Editor’s note: Seven days. Never enough hours.
Stacks of paperwork at the office and piles of laundry at home. It’s a never-ending cycle, which makes it difficult to stay on top of the endless news nuggets flowing from the White House, state capital, local government, and business community. We get it — and we’re in the news business.
Enter “About Last Week.” This is our way of bringing news-hungry but time-strapped readers up to speed on happenings that may have flown under the radar. Our promise: We’ll keep it brief. Our hope: You’ll read (or skim) and keep checking back every Monday.
So, without further ado, here are some noteworthy things that happened in Nevada last week.
Green Valley Ranch Resort files complaint after recent unionization vote
A subsidiary of Station Casinos filed a complaint on Tuesday with the National Labor Relations Board alleging unfair campaign practices by the Culinary Union during a vote by workers over whether to unionize last week.
The complaint alleges that union representatives “interfered with employees’ rights to refrain from voting, was intimidating and coercive, destroyed the requirement that their vote be in-secret, voluntary or anonymous and demonstrated that the union was monitoring whether they voted.” Seventy-eight percent of workers at Green Valley Ranch cast votes in the secret-ballot election in favor of joining the Culinary Union, which would make the casino the third Station Casinos property in Nevada to unionize.
Station Casinos President Richard Haskins said in a statement that the Culinary Union’s behavior during the election was “improper and unacceptable, rendering it impossible to conduct a free and fair secret-ballot election.”
The union’s secretary treasurer Geoconda Arguello-Kline said in a statement Friday afternoon that the vote was a “clear mandate” and that the union will proceed with contract negotiations, which are already ongoing with the other two Station Casinos properties.
“We urge Station Casinos to recognize their employees’ voices and votes, and negotiate in good faith,” Arguello-Kline said in a statement.
— Megan Messerly
School trustees to consider — again — a third round of budget cuts
The Clark County School Board of Trustees will consider a third round of budget cuts — this time worth $22 million — at a Nov. 30 meeting.
The school district has been grappling with an estimated $60 million budget shortfall since the summer. Two rounds of cuts slashed roughly $40 million from the budget.
The state reimbursed the school district for full-day kindergarten funds, totaling $11 million, in October. That left the deficit at $9 million, but the district announced Wednesday that the following revenue changes made the shortfall grow again:
- Per-pupil funding for special education was lower than expected. ($1.5 million)
- The school district’s enrollment decreased by 1,400 students, bringing in less per-pupil revenue from the state. ($8 million)
- The school district received additional revenue reductions for each Clark County student who left the district to attend a charter school. ($4 million)
In September, trustees opted to pursue furlough days rather than making a third round of cuts, but the employee unions rejected that proposal.
— Jackie Valley
Pfizer asks Nevada to return execution drugs
Pharmaceutical giant Pfizer has asked Nevada to return drugs that the state plans to use to execute condemned inmate Scott Dozier.
Pfizer’s letter to the state, dated Oct. 4, says the company has now added fentanyl and diazepam to its list of restricted products. The company said along with those two drugs, which are part of the state’s proposed three-drug lethal cocktail never before used in an execution, there are 11 other restricted drugs that Pfizer won’t furnish to correctional facilities “where they may be misused for lethal injection.”
“Pfizer makes its products to enhance and save the lives of the patients we serve,” the letter says. “Consistent with these values, Pfizer strongly objects to the use of its products as lethal injections for capital punishment.”
The company asks for the state to return any Pfizer-made diazepam or fentanyl and promises a full refund regardless of where the drugs were purchased.
Nevada Department of Corrections spokeswoman Brooke Keast said the state does have Pfizer-made diazepam but not fentanyl.
“We are under no obligation to return any product we’ve purchased,” Keast said.
Invoices provided by the state show that the drugs were purchased from (Arizona-based) pharmaceutical wholesaler Cardinal Health. The company didn’t directly answer questions Friday about whether it has an objection to furnishing execution drugs, whether it has checks on how prisons are using the drugs it provides, or whether it knew what Nevada was going to do with the medications, but it did provide a statement to The Nevada Independent.
“Our commitment is to deliver a safe, secure and efficient distribution system for our customers and the patients they serve,” said the company, which hasn’t asked Nevada to return the execution drugs, according to Keast. “As a wholesaler, we hold ourselves to the highest standards of accuracy and safety and have robust controls in place. We follow every manufacturer’s specific instructions to ensure the safe distribution of their products.”
Pharmaceutical companies’ moral objections to being involved in the death penalty have made it difficult for states to obtain lethal injection drugs, prompting Nevada to develop a new execution method. Dozier’s execution, previously scheduled for Nov. 14, has been indefinitely postponed pending an order from the Nevada Supreme Court on the drug combination.
— Michelle Rindels
Las Vegas applying to host 2026 World Cup games
Las Vegas is applying to host World Cup matches if North America wins a bid to host the 2026 soccer tournament.
Economic development chief Steve Hill said he visited Houston last week along with Raiders president Marc Badain and other team staff to explore the possibility of participating in the World Cup. Las Vegas is one of 32 cities in North America that’s under consideration as the U.S., Canada and Mexico make a joint bid to FIFA, the governing body of soccer.
Hill said the list of host cities is likely to be narrowed down to 12 or 15, with those locations dividing an estimated 80 matches among themselves. The Raiders’ proposed stadium, which is expected to have a capacity of up to about 70,000 people, would only be large enough to host the initial and middle-round games because the semifinals and finals require an 80,000-seat stadium.
Las Vegas has submitted an initial application but must provide more information to bid coordinators, including details about airport access and the city’s environmental rights positions.
North America is competing with Morocco to win the World Cup host duties.
— Michelle Rindels
Heller, Cortez Masto back NICS fix
A bipartisan group of senators, including Nevada Republican Sen. Dean Heller, have introduced a bill aimed at fixing failures in the FBI’s gun sale background check system.
The measure — billed the Fix NICS Act, after the National Instant Criminal Background Check System — is backed by a bipartisan group of senators including Texas Republican John Cornyn and Connecticut Democrat Chris Murphy.
The bill reiterates requirements that states and federal agencies submit the proper information to existing background check systems, while creating penalties — such as withholding bonuses for political appointees — for withholding the information while creating incentives such as preferences in federal grant for those states and agencies that do comply with the rules.
“We cannot enter the mind of a madman or pass a bill to eradicate evil from our society, but we can make sure that the systems we already have in place to stop a horrific tragedy are working – and this bill will help make sure of it,” Heller said in a statement.
Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto also signed on as a co-sponsor of the bill last week, saying it was part of her ongoing mission to prevent future mass shootings.
“I am proud to co-sponsor the Fix NICS Act because it would resolve inefficiencies in the national background check system so that violent criminals and domestic abusers will not be able to purchase a gun from registered dealers,” Cortez Masto said in a statement.
The bill is backed by a wide array of groups, including the National Rifle Association, Fraternal Order of Police and the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence.
— Riley Snyder
Bagged salad company setting up headquarters in Washoe County
A company that makes packets of croutons and salad dressing for bagged salad kits is setting up shop in Northern Nevada and plans to bring 650 jobs over the next five years.
Latitude 36 won a set of tax abatements from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development board on Thursday. The company, which is financially backed by two of the country’s largest salad makers, said current plants in Ohio and Southern California can’t keep up with the demand of a salad kit industry that’s tripled in size since 2013.
“Nobody can catch this train,” said company president Leslie Surber. “Somebody has to build a new plant.”
The company plans to retrofit a Reno warehouse into a food-grade manufacturing facility with state-of-the-art packaging equipment.
It plans to offer an average wage of $22.15 an hour. The abatement package is worth an estimated $2.2 million over 10 years.
— Michelle Rindels
The Indy Rewind
From news on a potential housing bubble in Reno to the latest twists and turns in the battle over recalling several state senators, here’s what Nevada Independent reporters covered last week:
- A bubble or a boom? That’s the question vexing housing experts in the Reno area
- What Nevada can learn from its attempt (and failure) to deregulate the energy market in the 1990s
- Nevada asks federal government for additional Children’s Health Insurance Program funding
- Indy Congressional Tracker: Amodei sides with his Republican peers, helps pass House tax-reform bill
- Dispatches from Washington: House passes tax reform bill; sexual assault allegations roil Senate
- Governor’s office pushes for federal geothermal research lab
- State, county election officials say Democratic challenge to recalls should be tossed
- Nevada lawmakers react after Democratic Sen. Al Franken accused of sexual harassment
- Congressional District 3 front runners weigh in on education, taxes, and more
- Indy Fact Check: Republican ad saying Kihuen voted to kill kids’ health insurance program lacks context
- State releases detailed manual on how it plans to execute death row inmate
- PUC denies request by Switch-backed nonprofit to force NV Energy to reveal outside legal help on ballot question
- Susie Lee, running in swingy House district, added to Democrats’ ‘Red to Blue’ priority seat program
- Republicans submit petition to recall Democratic state Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro; initial count surpasses signature threshold
- Initial documents submitted to county for proposed music venue involving Las Vegas Sands, Madison Square Garden
- A deal, a handshake and now a stadium: Dignitaries move dirt in lavish groundbreaking ceremony
- Governor candidate Schwartz backs Reno opioid lawsuit, criticizes Laxalt for opposing it
- Update: Heller calls on Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore to withdraw from race amid sexual misconduct allegations
- Woodhouse sues, alleging thousands of invalid signatures on petition to recall her from state Senate
- Reno mayor blasts Laxalt for pitting ‘Nevadans against Nevadans’ amid opioid lawsuit disagreement
- After saying he opposes death penalty, governor hopeful Sisolak now says it would be appropriate in extreme cases
- Congress looks at wild horses (again), and there are no easy solutions
Disclosure: Several Indy donors are mentioned in this story. You can see a full list of donors here.