Assembly leaders back residency bill for Nevada legislators

CARSON CITY — Without mentioning Assemblyman Andrew Martin, Democratic and Republican Assembly leaders testified Friday for a bill to prevent situations like the one that occurred last year when he was elected though a district judge ruled he could not run.

Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick and Minority Leader Pat Hickey told members of the Assembly Government Affairs Committee that Assembly Bill 407 more clearly defines the residency requirements of all political candidates. It also specifies a judge cannot make any ruling on whether a candidate is ineligible to run because of an invalid residency after the fourth Friday in June during election years.

After that date, it would be up to Assembly, Senate or the local government body to decide challenges to someone’s election — a step the Legislature occasionally has taken over the years.

No one opposed the bill. Government Affairs Chairwoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson, D-Reno, did not take a vote. Martin, D-Las Vegas, did not appear at the hearing.

Martin defeated Republican Kelly Hurst in the race for the District 9 Assembly seat last year by 1,300 votes. But a day before that election, District Judge Rob Bare, in response to Hurst’s complaint, ruled Martin lived outside the district and was ineligible to run. There was no time to remove his name from ballots.

An Assembly Republican investigation had produced pictures of Martin plugging in his electric car at a home outside the district, not at the smaller home where he wrote he lived on his candidacy forms.

Hurst, however, did not file the necessary papers with the secretary of state to set off a challenge at the Legislature. At the time, he said he could not afford the potential costs he would incur if the Assembly decided not to seat him.

Hurst attended Friday’s hearing and supported the bill. He said he was most pleased by an amendment that would change a provision that requires the person who loses the challenge to pay the legal expenses of the winner.

If that amendment had been the law last year, then Hurst said he would have challenged the seating of Martin.

Hickey, R-Reno, said he did not mention Martin in part because he did not want to open old wounds on a Republican-Democrat dispute that already had been settled. He and Kirkpatrick had worked out details of the bill before the session as a way to prevent future residency problems.

During the hearing, Hickey mentioned that over the years there have been allegations that Republican and Democratic legislators lived outside their districts.

A candidate’s residence, according to bill, is where he or she “actually, physically and corporeally” lives.

In response to questions about that meaning, Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, said that “you live where your cat lives, where you take out the trash,” adding later it also means “where you know the kids who skateboard down the street” and whether a neighbor has a baby.

While seemingly made in jest, those comments could determine the legislative intent of the residency requirement if there is ever a challenge to whether a candidate lives in his or her district.

“The intent is you must live in the home where you get up in the morning.” Kirkpatrick added. “You must live next door to the neighbors you represented. It is important you be part of the community you represent.”

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.


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