Updated September 7, 2023 - 7:22 pm
A group linked with the Nevada State Education Association has filed a referendum petition to repeal the public funding for the Oakland Athletics’ planned baseball stadium in Las Vegas.
The group plans to target specific parts of Senate Bill 1, the legislation that provides the A’s with $380 million in public funding toward their planned $1.5 billion Las Vegas ballpark, with the hope of stripping the public funding from the team, said Alexander Marks, spokesperson for Schools Over Stadiums.
Referring to Steve Hill, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority President and CEO, who assisted the A’s with multiple stadium presentations to the Legislature, Marks told the Review-Journal in an email, “Ideally, we would have included the tax credit in the referendum, but we had concerns about Steve Hill rushing into a development agreement that included those funds and then hiding behind the contract impairment language in the Constitution.
“The question isn’t settled but has some legal merit; pursuing that in court could be as risky as using public funds for a stadium. As such, our focus turned to Sections 29 and 30, which specifically include language reserving the state’s right to amend or repeal the state taxes and credit enhancement.”
To qualify for the ballot, the group must obtain the verified signatures of at least 10 percent of the number of registered voters who voted in the 2022 general election, according to the secretary of state’s initiative and referendum guide. That amounts to 102,362 signatures needed, or 25,591 signatures collected in each of the state’s four congressional districts.
The required number of signatures needed to feature the stadium funding initiative on the 2024 ballot must be collected by July 8.
The Athletics cleared one of the biggest hurdles in securing up to $380 million in public financing for the team’s planned Las Vegas $1.5 billion ballpark during a special session of the 82nd legislative session. Representatives of the A’s weren’t available Wednesday for comment on the filing.
‘Pursuing every possible path’
“Schools Over Stadiums has been committed to pursuing every possible path to stop the use of public funds to subsidize a billionaire’s stadium and that has always included putting the question to Nevada voters who were effectively shut out of the process,” Dawn Etcheverry, a music teacher and president of NSEA and Schools Over Stadiums, said in a statement. “Nevada’s priorities are misguided, and when we launched Schools Over Stadiums in June, our goal was to ensure that public funds go to the services Nevadans depend on like our public schools, not to a California billionaire for a stadium.”
Hill previously said in July that any push to upend the stadium’s public funding was likely too late. Hill noted the strength of the supermajority vote that occurred that led to the passing of SB 1. That comment was made in response to the NSEA announcing they planned to pursue a referendum petition.
If the teachers organization is successful in obtaining the needed signatures, the deal with the A’s probably will be finalized, well before November 2024’s election.
“But we will be done with our contract prior to that vote being taken,” Hill said during an LVCVA board meeting in July. “That contract would be in place based on the law (SB1) that is currently valid. … So if someone else looks to build a baseball park in the future, they may or may not be able to do that, but we have a law that allows us to go enter into a contract in order to do that, and that’s what we plan to do.”
The finalizing of the A’s contract includes getting development, nonrelocation and community benefit agreements in place between the team and the Las Vegas Stadium Authority, the body that will oversee the stadium’s construction and operation.
Before those discussions begin, the A’s must receive relocation approval by MLB team owners. That requires 75 percent of team owners voting in favor of the A’s move to Las Vegas. The A’s submitted their application last month to MLB’s relocation committee, but there is no timetable as to when a vote might occur.
Initiative to move forward
Schools Over Stadiums plans to continue its petition initiative even if those agreements are being worked on and potentially finalized.
“We’re excited to get out there and start gathering signatures from Nevadans who want to put our schools first,” Marks said. “We’re confident that a majority of Nevadans will join us in taking action to put Nevada’s priorities back in line so we can address an education system that ranks 48th in funding with the largest class sizes and highest vacancies in the country.”
Contact Mick Akers at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-387-2920. Follow @mickakers on X.