Published in Reno-Gazette Journal June 14, 2021 3:00 PM PST
Assembly Bill 495, the shiny mining tax compromise that is being widely covered as some bipartisan momentous achievement, was not only the brainchild of the Clark County Education Association to put pressure on gaming, but also a sleight of hand to distract people from a huge blunder by Nevada’s trifecta (governorship, State Senate, and State Assembly) Democrat leadership: their loss in the Nevada Supreme Court regarding their unconstitutional tax increase from the 2019 session.
In mid-May, the Nevada Supreme Court delivered a victory to Republicans in the battle over our state’s constitutional requirement that a supermajority in both houses of the Legislature is required to impose taxes on its citizens. This court battle fought by Republican State Senator James Settelmeyer, Keystone Corporation, Nevada Policy Research Institute and other citizen-watch groups was costly, but it protected more than 23,000 business owners and all Nevada drivers from seeing their taxes and fees increased at the whim of our needlessly tax-hungry Democratic elected officials.https://5593a293afcc032ab181a30027b79f4d.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
For nearly two years Democrats assured stakeholders that their actions were legal and hid behind this lawsuit as a way to not engage with Republican legislators who have shown a willingness to negotiate since day one. Republicans, of course, were shut out at every turn and endured a brutal 81st session as Democrats did their best to listen to the big businesses and the well-connected unions who fund them and basically no one else.
The hardest-hit by the Democrats’ negligence? The unemployed Nevadans who are still seeing difficulties with Nevada’s dismal unemployment system that Republicans tried consistently to fight for. Instead of spending their time trying to fix DETR, Democrats pursued this lawsuit. Secondarily, instead of trying to find a way to open up the State Capitol building safely in February so normal people outside of the cadence of lobbyists who frequent the Capitol could have their concerns heard by their elected officials, Democrats decided to pursue this lawsuit.Your stories live here.Fuel your hometown passion and plug into the stories that define it.Create Account
Now, because of their recklessness and refusal to abide by the rule of law in our Constitution, taxpayers are owed as much as $5 million in illegally collected DMV fees. One assemblyperson estimated that the folks responsible for this blunder will cost the state over $8 million just to issue the refund of those fees to Nevada taxpayers. The person responsible for this? Nevada’s Senate Majority Leader, Nicole Cannizzaro.
Timeline of missteps
While her time as majority leader has been fraught with controversy, missteps and absolute silence on other serious issues, her pièce de resistance has been her blatantly unconstitutional and self-serving actions surrounding the two bills that would extend sunsetting taxes that brought on the lawsuit. Here’s a short timeline so you can see how it unfolded:
First, Sen. Cannizzaro received a biased and unconstitutional ruling from the “nonpartisan” Legislative Counsel Bureau that would exempt two bills from the Nevada Constitution’s provision requiring a two-thirds vote in both the Assembly and Senate for any bill that “creates, generates, or increases any public revenue in any form.” The bills extended a DMV fee that was set to expire (because bureaucrats in the DMV supposedly couldn’t modernize fast enough) and another bill that removed a payroll tax deduction as part of the infamous Modified Business Tax that would potentially affect around 23,000 employers in Nevada to the tune of nearly $100 million. This came paired with loud objections from Republican legislators and community stakeholders.
So, naturally, the Democrats passed both bills on a party-line vote, but without the two-thirds needed to pass constitutional muster, and Governor Sisolak signed both unconstitutional bills into law.
Senate Republicans immediately filed a lawsuit seeking to find the bills unconstitutional, which they ultimately won. Naturally, the Democrats — led by Attorney General Aaron Ford and the Legislative Counsel Bureau lawyers — appealed that ruling. This sets up a very anti-democratic precedent. Now, if the minority party (be they Democrats or Republicans) believes there has been an unjust ruling in the legislative process, their only option is to retain independent counsel and sue the Legislature. The majority party can sit back and use the LCB attorneys for free. Don’t have the money? You’re out of luck!
Thankfully, on May 13, the Nevada Supreme Court affirmed the lower court ruling in a unanimous opinion stating what anyone with a Read by 3 (a program that was cut significantly this session by Sen. Cannizzaro’s colleagues) education already knew: the plain language of the Nevada Constitution requires a two-thirds vote on all bills raising taxes or fees.
Too late to ask for bipartisanship
Even though Republicans won, it was terrible governance that Sen. Cannizzaro, her colleagues in the Democrat majorities in both houses, Attorney General Aaron Ford, Governor Steve Sisolak, and the bureaucrat lawyers that Cannizzaro helped elevate to leadership in the LCB all were unified in backing a clearly unconstitutional method of governance because it supported their political ideology. Drunk with power, these individuals and their cohorts would rather force the minority Republicans (or everyday citizens) to sue them and the state and be forced to follow the Nevada Constitution than be honest dealers with you and your taxes.
It gets better (or much worse, depending on your perspective)! Sen. Cannizzaro and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson then had the audacity to blame the Republicans for this mess, calling for bipartisanship, largely ignoring the fact that they were the ones who pushed unconstitutional bills without even attempting to negotiate with their Republican colleagues in the minority.
Sen. Cannizzaro and Speaker Frierson shamelessly released a joint statement that said they would call on their Republican colleagues to work on “meaningful revenue legislation this session,” yet claimed immediately after that Republicans did this to “protect the bottom lines of some of the state’s largest corporations at the expense of Nevada schools.” I’m assuming this is some of the “unity” that President Biden is calling for!
If they cannot be effective leaders who can negotiate and compromise with the minority party, then they do not deserve your support. Imagine doing something analogous in your professional career — you would be written up, or worse, terminated for being willfully inept.
Corrupt, ineffectual, and partisan leaders like Sen. Cannizzaro, Gov. Sisolak, AG Ford and all the elected Democrats who shilled for this Big “No Two-Thirds Necessary” Lie did everything they could to extract money from your pockets and ignore minority opinion. They would rather Nevada be as corrupt as Chicago in its heyday and rain cash and support on their socialist, anti-business besties that were just elected to the State Democratic Party than work with willing Republicans in the minority to pass legislation that is made collaboratively and represents Nevada’s diverse population.
In a time when Nevada needs competent leaders that can help it emerge from the disastrous lockdowns and restrictions imposed during the pandemic, we get self-serving, belligerent, tone-deaf politicians who want Nevada to become a high-tax, low-innovation, population-losing state like California.
So while most the state’s media can fawn over the mining tax compromise all it wants, it doesn’t take away from the fact that Republicans were able to stop another tax from being levied on Nevadans amidst a still-lagging economy and forced Majority Leader Cannizzaro to actually follow the state’s Constitution.
It is time for Nevadans, and especially our independent, nonpartisan neighbors and friends, to show these folks the door and elect new leadership in our state that will listen and work with the minority party and fight for small business owners — a minority that forms the backbone of Nevada’s economy. I hope everyday Nevadans punish this terrible behavior at the polls by bringing Republicans out of minority status in 2022.