Constitutional issues should stay at home
December 17, 2004
Much as we would like to see it overturned, the Nevada Supreme Court’s decision on a two-thirds majority to raise taxes isn’t the business of the U.S. Supreme Court.
During the 2003 legislative session, the state court made a controversial ruling that said the Nevada constitutional guarantee of funding for education outweighed the voter-approved requirement for a two-thirds majority of legislative votes to raise taxes.
We didn’t agree with the court’s decision then, and we don’t agree with it now. But we also don’t want the U.S. Supreme Court interpreting Nevada’s constitution – which is the bigger issue here.
Twenty-four Republicans have continued to press the case against the court ruling, despite being turned away by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. For the debate they have generated, and for generally continuing to raise heck over the opinion, they deserve thanks from Nevada residents.
Nevertheless, the Ninth Circuit was correct when it said the issue was moot. In the end, the 2003 tax increases were approved with a two-thirds majority.
Does the state court’s ruling set a precedent? Probably. Since then, however, Nevada voters have approved the Education First initiative, requiring an education budget be approved first as a way to prevent similar conflicts in the future.
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Should another constitutional question arise, we believe it would be considered on its own merits. And we have to trust the Nevada justices to get it right.
The alternative is to turn our constitution over to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has little desire to get into the habit of second-guessing state courts on their own constitutional issues. We have even less desire to have it do so.
The one key argument – that the Nevada Supreme Court denied the state’s voters their right to choose their own government – is, for all practical purposes, also moot. Nevadans have the right to vote for the justices themselves, and they chose three new ones in November.