Group files referendum challenging public funding for Vegas A’s
April Corbin Girnus
(Nevada Current) An education group wants Nevadans to weigh in on the use of public funding to build a baseball stadium on the Las Vegas Strip.
Schools Over Stadiums, a political action committee set up by the Nevada State Education Association, on Wednesday filed a referendum petition with the secretary of state’s office. The referendum seeks to repeal a portion of the baseball stadium bill, which lawmakers passed during an eight-day special session in June.
The referendum targets sections of the baseball stadium bill that relate to the repayment of the $120 million in bonding Clark County is committed through the bill to issuing. The referendum does not touch the portions of the bill that provide $180 million in state-issued transferable tax credit.
But the hope, according to the group’s spokesperson, is still to block the use of any public funds toward a stadium.
Schools Over Stadiums spokesperson Alexander Marks said the partial repeal is a strategic decision made because of legalese in the bill that would likely make it more difficult to repeal the provisions related to transferable tax credits, particularly if a development agreement has already been signed by the A’s.
“We could fight (that issue) in court,” he added, “but we are being better stewards of money than they are of our public tax dollars.”
Schools Over Stadiums believes targeting the county bonding component could kneecap the project in its entirety. Details on how Oakland A’s owner John Fisher will fully finance the proposed $1 billion stadium aren’t known, but some critics of the media shy billionaire believe it’s tenuous at best.
Referendums and other types of ballot initiatives can be challenged in court up to 15 days after they are filed with the secretary of state’s office.
Marks says the group believes their referendum is legally sound and will survive any legal challenges.
Assuming the referendum isn’t thrown out by a court, Schools Over Stadium will have until June 26, 2024 to submit 102,362 signatures to county clerks for signature verification. The signatures – equivalent to 10% of voter turnout during the most recent general election – must be evenly distributed from each congressional district.
PACs typically spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on ballot qualification firms to gather signatures.
Schools Over Stadiums, which NSEA launched in late June, has raised just $50,000 so far.
Wednesday’s announcement may help with fundraising, which Marks said so far has primarily come from Northern Californians. Fisher’s intent to relocate the A’s out of Oakland has spurned a wave of grassroots organizing there in opposition.
“This was a moment a lot of folks were waiting for,” said Marks.
Meanwhile, other efforts to block the stadium – like filing a lawsuit against the state – are still being explored, he added.
A spokesperson for Gov. Joe Lombardo said he has no comment on the referendum to block the stadium. Lombardo convened the single-issue special session for the baseball stadium shortly after a contentious end to the regular legislative session and separate special session for a budget bill.
The Current also reached out to the Athletics, the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority, and the Democratic state senate and assembly caucuses on Wednesday for comment. After amendments and behind-closed-doors negotiations, the stadium funding bill ultimately received bipartisan support, including yea votes from both caucus leaders.
None responded by press time.