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Ballot measure seeking to defund A’s stadium rejected by Nevada Supreme Court

The split decision came 44 days before a petition signature deadline to qualify the question for the November ballot.
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
A's stadiumCourtsEconomyGaming

The Nevada Supreme Court has rejected a ballot referendum that would have allowed voters to overturn a $380 million public financing deal that would fund a portion of a proposed $1.5 billion stadium to help move the Oakland Athletics to Las Vegas.

The Monday decision, issued 44 days before the petition signature deadline, upheld a lower court order that rejected the language of the proposed referendum from the Schools Over Stadiums political action committee for being “legally deficient” and, at points, “confusing.”

“The petition violates the full-text requirement of the Nevada Constitution,” the Monday order stated, also noting that the petition’s description of effect (a 200-word explanation of the measure included on signature gathering forms) is “misleading.” The order stated that the petition does not comply with statutory requirements because it “explains the general effect of a referendum but it does not describe the practical effects of this specific referendum.”

The decision was a split vote, with five justices affirming the lower court’s order, one justice dissenting and another justice filing a concurrence disagreeing and agreeing with portions of the majority’s opinion. 

The decision comes more than six weeks after the Supreme Court heard nearly an hour of arguments from attorneys representing the PAC, which was organized by the Nevada State Education Association (NSEA) teachers union and proposed the referendum, and attorneys representing leaders from other unions that oppose it.

The main issue the court grappled with was whether the PAC needed to provide the entirety of SB1, the 66-page bill authorizing public financing, or just the sections the teachers union wants to be removed from the language of the petition that voters sign. 

The five justices who approved the lower court’s ruling wrote, “The petition violates the constitution's full-text requirement and the description of effect does not comply with statutory requirements.”

In her dissenting opinion, Justice Kristina Pickering disagreed and said including all 66 pages of the bill was not necessary. She wrote that the description of the proposed ballot question conveyed the main point. 

“The Stadium Referendum would withdraw state credit and financial support for the stadium project, which in turn could prevent the stadium from being built,” Pickering wrote. 

Justice Patricia Lee filed a concurrence, agreed that the petition had an “inadequate” description of effect but disagreed with the majority that the referendum violated Nevada’s Constitution by “failing to put forth the ‘full text of the measure proposed.’”

Bradley Schrager, the attorney representing the two labor union lobbyists who brought the lawsuit, said in a text message the court’s decision agreed with their argument that the referendum contained legal flaws.

“All Nevadans have a right to participate in direct democracy, but they need to observe the laws that require properly informing the voters of a proposal,” Schrager wrote. “This measure obviously failed to do that.”

A representative for Schools over Stadiums told The Nevada Independent last week that no matter the Supreme Court’s ruling, the group will likely try to place a referendum on the 2026 ballot because of the fast-approaching deadline to gather the more than 100,000 valid signatures needed to qualify for this year’s ballot.

In a Monday statement, representatives of Schools Over Stadium said they are committed to stopping the public financing deal and will refile the petition next year.

“While we are organizing toward 2026, Schools Over Stadiums will continue to fund the

constitutional challenge to Senate Bill 1,” the statement said.

Updated at 1:59 p.m. on 5/13/2024 to include a comment from the attorney for the plaintiffs. 

Updated at 12:23 p.m. on 5/13/2024 to include the justices’ comments and reaction to the decision.


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