(Chuck Muth) – The closing hours of the 2011 Nevada Legislature were like the closing hours of every other Legislature – pure chaos. Bills came flying at legislators the way water comes flying out of the proverbial fire hydrant. Votes were called for bills no one had a chance to read. Amendments were added to bills at the last minute that no one knew about.
In fact, with just three hours to go, Democrats in the Assembly dropped, without notice or warning, a 122-page bill that would have jacked up taxes on every business in Nevada, as well as on services that YOU pay for….such as haircuts, auto repair and dry cleaning.
Amid the chaos, AB 376 was passed. This is the bill that would enable the city of Reno to raise taxes to fund improvements to its bowling stadium and minor league baseball stadium. Now follow how this went down:
On April 26, AB 376 passed in the Assembly 42-0.
On May 30, the bill was passed in the Senate 21-0.
But the key thing here is that the bill passed both houses WITHOUT Amendment No. CA23 included.
Amendment No. CA23 is the amendment that authorizes “certain local governments to impose a surcharge for the improvement and maintenance of certain publicly owned facilities.” Specifically, the Reno bowling stadium and minor league baseball stadium.
Now here’s the problem: The bill, which now includes the tax hike amendment, was approved in the closing hours of the session solely on a voice vote in both the Senate and the Assembly. This makes it *appear* that legislators who signed the Taxpayer Protection Pledge violated their Pledge when they really didn’t because their recorded vote did NOT include the tax hike amendment.
The vote on the amended version of the bill, with the tax hike included, was done on a voice vote at the last minute on the floor on June 6 and wasn’t recorded. So there’s no way to say exactly who agreed to the amended bill and who didn’t in either house. Which means there’s no way to say that legislative Pledge signers broke their Pledge since the bill they actually voted for on the record did not include any efforts to increase taxes.
The governor, on the other hand, knows full well that the bill in front of him includes an effort to increase taxes and he should veto it. The administration is trying to spin this as simply “enabling” legislation that allows the city of Reno to impose the tax hike. But that “Pontius Pilot” dog won’t hunt.
As long as the state denies counties and local municipalities “home rule,” then the governor and the Legislature have to accept responsibility for their actions. If they don’t want to be tarred with local tax hikes, then they need to give the locals the power to make their own decisions, via true and full home rule, not “enabling” legislation when it suits them.
The state can’t have this cake and eat it, too.
AB 376 never should have been passed the way it was. There ought to be a law REQUIRING a 48 hour cooling off/review period during which a bill must be posted on a public website before a vote. Which would mean that every bill – including budget bills – would have to be approved in both houses at least two full days before sine die in order for everyone – legislators and the public alike – to have enough time to read and consider each bill before it is voted on.
So let it be written; so let it be done.