Breaking down the gobbledygook for Nevada ballot measures

Six initiatives are on the Nov. 6 ballot. Here is a breakdown of each measure:

Question 1

Marsy’s Law

■ The ballot language: Shall the Nevada Constitution be amended to remove existing provisions that require the Legislature to provide certain statutory rights for crime victims; and adopt certain constitutional rights that crime victims may assert throughout the criminal or juvenile justice process?

■ Which means: Voting yes on Question 1 would expand crime victims’ rights and enshrine them in the state constitution. The measure focuses on 16 rights, including the right to privacy, notification of all public hearings, the right to full and timely restitution and the right to refuse an interview or deposition request unless under court order.

It expands the definition of a victim to any person “directly and proximately harmed” by the crime and requires money to pay restitution to go to the victim before it’s applied to any fines, fees, assessments or forfeitures.

Voting no would keep in place the laws already in effect to protect the rights and privacy of crime victims.

■ How it got on the ballot: Marsy’s Law was approved by the Nevada Legislature in 2015 and 2017 as a Senate Joint Resolution, but as a constitutional amendment, it also requires voter approval.

■ What happens if it passes: Becomes law.

■ Who’s for, who’s against: California billionaire Henry T. Nichols has spent $645,000 since December pushing for the law, which he has helped get passed in 23 states. Supporters say, “Question 1 provides much-needed balance at all stages of the justice system — including pretrial, trial, sentencing, probation, parole and postrelease.”

Officials who support the measure include Clark County District Attorney Steve Wolfson, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo, Nevada Gov. Brian Sandoval and Nevada Sens. Dean Heller and Catherine Cortez Masto. Many municipal governments in Nevada, including leaders in Boulder City and Henderson, also support the law.

Marsy’s Law is opposed by the American Civil Liberties Union, public defenders and the Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice. In the state election guide to ballot measures, opponents say, “Question 1 is a solution in search of a problem that does not exist” because victims already have rights.

Opponents also have pointed to how the law has worked in other states, saying the ambiguous language limits government transparency, creates a burden on law enforcement and enables governments to skirt public records and open meeting laws. Marsy’s Law has faced legal challenges in places where it has been embedded in state constitutions, which opponents say means “Nevada can expect costly litigation challenging” Question 1.

— Ramona Giwargis Las Vegas Review-Journal

Question 2

Exemption of Feminine Hygiene Products from Sales Tax

■ The ballot language: Shall the Sales and Use Tax Act of 1955 be amended to provide an exemption from sales taxes on feminine hygiene products?

■ Which means: If the law passes, feminine hygiene products, such as tampons and sanitary napkins, would become exempt from the sales tax starting Jan. 1. The exemption would end Dec. 31, 2028. It is estimated that the state would lose between $900,000 and $1.3 million in sales tax revenue annually if Question 2 passes.

■ How it got on the ballot: A bill for the exemption was passed by the Legislature in 2017, but voters have the final say on any sales tax changes.

■ What happens if it passes: Becomes law.

■ Who’s for, who’s against: The bill passed with near unanimous support in the 63-member Legislature, with all but three Republican men in the Assembly voting in favor. Proponents of the law say feminine hygiene products are a basic necessity of life that women use starting around age 12 until their early 50s and that there is no equivalent product used only by one sex on a monthly basis for decades.

Assemblymen Jim Marchant and Richard McArthur, both Las Vegas Republicans, voted against the bill. Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, abstained. The Tax Foundation opposes sales tax exemptions in general because legislators might increase the overall sales tax rate to make up for taxing fewer items.

— Wade Tyler Millward Las Vegas Review-Journal

Question 3

The Energy Choice Initiative

■ The ballot language: Shall the Nevada Constitution be amended to require the Legislature to provide by law for the establishment of an open, competitive retail electric energy market that prohibits monopolies and exclusive franchises for the generation of electricity?

■ Which means: Most Nevadans get their electricity from a utility monopoly, and for much of the state that monopoly is NV Energy. Question 3 would amend the state constitution to require the state to shift away from the monopoly-based structure to an open and competitive power market where customers could choose their provider.

■ How it got on the ballot: Question 3 first appeared on the 2016 general election ballot through an initiative petition. It passed with 72 percent of the vote. Because Question 3 would amend the Nevada Constitution, voters must approve it again.

■ Who’s for, who’s against: Yes on 3 raised $19.4 million from Jan. 1 to May 31 of this year, with $10.9 million from tech giant Switch and $8.5 million from Las Vegas Sands Corp. Former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, the Nevada Resort Association, the Clark County Education Association, the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce and Walmart all support the measure.

“Monopolies have no incentive to lower prices, become more efficient, and offer more services. Under Question 3, energy markets will be opened like telecommunications, trucking, railroads, and natural gas,” argues the committee in favor of passage.

The No on 3 campaign raised $12.4 million from Jan. 1 to May 31 of this year, with all the money coming from NV Energy. The Professional Fire Fighters of Nevada, the Nevada State AFL-CIO, AARP Nevada, the Las Vegas Metro Chamber of Commerce and the Nevada State Education Association oppose the measure.

“Nevada’s energy is too important of a public resource to permit the unpredictable and uncontrollable cost increases that this market deregulation initiative would threaten,” opponents of the measure argue.

— Colton Lochhead Las Vegas Review-Journal

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Las Vegas Sands Corp. Chairman and CEO Sheldon Adelson.

Question 4

Medical Patient Tax Relief Act

■ The ballot language: Shall Article 10 of the Nevada Constitution be amended to require the Legislature to provide by law for the exemption of durable medical equipment, oxygen delivery equipment, and mobility enhancing equipment prescribed for use by a licensed health care provider from any tax upon the sale, storage, use, or consumption of tangible personal property?

■ Which means: If the measure passes, the Nevada Constitution would be amended so sales tax is not charged for prescribed medical devices, including oxygen delivery equipment and items such as wheelchairs. Because of questions about when the law would go into effect and what medical equipment would be covered, an analysis of the law’s financial effect on the state cannot be done “with any reasonable degree of certainty,” according to the state election guide to ballot measures.

■ How it got on the ballot: The initiative passed in 2016 with 72 percent of the vote after a similar Senate bill died in the Assembly in 2015 amid concerns over its financial impact. The current ballot initiative does not cover corrective eyeglasses, contact lenses or hearing aids, which were part of the failed Senate bill and accounted for much of the forecast tax revenue loss. Because it would change the constitution, it must be approved again.

■ What happens if it passes: Becomes law.

■ Who’s for, who’s against: The ballot initiative was filed by Douglas Bennett, owner of Bennett Medical Services, and supported by a political action committee he helped set up, the Alliance to Stop Taxes on the Sick and Dying. Bennett filed the initiative after the bill failed in the Legislature.

Proponents of the measure say that it should be passed to relieve the burden on severely disabled patients who pay thousands of dollars in sales tax on this equipment.

Nevada Controller Ron Knecht has said that, while the amendment’s goals are a good idea, he does not support putting the law into the the constitution. No organized group has come out against Question 4.

— Todd Prince Las Vegas Review-Journal

Question 5

The Automatic Voter Registration Initiative

■ The ballot language: Shall state law be amended to establish a system that will automatically register an eligible person to vote, or update that person’s existing Nevada voter registration information, when the person applies to the Nevada DMV for a new or updated driver’s license or identification card, unless the person declines it in writing?

■ Which means: People who make trips to the Department of Motor Vehicles can already register to vote there if they choose. Question 5 would change this opt-in system to opt-out — people automatically would be registered to vote when they receive certain DMV services unless they fill out a form saying they do not want to be registered.

■ How it got on the ballot: Question 5 started as a petition in 2016 and went before the Nevada Legislature in 2017. The bill passed along party lines in 2017 but was vetoed by Gov. Brian Sandoval, which kicked it to the 2018 ballot.

■ Who’s for, who’s against: A Washington-based political action committee, iVote, took on a project to support automatic voter registration nationwide, although Nevadans for Secure Elections is leading the charge in the Silver State. Automatic voter registration exists in 14 states and the District of Columbia.

The iVote PAC, whose advisers include former Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller, has donated $371,400 to the Nevada Election Administration Campaign. The American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada has given $1.15 million in support of the measure.

The committee supporting the measure says it “will modernize voter registration, clean the voter rolls, make it more convenient for eligible Nevadans to register, including military members, rural residents, and those who have recently moved.”

In his veto message, Sandoval said the measure “extinguishes a fundamental, individual choice — the right of eligible voters to decide for themselves whether they desire to apply to register to vote — forfeiting this basic decision to state government.”

The committee that wrote the opposition to passage for the state guide to ballot questions says it would cost an estimated $221,000 to implement the system and that there is no evidence it would increase voter turnout.

— Richard N. Velotta Las Vegas Review-Journal

Question 6

The Renewable Energy Promotion Initiative

■ The ballot language: Shall the Nevada Constitution be amended to require, beginning in calendar year 2022, that all providers of electric utility services in Nevada acquire incrementally larger percentages of electricity from renewable energy resources so that by calendar year 2030 not less than 50 percent of the total amount of electricity sold by each provider to its retail customers in Nevada comes from renewable energy resources?

■ Which means: The initiative would require all electricity providers in Nevada to get at least 50 percent of their energy from renewable sources by 2030. The benchmark would be at least 26 percent beginning in 2022 and would increase gradually until 2030. Current law dictates that Nevada must get at least 25 percent of its energy from renewable sources by 2025.

■ How it got on the ballot: Initiative petition.

■ What happens if it passes: Goes on the general election ballot in 2020 and must pass again to become law.

■ Who’s for, who’s against: Nevadans for a Clean Energy Future collected the signatures to get Question 6 on the ballot and has led the campaign to pass it.

More than $2 million has been donated to the Nevadans for a Clean Energy Future coalition, all from NextGen Climate Action, according to reports filed with the Nevada secretary of state’s office. The super PAC operates under environmental advocacy organization NextGen America, which was founded by San Francisco billionaire Tom Steyer.

“When you look at the number of people who are committed to this … it speaks to what we’re pushing for,” said Kyle Roerink, communications director for Nevadans for a Clean Energy Future. “Prices of renewables have fallen so rapidly, you can’t deny the benefits.”

There is no formal opposition campaign, but the argument against passage calls it “unnecessary and risky” to embed the measure in the state constitution. Michael Schaus, communications director at the Nevada Policy Research Institute, said people will move to renewable sources if the price is right.

“Innovations are happening in renewable energy, and if that continues to happen, people will move to renewables organically,” he said. “If you start to force people to move, you’ll start to see prices climb.”

— Bailey Schulz Las Vegas Review-Journal

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