Union sues to put wage question on state ballot

The Nevada AFL-CIO filed a lawsuit in Carson District Court on Monday to force the secretary of state to put the minimum-wage initiative on the November ballot.

The petition asks voters to raise the minimum wage in Nevada $1 an hour to $6.15 an hour.

District Judge Bill Maddox granted a temporary restraining order in the case and set a hearing for July 20.

The Secretary of State's Office disqualified the petition Friday on the advice of the Attorney General's Office, which ruled Clark County was correct to toss out nearly 14,000 signatures because gatherers didn't properly handle paperwork certifying them as valid.

Without those signatures, the petition fell 2,618 voters short of the 51,337 needed to put it on the ballot.

AFL-CIO director Danny Thompson said the decision was ridiculous.

"We had these things signed by registered voters," he said. "It's a travesty they decided to do this to protect the insurance industry, and we got caught up in it."

Thompson charged that the objection was raised to try and block a ballot question that would roll back insurance rates in Nevada.

Thompson said since the minimum wage petitions were circulated by the same group of signature collectors, they had the same technical issue in handling the affidavits certifying them.

The lawsuit charges that tossing the signatures violates the U.S. Constitution "because their requirement that circulators have signed the body of each petition form impermissibly burdens the rights to petition."

Victoria Oldenburg, deputy attorney general representing the Secretary of State's Office, said the minimum-wage petition "is still considered disqualified" but that the process will stop until the court decides the issue.

Oldenburg said several other petitions may have the same problem, but none of them has yet been disqualified.

If that happens for the same reason, she said she would expect they will be joined in the AFL-CIO lawsuit.

Oldenburg authored the opinion, saying the petition should be disqualified citing a 1966 Nevada Supreme Court opinion on the subject. But attorneys for the union say that should be superseded by a 1999 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states non-voters can circulate petitions.

She said she appreciates the judge scheduling the hearing quickly because county clerks around the state need to know as soon as possible what issues are on the ballot and which aren't.

Contact Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.


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