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Sisolak signs bills on mining tax, voting reform

Updated June 2, 2021 - 6:29 pm

CARSON CITY — Gov. Steve Sisolak on Wednesday signed into law two of the year’s major legislative initiatives, a new mining tax to benefit education and a wide-ranging bill on voting reforms.

Enacting the voting reform bill also aims to ensure the timely withdrawal of two pending ballot initiatives on raising sales tax and gaming license fees that, like the mining tax, would send more money to education.

The tax measure, Assembly Bill 495, was the signature effort of the session that concluded Monday, designed to send hundreds of millions of dollars directly to education. After nearly four months of session, the bill emerged just before the final week with support from key stakeholders, including the mining industry. It creates a new tiered tax structure specific to larger gold and silver mining companies and redirects the state’s existing share of mining tax revenue into school funds.

“This investment will benefit every student, educator and family in Nevada and I am so proud of the collaborative effort undertaken by stakeholders to bring this legislation over the finish line,” Sisolak said in a statement announcing the bill signing.

The voting reform bill, Assembly Bill 321, makes Nevada the sixth state to enact a permanent vote-by-mail system, among other reforms aimed to expand ballot access. Emergency mail-in balloting was enacted last summer at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The bill requires local elections officials to send a ballot to active registered voters for every primary and general election.

In statements, both the governor and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, D-Las Vegas, the prime legislative sponsor of the voting bill, noted Nevada’s move toward expanding ballot access at a time when Republican-controlled states are enacting measures in the other direction.

“As John Lewis said, voting is the most powerful non-violent tool we have in a democracy,” Frierson said, invoking the civil rights leader and longtime Georgia congressman who died in July. Nevada, he said, “shines as a leader in protecting this fundamental sacred right.”

An amendment to the bill, added on the last day of session Monday, also clarifies that initiative petitions that qualify to be placed on the ballot may be withdrawn up to 90 days before the election.

The language was aimed at ensuring that two initiatives for raising sales taxes and gaming licensing fees will come off the ballot in 2022. The initiatives, backed by the Clark County Education Association, were intended to boost education funding, as the new mining tax does.

The two bills were among nearly 60 the governor signed Wednesday.

Contact Capital Bureau reporter Bill Dentzer at bdentzer@reviewjournal.com. Follow @DentzerNews on Twitter.

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