The mind struggles to come up with a more jaw-dropping exercise in hypocrisy than when leaders of both the Democratic and Republican caucuses testified late last month in Carson City favor of Assembly Bill 407, legislation supposedly intended to prevent the seating of lawmakers who don’t live in the districts they represent.
“You live where your cat lives, where you take out the trash,” commented an indignant Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas. “The intent is you must live in the home where you get up in the morning. You must live next door to the neighbors you represent. It is important you be part of the community you represent.”
That’s telling ’em, Ms. Kirkpatrick. After all, Andrew Martin, a member of your own majority party, showed up in Carson City this winter expecting to be seated after Clark County District Judge Rob Bare had ruled, prior to November’s election, that Martin lived outside District 9 and was not eligible to run. So what if the ruling came too late to remove Martin from the ballot, and that he ended up garnering 1,300 more votes in the Democrat-leaning district than Republican candidate Kelly Hurst, who brought the matter before the court with proof that Martin lived outside the district?
Ms. Kirkpatrick and the other members of her caucus showed scofflaws what kind of reception they can expect in Carson City. When this Andrew Martin guy showed up this winter, they ... well, actually, they seated him. In fact, they’ll probably even let him vote on AB 407, the bill that’s supposed to stop such things from ever happening again — assuming it ever comes up for a vote, at all.
And how does the bill seek to prevent such problems? By requiring lawmakers to respect such court rulings, or by requiring party chairs to certify on penalty of perjury that their candidates meet residency and other eligibility requirements? No. This one gets even better. AB 407 would avoid the ignominy of carpetbagging, would-be lawmakers being ruled ineligible in autumn court rulings by — wait for it — outlawing such autumn court rulings.
Under the bill, no judge would be able to rule a candidate ineligible after the fourth Friday in June, meaning if the miscreant managed to keep his crime secret till mid-summer, he’d get a free cruise for all four months of the summer and fall campaign, without any court being able to say a word.
Why June? Ballots can easily be changed well into September. Any county registrar could offer a later, realistic deadline that would still allow time to mail out absentee ballots. If Ms. Kirkpatrick and other lawmakers who insist “you must live next door to the neighbors you represent” really mean it, why not bounce Martin, telling him to try again next time, perhaps running in the district where he really lives?
AB 407 would, at least, spare challengers the cost of paying the carpetbagger’s legal bill should their challenge fail — a provision of current law which Mr. Hurst says prevented him from pursuing his challenge last fall.
Does that sole improvement make the Andrew Martin Memorial Welcome All Carpetbaggers Bill worth passing?
If anyone in Carson City really wants reform, they can do better.