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Referendum opposing new A’s Vegas ballpark rejected in court

Nevada Judge James Russell rejected proposed referendum language that could impact $120 million of state funds on a new Oakland A’s Vegas ballpark, ruling the petition was confusingly worded and incomplete.

The proposed referendum, pushed by Nevada teachers unions, would target $120 million in bonding backed by Clark County, an item mandated by the state legislation enabling the $1.5-billion ballpark. Overall, the enabling state legislation called for $380 million in public spending for a new A’s Vegas ballpark, including state tax credits.

The goal of what’s called the “schools over stadiums” referendum is an argument that the state does not spending enough on school spending; it would not divert any bond revenues to schools. But this lawsuit has become a Rorschach test of sorts for ballpark opponents both in Nevada and Oakland: opponents of the ballpark in Vegas see it being potentially crippling for the A’s ballpark effort, while fans in Oakland see it as a tool to prevent a move of the team from the Bay Area.

In his decision, Russell did not totally reject the referendum; he ruled that the proposed referendum must include the full language of the state legislation enabling the ballpark. If that passes muster, the referendum could be added to the 2024 ballot if approved by enough voters in each of the state’s four Congressional districts. There are some limits: only those voters who voted in the 2022 general election are eligible to sign a petition. And there are plenty of powerful folks in Nevada opposing a ballot question: the state’s important constructions unions are on record in supporting the ballpark project.

We will be seeing lots of news about a new A’s Vegas ballpark in coming days. Oakland officials are expected to renew their calls for the A’s to stay at a Howard Terminal ballpark, while MLB owners are expected to debate whether or not to approve a move of the A’s.

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