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March 2, 2015

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Sandoval will need to write in loophole to pass budget

Law says governmental bodies can’t shift responsibilities without a year’s notice


AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli

Gov. Brian Sandoval makes his first State of the State address before a joint session of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City on Monday, Jan. 24, 2011.

In 2009, state legislators passed a law that specifically outlines how to shift government services from one entity to another.

The statute requires that governments be given notice of any changes and says that shifts can’t take place until July after the year in which the changes were announced.

That requirement — NRS 353.203 — puts a wrinkle in Gov. Brian Sandoval’s budget plan.

In last month’s State of the State address, Sandoval proposed dumping on Clark County, as a way to help the state budget, services that cost the state $100 million to provide. But according to the 2009 statute, the county can’t take over any services until July 2012. The new budget year starts July 1, 2011.

It’s unclear whether Sandoval knew about or considered the law while drafting his budget.

Even so, it’s unlikely to delay Sandoval from dropping responsibilities into the county’s lap. Sandoval and the Legislature can write an exemption to the law in their budget bills.

“If this were in the Constitution, it would really tie Sandoval’s hands,” UNLV political scientist David Damore said. “But it’s just a law so he can get around it.”

In 1993, for example, the Legislature passed a bill that requires the state to specify a source of revenue for programs it hoists onto local governments. But the state still manages to shift unfunded mandates to cities and counties. How? Legislators simply add a sentence to bills stating that the 1993 law doesn’t apply.

The process and time line for shifting services among governments were established to make transfers more thoughtful. The waiting period was introduced to give governments time to plan for costs. The law applies to services shifted both to and from the state, as well as between municipalities.

At the time, Nevada was struggling with budget deficits, and local governments anticipated that the state would pass services and costs to them with increasing regularity. Cities and counties also had made several attempts to return service responsibilities to the state. Both entities found the law in their best interest.

“The provision was put in there so you had some orderly way to go about doing it, so you had enough lead time to go about it, and so you could budget for the money,” said Marvin Leavitt, a former lobbyist and chairman of the Committee on Local Government Finance, the body tasked with overseeing service transfers.

There’s no real way Clark County can stop the state from skirting the existing law, but its existence could give county officials and their lobbyists some leverage with which to negotiate a less dramatic hit.

“The fact that it’s in the law gives the counties, the cities and their allies in the Legislature something to hang their hat on,” Damore said. “The statute shows that not everybody is on board” with unfettered service shifts.

Still, in the end, the reality of the state’s economic morass will likely render any opposition meaningless.

“They’ll probably get steamrolled in the last days (of session) when everybody is really scraping for money,” Damore said.

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  1. Remember all the Republican chattering at the National level regarding the extension of the Bush tax cuts? (that helped create the big deficit?)

    "Tax-predictability" was what we heard over and over again. This guy has created the most unpredictable tax situation in the world. Not only do businesses and individuals not know what the tax structure will be, neither do cities and counties.

    The GOVO.2 is wrecking the state trying to adhere to a talk radio inspired sound bite designed for mindless dittoheads.

    Why doesn't he give up his taxpayer paid for medical insurance like James Walsh and several other Republican Congress people? Let him go out on the private sector and buy a policy.

  2. "But it's just a law so he can get around it."

    When the Dem's propose something that requires a law change, the nuts go CRAZY with their rabid rhetoric about "adhering to the will of the people!"...

    B.S. will do it and the right will call it "sound fiscal policy", and "the will of the people!"

    What it is; Circumventing the system, with no regard for "the will of the people!"

  3. Why have a law when certain officials can skirt it just by stating it "does not apply" in this case?

    Maybe the county should start looking at services they no longer want to provide and transfer the responsibility of those services to the state.

    How does Sandoval think Clark County is going to cover the 100+ Million dollars in services he wants to transfer the responsibility of to the county when the county does not have any money?

    This is nothing more then a shell game that is going to come back to bite all of us in the long run.

    He is not fixing anything, he is just playing games.

  4. "If this were in the Constitution, it would really tie Sandoval's hands," UNLV political scientist David Damore said.

    Time to change the constitution. Where is the petition drive to get this on the ballot?

    The same group could do 2 petitions drives; another for increasing the limit on taxation of mining. Should even do 3 and get a lottery legalized. The people overwhelming want these things, but special interests prevent them.

    Southern Nevadan Republicans should be ashamed of themselves for putting in yet another Northern Republican who does nothing but cut and steal from Southern Nevadans. It's amazing that 80% of Nevada's population is in Clark County, yet the Northern interests always win.

  5. Nevada has turned into land of the legal eagles, who now are in office, formerly were attorneys and judges, and keen on loopholes and circumventing laws one way or the other. Middle America loses again. The average person in Nevada loses again. Whose pockets are lined and over-flowing? Take a guess.

    Maybe it is time to stop services to people. Let the economy catch up. People will leave Nevada and go elsewhere to live. When Nevada is flush and can again provide a service, then do it.

    Make sure services are rendered to citizens. Start there. Make being a citizen important again, please!

  6. jat3714...

  7. "I would be very interested in knowing who in the legislature voted FOR NRS 353.203 and who voted against it. I have been searching but haven't found the data yet. LV Sun?"

    Well, not the Sun, but the info can be found on the legislature's website.

    The relevant portion of NRS was adopted via AB97:

    Originally, the bill stated a 90-day notice period, but was later amended as the one year period described in the article.

    Assembly vote: 41 to 1

    Senate vote: 21 to 0

    Quite nearly unanimous.

  8. Yak, yak, yak, yak...and more yak.

    4 years of this total loser.

    All a-c-t-i-o-n!

    Sure, he'll survive...but will we?