The initiative to know the initiatives
In today’s political climate, it has gotten progressively more difficult to get anything done legislatively. As a result, an increasing number of groups are turning to the ballot initiative process to get legislative items in front of the voters. The initiative process is important, and it’s essential for you fully informed about these initiatives and their accompanying petitions before you actually sign them.
The current crop of initiative petitions aren’t real popular with many in Carson City. Dale Erquiaga, senior adviser to Gov. Brian Sandoval, states about the tax initiatives, “Governor Sandoval is opposed to the initiative tax petitions under consideration in our state. He believes tax policy should be set at the Legislature and not through the initiative process. Proponents of these initiatives who say the Legislature has failed to act are incorrect; they simply don’t like the actions that have been taken. Nevadans do not want to handle tax policy the way they have in California.”
Erquiaga is referring to two initiatives. The first is being pushed by a group called Nevadans United for Fair Mining Taxes. This initiative seeks to raise the current mining tax cap from 5 percent to 9 percent. To become effective, this change must pass in two general election cycles.
Here’s where it gets nebulous. If it were to pass, this amendment to our state Constitution is not in itself a tax, and it does not compel the governor or the Legislature to raise taxes. It just gives them the ability to. Proponents will call it the right thing to do so “Big Mining” is “paying its fair share,” and the opponents will hysterically scream that it’s a punitive tax increase. Neither of these are accurate portrayals.
The second tax-related initiative is pushed by a group called Nevadans for a Fair 9% Gambling Revenue Tax. Currently, the Nevada Gaming Commission collects 6.75 percent of any gross revenue monthly over $134,000, and if this initiative collects enough signatures and is approved by the Legislature in 2013 or the voters in 2014, it will raise that level to 9 percent for any monthly gross revenue over $250,000.
This too is not as straightforward as it seems, and the devil is in the details. I urge you to read the petition carefully but keep one thing in mind: Nevada currently has a law that requires a two thirds supermajority in the state legislature to enact a tax increase, and this is an attempt to circumvent this law, which, incidentally, started as a ballot initiative itself.
The other two initiative petitions currently slated for circulation this year are the so-called “Personhood” initiatives. I wrote about these petitions last October in my column “The far right’s war on women,” (RN&R, Oct. 13) and I invite you to check it out if you want my rather strong opinions.
These two initiatives are especially misleading and draconian, and the arguments you will hear both for and against are inaccurate.
“The initiative process is not the most effective means by which we can educate and change hearts,” says Melissa Clement, president of Nevada Right to Life. “The legislative process, with the opportunity for hearings and expert testimony, lends itself well to the intricacies of the abortion debate. The most current personhood initiatives have had to suffer from a judge defining the question. In drafting law, initiative language is static, while bill language allows for change and adjustments as new information and debate are presented.”
It’s very telling that the president of Nevada Right to Life doesn’t support these petitions.
Arm yourself with the facts. Amending our state constitution is serious business. Don’t necessarily believe the information you will hear from the fleets of paid signature gatherers who care only about their paychecks. Read each of these initiative petitions carefully, and if you don’t understand or agree completely, tell the petitioner to take a hike.