According to a report from Mick Akers of the Las Vegas Review Journal, Oakland Athletics lobbyists have filed a claim with the Nevada state supreme court asking that the lower court's decision to throw out Schools Over Stadiums' referendum petition be upheld.
A Carson City District Court judge ruled against Schools Over Stadiums earlier this winter, stating that the PAC's claim did not contain the correct technical language. Schools Over Stadiums' claim summarized the text of SB 1, the bill passed that awarded John Fisher and the A's the $380 million in taxpayer funds.
According to Akers' report, the A's lobbyists claim that because the referendum petition did not succinctly explain the full effect of the referendum, it is therefore invalid. Per the report, Nevada state law requires that proposed amendments explicitly "explain the ramifications of the proposed amendment" in order to move past the petition stage.
Akers notes that Schools Over Stadiums has until January 24th to submit a response to the Nevada state supreme court in regard to the lobbyists' claim. In the event that the court allows Schools Over Stadiums to move forward with their referendum petition, they'll need to acquire the 102k+ signatures necessary by July 8 in order to get the petition onto the ballot for November 2024.
To me, this feels like a move made out of desperation by the A's. At the moment, they're backed into a corner with the relocation proceedings. It's still unclear that they have the ability to secure financing for their portion of the bill. Plus, we don't know for sure that Bally's, the ownership group of the Tropicana Casino, will be ready to move on the A's schedule.
We also have the developing story that the Athletics were paying off Nevada state lawmakers for their votes of approval on SB 1. As many have noted, there are a number of Nevada lawmakers reporting donations from the Athletics Investment Group, thus far ranging from $1k to $10k. To this point, we have a minimum of five lawmakers who have received money from the A's, and we're still five days from the tax reporting deadline.
It's unclear whether teams buying votes for public subsidies is commonplace or not. We have plenty of examples of teams getting public funds to finance stadiums, repairs, and more. The Royals are currently trying to get $350 million from the taxpayers in Kansas City for their new stadium. The Brewers recently got approval for over $550 million for stadium repairs. And the Red Sox are currently in the midst of building a $1.6bn ballpark village around Fenway Park.
It wouldn't be surprising to learn that those teams also paid off lawmakers to get votes of approval for their projects, but it doesn't change the fact that it feels like a dirty thing to do. It takes the decision out of the hands of the taxpayers and highlights corporate greed.
Best case scenario for Athletics fans right now is for the Nevada supreme court to rule against the A's lobbyists and allow Schools Over Stadiums' referendum petition to move forward. They'll almost certainly get the necessary votes, and if it goes onto the ballot the voters will assuredly vote to rescind the money.
That would likely be a death knell for Fisher's relocation project and they'd have to either move on to another site or it would put Fisher in a position where he'd have to sell. It's really just fingers crossed at this point that everything falls through and he decides to walk away, because it's just going to keep getting uglier until that happens.