Nevada Taxpayer Protection Act (2008)

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The Taxpayer Protection Act would have required a two-thirds vote to approve any initiative that would generate or increase public revenue in any form.

This measure was a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment.


The proposed amendment was filed by former state Controller Steve Martin. Martin noted that the state constitution required a two-thirds majority for the legislature to raise taxes, and said the same requirement should apply to ballot questions put to the voters seeking to raise taxes.[1]

The measure was being supported and funded by the Las Vegas Sands and its chairman Sheldon Adelson.[2]


The Nevada State AFL-CIO opposed the measure. "The end result would be that the minority would control the wishes of the majority," Danny Thompson, executive secretary and treasurer of the union, said. "That's not what our country was founded on."[1]

Legal challenges

The Nevada State AFL-CIO filed a lawsuit March 26, 2008, challenging the language describing the amendment's effects, calling it false and misleading.[1]

Union spokeman Danny Thompson said the challenge was a technical one regarding the description, believing that the description should reveal that the existing standard for approving an intitiative was a simple majority. "We're not challenging the constitutionality of the initiative," he said.[1]

Steve Martin, the proposer of the initiative, said the complaint fails to consider the 200-word limit imposed for initiative petition descriptions. Martin said he believed they would survvve the challenge, but said that any wording change required would force supporters to start over on the petition drive.[1]

At the May 1 hearing, Carson City District Judge James Todd Russell ruled that although descriptions can't be misleading, they can't possibly include every possible ramification of passage. "Overall, the intent of this petition is very clear from my perspective," he said.[3]


The state Supreme Court ruled that the measure would not be on the ballot due to failure to fully comply with the law regulating petition circulation.[4][5][6][7]

Proponents filed signatures on May 19, 2008; however, after opponents filed a legal challenge to the validity of the signatures,Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller ruled that there were not sufficient valid signatures filed to qualify the measure for the ballot. In response to an appeal of the decision, Miller affirmed the decision, leaving proponents with the option of filing a lawsuit to challenge the ruling.[8] Such a suit was filed.[9][10]

On July 2, 2008, a Carson district judge ruled that this measure was disqualified due to problems with affidavits signed by the signature gatherers. A spokesman for Las Vegas Sands Chairman Sheldon Adelson, who bankrolled the petition, said a decision was yet been made on whether to appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court.[11][12][13]

Lawyer Scott Scherer, who represented sponsors Martin and Seale, filed an appeal, noting that tens of thousands of people had signed the petitions and he thought it was important to appeal to the Supreme Court so their views could be considered.[14]

The state Supreme Court agreed July 17, 2008, to hold an Aug. 20, 2008, hearing on the appeal of the lower court ruling that blocked the three measures backed by Las Vegas Sands Corp. owner Sheldon Adelson from the November ballot.[14]

At that hearing, Scott Scherer, attorney for the petitioners, argued that Secretary of State Ross Miller overstepped his authority in rejecting the plans for failing to meet petition-verification requirements imposed by the 2007 Legislature.[15]

Wayne Howle, the state's solicitor general, argued that the petitioners exhibited a "lack of due diligence" in meeting the standards for ballot qualification.[15]

At issue was a 2007 law requiring circulators to sign statements that they personally circulated the petitions, counted the signatures, and observed the signing of the petitions, and that each signer had a chance to read the full text of the petition. But the initiative sponsors relied on outdated requirements for circulators found on the Secretary of State's web site.[14]

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada asked permission July 23, 2008, to file a "friend of the court" brief in the appeal, arguing that the state Supreme Court should let voters have their say on the initiative petitions.[16]

Lee Rowland, an attorney representing the ACLU of Nevada, said the source or content of the petitions was irrelevant and that the important issue was the process and access to the ballot by citizens.[16]

In this case, tens of thousands of signatures were being discounted because of procedural issues and "fundamental fairness was lacking here," Rowland said.[16]

The state Supreme Court ruled Sept. 4, 2008, that petition advocates failed to "substantially comply" with the law and that their attempt to cure flaws in the petitions was "insufficient." The court also rejected arguments that the new legal requirements were unconstitutional.[4]

See also

External links