Nevada ruling blocks some officials from re-election

Chris Rizo Jul. 25, 2008, 2:14pm

Catherine Cortez Masto (D)

CARSON CITY, Nev. (Legal Newsline)-The Nevada Supreme Court ruled that 21 officials have completed 12 years in office, and cannot run for re-election, in a decision that sides with Attorney General Catherine Masto Cortez.

The case centered on whether a handful of candidates for public office are eligible to seek re-election since Nevadans, in 1996, approved a constitutional amendment limiting the terms of service for certain public officers to 12 years.

"The will of the voters has been affirmed by this decision, which upholds the constitutionality of term limits," Masto said in a statement. "We are grateful to the court for its expeditious review of this important case."

At least 21 candidates in nine counties will be affected by the high court's decision.

The court said Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, and Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, can seek re-election even though they have served 12 years or more.

The justices said legislators' terms begin the day after elections to "prevent any abuse of power" by a governor who might call a special session immediately after an election.

The term limit law took effect weeks after the November 1996 elections. Legislators elected that year took office the day after the election, and the Supreme Court said the ballot measure cannot be applied retroactively to them.

"As viewed prospectively from its November 1996 effective date, the term-limit amendment applies to all years served in office after that date, even though the office may have been filled by virtue of the 1996 election before the amendment became effective," the justices ruled.

"Thus, any candidate for a state office or position on a local governing body who ... has served 12 years or more after the November 1996 effective date is barred by the term-limit amendment from further service in that position," the court said.

Nevada Secretary of State Ross Miller argued the candidates, which also includes longtime Clark County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury and Nevada Regent Howard Rosenberg, are not eligible for another term because they've served the 12-year maximum time allowed in their offices.

The term limits amendment was approved by 70.4 percent of voters in 1994 and 58.3 percent in 1996.

The law says: "No person may be elected to any state office or local governing body who has served in that office, or at the expiration of his current term if he is so serving or will have served, 12 years or more, unless the permissible number of terms or duration of service is otherwise specified in this constitution."

In papers filed with the high court, state attorney general said the voters decided that officeholders should be restricted to 12 years of service and that should be respected.

"The voters added term limits to Nevada's Constitution to restrict the service of officials to 12 years," Masto wrote. "While the service of Nevada's devoted officials must be applauded, the voters' will must be faithfully enforced."

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