Legislators agree to four state ballot measures for November

CARSON CITY -- After adopting changes suggested by Nevada residents, the Legislative Commission agreed Friday to the language for the four questions that will appear on the November statewide election ballot.

Voters will decide the following:

■ Whether Nevada Supreme Court justices and District Court judges initially should be appointed by a Commission on Judicial Selection, not through a public election. Then if they want to run for re-election, the judges would be required to secure at least 55 percent of the votes in a yes or no retention election.

■ Whether to let the Legislature create an intermediate court of appeals that would hear appeals of District Court civil and criminal decisions. The Supreme Court would determine the jurisdiction of the appeals court and, where appropriate, hear appeals of its decisions.

■ Whether to prohibit state and local governments in most cases from using their eminent domain authority to acquire land from private individuals and then transfer it to another private party for a private use. The question also describes how individuals must be compensated if their land is acquired for a legitimate public purpose.

■ Whether the Legislature can make changes in parts of the state sales tax laws without going to a vote of the people. The changes would be made only to comply with federal amendments to the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, an effort by the states that could lead to the collection of sales taxes on all Internet sales.

As expected, the question to end contested judicial elections was met with dismay by several audience members at the commission meeting.

One challenged its constitutionality and called ending contested judge elections "favoritism toward the judiciary." Others contended voters want to elect judges and will reject that question in November.

Previous ballot questions to end judicial elections and establish an appeals court have failed twice.

The Legislative Commission, a group of six Assembly members and six state senators had no choice but to move the proposal to the ballot.

Enabling legislation to put the matters before voters was approved in the 2007 and 2009 legislative sessions. If voters approve them, they will become law.

All legislators could do Friday was make minor changes in the ballot question language that had been proposed by legislative staff members.

The most difficult question for voters to understand probably will be one dealing with the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement.

"Is there a federal sales tax coming?" asked Southern Nevada resident Vickie McDivit, who attended the hearing teleconferenced between Carson City and Las Vegas. "Is that why this is here? "

The agreement is a move by 44 states to come up with a simple and uniform way to collect sales taxes on purchases their residents make from other states, or over the Internet.

Though sales taxes are collected now when the purchase is from a company that has a presence in Nevada, Internet sales taxes are seldom collected because of moves in Congress to protect e-commerce.

But states, suffering from the loss of revenue, are moving to have a uniform tax system ready on the sales of such goods when Congress moves to require taxes on all Internet and mail order sales.

Lorne Malkiewich, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said if changes are needed to the Streamlined Sales and Use Tax Agreement, Nevada could move quickly to make those changes if the bill passes.

Otherwise, the state might have to wait as long as 18 months to make amendments because the Legislature holds its regular sessions every two years.

"If a federal law passed (on Internet sales) and we were in the interim (between sessions), we would not be able to change our law," Malkiewich said.

The four ballot questions coming from the Legislature could be the only ones on November's ballot.

Citizens, through the initiative petition process, can put matters on the ballot. But Matt Griffin, the deputy secretary of state for elections, said no organization has submitted the required 97,002 signatures needed to qualify its petition for the ballot. They have until June 15 to turn in their petitions.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.