Lawmakers to take up margins tax


CARSON CITY — An initiative to tax businesses grossing more than $1 million a year gets its first hearing before state lawmakers and will headline the discussion as the Nevada Legislature enters its fifth week.

Bills dealing with bear hunting, courts, the Millennium Scholarship and tobacco are also scheduled for hearings.

Here are five highlights of the legislative agenda for the upcoming week:

MARGINS TAX

The margins tax initiative backed by the state teachers union and other labor groups survived a legal challenge and now lands in the lap of lawmakers who have until March 15 to enact it or automatically send it to voters in 2014.

Supporters gathered more than 150,000 signatures to qualify the measure, which would impose a 2 percent tax on businesses making $1 million or more.

The Nevada State Education Association says the tax would raise about $800 million a year for education. But critics argue it doesn’t guarantee more money for schools, because state lawmakers would be free to divert for other uses money that otherwise would go to the state’s school account .

The Assembly and Senate taxation committee will hold a joint hearing on the margins tax proposal Tuesday.

COURTS

The Senate Finance Committee takes up Senate Joint Resolution 14, a proposed constitutional amendment to create an intermediate appellate court in Nevada.

Establishing an appeals court is a recurring issue that so far has failed to gain the support of voters, who last rejected the idea in 2010. Legislators went back to the drawing board the following year, first approving SJR14.

If approved this year, the constitutional amendment will appear on the 2014 ballot.

The Senate Judiciary Committee has recommended passage, and the Finance Committee will hear the bill today.

People who end up in justice courts would pay higher fees and fines under Assembly Bill 54, to be heard Tuesday by the Assembly Judiciary Committee. The bill also would require counties to put 25 percent of levies collected through the justice courts into a special account to be used for court upgrades, land acquisition, remodeling, security and staff.

MILLENNIUM SCHOLARSHIP

On Wednesday, the Assembly Education Committee will hear a bill to ban chronic cheaters from a state-run scholar­ship program.

Under Assembly Bill 124, a high school student caught cheating three or more times would be ineligible for the Millennium Scholarship, which provides Nevada high school students who meet grade-point standards up to $10,000 to attend Nevada colleges.

Also Wednesday, Senate Education hears Senate Bill 102 to add another annual recipient of the Kenny C. Guinn Memorial Millennium Scholarship. Created in 2011, the memorial scholarship now provides one Nevada college senior majoring in education with a $4,500 scholarship.

BEAR HUNT

Critics of Nevada’s 2-year-old bear hunt are expected to be out in force Thursday when the Senate Natural Resources Committee considers Senate Bill 82.

The bill seeks to classify a black bear as a protected mammal in Nevada and to prohibit the state Wildlife Commission from authorizing bear hunting.

Most of the state’s black bears are found in and around the Tahoe Basin and the Pine Nut and Sweetwater mountain regions of western Nevada.

teen smoking

Children and teens who possess or try to buy tobacco could face fines and a court date under Senate Bill 177, to be heard Thursday in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The bill sets possible graduated fines of $25 for a first, $50 for a second and $75 for a third offense. A fourth or subsequent offense could involve a $75 fine and a juvenile court mandate to attend a smoking cessation program. The offenders’ juvenile record for tobacco offenses would be sealed with successful completion of a cessation program.

 

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