Where Nevada’s Congressional Delegation stands on halting Syrian refugees

Updated 11/20 with full Titus statement

The U.S. House voted today to approve a Republican-backed bill that would effectively suspend the number of Syrian and Iraqi refugees admitted into the country until a more stringent screening process is put in place, despite the threat of a presidential veto. Nevada’s House congressional delegation fell along mainly party lines during the vote on H.R. 4038, which passed on a 289-137 vote. Here’s what each of Nevada’s congressional members had to say about the bill, and the issue of continuing to admit Syrian refugees into the county after the recent terrorist attacks in Paris that killed 129 people.

Dina Titus (NV-01): NO

Titus’s office has yet to release a statement on her vote against the bill, but said the following on the House floor after the bill passed.

Here’s that statement in full:

“Rather than working on real solutions to defeat ISIS and confront terrorism, the Republican Leadership rushed a bill to the floor that turns the back of Lady Liberty on families fleeing unspeakable violence and atrocities.”

“While I will continue to work with my colleagues and the Administration on ways to improve the vetting process for refugees from around the world, I cannot support politically motivated legislation that sends the wrong message to our allies, misdirects critical resources, and abandons our proud tradition of being a safe harbor for the most vulnerable in search of better lives.”

Mark Amodei (NV-02): YES

Amodei signed onto a letter with 109 Republican House colleagues signaling his support for the bill, and released the following statement:

“Americans are compassionate people, but it is not unreasonable to ask the Administration to take measures to ensure our compassion is not exploited. Protecting Americans is paramount and this is an obvious vulnerability. It is not xenophobic to say so and I resent the implication.

“With all due respect, when the President has regularly downplayed the threat of ISIS and Al Qaeda, only to be proven wrong time and again, what has he done to warrant the benefit of the doubt? Congress has the obligation to provide oversight and halt these plans until the necessary security precautions are in place.

“While it is not my preference to engage in political wordsmithing, frankly, given his comments over the past few days, it seems the President reserves greater disdain for his political opponents than he does those responsible for the deaths of thousands at home and abroad, the atrocities in Paris, beheadings, burnings, and the enslavement of women and minors. To suggest that Members of Congress and other American citizens who express concern over a legitimate threat are somehow a recruiting tool for ISIS is disgusting and about the least Presidential thing I’ve seen out of an already disappointing, JV Administration.”

Joe Heck (NV-03): YES

Like Amodei, Heck joined the group of Republicans urging President Obama to halt refugee admission into the U.S. He released this statement yesterday:

“Our first responsibility must be to protecting Americans,” Rep. Heck said. “The Islamic State has declared war on the west and settling thousands of new refugees who cannot be properly vetted only increases the chances of a Paris-style attack in the United States. The President may be satisfied with his strategy against ISIL, but it clearly is not working. It’s time for a strategy shift in the war against the Islamic State. I will be working with my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee and Select Committee on Intelligence to ensure we bring to bear the full capabilities of the armed forces and our intelligence community in the fight against ISIL.” 

Heck also published this statement on Facebook today:

I voted YES on H.R. 4038, the American Security Against Foreign Enemies (SAFE) Act of 2015 because it adds needed layers…

Posted by Rep Joe Heck on Thursday, November 19, 2015

Cresent Hardy (NV-04): YES

In a statement published today, Hardy echoed his Republican colleagues in calling for extra precautions before allowing additional Syrian refugees into the U.S.

“My heart breaks for the Syrian people, but we cannot let compassion expose us to the ill will of ill men. In light of last week’s events in Paris, our first priority needs to be the safety of the American people. There are those who would take advantage of America’s generosity if we let them.

“ISIS has openly bragged about their plans to use the refugee relocation process to gain unprecedented access to Western nations. Intelligence reports show at least one of the attackers in Paris used a stolen Syrian passport to travel freely throughout the region. Why should we think the United States would be treated differently by those who seek to harm us?

“Today’s vote will put extra precautions in place so that we can continue to accept Syrian refugees and feel more confident about our own children’s safety in doing so. We should continue to look for ways to protect and support those affected by the fighting in Syria. But we cannot do that at the peril of our own national security.”

Hardy also gave a four-minute floor speech on November 17th, saying “France was not the beginning, nor will it be the end.”

Dean Heller:

Although the bill itself has yet to make it to the U.S. Senate, Nevada Senator Dean Heller has wasted little time in making his position clear, sending two open letters on Monday directed at Secretary of State John Kerry and Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval. In the letter to Kerry, Heller writes:

“Despite concerns from many in Congress and the American public regarding the threat of ISIS and the safety of our nation, the Administration has maintained its commitment to admitting additional Syrian refugees to the U.S. While I recognize the importance of assisting these individuals during a time of crisis, I also strongly believe Congress must conduct thorough oversight to determine whether the existing vetting process by DHS and the State Department is robust enough.”

Sandoval asked President Obama on Monday to cease sending Syrian refugees to the state, and on Wednesday asked the state’s Attorney General for an opinion on the governor’s authority to manage incoming refugees.

Harry Reid:

Although the Senate Minority Leader told reporters on Monday that he’ll adopt a “wait and see” attitude on potential holdups to the refugee program, Reid told reporters today that the current House bill won’t make it to the president’s desk.



New Reno restaurant offers a foie gras “Double Down”

Heritage restaurant photoIn the soul-decaying world of fast food specials, there hasn’t really been anything that both captured the combined excitement, curiosity and disgust of a nation quite like KFC’s Double Down “sandwich.”

The inspired creation that replaced bread with fried chicken inspired numerous parodies, gawkery and even a Colbert Show skit.

Now, four years after the fact and after “Double Down” has entered the popular lexicon, a new Reno restaurant is offering their version of the double down – but with foie gras instead.

Heritage – the fancy new eatery inside the recently rebranded Whitney Peak Hotel in downtown Reno – opened just a few months ago. It’s Chef Mark Estee’s latest expansion, after Campo Reno, chez louie in the Nevada Museum of Art and two Burger Me locations.

After a friend sent me the restaurant’s dinner menu, the foie gras double down caught my eye. After tweeting it out, the place’s twitter account confirmed that it was in fact real and on the menu.

A friend of mine who had called it “delicious.” I’ll hold judgement until I can try it for myself.

Nevada actually has an interesting history with foie gras – a ban on the food in California lead many Nevada restaurants to begin offering foie gras in an attempt to get hungry Californians over the border and into their eateries. One Reno casino even offered an “all-you-can-eat” foie gras buffet.

Q&A with ASUN Chief Justice Robert del Carlo on his impeachment decision, more

ASUN Chief Justice Robert del Carlo

The following is a list of emailed questions and answers between myself and ASUN Chief Justice, Robert del Carlo, regarding the impeachment process for embattled ASUN President Jake Pereira. I’ve edited for spacing and spelling, but left his answers almost … Continue reading

ASUN AG: Impeachment trial for student body prez must go on

ASUN President Jake Pereira

ASUN President Jake Pereira

According to an opinion filed today by Associated Students of the University of Nevada Attorney General Steven Kish, the scheduled impeachment hearing for President Jake Pereira on May 7 is legitimate and should not be delayed.

The opinion, written in response to Speaker Cadden Fabbi’s request for clarification on the legality of the judicial council’s actions, found that the council acted legally and that a delay in the impeachment proceedings would result in charges brought forth against Fabbi.

In the Judicial Council’s 3-2 decision, the body found that Pereira acted with “malfeasance” in intimidating Kish to delete an erroneously sent email regarding Pereira’s membership in UNR secret society Coffin & Keys. Pereira also lied to students during a presidential debate, saying that he was not affiliated with the group.

(For more information on the judicial council’s opinion, please see my previous post.)

Both Pereira and ASUN Vice President Alex Bybee released statements yesterday admitting their membership in Coffin & Keys.

“I was wrong in being untruthful during the debate and am making every possible effort to be as forthcoming and transparent in this current process moving forward,” Pereira said the statement.

During an interview on Tuesday, Bybee said he will retain support for Pereira due to his leadership, and that being a part of Coffin & Keys is only a part of their identity as leaders.

“Do I think Jake should have lied? No,” Bybee said. “But Jake has been honest since then.”

Bybee said he began the initiation process into Coffin & Keys during the semester, but was not fully aware of Pereira’s membership in the organization until after the election due to the group’s secretive nature.

Pereira and Bybee both stated that they will retain membership in Coffin & Keys. Both leaders denied commenting on the identity of other members in Coffin & Keys, as well as other details about the organization.

A large coffin-shaped sign erected at UNR alleging to name the members of Coffin & Keys was not from the group and not entirely accurate, Bybee said.

“The list that was published on the coffin today was speculative,” he said.

Since the Reno Gazette-Journal published a story on the impeachment process yesterday, more than 530 people have liked a Facebook page titled, “We Stand with Jake Pereira.” A Facebook post on the official Coffin & Keys page promised that the group’s members would continue working towards the betterment of the University of Nevada.

It is neither the comments we post, nor the articles we publish that make us who we are,” the post said. “Rather it is the actions of each of our members, known or not.”

For a collection of documents related to this story, please visit this link.

UNR Student Body prez lied to students, brought up for impeachment

(Note: The Reno Gazette-Journal has published a story on Pereira’s impeachment. It can be found here.)

Newly elected ASUN President Jake Pereira has been brought up for impeachment by the student judicial council stemming from his involvement in UNR secret society Coffin & Keys.

The student judicial board, in a 3-2 decision released on April 27, found that Pereira alongside fellow Coffin & Keys member Steve Bezick intimidated ASUN Attorney General Steven Kish (all of whom are members of Sigma Phi Epsilon) into deleting an accidently sent email regarding Coffin & Keys activity.

The council also found that Pereira lied to students about his membership in Coffin & Keys during an ASUN Presidential debate. (Remarks start at 18:00)

During the debate, Pereira stated, “Going back to those allegations of being in secret societies such as Coffin & Keys…I’d like to deny my membership in said organization as well as the fact that these organizations will dictate any part of the visions and goals of the Associated Students of the University of Nevada.”

Pereira said his answer was more focused on ensuring that his presidency would not be influenced by Coffin & Keys, and that he’s tried to act with transparency since being elected. He said that since taking the oath of office, he’s fully dedicated to fulfilling his role as ASUN President.

“I was a candidate then, I’m the president now,” he said.

Pereira said that he plans on releasing a statement shortly, and being addressing the situation during Wednesday’s Senate meeting. However, Pereira said he will retain membership in Coffin & Keys.

Pereira said he agreed with the two dissenting justices, who found Pereira’s actions in asking Kish to delete the email not serious enough to warrant impeachment. The dissenters, who filed different opinions, found that Kish’s initial charge sheet asked for the council to not levy judgement against either Coffin & Keys or Pereira’s involvement.

According to the decision, Pereira planned to appoint former Senator and current Coffin & Keys member Steve Bezick to the position of Chief of Staff. Bezick is still on the Senate agenda for confirmation to that position.

Additionally, a large coffin-shaped sign was erected on campus Tuesday, listing the names of alleged Coffin & Keys members. The alleged members include former ASUN President Ziad Rashdan, Pereira, current ASUN Vice President Alex Bybee and Speaker of the Senate Caden Fabbi. Among the alleged members is current ASUN justice Jake Pinocchio, who dissented in the council’s decision.

(Note: I previously had a picture of the sign itself up. After talking to several Coffin & Keys members, I’ve decided to take it down, as several of the names listed are not members of Coffin & Keys. I will be reaching out to everyone on the list to ask whether or not they’re members in the next few days.)

Pereira said the sign was not entirely accurate, and he was not in the position to confirm or deny any names listed. He said that he didn’t know who put the sign up.

ASUN’s judicial council criticized Pereira for falsely campaigning, noting that it was setting a precedent in not allowing “this type of behavior” to jeopardize the integrity of ASUN. In the decisions, the justices clarified that it was not Pereira’s membership in Coffin & Keys that lead to their decision, but the fact that he lied to students about his association, as well as intimidating Kish into deleting the email.

Coffin & Keys is a male-only secret society that occasionally publishes obscene, humorous newsletters often commenting on campus politics and life (An excellent history can be found here). Pereira said that he has never written anything in the Coffin & Keys newsletters.

The council ordered the ASUN Senate to stay Pereira’s executive board appointments, as Bezick is one of the nominees, and instructed the senate to hold an impeachment hearing on May 7. The judicial council also provided instructions for ASUN to purchase advertising space in the Nevada Sagebrush relating the council’s decision.

As of April 29, the Sagebrush has not posted any story on Pereira’s impeachment. A Sagebrush writer confirmed that a story on the impeachment will be published in next Tuesday’s issue.

A copy of the decision has been posted below.

ASUN Judicial Opinion Assenting Impeachment

Fearing crossfire from state/federal conflicts, Nevada cities kick MMJ discussions down the road

Photo Courtesy Torben Hansen via Flickr

Photo Courtesy Torben Hansen via Flickr

Following in the footsteps of Las Vegas, the Reno City Council decided last week to delay any vote or conversation on implementing medical marijuana until next year.

Though the Las Vegas City Council ultimately took a harsher route in placing a six-month moratorium on any type of medical marijuana business (Reno only voted to reconvene six months down the road), the two largest counties in Nevada have decided to wait until early 2014 to set local ordinances governing the legal buying and selling of medical marijuana.

At this point, I think (we need) a wait and see approach,” Reno City Councilwoman Neoma Jardon told RGJ reporter Emerson Marcus.

News of the delays, especially in Las Vegas, attracted some criticism from medical marijuana activists, but essentially puts both cities on the same path as the state towards an April 1, 2014 deadline to figure out any additional medical marijuana guidelines, as set forth in a bill passed last legislative session.

A disagreement over the delay is why Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus voted against the Council’s decision to reconvene. Brekhus, who was the only ‘no’ vote, said she was wary of any sort of vote to limit medical marijuana due to the “muddled grounds” between federal, state and local laws.

While Brekhus said she personally sees the merits of medical marijuana, she would rather wait and see how state regulators shape medical marijuana policy, rather than forge ahead and deal with the consequences of being caught between state and federal laws.

“I think it’s really getting into a muddled area between federal and state authorities and cities are caught in the middle,” she said.

Introducing: A blog about medical marijuana in Nevada

It’s a great time to be a stoner.

All throughout the United States, individual states are for the most part moving to decriminalize and lessen punishments associated with the use and purchase of both medical and recreational marijuana. From Washington and Colorado legalizing pot in late 2012 to Attorney General Eric Holder’s call for sweeping changes to the nation’s drug sentencing laws, it’s quite clear that acceptance of marijuana is becoming more and more widespread.

And the state of Nevada is by no means left out of this issue; in fact, Nevadans fighting over marijuana has been in the headlines for more than a decade. In 2000, residents of the state voted to legalize medical marijuana, and then two years later shot down a proposal to legalize recreational use of marijuana by almost two-thirds of voters.

And in the last state legislative session, a bill was passed to create a regulatory structure for medical marijuana dispensaries, as the state’s approximately 4,000 medical marijuana card holders have had no legal way to buy marijuana since 2000. Senate Bill 374, a bipartisan piece of legislation based mostly on Arizona’s medical marijuana system, set a deadline of early 2014 for the first medical marijuana dispensaries to be opened.

But it’s the journey to that system that’s extremely interesting. The intersecting conflicts and fights over how medicinal marijuana will be regulated involves everyone from marijuana advocates, zoning boards, U.S. Senators and local law enforcement. And the bill’s provision to allow local governments to make many of the zoning and regulatory decisions themselves means that local elected officials, like the Reno City Council, face the question of whether or not it’s even worth following the bill especially as marijuana remains illegal under federal law. Several rural counties are already pushing in that direction.

Needless to say, there’s a ton of questions sure to arise in the coming months as state regulators get a better handle on what type of medical marijuana system to implement. Some will be practical – how will the dispensaries be zoned, who will have access to them, how much will medicinal marijuana cost?

But I’d also like to get at the underlying issues for medical marijuana implementation: Who exactly holds medical marijuana cards, and what do those demographics in general look like? What kind of an impact would easing access to marijuana have on law enforcement in Reno? A state-wide proposition to legalize marijuana was defeated in 2002 – why have things changed in such a short amount of time? Who has the cash to pay the significant sums required by the state to start medical marijuana facilities? Will elected officials on Reno City Council even vote to authorize medical marijuana within city limits?

Over the next nine weeks and beyond, I hope to tackle and get a better sense on what a medical marijuana system will look like in Nevada’s future. But the story won’t stop there – there’s a significant undercurrent afoot that holds that once regulations for medical marijuana are in place, expanding to recreational marijuana won’t be nearly as difficult. State Senator Tick Segerblom told me as much over summer.

So for the next nine weeks, I’ll be posting mainly about medical marijuana. I’m calling it (for now) “The Silver Bake,” or at least until I can think of a catchier title. All of the posts will appear on this blog, and archived on a separate page.

On a personal level, I don’t really have a dog in this fight- I don’t smoke marijuana and don’t plan too, regardless of whatever kind of legalization may pass over the coming decades. I’m welcome to all kinds of criticism and comments, and please don’t hesitate to comment or contact me if you have questions or ideas of what you’d like to see covered. You can contact me here.

UNR Fraternity/Sorority GPAs released

UNR’s Greek Life program released the average Spring 2013 GPA for each fraternity and sorority on campus today, and the results are interesting:

  • Best: Delta Delta Delta had an average GPA of 3.203, which is pretty crazy considering they have more than 100 members. Overall, Panhellenic sororities averaged a 3.1 GPA, which is higher than the average for all women at a 2.99 GPA.
  • Worst: Kappa Alpha Psi, which counts 49ers QB Colin Kaepernick as a recent alum, averaged a 2.12 GPA for the Spring semester. Overall, the Kappas had the lowest GPA out of any Greek organization on the UNR campus.

For more numbers/breakdowns, check out the pdf file below:

Spring 2013 Summary Final

Could a Texas legislature-style filibuster happen in Nevada?

Wendy Davis

Wendy Davis

Update: Sean McDonald, who runs the Amicus Nevada law blog, has a new post up regarding the material in this blog post. He disagrees with Byerman and says that Senate Rules 80 and 81 do not provide a mechanism to cut off a filibuster. It’s worth a read.

In the words of Nevada Senate Secretary David Byerman, the short answer is no.

In case you’re not following the whole thing on Twitter, Texas State Senator Wendy Davis (D-Fort Worth) has launched into an hours-long filibuster of a bill that would restrict the ability of women to get abortions, according to the Texas Tribune. (You can view the floor proceedings here).

So what if one of the state senators from Nevada tried filibustering? According to Byerman, such could not happen due to a process in the Senate Rule 80 and 81. See below:

1. Every Senator who speaks shall, standing in his place, address “Mr. or Madam
President,” in a courteous manner, and shall confine himself to the question before the Senate.
When he has finished, he shall sit down.
2. No Senator may speak:
(a) More than twice during the consideration of any one question on the same day, except for
(b) A second time without leave when others who have not spoken desire the floor.
3. Incidental and subsidiary questions arising during debate shall not be considered the same

The previous question shall not be put unless demanded by three Senators, and it shall be in this
form: “Shall the main question be put?” When sustained by a majority of Senators present it shall
put an end to all debate and bring the Senate to a vote on the question or questions before it, and all
incidental questions arising after the motion was made shall be decided without debate. A person
who is speaking on a question shall not while he or she has the floor move to put that question.

Essentially, Nevada senators can’t filibuster because it’s quite easy to end debate on the senate floor – if someone was to attempt to filibuster, one would only need three senators to call the previous question, interrupting the speaking senator and forcing them to wait until every other waiting senator talk. There are no standard rules for cloture or similar rules that are used by the U.S. Senate or the Texas Senate.

“If someone were to stand and start talking and talking and talking, someone could call the previous question,” Byerman said.

The Nevada Assembly has essentially the same rules, but gives the author of the bill/resolution/move the power to close debate.

I’m not a legal expert by any means, but that’s how I understand it. Byerman said that as far as he knows, no Nevada Senator or Assemblyman has ever attempted to filibuster during the legislative session. Wendy Davis may be getting a ton of media attention, but any Nevada state officials looking to follow in her footsteps would probably get shot down.

Wendy Davis

Wendy Davis