AFL-CIO fights effort to change tax petitions

CARSON CITY -- An initiative petition that would require a two-thirds vote by the public to increase taxes sought on ballot questions is being challenged in Carson City District Court by the Nevada State AFL-CIO.

Danny Thompson, executive secretary and treasurer of the union, said the challenge is a technical one based on what the group considers to be omissions in the description of the effect of the constitutional amendment should it become law.

"We're not challenging the constitutionality of the initiative," he said.

The complaint, filed Wednesday, says the description is false and misleading because it does not reveal that the existing standard for approving an initiative is a simple majority vote, among other concerns.

But Thompson said that though the legal challenge is technical, the opposition of the labor group to the proposal is not.

"The end result would be that the minority would control the wishes of the majority," he said. "That's not what our country was founded on."

The challenge comes as the deadline to collect the necessary signatures comes ever closer. To get the proposal before voters in November, backers must collect 58,836 valid signatures by May 20.

The proposed amendment to the state constitution was filed March 5 by former state Controller Steve Martin, who noted that the state constitution requires a two-thirds vote in the Legislature to raise taxes. The same requirement should apply to ballot questions put to the voters seeking to raise taxes, he said.

Martin said much of the labor union complaint fails to take into account a 200-word limit on the description that is now imposed for initiative petitions.

The group is already collecting signatures, and Martin said he thinks the petition will survive the legal challenge.

But if the court says a wording change is necessary in the petition, the signature gathering process will have to begin all over again, he said.

"I'm confident their intent is to delay the process," Martin said.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Sean Whaley at or (775) 687-3900.