, Assembly Minority Ldr:

2)   Contact your state legislators:
Go to this link to identify your state legislators -
Email your State Legislator 

Human Rights Campaign
Las Vegas Steering Committee

Only in Vegas: Want an Encore Beach Club Job? Come in Your Swimsuit!

Well, at least Wynn Resorts is engaging in a little job creation...

Wynn Resorts announced today that it will be hiring 400 people for a new nightclub and pool complex at Encore Las Vegas.

The resort will be begin accepting applications Saturday for Encore’s new nightclub, Surrender, and the Encore Beach Club. Group interviews will begin on March 11.

Positions will include cocktail servers, bartenders, hosts, promoters, lifeguards, pool attendants, security, as well as other positions.

Wynn Resorts Chairman and Chief Executive Steve Wynn first released the details of the 60,000-square-foot venue during Thursday’s earnings conference call. Wynn said the Encore Beach Club is scheduled to open May 21 but it is unclear when Surrender when open.

The company ripped out the Encore porte-cochere in November to being work on what it called an “entertainment complex.” Wynn said the ornate porte-cochere was built with the idea that projects like El-Ad’s Plaza Hotel and Boyd Gaming’s Echelon would be across the street.

“We turned it into something that will produce revenue,” Wynn said.

This should be interesting. And honestly, I'm at least a little interested in seeing the place when it opens... OK, and this is piquing my interest a little more!

The Encore Beach Club and Surrender Nightclub, debuting Memorial Day weekend, begins accepting applications tomorrow, February 27, for 400 positions. Group interviews will begin March 11. Applicants must apply at to be considered. The 60,000-square-foot venue is seeking to hire Las Vegas' finest service personnel for the new entertainment complex at Encore at Wynn Las Vegas.

Positions to be filled at the venue include: model cocktail servers, model bartenders, hosts, promoters, lifeguards, pool attendants, security and more. Model classification candidates are required to interview in swimwear and will be required to present a zed card/headshot upon check-in. All other applicants should come in a fitted t-shirt or tank top. [Emphasis mine.]

Hey, this is still "Sin City"! People here like their LUST.

It's just too bad for Las Vegas that the best way to get a job these days is to sport six-pack abs... Or is it? (When is this place opening, again?) ;-)

Why Doesn't Suzy Lowdown Like Jobs?

Sorry, but this one is just too good to pass up. I have to get a start on my "weekend activities", so for now enjoy this juicy tidbit from NV Elephant Watch:

Lowden opposes job creation and tax cuts, but loves big bonuses

Sue Lowden opposes tax cuts for small businesses and efforts to create jobs in Nevada.

What she doesn't oppose is a $200,000 bonus for her husband the same year her gaming company cut a quarter of its work force and axed the 401(k) contribution while her family took home a $1 million paycheck.

Lowden joined embattled Republican Sen. John Ensign in taking a stand against the Jobs Bill, which would cut taxes for small businesses and create jobs, in response to criticism of her job-killing history as a Las Vegas casino boss.

The same year Sue Lowden's company slashed pensions and cut its work force, the Lowdens made $1 million, including a $200,000 bonus for Paul Lowden.

Taking home $1 million a year including hefty bonuses, the Lowdens don't have to worry about job creation like the maids, dealers and servers who no longer work in their casino do. And considering Sue Lowden's record as a job-killing casino owner, it should come as no surprise that she opposes a bill to create jobs for ordinary Nevadans -- a bill that 13 Republican Senators voted for. Those Republicans were willing to put American jobs first and partisan politics second. But if you look at Lowden's record rather than her rhetoric, it's clear how much she values the kind of jobs that don't bring in seven figures for her and her husband.

The Jobs Bill Lowden opposes, which was endorsed by the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, will:

• Save 1 million jobs and invest in our nation's infrastructure
• Cut payroll taxes for business that hire workers who have been out of work for more than 60 days
• Give a tax credit for businesses that hire new workers and keep them on staff for at least a year
• Help small businesses grow by allowing them to write off investments

Thursday, February 25, 2010

LATE BREAKING: Harrah's Owners Start Buying Palms Debt, But George Maloof Denies Plans for Harrah's Takeover

Major H/T to Steve Friess for this BIG scoop! First, The Financial Times reported on this major bombshell to drop...

Texas Pacific Group, one of the private equity sponsors of Harrah’s Entertainment, has been accumulating a stake in Palms Casino’s fully drawn USD 380m revolver, two sources close to the situation and a lender told Debtwire. The investment points toward a systematic strategy by Harrah’s to acquire other casinos through their distressed debt, said a buyside source.

TPG and Apollo Management – Harrah’s other sponsor – just completed the acquisition of the Planet Hollywood casino-hotel built around their purchase of a USD 140m chunk of the casino-hotel’s junior interest debt at a deep discount last summer. Palms, which is owned by the Maloof family, is in the middle of negotiations with lenders to cure a covenant breach, creating a potential takeover opportunity for anyone with a blocking stake in the debt.

TPG started buying bank debt issued by Palms parent company Fiesta Palms in the 40s and kept buying all the way to present levels in the 70s, said multiple buyside sources. A USD 42.75m slice of the revolver that was put up for auction and sold last week in the mid-70s but it remains unclear who the buyer was, said a source close to the situation.

And considering Palms' rough 2009 earnings (total EBITDA was only $12 million, compared to $70 million in 2007), continued vacancy problems at Palms Place (supposedly hovering around 33% occupancy late last year), and outstanding debt issues, it was starting to look like this would become a (yet another) prime Harrah's takeover target...

But George Maloof spoke with Steve Friess today and did his best to shoot down any takeover rumors...

I just hung up with George Maloof, who cast doubt on the Financial Times' report that Harrah's has been buying up Palms debt by saying, flat-out: "They're not going to take over my company. It’s so far remote."

Maloof refused to get into any more specifics, repeatedly saying that they're a private company and that they never commented on their financials. I asked whether the Palms had taken a hit during the recession and he answered: "We haven’t been immune to it but we’re doing much better. 2009 was tough for everyone. We’ve been doing much better."

Now neither George Maloof nor Steve Friess was able to get a comment on this from anyone at Harrah's, so we don't really know yet what their intentions are. The Financial Times speculated that Harrah's would likely end The Palms' celebrity playground reputation by relaunching it as a mid-market "Middle America" kind of place if they were to take over. I'm sure that must have horrified The Palms' people, since they've worked hard to brand their resort as "the ultimate infamous party palace" ever since MTV taped "The Real World: Las Vegas" there in 2001.

So for now, it looks like The Palms won't be joining the Harrah's family any time soon. Stay tuned...

Casinos: Wynn Resorts Loses $0.04 Per Share in Q4, Misses Wall Street Expectations, Prepares for Expansion in Macau & Philly

So Wynn's earnings are now in, and it's looking more like a mixed bag that Wall Street isn't too enthusiastic about.

Wynn Resorts, a Las Vegas-based casino operator run by billionaire Steve Wynn, has had a tougher time getting luxury customers to pay top dollar for trips and entertainment at its high-end resorts in Las Vegas.

But strong results in Macau, the Chinese gambling enclave, helped offset losses in Sin City, and the company's profit and revenue beat analyst expectations.

Here's a summary of Wynn Resorts' fourth-quarter results for 2009 compared with the same quarter a year earlier:

- NET REVENUE: $809.3 million, up from $614.3 million in fourth quarter 2008

- NET LOSS: $5.2 million, smaller than the $159.6 million loss a year earlier.

- CASINO REVENUE: $591.8 million, up from $455.9 million

- HOTEL REVENUE: $92.7 million, up from $75 million

- FOOD AND BEVERAGE REVENUE: $106.1 million, up from $83.1 million

- OPERATING COSTS: $763.8 million, up from $614.6 million

- LONG-TERM DEBT: $3.6 billion

- FULL-YEAR NET INCOME: $20.7 million, down from $210.5 million in 2008.

Apparently the revenue numbers beat Wall Street estimates, but earnings did not. Oh, and Steve Wynn is still not in a patriotic mood. He's still trashing President Obama here while praising the Communist regime in China.

Steve Wynn said he's not optimistic about Las Vegas until the economy improves for working Americans -- and for companies that book meetings in Sin City.

''I'm afraid to say that I think the outlook for 2010 is very conservative,'' he said. ''I don't see any major change in the future. I don't see it getting worse per se, but I do think that unless there is some signal from Washington that they can control the deficits, that not only Las Vegas but the country faces dire problems.''

Excluding one-time items, Wynn Resorts earned $10.3 million, or 8 cents per share, for the fourth quarter, which ended Dec. 31. Analysts forecast profit of 7 cents per share.

Its net revenue was $809.3 million, compared with $614.3 million a year earlier. Analysts expected revenue of $785 million.

Wynn's revenue per available room, a key metric for lodging companies, was $233 in Macau, 2.9 percent less than a year earlier. In Las Vegas, it was $178, which was 20.6 percent less than in the fourth quarter of 2008.

The company's quarterly operating income of $89 million in China's gambling enclave, Macau, made up for operating losses of $56.7 million in Las Vegas.

''We're more of a Chinese company than American company today as we're having this call,'' Wynn said. ''I love it. Thank God for being outside the United States today. There isn't an executive in the world that isn't thrilled about being outside the United States today.''

HUH??!! Again, Steve Wynn just doesn't get politics... Or for that matter, macroeconomics. Deficits don't matter if people are still without jobs!

Whatever... Back to Wynn Resorts' earnings report.

So Wynn is planing on Encore Macau opening in April. And so far, Wynn Resorts remains very bullish on its prospects in China.

Oh, and we now have more details on the planned Wynn project in Philadelphia. It will be a Wynn branded casino. However, it will NOT include a hotel. It will be targeting mostly customers/gamblers in the greater Philly area, so it's looking like Wynn's planning on more of a "locals' casino" for Philly than a real destination resort a la Wynn/Encore Las Vegas or Wynn/Encore Macau. And supposedly, we'll hear even more details of the Philly project later.

So what can we conclude from this? Wynn's Las Vegas operations are slowly improving and moving back toward a regular profit, but it's not quite there yet. And if it weren't for Wynn's Chinese operations, its situation would be much worse.

And Harrah's turned a profit last quarter that no one else, not even Wynn, could match.

CityCenter... Revisited

I'm sure y'all remember what happened last year when I shared my honest opinions on CityCenter. So have things changed? What's happening so far in 2010?

Well, it looks like MGM Mirage is surviving with it so far. The company's overall losses are dropping, and there seems to be a viable plan for Aria to turn a profit (scroll down to see the comments at this link to see the Aria profit talk).

So how's it really faring? Well, I did a little "investigative reporting" (hehe) when I did a grand tour of CityCenter with Hunter @ RateVegas see for myself. Here's the "evidence" (with some Bellagio pics thrown in for the heck of it).

And the verdict? I'm still amazed by the architecture. I'm fascinated by the very "un-Vegas-y" minimalist design.

However, there are still some clear problems popping up that MGM Mirage needs to fix ASAP for CityCenter to reach its full potential. For one, why isn't it easier to reach Aria from The Strip? And if all the tourists heading to Aria must be funneled through Crystals, then why aren't there more stores that cater to more of them? (Not all tourists can afford a Louis Vuitton handbag, and not all of them are interested in buying that or a Hermes scarf... Seriously, no Disney Store? No Vegas souvenir store?)

Also, why is Vdara still such a hot mess? Here's a news flash for MGM Mirage: The "condo-tel" concept hasn't really worked in Vegas, and this is even less likely to work since the standard "suites" are way too damned small (550 sq. ft.) to function as real "homes". Oh, and at this point (nearly 4 months since opening!) there's no good excuse for bad layout, malfunctioning items, and uneven service!

Clearly, CityCenter is still suffering from some serious growing pains. And seriously, MGM Mirage still has plenty of work to do in fixing them and making CityCenter (especially the main Aria/Crystals/Vdara component of it) work. I'm hoping they'll succeed, since it's in the best interest of Las Vegas and Nevada for CityCenter and MGM Mirage to succeed. It's just that CityCenter still needs a little more reworking to really work out for everyone's benefit.

Casinos: Harrah's Turns a Profit in Q4 2009 While Station Reaches Deal to Escape Bankruptcy

Whoa, there! In a week filled with bizarre, ugly, and downright wacky news out of Carson City, it looks like things are looking brighter here in Vegas (which may help things in Carson City next year, interestingly enough). Believe it or not, Harrah's turned a profit late last year!

Harrah's Entertainment Inc. today reported a profit of $295.6 million in the fourth quarter, even as the recession contributed to a 10 percent decline in net revenue for its big hotel-casinos on the Las Vegas Strip.

The profit compares to a loss of $4.782 billion in 2008's fourth quarter, when the Las Vegas company booked special costs of $5.49 billion to write down the value of goodwill and other intangible assets.

Harrah's attributed some of its profit in 2009's fourth quarter to financial engineering. Its interest expense fell by $118 million in the quarter and it posted a pre-tax gain of $686 million due to debt exchanges and other purchases of its debt at discounted prices.

OK, so much of this profit was "engineered" out of tricky accounting and and playing with its debt. But hey, it's still a profit... Which MGM Mirage and Las Vegas Sands can't say. (Both companies actually reported narrower losses than expected, but still bled a little more red in Q4.)

Oh, and now for the other big casino story of the day... Station has a deal??!!

Station Casinos Inc. today announced it has reached an agreement with key lenders that the company hopes will clear the way for it to receive approval to emerge from bankruptcy this summer.

While the company didn’t disclose details, the arrangement with lenders holding $2.475 billion of debt secured by four of Station’s most valuable hotel-casinos is expected to result in the lenders swapping some debt for equity in the company. [...]

[T]he deal- if approved — would keep the company and its 18 casino properties and extensive land holdings together.

It’s expected members of the founding Fertitta family, along with Station majority owner Colony Capital of Los Angeles, would maintain equity stakes.

The Fertittas would make a substantial, but undisclosed, equity investment and the current management team led by Chairman and Chief Executive Frank Fertitta III would continue to lead the company.

“We are extremely pleased to have reached an agreement in principle with certain of our key mortgage lenders for the comprehensive reorganization of our Company,” Fertitta III said in a statement. “This is a very important step in our restructuring process. Our commitment to the successful restructuring of our company is demonstrated by (my brother) Lorenzo and me making a significant investment in the reorganized company. This restructuring will create a much stronger company going forward that will benefit our team members, guests and the Las Vegas community as a whole.”

WOW! Honestly, I really wasn't expecting this. After all the recent controversy over what Station has been doing, it was starting to look inevitable that Boyd would "do some bargain hunting" in bankrputcy court. If this holds, Station might just survive.

So perhaps the worst is over? Maybe, just maybe, we can really start to believe it now. Station was starting to look like "The Meltdown of The Millennium", while Harrah's was really looking doomed with all its debt load and casino losses all over the country.

But apparently, tomorrow is another day... And that brighter tomorrow looks to be starting today.

Gibbons vs. Everyone

Apparently, "Luv-Guv" Gibbons is now a party of one.

For all their differences over cuts and fees, Nevada’s Legislature has found an unlikely unifying force: Gov. Jim Gibbons. [...]

Sen. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, said Gibbons had “crossed the line” with his remarks. “We rally as a team of senators, no matter what party you are from, when one of our folks is attacked. We are here to work together and not have those kind of disagreements.”

Lawmakers seemed to send that message Wednesday by passing a bill that would allow Nevada to apply for federal Race to the Top education money. They did so unanimously in the Assembly and by a veto-proof majority in the Senate.

The governor’s spokesman Dan Burns said Gibbons would veto the bill. [...]

“He’s running against the establishment even though he’s at the head of that establishment,” said Eric Herzik, head of the political science department at UNR. “Jim Gibbons seems to be his own party these days.”

So even though Gibbons himself amended his proclamation for the special session to include "Race to the Top" eligibility, he will still veto the bill because the Legislature's preferred language isn't exactly his. Klassy.

So what's making all this worse for Gibbons? He's taking on the "Master of the (State) Senate".

Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, lashed out at Gov. Jim Gibbons on Wednesday, widening a political fissure between the Legislature and the administration as lawmakers meet in special session to try to fill a nearly $900 million budget hole.

In a statement read on the Senate floor, the longtime lawmaker accused Gibbons, a Reno Republican, of having "failing memory," being "misinformed," or "intentionally distorting the facts." Raggio was responding to a newspaper article in Wednesday's Reno Gazette-Journal in which Gibbons said Raggio didn't "show up" at most budget meetings held in the weeks leading up to the special session that started Tuesday in Carson City.

Raggio said he attended at least eight meetings, and the governor was present at two.

"I don't know why he wants to pick a fight with me, unless it's for political reasons because I am supporting his primary opponent," Raggio, who's served in the Senate since 1973, said in his statement.

Asked afterward if he respects the governor, Raggio told reporters, "I respect the office, always will."

So Bill Raggio was attacked by Gibbons, and all the legislators (including the Republicans!) have declared open war on him. This really looks to be the next phase of "The Great Nevada GOP Civil War of 2010".

And after all, this special session is turning out to be just as much (if not more) about 2010 electoral politics as it is about balancing the budget for the 2010-2011 fiscal biennium. No really, think about it. Gibbons has used this all along as a "Reelect Gibbons 2010" campaign infomercial aimed directly at the teabaggers he needs to survive the June primary. Brian Sandoval has become involved, even though he's neither a legislator nor in the Gibbons Administration... And it seems the Raggio vs. Gibbons flame war is a proxy for the greater primary challenge.

And of course, there's also politicking on the Democratic side. Some legislators are afraid of the "no new taxes" boogeymen, while others are taking heed of what the progressive base has been trying to tell them all along.

Oh, and did I mention a plan is now emerging from the Nevada Legislature?

Among their goals was to reduce Gibbons’ cuts in K-12 education by half and restore $50 million to health care and social services. Although closed-door negotiations continued late Wednesday, parts of the Democrats’ plan emerged, signaling the Legislature will have to raise millions of dollars more than Gibbons had proposed in fees to close the $887 million deficit.

In a moment of political theater, Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, called for members to raise their hands if they wanted to reduce the cut in state funding for K-12 from 10 percent to 5 percent.

“If we’re not reaching an agreement privately, we have no choice but to ask folks where they stand here,” Buckley said. “I don’t mean to put anyone on the spot. But we need to move on. We need to balance the budget.”

All the Democrats voted in favor, and none of the 14 Republicans raised their hands.

The smaller cuts in school budgets will likely force legislators to find $87.5 million in revenue or additional trims. [...]

Democrats have discussed raising $50 million from mining, $64 million from gaming and $8.5 million from higher business license fees. But so far, the cuts they have publicly proposed to undo would outstrip that revenue.

Other parts of the emerging plan include:

• $8.5 million in fee increases for businesses. Secretary of State Ross Miller justified the increase by saying that because of increased responsibilities, layoffs and furloughs, wait times for business licensing spiked from an average of four days a year ago to 37 days. The head of the Nevada Registered Agent Association testified in favor of the bill.

• Scuttle some of the proposed sweeping of various accounts because of constitutional concerns.

• Restore $24.7 million in health and human services cuts.

Gibbons reduced some of the proposed cuts to the agency that drew the loudest protests. He said federal money could cover restoration of $24 million in cuts that included eliminating housing assistance for the mentally ill and mentally disabled, hiring front-line welfare workers and providing dentures for the poor and elderly.

But legislators want to restore money to care for the elderly in their homes; to eliminate a 10 percent proposed cut to Clark County child welfare; and avoid implementing increases in health insurance premiums for children of poor families.

Well, I guess all our agitating from the "wacko Commie-loving extreme left" is working. It finally looks like a comprehensive plan is emerging that won't be completely "balanced" on the backs of the working poor.

OK, so Gibbons will likely veto it? So what! Even the Republican legislators have abandoned him. Let them fight their civil war and destroy each other in the primary.

Democrats in Carson City finally look to be finding their own voices, and this is exactly what they need to do to sideline Gibbons, pass a real budget, and win the fall election.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

"What's It to You?" More Gibbons Follies!

UPDATE 6:40 AM PST: No really, Gibbons does want to take away our civil rights! Derek is alerting us to Gibbons' plan to gut the Nevada Equal Rights Commission that's responsible for enforcing SB 207 and other anti-discrimination laws that cover women, racial minorities, gay & lesbian Nevadans, and more. Especially considering his "moralistic" hypocrisy, we need to call our legislators TODAY and urge them not to let Mr. "Luv-Guv" (ab)use our state tax dollars to hide away his girlfriends while he guts our civil rights laws!

(H/T Vegas Dave & NV Scandalmonger)

Well, isn't this precious? Just as Mr. "Luv-Guv" arrives at Reno Airport on his way to the Special Budget Session, he's confronted by KLAS TV (CBS-8 Las Vegas) reporter Jonathan Humbert.

Governor Gibbons was in Washington this weekend at National Governors Association conference. When asked about the trip and a possible Reno love interest, he became upset at the questions.

"Did you go with anyone today," asked Reporter Jonathan Humbert.

"Well, what's it to you? Yeah, I went with security," said Gibbons.

"And anyone else," asked Humbert.

"What's it to you," said Gibbons.

Karrasch became romantically linked to the governor after he sent her 800 text messages while they both were married to other people.

"No one else came with you on this trip," asked Humbert.

"No one. No one," said Gibbons.

"Kathy Karrasch didn't accompany you on this trip? She did not," asked Humbert.

"No," said Gibbons.

"She's not in this airport right now," asked Humbert.

"No," said Gibbons.

"She was not on that flight," asked Humbert.

"No," said Gibbons.

Despite the governor's claims, 8 News Now cameras caught Karrasch heading into an airport bathroom. She came out, but ran back inside after seeing a reporter waiting for her.

And this is where it really gets interesting!

Kathy Karrasch and Jim Gibbons have denied that they've been dating for some time, but apparently for some reason they were both on the same flight and they both entered an official State of Nevada (!!!!) vehicle at Reno on Monday. Remember when they both called Dawn Gibbons crazy pants for pointing out their budding romance?

Now frankly, I don't give a rat's @ss about the Governor's personal life. I'm just pointing out his moralistic hypocrisy... And his apparent abuse of state funds. How dare he tell Nevada's LGBTQ families that we don't deserve our civil rights and equal treatment under the law while he abuses his office to shuffle around his girlfriends and uses state (paid for!) phones to "sext" them!

"We are literally less than 12 hours away from a special session that's going to decide almost a billion dollars in cuts and here you are with a woman who's not your wife," said Humbert.

"You are full of shit. You are. You really are. All you're doing out here late at night trying to make a scene," said Gibbons.

On Tuesday, the I-Team sought clarification from the governor. He responded via email and his story had changed. He admitted Kathy Karrasch accompanied him on his trip, but that her expenses were not paid by the state.

He said, "I apologize for any ambiguity or confusion caused by my answers to your questioning of me late last night. I had just finished three days of arduous meetings and a cross-country flight when I was suddenly confronted with your questions. I admit I was briefly stunned to face your brazen inquiries about my personal life."

He continued, "What I do in my private life has nothing to do with my duties as governor. I would like to keep my private life just that -- private."

Oh really? So she even paid for the ride home? And the security detail?

And again, it takes a truly brazen sense of hypocrisy for Gibbons to call for "privacy" when he wants to install InsureNet cameras all over the state just to verify people's auto insurance!

And sadly, while Gibbons stirs up sh*t and creates more girlfriend drama while the Legislature faces all the tough questions on how to clean up his f*cked up budget and preserve some semblance of state government.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

How to Fill the Deficit?

This is the $888 million question facing the Legislature starting today. According to The RGJ, they still have no plan yet to counter "Luv-Guv Gibbons" and his "destroy the social safety net... but not too much, so let's work around my 'no new taxes' pledge with a few fees here and there" muddled mess of a "plan". So far we have Bill Raggio pushing good GOoPer buddy Brian Sandoval's (What, you thought there would be no campaigning this week? HA!) "Nevada Pay Day Loan Plan" to sell off state assets for the state to lease back, while Steven Horsford is still considering shutting down state parks. HUH??!!

The Sun outlines all the major proposals being discussed by Gibbons and the legislators. As of now, they are:

- Gibbons' 10% across the board service cuts (education, health care, prisons, and more)... But legislators want to pare down cuts in some sectors, like education.

- Gibbons' proposal to bring on Chicago based company InsureNet to install cameras on street corners all over the state to verify insurance registration... But many Democratic legislators are questioning the effectiveness of it and likening it to "Big Brother watching you".

- Gibbons' "4 10's" plan to set state employee work days to 4 10-hour days per week with 10 hours of furlough (no pay) per month... Interestingly enough, this is among the least controversial in Gibbons' plan.

- Gibbons and legislators want to take some of the $4 billion set aside for local governments' capital improvement projects... This is a "strange bedfellows" situation where NSEA (state teachers' union) President Lynn Warne and Brian Sandoval both support the move to stave off further state cuts in programs like K-12 schools, but local government officials across the aisle and across the state vehemently oppose (since the state will be raiding local funds akin to what California has been doing recently).

- Gibbons and legislators agree on the concept of additional fees (don't call them taxes... even though they are) on mining and gaming, but legislators are considering increasing the amounts that Gibbons proposed on mining... The mining industry says it wants to work out a temporary "fix it now, drop it later" deal that legislators aren't buying, but the big Las Vegas players look willing to take the deal on new gaming fees.

- And now, the rest of the heap... The above-mentioned lease back "pay day loan", closing state parks, one-time fund transfers, online sales tax collection, "sweeping" in money meant for specific purposes (like the Millennium Scholarship Fund) into the general fund... Wait, are you sure I'm not back in California?

This week looks to be quite messy in Carson City. And hopefully, our Nevada Legislature will eventually agree to a plan this week that minimizes any more cuts to the most vulnerable in our society while still investing in much needed infrastructure (like K-12 schools and colleges!) and spreading new taxes (including fees) fairly, including those (like the mining industry) who have avoided paying their fair share for far too long. I'm sure some still consider this a pipe dream, but I'm hoping sanity will win the week and we'll save our state.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Poll: Gibbons Gaining in Primary, Reid Gaining in General, & Voters Prefer Tax Hikes Over Further Service Cuts... HUH??!!

So Harry Reid is really a "goner" this year? And Gibbons can't win the GOP primary? And Nevada voters will never, ever support a tax increase?

OK, time to throw that "conventional wisdom" out the window! Believe it or not, these are the results from Republican pollster Glen Bolger's recent survey of 500 likely Nevada voters funded by the Retailers Association of Nevada (a typically GOP-leaning outfit).

Let's start with the US Senate results:

[General Election]





[Republican Primary]


So he's not there yet, but Harry Reid does look to be closing the gap that had widened to double digits just last month. It's interesting to see the the "analysis" in the charts try to spin this as good news for the Republicans, but it looks clear that when the real threat of the Tea Party candidate (I won't lie, it helps Reid) and real weaknesses of the GOP candidates are considered Reid suddenly becomes viable again. And remember, Reid just started airing TV ads late last year and his campaign hasn't even started "vaporizing" the eventual GOP candidate yet.

OK, so what about the Governor's race? Oh my, get ready for this!

[Republican Primary]


[General Election]




It's looking increasingly clear that Sandoval will be the clear favorite if he wins the GOP primary, but (Rory) Reid will be the clear favorite is Gibbons wins the GOP primary. And fortunately for Rory Reid, Gibbons is (re)gaining ground among GOoPer voters (but NOT everyone else). So maybe "Governor Sandoval" isn't really inevitable?

Oh, and I'm sure this just killed the GOoPer pollsters!

And, thinking some more about the budget shortfall, would you rather the Governor and State
Legislature CUT SPENDING for state employee salaries and government services such as
education and health care, or RAISE YOUR TAXES to avoid these cuts?
5/09 2/10
3% 3% REFUSED (DO NOT READ) [...]

And, if the Governor and State Legislature were to raise taxes, who do you think should be
paying increased taxes? (DO NOT READ) (ACCEPT MULTIPLE RESPONSES)
5/09 2/10
21% 17% CASINOS
18% 16% THE RICH
53% 61% EVERYONE

It's so funny to see this despite all the attempting push-polling against this. Nevadans really are starting to "get it"! And while a corporate income tax still has plurality opposition, it's been gaining ground since last May (now only a 5% gap). And as you can see above, a fairer mining tax seems to be gaining steam.

So really, feel free to throw out all that "conventional wisdom" you've been hearing for the past few months. 2010 is just getting started, and things may change dramatically with major events coming up (jobs bill, health care reform, state budget, etc.).

BREAKING: Jobs Bill Passes Senate!

This morning, it was looking uncertain... But now, it looks like the jobs bill will pass with at least 4 Republican votes. Since Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey) is undergoing cancer treatment, Democrats are down to 58 votes at the moment and needed at least 2 Republicans votes to reach the 60 votes necessary for cloture and final passage.

So far, the GOPers crossing over to sanity today are:

- Scott Brown (R-Massachusetts)

- Olympia Snowe (R-Maine)

- Susan Collins (R-Maine)

- George Voinovich (R-Ohio)

UPDATE (4:28 PM PT):

- Kit Bond (R-Missouri)

I'll update if any more of them cross over to support the jobs bill. But whatever the final count us, I'm sure Harry Reid must be breathing a sigh of relief right now... And he deserves it. :-)

UPDATE (2:58 PT): And the "Tool of the Day Award" goes to... Ben Nelson (D?-Nebraska)! He's the only "Democrat" so far (and hopefully it will remain that way!) to vote against the jobs bill. So I guess he likes high unemployment and no help, even for his own constituents?

UPDATE (3:16 PT): According to TPM DC, the final tally is 62-30 for passage. Oh, and Harry Reid was on fire today! :-D

"Work with us on this," Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said moments before the vote. "Show us you're serious about legislating."

Reid also warned Republicans: Fail to support this bill, and the minority would "confirm their reputation as the 'Party of No.'"

And after the vote? "I hope this is the beginning of a new day here in the Senate," Reid said.

The bill, which is much smaller than some original proposals, would exempt businesses from paying Social Security payroll taxes this year after hiring from the nation's pool of millions of unemployed. The Build-America Bonds Act of 2009 would be renewed by the jobs bill. The scaled-down bill would also extend some tax breaks for small businesses, renew highway programs through December, and put $20 billion in the highway trust fund.

- UPDATE (4:28 PM PT): As I just added above, Kit Bond was the fifth Republican to cross over to vote for the jobs bill. I guess it doesn't hurt that he's facing a tough reelection fight at home. Heh. Oh yes, and the roll call vote has now been posted on the Senate web site.

Health Care: Obama Drops Public Option... But We Can Still Bring It Back

OK, so the word is out. We have a plan from Mr. President. Ezra Klein (H/T TalkLeft) summarizes nicely how Obama's new plan will fix the Senate health care bill:

• Eliminating the Nebraska FMAP provision and providing significant additional Federal financing to all States for the expansion of Medicaid;
• Closing the Medicare prescription drug “donut hole” coverage gap;
• Strengthening the Senate bill’s provisions that make insurance affordable for individuals and families;
• Strengthening the provisions to fight fraud, waste, and abuse in Medicare and Medicaid;
• Increasing the threshold for the excise tax on the most expensive health plans from $23,000 for a family plan to $27,500 and starting it in 2018 for all plans;
• Improving insurance protections for consumers and creating a new Health Insurance Rate Authority to provide Federal assistance and oversight to States in conducting reviews of unreasonable rate increases and other unfair practices of insurance plans.

So do you notice something missing? I do. The New York Times does. The Huffington Post does.

Despite the recent surge of support in the Senate for a government-run health insurance option, President Obama chose not to include one of the most popular elements of reform in the plan he is presenting to a bipartisan group of lawmakers Thursday.

The Obama plan explicitly bridges the differences between Senate and House legislation on issues both large and small, but on the public option -- which is included in the House bill, but not in the Senate's -- Obama is entirely silent.

OK, so where do I begin? First off, I am glad Obama isn't giving up on health care. It needs to be done, it needs to be done this year, and it needs to be done ASAP.

It's good to see the provision blacking egregious insurance rate hikes in the proposal. That is absolutely necessary.

However, it sucks to see Obama leave out one of the most effective ways to rein in the HMO madness. Why no public option, Mr. President? It's been gaining momentum lately. At least 18 Senators have signed the pledge already to include it, Chuck Schumer is pushing to include it in the reconciliation package, and Harry Reid is ready to start the reconciliation process to pass it.

So why won't Obama advocate for it... Especially when Kathleen Sebelius said last week that the Administration would push for it if there was an opening in the Senate? Well, guess what? The opening is NOW!

But fear not, all is not lost. The public option is clearly not "dead".

Indeed, after months of watching Obama say generally that he supports the public option while doing little to see it implemented into law, backers of the idea were unsurprised it was left out of his final offer.

"We didn't expect one," said Darcy Burner, head of the Progressive Caucus Policy Foundation.

Last week's surge had fired up a demoralized Democratic base, giving the health care reform effort an extra push as Obama tried to drag it across the finish line. But if the final bill is to include a public option, leaders in Congress and outside organizations advocating on its behalf will need to do it without Obama. "Congress and the people of the United States will have to lead in truly taking on the insurance companies," Burner said.

Obama's decision not to push for the public option does not preclude it from being included. Indeed, any member of the Senate can introduce it as an amendment to a package moving through under the rules of reconciliation, a parliamentary process that precludes a filibuster.

So moving forward, we have a game plan. Get Congress to agree on passing the Senate health care bill with the reconciliation fix. Urge Democratic Congressional leaders to stay strong on the public option. Push Obama to push the public option. And hopefully, we'll end up with a good bill.

Economic Recovery: How Washington Sees It vs. How Nevada Sees It

The difference couldn't be any more stark. In Washington, Senators are bickering over "partisanship"... No, scratch that. They're really just in another power struggle!

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid is likely to face increasing mutiny from fellow Democrats in the wake of Indiana U.S. Sen. Evan Bayh’s surprising decision to retire, political analysts say.

The announcement last week by Bayh, D-Ind., once widely favored to win re-election, has shaken the 59 members of the Democratic Caucus and threatens to create an “every senator for him- or herself” mentality that could weaken Reid’s ability to lead, political scientists predict. [...]

“I think the problem Harry Reid has now is holding his caucus together,” said Eric Herzik, chairman of the political science department at the University of Nevada, Reno and a registered Republican. “The irony is that both wings of his caucus could become more strident, with liberals demanding that he move to the left, and more moderate senators saying: ’You’re killing me in my home state. I can’t go with you on this one, Harry.’ Reid is caught in the middle.”

Now obviously, there's some hyperbole with this RGJ piece. After all, the headline warns of "rebellion!" and the story speaks of "mutiny!" OK... So we'll soon be hearing of gun fights and outbreak of (another) civil war?

Still, there has been real rancor in DC lately. And as always, it seems like a number of the folks on Capitol Hill are more concerned about their own egos than delivering any real accomplishments.

Already, Harry Reid is having to deal with this as he tries to win over whatever GOP votes are available for the jobs bill. Yes, the Republicans may even try to filibuster away job help!

Senator Harry Reid of Nevada, the majority leader, has been trying to round up a few Republican votes for his version of a jobs bill,after he surprised the Senate and the White House by jettisoning many elements of a bipartisan proposal that had some momentum.

Mr. Reid’s $15 billion plan includes four central elements of that proposal, including a payroll tax exemption for companies that hire unemployed workers, but he dropped billions of dollars in business tax breaks and other extraneous initiatives.

Whether Mr. Reid can prevail remains uncertain and he now needs at least two Republicans to join Democrats to overcome any Republican opposition since Senator Frank Lautenberg, the New Jersey Democrat who was taken ill last week, is not expected to be present and voting.

In a warning to those intending to block the bill, Mr. Reid’s aides have let it be known that a Republican filibuster of his jobs plan does not mean that he will then turn around and offer the earlier bipartisan version. But just exactly what he will do is not clear. [...]

With Democrats intensifying their criticism of Republicans for opposing almost all legislation and erecting procedural hurdles even to measures and nominees they ultimately support, [Senate Minority Leader] McConnell [R-Kentucky] was also a bit defensive over suggestions that Republicans are simply tying up Washington.

Even when it comes to important work on bringing about economic recovery, it's all about political gamesmanship for some in Washington.

And apparently, all the political games getting all the media attention hasn't helped in getting Nevadans to understand what last year's stimulus package has been doing to bring on economic recovery.

The stimulus gave a significant tax cut to most people; it stabilized state budgets, including Nevada’s to the tune of a $1 billion, which prevented layoffs of thousands of teachers and saved hospitals that would have cratered in the face of a steep cut in Medicaid reimbursements; it provided money for extended unemployment benefits; and, it set in motion infrastructure projects, including a recently announced $34 million for a bus rapid transit line on Sahara Avenue.

Although the job losses have largely stopped, companies haven’t begun hiring again, so most Americans aren’t feeling very good about their economic prospects. [...]

So, not surprisingly, the stimulus doesn’t poll well. A CNN poll showed 56 percent disapprove.

But here’s the paradox: By wide margins, as high as 80 percent, Americans favor the provisions of the bill, including money for the unemployed, infrastructure spending and tax cuts.

As [Rep. Dina] Titus [D-Henderson] noted, however, the marketing of the bill has been less than stellar.

“No, we did not do a good job,” she said.

“People have forgotten it included the big tax break, they have forgotten the $250 check if you’re on Social Security or a veteran. Those aspects were not played up enough. And then money for the state — look where the state would be without it. Then there’s the continuation of unemployment benefits at a time when Nevada is second to Michigan” in unemployment.

Then Titus reiterated her point: “No, we didn’t do a good job selling it.”

And I'd add that it's become difficult to even "sell it" when talk of the stimulus often deteriorates to complete lies and distortions.

She noted many Americans mistakenly think the stimulus package and the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) — the bank bailout — are the same thing.

Titus is right. More than half of Americans think stimulus money went to help “bankers and investors,” according to the CNN poll. Which, aside from tax cuts that nearly all Americans received, is untrue.

For Titus, that’s doubly cruel: She wasn’t even in Congress when the first round of TARP money was approved, and then she voted against the second round.

For the Republicans, it makes perfect sense to "pass the buck" on TARP (which remember, was proposed by George Bush before he left office in 2008) onto President Obama and confuse the stimulus with TARP so that it's easier to just rail against "bailouts" and enrage the teabagger "masses" (more like a few small conspiracy kook crowds, but the media prefer big stories of "controversy" and "epic conflict" to real facts).

One of my all-time favorite bloggers, Desert Beacon, tackled the whole "stimulus issue" on Friday and looked through the spin to discover the facts.

The Republicans are certainly trying to drum in the message: "The Stimulus Bill hasn't created a single job." [TP] As has been that Party's practice, the message is phrased in highly generalized terms, as a blanket indictment of federal spending, without noting the specifics. One small specific from the Nevada State Health Division is instructive.

The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act (Stimulus Bill) paid for a $46, 232 supplement to the " Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) original $76,743 allotted in the FFY10 budget for ambulatory center surgery inspections bringing the total to $ 109,991. The additional ARRA funding will support the inspection of 13 ambulatory surgical centers, with a new CMS survey process that uses an infection control tool developed in conjunction with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)." [NSHD pdf]

If memory serves Nevada experienced a Hepatitis C outbreak in 2008 related to inspection issues? In May 2008, the Sparks Tribune reported: "Of the 50 ambulatory surgery centers now being inspected for unsafe practices by the state Bureau of Licensure and Certification, 22 haven’t had recertification surveys within a six-year time frame. In one case, the gap was 15 years. Twenty-one others haven’t been open long enough to have had a six-year inspection." With the cut backs in agency budgets currently under consideration, is it really rational to lash out at funding that supported someone inspecting another 13 ambulatory surgical centers?

There are larger pieces that receive wider public support, like spending on infrastructure. The American Reinvestment and Recovery Act included $144 billion for public infrastructure projects, and the level of public support was significant. USNWR reported: "A national poll released today (Jan. '09) shows that 94 percent of Americans support a national effort to build up the country's infrastructure. Meanwhile, 81 percent of Americans say they are prepared to pay 1 percent more in federal taxes to support infrastructure projects." There was another important item in the polling just cited.

"One caveat in the support for infrastructure spending, however, is how the projects are developed. More than half of Americans in the poll say that either the accountability or the transparency of the projects is their most important consideration in public works spending. That's three times more than those who say that achieving "measurable results" is their top priority." So, people placed "accountability and transparency" at a much level of concern than "measurable results," and they got it. However, one can't have it both ways; either the money gets spent quickly with less accounting or the money gets spent more slowly with more accounting. Fast or slowly, Nevada is getting $ 270,010,945 for infrastructure and public transit funding under the Stimulus Bill. [CBS] Are the Republicans really opposed to cash-strapped Nevada getting $270 million in public transportation and infrastructure funding? There are construction jobs to be paid for and the state budget isn't where those are going to be found.

So we are getting money. Just remember that it took so damned long because "Luv-Guv Gibbons" wanted to start a fight over who would have ultimate control over the stimulus funds. And obviously, that was much more important to him than actually setting up the needed tracking tools (to meet the transparency and accountability requirements) to receive those stimulus funds.

But hey, at least we're getting the money now. And we're seeing results. It's just that the Republicans don't want us to know that it's stimulus funds at work while the Democrats are busy trying to push the jobs bill in DC to bring back some more needed help and apply it directly to the unemployment crisis we're still facing.

So I can understand why a number of our neighbors are confused over what was done last year to promote economic recovery and what's being done this year to create more jobs. When all the media attention is on partisan and inter-party flame wars and ego stroking, it's hard to see how our government is doing us any good. But when we look beyond the petty politics and look at how the policy is being put to use here in Nevada and elsewhere throughout the country, we can start to get a better picture of how it's really working.

Friday, February 19, 2010

BREAKING: Harry Reid Signals Support for HCR Reconciliation Vote on Public Option!


In another surprising step forward for the public option, Senator Harry Reid’s office says that if a final decision is made to pass health reform via reconciliation, the Majority Leader would support holding a reconciliation vote on the public option.

With more and more Senators signing on to the letter urging Reid to hold an up or down vote on the public option under reconciliation rules, Reid spokesman Rodell Mollineau sends over a statement signaling Reid’s qualified support for the move:

"Senator Reid has always and continues to support the public option as a way to drive down costs and create competition. That is why he included the measure in his original health care proposal.

"If a decision is made to use reconciliation to advance health care, Senator Reid will work with the White House, the House, and members of his caucus in an effort to craft a public option that can overcome procedural obstacles and secure enough votes."

This is BIG news. Until now, Reid has been hesitant (and understandably so) about using reconciliation on health care. It's complicated, difficult, and very time-consuming. But with Republicans unwilling to agree to even a final vote on health care reform and an increasing number of progressive Democrats unwilling (and rightfully so) to sacrifice their principles for just any bill, this is the only realistic possibility left to pass the bill.

So now, Senate parliamentarians and Senate Democratic leaders will have to figure out how to properly use reconciliation to get health care done. And in the mean time, House Democratic leaders will have to ensure they still have at least 218 confirmed votes for both the Senate bill and the new reconciliation "fix" to the Senate bill while President Obama helps round up support in both houses of Congress and among the American people.

Let's hope they all make it happen soon!

Thoughts on President Obama's Speech at Green Valley HS

OK, here are some of my first reactions...

- Who cares about an apology for the "Obama-Vegas-gate" nothingness scandal? Obama stressed repeatedly that it's good for people to spend their disposable income here in Las Vegas! I think if it was good enough for Shelley Berkley to give him a standing ovation, we can consider this matter settled.

- Harry Reid must be smiling today! I lost count of how many times Obama stated that Reid has been his good partner in passing the stimulus, passing health care reform, and now making sure we get a good jobs bill. For better or for worse, Obama's and Reid's political fortunes are tied at the tip. And fortunately for both of them, things are looking up today.

- As expected, Obama talked about his newly proposed $1.5 billion foreclosure rescue program that will bring at least $100 million in foreclosure prevention aid to Nevada. This help is long overdue, but at least it's coming. And after HUD rejecting the Clark County's hot mess of a request for additional stimulus funds for distressed homeowner assistance (since they didn't properly spend the original disbursement of funds), this is much welcomed news for Southern Nevada.

- Obama will not give up on health care reform... Or should I say "health insurance reform"? It sounded like he still wants a comprehensive package, but he didn't say the two words that progressives all over Nevada and across the country wanted to hear him say. (Hint: The initials are "PUBLIC OPTION".) I guess for now, we'll have to keep lobbying Obama and Reid until we know for sure that they'll push for it in the final health care push.

- Obama did mention bringing more clean energy jobs to Nevada and finally doing something about climate change. Good... But there weren't any details on Maria Cantwell's CLEAR Act or any other Senate action on a climate bill like the House's bill that passed last July. Hopefully in the coming weeks, we'll get a better picture of what Obama and Reid have planned to finally get something done on the climate front this year.

That's all I have for now. Please excuse me while I return to my sick bed. We'll talk more later. :-)

Mr. President Is Here... And Yes, He's Here to Help!

And jeez, what a time for me to be sick! Sorry that I can't be at Green Valley HS in person today. If you were to see the hot mess that I'm looking like right now, you'd understand.

So anyway, here's a preview of what to expect today. President Obama will today announce a new foreclosure rescue program that will bring $1.5 billion in aid to the states hardest hit by the real estate crash (like ours!) to assist state and local housing agencies in reworking mortgages and keeping people in their homes.

Under the program, state housing departments in Nevada, Arizona, California, Florida and Michigan will share $1.5 billion toward foreclosure aid.

The money will be divided by a formula based on the number of unemployed residents and the decline in home prices, which means California and the bigger states would likely get the lion’s share. Nevada is expected to receive at least $100 million.

The feds are unleashing the funds to encourage the states to tap innovative ways to help homeowners, saying states have expertise in local market conditions. A White House official pointed to programs under way in Massachusetts, Connecticut and Pennsylvania as possible models.

States could use the money to:

• Provide bridge loans, as is being done in Pennsylvania, to help unemployed homeowners pay the mortgage until they land jobs.

• Provide incentives to lenders to rewrite upside-down mortgages — when a homeowner owes more than the home is worth, as is the case in 70 percent of Las Vegas.

• Provide incentives for lenders to rewrite second liens, a common barrier for homeowners trying to refinance.

“President Obama recognizes the challenges facing our families in the nation’s housing markets, where local conditions vary considerably,” the White House said. “The legacy of price declines, together with the effects of high unemployment, means that many working- and middle-class families in these especially hard-hit areas are facing serious challenges, in many cases beyond what their families’ resources can handle.”

Hey, $100 million is no chump change... And it's quite possible that Nevada will get even more money under this program, considering our continuing unemployment and foreclosure problems.

Oh, and by the way, guess who's been lobbying The White House for all these months on beefing up assistance to distressed homeowners?

Democratic Rep. Dina Titus also has been pushing the Obama administration to do more to help homeowners in Nevada.

The congresswoman's Southern Nevada district has one of the nation's highest rates of foreclosures and she has repeatedly pressed the president, his Treasury secretary, Timothy Geithner, and Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan to improve existing rescue programs to better meet the demands for aid in Nevada.

"Southern Nevada, and the district I represent in particular, has been ground zero as Nevada has led the nation in foreclosures for far too long," Titus said.

“I have been working hard with Secretaries Donovan and Geithner to convey the depth of the housing problem in Southern Nevada, and I am pleased that President Obama is taking this important step to provide our community with additional resources that will help families remain in their home."

So thank you, Dina Titus, for delivering on housing help. And thank you, Mr. President, for listening and for making it happen.

So what else will be happening today? Just before noon, President Obama will be speaking at LVCVA. This should be interesting. Hopefully, Mayor Goodman won't be there with martini(s) on hand to launch into a drunken tirade.

I'm sure everyone else will be interested in hearing what Mr. President now has to say about visiting Las Vegas.

So I guess I'll head back to my sick bed for now... And we can all watch today as President Obama tries to respark that magic that turned Nevada on its head in 2008.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Health Care: Surprise! Most Nevadans Aren't Afraid of "The R Word".

So why should Harry Reid? Take a look at these brand new Research 2000 poll numbers... And if you have a chance to see President Obama and Senator Reid tomorrow, tell them that they don't need to be afraid to do the right thing. Apparently, we "get it" and we'll support them on finishing health care reform and getting it done right.

QUESTION: Would you favor or oppose the national government offering everyone the choice of buying into a government administered health insurance plan – something like the Medicare coverage that people 65 and older get – that would compete with private health insurance plans?
DISTRICT 164%32%4%
DISTRICT 248%45%7%
DISTRICT 357%37%6%
QUESTION: What would make you more likely to vote for Democrats in the 2010 elections: If they pass health care reform that includes a public health insurance option but gets zero Republicans votes OR if they pass health care reform without a public option but with some Republican votes?
It's been widely reported that as Senate Majority Leader, Harry Reid had well over a majority of the Senate committed to voting for a public health insurance option last year. But the public option was removed from consideration in an attempt to get a super-majority of 60 votes needed to overcome a Republican filibuster. Now, Senate Democrats will likely use a procedure called “reconciliation” – which only needs a simple majority – to pass the final elements of health care reform.
QUESTION: If Senate Democrats use “reconciliation” to pass the final elements of health care reform with a simple majority, should Harry Reid include a public health insurance option in the bill?
QUESTION: If the Senate passes a health care reform bill that you consider to be beneficial to your family, would you object to the Senate's use of “reconciliation” rules to pass that bill with a majority vote, or not?