97°F
weather icon Clear

Nevada Legislature passes disputed tax bill on final day of session

Updated June 4, 2019 - 12:48 am

CARSON CITYA disputed move to extend the state’s business payroll tax and send the money to education provided most of the drama on the last day of the legislative session as majority Democrats sought first to press Republicans to support the measure then changed the bill to work around their opposition.

By 9 p.m., though, three hours before the end of the session, the drama was over as the bill passed the Assembly on a party-line vote after passing the Senate in the same fashion earlier in the day.

And half an hour after that, the Clark County School District, the state’s largest, issued a statement saying the money provided by the bill — combined with a second measure authorizing quarter-cent local sales tax increases to fund education and social programs, including teacher retention efforts — would enable the district to fund seniority and cost of living raises for employees totaling 5 percent.

The Senate saw multiple floor votes, one take-back vote and floor debate that approached the two-hour mark even with Democrats twice moving to cut off discussion. The final version of the bill, approved 13-8 in the Senate and 28-13 in the Assembly, almost certainly promises a lawsuit from Republicans.

“Every member of this caucus who stood and voted now in this body has the right to file a lawsuit. So do the businesses that are affected,” Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, said in a Senate Republican caucus meeting with reporters following the vote. “We’ll see what the governor does.”

Amendments aplenty

The approved version of Senate Bill 551 was the fourth iteration of legislation Senate Democrats introduced a week ago, tying a contentious extension of the payroll tax to support for education and challenging Republicans to choose between cutting taxes or funding schools. Democrats proposed to put the $98 million in additional revenue toward school safety and a variety of other initiatives that changed over the course of the week.

Late Sunday, Democrats revised the bill to put nearly $17 million toward school safety and $72 million toward teacher pay raises across the state, the largest single chunk, $53 million, going to Clark County.

Republicans contended that the tax extension wasn’t needed and that the state had more than $100 million in surplus funds, but Democrats claimed that the money is a one-time surplus and shouldn’t be used for ongoing expenses.

That version also added $9.5 million to fund a private school scholarship program popular with Republicans. In the biggest concession, Democrats also agreed to let the bill come to the floor with a requirement that a two-thirds majority was needed for passage.

That two-thirds question on the tax extension has persisted since Gov. Steve Sisolak raised it in his State of the State address and proposed budget in January. Republicans said the extension needed the supermajority; Democrats said it didn’t. Legislative lawyers, in an opinion, sided with the Democrats.

On Monday, the amended bill failed along party lines, 13-8. After a recess, Democrats approved a new version of the bill that removed the supermajority requirement.

ESAs repealed

But the revision went even further, eliminating a controversial but dormant school voucher-like program Republicans passed in 2015 when they controlled the Legislature and governor’s office. Amid legal challenges, the program was never funded.

“We made an attempt to try and meet (Republicans) with what seems to be the largest concern, which was this idea that it should be a two-thirds requirement,” Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas, said after the Senate vote. “And so we attempted to meet them halfway on that. It’s unfortunate that we couldn’t get there.”

She added that the education savings accounts are “not something that is a current program.”

“Since it is no longer being used, we decided to take it out,” she said.

Republicans, in addition to vowing legal action, called the move to strip the ESA program “petty” and said Democrats had threatened the move in a carrot-and-stick attempt to win Republican support.

“Throughout this, I don’t think it’s really been about the money,” said Sen. Heidi Gansert, R-Reno. “To me, what it looks like is they wanted to leverage the (payroll tax) against schools so they could put us on the record as if we’re against education when we’re clearly not. I think what they want to do basically is save this money so they can have a pork bill and spend on other things.”

After passing the Senate, the bill moved to the Assembly, which referred it to the Ways and Means Committee. The committee passed the bill on party lines shortly after 6:30 p.m. and moved it to the Assembly floor.

There, Republicans once again raised the constitutional issues, while Assembly Majority Leader Teresa Benitez-Thompson, D-Reno, read out the amounts that each of Nevada’s 17 counties would get under the bill.

The Assembly adopted it on a party-line vote, 28-13, shortly after 9 p.m.

Contact Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com or 775-461-0661. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Clark County 2019 Election Results - Video
The 2019 Elections wrap up in Clark County including an upset in the Boulder City Mayor race.
Olivia Diaz talks about her win in Ward 3 - VIDEO
Las Vegas City Councilwoman-elect Olivia Diaz talks about her election win in Ward 3 and what lies ahead for her.
Greene discusses Read by 3 and Opportunity Scholarships - VIDEO
The Nevada Legislative Session is over and the results are mixed for Nevada students, according to Tom Greene, Senior regional legislative director, Excel in Ed in Action.
Bernie Sanders visits Las Vegas
Sen. Bernie Sanders made a stop at Roy W. Martin middle school on Thursday, during his campaign trail.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic Sen. Kamala Harris castigated President Donald Trump’s merit-based immigration plan, saying it was “short-sighted” and overlooked the cultural significance of family, during a campaign stop in Las Vegas. “We cannot allow people to start parsing and pointing fingers and creating hierarchies among immigrants,” Harris told Asian Pacific Islander leaders at a Chinatown restaurant, one of two appearances she made Thursday.
The Right Take New Education Funding Plan - VIDEO
On Monday, Senate Education Committee chair Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, released a new education funding formula. For years, many Democrat politicians have criticized the current education funding formula, called the Nevada Plan. They claim it’s old and outdated. Their biggest beef is that it doesn’t allocate more money for students who are English Language Learners or live in poverty. The theory is that it’s harder to educate those students and so they need additional services, which costs additional money.
Kamala Harris campaigns in Nevada
California Senator Kamala Harris meets with One APIA Nevada, a nonprofit organization that advocates for policies empowering Asian Pacific Islander Nevadans. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ben Carson talks housing (Audio only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Ben Carson visits the RJ (Full Audio Only)
Ben Carson discusses housing with the Review-Journal editorial board on Thursday. (Audio only)
Former Vice President Joe Biden campaigns in Nevada
After campaigning at the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades District Council 16 in Henderson, former Vice President Joe Biden spoke with the Review-Journal.
Student serenades Mayor Carolyn Goodman at swearing in
Students from the school she founded, The Meadows School, serenaded Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman during a swearing in ceremony for her third and final term. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Al Gore Speaks At UNLV About Climate Change - Video
Former Vice President of the United States Al Gore talks to an audience at UNLV about the effects of Climate change and how to switch to renewable sources of energy.
Forum on Wages and Working People Highlights - VIDEO
Presidential candidates Elizabeth Warren, Beto O'Rourke, Kamala Harris, Amy Klobuchar, Julian Castro, and John Hickenlooper speak in Las Vegas, Nevada.
Nevada Politics Today Valerie Weber - VIDEO
Valerie Weber sits down with Victor Joecks to discuss her policies and why she is running for Ward 2 of the Las Vegas City Council.
Cory Booker speaks at UNLV
US Senator Cory Booker speaks at UNLV during a Young Democrats meet and greet on Thursday, April 18, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
May-Brown describes why some with disabilities need the subminimum wage - VIDEO
Eliminating the subminimum wage will end training and work opportunities for some members of the disabled community. Instead of doing something productive, they would be relegated to adult day care. That’s according to Tracy May-Brown, Opportunity Village’s director of advocacy, board and government relations.
Commission’s decision will delay Red Rock Canyon development
The Clark County Commission Wednesday rejected a developer’s request to approve a preliminary plan for 3,000 homes overlooking Red Rock Canyon before a federal agency grants permission for a roadway leading to the site.
Clark County commissioner calls on landlords to bring properties up to code
Clark County Commissioner Tick Segerblom has called on landlords in older parts of the valley to bring their properties up to code and keep them well-maintained or face the prospect of inspections, fines and citations. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Harry Reid speaks out against anti-Semitism
Unnerved by the rise in anti-Semitic hate speech and the general pervasiveness of bigotry, including in Nevada, former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid organized an educational forum at UNLV on Thursday as part of his call to unite people against it. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
President Trump speaks to the Republican Jewish Coalition in Las Vegas
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and updated on Israeli relations. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Trump says border wall will have 'hundreds of miles' built by end of next year
President Donald Trump spoke at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting in Las Vegas and discussed the progress of the border wall and the current relations there. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Protesters disrupt Trump's speech
Just as President Donald Trump started to make his opening remarks during his appearance at the Republican Jewish Coalition’s National Leadership Meeting, protesters disrupted his speech. (Heidi Fang/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Roerink On The Problems With Taking Water From Eastern Nevada - Video
The Southern Nevada Water Authority wants to take billions of gallons of water that doesn’t exist from Eastern Nevada via a pipeline that would cost ratepayers $15 billion. Doing so would devastate the wildlife and people who live there. That’s according to Kyle Roerink, executive director of the Great Basin Water Network, which opposes the pipeline.
Las Vegas Election Night Wrap-Up
The Review-Journal's Politics and Government Editor, Steve Sebelius, wraps up election night. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Olivia Diaz Speaks To Ward 3 Supporters After Primary Election - Video
Olivia Diaz speaks to her supporters at a election party after results started coming in for the Ward 3 primaries.
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (edited)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife, Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Oscar Goodman Speaks On Behalf Of Mayor At Primary Win (Full)
Oscar Goodman spoke Tuesday night on behalf of his wife Carolyn, who won the mayoral primary election. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Gun Debate Shows Limits Of Government - Video
On Monday, the Assembly and Senate Judiciary Committees held a joint hearing on Assembly Bill 291. It would ban bump stocks and allow local governments to pass additional restrictions on firearms.
Lucy Flores speaks out about Biden incident
Former Nevada assemblywoman, Lucy Flores, expresses her feelings about an incident with former Vice President Joe Biden in 2014. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @Vegas88s
Harry Reid takes the stand in injury lawsuit
Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid took the stand on Thursday in the product liability lawsuit brought against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Jurors hear opening statements in Reid personal injury trial
Opening statements were made on Tuesday in the product liability lawsuit brought by Harry Reid against against the makers of a resistance exercise band that Reid blames for blinding him in one eye.
Mayor Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels
Mayor Carolyn Goodman delivers Meals on Wheels to seniors on March 26, 2019.
Las Vegas City Council Ward 1 race
Candidates for Las Vegas City Council Ward 1. (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Beto O’Rourke campaigns in Las Vegas
Democratic presidential candidate and former Texas congressman Beto O'Rourke addresses attendees during a campaign stop at Arandas Taqueria in Las Vegas on Sunday, March 24, 2019. (Chase Stevens/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Beto O'Rourke House Party in Las Vegas
Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke delivered a message of unity inside a Las Vegas living room Saturday night, outlining a mission to bridge the divide in a polarized America and rally behind “big defining ambitions that we have in common.” (Shea Johnson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand talks at Atomic Liquors
Democrat presidential candidate Kirsten Gillibrand talks to her supporters at Atomic Liquors.
Presidential candidate Gillibrand meets with UNLV Immigration Clinic student attorneys
Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., meets with UNLV Immigration Clinic student attorneys at her first stop in Nevada as a candidate Thursday, March 21, 2019. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto promotes the Rebuild America’s Schools Act
U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, D-Nev., co-sponsor of the Rebuild America’s Schools Act, speaks at Hoggard Elementary School in Las Vegas to promote the bill that would provide $100 billion for infrastructure improvements at schools across the country. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
THE LATEST
Sisolak signs public records reform bill into law

Gov. Steve Sisolak signed a bill that strengthens Nevada’s public records law, making it easier and cheaper for people to get public records and providing for fines if public agencies willfully flout the law.

Nevada sees many new laws, but how will they affect you?

Hundreds of bills were passed by the 2019 Nevada Legislature: Here’s how many of those new laws will affect everyday people.