Author: Thomas Mitchell

Court Case Is About Free Speech Not Abortion

This past week the U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments in a case — NIFLA v. Becerra — that could answer the question of whether forcing speech on certain professionals is a violation of the free speech clause of the First Amendment. NIFLA is the National Institute of Family and Life Advocates, which gives legal advice to pro-life pregnancy centers, and Becerra is Xavier Becerra, the attorney general of California. At issue is a California law, the Reproductive FACT Act, that requires “crisis pregnancy centers” to post notices informing pregnant women about state-subsidized free or low-cost abortions. The law also requires pro-life, religious-oriented unlicensed centers to place extensive disclaimers in large fonts and in as many as 13 languages in their ads and on billboards telling people about abortion services, significantly increasing their cost to advertise. The law exempts abortion providers, hospitals and other healthcare facilities. The Ninth Circuit upheld the law. The case could reverberate in this year’s Nevada gubernatorial election, because Attorney General Adam Laxalt, who is running for the Republican nomination to be governor, signed onto to an amicus brief in the case with 21 other states, challenging the law as an unconstitutional burden on free speech. According to the donation-funded news website The Nevada Independent, the two leading Democratic gubernatorial candidates, Clark County Commissioners Steve Sisolak and Chris Giunchigliani, have sharply criticized Laxalt for taking sides...

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Latest Wind Turbine Project Is a Bad Idea

Less than a year after backers of a proposed wind turbine farm near Searchlight threw in the towel after failing to convince a federal judge their Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) was accurate, an even bigger project just 10 miles to the west has started the environmental review process. A week ago a notice was published in the Federal Register by the Bureau of Land Management initiating a 90-day public comment period for the proposed Crescent Peak Renewables wind farm that would occupy more than 32,000 acres of public land on the California-Nevada border adjacent to the Mojave National Preserve and the Castle Mountain National Monument in California and the Wee Thump Joshua Tree Wilderness in Nevada. All of the wind farm land is in Nevada. According to a 2012 filing with the Nevada Public Utilities Commission, the wind farm would have 220 wind turbine towers standing more than 400 feet high and generating 500 megawatts of power. By comparison, the rejected Searchlight wind farm would have had only 87 turbines on 9,000 acres of federal land, generating 200 megawatts of power. A federal judge ordered the Searchlight wind farm developers to start all over again on an environmental assessment, noting that the Interior Department’s approval of the project failed to adequately address concerns about impacts on bald eagles, golden eagles, desert tortoises and migrating bats. The judge pointed out...

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Trump Administration Settles Suit Over Habitat Rules

The Trump administration has settled a lawsuit filed by Nevada and 19 other states over Obama administration rules that sweepingly redefined what constituted critical habitat for endangered species and has agreed to rewrite those rules. The suit, filed in November 2016 against various federal land agencies, accused the federal bureaucrats of essentially rewriting the Endangered Species Act of 1973 (ESA) to give themselves potential veto power over any use whatsoever on every square foot of rural land, public or private, in the country. Though the ESA gives the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service authority to protect “critical habitat” occupied by endangered or threatened species, the rewritten rules redefined “critical habitat” to include land currently unoccupied by those species but just might someday, in someway, somehow — as a result of global warming or a meteor strike, perhaps — later become “critical habitat.” Those rules gave federal agents the power to block or alter any activity — grazing, farming, buildings, mining, recreation, roads, fences, pipelines, ditches, power lines, irrigation, oil and gas exploration — that might somehow adversely affect a potential habitat for certain protected rodents, minnows, bugs, birds, reptiles, beasts and weeds. The settlement, reached this past week, requires the federal land agencies to submit revised rules for public review within 60 days. The states reserve the right to file another lawsuit if the new rules are unsatisfactory. “I...

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Two Different Approaches to Internet Access

When boiled down to its essence, the key difference between the two major political parties is this: Democrats believe government is the solution. Republicans believe government is the problem. This difference is on display with bills being pushed by two Nevada senatorial candidates — incumbent Republican Dean Heller and challenger Jacky Rosen, currently a freshman congresswoman. Rosen recently introduced legislation that would reinstate the Obama administration’s 2015 net neutrality rule, which gave the Federal Communications Commission sweeping powers to micromanage the internet. The FCC recently voted 3-2 to remove that rule, saying itwas stifling internet innovation. “This administration’s reckless decision to repeal net neutrality gives internet service providers the ability to stack the deck against Nevada’s hardworking families and small businesses who could be forced to pay more to connect to an internet with slower speeds,” Rosen said in a press release following the introduction of her bill. “This resolution would reverse the FCC’s misguided ruling, which places large corporate profits ahead of people, and restore access to a free and open internet for Nevadans.” Actually, according to The Wall Street Journal, the rule created uncertainty about what the FCC would allow and thus throttled investment in new technology, because it prohibited “paid prioritization,” under which bandwidth hogs, such as video streaming companies, could have opted out of heavy traffic and switched to a toll road, just as occurs...

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Let the Public See the Work of Public Servants

Next week is Sunshine Week, March 11-17. The annual observation was created by the American Society of News (formerly Newspaper) Editors to spotlight the importance of public access to government information in a democratic republic, allowing citizens to be the watchdogs over their elected and appointed representatives. The sunshine label was derived from a quote by Justice Louis Brandeis, “Publicity is justly commended as a remedy for social and industrial diseases. Sunlight is said to be the best of disinfectants; electric light the most efficient policeman.” The point is that for the public to be able to perform its democratic role in voting into or out of office the most suitable personages, they must be kept informed as to how well or ill the current office holders and their minions are doing their jobs. Which brings us to the current tension between the right to know and the right to privacy. Earlier this year a district court judge ruled in favor of a request from The Associated Press and the Las Vegas Review-Journal to obtain copies of the autopsies of the 58 victims of the Oct. 1 Route 91 country music show shooting. The judge did require that the names of the victims be redacted. A few weeks later another judge, at the behest of the widow of off-duty police officer Charleston Hartfield who was killed at the concert,...

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