Term limit challenge

The Nevada political establishment’s disdain for voter-approved term limits could lead to a formal challenge of the constitutional amendment. Such a protest, if successful, could allow some of Nevada’s longest-serving, highest-profile elected officials to retain their gerrymandered districts until the day they die.

But the first salvo in the battle over term limits, fired this month in decidedly low-profile races, could have huge implications leading up to Election Day.

Washoe County School Board Trustee Jonnie Pullman, Carson City School Board Trustee John McKenna and Pershing County School Board Trustee Todd Plimpton have filed the candidacy paperwork to seek a fourth, four-year term on their respective panels. Secretary of State Ross Miller has challenged those filing because term limits do not allow them to serve more than 12 years on the board. Mr. Miller based his challenge on a 1996 attorney general’s opinion, which held that the term limits clock began Nov. 27, 1996, when that year’s election results were certified by the Nevada Supreme Court. However, the opinion doesn’t address whether that date applies to officials who took office the following January, as Ms. Pullman, Mr. McKenna and Mr. Plimpton did.

Because a Legislative Counsel Bureau opinion stated that the term limits clock for state lawmakers didn’t begin until the 1998 election, the trustees have argued that they should enjoy the same standard.

A handful of elected officials and political insiders are plotting a more forceful attack on term limits. They intend to argue that because state law requires voters to approve a constitutional amendment twice, and because the Nevada Supreme Court split the term limits proposal approved in 1994 into two questions for the 1996 election, term limits must be voided because voters did not approve the same question both times.

Essentially, the challenge will ask the Nevada Supreme Court to shred a constitutional amendment that had landslide public support because of an action taken by the same high court.

Ms. Pullman, Mr. McKenna and Mr. Plimpton do not appear to dispute the validity of the term limits amendment — they are asserting only that they can each seek one more term on the School Board.

But their dispute would appear to be headed for the Supreme Court. So it’s not far-fetched to think that those opposed to term limits might glom onto these candidacies and ask the trio to be the stalking horse for a despicable assault on the will of the electorate.

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