More Filings on Tax Dispute Case at High Court

By: Associated Press
By: Associated Press

A lawyer for the Nevada Legislature urged the state Supreme Court on Monday to reject a bid for a rehearing of the high court's ruling that lifted a two-thirds majority vote requirement on tax bills.

Attorney Pat Flanagan said the petition for a rehearing, filed by legislators who opposed a massive tax increase needed to fund a nearly $5 billion budget, means nothing now because an $836 million tax plan finally was approved by lawmakers last week by a two-thirds'majority.

Republican Gov. Kenny Guinn, who signed the tax plan into law, had sought a variation of the proposal and won a Supreme Court order that went beyond his request in holding that a simple majority vote would suffice.

"The court's ruling in this case facilitated a shift from the tension that was caused by an externally imposed requirement to achieve a two-thirds consensus to a situation where the legislators were internally motivated to achieve a two-thirds consensus voluntarily,"Flanagan said.

Because of the final legislative action,"there is absolutely no need for this court to reconsider its earlier ruling,"Flanagan said, adding"there is no possible relief"that the high court can now grant.

Legislators who sought the rehearing argued that the decision created a dangerous precedent. But Flanagan said there's no reason to believe the issue"ever will arise again."He noted the case is the first of its sort in Nevada history.

Flanagan also said the rehearing petition violated court rules by focusing on new arguments that hadn't been previously brought up.

Allowing such a petition"will lead to endless litigation and will yield absurd results, as no case could be considered final so long as any party could imagine new grounds for reconsideration,"he wrote.

The attorney also said he's not taking a position on whether the Supreme Court should withdraw its opinion, adding that the court"was mindful of the doctrine of separation of powers and limited its action to its appropriate role of interpreting the state constitution."

The legislative brief followed Guinn's request Friday that the court should preserve its ruling lifting the two-thirds majority voting requirement because it applied only to the second special session that followed the regular 2003 session which ended June 2.

Lawyers for the 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."

The possibility remains that the Legislature could pass a future tax increase on a bare majority,"ignoring the clear mandate of the Nevada Constitution and the express will of the citizens of Nevada,"lawyer Daniel Polsenberg said in a motion 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 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.


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