Nevada Proposition 13 (2008)

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This article is about a 2008 ballot measure in Nevada. For other measures with a similar title, see Proposition 13.
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Nevada Proposition 13, or "Prop 13", was an initiated constitutional amendment modeled after California's Prop 13 that would have limited the annual property tax increase in Nevada to 2 percent. It was also known as Property Tax Reform Initiative for Nevada. It did not make the November 4, 2008 ballot.

Voters must have approved the plan during general elections in 2008 and 2010 in order for it to have become a law. Nevada law required that constitutional amendments be approved by voters at two consecutive general elections. A similar initiative was passed in 2004 but lost in 2006 due to a temporary property tax cap passed in 2005.[1]

Details of the measure

The amendment would have set the maximum amount of property tax as one percent of the base value of the property, defining "base value" as the taxable value from which the assessed value was calculated for the 2003-2004 fiscal year.

The proposal exempted existing bonded indebtedness from the limit, as well as new bonded indebtness that was approved by two-thirds of voters.

The base value was not to be increased year-to-year by more than two percent or the rate of inflation, whichever was lower, and must have been decreased for disinflation or actual decrease in value due to damage, destruction, or other causes, including economic and market conditions. Under the proposal, base value would have been increased by the cash value of improvements unless the improvements were to have replaced existing improvements destroyed by natural disaster or other casualty.

If property was transferred to a new owner, base value would have become full cash value as of the date of the transfer, unless the transfer was to a spouse, child, grandchild, or a legal entity of which the transeror was the beneficial owner.

Property owners of 62 years or older would have been permitted to carry their current base value to a new residence when replacing a principle residence with one of comparable value (less value or up to 10% increase in value). Property owners who were the victim of eminent domain seizures would have also been permitted to carry over the base value from the property taken to a replacement property.


Sponsors of the initiative were Sharron Angle and Don Gustavson, two former members of the Nevada Assembly. Angle previously pushed similar initiatives in 2004 and 2006.[2]

Angle and Gustavson, both Republicans, stated a lack of trust in the Nevada Legislature not to change the caps on property tax increases imposed in the 2005 Legislature. "We have to get it solid in the Constitution so it can't be changed every two years," Gustavson said stated.[3]

Angle stated at the time that her plan was fair, simple and predictable. Everyone's taxes were based on the same formula and, since it would have been part of the constitution, it couldn't be changed easily. "It’s a win win win," she said.[4]


The America's Union Movement (AFL-CIO) and the Nevada Education Association sued Angle on the grounds that language in the proposed law was misleading. The petition was withdrawn, Angle noting that there was an error in wording in the proposed law.[5]

The initiative was resubmitted in December 2007 with new language intended to better withstand an expected chanllenge from the AFL-CIO. Angle and Gustavson filed a third version of the initiative in late February, still trying to answer complaints from the union.[6]


When the initiative was first filed in September of 2007, Angle spoke of a $200,000 contribution from an anonymous donor. However after AFL-CIO challenged the petition in court the donor backed out of supporting the initiative, leading Angle to withdraw the petition six days before it would have entered court.[7]

Since then, her organization had been mailing letters asking people to donate to the petition drive, asking for $50,000 to fight a lawsuit and $350,000 to collect petitions.


America's Union Movement (AFL-CIO) and the Nevada Education Association were opposed to the initiative.

Carson City Assessor Dave Dawley said the proposal would raise many property owners’ taxes. The main problem, he said, was that new homeowners would have paid property taxes based on the full market value of their property.[4]

Close to half of property owners in Carson City could have potentially seen their property taxes immediately go up under the plan, he said. "This will be a windfall for a local governments," Dawley said, "but it's going to cost taxpayers a lot."[4]

Under 2005 law, property taxes for homes built before the law took effect were based on 2002 values and couldn't climb more than 3% a year, even if they were sold. An owner with a home built after 2005 pays full property taxes the first year with a 3% increase for each year after. Other properties can go up 8% a year.[4]

Under the new plan, all property taxes would be based on 2003 values and could go up 2% a year. If the property was sold, however, the new owner pays taxes based on the full market value with a 2% increase each year.[4]

New homeowners under the new plan would have started at comparatively high rate in most cases, Dawley said, and they could have paid hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars more in taxes a year than a neighbor in an identical house.[4]

Carole Vilardo, president of the Nevada Taxpayers Association, said state lawmakers had tried to work carefully within the law to pass the current property tax cap, and that this measure didn't consider the effect of the new tax on a state with fast growth and quick house sales. "I think the initiative is problematic," Vilardo said.[4]


The measure was certified for the November 2008 ballot on Aug. 15, 2008. Proponents filed signatures on May 20, 2008.[8] However, the group arrived 20 minutes after the deadline to turn in signatures to Clark County on May 20, 2008, where 40,364 valid signatures were required.[9]

"As far as Clark County is concerned, no petition was ever turned in and the deadline is passed," Secretary of State Ross Miller's elections deputy Matt Griffin said.[9]

Proponents challenge deadline

Advocates of the property tax-cap measure stated they would challenge the deadline in the Nevada Supreme Court. Sharron Angle, main proponent for the plan, argued that the 2007 Legislature moved back the deadline for submitting signatures to a date earlier than the Nevada Constitution allowed.[10]

The Nevada Constitution allowed petitioners to work until 90 days before the general election, but also allowed the Legislature to move that deadline back by as much as 65 days to ensure there would have been enough time to verify signatures. But lawmakers went farther, moving the deadline back by 77 days.[10]

"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."[10]

The Nevada Supreme Court agreed on June 5, 2008, to hear her case on July 1, saying that her case had "arguable merit and deserves to have oral argument."[11]

The Nevada Supreme Court ruled on July 16, 2008, that signatures on the initiative petition submitted through June 17 should have been accepted as valid, because a constitutional amendment setting the deadline at June 17 supersedes a law that established a May 20 deadline.[12][13]

Matt Griffin, deputy secretary of state in charge of elections, said he would order counties to start counting and verifying the signatures to see if petition backers have the 58,628 needed for the measure to appear on the November ballot.[12]

Opponents issue new challenge

On Aug. 8, 2008, the Nevada State Education Association filed a new challenge to the petitions, holding up certification even though election officials in all 17 counties reported on Aug. 11, 2008, that the petition had 64,116 valid signatures. At least 58,628 valid signatures were needed to make the ballot.[14]

Miller said Angle had until Aug. 18 to respond to the challenge, which alleged that some petitions submitted in Clark County and Carson City were not properly notarized and certified.[14][15][16]

On Aug. 15, 2008, Miller rejected the NSEA challenge, certifying the measure for the November 2008 ballot.[8][17]

The Nevada State Education Association announced Aug. 22, 2008, that it douldl file a challenge to Secretary of State Miller's decision to reject the group's previous challenge.[18]

The teachers union filed the threatened lawsuit Aug. 25, 2008, and sought to disqualify the petition. The complaint cited numerous problems with affidavits on the petition and claimed that the petition failed to get the minimum number of signatures needed statewide.[19]

The complaint stated that of the 64,166 signatures certified by Miller, only 26,550 were actually valid due to the affidavit problems.[19]

The union's attorney, James Penrose said that more than 300 signature pages that were turned in to Clark County election officials include affidavit pages that were completely blank. "That defect alone would disqualify the petition in Clark County, in our view," he said.[18]

Because of Nevada's distribution requirement, disqualification in any single county would have disqualified the proposal.[18]

In December 2006, Nevada's distribution requirement was declared unconstitutional by the Ninth Circuit in the case of ACLU v. Lomax. In 2007, the Nevada State Legislature passed a new distribution requirement in Nevada Senate Bill 549, which according to the ACLU is "virtually identical" to the law struck down in ACLU v. Lomax. The ACLU filed a lawsuit against the new distribution requirement in February 2008.

After two days of hearings, Washoe District Judge Charles McGee ruled Sept. 9, 2008, that there were "exponentially more petitions containing serious deficiencies in the affidavits than are necessary to defeat the initiative," throwing the measure off the ballot just weeks after the measure had been given new life.[20][21]

Sharron Angle, the measure's sponsor, promised an immediate appeal to the Nevada Supreme Court. "We are on the way to the Supreme Court," she said. "We can't stop now."[20]

Proponents filed the appeal with the Supreme Court and asked for an emergency stay pending outcome of the appeal. Still, the Secretary of State's office told county election officials to remove the plan from their November ballots now that McGee had ruled against it. The measure had previously been approved for the ballot.[22]

Justices stated that the proponents had until 5 pm on Sept. 15, 2008, to produce the written version of the ruling from the bench by Senior District Judge Charles McGee issued Sept. 9, 2008. Without the written order, the court said, "this court appears to lack jurisdiction to consider this appeal.... Only a written order or judgment has any effect."[22]

The appeal asked that the state Supreme Court vacate the ruling by Senior District Judge Charles McGee that knocked the measure off the ballot, because the judge had a conflict of interest in the case.[23]

Attorney Joel Hansen, who represented We the People Nevada, said the judge's impartiality "might reasonably be questioned" because his wife was a longtime employee of the Washoe County School District and the fact that the case "is widely perceived as being one which would affect the income of the state of Nevada which would be used by schools."[24]

Michael Dyer, attorney for the Nevada State Education Association, said McGee's wife retired five years ago from the school district and would not have benefited from the ruling of the judge.[23]

Proponents filed copies of the lower court order with the state Supreme Court by the Sept. 15th deadline they were given. Without the judge's written order, the Supreme Court said on Sept. 11th that it lacked jurisdiction to consider the proponents' appeal aimed at getting the question on the ballot. Joel Hansen, attorney for proponents, had asked for an emergency stay pending outcome of the appeal.[25]

Hansen wanted the issue to remain on the ballot during the appeal saying, if they would have won, ballots would have had to be reprinted. Carson City Clerk/Recorder Alan Glover, who said his county's ballots were already at the printer, agreed that if the Supreme Court ruled in favor of putting the measure back on the ballot, the ballots would have had to be reprinted and computers reprogrammed. "That's something you don't want do," he said, estimating that the cost would be several hundred thousand dollars statewide.[26]

The Secretary of State's office told the Nevada Supreme Court that with the exception of Washoe County, absentee and sample ballots have been printed for all counties and have already been mailed out to voters in the military.[23]

Secretary of State Ross Miller, represented by Senior Deputy Attorney General Nhu Q. Nguyen, said it would have required at least 17 working days to complete reprinting the ballot. "There is no time between now and the election to reprint the ballot and mail to voters to meet state and federal deadlines," Nguyen said, adding that "mailing a second ballot will result in a substantial cost to the state and will most likely lead to confusion as voters will be getting two ballots in the mail for the same election."[23]

The Nevada Supreme Court rejected Sept. 23, 2008, two motions filed by attorney Joel Hansen attempting to get it back on the November ballot.[27]

In a unanimous six-page order, high-court justices denied an emergency request to block a lower-court order against the plan and rejected a conflict-of-interest charge against Senior District Judge Charles McGee.[28][29]

Secretary of State Ross Miller said the ruling was a strong statement because in denial the request for a stay, the court didn't cite procedural grounds but the merits of the appeal.[27]

The court also rejected Hansen's argument saying the affidavit requirement was unconstitutional, saying that issue had already been resolved.[27]

The court also ruled against claims that Judge McGee had a conflict of interest, arguing that since McGee's wife was retired and then only served as a reading consultant for the district a few hours each month, the McGees had "no more than a de minimis interest that, in no sense, could warrant disqualification."[27]

Hanson said proponents proceeded with the appeal even though it was probably not possible to get the measure back on the ballot at that point.[27]

See also

Other Prop 13 measures in 2008

External links


  1. Angle and Gustavson file Prop. 13 petition for fourth time, Nevada Appeal, Dec. 20, 2007
  2. Nevada Property Tax Revolt, Prop 13 2004
  3. Angle and Gustavson file Prop. 13 petition for fourth time, Nevada Appeal, Dec. 20, 2007
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 4.3 4.4 4.5 4.6 Nevada Appeal: "Property tax-cap plan criticized," July 28, 2008 (dead link)
  5. Proposition 13 & the Property Tax Revolts of 2007
  6. Nevada Appeal: "Prop 13 filed again," Feb. 23, 2008
  7. Angle Resumes Drive For Nevada Tax-Increase Limits, KOLO TV, Dec. 18, 2007
  8. 8.0 8.1 KXNT-Radio News: "Property Tax Measure Clears Another Hurdle," Aug. 15, 2008
  9. 9.0 9.1 San Francisco Chronicle: "Tax petition signatures filed late," May 22, 2008
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 San Jose Mercury News: "Petition rejection challenged," May 23, 2008 (dead link)
  11. KRNV-TV: "Nevada Supreme Court to hear Angle's arguments for tax initiative," June 5, 2008
  12. 12.0 12.1 Las Vegas Sun: "Property tax restraint appears headed for election ballot," July 16, 2008
  13. Las Vegas Review-Journal: "Property tax petition gets boost," July 16, 2008 (dead link)
  14. 14.0 14.1 KTVN-TV News: "Nevada Property Tax Cap Plan Held Up By New Challenge From Educators," Aug. 4, 2008
  15. Las Vegas Sun: "Angle petition has required signatures, faces a challenge," Aug. 4, 2008
  16. Las Vegas Review-Journal: "Signatures verified for property tax limitation initiative," Aug. 5, 2008
  17. Las Vegas Review-Journal: Editorial: "Property tax relief on the ballot," Aug. 16, 2008
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 Las Vegas Review-Journal: "Teachers union to challenge [[property tax (dead link)] petition," Aug. 22, 2008]
  19. 19.0 19.1 Las Vegas Review-Journal: "Petition on taxes faces challenge," Aug. 26, 2008
  20. 20.0 20.1 Nevada Appeal: "Judge throws property tax petition off ballot," Sept. 10, 2008
  21. Las Vegas Review-Journal: "Tax cap found invalid for ballot," Sept. 10, 2008
  22. 22.0 22.1 Press-Enterprise: "Court sets deadline on tax proposal," Sept. 11, 2008
  23. 23.0 23.1 23.2 23.3 Las Vegas Sun: "Battle over property tax issue threatens election," Sept. 18, 2008
  24. San Jose Mercury: "Conflict claim filed in ballot question dispute," Sept. 17, 2008 (dead link)
  25. Mercury News: "Court gets documents on tax proposal," Sept. 15, 2008 (dead link)
  26. Nevada Appeal: "Judge’s order filed in Proposition 13 petition case," Sept. 16, 2008
  27. 27.0 27.1 27.2 27.3 27.4 Nevada Appeal: "Prop-13 petition dealt double blow by court," Sept. 24, 2008
  28. Tahoe Daily Tribune: "Court keeps Nevada tax-cap proposal off ballot," Sept. 24, 2008
  29. Las Vegas Sun: "Court rejects property tax restraint petition," Sept. 23, 2008