Twentieth Special Session, 2003
ASSEMBLY DAILY JOURNAL
THE SIXTH DAY
Carson City (Monday), June 30, 2003
Assembly called to order at 8:07 p.m.
Mr. Speaker presiding.
All present except Assemblyman Collins, who was excused.
Prayer by the Chaplain, Terry Sullivan.
Let us pray. Dear Lord, the cowboys always had a good saying when things got bad. You know, when the pickup wouldn’t start or the horse threw a shoe or just about anything that went wrong. They said, “well, we better cowboy up.” And with that they went on and did the best they could. So today, Lord, please bless us and help us to “cowboy up.”
Pledge of allegiance to the Flag.
Assemblyman Oceguera moved that further reading of the Journal be dispensed with, and the Speaker and Chief Clerk be authorized to make the necessary corrections and additions.
MOTIONS, RESOLUTIONS AND NOTICES
By Assemblymen Perkins:
Assembly Resolution No. 4—Acknowledging that the Nevada Legislature has the constitutional duty to provide for the support and maintenance of the schools in this state and determining the appropriate amount of the appropriations for their support and maintenance.
Whereas, The Supreme Court of the United States has stated that education “fulfills a most fundamental obligation of government to its constituency” and is “perhaps the most important function of state and local governments”; and
Whereas, Ensuring the effectiveness of the schools in this state is vital to the success of Nevada’s children, Nevada’s residents and the economy of this state; and
Whereas, Sections 2 and 6 of Article 11 of the Nevada Constitution require the Nevada Legislature to provide for a uniform system of common schools and to provide for their support and maintenance, in addition to other means provided, by legislative appropriation from the State General Fund; and
Whereas, Section 19 of Article 4 of the Nevada Constitution prohibits the expenditure of money from the State Treasury without a legislative appropriation, and legal authority in this state requires that money appropriated by the Nevada Legislature for one purpose may not be used for any other purpose; and
Whereas, The Nevada Legislature therefore has a constitutional duty to appropriate money to provide for the support and maintenance of the schools in this state for the next two fiscal years; and
Whereas, Both houses of the Nevada Legislature have found that the amount of the proposed appropriations from the State General Fund to the State Distributive School Account and for class-size reduction as set forth in the second reprint of Senate Bill No. 6 of the 20th Special Session of the Nevada Legislature is the appropriate amount for the support and maintenance of the schools in this state and for class-size reduction; and
Whereas, Both houses of the Nevada Legislature have found that the policies on education as set forth in the second reprint of Senate Bill No. 6 of the 20th Special Session of the Nevada Legislature are the policies on education of the Nevada Legislature; now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the Assembly of the State of Nevada That the Assembly hereby acknowledges its constitutional duty to provide for the support and maintenance of the schools in this state; and be it further
Resolved, That the Assembly hereby determines that the amount of the proposed appropriations from the State General Fund to the State Distributive School Account and for class-size reduction as set forth in the second reprint of Senate Bill No. 6 of the 20th Special Session of the Nevada Legislature is the appropriate amount for the support and maintenance of the schools in this state and for class-size reduction; and be it further
Resolved, That the Assembly finds that the policies on education as set forth in the second reprint of Senate Bill No. 6 of the 20th Special Session of the Nevada Legislature are the policies on education of the Nevada Legislature; and be it further
Resolved, That the Chief Clerk of the Assembly prepare and transmit a copy of this resolution to the Supreme Court of Nevada for consideration in any litigation related to the issues concerning the duty of the Nevada Legislature to provide for the support and maintenance of the schools in this state.
Assemblywoman Buckley moved the adoption of the resolution.
Remarks by Assemblywomen Buckley and Angle.
Mr. Speaker requested the privilege of the Chair to make remarks.
Assemblywoman Buckley requested that the following remarks be entered in the Journal.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. Since it appears that we will not be able to get one additional vote to support our tax plan this evening, and since it appears that the Governor will be filing an action in the Supreme Court at 12:01 a.m. this coming morning, we thought it important that the Supreme Court have some intent. The intent is set forth very clearly in the resolution. We have a duty to fund our educational system. This house has already decided on the appropriate amounts for support and the policies that should be in place for education. That is set forth in the second reprint of Senate Bill No. 6. We want this intent very clear should this matter be considered the Supreme Court and ultimately acted upon. While it is my hope that we do our job, not them, I think it is important that we have a strong statement in support of education for their review.
Thank you, Mr. Speaker. I have a question. We have S.B. 5 on our desks, which is the Distributive School Account. If we want to send a strong message supporting education, why don’t we just pass out S.B. 5?
Mr. Speaker requested the privilege of the Chair for the purpose of making the following remarks:
We are speaking to the resolution, Mrs. Angle.
I thought I was asking a question about the resolution. The resolution contains what is here in S.B. 5. I’m wondering why we are considering a resolution instead of a bill we already have.
REMARKS FROM THE FLOOR
Assemblywoman Buckley requested that the following remarks be entered in the Journal.
Would it be appropriate to respond under of Order of Business of 15, to respond to my colleague’s question? Thank you. Now that we are under the appropriate order of business I’d love to answer that question. I believe it was made very clear by the Attorney General on our duties under the Constitution, that we cannot pass an education budget without the revenue to support it. That would be like writing a check, when we know we don’t have the money in our account.
Mr. Speaker requested the privilege of the Chair for the person of making the following remarks:
With the permission of the body, I would let you know that in consultation with the Majority Leader, it appears we are at a spot this evening where we cannot, as the resolution stated, complete our constitutional duty. We have conferred and will continue to confer. We will watch the action in front of the Supreme Court, as difficult as that might be, and then we will continue to work on some way to find resolution in both houses of this legislature so that we can complete our constitutional duty. If the body will offer me their permission, I have a few remarks before we adjourn.
I, Richard Perkins, do solemnly swear that I will support, protect and defend the constitution and government of the United States, and the Constitution and government of the State of Nevada, against all enemies, whether domestic or foreign, and that I will bear true faith, allegiance and loyalty to the same, any ordinance, resolution or law of any state notwithstanding, and that I will well and faithfully perform all the duties of the office of State Assembly, on which I am about to enter; so help me God.
Five months ago, like all of you, I raised my right hand and swore this oath in this very chamber. In the past few days, I have had the occasion to re-read this oath and the parts of the Nevada Constitution that prescribe it. And I have yet to find any equivocation, a single condition, political asterisk, or footnote to the plain and direct nature of its intent. Nowhere does this oath say, “unless I disagree” or “except when I feel strongly that my cause or my issue supersedes or takes precedence over our Constitution.” It simply says, “I solemnly swear to support, protect and defend our Constitution so help me God.” You and I, as a condition of taking our seat in this body, swore this unambiguous pledge in front of our citizens, our colleagues, and before the Supreme Judge.
Similarly, our Constitution is plain and direct in its intent and direction on the matters before us today. Article 9, Section 2, states: “The legislature shall provide by law for an annual tax sufficient to defray the estimated expenses of the state for each fiscal year; and whenever the expenses of any year exceed the income, the legislature shall provide for levying a tax sufficient, with other sources of income, to pay the deficiency, as well as the estimated expenses of such ensuing year or two years.” Article 11, Section 6 of the constitution states: “In addition to other means provided for the support and maintenance of said university and common schools, the legislature shall provide for their support and maintenance by direct legislative appropriation from the general fund, upon the presentation of budgets in the manner required by law.”
Five months ago, we swore to uphold the constitution of this state. I contend to you that our duty is clear, the Constitution is direct, and our oaths solemn. The Constitution is a document to be read and executed in its entirety. It is not a menu from which we pick and choose. And yet, by our own action and inaction, we have done only half the job. We’ve passed parts of a budget, tinkered with pieces of an appropriation plan, but we have failed to well and faithfully execute the entire responsibility to which we are sworn. In this case, a job half done is nothing more than a job left unfinished.
In the past few days, there has been a great deal of discussion about our constitutional obligations, all of which proceed from that oath we took as legislators. As votes have failed, negotiations have stalled, and, occasionally, tempers have flared, we have had almost as much debate about the meaning of the law as we have had about the budget or the taxes necessary to fund that budget. We have argued about the precise meaning of a balanced budget and the effect that requirement has on legislation to implement it. We have discussed our obligation to fund education – when, how, and at what level and have, at times, accused one side or the other of “holding our children hostage.” And perhaps most obviously, we have been focused, not just recently but for the past five months, on the constitutional provision requiring any bill that increases taxes to be passed with a two-thirds vote. Some have railed against the requirement; others have defended it. In this house and the other, there has even been dispute about what the voters meant or envisioned when they imposed a two-thirds requirement upon us.
There can be no question that Nevadans sent a message: that spending the public’s money is not to be taken lightly. Our citizens have made it clear that they expect us to give due deliberation before we enact or raise any tax. But in imposing that obligation upon us, they did not absolve us of our other obligations. We are not released of our duty to fund education. We are not free from our mandate to balance this state’s budget. And most importantly, we are still sworn to fulfill that oath we took five months ago.
I ask this body: How can we not do our duty as legislators? How can we not pass a balanced budget, leaving our schools unfunded, and jeopardizing programs that serve the very citizens to whom we swore our oaths? How can we expect our citizens to follow the law, when we, the state’s lawmakers, do not?
I know that each of you here takes these duties of office, and of conscience, with gravity. Although I have at times hoped and tried to sway some among you to a different course of action, I did so with respect for your principles and your reasons. I know we have philosophical differences; those differences should, and can still, makes us a stronger and better legislative body. I hope that we have not become so entrenched that we have forgotten that politics is, after all, the art of compromise.
Let me remind you how the Governor, the other house, and the leadership in this house has attempted to compromise this past five months, and perhaps more importantly, in the last twenty-four hours. If you recall back to the beginning of our legislative session there are many numbers that have come up. A billion dollars, $989 million as the Governor’s budget proposed, $860 million as the two money committees came together in some sort of compromise, $704 million is a number that has been used, $536 million is a number that has been used, three percent of the budget is a number that has been used. The Governor’s proposal had a gross receipts tax, an amusement tax, property tax, tripled the business license tax, liquor and cigarette taxes, gaming tax, slot route tax and a business license fee. The Governor’s taskforce on taxes had the state activity tax, the gross receipts tax, restricted slot tax, gaming tax, liquor and cigarettes tax, property tax, amusement tax, Secretary of State fees, passive revenue generators, a business license fee, and a business license tax at a $140. Senate Bill 6, as it came out of the Senate, had passive revenue generators, sin taxes, business license fee, deleted the business license tax, Secretary of State fees, live entertainment tax, room tax, gaming tax, slot tax, real estate transfer tax, a bank franchise tax, and a payroll tax. AB 1 that was amended into SB 6 had passive revenue generators, the cigarette and liquor taxes, the business license fee, deleted the business license tax, Secretary of State fees, live entertainment tax, gaming tax, restricted slot tax, real estate transfer tax, a bank franchise tax, some payroll tax, and some franchise tax. We have had a GRT, a UBT, a net profits, the Oreo tax, a franchise tax, a payroll tax.
We have compromised every step of the way. We have provided opportunities for accountability. We have an audit of the University and Community College System of Nevada. We amended into this bill an audit of our K-12 system. We have a tax oversight committee that was to monitor what we did this session and how it impacted our state. We had a cap on revenue. I have even offered to let people write their own accountability language for the bill. What we wouldn’t do in this house was to go to a straight payroll tax because of our belief that it was inequitable. We wouldn’t cut directly to $704 million because we arrived at a number of $860 million and to get to $704 million, in our belief, created hardships for Nevadans. We arrived at $860 million through compromise, through both money committees, a Republican Senate, and a Democrat Assembly. Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats, Assembly Democrats, and actually, in this house, ultimately, we are one vote short. In the last twenty-four hours we have met with a number of people. We have worked hard, ladies and gentlemen. We were here till very late last night. I believe all of us were trying to accomplish what we needed to for our state. We arrived at a number of $783 million. You may see that as somewhere about half way between $704 million and $860 million. And yet, we were still not able to resolve our differences.
In resolving our differences, that does not mean that you must compromise your principles. But neither does it mean that we should compromise the future of our children or our state by refusing to agree to any position other than our own. It simply means that the whole must outweigh even the sum of its individual parts. These past few weeks, while we have argued about the meaning of the law, we have not been alone. We are not the only Nevadans arguing and speculating about constitutional obligations and the most basic question of all, what happens next. In homes and businesses throughout this state, our efforts and the votes we cast are watched closely. Some of us may talk about the e-mails we receive, the calls that support our position, and the letters that urge us to hold firm in that position. But there are many more, the vast majority of Nevadans, who do not write or call. We should not assume that their silence is affirmation, nor even apathy. Our school districts, our teachers, and the many Nevadans who rely on state services watch and wait. They have no choice but to watch and wait.
We in this chamber, however, do have a choice. We can choose to uphold the oath we swore in this very chamber, an oath that in turn requires us to provide for our children’s education and to pass a balanced budget, or we can relinquish that duty to others. So, make no mistake about what you are about to do, the realm you are about to enter, and the precedent you are prepared to set. This job cannot be half done. We cannot go home and say, with a shrug, “We tried.” We must leave here secure in the knowledge that we lived up to our oath of office, so help us God.
Assemblywoman Buckley moved that the Assembly, in conformance with Section 15 of Article 4 of the Constitution of the State of Nevada, with the consent of the Senate, adjourn until the call of the Speaker.
Assembly adjourned at 8:28 p.m.
Approved: Richard D. Perkins
Attest: Jacqueline Sneddon