Issue of state worker legislators in high court |

Issue of state worker legislators in high court

by Geoff Dornan

Attorney General Brian Sandoval on Friday asked the Nevada Supreme Court to rule whether public employees who are also legislators should be kicked out of the Legislature.

The petition requested by Secretary of State Dean Heller, asks the court to resolve the issue and, if those lawmakers should be barred, to order them removed from office.

Sandoval’s opinion last month stated local government workers should be able to serve in the Legislature but that state government workers including those in the University System should be barred from serving unless they surrender their job.

Sandoval’s reasoning was that their dual service in two branches of state government violates the separation of powers mandates in Article 3 of the Nevada Constitution.

The Legislative Counsel Bureau ruled those employees should be allowed to serve as well and that there was no conflict with the state constitution or separation of powers unless those state employees were in positions where they exercised policy-making authority. That opinion reasoned the state constitution never intended to disenfranchise everyone who works for the state from holding office.

That, in fact, has been the practice for two decades in the Nevada Legislature without challenge until this year following the contentious and divisive tax battles of the 2003 Legislature.

Sandoval asked the court to uphold his ruling that state workers be barred from service and that the five lawmakers in that category – Sen. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, and Assembly members Jason Geddes of Reno, Ron Knecht of Carson City – both Republicans – and Chris Giunchigliani and Mark Manendo – Las Vegas Democrats – be removed from the Legislature.

Then, he asks the court to decide once and for all whether local government employees – of which there are several among the 63 lawmakers – can serve even though both his office and counsel bureau argue they are eligible.

The petition points out that the court recently recognized local school districts as subdivisions of the state, therefore supporting the argument school employees are state employees and barred from service if Sandoval’s opinion is correct.

Several lawmakers including Assemblyman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, are school teachers.

But the petition asks the court to resolve the issue not only for state and university employees but school, county and city workers at all levels whether simple employees or managers and directors.

Sandoval agreed with Heller that the issue should be resolved one way or another before the opening of candidate filing May 4. He said the Supreme Court is the only body with the power to resolve the issue.

Contact Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.