The conservative activists seeking to have voters block the tax hikes approved by the 2015 Legislature want the legal case challenging their petition moved to federal court.
Chuck Muth filed the motion in U.S. District Court saying the lawsuit and the state laws dealing with initiatives and referendums are unconstitutional.
That effectively puts Carson City District Court proceedings in the case on hold until the federal court rules.
Muth charged in recent years, the Legislature “has passed statutes relating to initiatives and referendums which have made it virtually impossible for the citizens of Nevada to directly petition their government, in violation of the First Amendment of the United States Constitution.”
Muth argued the “Description of Effect” laying out what a petition would do is a violation because, “if the court changes even one word, all signatures gathered to that point become void.”
He said the law mandating that petitions deal with a single subject, not multiple subjects, has been interpreted by state courts “in a starkly different manner from legislation.”
He said the law “requires that signatures be gathered proportionately even though the federal courts have struck down such requirements several times.” Under the law, a certain number of signatures must be collected in each of Nevada’s federal congressional districts to qualify for the ballot.
“It requires a ‘crystal ball’ report from the Legislative Counsel Bureau detailing any anticipated financial effect the initiative or referendum might have on the government despite no such requirement in the Nevada Constitution.”
He objected to the requirement groups such as his expressly advocate for or against candidates or petitions file financial reports and list their donors.
He also objected to the statutory requirement that challenges petitions be filed in the Carson District Court “even though some two-thirds of Nevada’s population lives in Clark County.”
“Combined, all of these and other legislatively imposed requirements for initiatives and referendums have had the effect of blocking all but one citizen-initiated petition over the past from making it to the ballot.”
Matt Griffin, representing the group that filed the lawsuit, said he’s confident the federal court is going to leave jurisdiction over the case in state court. He said the requirement a certain number of signatures be gathered in each of Nevada’s four congressional districts has been vetted in federal court and upheld.
Muth, labeling his group the We Decide Coalition, filed a petition Aug. 10 seeking to have voters repeal the entire text of SB483, the omnibus bill imposing a laundry list of tax changes and increases to fund education reforms and balance the state budget. The bill is projected to bring in nearly $1.3 billion during the next two years.
That referendum petition was challenged Aug. 31 by Griffin on behalf of the Coalition for Nevada’s Future.
“The petition is invalid because the petition contains multiple subjects in violation of NRS 295.009,” according to the lawsuit.
It says there are at least nine different subjects in the legislation including the controversial commerce tax, changes to the state payroll tax, higher cigarette taxes, business taxes and fees plus the elimination of sunsets of a series of other tax increases used to balance the previous two state budgets.
It also says the Description of Effect is “incorrect and misleading and doesn’t adequately inform voters of the petition’s effect.”
It seeks to block Muth’s supporters from collecting signatures to put it on the ballot.