Term limit hearings set today

CARSON CITY — Nevada Supreme Court justices face what could be the most critical hearing of their careers today when they listen to lawyers argue whether term limits for public officials are constitutional.

Throw out term limits and justices will be accused of thwarting the wishes of voters, who twice approved the ballot question that placed the term-limits amendment in the state constitution.

Uphold term limits and rule in three related cases that they apply to all candidates elected in 1996, and justices boot out 27-year Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury, Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley of Las Vegas, and nearly three dozen other elected officials.

The case has drawn almost as much attention as the court’s 2003 ruling that legislators did not have to follow a constitutional amendment that tax increases need a two-thirds positive vote in the Legislature before they can go into effect.

That ruling, sought by Gov. Kenny Guinn, led to lawmakers approving a record $833 million in tax increases.

Voters did not forget that decision. Justice Nancy Becker went down to defeat the next time she ran.

Four other justices decided to retire at the end of their terms rather than risk another election.

Nationally known sports oddsmaker Mark Warren predicted last week that justices themselves would be term limited if they declare the amendment unconstitutional.

Warren said that decision would rile Nevadans so much that they would defeat every justice who votes for it.

Warren put the chances of re-election of any justice who decides to overturn term limits at 10-1.

If Chief Justice Mark Gibbons votes to overturn term limits, then his chances of re-election this November are 20-1, according to Warren.

Unlike the justices, Secretary of State Ross Miller won’t feel the heat of voters but of long-serving elected officials if justices excise their names from the ballot.

The cases are being heard largely because of Miller’s conviction that term limits have gone into effect and they prevent all local and most state officeholders with 12 or more years of service from running again.

"It puts us in a difficult spot trying to remove long-term elected officials, some who are statesmen and have served the public well," Miller said. "But it is what I was elected to do. It is my duty to uphold the constitution."

Nevada’s term limits amendment, approved by 70.4 percent of voters in 1994 and 58.3 percent in 1996, is pretty clear-cut:

"No person may be elected to any state office or local governing body who has served in that office, or at the expiration of his current term if he is so serving or will have served, 12 years or more, unless the permissible number of terms or duration of service is otherwise specified in this constitution."

The secretary of state wants the court to rule that 20 elected officials, including Woodbury, and Board of Regent members Howard Rosenberg and Thalia Dondero, are ineligible for additional terms.

But he did not challenge state legislators with 12 or more years of experience who also filed for re-election in May.

A clause placed in the state constitution in 1864 and approved by voters that year allows Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, and 12 other long-serving legislators to seek a final term in November, according to the secretary of state.

One of Buckley’s District 8 opponents, Republican Kevin Child, disagreed with Miller and filed a challenge to her candidacy with the state Supreme Court.

His lawyer will be in court today.

Those who won’t be in the oral argument hearing are lawyers for Buckley, Woodbury and most of the other challenged candidates.

They all have filed statements saying they will not challenge the constitutionality of term limits.

U.S. Term Limit President Philip Blumel speculated they backed out of the constitutionality debate because they realize voters support term limits and they do not want to be seen as opposing their will.

U.S. Term Limit is a nonpartisan group that supports term limits nationwide.

But those facing ouster had lawyers in court two weeks ago to challenge the moves by Miller and Child to block them from running for re-election.

At the time, the chief justice announced that the state Supreme Court will decide whether they can run again this year at the same time it hands out its opinion on whether term limits are constitutional.

Because justices are holding the hearing today, Blumel fears they have chosen to do the bidding of entrenched politicians who will do almost anything to remain in office.

The court initially decided to rule only on whether term limits applied to candidates elected 12 years ago who are running for re-election this fall, he said.

Blumel did not oppose those two cases, heard on July 1.

The decision in those cases would not throw out term limits, but only determine if they apply this year or in 2010.

Then the court expanded on those cases by scheduling the hearing to determine if term limits are constitutional.

"For the issue to come up now, only when the politicians are finally term-limited, simply demonstrates the lengths those politicians will go to keep their power," said Greg Schmid, general counsel for U.S. Term Limits.

The organization has conducted polls in many states to gauge people’s views on term limits. Never has a poll found less than majority support for term limits, Blumel said.

Fifteen states since 1990 have established term limits on state legislators.

Thirty-seven states, including Nevada, and about 90 local governments have imposed term limits on their governors and other officeholders.

But no state has added a term-limits provision since 2000.

In six states, term limits have been repealed, four by court decisions.

Courts in other states have used legal technicalities to toss out term limits.

In Wyoming and Washington, term limits were implemented through state laws. Judges there later ruled term limits represented another qualification on candidates and only by amending the state constitution could additional qualifications be added.

In Oregon and Montana, courts ruled the petitions circulated to place term limits before voters violated their state constitutions because they dealt with more than a single subject.

Nevada’s Supreme Court used the same reason in 2006 to throw out a petition circulated by state Sen. Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, that would have limited the growth in government spending.

But the state law restricting petitions to a single subject was not approved in Nevada until 2005, nine years after voters adopted the term limits amendment.

While Miller doubts the court will rule on technicalities, justices could second-guess their brethren to find an excuse to toss term limits.

When first approved in the 1994 election, term limits Question 9 not only applied to state and local politicians, it also applied to judges.

The Nevada Judges Association sued, contending judges were different than other politicians and their work on the bench improved with experience.

With only Miriam Shearing voting no, the state Supreme Court agreed with the judiciary in a decision early in 1996.

The state Supreme Court severed judges from Question 9 and drew up a Question 9B that applied only to them.

Then judges across the state campaigned for the defeat of that question. It lost by a 3-to-2 margin.

Question 9A, placing term limits on legislators and other officeholders, passed for the second time and became part of the state’s constitution.

Unlike other states, Nevada’s constitution requires constitutional amendments to be passed "in the same manner" in two consecutive general elections to become law.

Legislative Counsel Brenda Erdoes and Washoe County District Attorney Dick Gammick now argue in legal briefs that Nevada’s term-limits amendment is unconstitutional since the question was not approved in the same manner in 1996.

The state Supreme Court did change Question 9 between the 1994 and 1996 elections.

Nonetheless, justices issued an opinion in 1996 that both Question 9’s met the "in the same manner" requirement.

"The only change is the ballot proposal is presented to voters in two questions rather than one and there is a greater explanation concerning the impact of term limits on the judiciary," the opinion stated.

But Las Vegas lawyer Georlen Spangler maintains legislative lawyers are taking a new stance contrary to what they have written previously.

At least twice before, Spangler said, legislative lawyers declared term limits on legislators were constitutional.

Spangler said their new stance is "nothing more than a tactical ploy to keep legislators and other state and local officials in office indefinitely, thwarting the will of the electorate by retaining, not eliminating career politicians."

Spangler represents Child.

Although the state Supreme Court did change Question 9 in 1996, the change did not violate the "in the same manner" constitutional requirement, Las Vegas lawyer Dominic Gentile said.

He pointed out that requirement states the language of proposed constitutional amendments must be "identical" both times they receive voter approval.

Gentile argues the amendment was approved in the same manner since both times it pertained to term limiting out politicians after 12 years.

He represents Steve Sisolak, who is running against Woodbury in the County Commission race.

Contact reporter Ed Vogel at evogel @reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

NSPCA Gets Kittens From LA
Man killed during road-rage incident
Las Vegas police are looking for two men involved in the shooting death of a man outside a 7-Eleven story at Bonanza Road and Maryland Parkway on Nov. 12, 2018. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System hosts Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ
The 4th Annual Veterans Day Car Show and BBQ is held in celebration of Veterans Day at the VA Southern Nevada Healthcare System Medical Center in North Las Vegas, Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Wildfires in Southern California
Wildfires hit Ventura County, Calif., on Nov. 9, 2018. (Richard Brian/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Dedication of Nevada's Battle Born memorial
The state of Nevada on Friday dedicated its Battle Born memorial honoring 895 state residents who have died in America’s wars.
Las Vegas police and Sunrise Children's Hospital hope to prevent infant deaths
The Metropolitan Police Department and Sunrise Children's Hospital held a press conference to get the message out on preventable infant deaths attributed to "co-sleeping" and other unsafe sleeping habits. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
No serious injuries after car hits tree in south Las Vegas
One person reported minor injuries but wasn’t hospitalized after a Wednesday morning crash in the south valley.
Nellis Air Force Base keeps airmen fed
Nellis Air Force Bass airmen have delicious and healthy food items, and a variety of dining facilities to choose from. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Las Vegas police determined that a suspicious package found Monday morning at a central valley post office was not a threat.
Suspicious package found at central Las Vegas post office
Police evacuated the area around the Garside Station post office early Monday morning near Oakey and Decatur boulevards.
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
With husband's passing, family in limbo for workers' comp claim
Meredith Tracy's husand, Russell Tracy, died more than a year ago on his first day working for a new company when he fell 22 feet into a manhole that was not properly safeguarded. His employer was fined $82,000 in penalties for unsafe practices, but the company has denied her workers' compensation claim, leaving her with no compensation since the death. Rachel Aston Las Vegas Review-Journal @rookie__rae
Las Vegas family shares flu warning
Carlo and Brenda Occhipinti lost their son, Carlo Jr., or “Junior,” to the flu last year.
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Stadust Raceway
Author Randall Cannon shares an anecdote about Dan Blocker, who played Hoss Cartwright on the TV show "Bonanza," and the actor's passion for auto racing at Stardust International Raceway in Las Vegas during the 1960s. (Ron Kantowski/Las Vegas Review-Journal.)
Project Neon 85 percent complete
On Wednesday morning Oct. 31, Interstate 15 northbound lane restrictions were removed opening up Exit 41 to Charleston Blvd. On Thursday Nov. 1, Interstate 15 southbound lane restrictions were removed. The new southbound off-ramp to Sahara Ave. and Highland Dr. also opened Thursday, November 1. With Project Neon 85% finished the flow of traffic on Interstate 15 has substantially diminished. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Girl killed after jumping from bridge onto 215 Beltway in Henderson
Eastbound lanes of the 215 Beltway are shut down by the Nevada Highway Patrol after a female juvenile jumped from the 215 overpass at Stephanie and was struck by a FedEx tractor trailer. Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal @Vegas88s
Kristallnacht story
An interview with 94-year-old Holocaust survivor Alexander Kuechel who survived seven concentration camps and didn’t leave Germany until after World War II was over. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
1 dead in central Las Vegas crash
An early Wednesday morning crash left at least one person dead and another injured. The crash was reported just around 3 a.m. at the intersection of Flamingo Road and Swenson Street. At least two vehicles were involved in the crash, one of which caught fire. Debris was scattered across the intersection as police combed the area as they investigated the scene. Flamingo is blocked in both directions between Swenson and Cambridge Street. Northbound Swenson is blocked at the intersection.
Richard Knoeppel named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year
Richard Knoeppel, an architecture design instructor at the Advanced technologies Academy, named the 2018 Nevada Teacher of the Year on Monday, Oct. 29, 2018. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Mojave Poppy Bees
(Zach Portman/University of Minnesota Department of Entomology) Male Mojave poppy bees exhibit territorial fighting behavior. The Center for Biological Diversity wants the bee, found only in Clark County, to be added to the endangered species list.
Clark County Schools announce random searches
Clark County School District middle and high school students will be subject to random searches for weapons under a new initiative to combat the wave of guns found on campus. (Amelia Pak-Harvey/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss React to Dennis Hof's Death
Ron Jeremy and Heidi Fleiss speak about their friend and prominent brothel owner Dennis Hof's death at Dennis Hof's Love Ranch. (Benjamin Hager/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Nevada brothel owner Dennis Hof has died
Nevada brothel owner and Republican candidate for Nevada State Assembly District 36, Dennis Hof has died. He was 72. Nye County Sherriff's office confirmed. Hof owned Love Ranch brothel, located in Crystal, Nevada.
Las Vegas police investigate suspicious package at shopping center
Las Vegas police evacuated a southeast valley shopping center at Flamingo and Sandhill roads early Tuesday morning while they investigated reports of a suspicious package. (Max Michor/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
The Las Vegas Metro hosts the K-9 Trials
The Las Vegas Metro K-9 Trials returns to the Orleans Arena to benefit the Friends For Las Vegas Police K-9 group.
Kingman residents love their little town
Residents of Kingman, Ariz. talk about how they ended up living in the Route 66 town, and what they love about their quiet community. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Service at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery
Twelve unclaimed veterans are honored at Southern Nevada Veterans Memorial Cemetery in Boulder City in Oct. 9, 2018. (Briana Erickson/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas house prices reach highest level in 11 years
Las Vegas house prices are rising But so is the amount of available homes on the market Still, properties priced below $300,000 are selling fast And September was the first time since June 2007 that the median house price reached the $300,000 mark Las Vegas home prices have been rising at one of the fastest rates in the country over the past year Recent data show the market is now less affordable than the national average
National Night Out
About 100 Summerlin residents gathered at Park Centre Dr. in Summerlin on Tuesday for National Night Out. Lt. Joshua Bitsko with Las Vegas Metro, played with 3-year-old David who was dressed as a police officer. Face painting, fire truck tours and more kept kids busy as parents roamed behind them. (Mia Sims/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Rural homeless issue comes to a head in Pahrump
On Sept. 12, Pahrump sheriff deputies told residents of a homeless encampment on private property that they had 15 minutes to vacate and grab their belongings. That decision might face some legal consequences. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Add Event
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like