The Tuesday Count: Nevada Margins Tax Initiative automatically passed to 2014 ballot

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March 19, 2013

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Edited by Eric Veram

2 certifications
1 measure for 2013

Margins Tax(News)
Term limits(2014 watch)
Voter ID(Ballot law)

There are two new certifications to report this week, one of which is the Nevada Margins Tax Initiative we mentioned last Tuesday. Also making ballot news headlines this week, a hearing took place on Monday, March 18, before the U.S. Supreme Court over Arizona's 2004 Voter ID ballot measure.

Last week we mentioned that Friday, March 15, was the deadline for legislative action on the Nevada Margins Tax Initiative. Since the day came and went with no hearing scheduled in the Nevada legislature, the measure has been automatically referred to the 2014 ballot.

Republican legislators opposed to the initiative, which implements a broad based two percent margins tax on businesses grossing more than one million dollars annually, are considering a competing ballot measure that would raise taxes on the state's mining industry. This plan, however, is not without snags.

The Nevada State Constitution provides for the legislature to place competing measures on the ballot and states that whichever one has the highest number of votes will become law. It is not clear, however, whether or not the state legislature must explicitly reject an initiative before it can legally send a competing measure to the ballot.

Lawyers representing the Nevada State Education Association, which is sponsoring the margins tax proposal, argued that since the legislature did not formally reject the initiative, they have lost the option to introduce an alternative. Opponents of the initiative contend that not acting on the matter is the same as rejecting it. Rick Combs, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said, "We don’t believe it’s an issue that has been decided before. There are arguments for both sides."

If the legislature does eventually decide to attempt to proposed a competing measure, there is a strong chance the effort will be met with a lawsuit from the teachers' union.[1]

The other certification we have to report took place in Wyoming on February 15, 2013. The measure is a legislatively-referred constitutional amendment known as the Wyoming Nonresidential Trustees Amendment and will appear on the ballot as Constitutional Amendment A in 2014.

If approved the measure would allow the governor of Wyoming to appoint nonresidents of the state to serve as University of Wyoming trustees.[2]

On Friday, March 15, the Maryland House of Delegates voted in favor of abolishing capital punishment in the state, but with a referendum effort likely, the debate may be far from over.

Senate President Thomas Mike Miller, Jr. has, reportedly, indicated that the law will probably be decided on by voters in 2014. So far, however, no individuals or organizations have stepped up with plans on leading the petition drive.[3]

If the law does go to the ballot, it is not clear exactly how it would fair. According to a poll conducted the Washington Post, 60% of adults are in favor the death penalty in Maryland, while 36% are opposed to it. The numbers are interesting because the poll also revealed that only 35% believe it acts as a deterrent to murder, and only 43% believe it has been applied fairly.[4]

2014 watch

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A constitutional amendment that would double the legislators' term limits is currently being considered by the Montana State Legislature.

Specifically, the amendment would allow legislators to hold office for sixteen years within a twenty-four-year period. Under current law they are allowed to hold office for eight years. That limit was put in place by voters when they approved CI-64 in 1992.

Supporters of the proposal argue that the longer terms are needed so that lawmakers can build the knowledge and relationships necessary to deal with complex issues. Opponents claim that the amendment amounts to little more than a power grab and would work to preserve the status quo.

The amendment passed the house with overwhelming support in February. It is currently in committee in the senate. Voters will have the final say on the issue in 2014 if the two-thrids of the senate votes in approval of the measure.[5]

2014 Count
Number: Seven measures
States: California, Nevada, Tennessee, and Wyoming

Voters in Nebraska may get the opportunity in 2014 to approve or reject a constitutional amendment allowing for betting on so-called historic horse races.

The amendment allows for live horse-racing tracks to install machines that replay old races which people can then wager on. Supporters say that the machines are necessary to keep race tracks in business.

Opponents argue that allowing such machines is little more than an expansion of gambling, something many legislators feel uncomfortable with. Opponents also contend that if the industry needs such machines to survive, it may be time it die.

A similar measure was vetoed by Governor Dave Heineman last year, and the legislature fell just shy of the voters required to override the veto. However, since the current proposal is a constitutional amendment, there is no possibility of a veto.[6]

The proposal is on file as LR 41CA.

Quick hits

  • Missouri voters may decide in 2014 whether to give themselves the right to determine and approve all tobacco taxes: A petition for an amendment to the Missouri constitution is currently open for public discussion on the Missouri Secretary of State website. This proposed amendment would give Article X of the State Constitution an additional section, Section 26, which would require local voter approval of the imposition of any tobacco tax and the use of the revenue from such a tax. This amendment was proposed by Mark Reading of Jefferson City, Missouri and, if it meets all initiative requirements, voters will see it on the ballots in 2014.[7][8]
  • Two men in Colorado petition to make high capacity ammunition magazines a constitutional right: One of these men, Tim LeVier, had this to say about gun control: "We believe in reasonable limits. Some of (the legislation) is very reasonable and I applaud the legislature’s efforts. I just want to reign in where I believe they overstepped their bounds." LeVier and his fellow petitioner, J.T. Davis, see Bill 13-1224 as a potential overstepping of boundaries by the Colorado legislature. This bill, if it becomes law, would ban the sale, transfer and possession of ammunition feeding devices with a capacity of more than 10 bullets or more than 5 shotgun shells. LeVier and Davis filed a petition for a constitutional amendment that would make it a right to purchase and possess such high capacity ammunition devices, thus making Bill 13-1224 illegal. Now they must collect over 100,000 signatures to get the amendment on the ballot.[9]



Voters in Key West, Florida will have to choose a side in the state-wide cruise ship controversy:


Are the millions of dollars pumped into the local economy by cruise ship business worth the possible environmental and cultural damage? This is a question being asked in coastal cities all over Florida and even in other states such as Alaska. But no where is the debate more heated than in Key West, where voters will decide this fall whether to approve a measure authorizing the widening of the Key West port channel to accommodate large Panamax-size cruise ships.[10]

This modification would cost the taxpayers $3 million dollars and could cause a nearly overwhelming influx of new tourist activity on the waterfront of Key West. Some local businesses and residents are afraid that this influx will destroy culture and quality of life in the city of Key West. These opponents to the November measure are joined by many who have strong environmental concerns.[10] The shipping channel would need to be widened from its current 300 feet to 450 feet over a 1.5 mile stretch to accommodate the new cruise ships. But this stretch is in the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and is a federally protected area. Many are concerned about the negative impact this modification would have on the unknown amount of important marine ecology in this area. Millard McCleary, an opponent to increasing the cruise ship business in Key West, argued that the widening of the channel may even have an adverse effect on tourism, saying, "Over the past 10 years or so, we've lost 90 percent of our coral reefs.... The ocean is the reason people come down here on vacation, and that's where we get our economy from, from tourism dollars, (like) fishing and scuba diving. If we jeopardize our marine environment for other reasons, then we are kind of missing the point."[11]

But supporters of this measure look at the amazing opportunity for economic benefits as outweighing the possible harmful side-effects. Currently about 350 cruise ships come in and out of Key West port on Caribbean itineraries each year and this traffic injects about $70 million into local businesses. The potential for thousands more passengers every year coming to Key West and leaving behind a lot of their money is a perk that some businesses cannot ignore. Supporters of the measure argue that this issue is an economic one not an environmental one and that the hundreds of local jobs provided by the cruise ship industry take precedence.[11]

The Tuesday Count Spotlight highlights notable developments from local ballot measures across the country as well as international ballot measures.

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Ballot Law Update

  • Arizona Proposition 200 undergoes hearing before the U.S. Supreme Court: On Monday, March 18, the Supreme Court heard arguments both for and against Arizona's controversial voter ID bill passed by voters in 2004 as Proposition 200. Opponents argue that the state's law is trumped bye federal law called the 1993 National Voter Registration Act. The conflict is created by Proposition 200's requirement that voters show proof of citizenship when registering to vote in national elections, a requirement the federal law does not have. A ruling is expected in June of this year.
  • Oregon teachers' union fighting mandatory tax warning: State law in Oregon currently requires that ballot envelopes contain a notice warning voters of a potential property tax increase in upcoming elections. The Oregon Education Association argues that the law unfairly singles out property tax, the revenue stream used to pay for education, and that it is not necessary because any such increase is clearly stated on the ballot itself. Supporters of the warning argue that the union is just trying to make passing tax increases easier. Bill Sizemore, a conservative tax activist, said, "They do not want voters to know there is a tax vote on the ballot because they know if they open it up and look at it, they're more likely to vote no." House Bill 3113 would abolish the required warning and is currently working its way through house committee hearings.[12]

A new update will be released next week. Click here for past Ballot Law Update reports!

See also

2013 ballot measures
Tuesday Count2013 Scorecard