Nye on Carson, April 3

Lawmaker seeks to repeal Common Core

The curriculum to implement Common Core is so confusing that parents can’t even help their elementary school-age children do their homework, a state lawmaker said Wednesday in support of a bill to repeal the controversial educational standards in Nevada.

Assemblyman Brent Jones, R-Las Vegas, said the convoluted curriculum, when combined with intrusive data mining of personal information about students and their parents and a costly unproven testing requirement, make repealing Common Core the right move for Nevada policymakers.

Jones testified before the Assembly Education Committee in support of his Assembly Bill 303, which would do away with the standards in Nevada. One of the biggest problems with Common Core standards is the “top down” control, one-size-fits-all mentality that many believe will lead to ultimate failure and federal government overreach, he said.

It was the first hearing on the measure, which faces an uphill battle given the opposition to the measure from members of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s Cabinet.

But the intrusive data mining and loss of privacy are also major concerns. Jones has proposed that Nevada instead adopt standards established by Massachusetts.

The bill was opposed by Dale Erquiaga, state superintendent of public instruction, and Dan Klaich, chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education, claiming that repealing the Nevada Academic Content Standard for English language arts and mathematics based on the Common Core State Standards would unravel years of work to implement more rigorous academic standards.

The Common Core standards were adopted by the Nevada Board of Education in June 2010. The state Board of Education voted unanimously last week to oppose AB303. Sandoval has supported Common Core during his time as governor, issuing an executive order in 2013 creating the Common Core State Standards Steering Committee.

The hearing concluded with no immediate action on the bill.

Sean Whaley

Speed limit bill advances to Assembly

The Nevada Senate on Thursday approved a bill that would raise the speed limit to 80 mph on some freeways and highways if the Department of Transportation deems it is safe.

Senate Bill 2, sponsored by state Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, would authorize the agency to raise the limit from 75 mph. The higher speed limits are permitted only on certain divided freeways and interstates.

The original bill sought to increase the speed limit to 85 mph in designated areas, but the final speed was lowered as a compromise with critics who argued it was too fast and too dangerous.

Police agencies and transportation officials opposed the bill because of safety concerns. The measure now moves to the Assembly.

Sandra Chereb

Bill seeks to do away with presidential caucus

Nevada would scrap its caucus system for a presidential preference primary under a bill considered Wednesday by a Senate committee.

Another bill would open Nevada primaries in partisan races to all candidates, with the top two winners advancing to the general election.

Both were heard Wednesday by the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections. The committee took no action on either bill.

Senate Bill 421 presented by state Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, would replace Nevada’s presidential caucus system with a presidential preference election early in presidential election years. And it would move Nevada’s statewide primary election from June to February.

Settelmeyer said changing Nevada’s caucus to an early primary is “intended to increase voter participation in presidential elections.”

The primary for state elections is in June.

Another bill, Senate Bill 499, would create a “modified blanket” primary election system in Nevada, allowing all candidates regardless of party affiliation to appear on the ballot.

The bill is in stark contrast to Nevada’s existing partisan primaries, where only candidates of major political parties appear on the ballot and only registered voters of those parties get to cast a ballot.

Under the measure, Republican and Democratic candidates, as well as minor political party candidates and independents would run on the same primary ballot, and all eligible voters could vote.

The top two vote-getters would advance to the general election unless they are affiliated with the same major or minor political party. In that case, the second-place finisher would not advance to the general election. Instead, the name of the candidate who received the next highest number of votes would become a general election nominee.

Sandra Chereb

Bill that seeks electronic cigarette controls debated

Use of electronic cigarettes would be subject to the same restrictions in Nevada as tobacco smoking under a bill heard Wednesday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Senate Bill 201 would add vaping — the inhalation of flavored liquids through an electronic device — to the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act.

But critics of the bill countered that clouds of aerosol exhaled from electronic devices is not the same as second-hand tobacco smoke.

Voters passed the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act in 2006. The law prohibits smoking in most public places, including schools, day care facilities, restaurants and indoor work places. There is an exception for gambling areas of casinos, stand-alone bars, tobacco trade shows, retail tobacco shops and brothels.

Michael Hackett, a consultant with the Nevada Tobacco Prevention Coalition who presented the bill, said that while some might argue that vapor may be less hazardous than secondhand tobacco smoke, “Less harmful is not the same as being harmless.” He said three states have enacted laws prohibiting vaping in areas where smoking is banned, and at least a dozen restrict use of e-cigarettes.

But Bryan Bedera, representing the Nevada Vaping Association, said “vaping is not smoking.” He and other supporters of the growing industry said levels of chemicals in vapor are “negligible.”

The committee also heard Senate Bill 225, to prohibit the sale of liquid nicotine products to youth under 18 years of age.

A separate measure, Senate Bill 339, would authorize the Nevada System of Higher Education to enact tougher restrictions on smoking, sale and distribution of tobacco on system-owned property. Existing law allows school districts to impose more stringent restrictions on smoking, distribution, marketing and promotion of tobacco products. SB339 would give universities and colleges the same authority.

The measure is also supported by the Nevada State Medical Association and others.

The Senate Judiciary Committee took no immediate action on any of the three bills.

Sandra Chereb

Sandra Chereb and Sean Whaley cover Carson City for GateHouse Media, owner of the Pahrump Valley Times.

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