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July 3, 2015

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Teachers’ business-tax petition clears hurdle

Lynn Warne

Lynn Warne

The initiative petition by the state teachers union to impose a business tax for education has cleared another hurdle on its way to the 2013 Legislature.

The Secretary of State's Office said Wednesday the Nevada State Education Association gathered 152,703 signatures statewide on its petition, or more than double the required 72,352 names.

"The raw count is sufficient," said Scott Gilles, deputy secretary of state for elections. And the count shows that there are more than the 18,088 signatures of registered voters in each of the four congressional districts.

Gilles said the counties in each of the districts must now examine 5 percent, or 500 names, whichever is greater, to verify there are enough valid signatures of registered voters to surpass the 18,088 requirement.

The counties have nine business days to complete the verification and report back to the Secretary of State's Office by Dec. 6.

For example, there were 43,212 signatures in Congressional District 1 that includes Clark County. And in District 3 in Clark County, the raw count was 37,565.

Gilles said there were 42,011 signatures in CD 4 that includes Nye County and parts of Clark and Lyon counties. In District 2, which includes other counties, there were 29,925 names.

In eight counties, no signatures were gathered by the association.

Lynn Warne, president of the teachers union, said the 150,000 signatures are a "clear mandate" that Nevadans back a tax to support the public schools.

Asked if the proposed tax would be approved by the 2013 session, Warne said, "The Legislature should not ignore the mandate." But she would not predict passage of the proposed 2 percent margins tax on businesses with an annual income of more than $1 million.

The tax would raise an estimated $800,000 a year to go into the state's school support formula.

The Nevada Supreme Court has set Dec. 5 to hear oral arguments in Las Vegas on the petition by the union to overturn a district court decision that the initiative is defective.

All seven justices will sit on the case to decide on the ruling by Carson City District Judge James Wilson that the petition should not be presented to the Legislature because the summary of the initiative was faulty.

The court put a high priority on this case, eliminating the requirements that briefing memos be presented by the union and its opponent, the Committee to Protect Nevada Jobs.

There have been comments by some legislators that more money should be funneled into the public schools.

Warne said this proposed tax is on business. Clark County voters earlier this month rejected by a 66-34 percent margin a proposal to raise the property tax for homes and businesses for school improvements.

If the Legislature does not approve the initiative in the first 40 days of the session, it will go on the 2014 election ballot.

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