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.
Longtime Vegas attorney jumps into attorney general race as Republican
A Las Vegas attorney is jumping into the race for Nevada attorney general, kicking off a Republican primary against candidate Wes Duncan.
Craig Mueller announced Wednesday that he will run for the state’s top law enforcement post, which will be open as Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt runs for governor. Duncan is a former assemblyman and former top deputy in Laxalt’s office, and has endorsements from 15 Nevada sheriffs and Laxalt.
Mueller started his career in the Clark County District Attorney’s office and has been in private practice for the past 20 years.
“I love Nevada and I love the law,” Mueller said in a statement. “The Attorney General’s office will give me the opportunity to put those two loves together to serve the people of Nevada.”
The winner of the Republican primary is expected to face Democratic state Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, who has yet to draw a primary challenger.
— Michelle Rindels
Another Republican vying for treasurer
A Republican Southern Nevada financial planner has declared his candidacy for state treasurer, joining a race that already includes Republican former Las Vegas City Councilman Bob Beers.
Derek Uehara announced on Tuesday that he’ll run for the seat that’s being vacated by Republican Treasurer Dan Schwartz, who’s seeking the governor’s seat. He also appeared to take a swipe at Beers, who’s a certified public accountant.
“As a Certified Financial Planner, I know how important an individual’s money is to them,” said Uehara. “The State Treasurer is responsible for managing the state’s assets prudently and responsibly. This is not an accounting job; it is an investment job and I am well qualified.”
Uehara has served in the Army Reserve and has been involved in community initiatives including serving as president of the Nevada Small Business Council. He lost a race for Henderson City Council in 2015 by 8 percentage points.
No Democrats have announced plans to run for the seat so far.
— Michelle Rindels
Schools in Henderson are set to receive an approximate $300,000 funding bump next year after city officials voted to set aside an additional portion of marijuana business license fees toward K-12 education.
The Las Vegas Sun reported that Henderson City Council members voted unanimously on Tuesday to take 30 percent of business license fees from the city’s retail marijuana dispensaries, testing facilities and cultivation sites and set it aside for education funding.
Though retail marijuana sales officially began statewide on July 1, Henderson city officials established a moratorium on sales, only allowing the city’s five dispensaries to begin selling the drug to the general public in late October.
In other marijuana news, the state will be accepting applications from medical marijuana businesses in good standing who want to get into the recreational marijuana market but missed an application window earlier this year.
The Nevada Department of Taxation is taking applications for three business days — from Nov. 27 through Nov. 29.
— Riley Snyder & Michelle Rindels
Kihuen hit with ethics complaint over fundraising email
Democratic Rep. Ruben Kihuen is facing an ethics complaint after his campaign allegedly sent an email that both touted his co-sponsorship of a doctor shortage remedy bill and solicited campaign contributions for his re-election bid.
The Washington D.C.-based conservative watchdog group Foundation for Accountability and Civic Trust, or FACT, sent a complaint letter to the Office of Congressional Ethics on Monday, according to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.
“The public expects, and the rules require, members to take action based upon merit and not in an effort to raise campaign contributions. This type of behavior is precisely why the public distrusts elected officials,” said the group’s letter.
The complaint is similar to one lodged last month against Republican Sen. Dean Heller by the Nevada State Democratic Party. The party alleged Heller violated rules in a fundraising email that noted his position on the tax bill-writing committee and seeks donations “to support our plan for tax reform and relief.”
Kihuen’s campaign declined comment to the Review-Journal on Monday, according to the newspaper, and didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment from The Nevada Independent on Sunday.
— Michelle Rindels
Online charter school with low graduation rate strikes agreement with state that lets it stay open
Nevada Connections Academy, an online charter school with a graduation rate below the state-allowed limit, won’t be forcibly closed under a settlement approved Wednesday.
The State Public Charter School Authority approved an operating plan that requires the school to graduate at least 49 percent of its seniors by 2018 and 60 percent by 2019. If it fails to meet the targets, it could have its enrollment maximum reduced and could lose its charter.
Last school year, the academy had more than 3,000 students but a graduation rate of just 40 percent, according to state statistics.
The decision caps a long battle between the state and the school, which says the low graduation rate comes because the virtual school accepts struggling students, such as severely credit-deficient teenage moms trying to balance motherhood and jobs. But the state argues it needs to enforce standards and shut down schools that are failing to deliver for students.
“I supported the Authority’s recommendation to approve the agreement as a resolution and informal disposition of the referenced proceedings because it mandates real accountability, has been achieved with humility, and ensures finality regarding the future of NCA,” Jason Guinasso, chair of the State Public Charter School Authority wrote in an op-ed for The Nevada Independent.
— Michelle Rindels
Man who spent 21 years in prison pardoned; Laxalt opposes
A man who was imprisoned for 21 years and later declared innocent by a judge received a pardon from a state board, although gubernatorial candidate and Republican Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt opposed the move.
The Nevada Board of Pardons, which includes Gov. Brian Sandoval, the attorney general and the entire Nevada Supreme Court, voted Wednesday to grant a pardon to Fred Steese, with Laxalt the lone “no” vote. A pardon restores a person’s right to vote and bear arms, and removes any other punishments associated with a conviction such as occupational licensing restrictions.
Steese had been convicted of the murder of a Las Vegas Strip performer in 1992 but was later cleared by a judge who ordered a declaration of actual innocence before he was formally pardoned. His case, and alleged prosecutorial misconduct, has been the subject of a ProPublica investigation.
Laxalt’s office did not respond to a request for comment from The Nevada Independent, but he explained his rationale to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, referring to a letter from the district attorney’s office arguing against a pardon.
“The district attorney, Steve Wolfson, felt that this pardon was absolutely unwarranted,” Laxalt said, according to the newspaper. “If I had to choose between the district attorney and career prosecutors over a liberal judge and a news story, that was an easy call for me — I was going to go with the district attorney on this one.”
— Michelle Rindels
Coming soon: thousands of steel posts along Las Vegas Boulevard
Clark County officials are expediting plans to install another 7,500 bollards along the Las Vegas Strip, a move designed to heighten safety in the tourist corridor.
County workers began fortifying the Strip with bollards — steel posts that should prevent vehicles from jumping sidewalks and, either accidentally or maliciously, striking pedestrians — earlier this year.
The first 800 bollards should be in place before the end of December, County Engineer Denis Cederburg told the Clark County Commission last week. They’ll be stationed along Las Vegas Boulevard, from Tropicana Avenue to Spring Mountain Road. The second phase of the project will address areas at the northern and southern ends of the Strip.
Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak urged staff to do whatever necessary, including hastening the purchasing and permitting timelines, to complete the installations sooner rather than later.
“I cannot stress in my opinion — this is my sole opinion — how important it is to get these 7,500 bollards installed as quickly as we possibly can,” he said. “I know we’re going to open a newspaper in another week or month and somewhere in the world, some person is going to do it again. We know what we’re doing here.”
Installing bollards was in motion before the Oct. 1 shooting that killed 58 people and wounded more than 500 others on the Strip, but the tragedy has bolstered conversations about safety. Plus, an incident already highlighted the vulnerability of Las Vegas sidewalks: A vehicle driven by a 24-year-old woman plowed into pedestrians on the Strip in 2015, killing one person and injuring dozens of others.
— Jackie Valley
From ongoing legal battles over efforts to recall Nevada state senators to a major unionization push at Green Valley Ranch, here’s what Nevada Independent reporters covered last week.