Just sign here (heh-heh)

Ballot petitions are used mostly by those who can pay for signature gathering: http://prospect.org/article/direct-democracy-billionaires

When someone stops you at the grocery store with a petition during the next few months, take a close look before you sign.

It might be someone trying to repeal the Commerce Tax approved by the 2015 Legislature which finally forced big box stores to pay a small amount for the privilege of doing business in Nevada. Don’t sign it unless you think it’s fair that Target pays a corporate tax in every state that surrounds Nevada, contributing to education funding, while Nevada gives them a free ride.

If the referendum qualifies for the ballot and is passed by voters in November, the repercussions include another round of harsh budget cuts or a shift of the tax burden right back down to the rest of us who already pay some of the highest sales taxes in the country. Decline to sign that petition and keep the small Commerce Tax in place.

Then again, the signature gatherer could be an activist trying to raise the minimum wage in Nevada from $7.25 an hour (with health benefits)/$8.25 (without health benefits) to a more reasonable $13 per hour over the next eight years. Although the Chamber of Commerce tried to get a judge to throw out the petition, he rejected their arguments, clearing the way for signatures to be gathered. Take a stand against income inequality and sign. You’ll be helping hard-working, struggling families earn enough to live a decent life.

Proponents of rooftop solar systems have their own petition, a referendum to take the cap off of net metering and allow people to sell back their excess power to NV Energy at a reasonable rate. And there’s another petition to get rid of the NV Energy monopoly through deregulation.

Perennial right-wing fanatic Sharron Angle has several initiatives, so check carefully before you sign anything that talks about voter identification or repealing the state health insurance exchange. All you need to know is that it’s an Angle petition. Just say no and walk away.

I’m not a fan of government by petition for a number of reasons, not least of which is the language of the initiative cannot be updated or changed by the Legislature but must go back to the people for another vote if unintended consequences surface later. But when elected officials ignore the expressed will of the people, sometimes it’s the only way to move an issue forward.

Such is the case when it comes to background checks for gun purchases. Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed a bill passed by the Legislature in 2013, despite widespread support in Nevada for subjecting gun show sales to the same requirements as retail gun stores. The initiative easily gained the needed signatures to qualify for the ballot so voters can close the gun show loophole in November. Plan on it.

The legalization of recreational marijuana will also be on your ballot, and people making a mint off medical marijuana dispensaries can hardly wait. If it passes, Nevada will join a handful of other states in defying the federal government’s stance that marijuana is a controlled substance. While low-level marijuana users shouldn’t be incarcerated, I’m none too crazy about a lot more stoned people driving on our highways. I’m out of the progressive mainstream on this one. Chalk it up to far too many years working in drug court.

Nevadans have used the ballot box to override balky politicians before, perhaps best exemplified by the 1990 referendum, Question 7, which reaffirmed the statute codifying reproductive rights of women. That statute now cannot be amended, repealed, or otherwise changed without a direct vote of the people. Neither the Legislature nor the governor can override the voters’ decision to keep abortion legal.

Sometimes the people really do know best.