June 17, 2021 - 9:00 pm
An illegal money grab by Nevada’s legislative Democrats keeps getting more expensive — and taxpayers can blame Nicole Cannizzaro and Jason Frierson. Their arrogance will now cost the state (read: taxpayers) another $8 million. This fiasco provides a case study in how power can intoxicate elected officials into ignoring the checks and balances crucial to a democratic republic.
Ms. Cannizzaro, a Las Vegas Democrat, serves as majority leader of the state Senate. Mr. Frierson, D-Las Vegas, sits as speaker of the Assembly. In 2019, they willfully ignored a state constitutional mandate — twice approved by voters — that bills which raise revenue “in any form” be approved by a two-thirds vote in each house of the Legislature. Rather than negotiate with GOP lawmakers to reach the required threshold, they sanctioned the approval of two revenue-enhancing measures — one to extend a DMV technology fee that was due to expire, the other to negate a scheduled reduction in the payroll tax — by a simple majority vote with no Republican support.
The Democratic leaders argued that the two bills didn’t actually raise taxes but only extended existing levies. The Legislative Counsel Bureau — which provides legal advice to lawmakers — went along for the ride and produced a made-to-order opinion that offered cover for their specious reasoning. Never mind that the LCB in previous years had reached the opposite conclusion and that the point of passing the two tax extensions was to raise revenue.
But the scheme fell apart spectacularly in May when the Nevada Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the bills in question were unconstitutional because “the plain language of the super-majority provision” demanded they receive two-thirds support in the Legislature to become law.
Ms. Cannizzaro and Mr. Frierson responded with a statement exuding arrogance, actually blaming legislative Republicans for asking the courts to insist they follow the constitution. They shoud have shown a modicum of contrition for attempting to evade a duly enacted check on their authority. In essence, their regret was that they got caught.
Today, the Nevada DMV is figuring out how to rebate about $5.9 million in $1 transaction fees collected over the past 10 months from state residents and businesses. DMV officials estimate that it will cost $7.8 million in taxpayer money to return the cash — almost $2 million more than they took in.
In a just world, Ms. Cannizzaro and Mr. Frierson would be personally liable for this self-inflicted boondoggle. Instead, neither has accepted an iota of responsibility, and state taxpayers are now on the hook for the costs of returning money that was illegally taken from them in the first place.
How long will Nevada voters accept this as business as usual?