Backers of an amendment that would remove provisions giving special status to the Board of Regents from Nevada’s Constitution said Thursday AJR5 was never intended to eliminate them as elected officials.
But opponents told the Legislative Operations and Elections Committee the amendment would nonetheless make that possible for a future Legislature.
Assemblyman Elliot Anderson, D-Las Vegas, said the constitution gives the regents power to govern in effect absolutely and outside the ultimate control of the Legislature and governor.
He said that language is regularly interpreted by the Nevada System of Higher Education “to suggest it is the fourth branch of government.”
He said that has become an impediment to reform by making the board too strong.
Committee legal counsel Kevin Powers said the constitution effectively “took a slice of sovereign power of the executive branch and dedicated it to the Board of Regents.” He said that only applies to internal management of affairs in the university system.
“There is no intent to remove elections as part of this process,” said Anderson. “But we as a body should have a say in what goes on there.”
Opponents included Allison Stephens, vice chairman of the regents. She said the constitutional provisions AJR5 would give the university system and the board some insulation from the changing political winds that affect the Legislature.
Regent Jason Geddes said they’re concerned that the election of board members would be changed down the road despite Anderson’s assurances that isn’t the current intent.
Powers concurred once that provision is out of the constitution, lawmakers could decide to change the rules and appoint members to the regents.
But he said the resolution could be amended so ensure that members of the regents remain elected, not appointed positions.
Conservative activists Janine Hansen and John Wagner said that would resolve their concerns about AJR5.
The committee took no action on the proposed amendment.