Guinn Says Court Should Preserve Tax Ruling

Governor Kenny Guinn
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The Nevada Supreme Court should preserve its ruling lifting the two-thirds majority voting requirement on tax bills because it applied only to the 20th special session and cannot be used again, Gov. Kenny Guinn said.

The Republican governor's motion filed with the court on Friday is at odds with a group of Republican lawmakers who want the high court to reverse its ruling to ensure that future legislative sessions approve new taxes only after achieving a two-thirds majority.

Attorney General Brian Sandoval wrote in the governor's response that lawmakers ended the session by passing a tax measure by a supermajority vote, "thereby mooting the federal constitutional claims raised in this case and various federal court actions."

The Supreme Court had given the governor and Legislature until Friday to submit arguments in the legal debate over its July 10 ruling that allows passage of a tax measure by a simple majority vote.

The court extended the deadline to Monday after the Legislative Counsel Bureau asked for more time to address points made in new motions, although the governor filed his Friday.

The justices have not indicated when they would rule on the request.

In three motions filed this week, lawyers for a group of lawmakers who had succeeded in blocking the tax package for weeks urged the court to reverse its decision. They said the ruling "remains on the books and may well be cited as precedent in future sessions of the Legislature."

"As the matter now stands, the determination that the Legislature may pass a tax increase on a bare majority, ignoring the clear mandate of the Nevada Constitution and the express will of the citizens of Nevada, remains," lawyer Daniel Polsenberg wrote in the latest motion, which was filed Thursday.

The two-thirds majority requirement was added to the constitution through a citizens initiative that passed with strong support in 1994 and 1996.

Polsenberg said he believes lifting the requirement violated the state and federal constitutional rights of the lawmakers by diluting the votes of the citizens who voted for those lawmakers and of the citizens who supported the initiative.

Both Polsenberg and another lawyer for the group, John Eastman, asked the justices to withdraw their ruling and mandate that public education be funded first.

The court had ordered lawmakers to pass the tax bill with a simple majority vote after the governor sought its help in resolving a deadlock that stalled the Legislature for weeks. Tied to the tax bill was a measure to fund the education budget, which left the state's schools in limbo.

The Supreme Court ruled that funding education took precedent over the supermajority requirement.

State and county education associations have praised the courts ruling. And in a brief filed Thursday, the groups urged the court to ignore the requests for reversal made by "the radical minority."

"The schools of this state must continue to operate," the motion said. "Any interpretation of the constitution that would result in a shutdown of the schools or any other essential governmental service is simply unacceptable, and the court properly so concluded."