by Thomas Mitchell
“We’ve got legal opinion from LCB (Legislative Counsel Bureau) that, you know, a simple majority is what’s needed,” Gov. State Sisolak was quoted as saying Tuesday. “I’ve been in government for 20 some-odd years, and if you don’t trust your attorneys, you’ve got a problem. So I’m confident that the attorneys gave us a good opinion. We’ll move forward from there.”
Be prepared to move back, governor, by nearly $100 million in your budget for the next two years — the budget that promises 5 percent raises for teachers.
Republicans have promised a legal challenge if the business tax was extended without a two-thirds majority of both houses as prescribed by the Constitution. The tax extension passed the Senate on a party line vote of 13-8, one vote shy of two-thirds.
Voters in 1994 and 1996 amended the Nevada Constitution to state “an affirmative vote of not fewer than two-thirds of the members elected to each House is necessary to pass a bill or joint resolution which creates, generates, or increases any public revenue in any form, including but not limited to taxes, fees, assessments and rates, or changes in the computation bases for taxes, fees, assessments and rates.”
The modified business tax passed in 2015 by a two-thirds vote of lawmakers contained specific language saying the rates would be reduced in 2019 if tax revenues exceeded a certain level, which they have.
But the compliant LCB told the majority Democratic lawmakers and the Democratic governor, “It is the opinion of this office that Nevada’s two-thirds majority requirement does not apply to a bill which extends until a later date or revises or eliminates a future decrease in or future expiration of existing state taxes when that future decrease or expiration is not legally operative and binding yet, because such a bill does not change but maintains the existing computation bases currently in effect for the existing state taxes.”
The bill clearly “generates” revenue that two-thirds of the lawmakers in 2015 said would decrease as of July 1, 2019.
The state Constitution is not something to tamper with. Republicans should take it to court and make the Democrats abide by the rules, even if it means a special session would have to called. In fact, the GOP lawmakers should go directly to the state Supreme Court for an opinion that would binding, unlike the LCB opinion “that future decrease or expiration is not legally operative and binding yet …”
Asked nearly the same question in 2011, 2013 and 2015, the LCB said a two-thirds vote was necessary. So, governor, when do you trust your attorneys?
Source: See you in court, governor
Ellen M. Gilmer, E&E News reporter
There, government lawyers urged the U.S. Court of Federal Claims to toss a lawsuit from Nevada landowners who say a federal restoration project stole their water and flooded their land.
At issue is Patch of Heaven, a Christian camp on private land nestled within the Ash Meadows National Wildlife Refuge.
The Nevada church Ministerio Roca Solida bought the 40-acre site in 2006 for $500,000. At the time, a stream called the Carson Slough flowed across the property, feeding plants and a small pond and sometimes serving as a site for baptisms.
In 2010, the Fish and Wildlife Service, which manages all of the surrounding land, rerouted the channel in a restoration project to help the Ash Meadows speckled dace, an endangered fish that lives in the area’s warm springs.
Annette and Victor Fuentes, who own Ministerio Roca Solida, say the government owes them compensation for eliminating the stream from their property — except for a trickle of water the site claimed through a state permit — and rerouting it in a way that causes repeated flooding on another part of the parcel.
The couple teamed up with the conservative Mountain States Legal Foundation and attracted the support of Westerners opposed to federal land management, including the Bundy ranching family infamous for its conflicts with government agencies.
Speaking at a boisterous rally at Patch of Heaven last year, Ryan Bundy offered to demolish the FWS project himself (Greenwire, April 23, 2018).
The mood was decidedly tamer during yesterday’s hearing, where just five spectators — including one reporter and one court employee — listened to more than two hours of technical arguments involving property rights, water law and hydrology.
Judge Elaine Kaplan must decide whether to grant the government’s motion for summary judgment rather than allowing the case to proceed to trial.
The church’s claims are twofold: that the government’s elimination of streamflow on the land without payment amounted to an unconstitutional taking of vested water rights, and that the diversion project’s contribution to flooding was also a taking.
Justice Department lawyers yesterday disputed both claims. The government contends the landowners are not entitled to the water rights they claim, and, in any case, that issue should be adjudicated by the state of Nevada, not the Federal Claims court.
The two lawyers from DOJ’s Environment and Natural Resources Division also attempted to poke holes in the Fuenteses’ flooding claims, dismissing the plaintiffs’ expert testimony as unsubstantiated and noting that the broader area is prone to flooding.
“Plaintiffs would like this court to believe … that there was never flooding on that part of the property,” DOJ attorney Davené Walker said, adding that the area is part of a flood zone and has a well-documented history of such events.
Walker explained that to win a takings claim against the government for flooding, the plaintiff must show that FWS caused the flooding and intended or expected it to happen. Ministerio Roca Solida has offered no evidence to support either prong, she said.
Mountain States Legal Foundation lawyer Zhonette Brown, in turn, questioned the evidence presented by the government.
Kaplan, an Obama appointee, agreed with the government that Ministerio Roca Solida’s expert testimony appeared “a little thin,” but she questioned whether it would be appropriate to resolve the case in favor of the United States at this stage, without allowing the church to make its case at trial.
She also empathized with the Fuenteses on their loss of the stream, regardless of whether FWS’s project was lawful.
“I won’t say the word ‘screwed,'” she said of the landowners, eventually landing on the word “injured.”
The judge added that she’s never heard a water rights case or a flooding case before and will need some time to consider the competing evidence.
“Your Honor’s more than welcome to come out to the property,” Brown said, “so you can make your own conclusion.”
Editors Comment: Identity Politics? Because of a group of people being involved or participating in an event does not make the event about that group.
This article misrepresents many constitutionalist and every day, people as members of a Sovereign Movement. The particular type of activities that this bill is trying to make criminal are related to the Common Law movement and involves self-proclaimed Common Law Grand Jurys and Judges. It also addresses documents created and used from or by these entities.
Most self-identifying Sovereign Citizens, are not about creating, filing or using common law legal documents as if they are real. They are about just being a free person and believing that the Federal Government has abandoned the constitution and its original intent.
Because many people who also have similar feelings that do not self proclaim this and comply with laws and government regulations are being identified as something they are not.
Identity Politics are the new civil rights issue of this century. It promotes prejudice and discrimination by grouping people as if they are members of Identity-based groups that they are not, based only on the fact that they have participated in political or social events where there were people that are also participating.
This is and will continue to be the number one cause of division and decent in the next decade unless we as a society can stand up unnormalize this attitude and behavior.
It is my personal belief that the issue of the creation and use of documents as if they mean the same thing as one produced and filed via a legally recognized court of law is wrong and should have legal consequences for those trying to use them.
I believe that if we are to restore our constitution to our republic we must do it within the system that is currently in place. It will be hard but it can be done with appropriate persistence.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at email@example.com or 775-461-3820. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.
CARSON CITY — The loosely affiliated anti-government extremists known commonly as sovereign citizens are the “largest terroristic threat” facing Nevada, according to Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford.
From the Bundy standoff to a plot to kidnap and execute a police officer, law enforcement in Southern Nevada is no stranger to dealing with those who follow the sovereign citizens’ ideology: They don’t believe in federal or state laws, paying taxes, often espouse hatred of police and elected officials — all factors that have led the FBI to deem those in the movement domestic terrorists.
In Clark County alone, there are roughly 500 people who the Metropolitan Police Department says are affiliated with the movement, Detective Ken Mead said Thursday while presenting a bill under consideration by the Legislature that would give law enforcement more tools to prosecute sovereign citizens.
And interactions between police and those within the movement are becoming increasingly contentious, Mead said.
“I can confidently say that we have seen an increase in this in the last eight years with their level of activity, their level of aggressiveness,” said Mead, who has spent the last eight years working on domestic terrorism matters for the department while assigned to the Southern Nevada Counter Terrorism Center.
Mead has seen those increases from both a professional level and a personal one.
During an investigation into a scam targeting the elderly in Nevada, Mead became the target himself of a common tactic used by sovereign citizens. They began filing fake court documents in the case from a nonexistent court, claiming that the police officers who made the arrest were in contempt of the court they created, and ordered them to pay $500.
Those filings got more threatening over time. The $500 demand became $1,000. The group started issuing fake indictments and arrest warrants against the officers and prosecutors in the case. Eventually those documents claimed that Mead and his peers were engaged in treasonous activity and “the penalty for treason was death,” Mead said.
The documents could seem real to the untrained eye, Mead said, with official-looking stamps and raised seals.
Then those documents started showing up at his house, and he soon realized that those same people were watching his home, which caused him to have to take “alternative measures” to protect himself and his family, Mead said.AB15_R1
The seriousness of the threat posed by sovereign citizens came to Ford’s attention last spring while attending a law enforcement summit in Mesquite hosted by then-Attorney General Adam Laxalt. It was there that Ford was told by local and federal law enforcement that “the largest terroristic threat here in our state is sovereign citizens.”
AB15 goes after one of sovereign citizens’ key tactics by making it illegal to create fake judgments, summons, complaints or most other court documents. Under the proposal, doing so would be a class D felony, punishable by up to four years in prison.
The Senate committee took no action on the bill Thursday. It was previously approved by the full Assembly on a 36-4 vote, with four rural Republican assemblymen voting against it.
Legal complaint: lobbyist submitted false testimony to aid in bill’s passage
The Legislature cannot effectively serve the public if policy is being shaped based on outright falsehoods and misinformation, which is why it is illegal to knowingly submit false testimony before a legislative committee.
Nevada Policy has alerted Legislative Counsel Bureau Director Rick Combs and the attorney general’s office to what appears to be a clear violation of NRS 218E.085(2) — the state law that makes it a crime to knowingly misrepresent any fact when testifying before a legislative committee.
The false statements were made by lobbyist Marlene Lockard during the March 1, 2019 Senate Government Affairs Committee hearing on SB224 — the PERS secrecy bill.
Ms. Lockard appeared on behalf of the Retired Public Employees of Nevada (RPEN), and was featured as part of Senator Julia Ratti’s formal presentation for Senate Bill 224.
As part of this formal presentation, Ms. Lockard relied almost entirely on known falsehoods when explaining why the secrecy proposed by SB224 is ostensibly necessary.
Specifically, Lockard told the committee that passing SB224 was necessary because of a recent court order that allegedly requires PERS to disclose its members’ passports, addresses of ex-spouses, birth certificates and other similarly invasive information. In reality, no such court order exists and none of that information is, nor has it ever been, public under Nevada law.
Given the status bestowed upon her by Senator Ratti, Ms. Lockard’s demonstrably false comments were accorded extra weight. Indeed, the first time a member of the committee had a question about SB224, that question was posed to, and answered by, Ms. Lockard rather than the bill’s sponsor, Senator Ratti.
More information about that hearing can be found here.
Because the knowingly false statements were made specifically to justify the secrecy proposed by SB224, and were made by a paid lobbyist invited by the bill’s sponsor to help present the bill, they represent precisely the type of deception NRS 218E.085(2) was designed to prevent, according to NPRI Policy Director Robert Fellner.
“It is fine to have different policy views and argue those differences vigorously,” Fellner said. “But I think we all would agree that enacting law based on falsehoods and misinformation is wrong, and erodes confidence in our public institutions.”
“It is hard enough for ordinary Nevadans to be engaged with the legislative process thanks to the proliferation of tax-funded government lobbyists and other special-interest groups,” Fellner continued. “Requiring that citizens fact-check all of the claims made by those who help introduce bills is an impossible task, which is precisely why Nevada state law prohibits the making of knowingly false testimony before the Legislature.”
“NPRI has long fought for transparency in government,” Fellner added. “Nowhere is transparency more important than in the legislative process. We hope that legislators remember their duty to serve the public and ensure any bills brought on behalf of lobbyists are done so in an open and honest manner.”
A copy of the complaint can be viewed by clicking here.