Initiatives may not make it to the ballot | NevadaAppeal.com

Initiatives may not make it to the ballot

There is a good chance none of the six initiatives seeking to amend Nevada’s Constitution will qualify for the November ballot.

The deadline for petition organizers to submit signatures to the 17 county clerks and election officers is 5 p.m. today. To get on the ballot, a petition must have signatures from 10 percent of the voters who voted in the last general election – for 2006 it is 83,184 registered voters.

Organizers behind three of the proposed amendments – banning unfunded mandates on local government, “truth in science” requiring schools to present the views of evolution opponents, and the effort to mandate daily physical education in public schools – have all said they won’t make it.

That leaves three major proposals fighting for last-minute signers. They are Sharron Angle’s Nevada version of California’s Proposition 13, which would cap property taxes at 1 percent of base tax value; the Tax and Spending Control (TASC) amendment to cap governmental growth at population growth plus inflation; and the Nevada Property Owner’s Bill of Rights.

Part of the problem is the number of signatures required increased dramatically from 51,337 in 2003 to 83,184 because of the huge voter turnout for the 2004 presidential contest between George W. Bush and John Kerry.

TASC, with better organization and some funding, has the best chance of making it. But former state Sen. Ann O’Connell, of Las Vegas, who chairs the TASC drive, and state Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, author of the plan, admitted it’ll be close.

“We’ve got our fingers crossed, our eyes crossed and I think we’re going to make it,” she said Monday.

Beers said last week they won’t know for certain until after the county clerks submit their totals to the Nevada Secretary of State’s Office, which will total the number of valid signers statewide.

County clerks have until Aug. 9 to submit the verified signatures for each petition to the secretary of state.

TASC supporters lost a key battle last month when they went to court charging union and governmental employee groups were interfering with their efforts. The judge ordered both sides to be civil to each other – but refused TASC organizers the extension of time they sought.

Don Chairez, who filed the Property Owners Bill or Rights, could not be reached for information on the status of that proposal. State officials – especially at the Nevada Department of Transportation – say it could seriously interfere with the ability to construct major projects such as badly needed freeways. They cited provisions such as requiring land taken by condemnation be returned to the original owner if the project isn’t built in five years even though many highway projects take much longer.

Angle could not be reached by phone or e-mail either, but there have been a number of reports her followers were also having trouble raising the necessary signatures for Prop-13.

Those behind the other three initiatives have admitted defeat.

The Nevada Association of Counties petition asking voters to prohibit unfunded mandates on local governments by the state was withdrawn earlier this year when it became clear supporters weren’t going to get the necessary signers.

Steve Brown, of Las Vegas, gave up on his “Truth in Science” amendment requiring public school teachers to tell students evolution is a theory and to explain the doubts opponents have raised.

“We could see it wasn’t going to pass,” he said. “I could see even if it got on the ballot it wasn’t going to pass.”

And Dr. R.R. Apache, of UNLV’s Department of Sports Leadership, said Monday the petition to require daily physical education classes in K-12 public schools will also fall short. He said they have about 80,000 signers.

“It’s really difficult when you’re talking about a grassroots effort and we don’t have any financial backing,” he said.

Apache said he will instead see whether there is an appetite among lawmakers for a law mandating daily physical education classes in schools instead of an amendment.

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