Of all the issues facing Nevadans, it seems like AB 46 continues to hog the front pages.
AB 46 is the Assembly bill from the last legislative session that, with approval of the senate and Gov. Sandoval, delegated to the Washoe County Commission the power to increase Washoe County real estate and sales taxes to pay for building maintenance costs of the Washoe County School District.
That’s just too strange for fiction. We learned more about it just last week.
The recording of the first AB 46 hearing before the Washoe County Commission meeting of July 23 recently became available.
Among more than 60 citizens who stayed very late to address the commission was Assemblyman Ira Hansen (R-Sparks). Hansen said that although Assemblymen Pat Hickey (R – Reno) and Randy Kirner (R-Reno) voted to send the tax increase measure to the commission to decide he voted “no” because he believes the matter properly belongs in the legislature.
He told commissioners that two years ago he talked with former Superintendent Heath Morrison about schools’ maintenance needs and was told that there was money on hand for maintenance but the funds weren’t earmarked so they were used to increase teachers’ salaries instead.
Hansen expressed some confusion over the fact that AB 46 would raise about $20 million per year against a claim of need of $50 million per year which would leave the district $150 million in the hole after five years.
Hansen said that AB 46 was not approved as originally filed in the legislature because of strong public resistance to any tax increases in this economy.
He acknowledged that there were many school board supporters in the audience but said that the great majority of taxpayers are not organized and do not have the time to come to meetings.
He said many cannot afford to fix their own roofs much less want to raise taxes to pay for school roofs. He recommended that commissioners “kick AB 46 back to the legislature.”
Meanwhile the Washoe County GOP hosted a town meeting starring Assemblymen Hickey and Kirner last week. About 80 citizens showed up along with the press.
Kirner said that AB 46 originated with the school district and was not available to read before the session started.
When finally available he and Hickey attempted to amend the bill to provide for a vote of the people as well as a sunset after 10 years. Their amendment failed.
Then Assemblyman David Bobzien (D-Reno) offered an amendment to delegate taxing authority to the Washoe County School Board. That proved unacceptable to even his fellow Democrats.
The final amendment was to delegate to the Washoe County Commission with a 2/3 vote requirement for approval.
Hickey expressed his misgivings with AB 46. He acknowledged a need for funds to maintain school buildings but said that the unavailability of the bill to read before the session started together with the fact that time is too compressed during the legislative session to deal with complex matters such as this caused him to favor delegating it to the Washoe Board of Commissioners with a January 1, 2014, deadline to act so there would be time and opportunity for all interested locals to analyze the proposal and have their say.
Hickey, who is Republican caucus leader in the Nevada Assembly, urged his fellow conservatives to come up with proposals for solutions rather than a “just say no” attitude when it comes to the needs of the Washoe County School District.
Jim Clark is president of Republican Advocates, and has served on the Washoe County and Nevada state GOP Central Committees. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.