A ridiculously high hurdle for petitions
April 6, 2003
If five registered voters of the state of Nevada want to initiate a petition to put an issue on the ballot, here’s what they have to do now:
— File an affidavit stating their names and addresses, and an address to which all correspondence is to be sent.
— Set out the proposed initiative they want to put on the ballot.
If AB428 becomes law, they will have to do the above, plus provide:
— An explanation of how the health, safety and welfare of residents will be promoted or enhanced by the measure.
— An explanation of how financial and environmental resources available to the county will be affected by the proposal.
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— An explanation of the anticipated effect of the adoption or amendment on the objectives, policies and programs of the county’s entire master plan.
These additional requirements would only be necessary if the initiative petition has to do with the county’s master plan, which governs zoning, land use and development.
Why is zoning and land use special? Because that’s the battleground in Douglas County from which this legislation emerged.
Surprisingly, several of the Legislature’s staunchest conservatives, including Gardnerville’s Lynn Hettrick and Carson City’s Ron Knecht, have put their names on AB428. The reason appears to be that builders and developers need extra protection from the slings and arrows of residents like those in Douglas County who voted to put a limit on the number of residential building permits.
To read the extra requirements set out in AB428 is to realize that residents who want to change a county’s master plan would be required to reinvent the master plan — plus research every possible consequence — before they would even be allowed to file their intent to distribute petitions.
That’s not only an unconstitutionally high barrier to initiative petitions, it’s ridiculously high.
From experience, initiative proponents know they likely will have to battle the full array of a local government’s staff, lawyers and politicians even to get their question on the ballot. If the ballot question wins, the likelihood becomes, as happened in Douglas County, that government leaders will use taxpayer dollars to fight the will of voters.
We’re extremely disappointed these lawmakers would see the protection of status quo in government as their mission. In reality, however, it’s not government at all they’re trying to protect. It’s the builders and developers who fought the Douglas County initiative and lost at the polls.