Carson District Judge Todd Russell has set a briefing schedule and oral arguments in the lawsuit over the constitutionality of two tax bills passed by a simple majority at the end of the 2019 Legislature.
Democrats passed the bill extending the higher rate of the Modified Business Tax and a fee supporting the cost of the new DMV computer by a simple majority. The vote was 13-8, one vote shy of the two-thirds majority required to pass tax hikes in Nevada. While Democrats had an opinion by LCB legal saying this was legal because it wasn’t a tax increase but an extension of existing taxes, the eight Republican members filed suit to overturn the bills. They argued the constitutional two-thirds mandate has never been interpreted to have that exemption.
The lawsuit had been stalled for a year amid arguments over whether LCB legal could represent one group of senators against another but the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that Legal wasn’t doing that but, instead, defending the constitutionality of legislation passed by lawmakers.
That settled, Russell ordered both sides in the case to file their briefs by Sept. 14 and set oral arguments in the case for Sept. 21 at 1:30 p.m.
LCB General Counsel Kevin Powers told the Legislative Commission on Tuesday that the high court ruled LCB Legal’s client is the Legislature and only represents individual legislators in their official capacity and that the plaintiff Republicans were not acting on the legislature’s behalf and, therefore, are not LCB’s client in this case.
That opinion overturned Russell’s original ruling that LCB Legal could not represent the majority Democrats in the case.
Democrats passed those two pieces of legislation in the final days of the 2019 Legislature to pump over $100 million into the state General Fund budget, the vast majority of it in the MBT sunset extension.