Legislature Trying to Compromise Until Judges Rule

Nevada Budget Crisis
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Day 164 of the 2003 Legislature saw a rare federal court hearing on a state issue, no progress on a tax plan and indications the Legislature has given up on attempts to broaden the state's tax base.

For many it was not a great day to be a Nevada lawmaker.

Morning found many of them in federal court in Reno on opposite sides as seven of the state's federal judges heard arguments on a suit some of them had brought against their colleagues seeking to restore the 2/3rds-vote rule on tax plans for this session.

It was, the judges admitted, an odd assignment for them.

When legislative counsel Wil Keane noted the lawmakers were continuing to seek a 2/3rds compromise that would make this court action moot, Judge Howard McKibben drew spontaneous laughter asking "What are the prospects?"

"I'm sorry your honor," Keane admitted, "I just don't know."

No one does, but heading back to Carson City that was everyone's determination.

But how to get there?

Back in Carson City, while the Assembly waited and watched, the
Senate - meeting as a committee of the whole - slogged dispiritedly
through a tax bill that looked oddly like the present tax structure and fretted whether anything they were doing would pass muster once it got down the hall to the Assembly.

The mood down there was no more encouraging.

Privately many lawmakers say private negotiations have produced results that then evaporate as numbers change and commitments with them.

So, tomorrow morning the Senate has invited Assembly Republicans and anyone else to meet with them in a public hearing.

Closed meetings have failed to produce agreementand the feeling apparently is that it may be time for one out in the open . . . and on the record.

The judges indicated they would rule promptly on the legal action.

In the meantime, the temporary restraining order issued by the federal court remains in effect.

This means lawmakers cannot pass a tax plan with a simple majority. For now, it would still require a 2/3rds majority.