Initiative to ban sanctuary cities in Nevada disqualified
January 5, 2018
The initiative petition seeking to constitutionally prohibit sanctuary cities in Nevada was ruled too flawed to go before voters on Friday.
"The court feels the problem is I think the initiative is excessively broad and encompasses a multitude of subjects," said Carson District Judge Todd Russell.
Agreeing with ACLU legal Director Amy Rose, he ruled the proposed constitutional amendment would have an impact on "a wide variety of laws" by barring state and local governments in Nevada from enacting any rules to prohibit or even discourage enforcement of federal immigration statutes.
State Senator Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, who authored the petition, made it clear he intends to appeal that ruling to the Nevada Supreme Court.
"See you at the next step," he said.
Rose said because the proposed amendment would impact everything from public education to social and emergency services as well as criminal activity, it contains a multitude of subjects in violation of the mandate that petitions contain just one subject. She said immigration law involves a long list of subjects at the federal level.
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But Paul Georgeson representing petition backers said it does contain just one subject — immigration law.
He said it totals just 133 words and is easy to understand.
Rose rejected that argument.
"Even if you accept their argument that it's one subject, that one subject is excessively general," she argued pointing out Nevada case law bars excessively general language.
Russell also agreed with ACLU arguments the petition violates the requirement it explain the impact of enacting the proposed constitutional amendment in a plain language "Description of Effect." He said the description simply repeats the petition language. He also said it's "sort of misleading" since the title of the petition says its purpose is to prevent sanctuary cities while the actual petition language doesn't even mention sanctuary cities, instead saying it would enforce federal immigration laws.
"The Description of Effect doesn't actually inform the voters of anything," he said. He questioned how any voter would understand the impact of what is in the petition.
Russell thanked both sides for what he termed "very excellent briefs," adding "I don't always get excellent briefs."
Whether the proposed petition meets requirements of Nevada law and the state constitution must be resolved before backers begin to collect the voter signatures necessary to qualify it for the November ballot.
To get on the ballot, backers must collect at least 112,544 signatures from registered Nevada voters including at least 28,136 from each of the court petition districts — Nevada's four congressional districts.
The deadline for submitting those signatures is June 19.