Legislative Commission approves language for seven ballot questions
Language for seven ballot questions that will be decided by Nevada voters in November has been approved by the Legislative Commission.
The list includes a bond issue for conservation and resource protection as well as four questions dealing with tax issues.
The bond proposal would give the state authority to sell up to $200 million in bonds to preserve water quality, protect open space, restore and improve parks, recreation areas and historic and cultural resources.
A key section of the plan would provide up to $65.5 million for grants to state and local agencies as well as nonprofit groups to develop trails, parks, open space and other natural resources throughout the state.
State Parks would get $27 million and the Wildlife Division $27.5 million. Southern Nevada would get up to $70 million for the Las Vegas Springs Preserve, development of a regional wetlands park in the Las Vegas Wash and development of a museum at the Las Vegas Springs Preserve.
And Washoe County would get up to $10 million for enhancement and restoration of the Truckee River corridor.
Another question would exempt state bonds issued to improve or build public schools from the statutory property tax cap. The idea is to allow the state to issue bonds to help with school construction without pushing total property taxes in any given county or city past the cap. Local officials fear state bonding for schools could prevent them from seeking voter support for other needs.
The state has been urged to help counties pay for school construction and repair — especially in small counties which don’t have the property tax base to pay for school bonds even if voters there do approve them.
The statutory cap is $3.64 per $100 of assessed valuation — which is well below the constitutional cap of $5.
Another tax question on the list would amend the state constitution to allow the Legislature to give certain homeowners a tax break. The example used in the Legislative hearings was longtime Incline Village residents who, because property values there have skyrocketed, can’t afford to keep their homes.
Opponents say giving some homeowners a special break at the expense of others is unfair. They say Nevada should keep its existing constitutional requirement that everyone pay the same tax rate in a given area.
Two questions on the list would add new exemptions to the sales tax. One would exempt farm machinery and equipment from the tax. The other would exempt engines and other components of race cars from sales taxes. The second is an attempt to encourage professional racing teams to locate in Nevada.
Finally there are two more technical questions before voters involving the election of state judges and the state’s constitutional ban on perpetuities.
When a judge dies or leaves office before the end of his six-year term, the governor appoints a replacement. But that appointee must run in the next general election even if that’s only three months away.
Supporters say some good candidates won’t take the job if they have to shut down a private practice, do the judge’s job and face an election campaign all in their first few months on the bench.
The ballot question would change the constitution so that appointed judges don’t have to run in the next election unless it’s more than a year after the appointment. If it’s shorter, they would run for election in the election two years down the road.
The perpetuities question, according to Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Lorne Malkiewich, is difficult to clearly understand even for some lawyers.
In essence, the existing constitution prohibits putting real property into a trust for their heirs or others for an indefinite period of time — in other words, “in perpetuity.” It voids any trust arrangements if the restrictions would keep the property from legally passing on to the beneficiaries for 21 years or more.
Supporters say Nevada is one of the few states that still has such a rule and that it denies property owners flexibility in planning their estates.
Opponents say the rule is important because it prevents some one from effectively tying up property in a way that effectively prevents their heirs from ever fully owning it.
“The rule against perpetuities was designed to prevent the dead from dominating the affairs of the living through cumbersome restrictions on the use of society’s primary source of wealth, which is land, and to protect the right of the living to enjoy and develop that resource,” the argument against passage states.
Those questions will be on the ballot along with local questions which are still being developed and questions generated by initiative petition.