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The Nevada Independent

With A’s stadium referendum now before Supreme Court, supporters say ‘time is running out’

Nevada justices will decide if voters need to see the entirety of the stadium legislation or specific sections when asked to sign the petition.
Howard Stutz
Howard Stutz
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
A's stadiumCourtsEconomySports

There are 77 days left for supporters of a proposed referendum to overturn the public financing deal bringing the Oakland Athletics to Las Vegas to gather the signatures necessary to get the measure on the ballot, but just how the language will be presented to voters is now in the hands of the seven-member Nevada Supreme Court.

Tuesday saw roughly an hour of arguments from attorneys representing the Schools Over Stadium political action committee, which was organized by the Nevada State Education Association (NSEA) and proposed the referendum, and attorneys representing labor leaders opposing it. The PAC is appealing a November ruling from a Carson City judge who rejected the language of the proposed referendum petition as being “legally deficient” and, at points, “confusing.” 

The oral arguments marked the first time the Nevada Supreme Court publicly addressed the stadium issue, but it’s unclear when the court will issue a decision.

“Time is running out because of a lot of legal minutiae,” said Chris Daly, deputy executive director of government relations for the NSEA.

Daly said the PAC has people “ready to hit the street and collect signatures” as soon as the petition is approved. The PAC filed the ballot petition to repeal the stadium’s public financing last September and needs to collect and submit more than 102,000 signatures to get the question on the November ballot.

PAC attorney Frank Flaherty told the seven justices the PAC has to get more than 25,000 signatures in each of Nevada’s four congressional districts and submit them to the county clerks by June 26. Any signatures collected on petitions using language found to be constitutionally deficient will be considered invalid.

“[We] respectfully request that this court issue an immediate order, reversing the district court and dissolving its injunction,” Flaherty said.

The arguments in front of the state Supreme Court marked the case’s significance, given that the PAC wants voters to overturn legislation providing $380 million in public money for a $1.5 billion Major League Baseball stadium in Las Vegas to house the relocated A’s.

The main issue in question was whether or not the PAC needs to provide the entirety of SB1, the bill authorizing the public financing, or just the sections the teachers union wants removed, in the language of the petition. Several justices raised the point that including selected portions of the bill in the referendum could confuse voters.

“It just doesn't seem to be in any kind of plain language that a person could understand,” said Justice Linda Bell. 

However, Chief Justice Elissa Cadish noted that the question language shouldn’t necessarily be about the whole language of the bill so long as the relevant sections were included — a point that opposition attorney Bradley Schrager disagreed with, saying that because the intent is to overhaul the entire law, the entire law should be included.

“It's not the shortest legislative act in state history, but it's certainly not the longest. It treats a number of issues,” Schrager said. “It's a complex and technical legislative package.”

Cadish asked Flaherty about the effect of the ballot referendum if voters rejected “legislation passed by the Legislature.” After several questions and answers, Flaherty said the stadium “might not be built.”

“I think the voters can understand the consequences that might flow from that in terms of [there] won't be these construction jobs, there won't be new businesses, there won't be revitalized businesses, whatever the case is in the vicinity of the stadium district,” he added.

A representative of Schools Over Stadiums, a Nevada State Education Association PAC, seeks to raise money and awareness of the union's effort to block the $380 million in public financing for the planned $1.5 billion Las Vegas ballpark. The PAC had a space in the parking lot of the Oakland Coliseum before opening day on March 28, 2024. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Schools Over Stadiums announced last June it was seeking to qualify a ballot measure that would allow voters to support or reject portions of the public funding. Longtime labor leaders Danny Thompson, the former head of the Nevada AFL-CIO, and Thomas Morley, a private consultant and the retired political director of Laborers Local 872, filed a lawsuit challenging the referendum petition in September.

Since the PAC filed the referendum last September, A’s fans in Oakland have sought to raise money to fight the lawsuit during various events, including an opening day protest in the parking lot of the stadium in Oakland where the team now plays. Supporters have also said the funding can help pay the PAC’s costs to gather signatures to get the proposed ballot question in front of voters. 

The state’s major labor organizations, including the Nevada AFL-CIO, the Southern Nevada Building Trades and Culinary Workers Union Local 226, all supported the measure, SB1, which provides up to $380 million in public financing through a combination of tax credits and county-issued bonds. If all goes to plan, the stadium is projected to be completed in April 2028. 

The proposed 33,000-seat baseball stadium for the A’s is set to be built on the south end of the Strip on 9 acres of a 35-acre parcel that houses the Tropicana Las Vegas, which closed last week

The team released the ballpark's designs in March, and the A’s last week said the team would play the next three seasons at a minor league ballpark in Sacramento until the Las Vegas stadium is ready. 

Major League Baseball owners unanimously signed off on the move to Las Vegas in November.

In February, the PAC filed a second lawsuit in Carson City’s First Judicial Court, saying the legislation violated the Nevada Constitution in five ways, including a claim that it would constitute an increase in public revenue but was not passed by the constitutionally required two-thirds majority vote of legislators.


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