Stories about Nevada

Sales and gaming tax initiatives headed to the Nevada State Legislature after clearing signature threshold

On December 15, 2020, county officials finished verifying signatures for the Sales Tax Increase for Public Schools Initiative and the Gaming Tax Increase on Monthly Revenue above $250,000 Initiative. The initiatives will be considered during the 2021 legislative session that convenes on February 1. If the legislature does not pass or the governor does not sign the initiatives, they will be put on the November 2022 ballot.

Fund Our Schools is sponsoring the Sales Tax Increase for Public Schools Initiative and submitted 190,192 raw signatures. County officials verified 137,791 signatures (72.4%) as valid. 

Nevadans for Fair Gaming Taxes is sponsoring the Gaming Tax Increase on Monthly Revenue above $250,000 Initiative and submitted 201,935 raw signatures. County officials verified 148,605 signatures (73.6%) as valid.

The Sales Tax Increase for Public Schools Initiative would increase the state’s Local School Support Tax by 1.5 percentage points with revenue dedicated to public schools. An additional 0.35% sales and use tax with dedicated revenues for public education was imposed on June 30, 2015, which brought the current total tax to 2.6%. The new total Local School Support Tax would be 4.1%. The tax is expected to generate $340 million according to the Fiscal Analysis Division of the Legislative Counsel Bureau.

Local sales tax rates vary, creating a range of total existing sales tax rates in Nevada from 6.85% to 8.375%. The initiative would increase the combined state and local sales tax rates in Nevada to a range of 8.35% to 9.875%. If approved by the state legislature, the tax would take effect July 1, 2021. If sent to the ballot and approved by voters at the 2022 general election, the tax would take effect on January 1, 2023.

The Gaming Tax Increase on Monthly Revenue above $250,000 Initiative would increase the rate of the fee on monthly gross gaming revenue above $250,000 to 9.75%. Currently, the Nevada Gaming Commission collects a tax on monthly gross revenue from licensed gaming facilities. The tax is imposed according to the following tiers:

  • 3.5% on gross revenue of the licensee which does not exceed $50,000 per month,
  • 4.5% on gross revenue of the licensee which exceeds $50,000 but does not exceed $134,000 per month, and
  • 6.75% on gross revenue of the licensee which exceeds $134,000.

If approved by the state legislature, the tax would take effect July 1, 2021. If sent to the ballot and approved by voters at the 2022 general election, the tax would take effect on November 22, 2022.

The committees sponsoring the two tax initiatives have received all of their funding from the Clark County Education Association. Fund Our Schools has reported $876,536.59 in cash and in-kind contributions, and Nevadans for Fair Gaming Taxes has reported $817,920.02 in cash and in-kind contributions.

At the outset of the signature campaign, John Vellardita, the executive director for the Clark County Education Association, said, “Our school system statewide is ranked last in the country in funding. And we’ve had three studies in the past six years, independent of each other, and they all came to the same conclusion that we need to adequately fund our schools to the tune of over $1 billion a year. … Our classrooms are the largest in the country, so this money would go toward reducing class size, it would go toward the type of resources and books in the classroom as well as getting teachers out here.” 

The Nevada Resort Association and the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce are opposed to the measures. The Nevada Resort Association said, “As Nevada’s largest industry and economic engine continues to do all it can to recover and bring employees back to work, now is not the time to target the resort industry with a 44 percent tax increase that would further damage Nevada’s recovery efforts, create permanent job losses and further jeopardize capital investment and future economic development.”

Between 1996 and 2020, Nevada ballots have featured 29 initiatives with 21 (72.4%) approved and eight (27.6%) defeated.

Nevada is one of eight states with a process for indirect initiated state statutes. Indirect initiated state statutes go to the legislature when enough signatures are gathered, rather than going directly to the ballot. Indirect initiatives only go to the ballot if they are not approved by the legislature or are vetoed.

Additional reading:

Two tax-related ballot initiative campaigns submitted signatures in Nevada 

December 8 was the deadline for counties to certify signatures for 2022 citizen-initiated statutes to the Nevada Secretary of State. Campaigns behind the Gaming Fee Increase on Monthly Revenue above $250,000 Initiative (S-01-2020) and the Sales Tax Increase for Public Schools Initiative (S-02-2020) submitted over 200,000 signatures each to county officials on November 17.

Citizens of Nevada may initiate statutes through the process of indirect initiative. The required number of valid signatures for initiative petitions is 97,598, which equals 10% of the total number of votes cast in the preceding general election. Nevada is one of 16 states that impose distribution requirements for initiative petitions. Of the 97,598 valid signatures needed, 24,400 signatures are required to be collected in each congressional district.

Once sufficient signatures have been collected, statutory initiatives are first presented to the Nevada State Legislature. If approved by the legislature and signed by the governor, the proposed statute becomes law. If not, the law is submitted to voters at the next general election. However, upon the governor’s approval, the legislature may propose an alternative statute to voters. The 2021 legislative session will begin on February 1, 2021.

The Gaming Fee Increase on Monthly Revenue above $250,000 Initiative would increase the rate of the gaming fee on monthly gross revenue above $250,000 to 9.75%. Currently, there are tiered fee rates ranging from 3.5% to 6.75% depending on the amount of monthly gross revenue. The existing maximum rate—which is charged on monthly gross revenue above $134,000—is 6.75%. 

Robert Hollowood filed this initiative with the Nevada Secretary of State on January 13, 2020. In February 2020, the Nevada Resort Association challenged the ballot language submitted by initiative sponsors. They argued that January 1, 2023, will not be the date of effect as stated in the petition, and the funds raised by the increased fee are not solely dedicated to public education. On March 13, Judge James Wilson ruled in favor of the Nevada Resort Association requiring the initiative sponsors to change the effective date and clarify that revenue from the fee would go into the general fund. The sponsors submitted amended ballot language on March 30 to the Nevada Secretary of State. The new effective date if approved by the legislature is July 1, 2021, and the new effective date if approved by voters in 2022 is November 22, 2022.

The Sales Tax Increase for Public Schools Initiative would increase the state’s Local School Support Tax from 2.25% to 3.75%. Including the Local School Support Tax, the total statewide sales and use tax rate in Nevada as of January 1, 2020, was 6.85%. Local sales tax rates vary, creating a range of total existing sales tax rates in Nevada from 6.85% to 8.265%. 

Kenny Belknap filed this initiative with the Nevada Secretary of State on January 15, 2020. In February 2020, BizPac, the political action committee of the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce, challenged the ballot language submitted by initiative petitioners. The plaintiffs argued that the description of the initiative was misleading because it did not provide the total new sales tax rate. On March 13, Judge James T. Russell ruled in favor of the plaintiffs and issued an injunction requiring the initiative petitioners to resubmit the ballot summary to include the proposed total sales tax rate. The initiative sponsors submitted an amended initiative on March 24.

Campaigns behind the Top-Two Primary Initiative and the Parental Notification for Minor’s Abortion Initiative did not submit signatures by the deadline. The initiatives would have, respectively, established a top-two open primary system for all elected partisan offices and required that parents or guardians of minors seeking an abortion to be notified 48 hours before the procedure.

Protect Our Girls, the campaign behind the Parental Notification for Minor’s Abortion Initiative, filed a lawsuit asking for an extension of the November 18 deadline for signature submission due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and related restrictions. On October 21 Federal District Court Judge Miranda Du dismissed the lawsuit.

In 2020, Ballotpedia tracked the following changes to ballot measure campaigns, procedures, and policies in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic:

  1. 27 initiative petition campaigns that abandoned or suspended signature-gathering efforts in 2020;
  2. at least 19 lawsuits filed over signature deadlines and regulations;
  3. four campaigns that shifted their focus to future elections; and
  4. multiple changes to campaign activity and tactics, alteration of rules for signature collection by executive or legislative action, and uses of remote or electronic signature gathering.

Additional reading:

Nevada voters reject ballot measure that would have increased legislative control over state board of regents

On November 3, Nevada voters chose not to adopt Nevada Question 1, a ballot measure that would have given the state legislature more control over the Nevada State Board of Regents. The Board of Regents is an elected executive agency that manages Nevada’s higher education system.

According to the 2017 legislation that introduced the ballot measure, the Board of Regents “has, at various times, relied on its constitutional status and its authority to control and manage the affairs of the State University as a defensive shield and cloak against the people’s legislative check of accountability,” and has “taken actions that have hindered, thwarted or undermined the Legislature’s investigation, review and scrutiny of the institutions, programs and operations of the Nevada System of Higher Education.”

The ballot measure would have removed references to the Board of Regents from the Nevada Constitution to ensure that the agency only uses authority derived from statutes passed by the legislature.

Supporters of the measure, like State Assemblyman Jim Wheeler (R), argued, “Question 1 simply makes the Board of Regents a statutory body, subject to checks and balances—an important American principle.” 

Opponents of the measure, like Board of Regents Member Laura E. Perkins, argued, “There’s no numbers or positive proof that the system that may or may not come out of this is better than the system that we have now.”

Questions about legislative control of administrative agencies often involve the nondelegation doctrine, one of five pillars key to understanding the main areas of debate about the nature and scope of the administrative state. The nondelegation doctrine is a legal principle holding that legislative bodies cannot delegate their legislative powers to executive agencies or private entities.

To learn more about the ballot measure or the nondelegation doctrine, see here:

Additional reading:

Text of the resolution:

Assembly Joint Resolution No. 5

Source of Wheeler quote:

Jim Wheeler: Vote for Question 1, reform higher education

Source of Perkins quote:

The Indy Explains: Question 1, a measure that would strike the Board of Regents from the Constitution

Two Nevada Supreme Court seats are up for nonpartisan election in November

The seats of Nevada Supreme Court Justices Mark Gibbons and Kris Pickering will be up for nonpartisan election on November 3, 2020. Pickering is seeking re-election while Gibbons is not. Pickering is unopposed for the November election to reclaim her seat. Ozzie Fumo and Douglas Herndon will face each other in an effort to fill Gibbons’ seat on the court.

Almost every justice on the court won their seat in a nonpartisan election. The lone exception is Justice Stiglich, who was appointed by Republican Governor Brian Sandoval in 2016.

Justices on the Nevada Supreme Court are elected in nonpartisan elections for six-year terms. Whenever a vacancy occurs, the governor appoints a replacement.

Across all types of state supreme court elections, incumbent justices running for re-election won 93% of the time from 2008-2019. Nevada has not seen an incumbent supreme court justice lose an election during this same time frame.

Additional reading:
Nevada Supreme Court
Kris Pickering
Mark Gibbons
Ozzie Fumo
Douglas Herndon
Incumbent win rates

Fair Maps Nevada did not turn in signatures for its redistricting initiative by the extended August 3 deadline

Fair Maps Nevada, the campaign behind the Nevada Independent Redistricting Commission Initiative, did not submit signatures by the August 3 deadline. Originally the deadline was June 24, but it was extended by a court ruling. On July 24, 2020, Doug Goodman, founder and executive director of Nevadans for Election Reform; Sondra Cosgrove, chair of Fair Maps Nevada; and Vivian Leal, a member of Indivisible Northern Nevada Fair Democracy Team, wrote that “Fair Maps Nevada will not be able to collect the necessary signatures by the court-set, and county election official agreed to deadline of August 3.” The campaign said that it would attempt to put the initiated constitutional amendment on the 2022 ballot.

The ballot measure would have transferred the power to draw the state’s congressional and legislative districts from the state legislature to a seven-member independent redistricting commission.

The signature deadline was extended from June 24 to August 3 after Fair Maps Nevada filed a lawsuit against the state on May 7 seeking permission to use electronic signatures and asking for a six-week extension of the signature deadline. In their lawsuit, petitioners argued that the state’s actions to slow the spread of the coronavirus made it “extremely difficult to collect signatures to qualify the initiative for the ballot in a traditional in-person manner.”

On May 29, 2020, U.S. District Court Judge Miranda Du ruled partially in favor of the petitioners granting them more time to gather signatures. In her decision, she argued that Governor Steve Sisolak’s (D) stay-at-home order made it impossible for the campaign to gather signatures and that not changing the statutory deadline was “unreasonable and unfair.” Judge Du did not grant the petitioners’ request to use electronic signatures citing concerns of fraud and legal precedent on courts changing election rules. In her ruling, the new deadline was August 5, but the campaign and state officials later agreed to move it to August 3.

The ruling only applied to the petitioners in this case and did not extend to the Fountainhead Society, the campaign behind the Single Transferable Vote and Multimember Senate Districts Initiative. Benjamin Pennington, the founder of the Fountainhead Society, said that the campaign would submit an “improved initiative” for the 2022 cycle.

In Nevada, the number of signatures required to qualify an initiated constitutional amendment for the ballot is equal to 10% of the total votes cast in the most recent general election. Moreover, signature gathering must be distributed equally among each of the state’s four congressional districts. Initiated constitutional amendments that qualify for the ballot must be approved at two consecutive general elections.

Nevada voters will be deciding on five statewide ballot measures in November—four legislatively referred constitutional amendments and one initiated constitutional amendment.
• Question 1, Remove Constitutional Status of Board of Regents Amendment: Removes the constitutional status of the Board of Regents
• Question 2, Marriage Regardless of Gender Amendment: Recognizes the marriage of couples regardless of gender
• Question 3, State Board of Pardons Commissioners Amendment: Revises duties of the State Board of Pardons Commissioners
• Question 4, State Constitutional Rights of Voters Amendment: Creates a constitutional right to certain voting procedures and policies

• The Renewable Energy Standards Initiative: Requires utilities to acquire 50% of their electricity from renewable resources by 2030

Between 1995 and 2018, the Nevada State Legislature referred 31 constitutional amendments to the ballot, while voters decided 26 citizen-initiated constitutional amendments. The legislature’s proposed amendments were approved at a lower rate (48.39%) than citizen-initiated amendments (73.08%).

Additional reading:

Douglass-Boone appointed to Thompson’s Nevada State Assembly seat

Clark County commissioners in Nevada appointed Kasina Douglass-Boone (D), a social worker for Clark County Schools, on July 7 to represent District 17 in the Nevada State Assembly. The seat has been vacant since the late Representative Tyrone Thompson (D) died on May 4, 2019.

Douglass-Boone is not running for the District 17 state House seat has been represented by a Democrat since at least 2003. She recently ran for election to represent District B on the Clark County School Board, finished third with 15% of the vote. District 17

Except for a power-sharing agreement from 1994 to 1996 and a Republican majority from 2014 to 2016, the Democratic Party has controlled a majority of seats in the assembly since 1992. The chamber flipped from 27-15 Democratic Party control to 27-15 Republican Party control in 2014, and back to a 27-15 Democratic majority in 2016.

Additional reading:

Federal judge denies request for more time in Nevada governor recall

Federal court judge Richard Boulware on May 15, 2020, denied a request to extend the signature-gathering period for the recall effort against Gov. Steve Sisolak (D). Fight For Nevada, the group behind the recall effort, requested an extension of the 90-day period to collect signatures equal to the length of the state’s coronavirus stay-at-home order. Supporters of the recall had until May 14 to collect the 243,995 signatures needed to require a recall election. County officials have until May 20 to report the signature totals to the Nevada Secretary of State’s office.

Boulware wrote in the order, “The Court does not find that an inability to file this particular recall petition presents a severe burden when Plaintiff has not established with any detail what additional burden or inconvenience it faces if the Secretary does not extend the deadline.”

Recall supporters criticized Sisolak over his support for laws related to firearms, a statewide income tax, metering of private water wells, and a DMV policy for reporting mileage.

Nevada became a Democratic trifecta in 2019. A state government trifecta exists when one political party simultaneously holds the governor’s office and both state legislative chambers. Democrats control the state Assembly by a 28-13 margin with one vacancy and the state Senate by a 13-8 margin. Gov. Sisolak (D) succeeded Brian Sandoval (R) as governor in 2019.

Four gubernatorial recall efforts are currently underway in 2020. From 2003 to 2019, Ballotpedia tracked 21 gubernatorial recall efforts. During that time, two recalls made the ballot, and one governor was successfully recalled. Former California Gov. Gray Davis (D) was recalled in 2003 and replaced by Arnold Schwarzenegger (R). In 2012, former Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R) was retained in a recall election. The only other governor to ever be successfully recalled was former North Dakota Gov. Lynn Frazier (R) in 1921.

Additional reading:

Mayoral recall effort underway in Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman is facing a recall effort after she appeared on CNN to make the case that Las Vegas should be allowed to begin reopening during the coronavirus pandemic. Goodman said the city could be used as a control group for opening up a city after a shutdown.
The notice of intent to recall Goodman was filed by Doug Polk, who accused Goodman of failing to represent her constituency in a statement given after the petitions were filed. He said the recall effort was started over “her clear disregard for public health, but also in her support for the casino owners over the people of Las Vegas. Additionally, she is barely able to speak coherent sentences while discussing the subject matter. She is unfit to serve as the mayor of Las Vegas.”
Goodman responded to the recall effort. She said, “You know, this is America. That’s his choice. Everybody’s entitled to their own political opinions.”
Petitioners seeking to recall a public official in Nevada are required to collect valid signatures of at least 25 percent of the voter turnout in the election when the official most recently won their seat. Circulation of the recall petition must be completed within 90 days after registration. Following this, the Secretary of State determines whether or not the petition is sufficient based upon the county clerk or registrars’ certified results of the signature verification. The filing officer then issues a call for a special election in the jurisdiction represented by the officeholder being recalled between 10 and 20 days after the Secretary of State has given notification that the petition is sufficient, unless a court complaint has been filed. The special election must then be held within 30 days after the filing officer issues this call.
The notice of intent was filed on May 6. Petitioners have until August 4 to submit 6,745 valid signatures for the recall to move forward.
In 2019, Ballotpedia covered a total of 151 recall efforts against 230 elected officials. Of the 66 officials whose recalls made it to the ballot, 34 were recalled for a rate of 52%. That was lower than the 63% rate and 57% rate for 2018 and 2017 recalls, respectively.

Nevada governor to extend stay-at-home order, announce reopening plans on Thursday

On April 29, 2020, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) announced plans to extend the state’s stay-at-home order but stated that he will lift some restrictions that the state put in place, including on outdoor activities and curbside pickup at retailers. He did not state how long the extension of the stay-at-home order would last.
Gov. Sisolak also said yesterday on Twitter that he would provide details about a plan to reopen the state after the coronavirus pandemic on Thursday, April 30.
So far, 43 of the 50 states issued statewide shutdown orders. Eight of those orders are set to last until modified or rescinded by the governor, while the other 35 announced end dates.
Although the names of the orders—shelter-in-place, stay-at-home, stay home, stay safe—vary from state to state, they include at least two common elements: the closure of nonessential businesses and requesting all residents to stay home except for essential trips.

Nevada closes schools for the year

On Tuesday, Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak (D) closed schools to in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year. Prior to the announcement, schools were to remain closed through April 30.

Thirty-eight states have now closed schools to in-person instruction for the remainder of the academic year: Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maine, Massachusetts, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Hampshire, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, Vermont, Virginia, Washington, West Virginia, and Wisconsin.

Those states account for 81.2% of the 50.6 million public school students in the country.

Ballotpedia is providing comprehensive coverage on how the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic is affecting America’s political and civic life. Our coverage includes how federal, state, and local governments are responding, and the effects those responses are having on campaigns and elections.