(Kimberly James) – Lander County has filed suit challenging three proposed constitutional amendments that would change the way mining taxes are collected.
If enacted, the measures would raise the 5% cap on net proceeds of mineral tax. Members of the Elko County Commission have discussed joining then lawsuit or filing their own legal action.
Attorneys for Lander County say passing resolutions that would amend the state constitution without previous intent during a special session undermined the correct process to amend the state constitution.
“Democrats’ decision to change mining taxes certainly did raise eyebrows at the time, given the fact that it didn’t seem directly connected to the agenda the governor had set for the special session,” Michael Schaus, communications director at Nevada Policy Research Institute, told The Center Square.
The lawsuit asks that the three resolutions be considered null and void and not allowed to be brought up at any time during the 2021 legislative session.
“Given the foregoing, the Nevada Legislature bypassed the first constitutional hurdle to amending the Nevada Constitution in a rush and restricted proceeding on the matter outside the scope of the business identified in the Proclamation and without allowing real and meaningful input from affected parties or the public at large given the restrictions placed on the Special Session due to COVID 19,” attorneys for the county said, according to Northern Nevada Business Weekly.
Some groups have urged for increased mining taxes, saying that the 5% cap on net proceeds prevents the mining industry from paying its fair share. Rural and Republican lawmakers say that increased taxes threaten rural economies.
“Like any tax adjustment, a change to the mining taxes would inevitably impact the industry by discouraging continued or new investment in certain cases,” Schaus said. “The result, of course, would mean significant challenges for parts of Nevada that are highly dependent on continued growth within such a key industry.”
Constitutional amendments usually require a five-year waiting time when proposed by the Legislature – it must be passed in two subsequent legislative sessions and then voted on by the public. These resolutions were passed quickly and could come up for a vote as soon as the 2022 election.
“The legislature’s obsession over toying with mining taxes in the special legislative session, despite it not being a part of the official agenda, was a clear sign that the top priority for Democrat leadership was finding any way to hike taxes on one of Nevada’s most important industries rather than deal with the real financial challenges facing the state in the here and now,” Schaus said. “Given the fact that special sessions are supposed to be extremely narrow in focus, the legislature’s actions certainly raised questions about if, or when, someone might file a challenge.”