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September 30, 2014

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Where I Stand — Mike O’Callaghan: Hatch Act is the wrong way to beat Perkins

Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins has been an effective spokesman for working people, children, education and law enforcement. Only effective elected officials are targeted and draw heavy fire from special interests that don't appreciate their success in office.

Under heavy pressure Perkins refuses to abandon the causes he supports, and he isn't for sale. Every effort to dissuade him from following his philosophy as a public servant has failed. Now comes the blow his opponents hope will remove him from office so they can have their way in the Legislature.

He is a family man and makes a living for them as a respected and competent member of law enforcement. What better way to force him from a part-time elective office than to make him quit the career he has chosen to feed his family? The weapon used is the Hatch Act, which was originally written in 1939 and aimed at stopping abuses in the federal civil service by limiting participation in partisan politics. Since then the rules have reached out to include local governments where any federal funds may be involved.

At the same time, through interpretations by the Office of Personnel Management, the U.S. Office of Special Counsel and congressional actions, several holes have been punched in the original legislation. These have been mainly exceptions giving federal employees additional political leeway. Also, employees of universities, schools or research institutions that receive federal funds aren't affected no matter how many taxpayer dollars they receive.

Now it comes to Perkins, who is deputy chief for the Henderson Police Department, which receives federal grants that are about 10 percent or less of the regular budget. So what's the problem? Perkins twice acted as chief when the top man was out of town, and he may have given advice to employees seeking the grants. In the absence of the chief, his replacement can only administrate and change nothing. The simple solution is for him not to act as chief again and stay away entirely from any grant applications or expenditure.

The Office of Special Counsel must give due process that will allow the entrance of common sense into any final decision-making. Most government agencies do provide for due process hearings and after that there is always the courts.

Several years ago I quit listening to Rush Limbaugh because of his extreme views and abuse of people who disagreed with him. My not listening to him didn't affect the size of his radio audience and his program chatter didn't affect me. Actually, until he started to talk about football on ESPN, I didn't give him much thought. His invasion of my favorite sport didn't last long enough to affect me or the sport.

So Limbaugh wasn't my favorite radio or sports celebrity but our differences didn't make him my enemy. What I, and millions of other Americans, do understand is the pain he has suffered from a spinal operation. Oftentimes sharp and continuing dull pain from back injuries stay with people all the way to their graves. Sometimes surgery helps and other times it only aggravates the injury. You can't get away from it night or day.

Some injured people use painkillers, others turn to booze and some just sweat it out and live in misery. Others, more fortunate, have found some relief in hot water, physical therapy, acupuncture and other aids. A person can only consume so much booze or painkillers and tolerate so much pain.

None of us knows exactly the painkiller problems of Limbaugh, but he is in rehab now and we hope he gets the help he needs. Shutting off the painkillers without finding some other solution to mitigate his pain won't be a completely satisfactory answer. Let's hope some reasonable relief will be forthcoming.

There are a lot of people out here hoping that Limbaugh finds some solution for his problem with pain. We don't know about his legal problems or anything else but, as fellow human beings, we do understand his need for pain relief. This doesn't mean I will tune in to his radio show when he returns to work.

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