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Elko County supports diesel tax legislation

ELKO – Elko County Commissioners have agreed to support state Senate Bill 48, which would allow counties to impose a tax of up to 5 cents per gallon on diesel fuel for road construction and maintenance.

Commissioners unanimously approved a resolution at their Feb. 6 meeting “expressing our strong support for Senate Bill 48, introduced in the 2019 Nevada Legislature.” The Nevada Association of Counties introduced the bill specifically for road work.

“This came up at an earlier meeting, and I was questioning whether we could amend it to use the tax for operations instead of building roads,” Elko County Commission Chairman Rex Steninger said, explaining that after he learned amending the bill wasn’t feasible, he removed his objections.

He said he was initially concerned that with the infrastructure sales tax, the county might not need more money for roads. Steninger later suggested maybe a portion of the infrastructure revenues could be shifted to other uses, if SB48 passes.

The county approved a quarter-percent sales tax increase in 2015 for road and fire district infrastructure.

“What we are doing now is just supporting the proposition to send it to the legislature to pass the bill. Then we get to decide if it has what we want. I support it,” Vice Chairman Demar Dahl said.

According to SB48, county commissioners in all the counties except Clark and Washoe can impose a tax on diesel fuel sold in their counties up to 5 cents per gallon.

The resolution states that currently Nevada’s rural counties can enact a 5-cent gasoline tax, but the rural counties don’t have an “an equivalent mechanism to collect tax revenue on diesel fuel” in contrast to the urban counties.

Commissioner Cliff Eklund said any decision by the county to enact the tax will require a two-thirds majority rather than a simple majority.

The bill also states the tax hike could be approved by a majority of registered voters if submitted for ballot action.

The measure includes a provision for highway truck parking projects, requiring the Nevada Department of Taxation to set up a trust account for counties selling more than 10 million gallons of diesel fuel a year. The bill then allows a portion of the account to go to the Nevada Department of Transportation to construct, maintain or repair highway truck parking spots.

Eklund said that with all the truck stops, more than 10 million gallons of diesel probably are sold in a year in Elko County.

The adopted resolution states that counties are responsible for 65 percent of the roads in the state, and a well-maintained system is “critical to economic development, public safety and quality of life for our communities.”

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Wendover casino robbery victim frustrated with 'slap on the wrist' punishment for suspect

Laila Anderson still fears walking to her car in parking lots.

“I look over my shoulder, I grab my purse tightly, I don’t feel as safe in the world,” Anderson said.

She says the anxiety has affected her since the night of Feb. 18, 2018 when she was robbed in the parking lot of a Wendover Casino.

It started out as one of the luckiest nights of her life. She hit a $9,000 jackpot on a slot machine and then hit another $1,200 win on a video poker machine.

After calling it a night, she and her husband gathered their cash winnings and set out for their car in the parking lot of the Montego Bay Casino on the Nevada-Utah border.

Their memorable night at the casino quickly put the couple in danger.

“All of a sudden someone lunged at me and grabbed my purse,” Anderson said.

Her hand was caught in the car door as her attacker, Tad Marshall, took her purse and ran off with the $10,000 in it.

“It scared me to death,” Anderson said.

Wendover, Utah police and West Wendover, Nevada police responded within minutes to the casino parking lot. With the help of security, cops tracked Marshall on surveillance video and found him inside another casino on Wendover Boulevard, according to police reports.

Because the crime happened in the parking lot on the Utah side of the border, police waited for Marshall to cross back into Utah before pulling him over and questioning him about the robbery.

The Wendover police officer who stopped Marshall told him that officers saw him rob Anderson in the surveillance video.

“I then asked Marshall if the money was still in the car or did he get rid of it and he stated, ‘it’s in the car’,” Wendover Police officer Ricky Giles Jr. wrote in a police report.

Police found $9,000 in Marshall’s car.

Marshall was booked into jail and the money was entered it into evidence. It would be a long time before Anderson would see her money again.

In March 2018, prosecutors charged Marshall with robbery, a second-degree felony, theft, also a second-degree felony, and misdemeanor drug possession.

“I just wanted to hear the words ‘guilty’ because he was so guilty,” Anderson said.

Nearly a dozen court hearings later, prosecutors reached a plea deal with Marshall. He pleaded guilty to robbery in exchange for the charges of theft and drug possession being dismissed.

Anderson had the chance to speak to the court at Marshall’s sentencing last week.

“He stole my identity, a piece of me, and scared me to death, a fear that will always stay with me,” Anderson said in her victim impact statement. “He inflicted not only physical pain but lasting emotional trauma that will probably scar me for life. In my opinion, there is no justice if Tad Marshall doesn’t serve some time in prison for the heinous crimes he has committed against me.”

A judge accepted the Adult Probation and Parole recommended sentence of 135 days in prison. Anderson feels it was a “slap on the wrist.”

“I felt like he should have been in prison, not jail, and it should have been maybe, at least a year. It tells people, ‘Hey, I can go knock an old lady down and taker her money and nothing is going to happen to me’,” Anderson told 2News in Salt Lake City.

Chief Deputy Tooele County Attorney Gary Searle shares Anderson’s frustration.

“She’s almost like a double victim. She’s the victim of the crime and she’s the victim of the system that kind of discounts what happened to her,” Searle told 2News in an interview Wednesday night.

Utah Court sentencing guidelines indicate a second-degree felony is punishable by one to 15 years in prison. Searle said the judge didn’t have flexibly in accepting the recommended four-month jail term from a pre-sentence report generated by Adult Probation and Parole.

Searle said the sentencing matrix used for Marshall shows the sentencing pendulum has swung too far in favor of the offender and away from the victim.

“I feel horrible for her. The money she lost can be replaced through restitution, but this type of crime violates someone’s sense of safety,” Searle said.

After Marshall accepted the plea deal, Anderson got her money back from the court. She now says she wants to put the whole situation behind her.

“I wanted my day in court, I guess,” she said.

Despite the court resolution, Anderson says she fears the jail term of four months will not deter something similar from happening to someone else.

“If he got off on just a slap on the wrist, what’s going to stop him from doing it again?” she said.

The Utah Sentencing Commission provided the following statement to 2News in response to criticism by Searle of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative.

“There seems to have been some confusion about what JRI did and what it did not do. JRI did not change the penalty for robbery and it did not change the sentencing guidelines for this crime. In short, this case has nothing to do with JRI. In general, criminal sentencing is a complicated matter. The goals of sentencing are to reduce the risk to public safety, get treatment, if needed, to the offender, and get restitution for the victim. Sometimes those goals are at odds with each other. Often, a lengthy prison sentence actually increases the risk that the offender will commit a new crime upon release. Judges and probation officers work with a lot of information that is not publicly available, including confidential risk assessments, when they make their determinations. Sometimes sentences may seem too high or too low, but we need to trust these professionals when they’re making decisions to promote public safety and reduce crime.”

Nevada bill seeks collective bargaining for state workers

CARSON CITY (AP) — Proposed legislation in Nevada would allow certain state employees to engage in collective bargaining.

The bill, introduced in the state Senate on Thursday, would require the state to negotiate wages with labor organizations representing state employees.

All collective bargaining agreements are required to include a procedure to resolve grievances under the bill.

Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak has said he supports giving state workers the ability to collectively bargain, commenting in his State of the State speech that many state employees went without salary increases or took pay cuts during The Great Recession. He also recommended a 3 percent pay increase for the workers.

“But they continued to faithfully serve the state of Nevada,” he said at the address. “Their skills, knowledge, experience and devotion have been invaluable to our state.”

State Sen. David Parks, a Democrat, said the bill has a good chance of passing and includes similar language that was introduced in past sessions. He commented that numerous state employees are finding it harder to live on their salaries.

Assemblyman Jim Wheeler, minority floor leader, signaled Republican disagreement to the collective bargaining measure in an interview last week.

Parks said Republicans will be allowed to voice their concerns.

Bills seeks to give parole violators residential confinement instead of jail time

CARSON CITY (AP) — Nevada’s parole and probation chief is pushing for proposed legislation allowing parolees who violate their parole to serve residential confinement instead of jail incarceration.

Natalie Wood, chief of the Division of Parole and Probation, says the bill would allow the division to give a sanction without the delay of an inquiry and hearing before the parole board. She says the board would be able to review the division’s actions.

Proposed legislation would allow the division to place a parolee in residential confinement if the agency has “probable cause” of a violation. The bill would require the parolee to agree with the confinement term and voluntarily waive their rights to a hearing to contest the alleged violation.