Candidate residency bill dies in Carson City

CARSON CITY – If you’re a political candidate, your home is where you say it is, even if that’s outside the district you want to represent.

The Senate Monday let die a bill that passed the Assembly 39-0 that was designed to stop bizarre cases as occurred last November, when Assemblyman Andrew Martin won his Assembly seat even though a judge ruled he could not run because he lived outside the district.

Senators never took Assembly Bill 407 off the secretary’s desk, where it remained past Friday’s midnight deadline for passage of bills from a second house.

“The perception was it really doesn’t do anything different.”

said Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks.

The bill was a bipartisan measure drawn up by Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, and Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno.

“Speaker Kirkpatrick and I co-sponsored this legislation believing there had been bad actors from both parties over the years who had skirted the residency requirements in running for office,” Hickey said Monday. “The fact that Senate Democrat leadership decided to kill this bill, raises questions the public may want to ask: ”Who are you trying to protect here?”

Kirkpatrick said she did nothing to kill the bill.

Hickey, who led the Republican drive for reform of the Public Employees Retirement System, the prevailing wage law and construction defects law, noted that none of his bills cleared the Senate this sesson.

Martin won the District 9 election by nearly 1,300 votes last November over Republican Kelly Hurst. A day earlier, District Judge Rob Bare ruled that Martin’s candidacy was invalid because he did not live in the district.

Republican-hired investigators saw Martin recharging his electric car in the garage of a home he owned outside of the district, and noted that he stayed overnight there.

But the state constitution allows each house to determine the qualifications of its members, including resolving election disputes.

Hurst did not file a challenge with the secretary of state’s office against seating Martin. He said he could not afford the cost, which he estimated at $50,000. He also said that a challenge would be futile because Democrats hold a 27-15 lead in the Assembly.

Under the now-dead bill, judges would not be allowed to intercede in election challenges after the end of June. But the bill also changed the definition of a candidate’s residence to “the place where the person actually, physically and corporeally” lives.

The defeat of the bill means the current definition of a candidate’s “actual residence” as the place where the person is “legally domiciled and maintains permanent habitation” remains the law.

During hearings, Kirkpatrick said a candidate’s residence is “where you know the kids who skateboard down the street” and whether a neighbor has a baby.

Hurst earlier said that if the bill failed he might run again – for a seat in Northern Nevada, because it doesn’t matter where you actually live.

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