Supreme Court announcement 2 p.m.

The Supreme Court will announce its decision in the legal battle between Gov. Kenny Guinn and the Legislature in a 2 p.m. special session today.

Guinn filed a petition asking the court to give lawmakers a deadline to settle the impasse over taxes and the state's budget.

The petition filed by Attorney General Brian Sandoval argues lawmakers violated their constitutional duty by not passing tax revenues sufficient to support the $4.9 billion general fund budget by the July 1 start of the new fiscal year. The shortfall is about $860 million over the next two years.

The Legislative Counsel Bureau, responding for lawmakers, argued the courts have no business intervening in a political decision, especially when the legislative debate is still under way.

The counsel bureau's response also argues the court is barred from ordering any decision by lawmakers by the separation of powers between the legislative and judicial branches of government.

Supreme Court justices have a wide range of possible decisions, but several lawyers among the 15 different groups who have filed briefs say it's most likely they will decide the issue is "not ripe" for their intervention because the second special legislative session is still under way and lawmakers continue to meet to try resolve the impasse.

Filed on Wednesday were responses by the Legislative Counsel Bureau and the governor's office to a counter-petition filed by a group of Republican lawmakers headed by Assembly Minority Leader Lynn Hettrick.

The lawmakers asked the high court to order Guinn and the rest of the Legislature to reopen the entire general-fund budget so it can be cut to match tax revenues. They argued that, because taxes must be passed by two-thirds of each legislative house, a similar two-thirds should be required for any budget that requires higher taxes.

The counsel bureau's response says there is no conflict between two-thirds to raise taxes but a simple majority to pass a budget and that the people who voted those provisions into the state constitution must be presumed to have known what they were doing.

The response also says the court is barred from making any such order by the separation of powers and cannot "compel discretionary acts of the Legislature" -- in other words, cannot tell lawmakers how to vote.

Guinn's response argues lawmakers never formally asked the budget be reopened and haven't provided a list of cuts for the governor. The response agrees with an analysis by the Republican group of lawmakers that the most the court can do is order lawmakers to meet again and consider the question of taxes.

It says a court order mandating two-thirds vote to pass a budget would violate the Nevada Constitution.

"The court has no authority to order a legislative session or to set the agenda for a special session so as to require the Legislature to consider a balanced budget," Guinn's response concludes.


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