Nevada Attorney General Brian Sandoval ruled today that some public employees were eligible to sit in the Legislature, but others weren't. Sandoval was responding to a request from Secretary of State Dean Heller to clarify whether the separation of powers clause in the state constitution prevented government workers from legislative service. Employees of state agencies (including the university system) cannot hold seats in the Legislature, Sandoval decided, but the separation of powers concerns did not apply to local governments.
If the decision holds, six members of the 2003 Legislature, three Democrats and three Republicans, are no longer constitutionally eligible to hold office. The big losers are Senate Minority Leader Dina Titus, who teaches political science at UNLV, Sen. Ray Rawson, who makes a gajillion bucks teaching dentistry (that's right) at the community college, and Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, who gets paid $70,000 a year to do something or another for the community college.
It would be easy to give Sandoval a hard time for splitting the baby. After all, he had to perform some impressive intellectual contortionism to dismiss the separation concerns that apply to local workers. (The reasoning is that Nevada's constitution is based on California's, and court decisions from the early days of the Republic stated that separation of powers didn't apply to local governments. Of course, this doesn't address the issue of home rule, which I've posted about before.) On the other hand, no one in the state's political, business or labor establishments was pushing Sandoval to do anything other than leave the status quo in place. It took courage to move as far as he did. And besides, the decision (when it's up, I'll post a link) offers a ringing endorsement of why separation of powers is important. All in all, it's a pleasant surprise. (Sandoval also did a fine job eviscerating several opinions by the Legislative Counsel Bureau, the Legislature's lawyers, which had rendered separation concerns meaningless.)
That said, the ruling has no legal force behind it. It can be used as ammunition in litigation, which I hope starts quickly. Of course, if Sandoval really wanted to cause trouble, he could aggressively enforce the opinion, and basically kick the illegal double-dippers out of office immediately ... cut off their telephones ... change the locks on their offices ... deny them access to legislative e-mails. Won't happen, but it's an inviting thought.
UPDATE: The link the opinion (PDF) is here.
Mickey Kaus (a Democrat, in case you're unaware) makes the case against John Kerry. (Hat tip to Instapundit.) Meantime, Virginia Postrel (still a registered Republican, AFAIK) links to the case against George W. Bush. (Again, Instapundit's involved.)
What's a mother to do?
Addendum: Virginia points out that she hasn't been a registered Republican since California switched to open primaries.