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
explanation.
(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
question.

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

Joe Heck is still paying off student loans

Congressman Joe Heck (R-NV 3rd District) and I have something in common; we’re both dealing with student loan debt from higher education. In a Las Vegas Review-Journal story Sunday, fiscal disclosure forms show Heck, 52, is still dealing with debt from becoming an osteopath.

Heck, a Republican in his second term, and his wife, who is a nurse, hold bank accounts of between $15,000 and $50,000, and annuities and retirement accounts containing between $199,000 and $561,000.

Heck, 52, reported he still is paying off between $50,000 and $100,000 in student loans from his education to become an osteopath. The family last year began participating in a college savings plan for their teenage son.

Heck and his wife hold a mortgage of between $250,000 and $500,000 on their home in Henderson.

This actually isn’t the biggest surprise – Heck mentioned it in a video released last week laying out his positions on student loan debt.

Say what you will about Heck’s beliefs on student loans, but it’s nice to see a Congressman actually having to deal with paying them off.

ASUN planning to strip funding from UNR publications

ASUN President Ziad Rashdan

ASUN President Ziad Rashdan

Funding for several ASUN-sponsored publications, including Insight Magazine, Wolf Pack Radio and literary arts journal Brushfire  could be fiscally gutted or otherwise unfunded if the student government’s proposed budget is approved.

Though ASUN’s income is projected at about $70,000 more than last year, President Ziad Rashdan’s proposed budget would eliminate all funding for Brushfire, which was allocated about $25,000 last year. Wolf Pack Radio’s funding would drop from about $30,000 to $16,550, and Insight Magazine would see their budget drop from $33,450 to $22,175. In total, publication funding would drop from about 4 percent of ASUN’s budget to 1.8 percent if the proposal is approved.

Brushfire has taken to Facebook to protest the cuts and to ask contributors to write messages of support on its wall, while both Insight and Wolf Pack Radio have made no public comments since the budget was first released last week. ASUN has made no public statement about the proposed cuts at this time. Though not on the May 1 agenda for the ASUN Senate, the budget is usually approved before the end of the academic year.

You can check out this year’s proposed budget by clicking here.

UPDATE: Evynn Tyler, Editor of Insight Magazine, has created a petition to stop the cuts to the publications. As of April 29, it has more than 75 signees.

UPDATE 2: Tyler’s petition has received more than 250 signatures, including some from UNR professors and student media leaders in the Nevada Sagebrush. Reynolds School of Journalism Senator Myles Button posted on his facebook page that he would vote against the cuts, saying, “I will oppose these cuts because I know my constituents oppose them.”

I ran into President Rashdan at an event earlier this week, and he acknowledged my request for comment and said he’d get back to me with a statement.

The ASUN Committee on Budget and Finance will meet on Friday to put together a bill approving the budget. Meeting details can be found here.

Nevada Legislature 2013 Calendar

Assuming the world doesn’t end on Friday, here’s a Google calendar with all committee meeting times and deadlines in one place. I’ll continually update it as the year goes on, but this is the first taste of the crazy 120 days awaiting us in the spring.

UNR student charged with stabbing at White Pine Hall

The University of Nevada, Reno has released several statements regarding a stabbing that took place last night in the lobby of White Pine residence hall. According to the reports, 18-year-old University student Christopher Williams allegedly stabbed a female residence hall employee last night at around 2:30 a.m. The employee is currently in stable condition at an area hospital, and Williams was arrested & charged with Assault with a Deadly Weapon Causing Substantial Bodily Harm and Assault with a Deadly Weapon, and is currently being held in Washoe County Jail.

Both the University’s Media Relations department and Campus Police have released statements. You can find them below:

Media Relations:

RENO, Nev. – At 2:30 a.m. Saturday, University Police responded to a report of a stabbing at White Pine Hall on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. Upon arrival, officers found a University residence-hall employee who had been stabbed in the lobby of the building. The victim was transported to an area hospital where she underwent surgery for her wound and remains in stable condition.

Officers arrested 18-year-old University student Christopher Stephen Williams at the scene. He has been charged with Assault with a Deadly Weapon Causing Substantial Bodily Harm and Assault with a Deadly Weapon and is in the Washoe County jail. The incident remains under investigation by University Police.

UNR Campus Police:

This is to update you about an incident that occurred on campus Saturday morning October 13, 2012.

 

At 2:30 a.m., University Police officers were dispatched to White Pine Hall on the report of a stabbing that occurred in the lobby.  Upon arrival officers found a residence hall employee who had been stabbed in the abdomen. The victim was transported to an area hospital where she underwent surgery for her wound and remains in stable condition. The suspect, a student, was arrested at the scene and has been lodged at the Washoe County Jail on charges of Assault with a Deadly Weapon Causing Substantial Bodily Harm and Assault with a Deadly Weapon.

 

It would appear that the employee should be commended for her actions – despite being severely injured she had the presence of mind to alert others in the residence hall and give police necessary information for an arrest prior to seeking assistance for her own wounds. President Marc Johnson joins me in conveying admiration and heartfelt appreciation for this employee’s bravery and actions.

 

As a faculty member, staff member or student, it is important that you be apprised of these matters. These incidents are isolated but provide an opportunity for the University to reaffirm its commitment to continually work to enhance campus safety measures. A complete overview of our campus safety program can be found on the UNR Police Services webpage (www.unr.edu/police), however I would like to highlight three key aspects of this program:

 

–          The University’s Emergency Messaging System informs subscribers of emergency situations or campus closures by text and/or email messages. All faculty, staff and students should sign up for the Emergency Messaging System at http://www.unr.edu/general-information/emergency/alerts

–          A number of free training opportunities are available, including self-defense and personal-safety training. Information can be found atwww.unr.edu/police

–          The University’s annual security and fire safety report is available online at http://www.unr.edu/Documents/administration-finance/Police/2011-Annual-Report.pdf 

 

A significant incident often raises the question of crime overall. This experience is unusual. Typically, campus crimes are non-violent crimes, such as thefts or alcohol-related crime. The University is subject to the Cleary Act, the federal law that requires that any major or violent crime on University property be widely communicated to the campus community. We fully comply with this act. In many ways the University is a city within a city, and no one corner of any city is entirely without crime and it is important to report crimes, suspicious people and situations promptly by contacting  University Police Services to 334-COPS (2677), the Police duty phone at 745-6195, or 911 in an emergency.

UNR releases more details on Michelle Obama visit

The University of Nevada, Reno released more details regarding First Lady Michelle Obama’s visit to the university on Wednesday. Copied below is an email sent out to the undergraduate student listserv:

The University of Nevada, Reno’s Quad will be the site for a public event featuring First Lady Michelle Obama on Wednesday, October 3. Access to the morning-long event on Wednesday will begin at 8:15 a.m. and tickets will be required.

Additional event information, including information about the on-campus ticket distribution beginning Monday morning, is posted on the University’s online calendar at www.unr.edu<http://www.unr.edu>.

As always, please keep pedestrian and traffic safety in mind and watch for directional signage that will be posted primarily on Virginia Street for this event. It is anticipated that no changes will be made to the regular student parking plans. The public will be directed to park on the upper two levels of the West Stadium Parking Complex and in the parking lots north of campus. Changes are anticipated for parking areas in the vicinity of the Quad and Morrill Hall, and these changes will be communicated to faculty and staff next week.

This information is being provided as a courtesy, in recognition of the significance of this public event.

–              Division of Student Services

UNR Fraternity suspended

The University of Nevada, Reno chapter of Lambda Chi Alpha has been suspended by the university, according to Greek Life Coordinator Dennis Campbell. In an email, Campbell said, “The chapter is currently suspended pending a University investigation.”

The university’s Inter-Fraternity Council has taken no disciplinary action against the organization as of Monday.

Full Disclosure: I am a member of the local Phi Delta Theta chapter, and as such I do not feel comfortable reporting or writing an in-depth story about any aspect of UNR Greek Life. I’m only writing this post because I believe that it’s important for students and members of the community to know the truth. This post serves only to get the necessary information out for this story, and I would be more than happy to get the input or response from a member of Lambda Chi and post it on this blog. Please email me here if you want to comment.

Meet the new Sagebrush, same as the old Sagebrush?

Though it hasn’t been mentioned online or in their newest print edition, the Nevada Sagebrush has undergone a pretty significant change in internal structure and external product this year under new Editor-in-Chief Ben Miller. And as someone who worked for the paper in the past, and got a sense of what Ben is planning on doing this semester during an interview, I figured that students and faculty would find the changes noteworthy.

1. So long, sports section

Though there were several issues last year that followed the same pattern, it appears that there will no longer be a separate & individual sports section distributed with the Sagebrush. Rather than a four to six page section, it looks like the Sports section will be assigned to the back few pages of the main A section. The move was made because of the extra cost in printing and distributing the extra section, Ben told me during that interview.

2. So long, Arts and Entertainment

The other significant external change is the elimination of the Arts & Entertainment editor position. Though I don’t want to speculate on the section’s closure, as the online version is still up, no posts have been made since June and no stories were produced in the new edition. From conversations with Ben, I think I can glean two reasons behind this decision – one, to eliminate an editor position saving thousands of dollars, and two, because the section has been quite barren and not very interesting in the past few years.

3. Hello, new online staff

One of the Sagebrush’s big initiatives this year is to expand their presence online, similar to the paths taken by my perennial favorite college paper The Oregon Daily Emerald. And looking at the organization’s contact page shows that split pretty well – essentially the positions of assistant editor has been replaced by online editor.

Verdict

Overall, I feel like the Sagebrush is moving in the right direction, while still staying grounded in their traditional product. On paper, it’s a great system. In reality, it’s a little worse than that. Just from my experience, I know plenty of advertisers and students are only interested in the sports section, and won’t be happy about it shrinking.

Additionally, cutting an entire section seems like a bad idea. There are plenty of great opportunities for lifestyle and culture writers to gain valuable experience – Roger Ebert got his start writing movie reviews in his college paper. College papers, much like alt-weeklies, are critical in covering non-traditional topics that appeal to a younger audience – I’d much rather read a movie or eatery review in the Sagebrush than I would in the Reno Gazette-Journal because I relate closer to the Sagebrush. Rather, reducing the salary of an Arts and Entertainment Editor or splitting the duties with an Opinion Editor would work out much better.

And in regards to the focus online, I think it can work – if the work is put in. So far, only a handful of new stories have appeared on the website a day after publication, and I can find articles all the way from April on the front page. Blogs are out of date, the contact sheet was only updated a day or two before school started – for a news organization focusing on online, they really aren’t doing much of that. Part of it is adjusting back to school, but it will be interesting to see how successful this shift will be. In my three years at Nevada, I’ve seen the Sagebrush shift from a 20-odd person, beefy news outlet that competed for national awards, to one that was barely scraping along at the end of last year. It’s a critical time to be a member of the Nevada Sagebrush – let’s see if they step it up.

Internship Log: Getting Beyond the Who, What, When and Where and Getting to the Why

So I’ve been a naughty blogger the past month. I have plenty of excuses (moving into a new place, hectic work schedules, no money and having less time off) but at the end of the day, I’m not helping anyone by neglecting this blog. I’ve seen tons of blogs that began with regular posts, then petered out and were eventually abandoned. I don’t want that to happen with this blog. I’ve learned a ton about my writing voice just by blogging on a regular basis. It’s been incredibly refreshing to get away from what media critic Jay Rosen calls the “Voice from Nowhere”: essentially the journalistic cult that worships impartiality to a fault. While I’m not arguing that professionally-trained journalists are unnecessary (because that means I’ve made a huge mistake), I’ve caught myself identifying and at least attempting to stop my own bad journalistic habits.

As an intern, it can be a challenge to derive a greater meaning to a story because many of the stories that I’ve worked on in the past few weeks are either one-day stories, quick website updates or event coverage. More often than not, I only have enough time to work on the who, what, when and where, when I’m more interested in the why. Like I said before, it’s not like this a startling revelation to me – I didn’t expect to be thrust into into a kind of hardcore, Woodward-and-Bernstein-type reporting my first week on the job.

But I will admit that it can be difficult to go under the surface and really dig for a unique spin day after day, week after week. Sometimes it works out, like a story I wrote about the city’s annual Juneteenth celebration. Rather than do a typical, by-the-numbers event coverage, I tried to tie the event’s historical background of celebrating the end of slavery to a connection between the holiday and racism in Nevada, and it turned out ok. But for every story that tries to find a deeper meaning, I’ll end up with another story like this one, with little analysis and kind of boring.

It’s maddening to know that I possess the capacity to write at a level above boring event coverage, but seem to find myself falling back into those bad habits again and again. To be honest, the layover between quitting the Sagebrush and beginning this internship probably ‘softened’ me up a little bit in regards to producing lots of content in a short amount of time. But as the weeks go on, and I settle more into a rhythm of reporting and writing, I believe that I’ll create and find better stories. After all, it’s easy to make excuses (especially for not updating a blog), but none of that really matters. What matters are the results.

Internship Log: My 12-hour first day at the RGJ

What a goddamn first day. After arriving about half an hour early to the RGJ office, I was forced to play around with Twitter for about an hour until I was given a desk and a story to report. The story is a good one, dealing with a Southwest Reno neighborhood’s opposition to an opening youth drug rehabilitation center culminating in a protest yesterday and a meeting at Reno City Hall today. It felt nice to actually report again, rather than to regurgitate whatever scientific conference or mildly boring research awards the University deemed fit to show off. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed working at Media Relations very much, but there’s such a fundamental difference in the way a newsroom operates and a public relations firm operates. There is much more of a sense of urgency, a need to get all relevant sides and angles of a story right now, rather than in a week or two.

This difference was highlighted especially by the breaking news of a fire in Douglas County. Engrossed in my reporting, I ignored the escalating pace of the newsroom along with the sound of more and more phones ringing. Finally, an editor came over to my desk and essentially told me to drop whatever I was doing, and to figure out a way to Topaz Ranch Estates. To the fire. As I began packing my supplies and writing down directions, Brian Duggan turned around and said, “Welcome to the RGJ.”

The drive from the Gazette-Journal’s offices to the site of the fire takes about an hour and a half, give or take the traffic going through Carson City, Minden and any other small towns along the way. Though I attempted to drive with at least some regard to the speed limit, I could feel the adrenaline pumping through my body. It was the same feeling I had driving up to Galena High School during the Washoe Drive fire, and the same feeling driving through South Reno to get a closer look at the Caughlin Ranch Fire. Getting out of Carson City was the first time I saw the smoke from the blaze. From there, I would alternate between driving a handful of miles, stopping on the side of the road, jumping out to take a picture with my smartphone and then sending them out through email to the RGJ and on my personal Twitter account. When I arrived at the turn-off for Topaz Ranch, about 2 miles from the evacuation center, I finally got a good look at the inferno. It engulfed half the sky.

I spent about two hours at the community center, interviewing evacuees, taking more pictures of the fire, then slowly typing them out through my phone and emailing them back to the RGJ. All in all, I took about 15 pictures and found three good interviews during my time in Topaz Ranch, some of which were immediately posted to the RGJ site. Overall, I spent nearly 12 hours working, reporting and driving today, published photos and interviewed evacuees — all on my first day. Today, I’ll be focusing on the protest story as well as juggling whatever the news editors throw my way. What a goddamn first day. There’s nothing else I would rather do.