Way worse than website woes

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews 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.


Way worse than website woes

What would we do without Nancy Pelosi?

The California congresswoman — who once profoundly said of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, “we have to pass the bill so that you can find out what is in it” — made headlines again the other day, and once more she was offering incisive wisdom regarding the law popularly known as Obamacare.

Unless you’ve spent the past few weeks in a galaxy far, far away, you know that the Obamacare rollout has been plagued by the most epic website failure in history. This has left the dozens of Americans hungry for the law’s higher premiums and higher deductibles unsatisfied, and even has some of its most vocal supporters decrying the Obama administration’s incompetence.

Fortunately, Pelosi has a solution. Asked at a press conference about the malfunctioning website, the former House speaker boldly suggested: “I think somebody should fix it.”

Such sage advice simply shouldn’t be given away for free.

Now, as ripe for ridicule as that Pelosi remark may be, let’s abandon logic and actually consider it seriously. Let’s go ahead and pretend that her wish might sometime soon be granted.

The “it” that Pelosi would like “somebody” to “fix” is, of course, Healthcare.gov, the website through which insurance seekers ostensibly can sign up for coverage under the federal health-care law.

But to what end?  Once the website is “fixed” and operating the way it was intended to — then what? If we’re to believe Pelosi and other Obamacare enthusiasts, it’ll be all sunshine and lollipops from then on.

Unfortunately, reality will look much different. That’s because website flaws are the least of the problems with the Obamacare scheme. In fact, those of us enjoying a hearty chuckle over this increasingly embarrassing tech debacle should also remember what’s even more important — that even if “somebody” manages to “fix” the website, nobody can “fix” Obamacare. The real problem — or, I should say, problems — are in the design of the law itself, not of the mechanism through which people are expected to follow it.

The law hinges on drastically increased premiums on the healthy, young and generally poor in order to subsidize health-care costs for the sick, old and generally affluent. I'm sure Obama’s young supporters are thrilled to learn that they're now subsidizing their parents and grandparents.

And then there are the hundreds of thousands of Americans who are losing their health insurance, because of Obamacare.

The website failure is significant, but in the long run, its significance is likely to be more symbolic than anything else. Its most valuable lesson is that a national government that can so badly botch a website launch should not be entrusted with running our health-care system.

Take care, and I’ll see you next time.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Will Obama delay Obamacare?

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews 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.


Will Obama delay Obamacare?

Liberals view government as the solution to society's problems.

“If only we spent more on education...” “Government needs more control to stop those greedy businessmen and women.” “We need government intervention to fix our housing problems.”

If someone in society has a problem, inconvenience or even a perceived slight, liberals have a solution: government. Just give liberals more control, funded by more of your money, and they will plan out your life better than you can. “We can't trust you to save for retirement, so let's force everyone into Social Security. No, it's not a Ponzi scheme. It's a government program structured like a Ponzi scheme, which is totally different.”

And there is no program liberals have touted more heavily in recent years than Obamacare.

The Obama administration even brought in celebrities like Jennifer Hudson and Michael Cera to encourage young people to sign up for Obamacare on Oct. 1, when the Obamacare health insurance exchange website went live.

And the Obama administration was wildly successful ... at generating publicity for the site.

But when citizens went to the Obamacare website on Oct. 1, they found error messages, long wait times, and a screen telling them: “The system is down at the moment.”

The system was such a disaster that an Arkansas kick-off event had to resort to paper applications. And when citizens called the helpline, they were told that the so-called navigators were also locked out of the system.

And once programmers started looking at the website code, their reaction swung between being amused and mortified. The Wall Street Journal reported that tech experts indentified numerous coding problems and flaws in the architecture of the system. John McAfee, the founder of the computer security company McAfee, Inc., said the government website is a hacker’s “dream.”

As Jonah Goldberg wrote recently, this can’t be blamed on glitches. A “glitch” is when your tail light doesn’t work. When your brakes fail and you go careening off the overpass, that’s more what we’d call a “catastrophic failure.”

The news since Oct. 1 has only gotten worse for the Obama administration.

Now we know that insurance companies are getting bad data from the exchange.

Now we know that the site was built using 10-year-old technology.

Now we know that the Obama administration hid rates until after you created an account (which contributed to overloading the servers), because they were worried about sticker stock if Americans saw the unsubsidized costs of insurance.

Now we know that the Obama administration didn’t even test the system until a week before the launch, when comparable sites require four to six months of testing!

Now we know that the government can create a system that makes the DMV look good.

We know it’s been an utter failure, and you know who else knows it’s been a disaster?

President Obama.

Rumblings have even started that the Obama administration is considering the politically unthinkable — delaying Obamacare. If the website can’t register the young and healthy adults needed to subsidize the “insurance” of the old and sick, then the insurance death spiral conservatives and libertarians have warned about will spin out of control.

The incompetence Obama and his administration have demonstrated in trying to build a website only underscores the most important point: Government shouldn’t be running our nation’s health care system or move beyond its core functions to try to fix society’s problems.

It’s time to let markets work. If we don’t try to steer them, they won’t go berserk.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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One woman who made a difference

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews 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.


One woman who made a difference

I’ll never forget the first time I met Maryanne Ingemanson.

It was about four years ago, and I was in Reno moderating an NPRI panel on the long-running property-tax fight at Lake Tahoe, about which Maryanne knew a thing or two.

She was a natural fit for the panel, given her leading role, as president of the Village League to Save Incline Assets, in the effort to seek justice on behalf of long-abused Tahoe-area taxpayers. Yet I still remember her humble response when we approached her about participating. “I’m not really sure what I’d have to offer,” she said.

The answer, as it turned out, was: quite a bit. And I don’t just mean to that panel discussion. She had a lot to offer, and indeed gave so much, as a mentor, a business leader, a philanthropist, and a soldier in the fight for individual freedom and accountable government.

That fight became a little tougher last week, when Maryanne passed away at the age of 80 after a battle with cancer. I can’t say enough about what she meant to NPRI and the cause the Institute serves. She was an active and engaged member of our Board of Directors, but also much more. She was a source of great insight, sage advice and, during our more challenging moments, unfailing moral support.

There’s no way I could do her justice in this space, and there are others who knew her much longer and better than I did who can more adequately and articulately capture her legacy. But if you weren’t familiar with Maryanne or her work in the public realm, believe me — she’s worth knowing about.

She was best known, publicly, for her efforts to establish a fair and uniform system of property taxation in the Lake Tahoe communities, where the Washoe County government had long subjected citizens to arbitrary and unconstitutional assessment practices. Under Maryanne’s leadership, the Village League challenged those practices in court, and ultimately succeeded in securing $45 million in refunds to property owners in Incline Village and Crystal Bay. The Wall Street Journal reported it to be the largest such refund ever awarded.

It was a major victory for the cause of government accountability, one that I know brought Maryanne a great deal of pride and satisfaction. And rightfully so — her tenacity and determination were indispensible factors in making that victory possible, and the debt owed her for her efforts can never be repaid.

What I really love is the fact that she didn’t have to do it. After a successful and fruitful business career, Maryanne easily could have contented herself with a peaceful and quiet retirement. Yet she decided instead to devote her time and energy to fighting for what’s right and what’s good. That she chose to do so is admirable in itself. That she was so successful makes her story a true inspiration.

But the thing about Maryanne that always struck me the most, and that I’ll remember most fondly, was not what she did, but how she did it. As fierce and relentless as she could be in the political arena, she was as gentle, warm and pleasant outside of it. She always projected a contagious optimism, no matter the challenges she faced, and an uplifting spirit that made her a true joy to know. Even in our last phone conversation, just a couple weeks before she passed, you could hear that spirit in her voice, strong as ever.

To Maryanne’s family and friends, I want to extend the deepest sympathies of everyone here at NPRI. We’ll always remember Maryanne as a remarkable woman, a courageous leader, and a good friend. She’ll be missed, but we’ll move forward knowing that our cause is so much stronger today because of all she gave to it.

Rest in peace, Maryanne, and thank you.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Beautiful

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews 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.


Beautiful

There’s really no appropriate way to begin this week’s column other than to say: Thank you.

Last night, we at NPRI held our 22nd Anniversary Celebration at The Venetian | The Palazzo Las Vegas, and the event was a major success by all measures.

It was wonderful to see so many long-time friends and supporters of NPRI, who gathered to help us celebrate our recent successes and to recommit ourselves to the fight for our shared ideals.

I can’t say enough about how grateful I am for those of you who joined us, or for the volunteers who helped make the night a success, or the members of our staff who have been working long hours in recent weeks to make sure we were ready to go last night. And of course, the good folks at the Venetian went above and beyond, as they do every year, to make the event a truly classy affair.

Again, to all of you, I say: Thank you.

Those of you who attended heard an inspiring and uplifting speech from Dr. Larry Arnn, the president of Hillsdale College. It was a beautiful speech — and that word, “beautiful,” really seems like the appropriate word to describe it. It’s a word Dr. Arnn used himself last night several times in his remarks.

We in the free-market movement use lots of different words to describe the ideas for which we fight. We call those ideas “sound” or “fundamental” or “effective.” But Dr. Arnn reminded us last night that while that’s all true, those ideas are also beautiful.

Freedom is a truly beautiful thing — indeed, one of the most beautiful ideas ever conceived. It’s good for us to be reminded of that every once in a while, and so my final “thank you” goes to Dr. Arnn, for providing that reminder.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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AB 46 and Sandoval’s ‘no new taxes’ ruse

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews 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.


AB 46 and Sandoval’s ‘no new taxes’ ruse

For most of this past week, I was in Northern Nevada, meeting with many friends and supporters of NPRI. I always enjoy being up there, and not only because of the stunning natural beauty surrounding Reno and at Lake Tahoe.

What I enjoy most are my conversations with engaged citizens who are battling for limited, accountable government on a daily basis. And one of the biggest battles going on in Washoe County right now is over Assembly Bill 46. AB 46 authorizes the Washoe County Commission (WCC) to raise property and sales taxes, with the vote of a two-thirds majority, to increase revenues for the Washoe County School District.

There are plenty of problems with this bill, the most obvious being that a “tax authorization” bill is an attempt to circumvent the Gibbons tax restraint constitutional amendment, which requires that all taxes be approved by two-thirds of both houses of the Nevada Legislature, or by a vote of the people.

Legislators didn’t want to vote to raise taxes, so they passed AB 46 to enable the WCC to raise taxes, and empowered the Clark County Commission to raise the gas and sales taxes through different bills.

The fight in Washoe County is still ongoing, with the WCC recently asking a state court to determine whether the enabling legislation is constitutional. (Hint: It’s not.)

The Clark County Commission has already approved a gas-tax increase, and the debate over the sales-tax increase is ongoing.

Needless to say, the last legislative session produced several new taxes, even if they were authorized in an unconstitutional manner. And I haven’t even mentioned the higher taxes we all face as a result of Gov. Sandoval and legislators extending the “sunset” taxes, including a higher sales tax, a higher Modified Business Tax for some employers and a doubling of the business license fee.

It’s a taxing situation out here.

Which is why it’s astonishing to see this headline on Gov. Sandoval’s campaign website. It reads: “$486 million more for education without raising taxes.”

Or this picture on Gov. Sandoval’s twitter account proclaiming “Better schools No new taxes.”

No new taxes? This is the governor who called a special session to make sure the “More (for highly paid) Cops tax” enabling legislation got pushed through.

No new taxes? This is the governor who announced he supported raising taxes 10 months before the 2013 session even began.

No new taxes? There’s a reason the governor scored just 36.11 percent on NPRI’s Report Card, and part of the reason is that he supported and authorized numerous tax increases.

If there are no new taxes here in Nevada, why are you and I and every other Nevadan keeping less of our hard-earned money?

As I learned first-hand from my friends in Washoe County who are fighting AB 46, there certainly were new taxes passed by the Legislature and signed by Gov. Sandoval.

To claim otherwise reminds me of the title of a Judge Judy book: “Don’t pee on my leg and tell me it’s raining.”

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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What we take for granted

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews 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.


What we take for granted

This week, the Internet went down at NPRI’s Las Vegas office, leaving us without access to the online world for nearly two full days.

Has the Internet ever gone out at your office? If so, you know what it’s like. First, you try to go online to see if there’s a news story somewhere explaining what’s going on. When that fails, for the obvious reasons, you wander the hallways aimlessly for a half hour or so, and then finally go work from home.

But in this case, that half hour of wandering was not completely without value. It got me to thinking about my assumptions. I assume my Internet is going to work, but why should I?

The Internet doesn’t exist in nature. It didn’t even exist when I was born — the best efforts of Al Gore notwithstanding. Internet access only exists because there’s a company, building on decades of innovations, that provides access to it, and NPRI has decided that having that access would be beneficial to our organization.

But there’s more than that. Why does anyone form a company that provides Internet access to begin with?

The answer is: to make money.

To many ears, that sounds like a sinister motive. But in a free-market system, it’s actually a representation of someone’s ability to please his fellow man. Our system of government protects private property and (usually) safeguards liberty, which provides people with an incentive to make money by making the lives of others better. We at NPRI are much better off for having access to the Internet. And our service provider is making a profit because it offers a service that we find beneficial. We all win.

Think about the benefits we get from this system of free enterprise. Think about the technology, products and capabilities that are available to us that weren’t even being dreamed about 200 years ago. Whereas a couple of centuries ago, even the most affluent had to communicate with others by letter or carrier pigeon, today a majority of low-income households own cell phones.

But when leftists ask, “Why doesn’t everyone have Internet and cell phones?” they’re including a false and dangerous assumption — assuming that Internet access and cell phones just exist and could spread without any trade-offs.

The proper question is: “Why does anyone have Internet or cell phones?”

The answer is simple: individuals working in the free-enterprise system. And those entrepreneurs have produced so much value that today’s Obamaphone recipients have better communications equipment than George Washington!

Our Internet is back up and running, fortunately. And while the last couple days may have been frustrating, they did provide an opportunity for some important reflection. Not such a bad thing after all.

Until next time,

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Hillsdale College comes to NPRI

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews 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.


Hillsdale College comes to NPRI

I’ve always been a big fan of Hillsdale College.

The school’s core curriculum alone is enough reason to warrant admiration, with its grounding in Western culture and tradition and its focus on the principles of the American founding.

Beyond that, there’s the fact that Hillsdale doesn’t accept a single penny in government funding. Lots of institutions around the country can say the same — including NPRI — but that Hillsdale can say it makes the school unique among American colleges.

And finally, there’s a reason that’s a bit closer to home: Three members of our staff here at NPRI — Victor JoecksJared Carl and Tyler Walton — are Hillsdale graduates, and we’ve been well served by all of them.

So it is with great excitement that we will welcome Dr. Larry Arnn, the president of Hillsdale, as the keynote speaker for NPRI’s 22nd Anniversary Celebration. The event, which serves as our chief annual fundraiser, will be held on Sept. 26 at The Venetian | The Palazzo Las Vegas, and I want to invite you to attend.

We’ve still got room, but the space is filling up fast. For more information on the event or to secure your seat or table, please click here.

I had the opportunity to hear Dr. Arnn give a speech in Henderson last year, and what he offered was an incisive analysis of the challenges our nation is currently facing, as well as an uplifting and optimistic message about how we can, by returning to our founding principles, succeed in meeting them. If you attend — and I hope you will — you’re in for a real treat.

In the meantime, I’d like to suggest you check out a few courses that Hillsdale offers online free of charge. The subjects range from economics to history to the U.S. Constitution, and you can register for them here.

As always, thank you for your support of NPRI and our efforts to make the Silver State a better place to live.

Take care, and I hope to see you on Sept. 26!

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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The union crack-up continues

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews 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 union crack-up continues

A bit over a month ago, I used this space to highlight a wonderfully ironic development in the still-unfolding Obamacare saga: the defection of Teamsters chief James Hoffa and other national labor-union leaders from the ranks of the health-care law’s supporters.

At the time, I was careful to temper my enthusiasm. The about-face from Hoffa, et al., was most welcome, but it hardly represented some fundamental ideological shift on the part of Big Labor. It was simply a case of looking out for one’s own.

That said, something peculiar does seem to be going on in Unionland these days.

An Aug. 21 story in the Las Vegas Sun detailed a Nevada State AFL-CIO resolution blasting away at the Affordable Care Act, as Obamacare is more officially known, lamenting that the law would visit destruction upon the health-care plans currently enjoyed by union members. As the Sun’s Andrew Doughman reported:

Union leaders are concerned with a provision of the law that call [sic] for the provision of health insurance for people who work more than 30-hours per week, meaning workers’ hours could be cut so that employers don’t have to provide health insurance.

“The unintended consequences of the ACA will lead to the destruction of the 40 hour work week, higher taxes and force union members onto more costly plans,” the resolution reads.

Since the Nevada AFL-CIO is essentially echoing the concerns already raised by Hoffa and others, what I wrote in July applies anew: Few things in life are more enjoyable than seeing union leaders describe the harmful consequences of government meddling in the marketplace. I’ll happily take another helping.

But the Nevada AFL-CIO’s sudden beef with leftist policies isn’t limited to Obamacare. A second Doughman story, from this past Wednesday, highlights another development that’s likely to be even more consequential. It seems the Nevada AFL-CIO is starting to fall out of love with another liberal idea. This time, it’s the margin tax.

As Doughman explains, “an early sponsor of the Education Initiative campaign” — that’s the official name for the margin-tax proposal that will appear on the 2014 ballot — “has signaled that it may not sign on to the campaign to pass the tax.”

Danny Thompson, who heads up the Nevada AFL-CIO, told the Sun that “[t]he measure needs to be studied for its impact on our members and its impact on our jobs in our community. No decision will be made until the Nevada State AFL-CIO's Committee on Political Education (COPE) Convention in April of 2014.”

What’s going on here? To say that the Nevada AFL-CIO had been a supporter of the margin-tax initiative is to understate the situation dramatically. As Doughman reminds us, the state teacher union — which has been and remains at the forefront of the campaign (the ostensible purpose of which is to raise more revenue for education) — “has routinely listed the Nevada State AFL-CIO as its chief partner” in the effort. (Emphasis added.) Now Thompson’s crew is hedging on whether to even support the measure at all?

It is again tempting to wonder: Are unions finally starting to realize the folly of big-government liberalism, and are they ready to embrace free-market policy ideas?

Nice as that would be, I’m still skeptical. In all likelihood, this is, just like the reversals we’ve seen on Obamacare, a case of self-preservation. But the development is still significant, for two reasons.

The first is that, given the usually reliable support unions show for higher taxes and bigger government, the failure to secure that support immediately for such a proposal shows that this proposal is really, really bad. And indeed, while liberal ideas are bad across the board, what we have with the margin tax, as with Obamacare, is a policy proposal that’s much more dangerous than your typical, garden-variety liberal policy prescription. That the Nevada AFL-CIO is waffling only underscores that point, and is a gift to those looking to combat the effort. The margin tax: an idea so bad, even unions don’t like it.

The second reason is that, while the unions may not intend to cede any ideological ground with their changes in position, that’s exactly what they do. And this matters a lot.

If the unions’ opposition to Obamacare and (potentially) the margin tax is based on self-interest, then the natural question that arises is: Why are those policies so bad for the unions? In both cases, it’s because the effects of those policies would be devastating for union workers. But why would those policies be devastating for union workers? It’s because both result in increased government intrusion into the economic process, and the effects of such intrusion are always devastating. Perhaps not always for union workers, but for someone. Economic harm is an inevitable consequence of inappropriate government interference with the economy, because when government gets in the way, the marketplace functions less efficiently. And somebody has to pay the price. Union workers just happen to be among those harmed most severely in these particular cases.

That’s why the unions’ change of heart on these policies matters so much. It’s an acknowledgement, if an unintentional one, that liberal, big-government policies are fundamentally destructive to an economy. While the unions’ opposition to liberal ideas might be limited to these particular cases, the principles on which that opposition rests are not.

My friend, we’re winning the intellectual argument. Now our challenge is to turn that victory into tangible results.

Thanks for reading, and I’ll see you next time.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Onward

Every week, NPRI President Andy Matthews 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.


Onward

I still remember something Joe Becker said to me nearly three years ago. We’d just officially launched the Center for Justice and Constitutional Litigation here at NPRI and hired Joe as the Center’s director, and he was perfectly frank about what it was we were getting into.

“Beating the government,” Joe told me, “is hard.”

Is it ever.

We got a fresh reminder of that this week in our lawsuit against the Clark County School District. As you know, we’ve sued CCSD for its refusal to provide us with teachers’ government-issued email addresses, as required by Nevada public-records law. On Monday, District Court Judge Douglas Smith employed a tortured interpretation of the Nevada Revised Statutes, and a bizarre re-characterization of our request, to grant the school district’s motion to dismiss our case. (For a point-by-point takedown of Judge Smith’s ruling, I would direct you to Joe’s recent comments, which you can find here.)

Disappointing as the news was, however, it wasn’t altogether surprising. What Joe told me back in 2010 is absolutely right: Beating the government is hard. Government bodies have nearly unlimited resources with which to litigate, and judges are often inclined to give government the benefit of the doubt, no matter how flimsy its arguments. To litigate against government, therefore, is to accept the role of the underdog, plain and simple.

That said, I want to tell you something very important: Now is not the time to feel discouraged. Despite this setback, our fight will continue. And there is plenty of reason for optimism.

As we announced Monday, we have already decided to appeal this decision to the Nevada Supreme Court, which has a history of smacking down district-court judges for misguided rulings on open-government matters. That history — and the overwhelming strength of our case — have us confident we’ll prevail. And perhaps just as important is the fact that public support for our position is coming in from across the ideological spectrum.

Among those to respond to Monday’s news was Allen Lichtenstein, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, who told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that “[t]he Nevada Supreme Court has been quite clear that government records are public, with very limited exceptions.” Of the directory of email addresses we’re seeking, he added: “It’s a public record.”

In addition, none other than Steve Sebelius, the liberal RJ columnist with whom I’ve butted heads before, took our side in his Wednesday column, titled “Plenty of grounds to appeal teacher email decision.”

And Barry Smith, who helped craft Nevada’s Public Records Act, added, “I’m not following the judge’s logic. This is clearly a matter of public record.”

It’s an exceedingly rare occasion when Allen Lichtenstein, Steve Sebelius, Barry Smith and I are all singing the same tune. But if ever there were an issue that should produce such broad consensus, this is indeed it.

That’s because open, accountable government is a sine qua non of a free society. All of us — whether we’re conservatives, liberals or something in between — are threatened when those entrusted with the levers of government decide they no longer have to answer to the citizens they’re hired to serve.

And on that front, the Clark County School District has been among the Silver State’s worst offenders. As Lichtenstein put it, the district’s latest shenanigans are just part of its “seemingly never-ending attempt to whittle away at public records law.”

Enough is enough. It’s time for CCSD to be held accountable. And to that end, our fight goes on.

Take care, and we’ll see you (and CCSD) at the Nevada Supreme Court.

Andy Matthews
NPRI President


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Backlash builds against judge’s decision in CCSD email case

What is one thing that NPRI, the ACLU, Nevada Press Association, liberal columnist Steve Sebelius, and the Las Vegas Review-Journal editorial board all agree on?

That District Court Judge Douglas Smith's recent ruling denying NPRI’s request for the government-issued email address of CCSD teachers was a terrible decision.

You never want to lose in court, but the backlash against Judge Smith’s bizarre decision at least provides a chance to highlight the importance of Nevada’s public records law.

And NPRI is going to appeal this decision to the Nevada Supreme Court, which has a history of overturning District-Court decisions that have limited citizen’s access to public records. We’re appealing not just for the records themselves, but to fight the dangerous precedents contained in Judge Smith’s decision.

For now, here’s a round-up of the disagreement with the decision.

ACLU attorney Allen Lichtenstein:

But the Nevada Policy Research Institute is appealing to the Nevada Supreme Court, and its chances of a reversed ruling are favorable in the opinion of Allen Lichtenstein, attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.

“The Nevada Supreme Court has been quite clear that government records are public, with very limited exceptions,” he said Tuesday, referring to the court’s interpretation of a state law requiring government agencies to “foster democratic principles by providing members of the public with access to inspect and copy public books.” ...

“It’s a public record,” Lichtenstein said. “I don’t know how the (Supreme) Court could view it otherwise.”

Nevada Press Association president Barry Smith:

“I’m not following the judge’s logic,” said Barry Smith, who helped craft Nevada’s public records laws. “This is clearly a matter of public record.”

RJ columnist Steve Sebelius:

Judge Smith then says the database is confidential, based on NRS 239B.040(1)(a), which says “if a person or his or her agent provides the electronic mail address or telephone number of the person to a governmental entity for the purpose of or in the course of communicating with that governmental agency,” then it’s confidential.

But that doesn’t seem to apply here. Clark County teachers didn’t supply their addresses to a governmental agency; they were assigned that address by a governmental agency.

RJ editorial:

Judge Smith’s decision turned Nevada’s public records law upside down in upholding the school district’s refusal to release teacher email addresses to the Nevada Policy Research Institute. ...

Yet Judge Smith practically mocked NPRI’s argument for being “based on only the general presumption of openness contained in the Nevada Public Records Act.” In other words, for being based on law. Judge Smith, on the other hand, completely misread the law in ruling the email database confidential. ...

NPRI announced it will appeal Judge Smith’s ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court. Good. This poorly reasoned decision begs to be overturned.

Total Records: 1791

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