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Democratic lieutenant governor candidate Flores opposes proposed margins tax

Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, a Las Vegas Democrat running for lieutenant governor, finally said flat out that she opposes a proposed 2 percent margins tax on business because “it can have negative effects on our jobs.”

She said it last week during a Spanish-language interview with Mundo Fox TV, so it didn’t grab any headlines and escaped the attention of a large segment of the Nevada electorate outside of the Hispanic community.

Flores was blunt in her opposition.

“Unfortunately, that plan fails in many places and that is not a plan I can support,” she said, according to a translation.

It’s a position that many top Democrats have been avoiding this election year out of fear they will upset the teachers union, which is backing the measure that will appear as the “Education Initiative,” or Question 3, on the Nov. 4 ballot.

Revenue raised by the proposed tax, as much as $650 million to $750 million a year, would be dedicated toward education funding.

For months, Flores has made it clear she had trouble with the proposed tax, calling it “flawed” and repeating, “It’s not a solution that I favor.” But she seemed to avoid coming right out and saying whether she would support or oppose it.

During the interview with Noticias Mundo Fox, Flores said she sees a need to boost education spending, but the proposed margins tax is not the way to do it.

“Unfortunately, there’s an opportunity that it can have negative effects on our jobs and in our status that we have right now — very fragile — with the economy,” Flores said, according to a translation. “But we need to recognize the reason why this (initiative) is here. And that’s because we have a problem with funds in Nevada and funds that we need for education.”

The proposed margins tax would impose a 2 percent levy on businesses making more than $1 million in annual revenue, whether or not the company is profitable. That means businesses losing money could go out of business or stop hiring, say mostly Republican critics of the ballot measure.

GOP Gov. Brian Sandoval has said the tax would be “the fatal blow” to many businesses and halt Nevada’s economic recovery.

Proponents, however, argue that 87 percent of Nevada businesses wouldn’t be subject to the margins tax.

In the Mundo Fox interview, Flores was asked what plan she would support to better fund education.

She said she favored broad tax reform such as a proposal put forward by Democrats during the 2011 Nevada Legislature. That proposal went nowhere, partly because it was introduced so late — on day 88 of the 120-day biennial session.

According to reports at the time, Nevadans would pay more for everything from plumbing to car repairs, from legal services to yard upkeep to raise money for schools and social services under the $1.5 billion plan. The proposal included a new tax on services and another on business revenue.

“Our tax structure does not work,” Flores told Mundo Fox. “It has not changed in 40 years. … At the end of the day, we need more funds for the education of our children.”

Noticias Mundo Fox Las Vegas can been seen on Direct TV, Channel 34; on Dish and Prism, Channel 32; and on Cox, Channel 120; at 5 and 10 p.m. each day.

Flores faces weak opposition in the June 10 Democratic primary. She probably will face the winner of a competitive GOP primary with state Sen. Mark Hutchison, R-Las Vegas, and former state Sen. Sue Lowden competing for the nomination. Both Republican candidates oppose the proposed margins tax.

Normally, the lieutenant governor’s race gets little attention. But the job is coveted this year because of speculation Sandoval might not serve his full four-year term if re-elected as expected on Nov. 4. If he leaves early — to run against U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nev., or to take another post — the lieutenant governor would get his job.

— Laura Myers

FOSSIL MONUMENT bill might grow

A stalled bill in Congress to create a public land monument in Clark County while reconfiguring other government parcels in the Las Vegas Valley might start moving again. What’s more, an influential House chairman says he would be open to expanding it.

Rep. Rob Bishop, R-Utah, said he has asked his staff to redraft portions of a bill creating the Tule Springs Fossil Beds National Monument. He said he was hopeful that rewording will fix a flaw that caused the bill to be shelved in February.

The bill was withdrawn by Rep. Steven Horsford, D-Nev., after Bishop, chairman of the subcommittee on public lands and environmental regulation, said that a 660-acre land conveyance to Las Vegas and a 645-acre transfer to North Las Vegas in the bill could be considered “earmarks” banned under House rules.

“That’s something I want to push when I get back” to the Capitol from Easter recess, Bishop said in an interview Thursday. Lawmakers return this week.

In March, Bishop hiked through Tule Springs, where conservationists and Southern Nevada leaders want to set aside 22,650 acres prized for a wealth of fossils valued by scientists for study and by business interests as a lure for tourists. He was guided by Horsford, North Las Vegas Mayor John Lee, former congressman-turned-lobbyist Jon Porter, and Kristin McMillan, president of the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce.

Bishop said he came away from the visit thinking the Nevadans may have undersold themselves. He said he would be open to shifting even more federal property into local hands.

“You have a whole lot of BLM land within the city boundaries of North Las Vegas,” he said. “That’s ridiculous. There’s no reason the BLM should have property within an urban setting.”

Bishop said work on the bill became more complicated when Horsford departed the Natural Resources Committee last month for the Financial Services Committee, “so we don’t have the direct contact that would have been there. But I still made a commitment. I want to move it forward and get it done as soon as we possibly can.”

— Steve Tetreault

DOCTOR CHAMPIONS MEDICAL POT

The only real surprise to come out of the city of Las Vegas’s third public medical marijuana meeting occurred when a prominent local doctor stood up and came out in favor of medical marijuana.

Dr. Florence Jameson, who has practiced in Las Vegas for 29 years, admitted that like other doctors, she had some concerns about losing her license for publicly taking the stance she did.

“My passion is health care and making sure people have access to quality health care that’s affordable,” she said at Tuesday’s evening meeting, which drew the smallest crowd of the three.

The former president of the Clark County Medical Society and Nevada State Medical Association, Jameson founded the Volunteers in Medicine in Southern Nevada, a nonprofit that provides free medical care. She and her husband, Gard, are active in Las Vegas’ philanthropic community.

She shared the personal story that her teenage daughter has a medical condition that caused her severe pain. “It was controlled by opiates, but without access to medical marijuana, she’d be addicted to opiates. Medical marijuana, I am convinced, saved her life in many ways.”

Las Vegas Councilman Bob Coffin, the council’s most vocal proponent of medical marijuana, attended the meeting and said it was “earth-shattering to see Dr. Jameson come here.”

“What can we do to get other members of the medical community to come forward?” Coffin asked.

Doctors, like lawyers, are afraid of losing their medical licenses, said the gynecologist and obstetrician, who delivered two of Coffin’s children.

She predicted more doctors may come forward as individuals but doubted that the medical organizations will take a position.

“This is a wonderful medicine,” Jameson said.

Like many other speaking, including many who have spoken at all three meetings, the doctor said “having good regulation is important, but you don’t want to be too strict.”

The city is trailing Clark County in writing zoning and licensing regulations for medical marijuana establishments and many people advised city officials against over-regulation.

Coffin believes the current regulations will be changed before they are adopted.

The city has hired the Otten Johnson law firm in Denver as a consultant for drafting ordinances and working on the regulatory framework. The contract is limited to $45,000.

The firm has worked on medical marijuana issues in Denver and brings an expertise about the subject, said city spokesman Jace Radke.

The Nevada Supreme Court will hear a petition from the State Bar of Nevada on May 6 to decide whether to include language that would protect Nevada attorneys from being disciplined if they advised clients about medical marijuana operations.

The Denver law firm will not participate in that case, but the City Council’s position will be presented by City Attorney Brad Jerbic.

The city has created a website to provide information on its regulations. That site is lasvegasnevada.gov/medicalmarijuana.

— Jane Ann Morrison

Contact Laura Myers at lmyers@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-2919. Follow @lmyerslvrj on Twitter. Contact Steve Tetreault at stetreault@stephensmedia.com or 202-783-1760. Follow @STetreaultDC on Twitter. Contact Jane Ann Morrison at jmorrison@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0275.

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