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May 28, 2015

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Teachers’ business-tax measure catches break on 2014 ballot

Nevada’s teachers union can breathe a sigh of relief tonight because the secretary of state has put the damper on a Republican alternative to their tax proposal.

The union-backed margins tax is headed to the 2014 ballot, but it will likely not have a competing measure from a group of six Senate Republicans who had hoped to offer a ballot alternative that involved a tax on mining with the revenue exclusively devoted to education.

The Secretary of State’s Office said this alternative or any other wouldn’t qualify for the ballot because the Legislature did not meet a deadline by which to introduce the alternative.

That keeps the Nevada State Education Association’s margins tax alone on the ballot. Voters will decide in 2014 if they should approve or disapprove of a 2 percent tax on business revenue that would raise an estimated $800 million for the state’s education system.

After consulting with the Attorney General’s Office, Deputy Secretary for Elections Scott Gilles wrote that the Legislature failed to take actions defined in the state’s constitution by March 15, the 40th day of the legislative session.

The constitution says that the Legislature needs to reject by the 40th day any initiative — in this case, the margins tax initiative — in order to preserve the right to introduce an alternative.

The legal question involved the definition of reject.

Senate Republicans had earlier obtained a legal opinion from attorneys with the state’s Legislative Counsel Bureau that said the Legislature may implicitly reject the measure by not voting on it by the 40th day of the legislative session, which was March 15.

In a document obtained by independent journalist Jon Ralston, Gilles wrote that the “Legislature has not met the requirements to reject the measure” and that simply taking no action on the measure was inconsistent with the “plain language” of the constitution.

Gilles was responding to Lucas Folleta, general counsel for Gov. Brian Sandoval, who wrote to Secretary of State Ross Miller Monday in an attempt to clarify whether the Legislature had to explicitly reject the proposal or could implicitly reject it.

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