Wednesday, April 23, 2003

Protect their tender little feelings

Nevada politics are weird in many ways. The state is still small enough that a handful of big-wigs often handpick the candidates for the state's top offices ... otherwise, a cipher such as political neophyte Kenny Guinn could have never been elected governor in 1998. The "good government" and "clean campaign" types also have an annoying amount of clout in the state, as repeated attempts to stifle criticism of public employees, elected officials and other government functionaries gain a surprising amount of traction here -- notwithstanding their short lifespans once they're subjected to the scrutiny of the courts.

Case in point: The passage April 21 of Senate Bill 342, a bill which would make it a misdemeanor to "knowingly" file a "false or fraudulent written complaint or allegation of misconduct" against anyone who works for state or county government, including elected officials. If this seems difficult to square with the First Amendment, well, you're right. A similar bill enacted in 1999 protecting law enforcement officers from such "false" complaints was struck down in federal court two years ago, after the law was used to jail a Reno resident who wrote a letter to the mayor complaining about the local cops.

Police here have been pissed ever since. So they prevailed upon lawmakers to pass the current proposal, which applies to all public employees. This editorial by me discusses the bill. Of course, the state will end up in court, spend thousands of dollars defending the law, and will lose. Will they ever learn?

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