Amodei on the Minimum Wage

— submitted by Rich Dunn, RNDC 2nd Vice Chair

I’m old enough to remember when the minimum wage was raised from $1.40 to $1.60 in 1968, but I don’t remember anybody saying that the increase would cost jobs or drive small businesses into bankruptcy. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ inflation calculator, $1.60 in 1968 translates to $11 today, so the $7.25 minimum wage actually represents a 34% pay cut.

Even an $11 minimum wage would only bring purchasing power back to where it was in 1968, a year when GDP was $910 billion. That’s equivalent to $6.15 trillion now. The GDP is currently over $16 trillion, an increase of 180%. Had the rising tide actually lifted all boats, the minimum wage would have to be $30 an hour for workers on that wage to realize their fair share of the wealth.

When progressives call for the minimum wage to be adjusted for inflation, conservatives usually accuse them of engaging in “the politics of envy” and “class warfare.” They need to be reminded that the war on the poor has been raging non-stop since 1968, but in the absense of a  ceasefire in Washington, the living wage battles have moved to the state and local levels. That’s where we now hear about “radical” proposals for the wage floor to be raised to $15 an hour, which would only account for inflation plus half the increase in labor productivity. How radical can you get?

In 2013, Rep. Amodei voted against raising the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 over two years. Meanwhile back in Nevada, his lobby group has been advocating for repeal of the state’s $8.25 minimum wage. Apparently he thinks it’s just fine for low-wage workers to be paid a third less in real terms than they were in 1968, even as the economy has grown nearly three fold. I don’t think the average Nevadan would agree with him on that if they knew the facts. But they don’t.

Obamacare Reality Check

— submitted by Rich Dunn, RNDC 2nd Vice Chair

If you’re asked about Obamacare, use it as an opportunity to show how much difference progressive change can make. Open enrollment began one year ago, on October 1st, 2013. The websites had a rocky rollout, but 10.3 million Americans who had no health insurance a year ago now have coverage. Competition has increased – there are now 25% more insurance companies offering policies in the health insurance market. United Healthcare, the market leader, will be offering policies on 25 state exchanges in 2015, double the number in 2014. The system was designed to foster competition, and that is exactly what is starting to happen.

According to the Republicans, the ACA was going to be a government takeover of heathcare. But you wouldn’t know that from how private sector insurers have been doing on the stock market. United Healthcare’s stock is up 16%, Humana’s is up 34%, Aetna’s 22%, Cigna’s 13% and Wellpoint’s a whopping 37%. Some government takeover that turned out to be.

On top of that, 8.2 million seniors have saved over $11.5 billion, money that went right back into the economy. Republicans predicted that Obamacare would send costs through the roof, but between 2010 and 2013 health care costs have only risen at an annual rate of 1.1%, which is the slowest rate of increase of any three year period on record and below the overall rate of inflation.

Hospitals are expected to save $5.7 billion dollars this year alone in uncompensated health care costs. Republicans kept saying that all people without insurance had to do was go to the emergency room, but as usual they never mentioned who was supposed to pick up the tab – the hospital, of course. Thanks to Obamacare, that’s now far less of a problem. Most of that $5.7 billion in hospital savings happened in states like Nevada that opted to expand Medicaid. The 23 Republican states that refused Medicaid expansion are seeing a wave of hospital mergers and closures thanks to the rising cost of uncompensated care.

The next open enrollment period begins on November the 15th, and even though there may be more website glitches, it is bound to go a lot smoother this time around. You may have noticed that the Republicans have stopped talking about repealing Obamacare after more than 50 attempts, and that’s because it’s working. It doesn’t solve the long term cost problem – only healthier lifestyles can do that – but at least fewer Americans will be at needless risk because they can’t afford to see a doctor when they get sick.

And don’t forget that insurance companies can no longer drop you from coverage because you get sick. They can no longer refuse to sell you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Women can now get free breast cancer screening. The “donut hole” for senior meds is being closed. Children can now stay on their parents’ policies to the age of 26. We’ve also seen the end of lifetime limits to insurance reimbursements.

The rate of uninsured Americans has already dropped from 21% to 16%, which is pretty impressive progress considering the level of Republican obstruction at all levels of government. Had that obstruction not occurred, we would now have more like 20 million newly insured Americans instead of just 10.3 million.

Our friend Mark Amodei supported every single attempt to repeal or delay the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, something voters can’t be reminded of too often. Amodei has been part of the problem from day one, and it’s a little late for him to strike a pose as a bipartisan pragmatist who stays above the fray. It’s time for him to go!

Cegavske Surprises No One: Vote Suppression 101

NVRDC:

Voter Suppression 101 — where NV GOP wants to take Nevada …

Originally posted on Desert Beacon:

Cegavske Here’s hoping exactly NO ONE is surprised by Secretary of State candidate Barbara Cegavske’s announcement that she is in favor of photo ID requirements for voting. [LVRJ] The issue is on the GOP’s top ten list of ways to prevent “those people” from voting. No matter that this is a solution without a problem – list the number of prosecutable voter impersonation cases brought in Nevada in the last 10 years? None. And, forget the whine: “she noted there is a pool of money at the Department of Motor Vehicles that is used to replace homeless persons’ IDs when lost. “We don’t want to suppress anybody,” she said.” [LVRJ] Do we have to reprint the DMV office map for Nevada? The one that shows how far some people would have to go to get a replacement ID, or an original for that matter?…

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Guns: Common Sense vs. Nonsense

Originally posted on Rcooley123's Blog:

Rarely a week or even a day goes by when we do not read or see a story concerning preventable deaths caused by firearms. Acts both criminally intentional and totally accidental are committed on a regular basis. Mass murders at schools, places of worship and shopping centers vie for space in the print media and airtime on broadcast media and cable alongside serial snipers, victims of domestic violence, cop killer ambushes, murder/suicides and every imaginable form of accident involving people of all genders, age groups, religions and mental states.

Many of these deaths and injuries are needless and highly preventable. Passing common sense legislation – or at least not passing laws that any person with even a modicum of common sense will see as disasters waiting to happen – could easily reduce their occurrence. The fact that our government has been so hesitant to break this cycle of preventable death…

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Here’s What Inversions Are Costing Us

Inversions — or tax maneuvers that reward U.S. corporations that declare themselves overseas residents to avoid paying taxes in America — have been in the news a lot lately, because more than 50 percent of these deals have happened in the past five years.  And will cost ordinary Joe and Jill Americans nearly $20 billion over the next decade — critical dollars that could grow and expand our middle class.

Here’s the bottom line: When corporations invert and pay less in taxes, other working Americans have to pay more to help fund the services we all rely on. (Like maintaining the roads and bridges they use to bring their products to market, equipping our schools with the resources they need to educate/train a base of potential employees, and equipping our military to protect their ability to conduct business not just in the US, but across the globe — just to name a few.) Most working Americans don’t have access to fancy accounting tricks — and parasitic corporations shouldn’t be able to stuff their pockets by using such tricks at our expense.

But if that isn’t already beyond the pale, Corporations that have already inverted are getting $1 billion a year in federal contracts, according to Bloomberg News. Clearly, they’ll do everything they possibly can to be less American when it’s time to pay their taxes, but they’ll claim to be more American when it comes to scoring lucrative government-funded projects.  And what they’re not paying?  Well those funds end up picked from our pockets when we, as ordinary Americans, pay our taxes.

What the Treasury Dept has done is essentially the equivalent of sticking a finger in a leaking dyke.  Congress needs to act to eliminate #Inversions and to hold Corporations accountable for pay their fair share.  Currently, two bills have been introduced and are sitting in Committee: HR5278 in the House, and S2704 in the Senate.  Each bill has been introduced by a Democrat and NO Republicans have signed on as sponsors.  It is well past time that we insist they STOP rewarding parasitic corporations that choose to desert America.  These companion bills titled, the No Federal Contracts for Corporate Deserters Act, would bar parasitic “inverted” corporations from getting U.S. government contracts once they change their corporate address to avoid U.S. taxes.  The 113th Congress is coming to a close and we need to pressure Congress to pass a No Federal Contracts for Corporate Deserters Act BEFORE the closing gavel on the 113th Session.

Second Discovery of GMO Wheat Reveals ‘Failed Policy’ That Threatens Farmers

USDA says genetically engineered wheat discovered on Montana farm

by Andrea Germanos, CommonDreams staff writer

“Coexistence between genetically engineered and non-genetically engineered crops is a failed policy that fundamentally cannot work,” stated Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety. (Photo:  luke chan/flickr/cc)

The U.S. Department of Agriculture on Friday revealed that it was opening an investigation into the appearance of unapproved genetically engineered wheat in Montana.

It marks the second time the USDA is issuing notice of a discovery of rogue genetically engineered (or GMO) wheat. There is no commercially-approved GMO wheat.

According to a statement issued by the USDA, the discovery of the Roundup-resistant GMO wheat was made in July at Montana State University’s Southern Agricultural Research Center (SARC) in Huntley, Montana. That location was the site of Monsanto-led GMO wheat trials, approved by the USDA, from 2000 to 2003.

The agency stated that the GMO wheat found at the Montana site is different from the rogue GMO wheat spotted in 2013 on an 80-acre Oregon farm which was not the site of trial tests. That discovery sparked international backlash, with Japan and South Korea suspending some imports of U.S. wheat and the European Union calling for more testing of U.S. wheat. It also sparked a class action lawsuit by U.S. wheat farmers against Monsanto, charging that the GMO wheat finding caused them economic damage.

In the same announcement issued Friday, the USDA states that it is ending the investigation into the Oregon GMO wheat discovery, stating that it “appears to be an isolated incident,” and that the Oregon wheat is “significantly different” from the Montana wheat.

It states that there is no evidence that there is now GMO wheat in commerce and that it is unclear how the GMO wheat ended up on the Oregon farm.

Watchdog group Center for Food Safety, however, charges that the new discovery poses a threat to farmers and should be a call to stop open-air field trials.

“Once again, USDA and the biotech industry have put farmers and the food supply at risk,” Andrew Kimbrell, executive director for Center for Food Safety, said in a statement. “Coexistence between genetically engineered and non-genetically engineered crops is a failed policy that fundamentally cannot work. Genetic contamination is a serious threat to farmers across the country.”

“USDA cannot keep treating these as isolated incidents; contamination is the inevitable outcome of GMO crop technology,” he added. “USDA should, at a minimum, immediately place a moratorium on open-air field testing of genetically engineered crops.”


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It Was a Good Week in the Fight to Stop Tar Sands

Statoil postpones Alberta tar sands mine project;  pipeline expansion that would have gone through conservation area on hold

by Andrea Germanos, CommonDreams staff writer

A demonstration against Kinder Morgan’s pipeline expansion project. (Photo:  Niall Williams/flickr/cc)

Opponents of tar sands got some good news this week.

Oil and gas company Statoil announced Thursday that it was shelving its Corner tar sands project in Alberta.

The Norwegian firm’s decision to postpone the project “for a minimum of three years” is due to economic costs of labor and materials, according to a press statement from the company.

“Market access issues also play a role—including limited pipeline access which weighs on prices for Alberta oil, squeezing margins and making it difficult for sustainable financial returns,” part of the statement reads.

A similar announcement was made earlier this year by French energy firm Total, which said it was shelving its Joslyn tar sands mine in Alberta because of escalating costs. In addition, Shell announced in February that it was stopping work on its Pierre River mine in the Alberta tar sands.

Anthony Swift writes at NRDC’s Switchboard blog that these announcements show it is

…time to abandon the tattered argument that major pipelines like Keystone XL would not enable substantial tar sands expansion and associated carbon emissions. Industry doesn’t believe it – and neither should policy makers.

[...]

If we build Keystone XL, we’ll see many of the tar sands projects that are being cancelled and postponed become viable once again. At a time when decisive action on climate change is urgently needed, the Keystone XL tar sands pipeline would make the problem of carbon pollution worse – enabling the production of some of the world’s dirtiest fossil fuels.

Also on Thursday, tar sands critics in the city of Burnaby, British Columbia scored at least a temporary victory in their fight to stop energy giant Kinder Morgan’s Trans Mountain pipeline expansion—a project facing strong opposition.

Canada’s National Energy Board (NEB) said that at this time it could not force the city to allow the company to conduct its surveys and studies for the work in the conservation area, which would violate the city’s bylaws.

CBC News reported that “Kinder Morgan wants to bore a hole under [Burnaby] mountain as part of a proposal to nearly triple the capacity of the existing pipeline, but the city has vowed to block the project however it can.”

In its statement, the NEB writes “that the motion filed by Trans Mountain raises a constitutional question as to whether City of Burnaby bylaws are inapplicable to the company as it exercises its powers under the National Energy Board Act and whether the city should be prevented from enforcing those bylaws.”

It is now up to the company to provide formal notice to the attorneys general of Canada and the provinces if it wants to continue, and the issue would then return to the NEB.

Environmental group ForestEthics has said that among the tar sands pipeline’s problems is that it could “increase tanker traffic in the region from about 80 a year to over 400 tankers a year.”

Mayor of Burnaby and pipeline foe Derek Corrigan said at a rally this month that “that is the scariest concept for us as a city and as a province that you can imagine. When you think about the potential catastrophe that could occur as a result of one of those tankers being damaged in our inlet—the destruction that that would cause to the reputation of this city…the people that surround that inlet…[and] to the wildlife—and never mind the tourism.”


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Hold Sen Dean Heller Accountable for Opposing Overturning Citizens United

As the Koch brothers spend hundreds of millions of dollars in this election to try and complete their takeover of Congress, the price we are paying for the disastrous Citizens United decision is painfully clear.

Before Congress went on recess for the election, Tea Party extremists killed a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United. A majority in the Senate voted in support of the amendment, but it failed to win the needed 67 votes to pass because not one Republican voted to support it.

We need to hold the Republicans who helped kill the amendment accountable and who sold out to the 1%.

Tell Republican Senator Dean Heller: Shame on you for opposing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

It’s incredibly difficult to pass a constitutional amendment, and it usually takes decades of grassroots organizing and pressure on elected officials to amend the constitution. The fight to get money out of politics will be no exception.

So while the Republicans blocking a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United is an enormous disappointment, that a vote happened at all is major step in the right direction. More important, we now know who in the Senate is with us and who is against us, and Senator Heller clearly showed us he’s against the majority of Nevadans.

That means we have to dig in, thank the senators who support getting money out of politics, increase our pressure on the ‘no’ votes, and show that we will hold our elected officials accountable for voting with corporations and the ultra-rich.

We have enormous momentum in this fight. Sixteen states and roughly 600 communities have formally demanded that Congress vote to pass a constitutional amendment making it clear that corporations are not people and money is not speech.

Amending the Constitution is not easy, nor is it a decision that should be made lightly. But it’s clear that if we don’t organize to amend the Constitution, the Supreme Court will go even further in allowing unlimited spending by corporations and rich donors.

In Citizens United, the Supreme Court opened the floodgates to unlimited spending on elections by corporations. And in McCutcheon v. FEC, the court struck down limits on how much money individual mega-donors can give to candidates during a single election cycle. Worse, the court’s conservatives aren’t likely to stop there, but will continue tearing down campaign finance protections that prevent corporations from drowning out the voices of ordinary Americans.

We have a tough fight against us to stop our democracy from becoming a plutocracy ruled by corporations and the ultra-rich. And it starts with shaming senators who voted with their corporate donors instead of with the American people.

Tell Senate Republicans: Shame on you for opposing a constitutional amendment to overturn Citizens United.

Who is Andrew Martin?

If you were at Winnemucca’s Labor Day Parade or the Pancake Breakfast on Saturday, you would have had an opportunity to meet and talk to or at least wave at Andrew Martin who is running for State Controller on the November ballot.

As an Assemblyman and member of the Economic Forum Andrew has worked on Nevada’s budget, understands our finances, and knows what needs to be done to improve our economy.  Andrew  is a business owner, Certified Public Accountant (CPA), Certified Fraud Examiner (CFE), Certified in Financial Forensics (CFF), and Certified Internal Controls Auditor (CICA). Mr. Martin has over 28 years of professional experience providing accounting, advisory, audit and tax services to a diverse group of business, individual, governmental, and non‐profit clients.

His opponent, Ron Knecht,  is a “limited government conservative” who was a member of the “Mean 15” and who has signed onto Grover Norquist’s “Taxpayer Protection Pledge” of no new taxes.  He’s a proudly professed NRA member (who also proudly supports “campus concealed carry) and who was elected to the Nevada Assembly once and NOT returned.  But, most importantly, where Andrew clearly holds certifications beneficial for the job, Mr. Knecht is a Mechanical Engineer by profession and has managed a few budgets and made a few investments.

Really?  That’s the best fiscal and financial expertise the Republican Party has to offer up? Somebody who diligently works side-by-side with Sharron Angle to shut government down?

“Fiscal responsibility, transparency and accountability isn’t just a campaign slogan, it is what I believe in, and they are the principals by which I will operate the Office of the Controller.” — Andrew Martin

As our Nevada State Controller, Andrew Martin has pledged to:

  • Strengthen the State’s fiscal oversight and accountability, which will benefit the economic health of Nevada and improve our outlook for the future.
  • Assure that our tax dollars are being spent wisely to accomplish tangible results, linking dollars spent to measurable outcomes that are tied to state-wide priorities, such as higher student test scores, lower crime rates, and a healthier population.
  • Collect debts owed to the State so that Nevadans who work hard and pay sales, gas, real estate and other taxes don’t have to carry the load for businesses that don’t.
  • Make sure the worldwide financial community knows that Nevada is a great place to invest, improving Nevada’s business climate, boosting our economy and stimulating job creation.

Personally, when I’m looking to hire a State Controller, I’m looking for someone who is pledging to do what’s best for Nevada’s citizens, not someone who is beholding to Grover Norquist, someone who doesn’t live in Nevada, and who most likely knows absolutely NOTHING about the needs of Nevadans.  I don’t know about you, but I’m planning to pony up to the voting booth during early elections to cast my vote for the best qualified candidate for the job: Andrew Martin!

Less than 100 Days ’til the Election

— by Marilyn Kirkpatrick, Speaker of the Nevada State Assembly

MarilynKirkpatrickWith less than 100 days until Election Day and just over 80 until Nevadans start voting, I am writing to update you on the Assembly Democratic Caucus, something I hope to do periodically over the next few months. It has been my great honor to serve as the Speaker of the Nevada Assembly since 2013 and the leader of our caucus.

For the past several sessions, our caucus has proposed a legislative agenda of job creation, education, stemming the rate of foreclosures, making health care more accessible and affordable, and improving public safety. We have successfully fought for measures to —

  • Put more Nevadans back to work and improve our economic diversification efforts.
  • Increase funding for education and other critical state needs.
  • Help ensure a quality teacher in every classroom.
  • Improve the quality of our health care systems in Nevada.
  •  Strengthen laws to prosecute both white collar and violent criminals.

We want to continue to fight for these priorities in 2015. As we do in every election cycle, we have worked to recruit men and women who will not only be strong candidates capable of winning their seats, but who will also be legislators who can hit the ground running once they are elected.

We believe 2014 will be a good year for our caucus. Currently, 27 of the 42 members of the Nevada Assembly are Democrats. We have six outstanding new candidates running for six open seats, and 21 of our 27 Democratic incumbents are running for re-election, all of which have solid Democratic registration advantages. We are confident we will be successful in all of our races and that we have an opportunity to even pick up a seat for a super majority.

I am assisted in our efforts by Jason Frierson, our Assistant Majority Leader. All of our incumbents are working hard to win their own seats and to mentor our new candidates to help them win their races and get prepared to serve. And, of course, we are already working to develop our policy agenda for 2015, with legislative proposals that will continue to move our state forward.

If you would like more information on any of these races, or any other information on our caucus, please email us at info@nvassemblydems.com.