FILE - Nevada Supreme Court

The Nevada Supreme Court in Carson City, Nev., is seen Tuesday, May 8, 2018. Content Exchange

(The Center Square) — The Nevada Supreme Court struck down a pair of tax hikes from 2019 in a ruling Thursday.

The ruling was filed in response to a lawsuit filed by Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Gardnerville, after the Democrat-led legislature used a majority vote to revise two tax programs. The vote extended a $1 transaction fee for the Department of Motor Vehicles and repealed a scheduled reduction to the state’s payroll tax.

However, the state’s constitution requires lawmakers to approve tax measures by a two-thirds vote, not a simple majority.

“This is a victory for all Nevadans. The voters placed the two-thirds requirement in the constitution, and that right is now guaranteed,” Settelmeyer said in a tweet.

In the 1990s, Jim Gibbons, a former congressman and governor, organized support for the constitutional amendment, which voters approved in 1994 and 1996.

Democrats contended the supermajority vote was not needed in 2019 because they were simply extending pre-existing programs. The Legislative Counsel Bureau, a nonpartisan arm of the state legislature, issued a legal opinion supporting the Democrats’ argument, the Reno Gazette Journal reported. 

Chief Justice James Hardesty said in the opinion that the court’s decision was simple. Because the two bills raised revenue for the state, they are therefore subject to the state’s supermajority mandate.

Robert Fellner, policy director for the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a free-market think tank, said the ruling shows that the words of Nevada’s constitution “still have meaning.”

“Ultimately, the rules we put in place for government only work when citizens and the judiciary are willing to ensure they are enforced,” Fellner said in a statement. “And because a government that can ignore constitutional limits with impunity is necessarily illegitimate, this ruling could hardly be more critical.”

Gov. Steve Sisolak said following the ruling that his office “will continue to work with legislative leadership on budget implications and State officials will analyze the decision to determine next steps.”

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