Nevada lawmakers set to take up business tax
March 3, 2013
An initiative to tax businesses grossing more than $1 million a year gets its first hearing before state lawmakers and will headline the discussion as the Nevada Legislature enters its fifth week. Bills dealing with bear hunting, courts, the Millennium Scholarship and tobacco are also slated for hearings.Here are five highlights of the legislative agenda for the upcoming week:MARGINS TAXThe initiative backed by the state teachers’ union and other labor groups survived a legal challenge and now lands in the lap of lawmakers who have until March 15 to enact it or automatically send it to voters in 2014. Supporters gathered more than 150,000 signatures to qualify the measure, which would impose a 2 percent tax on businesses making $1 million or more. It’s called a margins tax because it allows businesses different avenues to calculate the levy most advantageous to them. The Nevada State Education Association says the tax would raise about $800 million a year for education. But critics argue it doesn’t guarantee more money for schools, because state lawmakers, given a dedicated revenue source, would be free to divert money that otherwise would go to the state’s school account to other uses. The Assembly and Senate taxation committee will hold a joint hearing on the margins tax proposal Tuesday.COURTSSenate Finance Committee takes up SRJ14, a proposed constitutional amendment to create an intermediate appellate court in Nevada. Establishing an appeals court is a recurring issue that so far has failed to gain the support of voters, who last rejected the idea in 2010. Legislators went back to the drawing board the following year, first approving SRJ14. Because it’s a constitutional amendment, it must be passed by lawmakers who meet every other year in two consecutive sessions. It then goes to voters for ratification. If approved this year, it will appear on the 2014 ballot. The Senate Judiciary Committee has recommended passage, and the Finance Committee will hear the bill Monday.People who end up in justice courts would pay higher fees and fines under AB54, to be heard Tuesday by the Assembly Judiciary Committee. The bill also requires counties to put 25 percent of levies collected through the justice courts into a special account to be used for court upgrades, land acquisition, remodeling, security and staff.MILLENNIUMSCHOLARSHIPOn Wednesday, the Assembly Education Committee hears a bill to ban chronic cheaters from a state-run scholarship program. Under AB124, a high school student caught cheating three or more times would be ineligible for the Millennium Scholarship, which provides Nevada high school students who meet grade-point standards up to $10,000 to attend Nevada colleges. Also Wednesday, Senate Education hears SB102 to add another annual recipient of the Kenny C. Guinn Memorial Millennium Scholarship. Created in 2011, the memorial scholarship provides one Nevada college senior majoring in education with a $4,500 scholarship. Sponsored by Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno, SB102 would award one scholarship to a student attending University of Nevada, Reno, Great Basin College or Sierra Nevada College in northern Nevada; and one who is enrolled at University of Nevada, Las Vegas or Nevada State College in southern Nevada.BEAR HUNTCritics of Nevada’s two-year-old bear hunt will be out in force Thursday when the Senate Natural Resources Committee considers SB82. The bill seeks to classify a black bear as a protected mammal in Nevada and to prohibit the state Wildlife Commission from authorizing bear hunting. Most of the state’s black bears are found in and around the Tahoe Basin and the Pine Nut and Sweetwater mountain regions of western Nevada. Nevada’s first black bear hunt was held in 2011.SMOKIN’ TEENSChildren and teens who possess or try to buy tobacco could face fines and a court date under SB177, to be heard Thursday in the Senate Judiciary Committee. The bill sets possible graduated fines of $25 for a first, $50 for a second and $75 for a third offense. A fourth or subsequent offense could involve a $75 fine and a juvenile court mandate to attend a smoking cessation program. The offenders juvenile record for tobacco offenses would be sealed with successful completion of a cessation program.