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Judge Rules Lawmakers With Public Jobs Don’t Violate State Constitution

NPRI will file an appeal to the state Supreme Court

By Megan Barth, January 6, 2023 9:27 am

As reported by The Globe, the Nevada Policy Research Institute (NPRI) filed a second lawsuit against state lawmakers for violating the state constitution by serving in the legislature as government employees.

Following their state Supreme Court victory in April, which allowed all citizens to bring constitutional separation of powers challenges without having to satisfy the traditional standing requirements, previous defendants State Senators Melanie Scheible and Nicole Cannizzaro resigned their respective positions as county prosecutors.  According to NPRI:

Almost all the newly added dual-serving legislators are public school employees, which highlights the inherent conflicts of interest that led the Framers to bar such dual service. These dual-serving legislators necessarily undermine faith and trust in the legislative process given they will be responsible for considering whether to raise taxes to increase funding for their own employer.  

Similar conflicts exist when these dual-serving legislators consider whether to approve educational reforms like school choice, which will unquestionably improve the quality of education but in a way that might undermine their professional interests, given that school choice threatens the public school system’s tax-funded, monopoly status.  

Yet, their victory in April did not translate to a victory in this case.

The Review Journal (RJ) reports:

Clark County District Judge Jessica Peterson ruled in favor of four lawmakers named in the complaint: Assemblywoman Brittney Miller and Selena Torres, both teachers with the Clark County School District, Sen Dina Neal, an adjunct professor at Nevada State College, and Sen. James Ohrenschall, who serves as a public defender in Clark County.

The ruling also points out that the Nevada Legislature has the power to block this kind of employment situation but has declined to do so.

“Therefore, this Court views this inaction as the intent of the Legislature to not enact such a law,” the ruling states.

According to NPRI Vice President, Robert Fellner, the organization will appeal to the state Supreme Court.

In an emailed statement to the RJ, Fellner stated, “We look forward to giving the Nevada Supreme Court an opportunity to follow its own, binding precedent on this issue–which squarely and emphatically reject the line of reasoning put forth by the district court–in our forthcoming appeal.”

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