More Confusion Over Nevada Ballot Petitions

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Nevada's attorney general was asked Tuesday to review the validity of signatures needed to ensure that a plan to raise the minimum wage qualifies for the November ballot.

Deputy Secretary of State Renee Parker requested an attorney general's ruling on about 13,000 signatures on petitions seeking a $1-an-hour raise in the minimum wage, to $6.15.

If the signatures are found to be invalid, Parker said the Coalition to Give Nevada a Raise, which is pushing the plan, will be about 2,500 signatures short of the 51,337 needed.

While the minimum-wage plan was held up, a proposal to raise public school funding to the national average qualified for a spot on the ballot with 76,838 verified signatures in 16 of the state's 17 counties.

Officials were still checking on a final county, Elko - but the legal requirement for a minimum of 51,337 signatures collected from at least 10 percent of the registered voters in 13 of the state's counties had been met.

The proposal, pushed by the Nevada State Education Association, is in addition to an Education First initiative that already had qualified. That proposal calls for Nevada lawmakers to fund education before other state programs.

Both education initiatives are part of a backlash resulting from the 2003 legislative session, when legislators failed to meet the statutory deadline for approving an education budget.

The minimum-wage proposal, backed by a coalition of labor unions, workers' activists and Democrats, ran into problems because many petitions circulated in Clark County may not have been properly signed as required by the Nevada Constitution.

Election officials said circulators of the petitions must sign affidavits stating that all signers are registered voters - and one of the signers also has to sign a similar affidavit.

Proponents of the petition insisted they followed the secretary of state's instructions, adding that both affidavits can be signed by the circulators if they're registered voters in the county where they collected the names.

Voters would have to approve the measures in November and again in 2006 before they could take effect.

There's a Friday deadline for other proposals dealing with marijuana, insurance rate rollbacks and frivolous lawsuits.

Supporters of two other proposals, to reduce taxes approved by the 2003 Legislature and to keep public employees from serving in the Legislature, won a court order giving them until July 20 to turn in their signatures.