Jim Clark: Wait for it … more on AB 46

Jim Clark

The Assembly Bill 46 controversy just won’t go away. AB 46 was passed by the legislature and authorizes Washoe County Commissioners to increase the county sales tax by $0.0025 and county real estate taxes by $0.05 per $100 assessed valuation to raise about $20 million per year for Washoe School District’s capital projects. Commissioners have until January 1, 2014 to decide.

As readers might imagine county commissioners were anything but delighted to receive authority to raise taxes to benefit another elected body, but like troopers, having been handed this tar baby, they have dedicated a considerable amount of county staff time into analyzing just what their legal options are.

The latest development occurred Sept. 10 when the County Commission voted (with one “no” vote) to authorize the Washoe County District Attorney to file a petition in Washoe District Court to assess whether the legislature’s delegation of authority is permissible under Nevada’s Constitution.

The question has been raised because the plain wording of the Constitution is that to raise taxes 28 Assembly members and 14 senators must approve; it is not clear that the same majorities may delegate taxing authority to a 5 member commission even if (as it is in AB 46) the 2/3 vote requirement is maintained.

The “no” vote was Commissioner Bonnie Weber who has already publicly stated that she does not believe ethically that she has the right to vote to increase taxes on her constituents for the benefit of another agency without a vote of the people (so color her a “no” vote on AB 46 if and when it ever comes up for action).

Media have reported that if the County Commission approves AB 46 conservative think tanks such as Nevada Policy Research Institute and Americans for Prosperity are standing by to bring a Constitutional challenge in Nevada’s courts. This latest move substantially facilitates the chances of such a challenge.

Here’s the way it works. Under Nevada law (NRS Chapter 43, “Judicial Confirmation”) a municipal government may file a petition in district court for a judicial examination and determination of the validity of any power, instrument, act or project. Public notice of the petition and hearing must be published for 5 consecutive weeks in a local newspaper of general circulation.

During the notice period any property owner or other interested party can move to dismiss the petition. After the notice period expires a hearing is scheduled and, after the judge hears from everyone who wants to be heard, renders a decision. After judgment there is a 30 day period in which any person can appeal the result to the Nevada Supreme Court.

Right now proponents and opponents of AB 46 are busy strategizing. Published notification will take over a month and that process could be dragged out by filings during the publication period. The hearing on the petition will take additional time depending on how many show up to be heard.

And who knows when the Nevada Supreme Court could fit this into their agenda assuming (and it’s a pretty good bet) that someone will file an appeal. If Jan. 1, 2014, comes and goes while all this is going on the taxing authority lapses and the school district is back where it began.

Stay tuned, folks. In the end it’s your tax money.

Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates, and has served on the Washoe County and Nevada state GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at

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