Supreme Court Tackles Term Limits

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Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley is one of the state's most powerful politicians. Hal Newman serves on the Board of Directors of the Churchill County Mosquito and Weed Abatement District. The 2 officials and their positions may have little in common, but the future of both was being argued today in the state's highest court.

At issue is the state's term limits. Both Buckley and Newman were elected to terms in 1996, the same year voters were approving a constitutional amendment limiting the terms of all elected officials save judges. The Secretary of State says Buckley and any other legislator elected that year can have another term. He says Newman can't.

A key issue involves what should be (but isn't) a simple reading of the initiative and the calendar.

Election day in 1996 was on November 5th. The final election canvass, its official certification, took place on the 26th. The Secretary of State and the Attorney General's office argues the term limit clock started ticking on the 27th. So the time is now up for a number of officials, county commissioners, school board members, even mosquito abatement board directors who assumed office after that date.

Legislators are another matter. There's case law that says they take office the day after the effect they weren't covered by the law until the next time they ran.

Buckley's attorney says this view goes back to the state's very beginnings.
"They were very specific," says Bill Bradley. "There was real concern in 1864 that a governor with evil motives might hijack lawmakers in a special session after the election."

So, a provision to prevent mischief by a governor and a lame duck legislature is exhibit number one in Buckley's legal argument to remain on the ballot. An attorney for her Republican opponent in their Las Vegas assembly district says Buckley and the other lawmakers elected in 1996 are on the same clock as Hal Newman and it has run out. The justices won't issue a decision until after July 14th. That's when they hear arguments on the constitutionality of the law itself.