FILE - Nevada State Capitol

The Nevada State Capitol in Carson City, Nevada.  

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford is siding with Democrats in a lawsuit filed by Republican lawmakers challenging two tax-related bills that had passed the state House and Senate.

Ford filed a motion in the Carson City District Courtroom of Judge Todd Russell claiming that the bills, as passed, were both legal and legally passed. Ford suggests that the case be dismissed “with prejudice.”

At issue is the passage of SB551 and SB542 earlier this year. The bills, which dealt with existing taxation levels, passed by a majority but not a two-thirds one. Republican lawmakers argue that because of the taxation repercussions in the bills, a two-thirds majority was needed for passage. They cite two voter-initiatives – one in 1994 and the other in 1996 – that call for the two/thirds majority passage.

Democrats argue that Legislative Counsel Brenda Erdoes approved the simple majority approval because the bills were dealing with existing taxes, not new ones.

In his motion, Ford argues “Because neither bill ‘creates, generates or increases’ ‘taxes, fees, assessments and rates,’ each bill is constitutional.”

“This court should interpret the supermajority provision narrowly with the intent that it apply only to new or increased taxes, not to the continuation of existing taxes at existing rates from one year to the next,” it continues.

The motion stated, in part, “As set forth by the Legislative Counsel in its May 8, 2019 memorandum, Senate Bill 551 maintains the existing tax rate and revenue structure. Here the people’s elected representatives in the Senate disagree on how to interpret Nevada’s Constitution. Where both interpretations are reasonable and the majority Legislature relied on the specific advice of its counsel, this court should defer to the Legislature’s interpretation.”