Smoking suit may show initiative process’ problems
December 11, 2006
The lawsuits filed in Clark and Churchill counties over the state’s new smoking law probably have many Nevada voters wondering if their vote on the ballot initiative that passed on Nov. 7 was a waste of time.
A group of Southern Nevada businessmen is determined to stop the law through the only remaining means available to them – the courtroom. If they’re successful, it will call into question the state’s ballot initiative process.
No initiative that is unclear or unconstitutional should make it on the ballot. Those questions should be vetted at an early stage of the process.
Once voters have spoken, on smoking or any other ballot initiative, it should be law.
The ballot initiative process makes sense in many ways, but it may be in need of an overhaul for this and other reasons. Its redeeming quality is that it allows proposals supported by the majority of Nevadans to become law no matter what legislators and lobbyists do.
But it’s not free of abuses. Rounding up the required number of signatures to get on the ballot conjures up images of volunteers going door-to-door for a cause in which they believe. But the actuality is that the signature gathering is often done by paid employees. And frequently the money that funds them comes from out of state.
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The process also leaves voters trying to decipher advertising campaigns during election season that are frequently misleading or confusing.
It’s likely that many more proposals will become Nevada law through ballot initiatives. Now, rather during those campaigns, is the time to make sure the process is producing good laws rather than something voters will regret later.