Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011 | 5 p.m.
CARSON CITY – Despite two pending lawsuits, a petition to build an 18,000-seat arena on the Las Vegas Strip will be one of the first things to come before the 2011 Legislature.
The Legislature has 40 days to act on the plan, which pits casino giant Caesars Entertainment Corp. on one side supporting the proposal against MGM Resorts International, which opposes it.
That presents the question of whether Gov. Brian Sandoval, who opposes new taxes, would sign the measure if approved by the Legislature.
Sandoval said Tuesday he would veto the initiative in its present form because it contains a tax. But, he said, there are “lots of things” that could happen to the proposal.
The initiative petition, which has 157,778 certified signatures from registered voters, calls for a 0.9 percent increase in the sales and use tax to be imposed in a gaming enterprise zone on the Strip. Only 97,000 signatures were needed to qualify the petition.
The Arena Initiative Committee, which is pushing for the indoor stadium, filed its response in district court in Carson City last Thursday to a suit that seeks to block the plan.
Opponents claim signatures for the petition were gathered fraudulently. They say many are invalid and there were problems with the affidavits that would disqualify the petition from going forward.
Taxpayers for the Protection of Nevada Jobs also has an appeal in Nevada Supreme Court claiming the petition is deficient because it contains more than one topic. A district judge initially rejected the suit.
Jason Woodbury, attorney for the supporters of the arena, said the initiative must be presented and processed by the Legislature unless blocked by legal action.
Woodbury said briefs in the Supreme Court appeal haven’t been filed yet. And there hasn't been any hearing set before District Judge James Wilson in the second suit that was filed.
If the Legislature approves the petition and the governor were to sign it, it would then become law. Or the Legislature could reject it and it would go onto the 2012 ballot. If the governor vetoes the measure and the Legislature doesn't override it, the petition would go on the election ballot, Woodbury said.
Lorne Malkiewich, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said the arena proposal would be Initiative Petition 1.
In the 2009 Legislature, Initiative Petition 1 was presented and passed by the Legislature to require Clark and Washoe counties to raise the hotel room tax by up to 3 percent.
Former Gov. Jim Gibbons declined to sign the petition and it became law without his approval. The funds received from the extra tax went to support schools.
The Nevada Constitution says the Secretary of State must present the petition to the Legislature as soon as it convenes. It must take precedent over all other matters except appropriations bills, according to the constitution.