Marriage fee hike aimed at domestic violence prevention
Senate Finance Committee members were asked Monday to increase part of Nevada’s marriage license fees to help preserve programs aimed at stopping domestic violence.
SB14 would add $5 to the $20 fee which the state adds to the license fees to fund domestic violence programs. The fee increase would generate $615,000 a year, which would only close about half of a $1.2 million gap needed to prevent staff cuts, reduced hours and center closures, Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence director Susan Meuschke said.
“This request should not be seen as an increase in funding, but rather will make up for an enormous shortfall that currently threatens the survival of domestic violence programs in Nevada,” Meuschke added.
Margaret Flint, whose family owns the Chapel of the Bells in Reno, opposed the funding method and instead suggested a $5 increase in the cost of official copies of marriage certificates. She said people buy multiple copies of marriage certificates for personal and official reasons and that such a fee could potentially generate $1 million yearly for domestic violence organizations.
The local wedding industry can’t afford a marriage license increase, Flint said, adding, “It doesn’t sound like a lot, but to people contemplating a Nevada style wedding in today’s economy, every extra dollar of cost right now is a deterrent.”
Flint also said the fee increase proposed in SB14 also takes money away from couples who could use the dollars for other expenses such as flowers, photos and travel.
Meuschke said she is open to Flint’s idea “if the bottom line gets us where we need to go,” but that “we still have to look at the numbers” to ensure that higher marriage certificate copy fees keep domestic violence support organizations running.
“We understand the chapels. We’re not in the business of trying to hurt anyone. If their proposal will cover the shortfall, we would not oppose it,” Meuschke said.
Finance Co-Chairwoman Bernice Mathews said she sponsored the bill because domestic violence organizations can’t survive on what little money they have now.
“If $5 is going to keep someone from getting married, they shouldn’t be getting married anyway,” Mathews, D-Reno said.