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Las vegas water laws

“Nudging” Our Neighbors to Obey the Water Laws

On the effectiveness of our current water laws; on the shortcomings of deterrence; How a Sunstein-type “nudge” would work in application; why fans of behavioral economics need a firm understanding of FDR’s National Recovery Administration; why private enterprise might be the answer.

 

A neighbor1)as in, near our Henderson office on south Stephanie has put me in a devil of a predicament. There is a nearby business flouting the water laws, for now I won’t name, that I have seen first-hand watering their grass both during daytime morning and afternoon hours.

This would irritate me regardless, but in the context of Governor Sandoval standing on a dry lake bed last year (that was three feet deep a few years previous) declaring the seriousness of the drought, it should frustrate everyone. (Stay tuned, I have some fun planned today).

But what am I to do? Advocate that the city pass water laws?

..We already have water laws. As you will see below, each locality in the Valley has promulgated2)fancy law word for wrote a sufficient regulation: It’s illegal to water your lawn, residential or commercial, from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m. everyday. No Exceptions. Please Stop Watering Your Grass During the Day. 

Thank you neighbor.

Ok then, as the common logic goes, if there still is a compliance issue, then the deterrence is not sufficient.

..Below is the fine schedule used by the Las Vegas Water District3)the utility for city of Las Vegas and unincorporated Clark County

Meter Size (in inches) 1st Violation 2nd Violation 3rd Violation 4th Violation 5th Violation
1 or less $80 $160 $320 $640 $1,280
Over 1 but less than 3 $160 $320 $640 $1,280 $2,560
3 or greater $320 $640 $1,280 $2,560 $5,120

As you can see, those amounts are not anything to scoff at. And yet? More Water Waste.

I know; it’s frustrating.

Can We Do Better?

Perhaps! It’s not going to be easy in the slightest (There’s a reason the laws are the way they are!).

I have a few questions before we begin:

  1. Why do you pay your taxes?
  2. Why do you shop at Whole Foods?
  3. What’s the correct response to an increase in violent crime?

Keep those answers top of mind as we continue..

As with any good discussion of punishments, we must start with deterrence.

America Loves Deterrence!

And it’s across the political spectrum! And there’s a good reason why…it makes us feel good.

Hypothetical: There’s been an increase in home robberies in the Las Vegas Valley. The most common refrain in response? “Increase the sentence!”

Now as to if this is the correct response? I have no idea4)I do actually, it’s not. But I’m here to tease out the logic to see if this makes sense for public policy.

Deterrence is effective, at least to some degree, right? In reference to the tax question above, how did you answer? Likely some variation of “because I’ll go to jail,” right? And I’m sure I don’t even need to ask if you turned them in on time.(Stick a pin in this, we’ll be back in a moment).

Stipulated5)as in, we now all agree to the following: Deterrence is an effective means to get folks already inclined to pay taxes to do so. (Warning: we are nearing the edge of effectiveness for deterrence. Watch your step.) But this conversation isn’t about you; I know you already follow the water laws, dear reader.

But what about those folks who didn’t pay their taxes this year? That same deterrence that got you to pay by 15 April does not seem to be uniformly effective.

..If my preceding sentence is your only takeaway from today, okay by me!

The Drawbacks of Deterrence

Now the bad news: If some deterrence isn’t effective, it is likely that more won’t be either. Stay with me here, if we double the water fines above, what will be the effect on compliance? Very likely not twice as much compliance.

I would contend that double the fines would likely have no effect on compliance, which logically leads to a discussion of the effectiveness of deterrence.

In terms of public policy, this matters less with regards to water laws, but much more significantly to our criminal justice system, for example.

Back to the hypo, it is difficult then to morally justify increased punishment as a means of public policy if we are aware that deterrence is ineffective.

Why are we punishing people the way we are if deterrence isn’t effective? What is it that we expect/desire of convicted criminals? Is it just plain vengeance then? What does that say about all of us?

 

Would a “Nudge” Be Sufficient?

Familiar with the term “libertarian paternalist”? Right, of course you’re not because the term’s ridiculous6)it’s a prima facie oxymoron, no? Also, if the academic types want more people to listen, try using words real people use. You don’t need to be, but I want to use Cass Sunstein’s7)He is one of the country’s leading behavioral economists/advisor to President Obama concept for our discussion.

In essence, the Nudgers think the government should encourage (nudge) folks into socially optimal behavior. A little more background on libertarian paternalism from the NY Times Magazine profile of Mr. Sunstein:

Libertarian paternalists would have school cafeterias put the fruit before the fried chicken, because students are more likely to grab the first food they see. They support a change in Illinois law that asks drivers renewing their licenses to choose whether they want to be organ donors. The simple act of having to choose meant that more people signed up. Ideas like these, taking human idiosyncrasies into account, might revive an old technocratic hope: that society could be understood so perfectly that it might be improved.8)Source

 

Yikes..My gut instinct says even some15)not all! of Bernie’s most ardent followers would be taken aback by that.

Talk about a nudge too far..

See, the thing about the law is, it really is only as effective so much as you can enforce it. To this point, the Wikipedia elucidates the effect of the many NRA regulations passed in the 1930s:

Journalist Raymond Clapper reported that between 4,000 and 5,000 business practices were prohibited by NRA orders that carried the force of law, which were contained in some 3,000 administrative orders running to over 10 million pages, and supplemented by what Clapper said were “innumerable opinions and directions from national, regional and code boards interpreting and enforcing provisions of the act.” There were also “the rules of the code authorities, themselves, each having the force of law and affecting the lives and conduct of millions of persons.” Clapper concluded: “It requires no imagination to appreciate the difficulty the business man has in keeping informed of these codes, supplemental codes, code amendments, executive orders, administrative orders, office orders, interpretations, rules, regulations and obiter dicta.”

 

Even worse, the Roosevelt Administration found out they did not have the power to enforce these new rules.

From John T. Flynn:

The NRA was discovering it could not enforce its rules. Black markets grew up. Only the most violent police methods could procure enforcement. In Sidney Hillman’s garment industry the code authority employed enforcement police. They roamed through the garment district like storm troopers. They could enter a man’s factory, send him out, line up his employees, subject them to minute interrogation, take over his books on the instant. Night work was forbidden. Flying squadrons of these private coat-and-suit police went through the district at night, battering down doors with axes looking for men who were committing the crime of sewing together a pair of pants at night. But without these harsh methods many code authorities said there could be no compliance because the public was not back of it.16)The Roosevelt Myth via wikipedia

 

It is imperative for any governing structure, public or private, that they not have rules that are unenforced for the reasons discussed under the deterrence heading above. Deterrence doesn’t work without enforcement! And given how exceedingly difficult enforcement is, this method of public policy should be avoided when possible.

Don’t just nod at me; think about this in the context of the water laws. For our current regulatory framework to be effective, the Southern Nevada Water Authority would need to enlist an unknown number of enforcers17)hundreds? thousands? to roam the Valley each and every day looking for violators of the waters laws.

I mean if we are talking about real deterrence, these enforcers would apply a “one strike/you’re out” policy where they would just turn off the water of a consumer not abiding by the water laws18)I can see my conservative friends salivating..that is far too draconian. What if the business I am discussing is an apartment complex? Clearly the residents shouldn’t have their water turned off; they don’t control when the grass is watered/if their property management company abides by the water laws. It’s not a terrible idea in theory..it’s just that we don’t live in theory. People need water.. Once we conclude, however, that the “one strike” method is overly harsh, we have to also concede the effectiveness of our friend, deterrence.

 

What Would a “Nudge” of the Water Laws Comprise of?

We are now wading into uncharted territory, so bear with me. Given that I navigated us this far, I have to take a crack at this.19)Hopefully we don’t have any Starbucks[Just go read Moby Dick already] aboard

  1. It’s fair to say most sprinkler systems are automated20)Correct?. Why not mandate that sprinkler systems must be programmed so that they cannot turn on until after 7 p.m.?21)I don’t know this for sure, but I have seen sprinkler systems that can be set for months. This could be done just for Summer
  2. Less extreme: Require sprinkler systems to configure a second switch to be pulled in order for the sprinklers to operate during daytime hours. This seems closer to Sunstein’s “default everyone as organ donors.”
  3. Require a solar sensor on sprinkler systems. If the sprinkler system senses the sun, it doesn’t turn on. Simple enough.

I’d say that’s not a terrible attempt at the problem, given that my only background I have with water is consumption22)Don’t know about you, but I always preferred a good self evaluation. Please don’t see those three items as some sort of comprehensive attempt to solve the issue23)it’s more like a demonstration.

Although I see those proposals as fairly benign, it is very likely many of you do not.  The idea of anyone from the government controlling your water (or any other) supply makes you crazy; I’ve lived in Nevada long enough to understand the sentiment24)It’s a principled stand based on liberty..I swear I’m listening.

In that NY Times Magazine article on Sunstein, it is emphasized a couple of times that Glenn Beck25)Republican, cheetos is very creeped out by the work of Cass Sunstein (Unfortunately, the piece does not tell us why). Not sure if Beck has some background with Sunstein (the complaint seemed strangely personal), but I think I understand what Beck26)Things I never thought I’d be doing on the Clear Counsel blog: defending Glenn Beck was getting at, and I believe that it’s related to the liberty-minded sentiments we often hear in Nevada.

Sunstein seems like a nice enough guy (Don’t know him either) with benevolent intentions, but if he takes this concept even one step beyond school lunches, people are going to be upset. Unfortunately27)the appropriate adverb is debatable, we as a society have not stipulated what we consider to be moral behavior and there’s a lot of disagreement out there.

And you know what? That’s ok! We can have disagreements, and we can use our democracy to make collective choices.

It is just that we, collectively, just aren’t ready to determine what behavior should be nudged by the government. I think it is fair to say, given the choice, that most Americans28)given that many of our moral issues are still being debated would prefer the government stay impartial.

And those of us who want better compliance with the water laws need to respect this. An issue that is so morally clear cut for me (We only have one earth, last I checked), is not for my fellow Nevadans.

And because I respect and value the opinions of my neighbors, applying these techniques without a clear Supermajority just isn’t the right thing to do.29)A lot of my liberal friends disagree with me on this. It’s not just about being right though. If I care about the water laws as much as I say I do, I should be attempting to persuade those with whom I disagree30)reasonably, respectfully.

 

So Where Does That Leave Us?

You know what they say..A nudge is only as good as its nudger? It’s something close to that31)No it isn’t. Just making up cliches again..

Point being, the quality of output (that is, the nudge) is completely a product of its creator. And in order to institute “nudging” as public policy, we would need thousands upon thousands of people with the sufficient intellect and morality to specifically craft policy for each locality.

I don’t know how many Cass Sunstein’s32)If you are looking for the conservative alternative, think Judge Posner of the 7th Circuit. How much fun would it be to live in a city where he was doing the nudging?? there are out there, but likely not enough for each of the nation’s municipalities.

Whereas I would be open to some “nudging” legislation if it was to implemented by someone that much smarter (and hopefully moral) than me, I am completely against the concept if we are going to settle for a run-of-the-mill politician’s half-arsed33)#Brexit!! effort.

Like many other concepts/proposals in public policy, this concept needs to be implement completely correctly, or it should not be done at all.

 

Perhaps More Government Isn’t the Answer

Are you familiar with what Google’s Trusted Store campaign? Perhaps our answer is here.

If you are unfamiliar, Google will allow certain vendors to display a badge that declare that a retailer is a “Trusted” by Google if the vendor is willing to meet certain requirements from Google. The standards are so rigorous that Google is willing to insure a purchase from a Google Trusted Store up to $1,0000. For an example, see Overstock.34)Overstock doesn’t pay me anything, just the first example I could find. Scroll to the bottom of the page

I think we sufficiently fleshed out why government nudging likely isn’t our short-term answer above, but we neglected our friends in the private sector!

What’s to stop two or three people with a passion for observance of the water laws from forming an organization to promote that idea? Now, I’m no expert on corporations, (if you need help in this arena, I recommend my boss Mr. Barlow.)35)If you search our legal blog, he has discussed this topic extensively. Here is a good example but it might be worth your time to read about 501(c) Organizations.36)501(c) refers to the tax code

These said two or three people could design their own version of the Blue Eagle, drum up public support37)easier now than ever with social media, raise money38)or self-fund. Again, many more options when you use private enterprize, and offer a large poster (in today’s age, a badge to be displayed on the company’s website/social media pages) to be displayed for all potential customers if these companies follow prescribed rules.

And the best part of these rules? They can be whatever you want them to be. These are private individuals doing business with private companies—no government/extra water laws needed!

Draft your own contacts with your own terms which, of course, can include provisions for if a company violates the terms.

The possibilities are endless. For a great example of the potential of benevolent citizen organization creating change, see this Politico discussion about Cincinnati.

We aren’t the only one’s nudging. Just today, The Washington Post published a proposal on how to get more people to vote39)Pretty good idea if you ask me.

Thanks for reading.

Below is the relevant water laws from the City of Henderson (Just in case you don’t believe me). Ordinance 24.34.020 (the second one) is very clear when folks are permitted to water their lawns.

14.14.020 – Water waste.
A. Water waste unlawful.
1. It shall be deemed unlawful for owner, occupant, or manager of real property served by the city to permit the excess use, loss or escape of water through breaks, leaks or malfunction in the water user’s plumbing or distribution facilities for any period of time after such escape of water should have been reasonably discovered and corrected as determined by the director.

2. It shall be deemed unlawful for owner, occupant, or manager of real property served by the city to waste water after a notice has been issued. Water waste includes, but is not limited to the following:
a. Allowing water to flow or spray off private property onto a sidewalk, pavement, gutter, street, alley, right-of-way or drain.
b. Failure to repair a malfunction of an irrigation system or supply line within 48 hours of notification by the city. Such malfunctions may include, but are not limited to: pooling due to broken sprinkler head, geyser or jet of water caused by broken drip irrigation line, etc.
c. Failure to repair a water leak.
B. Responsibility for waste. Any waste of water as set forth in this chapter, together with proof that such waste originated at any residence or place of business, shall constitute a rebuttable presumption that the current owner, account holder, or manager of such property or residence or place of business was responsible for such waste.
(Ord. 2798, § 5, 1-20-2009)

 

24.34.020 – Limitation on irrigation.

(Ord. 2934 § 4, 2003: Ord. 1271 § 1 (part), 1991)

14.14.030 – Landscape watering restrictions.

A. Landscape watering schedules shall apply to all areas, both residential and commercial, including, but not limited to: single family residential properties, multi-family residential properties, commercial properties, common areas, medians, and private parks. Community use recreational turf shall be subject to the provisions outlined in section 14.14.040(E).

B. Beginning May 1 until September 30 of each calendar year, it is deemed unlawful to use water to spray irrigate turf, gardens, trees, shrubbery, or other vegetation between the hours of 11:00 a.m. and 7:00 p.m.

 

14.14.040 – Golf courses.

 

 

 

Footnotes

as in, near our Henderson office on south Stephanie
fancy law word for wrote
the utility for city of Las Vegas and unincorporated Clark County
I do actually, it’s not
as in, we now all agree to the following
it’s a prima facie oxymoron, no? Also, if the academic types want more people to listen, try using words real people use.
He is one of the country’s leading behavioral economists/advisor to President Obama
Source
please don’t overcomplicate this
Like shouting “War Eagle,” but for fans of labor
As John Oliver astutely pointed out, the more famous NRA isn’t even that big..Apparently planet fitness has more members? Also, apparently that matters..
There’s good reason today to think this is incorrect. Any discussion of the Great Depression is incomplete unless debt crisis of the 1920s included
game theory term for “race to the bottom”
Imagine living in an era where you had to go to the movies to watch the news
not all!
The Roosevelt Myth via wikipedia
hundreds? thousands?
I can see my conservative friends salivating..that is far too draconian. What if the business I am discussing is an apartment complex? Clearly the residents shouldn’t have their water turned off; they don’t control when the grass is watered/if their property management company abides by the water laws. It’s not a terrible idea in theory..it’s just that we don’t live in theory. People need water.
Hopefully we don’t have any Starbucks[Just go read Moby Dick already] aboard
Correct?
I don’t know this for sure, but I have seen sprinkler systems that can be set for months. This could be done just for Summer
Don’t know about you, but I always preferred a good self evaluation
it’s more like a demonstration
It’s a principled stand based on liberty..I swear I’m listening
Republican, cheetos
Things I never thought I’d be doing on the Clear Counsel blog: defending Glenn Beck
the appropriate adverb is debatable
given that many of our moral issues are still being debated
A lot of my liberal friends disagree with me on this. It’s not just about being right though.
reasonably, respectfully
No it isn’t. Just making up cliches again.
If you are looking for the conservative alternative, think Judge Posner of the 7th Circuit. How much fun would it be to live in a city where he was doing the nudging??
#Brexit!!
Overstock doesn’t pay me anything, just the first example I could find. Scroll to the bottom of the page
If you search our legal blog, he has discussed this topic extensively. Here is a good example
501(c) refers to the tax code
easier now than ever with social media
or self-fund. Again, many more options when you use private enterprize
Pretty good idea if you ask me
Nevada voting election vote

Election Day Special: Know Your Voting Rights

Need to find your polling place in Clark County? Just click here. Voting is open until 7 p.m. 

 

Happy Election Day! Good news! We have moved into the state-administered calendar of the election season. Why is this good? Because when the state administers an election (as opposed to a political party), you have rights as a Nevada citizen to ensure the election is administered fairly.

More good news! As I’m sure you have heard how new voter-ID laws across the country are disenfranchising people (who could forget Sen. Burr having to vote with a provisional ballot?). Well, we don’t have one! In fact, the next time someone brings that silly topic up, refer them to NRS1)which stands for Nevada Revised Statute 293.775 that states that anyone “who votes or attempts to vote knowing that he or she is not a qualified elector is guilty of a category D felony.”2)Cite

Yes, voter fraud is already a crime. Let’s move on talk to about stuff that’s really important…like bathrooms3)kidding!.

Know Your Election Rights by Statute

It’s one thing to know that it’s “the law” that you do not have to provide state-ID to vote (for example), but what fun is that?

It’s much more fun to vote knowing the precise statute that empowers you!

Let’s start with election day observation:

NRS 293.274  Members of general public allowed to observe conduct of voting at polling place; photographing or otherwise recording conduct of voting by members of general public prohibited.

      1.  The county clerk shall allow members of the general public to observe the conduct of voting at a polling place.

      2.  A member of the general public shall not photograph the conduct of voting at a polling place or record the conduct of voting on audiotape or any other means of sound or video reproduction.

      3.  For the purposes of this section, a member of the general public does not include any person who:

      (a) Gathers information for communication to the public;

      (b) Is employed or engaged by or has contracted with a newspaper, periodical, press association, or radio or television station; and

      (c) Is acting solely within his or her professional capacity.

      (Added to NRS by 1995, 2772; A 1999, 264) (emphasis added)

There was some confusion online if people are allowed to take pictures of their ballots and post them (I am not going to reproduce a potential crime here). There’s been a national rise in demand for folks to film themselves casting a ballot out of fear of voter fraud, but you do not need to worry about that here. In Nevada, you can see a print out of your voter preferences before you leave the booth. I can verify this firsthand.

My point being, you don’t need to film yourself voting. Also, it’s illegal.4)Yes, Jon’s right. Doesn’t excuse that tone of his though.

One last point regarding NRS 293.274 in reference to the general public being permitted to “observe.” That means you can stand near the poll location and watch people vote. “Observe” has a different meaning than “talk to,” “intimidate,” “question” or any other action that involves you interacting with voters.5)Small aside. In 2008 i worked for the “Election Protection” team in Las Vegas where we went to the polls to make sure voters weren’t being made uncomfortable. At the North Las Vegas polling place I visited, there was in fact a man there in a white button down shirt, bright red tie, with a steno pad, looking at each voter’s face and making a note on his pad. I just went and stood next to him..he left 10 minutes later. Guess he had all the notes he needed. Leave them voters be!

You Do Not Need State-Issued ID to Vote

NRS 293.277 and NRS 293.285 states what is required of you to vote:

NRS 293.277  Conditions for entitlement of person to vote; forms of identification to identify registered voter.

      1.  Except as otherwise provided in NRS 293.283 and 293.541, if a person’s name appears in the roster or if the person provides an affirmation pursuant to NRS 293.525, the person is entitled to vote and must sign his or her name in the roster when he or she applies to vote. The signature must be compared by an election board officer with the signature or a facsimile thereof on the person’s application to register to vote or one of the forms of identification listed in subsection 2.

      2.  Except as otherwise provided in NRS 293.2725, the forms of identification which may be used individually to identify a voter at the polling place are:

      (a) The card issued to the voter at the time he or she registered to vote;

      (b) A driver’s license;

      (c) An identification card issued by the Department of Motor Vehicles;

      (d) A military identification card; or

      (e) Any other form of identification issued by a governmental agency which contains the voter’s signature and physical description or picture.

      (Added to NRS by 1960, 252; A 1985, 559; 1991, 2219; 1993, 2181; 1995, 2263; 2001, 2595; 2003, 2176; 2015, 3151) (emphasis added)

NRS 293.285  Procedure for taking registered voter’s signature.

      1.  Except as otherwise provided in NRS 293.283, a registered voter applying to vote shall state his or her name to the election board officer in charge of the roster, and the officer shall immediately announce the name, instruct the voter to sign the roster and verify the signature of the voter in the manner set forth in NRS 293.277.

      2.  If the signature does not match, the voter must be identified by:

      (a) Answering questions from the election board officer covering the personal data which is reported on the application to register to vote;

      (b) Providing the election board officer, orally or in writing, with other personal data which verifies the identity of the voter; or

      (c) Providing the election board officer with proof of identification as described in NRS 293.277 other than the card issued to the voter at the time he or she registered to vote.

      3.  If the signature of the voter has changed in comparison to the signature on the application to register to vote, the voter must update his or her signature on a form prescribed by the Secretary of State.

      (Added to NRS by 1960, 253; A 1971, 442, 1486; 1987, 692; 2007, 2588; 2015, 3152)

If you are looking to remember one election statute, NRS 293.277 is the one you are looking for. As you can see above in the bolded section, if your name is on the voter rolls, with a signature and an affirmation6)legally binding statement, you get to vote.

I was going to add “no questions asked” but that could be literally untrue. Take a look at NRS 293.285. If your signature doesn’t match with the one on file, the election official present will likely ask you a few questions. This is okay!

The procedure for how the election officials ask and take your signature is specifically prescribed by statute. If the above procedure is not followed at your polling place, please inform that Clark County Election Department at (702) 466-8683.

Just in case, here is the language from the Clark County Election website regarding voter identification:

You will give your name to a Clerk at the precinct table. The Clerk will find your name in the Precinct Register and ask you to sign next to your facsimile signature. The Clerk will then verify your identity by comparing your handwritten signature to your facsimile signature. It may be helpful to bring picture identification with you when you vote.

I cannot get enough of that last sentence. I must have read it at least 20 times.

Lastly, if voting is difficult for you because of language or physical disability, the election officials are required to allow assistance:

NRS 293.296  Assistance to voter who is physically disabled or unable to read or write English.

      1.  Any registered voter who by reason of a physical disability or an inability to read or write English is unable to mark a ballot or use any voting device without assistance is entitled to assistance from a consenting person of his or her own choice, except:

      (a) The voter’s employer or an agent of the voter’s employer; or

      (b) An officer or agent of the voter’s labor organization.

      2.  A person providing assistance pursuant to this section to a voter in casting a vote shall not disclose any information with respect to the casting of that ballot.

      3.  The right to assistance in casting a ballot may not be denied or impaired when the need for assistance is apparent or is known to the election board or any member thereof or when the registered voter requests such assistance in any manner.

      4.  In addition to complying with the requirements of this section, the county clerk and election board officer shall, upon the request of a registered voter with a physical disability, make reasonable accommodations to allow the voter to vote at his or her polling place.

      (Added to NRS by 1973, 293; A 1977, 244; 1985, 1093; 1987, 693; 1999, 2156; 2015, 1146)

You, the voter gets to pick whom will assist you. No one else (there are exceptions, see the rest of the law below). 

Still think it is too difficult/inconvenient to vote? I wrote a Not-Very-Modest Proposal to fix our election problems..

Thanks for reading.

 

Footnotes

which stands for Nevada Revised Statute
Cite
kidding!
Yes, Jon’s right. Doesn’t excuse that tone of his though.
Small aside. In 2008 i worked for the “Election Protection” team in Las Vegas where we went to the polls to make sure voters weren’t being made uncomfortable. At the North Las Vegas polling place I visited, there was in fact a man there in a white button down shirt, bright red tie, with a steno pad, looking at each voter’s face and making a note on his pad. I just went and stood next to him..he left 10 minutes later. Guess he had all the notes he needed.
legally binding statement
Nevada election

A Not-Very-Modest Proposal to Fix Nevada Election Problems

Insanity: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.

-Albert Einstein

 

(Editors note: the piece has been reformatted for better accessibility-6/2/2016)

 

If We Change Nevada Election Laws, What Should They Be?

Good news! The answer isn’t all that complicated, and we don’t have to start from scratch.

We clearly (given that Nevada has been a state for 150 years and still cannot host an election) don’t have (or desire to spend) the resources to adequately (some might contend “Constitutionally”) administer elections. This is important to acknowledge.

If learned anything from the state convention, it is that the people working for the Nevada Democratic Party cannot administer an unbiased primary.1)It wasn’t just the convention; I have talked with multiple voters that told me their Caucus wasn’t not administered properly. I caucused up in Anthem (with Sen. Reid in the building, though in a different precinct), and I personally witnessed at least three caucuses run improperly (as in, not according to the party’s rules. Worse, I saw caucuses run by the same precinct chair, administered differently [I guess if you wanted to be in a caucus that followed party rules, it was luck of the draw] in the same gymnasium). If the party doesn’t administer the caucus correctly with the Godfather in the building, I have no reason to think any Caucus meeting was completed in the proper order. If the people working for the NV Dems are so passionate about Hillary Clinton (nothing wrong with that) that they could not administer a caucus fairly, they should have asked someone else to do it. Updating the rules, on the fly, the meet the needs of their preferred candidate, is just not good enough. Our friends in the Nevada GOP have their own legitimacy issues. Do a little reading about the 2012 race; the google can help.

For the reasons discussed above, legitimate ruling authority is more important than any other single issue the legislature will address next session. If the people in office were not put there by legitimate means, no subsequent action taken by these officials will be seen as legitimate.2)Keep going down the logic tree, or read about the ongoing coup in Brazil if you want a real world exampleThis speaks to the very essence of our society.

If we were going to a Rawslian3)I just mean starting from a “state of nature,” as in the famous thought experiment where you would design a system of justice from scratch, perhaps with equal outcomes. experiment here, perhaps I would propose something far more radical4)Imagine if our elections were community meetings of say a couple dozen people that had a fruitful discussion before each individual declared her preference. Or if the complex issues of the day got the debate they deserve. Or if the elected officials entrusted to make tough decisions aren’t permitted to leave the room before action has been taken, etc..

But we don’t need to “revolutionize” the Nevada election process. Our 9th Circuit neighbors to the north have done most of the legwork for us. Up in Oregon, they have enacted (and tested) vote-by-mail laws. 30 years later, the results from their experiment are extraordinary! (wait until you see their voter participation numbers). Let me quote the Oregon Secretary of State to explain the process:

 

Registered voters receive a ballot two to three weeks before an election, giving time to research issues or candidates.

Voters also receive an official ballot to complete and insert into the security envelope which is placed in the ballot return envelope and signed by the voter. The ballot return envelope can be stamped and mailed or dropped off at any official drop box across the state. If a voter casts their ballot after the Wednesday before an election, the ballot should be left at a drop box site to ensure it’s counted.

Ballots must be received by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

 

Better than that? The same process applies for the primary! Problem solved!

Just in case the benefits don’t jump off your mobile device at you, allow me to list the first ten I could think of:

  1. No More Long lines: In a state where folks work around the clock, having folks stand in line for hours to vote is terrible for our economy. Just think of all the waste from the February caucus.
  2. No More Voter Intimidation: There have been complaints5)I’m not speaking to their veracity that certain voters, from both parties, feel intimidated.6)I recall seeing pictures on State Sen. Aaron Ford’s account of voter intimidation that will infuriate any good Nevadan. Being able to express your voter preference is a fundamental tenant of American life and should be protected. This is the best means to do so.
  3. Improved Fairness for Our Senior Citizens: The first concerns listed above are particularly acute for our area seniors. Allowing folks to vote from home at their own convenience is an idea I believe most of our senior citizens would support.
  4. Improved Fairness for Casino Workers: If you haven’t worked in the casino industry, the shifts constantly are in flux (until you have tenure) and it is difficult to plan for anything too far in the future. Under the caucus system, people only have a 2 hour window to express their preference. Saturday is a busy day in the casino industry, and most of the Valley’s casino shifts include working on Saturday. Casino workers are the true foundation of our economy here, and we should be doing everything possible to make it easy for them to vote. I’m sure the Casino owners do not want to continue to pay their workers during the caucus either. Let casino workers vote when they can.
  5. Potential for a Significant Voter Turnout: In 2012, 2/3rd’s of the country didn’t vote. This is a huge problem for a number of reasons. 10% of registered democrats in the state voted in this year’s caucus. This is a civic failure of which we could blame any number of institutions, but now is not the time for distractions. The more cynical folks in the media like to use these stats to make unfavorable conclusions about Americans generally. Me? I think most Americans are willing to participate, they just don’t have 6 hours to dedicate to the process with families, work and other obligations. Don’t believe me? With a vote-by-mail option, More than 70% of Oregon residents voted in the 2014 midterm.
  6. More Honest Political Parties: Closed primaries don’t make sense in Nevada where as much as 1/3 of the voters do not want to be apart of either major political party. An open, vote-by-mail primary allows every citizen to have an equal voice in the process. Once the major parties have competition, they will be forced (as much as they can be) to meet the will of the voters. My conservative readers have to be in favor of more competition..
  7. People Will Feel Invested in Their Community: When 2/3rds of the country didn’t vote, these folks can just turn around and blame the other 1/3 without having to take any responsibility. We want our citizens to have skin in the game, to care about the results. I suspect that there are many people with the civic spirit in Nevada that want to participate and be a part of the process, but they are disincentivized by the impropriety of the process (even just the look of it). A more engaged citizenry will lead to a better Nevada, no question about it.7)There will be growing pains, but that’s ok!
  8. Fairness for Non-Partisan Voters: Did you know the fastest growing voter demographic in Nevada is non-partisan voter? Shouldn’t folks with independent streaks/non uniform political opinions be allowed to participate in the primary? Wouldn’t the result likely be a candidate that more of the country actually likes?8)Note, Nevada currently uses a closed primary system to exclude non-partisans from the process. This can be easily fixed.
  9. Lower Cost: Think about the cost of running an election for a moment: supplies, personnel, rent for polling locations, plus the opportunity cost of having public officials not completing their regular business. Then add on early voting! Know also that the ballot drop boxes around the state (under Oregon law) don’t need to be supervised (like a mail box). Also, in terms of added cost, we already send out a voter guide! Why not just include the ballot as well?
  10. A Better Government: Our government, like the rest of life, is a product of what we put in. A more engaged/inspired voting public will produce a more engaged/inspired government. When in life have you received something worthwhile that didn’t take serious effort to produce? It’s time to stop pretending our government is any different.

 

In case any of the members of our fine Nevada Assembly come across this discussion, I have included the Oregon statutes below for your perusal. Additionally, I included Oregon voting statistics, which alone should be enough to get you to consider this idea.

I would be the first to concede that my proposal is, by no means, modest. But for the listed reasons above, I ask the citizens of Nevada to take it under serious consideration.

We do not have to pick insanity. Our democracy is a beautiful thing. It’s time to reinvest.

 

How We Got Here

By now, you’ve heard at least a little bit about what happened at the Nevada Democratic Party State Convention from the Paris Hotel. Frankly, I’d be impressed if you haven’t.

If you missed all the fun, this Maddow segment sums up the Nevada election fun.

 

The look on Ralston’s face is priceless.9)How’s that #fallofTrump hashtag going by the way?

Here’s a litany of “thinkpieces”10)How long does someone need to think about something before a “reaction” becomes a “thinkpeice”? from the Convention, if it’s a recap you are after: NY Times CNN  Commentary Medium Salon Statement from Lucy Flores

I am less interested in what occurred last weekend, but much more concerned about what we should do going forward. As I wish more people were.

But how much does what happened last weekend matter? If the Nevada Democratic Party followed their own convention rules, Hillary would have won 13-12. With the new, updated11)to account for Bernie’s supporters winning too many delegates at the county conventionsconvention rules, Hillary won 15-10.

That’s right, all of this is about two delegates. Yes, every delegate counts. And Hillary is currently 274 delegates ahead of Bernie. For those of you not math inclined, we are talking about less than 1% of the total delegates. Unless Bernie wins at least 70% of the California vote, Hillary is going to win the primary.

As we keep calling each other names, please keep that in mind.

One last point regarding the Convention..

https://twitter.com/karpmj/status/733719356249628673

 

I, for one, would appreciate it if the national media stops reporting false facts to make Nevadans look bad. As far as I can tell, no Nevadan threw anything at anyone.

As for the disgusting harassment of Roberta Lange, no one has proven anyone from Nevada had anything to do with that either. Over on Jezebel, Anna Merlan wrote a great piece where she called up a few of these harassers and asked them to explain themselves. It’s worth reading in full. Of the three harassers she spoke to, none was from here.12)For all I know, these jerks all work for David Brock..I kid David, I’m sure he doesn’t do stuff like this anymore..

 

Now That We Got That Silliness Out of the Way, Onto Important Business

That is, that our primary (at the very least) has the appearance of impropriety. And that is a huge problem.

Yet, it is important to acknowledge that administration of a legitimate election is not a Nevada-specific issue. In fact, this is a problem in many13)but not all…stay tuned states in the union.

But how bad are things across the country?

http://www.esquire.com/news-politics/politics/news/a43311/war-on-voting/

Well, Charles Pierce had to write about it without cursing, so yes, pretty serious. In that piece, he aggregates voting issues in North Carolina, Wisconsin, and Alaska. Anyone else see a common theme across jurisdictions making it more difficult to vote?14)George W. Bush’s politics/results showed that conservative values can easily win on the merits; there’s absolutely no need/value for these laws.

We could continue to complain on social media, write terse letters to the editor, and create (less than mature) vines to express our displeasure, or we could Make a Change.

 

Why This Matters

In my humble opinion, this matters as much as anything we’ve written about on the Clear Counsel Legal Blog. We are talking about the fundamentals of our democracy here, the essence of our social contract. Allow me a moment to take a step back so we can get a little perspective.

When the uproar in Tunisia began in the end of 2010, I speculated15)#humblebrag…you’ll just have to believe me. Also, there were many a folk that said the same thing that it was very possible for the unrest to spread to the other neighboring countries. Why?16)I apologize for the Darling-esq rhetorical question

The conditions that acted as a catalyst in Tunisia were present across the Middle East17)Not the murder of the fruit vendor, but that the government was not chosen by the people but imposed on the people, and not the surprisingly, the unrest spread beyond Tunisia’s borders18)I’m going to put a pin in the discussion of the Arab Spring for now. Yes, I am aware of that there are many, many variables at play, and I am not omniscient. If you want more information about the Arab Spring, the Google can help.

That condition I speak of? The lack of legitimate authority over the citizens by the autocratic governments in question. This is incredibly important.

Beginning with the American Constitution of the 18th Century, peoples of the Western World declared that we (collectively) have the right to live by self-determination through self-governance. Europeans/fellow Americans followed suit over the next 200 years to the extent that now most Western societies consider governments that were not popularly elected as illegitimate19)I am fully aware of the happens of Brazil…We should let that play out before drawing conclusions. Certainly, it’s concerning.

The brilliance of our American experiment is that we,

1. Established a repeatable means to determine whom should lead us, and

2. Instituted an invaluable20)literally, try to put a price on this method for the peaceful transition of power.

Let’s reflect why this is important. Before 1776, Every person in the world was born into a society in which s/he had no voice/power to make a change. Political transitions before the Great American Compromise were, in essence, a storming (then subsequent re-storming) of the Bastille. The peasants of this era (and before) had no means to express their displeasure, except a good storming.

Imagine, if instead of having an election every 4 years, there was a violent conflict for power? Sounds awful, right? There’s real value in our political development over the past 200 years.

Good. We start here.21)Unfortunately, this is where most of the analysis I have seen stops. We seem to have hundreds of people ready/able/willing to disseminate an opinion, less that want to try to address the issues in question.

In reference to the Einstein quote to open the piece, if we don’t make serious changes to the Nevada election laws, there is no reason to think all of this chaos won’t happen again in 2018, 2020, 20204..

It doesn’t have to be that way!

 

Thanks for reading.

Click to access 246.pdf

 

 

Click to access 251.pdf

Click to access Voter-Turnout-History-Primary.pdf

Click to access Voter_Turnout_History_General_Election.pdf

 

 

 

Footnotes

It wasn’t just the convention; I have talked with multiple voters that told me their Caucus wasn’t not administered properly. I caucused up in Anthem (with Sen. Reid in the building, though in a different precinct), and I personally witnessed at least three caucuses run improperly (as in, not according to the party’s rules. Worse, I saw caucuses run by the same precinct chair, administered differently [I guess if you wanted to be in a caucus that followed party rules, it was luck of the draw] in the same gymnasium). If the party doesn’t administer the caucus correctly with the Godfather in the building, I have no reason to think any Caucus meeting was completed in the proper order. If the people working for the NV Dems are so passionate about Hillary Clinton (nothing wrong with that) that they could not administer a caucus fairly, they should have asked someone else to do it. Updating the rules, on the fly, the meet the needs of their preferred candidate, is just not good enough. Our friends in the Nevada GOP have their own legitimacy issues. Do a little reading about the 2012 race; the google can help.
Keep going down the logic tree, or read about the ongoing coup in Brazil if you want a real world example
I just mean starting from a “state of nature,” as in the famous thought experiment where you would design a system of justice from scratch, perhaps with equal outcomes.
Imagine if our elections were community meetings of say a couple dozen people that had a fruitful discussion before each individual declared her preference. Or if the complex issues of the day got the debate they deserve. Or if the elected officials entrusted to make tough decisions aren’t permitted to leave the room before action has been taken, etc.
I’m not speaking to their veracity
I recall seeing pictures on State Sen. Aaron Ford’s account of voter intimidation that will infuriate any good Nevadan
There will be growing pains, but that’s ok!
Note, Nevada currently uses a closed primary system to exclude non-partisans from the process. This can be easily fixed.
How’s that #fallofTrump hashtag going by the way?
How long does someone need to think about something before a “reaction” becomes a “thinkpeice”?
to account for Bernie’s supporters winning too many delegates at the county conventions
For all I know, these jerks all work for David Brock..I kid David, I’m sure he doesn’t do stuff like this anymore..
but not all…stay tuned
George W. Bush’s politics/results showed that conservative values can easily win on the merits; there’s absolutely no need/value for these laws.
#humblebrag…you’ll just have to believe me. Also, there were many a folk that said the same thing
I apologize for the Darling-esq rhetorical question
Not the murder of the fruit vendor, but that the government was not chosen by the people but imposed on the people
I’m going to put a pin in the discussion of the Arab Spring for now. Yes, I am aware of that there are many, many variables at play, and I am not omniscient. If you want more information about the Arab Spring, the Google can help
I am fully aware of the happens of Brazil…We should let that play out before drawing conclusions. Certainly, it’s concerning.
literally, try to put a price on this
Unfortunately, this is where most of the analysis I have seen stops. We seem to have hundreds of people ready/able/willing to disseminate an opinion, less that want to try to address the issues in question

When a Short Sale Might Be Your Best Option for Your Home

 

How a Short Sale Might Assist You

Transcript:

Hi, my name is Jordan Flake. I’m an attorney at Clear Counsel Law Group. We deal with a lot of real property issues, and there are times that we help people accomplish a short sale. Pretty much everyone I know has either seen a foreclosure, or a short sale, or a default at some point in the last several years, because so many people have gone through that, here in the Valley; but just so that you know exactly what your short sale options are:

The term short sale just means that you’re selling the property out there in the world, and the proceeds from the sale are not sufficient to cover the loan balance. Let’s use an example. Let’s say you owe $80,000 on a house, but the house is only worth $60,000. The owner of that house basically can get a buyer for $60,000, and go to the bank and say, “Hey, listen, I don’t have enough money to cover all $80,000 that I owe. However, I have this buyer, and rather than default on this and have it go into foreclosure for several years, why don’t you accept this $60,000 buyer, and we’ll basically allow that to wipe out the loan.”

 

Short Sale Home, Las Vegas, Nevada Real Estate

 

It’s very important when you do a short sale that you cross all your T’s and you dot all your I’s, because you don’t want that $20,000 deficiency, in other words the amount of the mortgage that wasn’t covered by the sale, to chase you down, and hunt you down, and follow you around for a long time. That’s, depending on whether not you have a first and/or a second, there’s different rules that apply; but if you’re thinking about short selling your home, please reach out to Clear Counsel Law Group. I’m more than happy to do a no-charge consultation, just to discuss your short sale options, give me a call. Thank you.

Your Personal Auto Insurance and Rental Cars

 

Does Your Personal Auto Insurance Include Coverage for Driving a Rental Car?

 

Transcript:

 

Hi. My name is Jared Richards and I’m one of the partners here at Clear Counsel Law Group. One of our readers has asked if a person is driving a rental car, and that person’s not listed on the rental car’s insurance, will that person’s personal insurance cover any responsibility for the car accident?

The answer is yes. If you have rented a car, and you let somebody else drive it, then generally the car insurance, or the car rental company. They all carry insurance, but generally minimal insurance, but generally that insurance will refuse to cover anybody who was not an allowed driver; an allowed driver by the rental company.

 

rental car, car accident, Nevada, Las Vegas

 

The next question is, is there any other insurance to use? Yes, that driver’s own car insurance should cover the accident. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a car insurance policy that’s related to that person as an individual that wouldn’t have covered it.

Now, there may be other factors: if he’s driving for reasons of work, or other things that may affect coverage, but in general, if a person is driving a rental vehicle and they’re not an allowed driver, they’re not listed with the car company, then their personal insurance, yes, should still cover the accident.

If you’re in that situation or you’ve been hurt by somebody like that, give us a call, we’re happy to help. You could otherwise explore our website. We’ve got lots of videos to answer all of your questions. Thanks, and have a good day.

Caucus, Nevada, Democrats, republicans, trump, hillary, bernie, cruz

The Answers to All of Your Caucus Questions!

You knew all the fun had to end eventually, right? I wonder if the national parties (in collusion with the cable news networks) decided to move the first primary or caucus back to April, what the candidates would do? Could they possibly keep up this pace for another three months?

Assuming the caucus dates will not be moved (to the chagrin of some establishment types that need more time to buy this thing), we still have so many unanswered questions: Will Rick Santorum wear his patented sweater vest without sleeves once it gets warmer? How many pairs of fancy boots does Mr. Rubio own? Is there anyway to distract Bernie from discussing income inequality?

If only we had more time!

Whether you are all aboard the Trump-train, feeling the Bern, “in” with Hillary, or part of the CruzCrew, you have likely heard all you need and are ready to declare that all import vote in the primary process. Now the only remaining issue is: How?

Below is a composite of most Frequently Asked Questions about the caucus process:

 

When and Where is the Nevada Caucus?

For some reason, (I have a guess but it is not appropriate to speculate), the two political parties host their caucuses on different days:

The Democrats: 20 February 2016, Saturday. Registration starts at 11am, the doors close at 12 Noon. They claim that if you are not at your caucus location by 12 Noon, they may not let you in.1)if you call their bluff, let me know by email what happened! brian@clearcounsel.com. Find your caucus location here.

The Republicans: 23 February 2016. Tuesday night. You have to register Republican by 13 February to participate. If you do not register by 13 February, you will not be permitted to attend (There is a link below to help). Find your caucus location here. (You need to register to vote first).

 

What are the Requirements to Caucus?

Here in Nevada, the state government only administers general elections. The Democratic and Republican Caucuses are administered by their respective party. In turn, the rules are entirely determined by the state parties.

You must abide by the following necessary conditions to participate in the Nevada Caucus:

  1. You must be 18 years old by the date of the Presidential Election on November 8, 2016. Yes, this means, a high school senior (that is currently 17) that will be 18 years old by November may (and in fact, is very much encouraged) join his or her caucus meeting.
  2. You must be a Resident of the state of Nevada.
  3. You must register as a Democrat or Republican (we do not have a so-called “open primary” where folks of any party may vote in any primary). Does this mean that you have to vote for the same party that you caucus for? No! Don’t let them tell you otherwise.

Important note for registration: If you are a democrat, you may register at the caucus site on the day of the meeting. If you are a republican, you have to register to vote by February 13, 2016. You may do so here.

Once more, because it is important, if you intend to caucus for a Republican, you must be registered to vote 10 days before the Caucus! Just click the link above, and so long as you have government-issued ID, you will be able to register to vote online.

 

What Happens at the Caucus Once You Arrive?

Upon arrival at your caucus site, you will register with the nice folks that will have a table near the door. Next, head over to your Presidential Preference Group if you already have a candidate in mind that you want to manifest a preference to support. If you have not made a decision yet, that’s ok! There will be a grouping of folks for “undecided.”

Important note: Standing2)or sitting with an initial group does not lock in your support for that candidate. You will have another chance to change your mind!

Next, (once everyone has arrived and sectioned off into their beginning preference) the Chair of your meeting will likely read/make statements from Nevada elected officials/party leaders.

After which, each campaign represented will be invited to speak on behalf of their candidate to persuade others in the room to help support their candidate.

Yet another important note: You do not have to do any public speaking if you do not want to! Folks volunteer for this responsibility; at the same time, the speaking gig is not assigned by the campaigns. The folks in your preference group will decide whom will speak for the whole.

After the speeches, there will be a fixed time for “persuasion.” Now comes the fun part! At this point in the process, folks supporting any candidate may try to persuade other people to come join their preference group. Don’t worry, no one is going to bully you/make you support any candidate. Better to think of this as the civil, community meeting portion of the event. After the persuasion period, folks head back to their preference groups and the total number of folks preferring each candidate will be calculated.

That’s it. Does it take a little more time than voting in a booth? Sure. But this is so much more memorable and fun (and you can play on your phone the whole time if you want).

 

What Caucus Rules Do You Need to Know?

Viability, mostly.3)Your precinct chair will read the rules to the caucus when you get there

Because the democrats and republicans will administer there own caucuses, they make their own rules. Better yet, the each caucus is different from the other.

Let’s start with the Democrats (because they go first).

The proceeding text comes from the 2008 Democrats Caucus guide, and the Nevada Democratic Party has confirmed4)through their spokesman Stewart Boss that these viability demarcations will be used in 2016 as well:

Caucus Viability Formulas Caucuses which elect Viable groups must contain 25% of Two (2) delegates attendees (# eligible attendees × .25).

Caucuses which elect Viable groups must contain 1/6th of Three (3) delegates attendees (# eligible attendees ÷ 6).

Caucuses which elect Viable groups must contain 15% of Four (4) or more delegates attendees (# eligible attendees × .15).

Always Round all fractions UP to a whole number when determining viability (e.g. If 1.1 Round to 2 — If 1.8 Round to 2)

 

Did your eyes just glaze over? Stay with me here, I can easily summarize. If you live in the Las Vegas Valley, it is most likely you will be at a caucus with four or more delegates (The orange line). What you need to know is that the Democrats do not count preferences for a candidate unless s/he has a sufficient level of support, a la at least 15% of the total number of people present. 

Insider tip: Folks who really care about winning for his/her candidate should start counting participants as soon as the doors are closed to figure out the 15% threshold. For example, if you are (if not all in, but at least partly) “In for Hillary,” and you count a total of 100 people at your caucus location, you will know that a candidate must have at least 15 folks in his/her corner to earn anything.

Continuing the hypothetical, if said Hillary supporter saw only 12 people standing on the side of the room to support Gov. O’Malley, it makes sense to make a beeline toward them once the persuasion period begins5)With a pitch like, “given that you don’t have enough supporters present, don’t you want your vote to count?”

I don’t have anything against Mr. O’Malley6)minus what happened in Baltimore under his tenure, but it unlikely, given his poll numbers, that he will be viable at the Nevada (or Iowa) Caucus. Some polls have Mr. O’Malley as high as 6%, which leaves many a 2nd-choice voter to be recruited for the Bernie/Hillary campaigns. How funny would it be for O’Malley supporters to be the ones to determine the Caucus outcome7)By the way, this happened in Iowa in 2008. Many Edwards preference groups did not meet the viability threshold. If those folks’ 2nd choice had been Hillary Clinton instead of Barack Obama, the entire course of human history could be different!8)There is no chance Mr. Obama is elected if he did not win Iowa…he has admitted as much.

 

The Republicans

For our Republican friends, don’t worry, none of this viability silliness applies. One person representing each campaign will give a public statement, and then each person will vote for his/her preferred candidate on a paper ballot. All Republican votes will be counted as there is no viability threshold.

If you are still concerned about the process/have questions, please do not hesitate to call (ask for Brian) or email, and I will do everything I can to help. We are Clear Counsel are not making an endorsement for the primary season, but we all strongly believe in representative democracy, and therefore, will help anyone of any party.

Even if you are still unsure about the caucus and don’t have time to call/write, just show up! I promise you will be able to figure it out; we all are Americans after all.

Thanks for reading.

More information:

http://nvsos.gov/index.aspx?page=1058

 

http://www.rgj.com/story/news/politics/2016/01/21/confused-nevada-caucus-s-easier-than-you-think/79086178/

 

Footnotes

if you call their bluff, let me know by email what happened! brian@clearcounsel.com
or sitting
Your precinct chair will read the rules to the caucus when you get there
through their spokesman Stewart Boss
With a pitch like, “given that you don’t have enough supporters present, don’t you want your vote to count?”
minus what happened in Baltimore under his tenure
By the way, this happened in Iowa in 2008. Many Edwards preference groups did not meet the viability threshold. If those folks’ 2nd choice had been Hillary Clinton instead of Barack Obama, the entire course of human history could be different!
There is no chance Mr. Obama is elected if he did not win Iowa…he has admitted as much
Nevada Caucus, Iowa, Trump, Bernie, Hillary, Cruz, Jeb

Your Much-Needed, All-Encompassing Caucus Preview! Now with a Small Debate Recap

**Updated With a Debate Recap**

 

To be the man, you have to beat the man.

-Pro Wrestling Proverb

 

 

The First GOP debate of 2016 affirmed my analysis of the race, see below. It is still a two-man contest between Mr. Cruz and Mr. Trump. Fox Business held the first laissez-faire debate of the season last night where candidates could come and go into conversations as they please, and answer only the questions they wanted. In terms of raw entertainment value, this was the best debate by far; each of the candidates is getting better with practice, some improving faster than others.1)Even Jeb!

Mr. Cruz showed last night that yes, indeed, he can win this thing. What you are about to see is the first candidate in the race actually stand up to Mr. Trump:

 

 

That “Constitution didn’t change since September” line was great. Mr. Cruz’s gab gift is such that Mr. Trump even smiled at a few of his quips! If you can’t stand up to Mr. Trump, how will you face Mr. Putin?

Shockingly, Mr. Cruz then found a way to make Mr. Trump sympathetic. Don’t believe me? Watch:

 

 

Five months ago, I would have never imagined Mr. Trump could do that. Unfortunately for Mr. Cruz, he had to burn many a bridge to get himself to his peculiar status as the “insider/outsider”2)Could someone not from Texas pull this off even??. Mr. Cruz may not have enough allies left in the establishment to muster a sufficient challenge to overcome the momentum of the Trump Train.

It’s clear after last night though; Cruz can win.

 

 

Welcome to our Iowa/Nevada caucus3)Yes, some New Hampshire too preview! In only4)haha, yeah only eleven months from now, all this jockeying will be over and the cable news will have to go back to talking about…What did they talk about before? Oh right! Airplanes lost at sea! Weird how no planes got lost over Bermuda during most of 2015; it is as if they know when to get lost to maximize news coverage, or something.

I know you see eleven months noted above and you’re thinking “Pshh, eleven?? Call me in October and I’ll see what these folks are up to.” Ah, my good friend, you do have a little time to head over to Kingman and burn your hard-earned money on an immoral national lottery that the Nevada Gaming Board would never permit5)because of the horrendous odds, but we will need your attention upon your return!

The Caucuses are coming; the caucuses are coming! Shockingly, our two-party political system has produced candidates from each party that differ to such an extent that these primaries will have a significant effect on the political process and the country as a whole. Not only should you be voting the celebrate the sacrifices of the countless others that died for your right of popular political participation, but because you can have a tangible effect on what it means to be an American for five, ten, maybe even twenty years from now.

So we best get this right, eh? This isn’t like those previous caucus seasons when you could pick any of the handful of politicians from one party and the policy result would not differ. You happen to be privileged enough to live in a country where you can actually participate in its future6)At the risk of being mercilessly mocked on the twitter, it is worth taking a moment and appreciating how lucky we are all to live here. You could have ended up in any of the nearly 200 countries in the world, and we are in the richest/most free. Yes, we have many an issue, but it is important not to lose perspective.

Time to get informed then? Insiders tip: don’t tell your coworkers you just noticed last night that we have a caucus in a months’ time. Play it like, “yeah, I’ve been following this stuff this whole time, I just didn’t want to talk about it too much to make y’all feel bad.” People seem to get defensive if you only recently made your 2016 caucus choice, as if your preference has less value than the bro who has been praying that Mr. Trump run for office since 2003.

Above, you see the most recent Nevada caucus polling. There is not much Nevada polling, and frankly, none of it would matter much anyway. We see the press (and Mr. Trump) playing a lot with national polls, yet there is no national caucus to decide the candidate for each party. No, the caucus or primary takes place in a pre-ordained sequence, meaning, in a Samuel Huntington7)Huntington wrote political theory about developing countries saying the the order in which institutions are established matters significantly to the outcome.-esq way, sequences matter! If New York voted first, followed by Texas then California, we would be looking at a completely different race!8)Shout-out to William Vollmann whose excessive use of exclamation points I am currently [poorly] emulating

My point being that the result of Iowa, New Hampshire, and South Carolina will affect the caucus here, so taking snap-shots of the current Nevada polling doesn’t mean that much/have much value. In turn, to understand potential outcomes for the Nevada caucus, we need to glance at the state of the race in Iowa and New Hampshire.

After tossing the coin, the Republicans9)not surprisingly advised by Bill Belichick opted to defer to the 2nd half, so we will start with your friends, Hillary and Bernie.

 

The Democrats and Their Caucus

I haven’t written much about our Democratic friends, as there really wasn’t much news to report. Hillary was up by 20 points, nationally and in all the early states, and there was no reason to presume that Bernie would be able to rise above the 30% plateau attributed to his support in November. Then there was Christmas, New Year’s…and all of a sudden:

 

Whoa! #Bernmentum indeed. I always knew America would take to democratic socialism, it just needed the right, pretty spokesman to do the job10)On a related note, Bernie’s hair is combed in nearly half his television appearances now, much marked improvement. Trends/momentum are important for the caucus, and as you can see above, Hillary must be having nightmares of 2008 all over again (she was up by about the same amount in 2007 December over Obama and Edwards).

I have no insider Hillary knowledge11)I should disclose here that they offered my a job in 2008 but I declined, but my guess is that Team Hillary hoped to hire all the Obama operatives (I watched these folks work in 2008, they are very impressive), and then transfer his popular support directly to Hillary. The plan did not go as hoped. Hillary has been unable to form Hope and Change 2.0 and instead is dealing with all the same issues she had in 2008 with the base democrats, just with new topics. In 2008, the base dems saw Hillary as a war hawk, and her rival campaigns used the base’s hatred of Mr. Bush’s Iraq adventure to defeat Hillary.

Instead of foreign policy12)apparently all the politicians in Washington believe in war in perpetuity now that Mr. Obama has embraced the Bush doctrine, now Hillary is getting attacked for being too moderate on the income inequality, which happens to be Bernie’s pet issue/the issue he speaks best on. The difference eight years later is that as opposed to the 5 competing campaigns teaming up to defeat Hillary in Iowa13)She was that much of a sure-thing then, promise, Bernie is doing it all by himself14)well, along with his coalition of the willing. Unfortunately for Hillary, it looks like the old Edwards/Obama/Biden supporters did in fact come together in a big tent, just against her. Again.

Things are even worse in New Hampshire, Bernie’s next door neighbor:

 

https://twitter.com/RichardAngwin/status/685634979179593728

 

I don’t know about KABOOM, but yes, Bernie is doing well. Does it mean he has got this thing locked up? Not even close. Hillary is up big in South Carolina, and as you saw above, polled very well in Nevada in late December.

The state count could be 2-2 come Super Tuesday. Hillary is not going to go down easy, folks. Take a look at this ad they put out yesterday:

 

 

Pretty effective on the liberals and their hatred of all things gun. Hillary is at risk of the sky falling on her campaign if she does not win one of the first two states. The every-moment-of-the-day15)trademark pending media will just go crazy with their hot-takes and “I told you so’s”.

Yet if the worst occurs, and if she can get out of Nevada with the score 2-2, Hillary is still a -200 favorite to win the nomination, given her fundraising.

Like I said before, your Nevada caucus preference16)This is correct term for a caucus, not “vote,” talk like you’ve done this before really matters!

 

The Republicans and Their Caucus

 

“More than 1,000 words and no Trump talk yet?? I thought you said we were going to ‘Make Caucusing Great Again’?”

Ok ok ok, sorry. Yes, your friend Mr. Trump has turned out to be a much better politician than anyone (besides the Donald) gave him credit for. And yes, like I wrote a few weeks ago, he remains the front-runner.

..But there is a bit of overcast for Team Trump. Of course, though, we have to start with a national poll that Trump dominates:

 

Twenty-eight points! The republicans found lots of folks to run for President, yet none of them have any military or state experience. Imagine if Jim Webb didn’t promote organized labor and registered republican; no way Mr. Trump is up by this much. More than a dozen candidates for President, and the candidate with the most military experience was a JAG lawyer and already dropped out17)Come back Lindsey!. You have to think that if Gen, Petraeus didn’t ruin his career with the book lady, he would have been the nominee for the Republicans, and given all the worry over terrorism, he’d probably be polling pretty well.

But here we are, with a combination of first-term senators, governors, and private sector folks with a combined zero days of military experience. Thus, Trump.

 

But sequence matters with the republicans too! Let’s see what’s going on in Iowa:

 

Mr. Cruz is winning! (probably). Guy is working his tail off in Iowa; I have no doubt he will have visited each of Iowa’s 99 counties by caucus day on 1 February. Iowa voters take their responsibilities very seriously, as they say, they got to kick the tires of a candidate two or three times before an individual would even consider caucusing for him or her.

If Mr. Cruz can pull off the upset and defeat Trump, the sequencing effect likely takes hold (people want to vote for a winner after all). An Iowa win for Mr. Cruz could completely change the dynamics of the race (for him and Mr. Trump only, sorry kids). If Mr. Trump blows out his establishment opponents in the first two states, he potentially18)can’t believe I’m typing this could sweep the field. He’s up Yuge in New Hampshire, South Carolina and Nevada, and if he sweeps the first four states, I cannot imagine another candidate will be able to raise enough money to compete with him. Mind you, Mr. Trump has spent very little19)around 2 million dollars, compare with the 9-figure expenditures of the Jeb PACs, and will likely have sufficient funds available to get the vote out on Super Tuesday.

But if you think Mr. Trump will just allow Mr. Cruz to take away his nomination, think again. By early February, expect all the country to know that Mr. Cruz was born in Canada20)stay tuned for a more in depth discussion on the qualifications for the office of the President. “Natural born citizen” confuses many. What isn’t clear is how well-organized21)in this context it just means, he employs plenty of staff, has lots of volunteers/veterans of the process Mr. Trump is. Look at these articles, for example:

http://www.politico.com/story/2016/01/trump-builds-data-juggernaut-217391

 vs.

Both of these pieces can’t be accurate. Did The Times just find dull Trump supporter in Ottuma to make him look bad? Is The Politico just trying to get back in Mr. Trump’s good graces? We will find out in three weeks. As much as the press loves the “yeah well it’s neat that all them folks came out for the rally, but are they really going to vote” angle22)example , given how well Mr. Obama did in 2008, might be time to give the candidate the benefit of the doubt that if you can get that many folks to attended a political rally in freezing weather, a good number of these folks are likely to caucus.23)Unfortunately for Mr. Obama, he was never able to muster the same enthusiasm for the rest of his party

The future of the Party of Lincoln rests in Iowa. Will they go the way of the Whigs/No-nothings? Will the populist-right break off and form their own party if the nomination is taken away from Mr. Trump? Stay tuned!

If you have a little extra time, I suggest this Guardian piece written by Ms. Abdul pictured below (right), on why she brought her extra-large Koran to a Trump event in Reno. I am happy to report the Reno folks kept their disrespect to micro-aggressions. Yay Nevada.

 

http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/jan/13/i-went-to-donald-trump-rally-in-my-hijab-supporters-arent-just-racist-caricatures

Footnotes

Even Jeb!
Could someone not from Texas pull this off even??
Yes, some New Hampshire too
haha, yeah only
because of the horrendous odds
At the risk of being mercilessly mocked on the twitter, it is worth taking a moment and appreciating how lucky we are all to live here. You could have ended up in any of the nearly 200 countries in the world, and we are in the richest/most free. Yes, we have many an issue, but it is important not to lose perspective
Huntington wrote political theory about developing countries saying the the order in which institutions are established matters significantly to the outcome.
Shout-out to William Vollmann whose excessive use of exclamation points I am currently [poorly] emulating
not surprisingly advised by Bill Belichick
On a related note, Bernie’s hair is combed in nearly half his television appearances now, much marked improvement
I should disclose here that they offered my a job in 2008 but I declined
apparently all the politicians in Washington believe in war in perpetuity now that Mr. Obama has embraced the Bush doctrine
She was that much of a sure-thing then, promise
well, along with his coalition of the willing
trademark pending
This is correct term for a caucus, not “vote,” talk like you’ve done this before
Come back Lindsey!
can’t believe I’m typing this
around 2 million dollars, compare with the 9-figure expenditures of the Jeb PACs
stay tuned for a more in depth discussion on the qualifications for the office of the President. “Natural born citizen” confuses many
in this context it just means, he employs plenty of staff, has lots of volunteers/veterans of the process
example 
Unfortunately for Mr. Obama, he was never able to muster the same enthusiasm for the rest of his party

Can You be Held Liable for a Car Accident if You were not Issued a Ticket?

 

 

No Traffic Ticket Does Not Mean that You are not Liable for a Car Accident

Transcript:

Hi, My name is Jared Richards, and I am one of the partners here at Clear Counsel Law Group.

One of our readers has asked if he can be held liable if he has a passenger that was injured in an accident, but he didn’t receive a citation. He didn’t get a traffic ticket.

The answer is yes. Traffic tickets don’t determine liability. You can technically be following the law and still get somebody hurt. Even so, the courts do not rely exclusively on the cops to determine who’s more at fault. The real question is … It’s not a question of traffic tickets, because cops sometimes don’t give them. Sometimes, quite frankly, cops get them all wrong.

 

traffic ticket, Las Vegas, car accident, Nevada

 

The real question is; did the driver do something that was negligent? Did the driver breach his duty of care to drive carefully? If he did, then he’s going to be responsible for any injuries that he causes. Since the passengers in his car generally are fault free, unless they’re being stupid and grabbing the steering wheel, I suppose. Mostly, 99.99% of the time, the passenger is absolutely fault free. So, yes. Even without a traffic ticket, you can be responsible for your passenger’s injuries.

Thanks. If you have any questions, give us a call.

What You Need to Know about an LLC Operating Agreement

 

 

What to Know about an LLC Operating Agreement

Transcript:

Jonathan: Hello, my name is Jonathan Barlow. I’m a partner attorney at Clear Counsel Law Group. A question that I’m often asked by my business clients is, “What is an operating agreement and why is it important?” In short an operating agreement is the document in an LLC that regulates how the business is operated. It tells us how profits are distributed. It tells us the respective responsibilities of the owners of the business. It tells us who the managers are, it tells us what authorities the managers have in regard to the business. Do they have authorities to make major decisions? Does that require a higher level of decision making? It tells us what percentage the votes are taken at. Does it require a 75% vote to take the action? In other words, it regulates the internal affairs of the LLC.

Now, why is the operating agreement important? That’s a really good question and that goes to one of the main benefits of an LLC. Typically you want to set up an LLC to give yourself asset protection and that means that if the LLC incurs a debt or a liability and somebody sues the LLC they would not be able to come at you individually as an owner to get to your assets in order to pay that debt. It works the other way also. If you individually have a debt, say you hit somebody in the street, you owe somebody a whole bunch of money on a personal injury claim, and they come after you on payment on that. They cannot get to the assets that are held in the LLC in order to pay that debt. It creates a wall of separation or liability protection between those two.

 

LLC operating agreement, Nevada, Las Vegas

 

Why is an operating agreement important in that light? The operating agreement shows, or is one of the ways to show that we treat the LLC as if it is separate from us. We respect it as a business entity, we’re not treating it as just a natural extension of ourselves. By showing the operating agreement, we show, “Hey, we have legal documents that say we are a separate entity. We operate the business according to the operating agreement. We should be treated as a separate entity and therefore, we should have that benefit of the asset protection between the LLC and the individual owner’s.” Brian has a good question here.

 

Brian: Hypothetically, if I was operating, let’s call it Drum Circle LLC, and me and my hippie partners just want to have an oral operating agreement because we trust each other would that have any legal value?

 

Jonathan:  Okay. An oral operating agreement, I’ve never heard of that, but the concept makes sense. You can have an oral contract, just like any other contract. You can orally state this is how we’re going to operate the business. Yes, you can do that and you can have agreements amongst yourselves of what you’re going to do in certain circumstances with the business. Of course, that has dangers and risks, which are disputes about what the agreement was. If a dispute ever arose one person may say one thing and the other may say a different thing. It also becomes difficult as I was talking about when you need to prove that the LLC is separate from yourself. I would be difficult to prove the oral operating agreement. It’s much easier if you have a written paper copy of the operating agreement to show them and say, “Hey, here it is. Here’s our agreement, this is why we treat it as a separate entity.” Never the less, I suppose you could make arguments that no we did treat it as a separate entity and here’s evidence of our oral agreement about how we did that, but in any event I always advise clients to be as formal as possible in creating their LLC and operating the LLC.

If you want help to create your operating agreement or to review your operating agreement to make sure that it complies with good requirements and will give you that asset protection. I encourage to give me a call or any of our other attorney’s here at Clear Counsel Law Group and we’ll do the best we can to help you with that.

puppy mill, Las Vegas, pet stores

Is the Las Vegas Puppy Mill Ordinance Constitutional?

The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.

Mahatma Gandhi

 

On 30 November, the City of Las Vegas held a meeting to get public comment regarding the proposed city ordinance that would ban pet stores from selling dogs that were purchased from a so-called “puppy mill.”

Elizabeth Gadley of KTNV was nice enough to post a few photos from the public meeting. Folks look as cheerful about the subject as you would expect1)Hard for me to think of a public meeting topic that would have most of the attendees smiling; these are our times, unfortunately.:

 

 

You can read a media account of the meeting here.

The city only took public comment at the meeting and did not pass any regulations, making this the best time to evaluate the law (as in, before it will go into effect). Before we can discuss the constitutionality of the proposed ordinance, however, it is best to take a step back and look at what a puppy mill is.

 

What is a Puppy Mill?

 

In short, very distasteful. In essence, they are factory farms for producing puppies at the best profit margins. Imagine you were going to attempt to breed dogs for the most amount of money possible, how would you do it?

  1. Keep the female dogs in a constant state of pregnancy to produce the maximum number of puppies during the mother’s lifetime.
  2. Store the dogs in the smallest confines possible in an effort to keep costs as low as possible.
  3. Leave the dogs in the cages in order to keep labor costs minimal.

Distasteful indeed.

This is not the correct forum to be anymore graphic than my description above, but the pictures of a puppy mill are the most persuasive. Take a little time if you are unfamiliar to check out these links before continuing:

 

http://www.humanesociety.org/news/publications/whitepapers/puppy-mill-research.html?referrer=https://www.google.com/

http://www.vice.com/read/i-worked-for-a-puppy-mill-915

http://www.newsweek.com/investigating-puppy-mills-94245

http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/nation/2007-10-31-puppy-mills-main_N.htm

 

https://www.aspca.org/animal-cruelty/puppy-mills

 

That should be sufficient. The City of Las Vegas is righteous and moral in its attempt to cease the sale of puppy mill dogs by area pet shops, and this piece will continue under that assumption. Yet, an inquiry into the constitutionality of the proposed ordinance is a different matter.

 

What Does the Las Vegas Puppy Mill Ordinance Say?

 

First, I would like to thank the folks managing the City of Las Vegas twitter account for providing me the text of the ordinance2)Unfortunately, the link provided no longer functions. I printed off of the ordinance while I had the chance and will quote from my hard copy..

The ordinance is only a page and half long, the most important part being Section 1(A):

No pet shop shall display, sell, deliver, offer for sale, barter, auction, give away, broker or otherwise transfer or dispose3)??? of a dog or cat except for a dog or cat obtained from an animal shelter, nonprofit humane society, or nonprofit animal rescue organization

The ordinance goes on in Section 1(B) to require pet stores to keep certification that their animals are not from puppy mills for one year. Section 2 declares if one section of the ordinance is unconstitional, than the rest of the ordinance remains good law. Section 3 repeals any part of the city code in conflict with the new ordinance, and Section 4 defines the punishment for violation of the ordinance4)a fine of no more than $1,000 or a jail term of not more than 6 months.

Seems simple enough, right? Think again; this is constitutional law we are talking about after all.

 

Applying the Phoenix Puppy Mill Law for Comparison of Constitutionality

 

Multiple media accounts have stated, erroneously5)I’m sure it was an accident, that the Las Vegas ordinance is similar to the one passed by Phoenix. They are correct in stating that each concerns the subject of pet stores selling puppy mill dogs, but there is a very important distinction between the laws, which we will get to in a moment.

The Phoenix law is important because its constitutionality was challenged in federal court by the disaffected area pet store. As much of an6)self-proclaimed expert as I am of constitutional law, it seems reasonable to rely on the analysis of the Arizona judge regarding the constitutional questions at hand7)His 36 page opinion also happens to be well-reasoned and thoughtful

First, let’s take a look at the Phoenix law:

8-3.06 Prohibition on sale of dogs or cats:

A.    No pet shop or pet dealer shall display, sell, deliver, offer for sale, barter, auction, give away, broker or otherwise transfer or dispose of a dog or cat except for a dog or cat obtained from:

1.    An animal shelter;

2.    A private, nonprofit humane society or nonprofit animal rescue organization; or

3.    An animal shelter, nonprofit humane society or nonprofit animal rescue organization that operates out of or in connection with a pet shop.

B.    All pet shops and pet dealers shall maintain records, for a period of one year from the date of acquisition, listing the source of all dogs or cats under their ownership, custody or control. Records shall be immediately available, upon request, to law enforcement, code compliance officials, and any other City employees charged with enforcing the provisions of this section.

C.    This section does not apply to:

1.    A person or establishment, other than a pet shop or pet dealer, which displays, sells, delivers, offers for sale, barters, auctions, gives away, brokers or otherwise transfers or disposes of only dogs and cats that were bred and reared on the premises of the person or establishment;

2.    An animal shelter;

3.    A private, nonprofit humane society or nonprofit animal rescue organization; or

4.    An animal shelter, nonprofit humane society or nonprofit animal rescue organization that operates out of or in connection with a pet shop.

D.    Nothing in this section shall prevent a pet shop or pet dealer from providing space and appropriate care for animals owned by an animal shelter, nonprofit humane society or nonprofit animal rescue agency and maintained at a pet shop for the purpose of adopting those animals to the public.

Date of Addition/Revision/Deletion – Section 8-3.06

+1    Addition on 12-18-2013 by Ordinance No. G-5873, eff. 1-17-2014

 

Section A and B are very similar to the Las Vegas ordinance, which we will deal with first (Section C will come soon, not to worry).

That’s right, now it is time to get out our pocket constitutions!8)Get out from under the desk, it’s going to be ok.

Article I, Section 8 Clause 3 of the U.S. Constitution states that the Congress shall have the power:

To regulate Commerce with foreign Nations, and among the several States, and with the Indian Tribes;

Much of our discussion going forward will concern just those first three words.

 

Puppy Mill and the Dormant Commerce Clause

 

Is the ordinance constitutional? You are going to be sorry you asked..Kidding, please don’t go! I promise we will get through this without too much pain9)I will skip the really trying parts.

Before we move on to the Commerce Clause analysis, I can hear our loyal readers shouting at their ithings10)trademark pending “I remember that GMO discussion regarding the Supremacy Clause. How can these municipalities regulate interstate commerce in this instance?” Great question! The difference here is that the federal law regulating the treatment of animals, the Animal Welfare Act, states that it “shall not prohibit any State (or a political subdivision of such State) from promulgating standards in addition to those standards promulgated11)Subsection 2143(a)[1]. Thus, the answer to your question is that the states are permitted to regulate in this arena, so long as the rest of the constitution is abided by.

..Like the Commerce Clause above.

Now we need to define to the so-called Dormant Commerce Clause. Judge Campbell, the author of the Phoenix decision, explains it better than I can:

The Clause also contains a “‘negative’ aspect that denies the States the power unjustifiably to discriminate against or burden the interstate flow of articles of commerce.”…This negative aspect has come to be known as the “dormant Commerce Clause.”… Courts “analyze dormant Commerce Clause claims using the Supreme Court’s two-tiered approach.”…“The first tier asks whether the Ordinance ‘either discriminates against or directly regulates interstate commerce.’” …If so, the Ordinance is subject to strict scrutiny – a “virtually per se rule of invalidity[.]”…The second tier has come to be known as the Pike balancing test. Under Pike, the Court asks whether the burden the Ordinance imposes on interstate commerce is “clearly excessive in relation to the putative local benefits.” (citations omitted, emphasis added)12)Puppies ‘N Love et al v. Phoenix, City of, F.Supp.3d . 2015 WL 4532586 (D. Ariz., 2015), p. 8 link

I will spare you anymore Commerce Clause discussion13)we could go deep into this rabbit hole; there is a reason the Phoenix opinion is 36 pages long, it is the bold part above that really is pertinent to our discussion. The Las Vegas law, like the Phoenix law, will not be subject to strict scrutiny14)because it does not directly regulate interstate commerce, but instead will be evaluated by the Pike balancing test.

We will assume, for sake of brevity, that the ordinances being discussed only incidentally affect interstate commerce. With that being so, the ordinance will be upheld “unless the burden imposed on such commerce is clearly excessive in relation to the putative local benefit.”15)Id. at 28.16)This is where my more conservative friends get upset about judicial activism, and they have a point here. The judge will now evaluate the the effectiveness/value/purpose of the law, and if it is to her liking, then the law will obviously pass the balancing test. If the law seems frivolous in effectiveness/purpose/value then she will say that it does not pass the balancing test. One could argue these are evaluations that should be made by the legislature. If anyone dares to tell you that constitutional law is not political, that judges are just “referees,” for example, stop taking that person seriously at once.

Judge Campbell weighs the factors of the Pike test in favor of Phoenix. He concludes:

“The modern law of what has come to be called the dormant Commerce Clause is driven by concern about ‘economic protectionism, that is, regulatory measures designed to benefit in-state economic interests by burdening out-of-state competitors.’” The Ordinance is not an act of economic protectionism. It is a legitimate attempt to curb the problems associated with the inhumane treatment of animals and local dog homelessness and euthanasia. (citation omitted) 17)Id. at 30.

There is no reason to think the the proposed Las Vegas ordinance would not pass a similar evaluation, given that the need to curtail the inhumane treatment of animals and help find homes for homeless animals is no less serious here. A similar law in Chicago was also recently upheld.

 

Where the Las Vegas Puppy Mill Ordinance May Have Some Constitutional Trouble..

 

So everything’s dandy right? The Phoenix law got the sign-off from a federal judge, so there is no reason to to think the Las Vegas ordinance will have any legal trouble…or is there?

Recall earlier that I claimed the Phoenix law differs from the Las Vegas ordinance in one major regard. Allow me to reproduce Section C of the Phoenix Ordinance:

C.    This section does not apply to:

1.    A person or establishment, other than a pet shop or pet dealer, which displays, sells, delivers, offers for sale, barters, auctions, gives away, brokers or otherwise transfers or disposes of only dogs and cats that were bred and reared on the premises of the person or establishment;

2.    An animal shelter;

3.    A private, nonprofit humane society or nonprofit animal rescue organization; or

4.    An animal shelter, nonprofit humane society or nonprofit animal rescue organization that operates out of or in connection with a pet shop.

D.    Nothing in this section shall prevent a pet shop or pet dealer from providing space and appropriate care for animals owned by an animal shelter, nonprofit humane society or nonprofit animal rescue agency and maintained at a pet shop for the purpose of adopting those animals to the public.

The proposed Las Vegas ordinance copied Sections A and B from Phoenix, but left out the above text. Why? Well, I am happy to speculate. Of the 36-page opinion quoted above in our Dormant Commerce Clause discussion, more than 2/3rds of it addresses the constitutionality of Part C. Any serious constitutional challenge to the ordinance would concern the municipalities creating an economic climate that favors local sellers to the detriment of out-of-state sellers.18)Judge Campbell upheld Section C above as constitutional, by the way.

Perhaps the City of Las Vegas thought the best way to avoid a constitutional challenge would be to delete the most controversial language of the Phoenix ordinance19)Or maybe their copy/paste functions as well as mine. Politically, this seems like the best course of actions and the city attorney should be commended on his cleverness.

But this may have unintended consequences.

Chew on this question: Based on the quoted language of the Las Vegas ordinance above20)No pet shop shall display, sell, deliver, offer for sale, barter, auction, give away, broker or otherwise transfer or dispose of a dog or cat except for a dog or cat obtained from an animal shelter, nonprofit humane society, or nonprofit animal rescue organization, what is the definition of “pet shop”?

The purpose of Section C of the Phoenix ordinance is to clarify what businesses the new ordinance would apply to. There is no language in the Las Vegas ordinance addressing this issue.

This is a big deal, honest. If you breed your own dog and sell a puppy to a neighbor, are you a pet shop? If not, how many dogs would you have to sell before you would be classified as a pet shop? Are only shops with business licenses considered pet shops?21)And so on, and so on.

There’s a constitutional law theory called the Vagueness Doctrine that may come into play here. The Legal Information Institute will assist us with a definition:

1) A constitutional rule that requires criminal laws to state explicitly and definitely what conduct is punishable.  Criminal laws that violate this requirement are said to be void for vagueness.  Vagueness doctrine rests on the due process clauses of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments of the U.S. Constitution.  By requiring fair notice of what is punishable and what is not, vagueness doctrine also helps prevent arbitrary enforcement of the laws.

2) Under vagueness doctrine, a statute is also void for vagueness if a legislature’s delegation of authority to judges and/or administrators is so extensive that it would lead to arbitrary prosecutions.22)Source

A word on the practicalities of constitutional law before we continue. A law or ordinance is never unconstitutional on its face; meaning, the legislature/city council cannot pass a law that is unconstitutional upon ratification. A court must declare a law unconstitutional for it to be so. My point being that all laws are constitutional until a court says otherwise.

So, for the sake of this conversation, neither of these ordinances, as passed, are unconstitutional. I am only saying that there may be a risk that a court might declare the ordinances unconstitutional.

The City of Las Vegas, while cleverly23)I mean that in the true connotation of the word omitting the disputed language from the Phoenix case, may have opened the door to a different constitutional issue. One might say that it makes more sense24)in terms of risk, not to mention good law/clarity to just include language similar to Section C of the Phoenix ordinance as a federal judge has already declared it constitutional. Why open a fresh can of worms with little legal precedent?

 

That was fun, right? I appreciate you sticking around and spending a little time with us on the Clear Counsel blog. If you are thinking of adopting, I highly recommend the Nevada SPCA25)That little dog in my avatar came from there. They even post photos online of the dogs (and other animals) available for adoption. Look at those cute faces and tell me your home would not be improved with a little fury friend!

http://www.nevadaspca.org/adoptable-animals/adoptable-dogs

 

A couple more links for further reading:

 

http://lasvegas.suntimes.com/las-news/7/104/18721/puppy-mill-regulations-map

 

http://www.abajournal.com/magazine/article/anti_puppy_mill_legislation_across_the_country_is_dogging_pet_stores/

 

Footnotes

Hard for me to think of a public meeting topic that would have most of the attendees smiling; these are our times, unfortunately.
Unfortunately, the link provided no longer functions. I printed off of the ordinance while I had the chance and will quote from my hard copy.
???
a fine of no more than $1,000 or a jail term of not more than 6 months
I’m sure it was an accident
self-proclaimed
His 36 page opinion also happens to be well-reasoned and thoughtful
Get out from under the desk, it’s going to be ok
I will skip the really trying parts
trademark pending
Subsection 2143(a)[1]
Puppies ‘N Love et al v. Phoenix, City of, F.Supp.3d . 2015 WL 4532586 (D. Ariz., 2015), p. 8 link
we could go deep into this rabbit hole; there is a reason the Phoenix opinion is 36 pages long
because it does not directly regulate interstate commerce
Id. at 28
This is where my more conservative friends get upset about judicial activism, and they have a point here. The judge will now evaluate the the effectiveness/value/purpose of the law, and if it is to her liking, then the law will obviously pass the balancing test. If the law seems frivolous in effectiveness/purpose/value then she will say that it does not pass the balancing test. One could argue these are evaluations that should be made by the legislature. If anyone dares to tell you that constitutional law is not political, that judges are just “referees,” for example, stop taking that person seriously at once.
Id. at 30
Judge Campbell upheld Section C above as constitutional, by the way.
Or maybe their copy/paste functions as well as mine
No pet shop shall display, sell, deliver, offer for sale, barter, auction, give away, broker or otherwise transfer or dispose of a dog or cat except for a dog or cat obtained from an animal shelter, nonprofit humane society, or nonprofit animal rescue organization
And so on, and so on.
Source
I mean that in the true connotation of the word
in terms of risk, not to mention good law/clarity
That little dog in my avatar came from there.
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