Domestic violence funds sought through marriage license hike
April 24, 2009
CARSON CITY ” Wedding chapel lobbyists and advocates for programs to stop domestic violence clashed Friday over a bill to help fund those programs by adding $5 to the cost of a Nevada marriage license.
The chapel lobbyists, backed by Sen. Maurice Washington, R-Sparks, a minister who performs weddings, want to scrap the fee and retain a second $5 fee increase in SB14 for official copies of marriage certificates ” a levy that would provide more funding for the programs.
While the Assembly Judiciary Committee didn’t vote on the bill, some panel members said they favored both the increase in license fees, which would generate about $600,000 a year, and the increase for marriage certificate copies, which would raise about $1 million a year.
Assembly Judiciary Chairman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, added that he didn’t think the extra $5 on marriage license fees was that big a deal, despite arguments by the chapel advocates that it could keep some couples with limited funds from getting married in Nevada.
Assemblyman William Horne, D-Las Vegas, also was skeptical about the chapel lobbyists’ arguments. Assemblywoman Marilyn Dondero-Loop, D-Las Vegas, added programs to prevent domestic violence are critical and she supports “any fees that will help any of us in the future.”
Sen. Bernice Mathews, D-Reno, the bill’s sponsor, noted it was approved with both fees on a 21-0 vote in the state Senate ” and that included a “yes” vote from Sen. Washington.
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Also supporting SB14 was Susan Meuschke, executive director of the Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence, who said the two fees in SB14 would help cover an “enormous shortfall” in funding faced by her program and others around the state.
Joni Kaiser, executive director of the Committee to Aid Abused Women, also endorsed SB14, saying, “Without its passage, desperation will be the name of the game.”
Washington said lawmakers could improve the domestic violence program funding by doubling the proposed $5 increase in charges for marriage certificate copies ” a move that wouldn’t add to wedding-day costs because the certificates usually are requested at a later date.
Besides Washington, other critics of the $5 increase in marriage license fees included George Flint of the Chapel of the Bells in Reno, and his daughter, Margaret Flint, representing wedding chapels in Reno and Las Vegas.
Flint said the extra $5 for a license would cause some low-budget couples to defer weddings in Nevada, adding 80 percent of the weddings he handles aren’t “the stretched-limo, seven-tiered wedding cake” type.
SB14 would add $5 to the $20 fee which the state adds to marriage license fees. The total cost of licenses in Nevada now is $55, although some counties add a few dollars to that.