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Lawmakers introduce flurry of bills

CARSON CITY — Assemblywoman Peggy Pierce introduced bills Monday to levy a 5 percent tax on services, a
4.5 percent tax on business income and to more than double the 80-cent per pack cigarette tax.

Pierce, D-Las Vegas, also introduced bills designed to raise taxes on mining and alcoholic beverages on a day when the Senate and Assembly rolled out 231 bills and worked into the evening to beat a deadline. Monday was the final day individual legislators could introduce bills.

Because of the rush of introductions, 383 Senate bills and 449 Assembly bills are now under consideration. The bills must pass out of a committee by
April 15, or they are dead for the remainder of the session. Legislative leaders do have the power to revive them.

Perhaps the most controversial bill was SB355 from Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, that would, in certain situations, prohibit police officers from inquiring about the immigration status of people. Denis said he has heard reports of officers who stop people who look Mexican or Hispanic.

“They are asking for Social Security cards and other documentation,” Denis said. “I’m saying police officers are not immigration officers.”

But Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, moments later introduced Senate Bill 380, which would do the exact opposite of what Denis wants. Gustavson’s bill is similar to Arizona’s SB1070, which requires police to look further into the immigration status of people they stop.

Unlike many legislators, Pierce has never hesitated in saying taxes must be raised this session, and she followed through on her pledges to draft tax bills.

She said she is not sure yet how much revenue her bills would produce, but it should be more than enough to cover what some Democrats contend is a
$2.5 billion shortfall.

“Tiny government and low taxes have failed,” said Pierce, who would not speculate on what chance her bills have to pass. “It is a long way to the end. I have a lot of talking to do.”

She added that her bill to levy a tax on business income more than $500,000 is nothing more than what has been recommended in state tax studies for more than 20 years. The tax could generate $500 million a year, she said.

But Gov. Brian Sandoval has vowed to veto any tax increases, and Republican lawmakers have pledged not to increase taxes. It takes a two-thirds majority to pass taxes and override a governor’s veto, and Democrats are several votes short of that.

Assembly Minority Leader Pete Goicoechea, R-Eureka, said that his caucus of 16 Republicans won’t support Pierce’s bill and that he considers them dead on arrival.

Sure to prompt much discussion is Pierce’s AB335 to levy a 5 percent tax on billboards, radio and TV advertising, barber and beauty shops, health club memberships, dry cleaning businesses, swimming pool maintenance, telemarketing, pet grooming, storage unit rentals and other services.

Pierce said the service tax rate is “moveable.” She wants to increase the cigarette tax to $1.70 a pack, a rate that matches Utah’s and is more than double the current 80 cents.

Another of her bills would increase the tax on beer, now 16 cents a gallon, to 25 cents. Taxes on wine and hard liquor would be raised by more than 25 percent.

A bill by Assemblyman John Hambrick, R-Las Vegas, would require voters to show a picture identification before voting.

Not to be outdone, Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, and Assemblyman Ira Hansen, R-Sparks, introduced similar bills a few hours later.

One of the more unusual bills, AB379, was introduced by Assemblyman Scott Hammond, R-Las Vegas. Sen. Elizabeth Halseth, R-Las Vegas, introduced the same bill in the Senate. The proposal calls for as much as six months in jail for the crime of “stolen valor,” in which people falsely report they have received awards for military service.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901. Contact reporter Benjamin Spillman at bspillman@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3861.

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