ACLU backs state petition votes

The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada says the state Supreme Court should let voters have their say on two initiative petitions seeking to divert Las Vegas convention authority room tax revenue to state needs, including education.

The group is seeking permission to file a "friend of the court" brief in an appeal involving three petitions rejected by a Carson City court, including the two room tax measures bankrolled by Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman Sheldon Adelson.

The petitions were rejected by Secretary of State Ross Miller because rules established by the 2007 Legislature for those collecting the signatures were not followed. A Carson City judge agreed, and the case was then appealed to the Supreme Court.

Two of the petitions would divert room taxes from the convention authority to state programs and public education and the third would require a two-thirds vote on ballot measures that would raise taxes.

Lee Rowland, an attorney representing the ACLU of Nevada, said the source or content of the petitions is irrelevant. She said the important issue is the process and access to the ballot by citizens.

In this case, tens of thousands of signatures are being discounted because of procedural issues and "fundamental fairness was lacking here," Rowland said.

The request to file the brief was submitted to the court on Wednesday. The court must now decide whether to accept the brief. Justices have put the case on a fast track because of the fast-approaching November general election. The case is scheduled to be heard Aug. 20.


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