November 24, 2020 - 9:00 pm
Updated November 24, 2020 - 9:19 pm
Another portion of the state constitution designed to protect us took a step backward on Wednesday when District Judge Jim Crockett dismissed a lawsuit brought against current state lawmakers for holding various government jobs while serving in the Legislature. Though the separation of powers provision has been part of the state constitution seemingly forever, it has not been enforced.
By creating three branches of government, each separate from the other two as to functions, the Founders sought to protect us from dictatorial abuses.
The lawsuit was brought by the Nevada Policy Research Institute, a think tank whose targets are legislators of both parties in both houses. Because many accept serving in the Senate or Assembly as a part time job, they should not be expected to rule objectively on laws that could conflict with their other jobs.
Some of the double-dippers are attorneys working as prosecutors or public defenders. Could this sway their votes on proposed legislation? Some are school district or university employees. So could their legislative vote on … say … a tax bill be affected by their employment?
Years ago, our own U.S. Rep. Dina Titus was serving in the Legislature while she worked at the time for UNLV. Her rather unique response was that the higher education system was a fourth branch of government and therefore exempt from the separation of powers clause. I guess it worked for her. But who would swallow that?
The separation of powers is vital for our democracy, and I hope the NRPI appeal is successful.