Amendment to remove regents from constitution could go to 2020 ballot |

Amendment to remove regents from constitution could go to 2020 ballot

The proposed amendment removing the Board of Regents from the Nevada Constitution is now just one step away from heading to the 2020 General Election ballot.

After an hour of testimony, the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections voted unanimously to recommend “do pass” for AJR5.

Chairman Sen. James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, said over the past two sessions, the plan has been thoroughly vetted by lawmakers and he was comfortable accepting a motion. Sen. Keith Pickard, R-Las Vegas, moved and Ivanna Cancela, D-Las Vegas, seconded the motion.

AJR5 has already been through the Legislature once in 2017. If approved by the full senate this session, AJR5 will go to the ballot for voters to decide.

Elliott Anderson, who as an Assemblyman sponsored the plan in the 2017 Legislature along with Sen. Joyce Woodhouse, said the world of higher education has changed dramatically since the constitution was written in 1864 when the University of Nevada was formed under the Morrill Act as a land grant institution.

“Higher education belongs to Nevadans living here today,” he said.

Asked by Ohrenschall to clarify whether AJR5 eliminates an elected board of regents, Deputy Legislative Counsel Kevin Powers said if voters approve the amendment, the Board will still be elected by the people. He said the primary change will be the regents and system of higher education will become a statutory authority.

“It will be subject to the policy making control of the Legislature,” he said.

However, Powers said in the future, lawmakers could decide to change the status of regents form elected to appointed.

System General Counsel Joe Reynolds told the committee AJR5 would open the door to that and many other changes in the system.

But in response to statements the founders put the board in the constitution to isolate and protect it, Anderson said one of those founders, George Norris, stated at the time they didn’t want to isolate the regents form outside control. He said there have been too many times and legal cases where the system has tried to claim immunity from control by the governor and legislature. He said the board should be subject to the policy control by the Legislature just like every other board in the state.