Health district proposal before Legislature
On Feb. 12 the Douglas County Board of Commissioners met at their Lake Tahoe venue where less than 20 percent of the county’s citizens reside to consider “Discussion and possible action for direction to staff regarding Legislative Update, Proposed Legislation and Legislative Issues…” according to the published agenda.
They considered Bill Draft Request 40-1061, which was the as yet to be written Senate Bill 278 which was written and published March 16, 2009 – more than 30 days later.
BDR 40-1061 was presented for the commissioners consideration by the county’s contracted lobbyist Mary Walker. It included authorization for counties of less than 100,000 to form joint health districts along with granting the district’s authority to increase real estate taxes up to $0.15/100, sales taxes up to 1/4 percent and issue bonds – all without a vote of the electorate. The real estate taxes alone could amount to $375 on a $250,000 property.
The minutes of the commission meeting lack any expressed concerns or questions by the commissioners regarding the taxing authority proposed to be given to the non-elected district or cost to the taxpayers as proposed. The commissioners then, without adequate public notice and hearing, voted unanimously to endorse the resolution – proposed and as yet unwritten legislation.
When it was discovered what the commission had done with the lack of proper notice in the published agenda, several complaints of Open Meeting Law violations were filed with the Nevada Attorney General.
A commissioner then placed SB 278 on a future agenda for a Minden meeting but it was never heard because for some unknown reason the chair removed it. Thus the citizens of Douglas County have never had an opportunity to examine SB 278 and express their concerns or opinion. This placed the commission in the position of being a dictator rather than listening to and representing those who elected them.
After Senate Bill 278 was written, the Douglas County Republican Central Committee passed a resolution on April 9, 2009 in opposition to it – particularly because of the taxing authority being given to a non-elected body and its cost. The Nevada Department of Taxation’s estimate is that Douglas County’s taxpayer cost could be in excess of $5 million. That resolution also urged the Douglas County commissioners to stop lobbying for the passage of SB 278.
Later the Legislature amended SB 278 into a bill calling for the issue to be studied by the Legislative Committee on Health Care with their recommendations to be submitted to the 2010-11 legislature.
On Nov. 4, 2009 the LCHC held its first meeting as directed by the amended SB 278. Their Agenda listed the item as “Discussion and Adoption of a Work Plan to guide the LCHC in Studying Issues … Pursuant to Senate Bill 278.”
No work plan was presented for consideration nor was there any discussion or testimony – except mine – regarding elements to be included in a work plan nor was a work plan adopted.
Ms. Mary Walker testified before the LCHC that the Douglas County commissioners had endorsed SB278 when that is not true – they endorsed BDR 40-1061. The committee heard further testimony under the agenda Item none of which addressed the taxation without representation nor the cost to the counties nor the elements of a work plan.
When the public comment item came at the end of the agenda it was close to 5 p.m. and most of the LCHC members had left the room along with those in the Carson City audience. (I have subsequently written a letter to each LCHC member outlining my testimony.)
I testified as to Ms Walker’s misrepresentation and advised the LCHC of the history surrounding BDR 40-1061 and SB 278. In expressing the taxation without representation issue and huge cost, I specifically requested that these items be studied as a part of the Work Plan. I specifically requested that SB 278 as originally written with lack of representation and the taxing authority of the districts not simply be passed back to the next legislative session for their consideration without revision. I further stated that Douglas County could not afford the whopping $5 million plus tax increase and the taxation without representation was a major issue.
Any tax increase – particularly those substantial ones as proposed in SB 278 – should go to a vote of the citizens of the affected counties prior to implementation of such health districts. Any county rejecting the plan could should not be forced into a district by a larger county.
The next LCHC meetings are scheduled for 9 a.m. in Las Vegas with teleconferencing in Room 3137 of the Carson City Legislative Building on Dec. 9, 2009, Jan. 13, Feb. 17 and March 17, 2010. You are welcome to attend and offer testimony under the public comment agenda item which comes at the end of the meeting. I suggest you bring a written copies to give to the secretary of the meeting so they can be included in the minutes.
You can view or listen to the meeting live over the internet by going to http://www.leg.state.nv.us and linking to “Live Meetings – Listen or View.” (You need a fast internet connection to view it.)
Watch this space for further updates.
Stuart Posselt is a north Valley resident and former candidate for county commissioner.