Where I’ll be this year

Where I’ll be this year

Dear Friend,

For the last seven Januarys, I’ve come to work here at the Nevada Policy Research Institute looking forward to a new year and excited for the opportunities we have to advance freedom here in the Silver State. Getting to know and working with you — our supporters — to increase freedom is one of the best perks any job could offer. It’s something I thoroughly enjoy, and through victories and defeats, I’m grateful to be advancing freedom with you and our talented NPRI staff and board.

During that time, I’ve also been serving as a member of the Army National Guard, which I joined in 2007. Aside from being away for a couple weeks a year with my annual training, I’ve generally been able to keep the responsibility of these two jobs from interfering with each other.

Until now.

My unit, the 17th Sustainment Brigade, is deploying, and it’s my privilege to be going with them. That’s why, this January, I won’t be in our office. I’m currently at Fort Hood for a few weeks of training, and then we’ll be heading to Kuwait. The Las Vegas Review-Journal had a nice write up on our deployment ceremony, held earlier this week, if you want to read more.

The 17th Sustainment Brigade is a logistics headquarters, which means we ensure beans and bullets get to the warfighter. It’s an important mission, and I’m blessed to be going with some of Nevada’s finest soldiers and leaders. For those who are curious, I’m a staff sergeant, which means I’ll be working for a living. I’m also privileged to have the best job in the Army: public affairs.

I get to tell the stories of some of America’s finest men and women. We’re going to post the stories we produce on my unit’s Facebook page. If you’d like to follow our deployment and see these stories, I encourage you to like the page.

One of the things you learn in the Army is cadence or songs used to keep marching troops in step. My favorite goes like this:

Some say freedom is free

As for me, I disagree

I say freedom is won

By the barrel of a gun

It’s a poetic reminder that freedom is costly. And tens of thousands of Americans have paid the ultimate price for the freedom you and I enjoy.

To me, there’s always been an implied corollary to the acknowledgment that freedom isn’t free: Freedom isn’t inevitable.

As Ronald Reagan once noted, freedom isn’t passed down in our bloodstream, it must be preserved and passed down from one generation to the next. Our Constitution is one of the greatest political documents ever crafted, but the ideals and principles it embodies must be fought for — albeit with different tools than soldiers use — in our nation, state, and local governments on a daily basis.

The success of our military won’t be what prevents overreaching politicians from trying to grab your guns. It won’t be what prevents powerful special interests — be they union bosses or crony capitalists — from co-opting government’s power to advance their personal financial interests. It won’t be what prevents the nation’s chief executive from rewriting the law whenever Congress won’t implement one of his or her controversial ideas.

That’s up to you and us here at NPRI.

While I’m overseas, would you renew your commit to advance freedom here in Nevada? Certainly that will look different for everyone. Some of you may share an NPRI article with your circles of influence or contact an elected official. Some may share a conservative/libertarian book, like Bastiat’s The Law, with a child or friend. Some may continue or begin for the first time to financially support NPRI’s work. I do hope all of you will vote.

From ESAs to union-freedom campaigns, to analyses on proposed ballot initiatives, to our legal work, NPRI has planned an exciting 2016, and we’ve assembled a great team to carry it out. I’m actually jealous you’ll be here to see the results firsthand, and I’m confident in the ability of our team here at NPRI to get the job done. I even hope to write something occasionally, depending on my primary responsibilities.

When I return from this mission, aside from seeing my family what most excites me is the prospect of seeing what you and NPRI have accomplished in the meantime. And, of course, jumping back into the fray.

God bless.

Victor

 

A New Year: Let’s make the next 365 days as successful as the last

Every week, NPRI President Sharon Rossie writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


The New Year is already here, and truthfully, I can’t help but feel optimistic as we move into 2016. Your support over the course of the last year has given us the resources to make incredible strides toward greater liberty in the Silver State. Our victories in 2015 were groundbreaking — often making national headlines and blazing new trails for the liberty movement.

Of course, that isn’t to say free market advocates didn’t have some setbacks.

On the one hand, lawmakers imposed the largest tax increase in state history on Nevadans, striking a blow to our hopes for fiscal responsibility from a new legislature. On the other hand, school choice became a reality — giving free-market advocates significant reason to celebrate.

It was probably this strange mix of victories and challenges that drove the demand for NPRI’s 2015 Legislative Review and Report Card. Grassroots activists, community organizations and even elected officials clamored to get their hands on our report — which rates lawmakers on their votes rather than their misleading campaign rhetoric.

Despite the tax hike — and the age-old tendency politicians have of breaking promises — it is hard for me to look back on the last year and not be proud of where Nevada is headed as a state. Improving the Silver State’s education system, by expanding school choice, has long been a goal for the Nevada Policy Research Institute, and in 2015, it finally became a reality. In fact, just this week regulations for the groundbreaking reform were approved by a Legislative Commission subcommittee — including an exemption for kindergarteners and military families from the requirement that students attend 100 days of public school before becoming eligible for ESAs.   

The most inclusive school-choice program in America is well on its way to full implementation, giving students unprecedented opportunities to make the most of their education. This is no small victory for advocates of free markets and individual liberty. In fact, our success in Nevada will set the stage for education reform throughout the rest of America.

Your support and enthusiasm over the last year enabled us to keep fighting for expanded liberty in this, and all, areas of public policy. And there’s plenty more to do in 2016. The gains we’ve made with ESAs will need to be defended and expanded, burdensome taxes will need to be fought against and crony deals between big-business billionaires and big government politicians will need to be exposed.

Yes, 2016 will be a challenging year. Judging by the progress we made in 2015, however, I’m confident that nothing is beyond our reach. I look forward to making the next 365 days just as groundbreaking and successful as the last.

And I look forward to doing so with your continued support.

Warm regards,

Sharon J. Rossie
NPRI President


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Subcommittee to Review Regulations approves ESA rules

Good afternoon,

I just wanted to give you a quick update on today’s Legislative Commission subcommittee meeting. The Subcommittee to Review Regulations approved Treasurer Schwartz’ ESA regulations. The regulations, including the kindergarten and military exemptions, are now official.

It was a four-to-three vote, with Senators James Settlemeyer and Pete Goicoechea, and Assemblymen Erven T. Nelson and Stephen H. Silberkraus voting to approve the regulations. Lawmakers voting against the regulations were Senator Aaron D. Ford, Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson and Assemblywoman Irene Bustamante Adams.

Here’s what this means for Nevada families:

Children of active military parents stationed in Nevada

Children of active military parents stationed in Nevada are exempted from — and so do not need to meet — the 100-day public school enrollment requirement for the ESA program. Thus, for those qualifying military families who applied for the ESA during the early application period and were denied based on the 100-day requirement, there will be an appeal process through which your application can be reconsidered. You will have the opportunity to provide proof of military exemption. I’ll have more details on that process after the New Year weekend.

For those military families who did not apply during the early application period, you’ll be eligible to apply for the program beginning with the February-March registration period. Qualifying families will not need to meet the 100-day enrollment requirement to apply.

Families with children under the age of seven

For families with children under the age of seven, who applied during the early application period, your applications will be taken by the Treasurer’s office from the pending file and processed in accord with the newly approved regulations — no 100 day requirement.

Like active-duty military families, other households with children between five and seven years of age will be able to register for the ESA program beginning with the February-March registration period.

I will provide more specifics and details about these exemptions in the upcoming weeks.

As a reminder, the Treasurer’s office has asked early applicants with children seven years old and older, who have not received a notice on their program status by January 4, 2016 to contact the treasury office beginning Monday. Send inquiries to nevadaschoolchoice@nevadatreasurer.gov  

To expedite staff replies, you will need to provide the application ID in every communication with the office.

Remember: Wait until January 4th to contact the office if you have not received a notice and your child is over age seven.

Have a happy and safe New Year!

~Karen

 

ESA regulations are on the move again!

Good morning all,

ESA regulations are on the move again! As expected, the Legislative Commission's Subcommittee to Review Regulations will consider the ESA regulations this week— Wednesday, December 30 at 10 a.m.

The meeting will take place in Las Vegas at the following location:

Grant Sawyer State Office Building

Room 4401

555 East Washington Avenue

Las Vegas, Nevada

Some members of the commission may participate in Carson City, where the meeting will be video conferenced:

Legislative Building

Room 3137

401 South Carson Street

Carson City, Nevada

Members of the public are encouraged to attend and participate in the process at both locations.

Some important facts:

Of most significance, perhaps, is that this will be simply a yea or nay vote. The subcommittee will vote for or against approving the regulations adopted and submitted by Treasurer Schwartz. Those regulations include, among other things, the kindergarten and military exemption.  It is important to recognize that this subcommittee cannot amend, modify or revise the regulations in any way.  Thus, commission members are unable to exempt the 100-day enrollment requirement for private school or homeschool students, or any other student groups. Nor can the subcommittee pass the regulations only in part. It’s all or nothing— yea or nay.

Remember, the Treasurer’s proposed regulations will not become effective until and unless they’re approved by the Legislative Commission’s Subcommittee to Review Regulations.  So now, as always, it is important to share your position on important issues with lawmakers — whether by testimony in person (my preference), by written testimony or by a phone message.  Nevada’s ESAs still face controversy, so lawmakers need to know you support the ESA program and the regulations adopted by Treasurer Schwartz.

At Wednesday’s meeting, comments on the regulations will be taken during the open public comment period at the beginning of the meeting.  There will not be a separate public hearing for the regulations. Be sure to make your comments at the beginning of the meeting before commissioners vote.

If unable to attend, the meeting can be viewed online via the legislative website

Hope to see you on Wednesday!

~Karen

 

Nevada’s ESA regulations are taking the next step!

Happy Holidays!

Nevada’s ESA regulations are taking the next step!

Monday, the State Treasurer approved the regulations and sent the appropriate paperwork on to the Legislature for its approval. Those regulations did include the long-discussed under-age-7 and military-family exemptions. Now, we wait for the Legislative Commission meeting to complete the process and put the regulations into effect.

Treasurer Dan Schwartz is optimistic that lawmakers will approve the regulations before New Year’s Day, 2016 — which means parents need to be ready for the Legislative Commission meeting next week. There may only be a few days’ notice, so keep your eyes peeled.

While everyone is busy with holiday schedules and plans, if you can make time for this meeting, it could make an important difference for Nevada ESAs. Indeed, the public’s participation in the policy process is key to success on any issue. If lawmakers and others are to realize the vast public support for this program, they all need to hear your voice.

Registration is now open for Participating Entities

“Participating Entities” are the private schools, programs of distance education, Nevada colleges or universities, tutors and tutoring firms, etc., that will be accepting ESA money. The registration process for them is now open!

To get started, they should visit http://www.nevadatreasurer.gov/SchoolChoice/Vendors/EntityHome/ and click on the Entity Enrollment link.

Setting up of parents’ accounts

In the next few weeks parents will be contacted by the Treasurer’s office to set up their accounts. At that time, you will be able to choose your funding date and select the participating entity(s) (registered schools, tutors, etc.) that your child will utilize.

Parents will also be asked to register as participating entities. This is required in order for parents to be reimbursed for their later educational expenses — and whether their children will be educated at home or not.

More acceptances going out

Finally, acceptance notices are going out this week for families who’ve applied for an ESA for a child over the age of 7! And if you have not heard from the Treasurer’s office by January 4th, says Treasurer Schwartz, please send an email to nevadaschoolchoice@nevadatreasurer.gov so staff can check your application status. Remember, too, that to expedite a reply, parents will need to provide the application ID in every communication with the office.

Remember, wait until January 4th to contact the office if you have not received a notice and your child is over age 7.

I will keep you informed on the Legislative Commission meeting date and time. Until that time, enjoy the holidays!

Warmest wishes to you and your families.

~Karen

 

Give the gift of liberty this year!

Every week, NPRI President Sharon Rossie writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


Thanks to your support, Nevada Policy Research Institute has been able to give the gift of greater freedom to countless Nevadans over the course of the last year. Your generosity has helped to both preserve and expand liberty and individual freedom during a time of increasingly intrusive government.

Some of the results have been truly amazing:

  • Nevada families have been given the gift of opportunity and choice with the passage of America’s most inclusive school choice program — providing thousands of struggling Nevadan students the opportunity to succeed by using Education Savings Accounts.
  • The gift of choice also went to countless Nevada teachers. Through NPRI’s widespread information campaign, teachers learned that they have the ability opt-out of their unions — saving those teachers nearly $800 per year in dues.
  • The gift of government transparency went to all Nevadans, via NPRI’s 2015 Nevada Legislative Session Review and Report Card — which tracks and scores lawmakers on their votes, rather than their misleading campaign rhetoric.

I hope that you are as proud of these accomplishments as am I. In the last year, because of your enthusiasm, we have been able to further the cause of limited government and individual liberty in the Silver State.

Please consider renewing your gift for liberty today, by making a tax-deductible donation before the end of the year. Your support will help ensure that the gift of freedom and liberty is everlasting for all Nevadans. I hope I can count on you as we approach the New Year.  

Thank you. Merry Christmas and happy holidays!

Warm regards,

Sharon J. Rossie
NPRI President


Remember, if you'd like to receive the latest from NPRI, sign-up for our emails here.

 

If you love liberty, you’re certainly not alone

Every week, NPRI President Sharon Rossie writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


Wednesday’s NPRI Open House in Las Vegas was a tremendous success. It was great to be able to meet so many supporters of limited government and individual liberty. My deepest thanks go out to everyone who was able to attend — it was a pleasure to see such a demonstration of support for what we do at NPRI.

One of the things I enjoy most about events like that is that it gives us a chance to hear directly from a wide range of our supporters. Given that the special legislative session is underway in Carson City, many attendees wanted to talk about the $300 million in tax incentives being offered to the launching electric-car company, Faraday Future.

Because everyday Nevadans now face $1.5 billion in new taxes passed during the last legislative session — the largest tax increase in state history — outrage over the Faraday special deal was widespread. When lawmakers are giving tax credits, abatements and other handouts to politically connected billionaires, it’s easy for average small business owners to feel targeted by big government.

That outrage is certainly justified. As Calvin Coolidge once said, “the men and women of this country who toil are the ones who bear the cost of the Government.” And that truth is rarely more apparent than when lawmakers, right after hiking taxes on average citizens, start crafting special deals for out-of-state billionaires.

Nevertheless, I still saw a lot of reason to be optimistic about free markets during the Open House.

The enthusiasm I saw for limited government confirmed to me that what we do at NPRI is not only vital, but appreciated by many Nevadans — regardless of their political leanings.

Our work on Education Savings Accounts is a perfect example of widespread, and effective, free market reform. It’s not only a success story for us here at NPRI, but a success story for parents in every demographic who want better opportunities for their children.

Many supporters also spoke on Wednesday about the issue of federal lands in Nevada. Currently, the federal government controls well over 80 percent of the Silver State’s land — making a mockery of the core ideas of federalism. NPRI’s recent discussion of federal government efforts to micromanage Nevada’s backyard received a lot of support.

In fact, the enthusiasm I saw on Wednesday for everything we do at NPRI gives me confidence that next year will be an effective and powerful year for limited-government proponents. ESAs will be implemented, government waste will be exposed and the opportunity for many victories is assured.

What the open house really revealed was that none of us who believe in limited government and free markets are alone. In fact, there are far more of us in Nevada than most people realize. Our passion for liberty, and our desire for a prosperous Nevada, is a common tenet uniting us as we head into an eventful new year.

2015 is almost over, and we face challenging — but still promising — work ahead of us in 2016. On behalf of everyone at NPRI, I want to say thank you for all the support you have shown us. We couldn’t keep moving forward without you.

Warm regards,

Sharon J. Rossie
NPRI President


Remember, if you'd like to receive the latest from NPRI, sign-up for our emails here.

 

ESA Update: Finalizing ESA regulations

Winter break beckons, so here’s a quick ESA note to update you before the holidays.

On Monday, December 21, the Treasurer will hold a public hearing to adopt the ESA regulations, including the Kindergarten and military exemptions for the 100 day enrollment rule. That hearing will take place at 10 a.m. at the following locations and will be video-conferenced:

Be sure to note the new locations and suite numbers.

Everyone is encouraged to fully participate in the public process. Please come to the hearing and share your opinions and comments during the public-comment periods. You can also directly submit written comments to the Treasurer’s office by emailing NevadaSchoolChoice@NevadaTreasurer.gov .

Monday’s hearing is just one step in the adopting and finalizing of the ESA regulations. Once the Treasurer adopts the regulations, the Legislative Commission will have to approve them. The regulations are not in force until the whole process is completed.

January is approaching quickly, and the Legislative Commission’s meeting will be here before you know it, and without much advance notice. Commission members need to hear your comments. Remember, they weren’t present at the previous public hearings to hear the concerns expressed.

Sen. Majority Leader Michael Roberson, who chairs the Commission, has been supportive of Treasurer Schwartz and his efforts. He and the other Commission members should hear your comments. You can contact Sen. Roberson and other members of the Commission here. Public participation in the hearing process is an important way to make change happen. So I strongly suggest being present at the Legislative Commission meeting. I’ll keep you informed on the date and time. Be ready.

There’s good news for prospective participating entities, such as private schools, tutors, opt-in parents, and so on: The Treasurer’s office is moving ahead with development of the registration website. Though it’s not quite ready, some valuable information for vendors has been released. To learn more, visit the Treasurer’s new Participating Entities page.

I know many parents are eagerly waiting to hear back on their applications. A few weeks ago about 900 letters were sent out. Another batch of notices is to go out in the next week or so. In total, the Treasurer’s office has to process over 4,000 applications. So if you haven’t received your notice yet, understand that they are in the works.

A few quick updates:

  • When is the 100th day of enrollment? That’s a question we’re hearing a lot. Here is a list of potential eligibility dates.
  • Special Session and the 100 day rule? As you’re probably aware, Nevada’s legislature is in special session, called by Governor Sandoval — who did not place the 100 day rule on the agenda. Nevertheless, from all reports the Governor and lawmakers were flooded with calls from parents. That is good news, because it will take a lot of active parents and community members to amend or repeal this requirement in 2017.
  • ESA lawsuits? Nothing much new to say, at the moment. The judge in the ACLU case heard oral argument on the motion to dismiss the case on December 10. He was well prepared and asked detailed questions of both sides. He took the matter under advisement, so now we wait for a ruling. The program continues to move forward.

The briefing on the ACLU's motion for preliminary injunction continues. In the Carson City case, a hearing is set for Jan. 6 on the Plaintiffs' motion for preliminary injunction.

I think that covers the big updates. If I’ve missed anything, feel free to drop me an email with your questions.

Wishing everyone a warm holiday season and a very merry Christmas!

~Karen

 

 

ESAs are already a success story — but we can still make them better

Every week, NPRI President Sharon Rossie writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


When Nevada’s Legislature meets next week for a special session, an opportunity will present itself to expand Education Savings Accounts to every child in the state.

Although Nevada’s ESA program is the most comprehensive school choice program in the nation — accessible to roughly 93 percent of Nevada students — students must be in public school for 100 consecutive days in order to qualify. This means that families that just moved to the state, students currently enrolled in a private school and homeschooled children aren’t eligible for ESAs under current law.

It’s amazing for Nevada to have the best school choice program in the country, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make it even better.

The main objection to expanding ESAs to all students is a real one: How do you pay for it?

Fortunately, NPRI has found a way. I hope you’ll take a minute to read the report we released on Monday, which shows how to meet that funding question without raising taxes or even redirecting General Fund spending that’s clearly wasteful.

But this fix, too — just like the initial passage of the ESA legislation — faces an uphill battle. Reporters have been told that expanding ESA eligibility will not be included on the special session agenda, however public pressure can change things.

You, me, parents, voters and advocates of school choice will have to fight to get this issue included on the agenda for the special session.

You can do that by contacting the following lawmakers and letting them know this is a priority for you and the children you love.  

 

Without substantial public pressure, many politicians will be happy to let this unique opportunity slip by.

I look forward to seeing which lawmakers listen to parents, and take advantage of this special session to improve an already impressive reform.

But that’s not the only thing on my radar next week.

While lawmakers meet in Carson City, I hope to see you at NPRI’s open house event at our Las Vegas office at 7130 Placid St, Las Vegas, NV 89119. Our open house is next Wednesday, Dec. 16 between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. Additional information is available here.

It’s always fun to see so many of our friends and supporters. It was wonderful to see so many old and new friends at our open house event in Reno last month, and I’m sure the event in Las Vegas will be just as special.

As you can see, next week will be full of news — hopefully including some good news for school choice. I look forward to discussing these issues, and more, with those of you who attend our open house event in Las Vegas.

  

Warm regards,

Sharon J. Rossie
NPRI President


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Someone tell the feds: We Nevadans deserve to control the land in our own backyard

Every week, NPRI President Sharon Rossie writes a column for NPRI's week-in-review email. If you are not getting our emails, which contain our latest commentaries and news stories, you can sign up here to receive them.


Presidential hopeful Dr. Ben Carson recently told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that the federal government should consider returning federal lands to the states.

The retired neurosurgeon isn’t the first presidential hopeful to talk up an issue near and dear to Nevadans’ hearts. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz have also weighed in, arguing the Federal government holds too much land in Nevada and throughout the western states.

But even with three high-profile presidential candidates taking public stands on the federal government’s control over large swaths of the American west, the issue hasn’t really received the kind of national publicity it deserves.

With more than 80 percent of the land within Nevada’s borders under the command and control of federal government agencies — most prominently the Bureau of Land Management, the U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service — the issue should be front and center every time national politicians show up in the state. 

Ultimately, it’s simply bizarre that we Nevadans only control less than 20 percent of the land within our state. It almost smacks of pre-Revolutionary colonial times, when British commanders could take citizens’ homes for their own personal use.

No wonder the Revolutionary War ensued.

Today in the American West, a similarly avaricious governmental elite incessantly drives for more and more control over other people’s livelihoods. Virtually any excuse will do. Citing an alleged need to protect the greater sage grouse, the BLM and Forest Service this year unilaterally decided to restrict access to millions of acres of Western land.

The federal government claims it must micromanage land in the west to protect ecosystems, species and sprawling landscapes from exploitation. The end result, however, is that westerners (and Nevadans in particular) are stripped of the economic and natural benefit of our own rural backyard.

An analysis produced by Nevada’s Land Management Task Force showed that local jurisdictions could generate $205.8 million a year if they could lease or sell just 7.2 million acres currently controlled by the BLM. Upping that acreage to 45 million — leaving national parks, military bases, Indian reservations and congressionally designated wilderness areas completely untouched — those jurisdictions could generate up to $1.3 billion per year.

Instead, we’re repeatedly told by the federal government that Washington will decide what can and cannot be done with the soil under our own feet.

The presidential debate coming to Las Vegas on December 15th is a natural opportunity to press the candidates on how they would address the issue of federal lands. Getting some of the presidential hopefuls (in both parties) talking about it could prove to be a good first step toward gaining more control over our own backyard.  

Warm regards,

Sharon J. Rossie
NPRI President


Remember, if you'd like to receive the latest from NPRI, sign-up for our emails here.

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