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Nevada ballot news archive

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Note: This page includes short news headlines as they happen. If you scroll through the page and read earlier headlines, information pertaining to the events in those sections may have changed significantly since the section was posted.
==Supreme Court nixes city hall referendum==

On April 8, 2009, the Nevada Supreme Court rejected an appeal from the Las Vegas Taxpayer Accountability Committee and the Las Vegas Redevelopment Reform Committee to put the Las Vegas City Hall Referendum (2009) on the June 2 ballot in Las Vegas.

The court said the groups have to file their appeal first with the Nevada District Court

The Las Vegas City Council is declining to put the measure on the ballot on the grounds that it is worded in such a way as to repeal the city's entire Redevelopment Agency.[1]

Legislative tampering alleged

Anti-smoking activist Kendall Stagg has filed a request with the Nevada Supreme Court, asking it to intervene to prevent what he regards as legislative tampering on the part of the Nevada State Senate, which is considering modifying the provisions of the Nevada Clean Indoor Air Act, which was approved with over 54% of the vote in 2006 as a ballot initiative.[2]

Culinary lawsuit likely in Las Vegas

Culinary Union Local 226 is likely to file a lawsuit against the Las Vegas City Council for refusing to put the Las Vegas City Hall Referendum (2009) measure on the ballot.[3]

Richard McCracken, the attorney for the union, says a court should order the City Council to add the measure, and an associated one, to the ballot because the Nevada Supreme Court has clearly ruled that "voters must be given the chance to vote" before the substance of a ballot measure can be challenged. McCracken cites a 2003 Nevada Supreme Court case in which the justices ruled that all ballot measures with the proper signatures must be voted on before any legal challenges as to the constitutionality of the contested ballot measure be made.

Judge invalidates Nevada's distribution requirement

A federal judge struck down a Nevada law Sept. 30, 2008. that requires petitioners to collect a minimum number of signatures in each Nevada county in order to get measures on the ballot.[4]

U.S. District Judge Philip Pro declared the law unconstitutional, arguing that it violated the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment of the U.S. Constitution because it "favors residents of sparsely populated counties over residents of densely populated counties.."[4]

The law's constituionality wa challenged by the Marijuana Policy Project, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, and several residents including Henderson lawyer Kermitt Waters.[4]

Campaign financial reports to be made public

The Nevada attorney general’s office will make public the contribution and expense reports for ballot advocacy groups beginning Oct. 15, 2008, now that it has resolved legal questions that had previously kept the reports from being disclosed.[5]

Casino workers file suit

PEST, a group representing tip-earning casino workers filed suit Sept. 18, 2008, in U.S. District Court in Las Vegas to challenge Nevada's initiative petition requirements, arguing that limiting petitions to a single subject, requiring a 200-word summary, and allowing opposition groups to challenge petitions before signatures are gathered violates U.S. constitutional protections of free speech and equal protection.[6]

According to the suit, 12 citizen initiative petitions were filed to amend Nevada's constitution or change Nevada laws, but "all 12 were challenged by political opponents. ... and not one is currently left standing."[6]

PEST, which stands for "Committee to Prevent Employers from Seizing Tips," refiled its initiative about tip-sharing Sept. 17th. The group intends to seek a court injunction to block enforcement of the petition laws, according to Kermitt Waters, a Las Vegas attorney representing PEST.[6]

If allowed to proceed, petition organizers will have until Nov. 11 to gather 58,836 signatures and force the 2009 Legislature either take action or send it to a public vote in 2010.[6]

Waters tried to circulate two other ballot initiatives for the 2008 ballot to raise casino taxes and raise money for teachers' pay, highway construction, and other projects, but those plans were disqualified by a judge as being too broad.[6]

PEST filed and later withdrew a petition seeking to stop casinos from requiring casino dealers to pool their tips with supervisors, a controversial practice being used at the Wynn Las Vegas Resort.[6]

The petition was withdrawn after Wynn Resorts LLC and other business groups challenged the initiative on grounds it violated the state's single subject rule passed by the 2005 Legislature. The 2005 law also lets outside interest groups challenge petitions before the signature gathering process, and allows the winning side of any court challenge to collect attorneys fees from the loser.[6]

"Because of the legal harassment, costs and uncertainty of whether they can survive a legal challenge, many citizen groups ... forego from fear their right to file and circulate an initiative petition, rather than exercise their Free Speech rights to do so," the lawsuit said.[6]

Court upholds term limits

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled on July 25, 2008, that a challenge to Nevada's term limits law, pursued by attorneys for the Legislative Counsel Bureau, was barred because the challenge came more than a decade after voters approved the limits.[7][8]

In finding that the term limits ballot question approved by voters was valid, the court said, "Although the amendment was presented to the voters in a slightly varied format during two successive general elections, the amendment's language was identical in both, clear in its content, and twice approved by the voters."[7]

The Nevada Supreme Court also ruled, in a unanimous decision, that 21 elected officials, including long-time Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury, must be removed from the ballot because term limits made them ineligible to run for re-election. The court said the clock for term limits started ticking in 1996 for local officials, making those with 12 years of service or more ineligible to run for another term.[7]

The court also unanimously ruled that the start date for lawmaker terms was different than for local officials, and that the clock for them did not start ticking until 1998.[7]

Members of the Legislature start their new terms of office the day after the general election, while the term limits initiative petition approved by voters in 1996 did not take effect until the election results were canvassed several days later. As a result, the 1996 election of lawmakers did not count toward the 12-year limit, the court ruled.

The court said the framers of the state constitution specifically defined the start of terms for lawmakers, "in order to 'prevent any abuse of power by the executive of the state' in the event that a special session is called in the interim between the election and the canvass of votes.[7]

Chief Justice Mark Gibbons, who ran for re-election to the court this year, wrote both opinions.

"This is certainly a great day for the citizens of Nevada," said U.S. Term Limits President Philip Blumel. "U.S. Term Limits made the decision early that this was an effort by the politicians to use the courts to undo the will of the people. We couldn't be happier of our decision to monitor this case and file amicus briefs protecting the voters from deceitful politicians."[7]

Nader makes Nevada ballot

Ralph Nader will be on Nevada's November ballot as an independent presidential candidate, the first to officially qualify.[9]

Matt Griffin, deputy secretary of state for elections, said July 18, 2008, that he has received information from the counties that Nader has nearly 5,000 signatures of registered voters on a petition. About 4,700 are needed to qualify for the ballot.[9]

Nader supporters said they had submitted 12,000 signatures and hope to get Nader on the presidential ballots in 45 states by Sept. 20.[9]

Supreme Court hears arguments on term limits

Supreme Court Justice Jim Hardesty said July 1, 2008—after hearing nearly two hours of oral arguments concerning whether some politicians and lawmakers should be kicked off the November ballot—that the state's rule on term limits for elected officials is unambiguous and that 12 years in office means just that.[10]

But he allowed that Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, one of the politicians facing a term limit challenge, might be able to seek another term because of when she took office in relation to when the law went into effect.

Other justices on the seven-member court were not as definitive in their comments, although Justices Bill Maupin and Michael Douglas made some statements reflecting similar views.

The Attorney General's office brought the case on behalf of Secretary of State Ross Miller, who argues that more than 20 officials who have filed to appear on the November 2008 ballot are prohibited from running again because of term limits. Miller seeks a writ to compel county district attorneys to follow the 12-year limitation law and remove the challenged candidates from the November ballot.

In the case of the Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley (D-Las Vegas) challenge, Hardesty suggested that the assemblywoman could possibly run again because of a provision in the state constitution that officially starts legislators' terms the day after the election. Because the term limit amendment didn't take effect under several weeks later and was not retroactive, the court may rule that legislators elected in 1996 should be permitted to seek one more term.[10]

Chief Justice Mark Gibbons said the court will issue its ruling on this case on the same day as its ruling for another term limit case to be heard July 14, 2008. In that case, the constitionality of term limits is being challenged. If the court finds term limits are unconstitutional, the question of whether or how they apply to specific candidates would become moot.[10]

Former Attorney General Frankie Sue Del Papa had previously ruled that term limits would not begin with the 1996 election, but would apply to candidates elected in 1998 and after. As a result of that ruling, the candidates whose eleigibility is now being challenged filed for re-election in May.

Casinos tryi to keep advisory question off

MGM Mirage and Las Vegas Sands, two of Nevada's largest private employers, are urging the Clark County Commission to keep an advisory question about raising hotel room taxes to fund education off the November ballot, according to an unnamed county official.[11]

The commission must vote to put the measure on the ballot for voters to express their opinions on raising the room tax by three percentage points to fund teacher salaries. If voters approved the measure, they would be telling the legislature that they approve of efforts to pass the tax hike in the coming legislative session.

The teachers union dropped a ballot proposal intended to raise the gaming tax to fund better pay and more money for education, as part of a deal with several large casinos to support raising the room tax instead. Harrah's Entertainment, Wynn Resorts, and Station Casinos helped broker the deal, but MGM Mirage and Las Vegas Sands have not gotten behind the deal.[11]

MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman said the company is committed to its own, broader-based solution and added that negotiations with other gaming companies are ongoing.[11]

The advisory question was to be placed on the ballot in every county, but anti-tax Republican county commissioners in rural Nevada balked, leaving only Clark and Washoe counties. Proponents dispute that and say there wasn’t enough time to get the question on every ballot.[11]

"The advisory question is flawed," Feldman said. "It calls for specific earmarks for the teachers union when the entire state is in crisis. It places all of the burden on one industry. Since last fall we've been saying this needs to be a broader solution."[11]

"Why would anybody be opposed to the people having a right to voice their opinion?" said Jan Jones, a Harrah’s executive and former Las Vegas mayor. "It’s not like we're asking county commissioners to take a position. We think the issue is important enough for the people to weigh in on."[11]

She added that the proposed room tax increase wouldn't rule out further solutions, such as a broad-based business tax that MGM Mirage favors.[11]

Dan Hart, the teachers’ political consultant, said the teachers are working on two tracks: pursuing the advisory ballot question, while gathering signatures by November for a legislative initiative to increase room taxes. In a legislative initiative, voters ask the Legislature to take action. If the 2009 Legislature does not do so, the measure would go before voters on the 2010 ballot and, if passed then, would become law.[11]

Supreme Court to rule on term limits application

Nevada Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto has filed an emergency petition with the Nevada Supreme Court to end confusion over status of veteran officials who have served for 12 or more years and are seeking re-election. The petition was filed on behalf of Secretary of State Ross Miller, who has challenged 21 re-election candidates on grounds they've reached the 12-year limit for time in office.[12]

The petition seeks an order requiring district attorneys in Clark, Washoe, and Churchill counties to carry out the challenges. Prosecutors in a dozen counties were requested to enforce the candidate challenges, but the DAs in those three counties have said they will refuse to enforce the Secretary of State's challenges.[12]

Do term limits apply or not?

The district attorneys of Nevada's two most populous counties have both rejected the attorney general's contention that many candidates have been termed out and must remove their names from the ballot.[13]

Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto and Secretary of State Ross Miller challenged a dozen elected officials in Nevada, asking county election officials to remove their names from the 2008 ballot because another term would put them past the constitutional limit of 12 years in one office.[13]

David Roger of Clark County and Dick Gammick of Washoe County have refused to go along, citing the 1996 attorney general's opinion that said term limits would not apply to officials elected in the 1996 election cycle.[13]

If district attorneys decline to prosecute, Cortez Masto apparently doesn't have the ability to take the case forward, because the Constitution grants the decision whether to prosecute to the district attorney in each jurisdiction, not to the attorney general.[13]

Nevada Prop 13 initiative a fatal 20 minutes late

In the Circus-Circus atmosphere that is the 2008 Nevada initiative season, Nevada Proposition 13 has fallen from the highwire without a net. The signatures had to be filed in each county on Tuesday at 5:00, but supporters didn't hit the election office in the state's largest county, Clark, until a fatal 20 minutes after 5:00 p.m. ...more, for those who are not faint of heart

Advocates of the property tax-cap measure say they'll challenge the deadline in the Nevada Supreme Court. Sharron Angle, main proponent for the plan, argues that the 2007 Legislature moved back the deadline for submitting signatures to a date earlier than the Nevada Constitution allows.[14]

The Nevada Constitution allows petitioners to work until 90 days before the general election, but also allows the Legislature to move that deadline back by as much as 65 days to ensure there's enough time to verify signatures. But lawmakers went farther, moving the deadline back by 77 days.[14]

"We're preparing our court filing now," Angle said. "It's time to take the Legislature to task and also to ask everyone to uphold their oath of office."[14]

Teachers union, casinos kiss and make up

May 20. "The Nevada teachers union has reached a deal to forgo its petition initiative to increase taxes on casinos in favor of increased room taxes.......more.

Casino interests appeal ruling allowing initiative to go forward

The casino industry has filed an appeal of a district judge's ruling allowing the teachers' union to proceed with an initiative petition to raise the state's gambling tax on casinos grossing more than $1 million a month from 6.75%to 9.75%.[15]

The Nevada Resort Association and Las Vegas Sands Corp. asked the Nevada Supreme Court on April 11, 2008, for a speedy handling of its appeal over Senior Judge Miriam Shearing's April 3 ruling that the petition was legal, asking for a ruling before May 20, the deadline for the Nevada State Education Association to submit signatures.[15]

Plaintiffs argue the petition contains more than one subject because it would raise taxes, earmark revenues for teacher salaries and "student achievement," and mandate the entire education budget be voided if legislators consider using the money for other purposes.[15]

State law requires that a petition be limited to a single subject.

Lawsuit to stop term limits

Nevada's term limits, approved by voters a decade ago, are set to take effect in 2010, but there is a move underway for various special interest groups to file a legal challenge to the limits with the state Supreme Court.

As many of the legislators seek re-election for what could be the last time this year, they'd rather not openly participate in something opponents could term "their naked self-interests laid bare," one political observer says, which is why the interest groups would be the offficial petitioner.[16]

Eighteen veteran lawmakers, including Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio (R-Reno) and Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley (D-Las Vegas), face final races in 2008 due to term limits.

"I'm aware that there are various and diverse interest groups looking at this question," said Sen. Randolph Townsend (R-Reno), elected for the last time in 2006 if term limits stand. "As term limits come forward and start to become more clear, those interest groups are finding that maybe this is not as good an idea as it was before, and they have a right to go to court."[16]

One possible litigant is the state AFL-CIO, although Danny Thompson, head of the union, says, "We haven't done anything right now. That's to be determined. We haven't made a formal decision."[16]

Mary Lau of the Retail Association of Nevada says her group is "absolutely supportive" of a legal challenge. Bob Fulkerson of the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada says his public-interest group hasn't been asked to sign onto a petition, but added, "Absolutely, we would love to join in an effort to repeal term limits."[16]

Term-limit proponents said they will defend the measure against any challenges. "I committed to it before and I wouldn't change that commitment now," Sig Rogich said, a major advocate of the measure when the measure was put before Nevada voters, adding that opponents of such a move could "tie anyone closely associated with this to the fact that they're trying to undo the will of the voters. That's dangerous ground."[16]

Philip Blumel, head of U.S. Term Limits which backed Nevada's 1994 and 1996 statewide votes for term limits, said his group also would fight the effort to cancel the limits. "We're a single-issue organization. Our goal is to assist people and defend voter-approved term limits," Lumel said. "We certainly would look at the case to see how we could help."[16][17][18]

Judge rejects petition challenge

A Nevada state court judge has given her stamp of legal approval on a proposal to raise Nevada gambling taxes to the tune of $250 million to $400 million a year for the public education system.[19]

Waving off arguments by the Nevada Resort Association that the Nevada State Education Association's revised ballot measure proposal failed to meet the requirements of an earlier court order to avoid any single-subject rule violations, former state Supreme Court Justice Miriam Shearing, who's handling the Carson City District Court case, said the particulars of the initiative petition are "functionally related" and "neither confusing nor misleading."

Nevada Resort Association lawyers argued that the petition's proposed tax hike is one subject, and its mandate that the new revenue be spent on, among other things, teachers' salaries, is another.[20]

Denying that argument, Shearing wrote in her opinion that "(i)n interpreting initiatives, this court is required to make every effort to preserve the initiative power of the people. In other words, this court must interpret an initiative so as to preserve the power of the people to vote on it."

Casino industry advocates suggest the tax could ultimately bust smaller operations, particularly in rural parts of the state.[21]

The education association must gather 58,836 signatures by May 20 to qualify the measure for the November 2008 election. Voters would have to approve the proposal twice, both in 2008 and 2010, in order for it to become law.[22]

Interpretation makes petition drives more difficult

Secretary of State Ross Miller has ruled that voters are only permitted to sign a recall petition if they participated in the election in which the targeted official was elected.

Miller's interpretation of the law went further, also requiring that the address included with a signature on a ballot petition—recall or other initiative petitions—match that voter's registration information in order to be counted.

The new interpretation of Nevada election laws will make it harder to recall officials and to get other statewide initiatives on the ballot.

Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said no recalls in the county since 1994 were done the way Miller says they should have been. But even though he doesn't agree with Miller's readings of the law, Lomax says his office will abide by them.[23]

Waters to file measure to kill single-subject rule

Las Vegas attorney Kermitt Waters has filed petitions to remove legal obstacles that have prevented him and the Nevada State Education Association from circulating petitions to allow voters to increase the state gaming tax.

The proposal would repeal a law that limits initiative measures to a single subject.

In the past few months, several lawsuits have used the 2005 law to ask judges to put a stop to petition drives to place measures on the November 2008 ballot.[24]

Court tosses out ballot measures to raise gambling taxes

A judge rejected two initiatives to raise taxes on Nevada's biggest casinos to about 20 percent. The initiatives required that the revenue generated go toward teachers' pay, highway construction, and other projects.

Carson District Judge Bill Maddox threw out the initiatives, filed by Las Vegas lawyer Kermitt Waters, for violating the single-subject rule.

Maddox said both initiatives called for an increase in license fees for resorts, as well as specifically directing how the new tax revenue would be spent. One of the initiatives also would have eliminated property taxes on primary residences, using part of the new tax revenue to reimburse counties for the property tax loss. The judge also said the proposals, challenged by the Nevada Resort Association, would amount to an improper delegation of lawmakers' authority to tax and spend.[25]

ACLU challenges constitutionality of petition requirements

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Nevada has asked a federal district court to rule the state's new initiative petition requirements unconstitutional.

In the U.S. District Court complaint, the ACLU says the law approved by the 2007 Legislature is no better than another initiative petition law struck down by the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

Also signing on the complaint were The Marijuana Policy Project, which has tried unsuccessfully several times to win voter approval for intitiatives concerning marijuana, and Kermitt Waters, a Las Vegas attorney who is seeking to place two initiatives on the November ballot to [[Nevada It's Time for Gaming's Fair Share and Eliminate Property Tax Initiative (2008)|raise state gaming taxes and eliminate property taxes for homeowners]].

"The Nevada Legislature and its secretary of state are dead set on discriminating against voters in densely populated counties and, in doing so, violating the United States Constitution," the complaint charges.

The ACLU won a 2006 decision that invalidated the rule requiring initiatives to get signatures equal to at least 10% of voters who cast ballots in the last general election—and in at least 13 of Nevada's 17 counties—to get on the ballot. That law was ruled unconstitutional because it could allow a small number of rural voters to effectively block voters in the two largest counties, Washoe and Clark, home of almost 90% of Nevada voters, from putting a constitutional question on the ballot.

The new formula approved in 2007 requires signatures totaling 10% of the statewide voter turnout in the last general election. It attempts to compensate for the huge disparity in population between tiny rural and populous urban counties by requiring the number of signers in each county to be adjusted according to that county's percentage of the total state population. "It’s the same old law dressed up in different language," said ACLU-Nevada executive director Gary Peck.[26]

Teachers' union submits new wording

Judge Miriam Shearing ruled in late January that an initiative proposed by the Nevada State Education Association went too far when it attempted to lay out how much of the money raised could go for teacher salaries and other educational functions. Shearing ruled that those specifics invaded the Legislature's sphere of power. Rather than rejecting the initiative, the judge gave the Nevada State Education Association time to revise the initiative's wording.

New language was submitted in Feb. 5, 2008, with hopes of addressing Judge Shearing's objections. The new version does not include percentages of revenue to go to specific areas in education, and only instructs that the new revenue be dedicated to K-12 education. Opponents say the new language still violates the single-subject rule, creating a tax increase in the same proposal that commits the legislature to increase school funding annually.

The Nevada Resort Association filed the complaint against the initiative, accusing the wording of being "misleading, false, and fails to inform voters of all its material consequences."[27]

See also


  1. Las Vegas Sun, "Supreme Court rejects redevelopment ballot petition," April 8, 2009
  2. Mercury News, "Petition would block legislative hearing," April 1, 2009
  3. Las Vegas Sun, "City-union legal debate: Are issues fit for voters?," March 9, 2009
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Las Vegas Review-Journal: "Judge throws out law requiring petitions signed in all counties," Sept. 30, 2008
  5. Las Vegas Sun: "At last, the money trail leads somewhere," Sept. 25, 2008
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 6.3 6.4 6.5 6.6 6.7 Associated Press: "Casino workers challenge Nevada initiative laws," Sept. 19, 2008
  7. 7.0 7.1 7.2 7.3 7.4 7.5 Las Vegas Review-Journal: "TERM LIMITS: State high court rules 21 ineligible," July 26, 2008
  8. Reno Gazette-Journal: "State's high court: 12-year limits valid," July 26, 2008
  9. 9.0 9.1 9.2 Las Vegas Sun: "Nader makes presidential ballot in Nevada," July 18, 2008
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Las Vegas Review-Journal: "Nevada Supreme Court: Term limits cases argued," July 2, 2008
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 11.3 11.4 11.5 11.6 11.7 Las Vegas Sun: "Opposition to room tax hike building," June 12, 2008
  12. 12.0 12.1 Mercury News: "Term-limit debate reaches high court," June 3, 2008
  13. 13.0 13.1 13.2 13.3 Nevada Appeal: "Clark, Washoe DAs reject term limits ruling," May 28, 2008
  14. 14.0 14.1 14.2 San Jose Mercury News: "Petition rejection challenged," May 23, 2008
  15. 15.0 15.1 15.2 Nevada Appeal: "Casinos appeal district court decision on teachers' tax petition," April 12, 2008
  16. 16.0 16.1 16.2 16.3 16.4 16.5 Deseret News: "Will Nevada change term limits?," April 13, 2008
  17. "Reid and Friends Seek to Stay in Power with Little Regard for the Law," April 13, 2008
  18. Las Vegas Review-Journal: "Erin Neff: Lawmakers just hate term limits," April 13, 2008
  19. Associated Press: "Judge preserves teachers tax petition" April, 3, 2008
  20. Nevada Appeal: "Teachers win decision putting gaming tax on ballot" April 4, 2008
  21. Reno-Gazette-Journal: "Casinos challenge teachers' tax plan," April 7, 2008
  22. Las Vegas Review-Journal: "EDITORIAL: Power of the people" April 6, 2008
  23. KTNV-TV: "Rules on recalling Nevada officials revised," March 28, 2008
  24. Las Vegas Review-Journal: "Petition to challenge one-subject rule," March 3, 2008
  25. Reno Gazette-Journal: "Court tosses out two ballot initiative to raise casino taxes," Feb. 16, 2008
  26. Nevada Appeal: "Nevada law on ballot measures challenged," Feb. 15, 2008
  27. Nev.: Casino Group Files Tax Challenge, Associated Press, Dec. 11, 2007