Wednesday, March 31, 2010 | 8:43 a.m.
CARSON CITY – The Nevada Supreme Court has agreed to speed up the handling of an appeal by the Nevada Mining Association to block a proposed constitutional amendment that it says would raise its industry's taxes by more than 300 percent.
District Judge James Wilson of Carson City ruled earlier this month that the Progressive Leadership Alliance of Nevada could circulate its initiative petition to get the issue before voters in November.
The leadership alliance must gather 97,002 signatures of registered voters by June 15 to qualify it to appear on the ballot.
Chief Justice Ron Parraguirre has ordered that briefs be submitted in April and May and the full court will hear arguments June 7 in Las Vegas.
The notice of appeal was filed by attorney James Wadhams.
The miners maintain the initiative petition violates the single subject rule. The petition seeks to change the present net proceeds tax on minerals to a gross tax. And the state constitution now says the tax will not be more than 5 percent. The initiative says it must not be less than 5 percent.
Judge Wilson ruled the petition covers a single subject on tax matters that are connected.
The leadership alliance also suffered on setback. It had collected 12,000 signatures on its petition, but when Judge Wilson on March 22 ruled the description on the initiative petition was defective, the alliance had to start over again.
The chief justice ordered the mining association to submit its opening brief on April 21 with the leadership alliance to present its brief May 19. The final brief of the miners is due May 19.
The Legislative Counsel Bureau estimated the mining industry paid $91 million in net proceeds of minerals in 2008. If the proposed constitutional amendment had been in effect, it would have paid $284.4 million.
Mining companies say they pay other taxes such as sales, license and business taxes.
If the leadership alliance survives the legal challenges and gains the required signatures, it would have to get voter approval this year and again in 2012 to amend the constitution. The new tax would become effective in 2013-2014.