Lawmakers Question Gibbons' Executive Order

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Nevada lawmakers worked Tuesday on a new bill revising "green" building tax breaks - one already in the works when Gov. Jim Gibbons vetoed a temporary ban on the breaks - and also questioned his executive order that accompanied the veto.

Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, said she believes
an executive order can't supersede a law - in this case, the 2005 law that allowed for the tax abatements in the first place.

While there was some criticism of the Republican governor's action, there was no immediate plan for a veto override vote. That process would have to start in the GOP-controlled Senate - and wouldn't be needed once the new "green" legislation is approved.

The lawmakers' legal staffers were reviewing the question of Gibbons' authority to issue his executive order that suspended all but four of the tax exemptions through June 4, when the session is supposed to end.

SB567, the bill he vetoed, had suspended all the exemptions pending the follow-up legislation that's now being prepared.

Buckley said Tuesday that the new bill will be introduced this week or early next week. She and Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, also said following Gibbons' veto on Monday that the veto shouldn't bog down the lawmakers' efforts to adjourn by their June 4 deadline.

"We're planning, in any event, to come up with a new policy. We already have a draft of it that we'll be running by key leaders ...
to get their input," Buckley said. Those involved in the drafting include Sens. Randolph Townsend, R-Reno, and Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, she said.

"We're re-examining everything," Buckley said, adding that the result will be "hearings held, debate had and hopefully a good, new proposal will emerge."

Gibbons, in his first veto, said efforts to modify the 2005 tax breaks should include public hearings "where taxpayer concerns can be discussed and debate and the long-term fiscal impact of any tax exemptions or abatements can be carefully analyzed."

"To date, those hearings have not occurred," Gibbons said, referring to the rushed move by lawmakers to vote May 3 to give final approval to SB567, which suspended the tax breaks amounting to hundreds of millions of dollars.

The revenue loss have a direct impact on local governments and schools. If Nevada schools fall short of a certain amount of taxes, the state must make up the difference. That's what lawmakers are most worried about as they try to complete a nearly $7 billion budget for the coming two fiscal years.

The governor said legislative hearings are needed to establish a record "before we yank the rug out and just assume that we have no
liability here." He added that his action was "a very prudent course."

Gibbons said he based his decision in part on his own research, on discussions with outside lawyers and on a letter from Attorney General Catherine Cortez Masto, which he got in response to a request for a legal opinion.

The legal analysis by the attorney general was needed because the tax break repeal approved by lawmakers amounted to "a rush by the Legislature to correct a rush by the Legislature in a special session in 2005," Gibbons had said.

Gibbons also had expressed concern that SB567 might lead to lawsuits against the state filed by individuals, corporations or contractors who relied upon the tax break law in starting green construction projects.

(Copyright 2007 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)