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Josh Hicks
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On November 1, I was happy to be Sam Shad's guest on Nevada Newsmakers to discuss the margin tax ballot petition. We ended up having a lively discussion. I represented a coalition that is seeking to invalidate the petition and the other guy represented the unions seeking a tax increase. As an added bonus, you can watch the other guy call me a "fancy talker." For context, the margin tax petition has been invalidated by a court twice now this year. You can watch it on the newsmakers website here: Continue reading
Posted Nov 2, 2012 at Of Note Nevada
Today, a District Court Judge invalidated the description of effect in the proposed ballot initiative to implement a new margin tax in Nevada. The Judge found four distinct ways in which the description of the initiative's effect was deceptive and misleading. I'm proud to represent the Committee for Nevada Jobs in its efforts to ensure that Nevadans are adequately informed of the impacts of this ballot petition. You can read a copy of the Judge's order here: Download CTPNJ Order 10-23-2012 Continue reading
Posted Oct 23, 2012 at Of Note Nevada
I had the opportunity today to co-host an interview with long-time Nevada gaming attorney and former Nevada Gaming Commissioner Paul Bible. Paul had some fascinating stories about the mob's influence on gaming and how gaming was cleaned up by dedicated regulators. You can access the video by clicking here. Continue reading
Posted Mar 27, 2012 at Of Note Nevada
Over the weekend, the Reno Gazette-Journal ran an editorial suggesting that it's time for Nevadans to consider a corporate "margins" tax. The Las Vegas Sun wrote that a coalition has formed to push for a margins tax via an initiative petition. Unsuccessful legislation to enact a margin tax was considered by the Nevada Legislature in the first half of 2011, and was modeled on a similar tax enacted in Texas in 2006. The Texas Constitution is similar to the Nevada Constitution in that both prohibit an income tax on individuals. Members of a limited partnership in Texas recently filed a... Continue reading
Posted Aug 11, 2011 at Of Note Nevada
In 2009, then Governor Gibbons was criticized for vetoing a record 48 bills (8 of those bills pertained to the budget), surpassing the prior record of 33 set in the 19th century. In 2011, Governor Sandoval vetoed 28 bills, putting him in third place for vetoes by a Nevada Governor. Much of the reason for the increase in vetoes can be traced to the fact that beginning in 2009 the Legislature was controlled by one party while the other party held the Governor's Office. That has only happened three times in the past 50 years (1967, 1979 and 1981). So,... Continue reading
Posted Jun 20, 2011 at Of Note Nevada
As the Governor and Nevada Legislature prepare to enact a budget for the next two years, speculation has been rampant that the state will look to local governments to make up a large part of the deficit. Local government revenues have historically (at least in the past few decades) been relatively stable, as they are premised in large part on property taxes. However, the ongoing recession has significantly impacted both commercial and residential property values, and although assessments traditionally lag behind market shifts, the decline in values is starting to show up. In Washoe County, taxable values dropped 8 percent.... Continue reading
Posted Jan 4, 2011 at Of Note Nevada
Some eyebrows recently raised in Nevada when the majority Democrat leadership changed the name of the former "Committee on Taxation" to the "Committee on Revenue." But, the fact that caucus leadership may change a committee name is nothing new. For example, in Colorado the GOP recently took control of the state House of Representatives. The change in control resulted in "energy" being dropped from the Transportation and Energy Committee, "labor" being dropped from the Business Affairs and Labor Committee, and "human services" being dropped from the Health and Human Services Committee. Colorado Democrats immediately began criticizing the name change on... Continue reading
Posted Nov 11, 2010 at Of Note Nevada
This fall Nevada voters will presented with a ballot question that would provide for the initial appointment of judges. Currently, judges are elected and consequently need to raise money to fund campaigns. The impact of campaign contributions on judicial impartiality, both real and perceived, is significant. The proposed reform would amend Nevada law to provide for the appointment of judges by the Governor from a list of candidates selected by the Judicial Selection Commission, followed by retention elections whereby the electorate can choose to retain or remove those judges. Currently, judges are appointed in Nevada only when there is a... Continue reading
Posted Sep 24, 2010 at Of Note Nevada
An earlier blog post discussed the impact of FEC v. Citizens United on political expenditures in Nevada. The Las Vegas Review Journal also ran an interesting piece on the same subject. In the latest developments, the FEC issued advisory opinions that effectively allow corporations and unions to make unlimited contributions to independent expenditure committees (although usual PAC disclosure rules remain in place). Although those committees are not affiliated with or allowed to coordinate with campaigns, the committees are free to make independent expenditures for or against candidates. These so-called "super" PACs will undoubtedly be a force in current and future... Continue reading
Posted Aug 3, 2010 at Of Note Nevada
With a projected shortfall for the upcoming biennium of somewhere around $3 billion, Nevada's budget is in serious trouble. However, the latest concept for federal bailout money is aimed at providing fiscal relief to beleaguered states, by way of payments Medicaid payments that are otherwise a serious drain on a state budget. Under the Recovery Act, Nevada received around $450 million to help with Medicaid payments. The current legislation proposes $16.1 billion nationwide. Although Nevada's ultimate share is unknown (and is of course dependent on the bill passing Congress in the first place), most will view any help as better... Continue reading
Posted Aug 2, 2010 at Of Note Nevada
With many voters holding unfavorable opinions of both Senator Harry Reid and his challenger, Sharron Angle, more voters than ever may be checking the box for "none of these candidates" in November. Interestingly, Nevada is the only state to give voters the option to vote for none of the above (although, voters everywhere can always refuse to cast a ballot at all in a particular race, a practice resulting in what is called an "undervote"). Nevada has allowed voters to select "none of these candidates" in all statewide races since 1975. There is no legal consequence if "none of these... Continue reading
Posted Jul 26, 2010 at Of Note Nevada
Earlier today, Governor Kenny Guinn passed away unexpectedly. Governor Guinn served from 1999-2006. I first met him as a low-level Deputy Attorney General, and spoke to him occasionally while working for his successor, Governor Jim Gibbons. Governor Guinn always went out of his way to offer a kind and supportive word. His dedication to Nevada resonated in everything he did. He was one of those rare leaders who could energize everyone he worked with. I'll never forget him telling me how proud I should be of my public service. Today is a sad day for Nevada, but the example Governor... Continue reading
Posted Jul 22, 2010 at Of Note Nevada
Throughout the past few years, tensions between the executive and legislative branches have been on the increase. The constitutionality of the Interim Finance Committee (IFC) has been questioned by the Governor. The IFC has been fiercely defended by the Legislature. Those rooting for a legal showdown earlier in the year were disappointed as the constitutional conflict took a back seat to a special session and the primary election. But now, the conflict is boiling up again and the dynamics between the executive and legislative branches have changed dramatically from just a few months ago. A Governor with nothing to lose... Continue reading
Posted Jun 24, 2010 at Of Note Nevada
Nevada is in the midst of one of the first high-profile election law cases since the United States Supreme Court decided Citizens United v. FEC. A Virginia corporation called Alliance for America's Future aired a pro-Brian Sandoval ad in Nevada. (There is nothing to suggest the group is affiliated with the Sandoval campaign). The Nevada Secretary of State filed suit and obtained a temporary restraining order. In Citizens United, an outright ban on corporate expenditures on political advocacy was overturned. However, the Court left reporting and disclosure requirements in place. In the Alliance matter, the Nevada Secretary of State alleges... Continue reading
Posted May 28, 2010 at Of Note Nevada
An interesting article appeared today in the Reno Gazette Journal regarding voter turnout. According to the article, in 2008 there was a 59.9% voter turnout in the general election, the 10th worst state turnout in the country. The 2008 primary turnout was even lower, with only 17.97% of registered voters casting a ballot. I don't know where that stands in terms of state rankings, but it sounds dismal. In 2010, the results of several primary races will almost certainly decide the results of the general election. In the Governor's race for example, polling shows Rory Reid defeating Jim Gibbons in... Continue reading
Posted May 13, 2010 at Of Note Nevada
Earlier today Nevada Newsmakers hosted a raucous and informative debate with the Republican candidates for state Senate District 4. The seat, located in a heavily Republican district, is open as the incumbent Senator Randolph Townsend is term-limited. You can watch the debate at It provides some good insights into the platforms and personalities of the various candidates. Continue reading
Posted Apr 20, 2010 at Of Note Nevada
As all remain hopeful that the recent special session will keep the state budget in the black through the biennium, the looming problem of a budget deficit that could reach $3 billion (around 50% of the general fund ) in the next biennium inches closer. Anjeanette Damon wrote a comprehensive overview of the situation here. The stimulus crutch will be gone, and most of the temporary tax increases from the 2009 session are set to expire. The fiscal problem facing the state is severe and the solutions that come out of the 2011 session will surely reverberate for years. Going... Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2010 at Of Note Nevada
You can follow this blog on twitter at I'll send out notifications on twitter whenever a new post is up. Continue reading
Posted Apr 12, 2010 at Of Note Nevada
The vigorous debate on the health care bill has largely focused on policy. Questions such as whether the bill will help or hurt and how expensive it will be for Americans are important and strong arguments have been made on both sides. But there is a deeper more fundamental question on the bill that has little to do with policy and more to do with the scope of Congressional authority. One aspect of the health care bill in particular brings this question to light. The bill includes a mandate, effective in 2014, that Americans obtain health insurance or face monetary... Continue reading
Posted Apr 2, 2010 at Of Note Nevada
With the passage of the health care bill, the Governor has renewed his call for the Attorney General to file suit to challenge the legality of the bill. Earlier in this blog, I wrote a post about what might happen if the Governor demanded the Attorney General file a lawsuit and the Attorney General refused. Now that the health care bill has been signed into law and other states have already filed legal challenges and the Nevada Attorney General has refused to comply with the Governor's request that Nevada join in the litigation, that question deserves further scrutiny. You can... Continue reading
Posted Mar 30, 2010 at Of Note Nevada
The Governor's callfor the recent special session asked that the Legislature consider extending the use tax to online vendors. The Legislature did not take action on this issue. Currently, online vendors without a nexus in Nevada are not required to remit sales or use taxes to Nevada and consequently the purchasers of goods from those vendors do not pay the tax either. The use tax in Nevada is commonly misunderstood in its application. The use tax is a compliment to the sales tax. The sales tax is due when tangible goods are sold in Nevada and is paid by the... Continue reading
Posted Mar 24, 2010 at Of Note Nevada
One instance of action and one of inaction at the recent special session may be grounds for another special session in 2010. At the session, the Governor and Legislature approved the transfer to the general fund of approximately $62 million from a fund designed to build a wastewater pipeline in Clark County in order to help with the budget crisis. Now, multiple groups who have either paid into that fund or oversee that fund have filed lawsuits against the state to prevent the transfer of those funds. Jon Ralston has copies of the lawsuits here. If those lawsuits are successful,... Continue reading
Posted Mar 18, 2010 at Of Note Nevada
The recent legislative special session resulted in some good news for Nevada taxpayers in the form of a tax amnesty program to be implemented this summer. Details are below: Nevada Taxpayers Receive Relief from Penalties and Interest on Outstanding Taxes On March 12, 2010, the Governor of Nevada signed Assembly Bill 6. One section of the bill enacts a new tax amnesty program in Nevada, allowing for the waiver of all penalties and interest on certain outstanding Nevada tax liabilities in exchange for full payment of the tax due. Applications for amnesty will be accepted from July 1, 2010 to... Continue reading
Posted Mar 15, 2010 at Of Note Nevada
Today the Governor vetoed Senate Bill 3 from the special session. SB 3 addressed employee furloughs and related subjects. One section of the bill required exemptions to the furlough program to be approved by the Interim Finance Committee (IFC). The veto message specifically cited to that section as part of the rationale for the veto, noting that the Legislature was giving "itself authority to administer and execute the law in violation of the separation of powers provision in the Nevada Constitution." This is not the first constitutional clash between the executive and legislative branches over the authority of the IFC.... Continue reading
Posted Mar 11, 2010 at Of Note Nevada
Yesterday I attended the annual Nevada Taxpayers Association luncheon in Las Vegas. The keynote speaker was renowned economic forecaster Dr. John Silva of Wells Fargo. Other panelists included Jeremy Aguerro from Applied Analysis, Bill Anderson from the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation, Kevin McCarthy of the Arizona Taxpayers Association, David Kline of the California Taxpayers Association and Dale Craymer of the Texas Taxpayers and Research Association. Dr. Silva pained a fairly optimistic economic picture for Nevada, opining that while Nevada remains in a recession and will likely be in one for at least another year, signs of recovery... Continue reading
Posted Mar 3, 2010 at Of Note Nevada