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Eldorado High School honor students during commencement ceremony at the Orleans Arena on Thursday, June 8, 2017. Photo by Jeff Scheid.

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.

Pickard jumps in race to replace Roberson in state Senate

Freshman Assembly Republican Keith Pickard is officially in the running for lieutenant governor candidate Michael Roberson’s state Senate district, a Henderson-area seat poised to be one of the most competitive legislative seats up for grabs in 2018.

Pickard, who defeated Democrat Luis Aguirre-Insua on 59-41 percent margin in 2016, officially launched his campaign for the state senate district on Thursday. He’ll face off in the primary against combat veteran Byron Brooks.

A family attorney in his private life, Pickard carved out a reputation as a more moderate member of the Republican caucus, breaking party ranks to vote for bills extending restoration of rights to felons to a measure that would have upped state renewable energy standards to 40 percent by 2030. The Nevada Policy Research Institute, a free-market conservative think tank, gave Pickard the 12th highest rating on their legislative scorecard out of the 24 legislative Republicans.

He also announced an Oct. 17 fundraiser with numerous prominent state lobbyists, Lt. Gov. Mark Hutchison and Assembly Republican Leader Jim Wheeler listed as hosts.

Pickard isn’t the only Assembly member attempting to make the leap to the Senate — fellow Republican Ira Hansen and Democrat James Ohrenschall also are mounting bids for state Senate seats.

As of August 2017, Democrats hold a narrow 1,120 advantage among registered voters in Roberson’s district, good for a 37 to 35 percent split in voter registration.

— Riley Snyder

More Nevada students take, excel on rigorous AP exams

More Nevada students are taking Advanced Placement (AP) exams, which help prepare them for college and potentially save them money if they net a score high enough to earn college credit.

A total of 20,697 students — a 13.3 percent increase — took AP exams last school year, and 10,579 students earned at least one score of 3, 4 or 5 on the tests. A score of 3 projects a C in a college freshman course, while a 4 generally equates to a B and 5 an A. The higher a student scores on an AP exam, the more likely it is that he or she will receive college credit.

AP test scores also increased among African American and Native American students in Nevada: 17.5 percent more African American students and 8.5 percent more Native American students earned a score of 3 or higher on the tests compared with last year.

State Superintendent Steve Canavero said the AP exam participation and scores provide more proof that Nevada is on its way to becoming “the fastest-improving state in the nation in education.”

— Jackie Valley

School district awaits decision on furlough proposal

To accept or not accept furloughs? That is the decision facing the bargaining groups representing Clark County School District administrators, teachers, police and support staff.

After the Board of Trustees voted to pursue two furlough days, district officials sent letters to the unions Friday asking to discuss the matter. The furlough days, in theory, would prevent the district from eliminating more positions and programs as it tries to overcome its estimated $60 million deficit.

But it appears the school district is facing an uphill battle.

The Clark County Association of School Administrators and Professional-Technical Employees (CCASAPE) sent the district a response letter Friday indicating it would be open to a discussion about the deficit but doesn’t believe furlough days are the answer to the budget woes.

“Please be advised that CCASAPE believes that furlough days are not an appropriate fix to the District’s current budget deficit,” Stephen Augspurger, CCASAPE’s executive director, wrote. “The use of a furlough day represents a one-time bandage for a budget problem which is recurring.”

Meanwhile, the Clark County Education Association’s response to the proposal was more concise: “Not happening!” according to a post on the teacher union’s website.

— Jackie Valley

Pat Spearman: Stop calling me and asking me to run

Democratic state Sen. Pat Spearman has a message for supporters: stop calling me and asking me to run for secretary of state.

Nearly two weeks after Democratic Assemblyman Nelson Araujo jumped into the contest, and Spearman publicly pulled herself from the running hours later, she reached out to a reporter in hopes of putting to bed the notion that she was pushed out of the race.

“Sen. Reid didn’t call and tell me don’t get in. To my knowledge there wasn’t any setting of the table,” she said. “Nobody can push me out.”

Spearman noted that she carried out a long career as a military police officer in spite of fellow soldiers who didn’t want her there because she was black and a woman.

“In basic [training] in Alabama, there were people who did everything they could to make me drop,” she said. “That’s like saying to an attack dog, ‘sic ‘em.’ I don’t do that. No. Nobody can push me out.”

In the case of the secretary of state’s race, she said, Araujo has the same basic priorities as she does and picking between them would be like choosing a shoe color. She also compared a potential primary to a basketball player who tries to make a long shot instead of passing the ball to a teammate who’s under the basket and could more easily score a point.

“I’m not that kind of person,” she said. “It’s all about the team.”

She said money that could be used for a primary is better spent winning other seats for Democrats. As proof of her commitment, she stumped for Araujo at a weekend event sponsored by Douglas County Democrats.

“On the general election, we need to understand what’s important here — that we have a secretary of state who’s going to fight like a junkyard dog to make sure nobody in Nevada who is eligible is denied that right to vote,” she said.

— Michelle Rindels

PhRMA does not oppose Legislature’s ask to intervene in court case

In a response filed with the court on Friday, two pharmaceutical lobbying groups suing the state over its insulin transparency law said they did not oppose the Legislature’s request to intervene in the case.

Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson directed legislative attorneys to file a motion in the lawsuit, which challenges the constitutionality of several provisions of the law, earlier this month. The Legislature said in its motion, filed earlier this week, that the body has a “substantial interest” that will be “impaired” should the body not be allowed to play a role in the lawsuit.

“If the Legislature had contacted Plaintiffs before filing these motions, Plaintiffs would have told the legislature that they do not oppose either motion,” the lobbying groups, the Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America and the Biotechnology Innovation Organization, said in the response.

The first hearing in the case will be on Oct. 17, when the court will hear arguments on whether to preliminarily enjoin the portions of the law the pharmaceutical companies are challenging.

— Megan Messerly


North Las Vegas paying nearly $400,000 in wastewater settlement

The city of North Las Vegas will pay a fine of $385,000 after federal and state inspectors say it didn’t have standards for pretreating sewer water that was re-released into the Las Vegas Wash and, in turn, Lake Mead and the Southern Nevada drinking water supply.

The alleged violations of the Clean Water Act were found in a 2014 inspection. Attorney General Adam Laxalt, along the Environmental Protection Agency and others, reached a settlement known as a “consent decree” that requires the city to establish pretreatment requirements for industrial pollutants.

State officials say that without such requirements, industrial pollutants can disrupt the function of a treatment plant or pass through it without being cleaned, which could pose risks for the employees working at the plant and harm waterways.

“Water is among Nevada’s most precious resources that my office has a long history of fighting to protect,” Laxalt said in a statement. “This consent decree demonstrates my commitment to work with the EPA and the city of North Las Vegas to ensure protection of our water quality.”

North Las Vegas spokeswoman Delen Goldberg said the issue never had an impact on human health, water, wildlife or land and noted that the city has never had a pretreatment violation linked to its state wastewater permit.

“The consent decree is based on a years-old paperwork deficiency, not a lack of compliance,” she said. “From the moment city officials were made aware of these paperwork concerns, the city has been fully compliant and cooperative with the EPA, and more importantly, proactive in managing its water pretreatment programs.”

— Michelle Rindels

Indy Rewind

Nevada Independent reporters were busy last week, covering a wide variety of topics ranging from a nascent nonprofit group backed by Switch taking aim at NV Energy to state leaders sounding the alarm with federal funding for a children’s health insurance program running out on Saturday.

Here’s a sampling of our headlines from last week:

Disclosure: Switch and NV Energy have donated to The Nevada Independent. You can see a full list of donors here.
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