Wednesday, March 03, 2004

Cautious approach

Attorney General Brian Sandoval is confident in the correctness of his ruling that state employees can't serve in the Legislature, but isn't sure how to force the issue. In a meeting with Review-Journal editors on Tuesday, Sandoval said he would move forward cautiously because he did not want to bring a legal action before the state courts, only to have it bounced on a technicality (as happened decades ago to the last AG who tried to remove an executive branch employee from the Legislature). Given the haphazard jurisprudence we've received from the current batch of justices, a deft touch may be in order.

Still, five of the six affected lawmakers say it's business as usual: They'll keep their tax-financed jobs and their legislative seats and run for re-election ... after which, they'll keep double-dipping in violation of the constitution. (State Sen. Ray Rawson, who faces an uphill primary re-election battle against Assemblyman Bob Beers, has scheduled a news conference for today in which he could announce he will not seek another senate term after all.)

Secretary of State Dean Heller, who has something to say about the qualifications of office-holders, appears willing to allow the six to keep their seats and their jobs until the next Legislature convenes. Which makes the timing of any resolution important. If the six continue to sit on legislative panels (including committees which are disbursing tax dollars) in violation of the constitution, I would think any of their constituents (or any state resident, for that matter) would have standing to file suit and have them removed from office immediately. At the very least, the issue ought to be resolved before the filing date for the 2005 Legislature closes in June. Otherwise, we face the prospect of a handful of lawmakers being re-elected, refusing to resign their state jobs, and then being thrown out of office early next year, necessitating special elections to fill the seats.

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