Lawyer: 'Ordinary Public Employees' Can Serve Legislature

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A Las Vegas lawyer has filed a brief with the Nevada Supreme Court, arguing the state constitution does not block "ordinary public employees" from serving as legislators.

Lawyer Dan Polsenberg said in court documents filed Wednesday that the types of jobs performed by nine government workers who also serve in the part-time state Legislature are not of a high enough position to bar them from being lawmakers.

"Sen. (Dina) Titus is a university professor, others are firefighters, policemen and school teachers," Polsenberg told the Las Vegas Review-Journal. "They are not performing functions that prevent them from serving."

Polsenberg filed a friend-of-the-court brief with the state Supreme Court on behalf of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, the State of Nevada Employees Association, the Professional Firefighters of Nevada, the Nevada Faculty Alliance and other organizations.

The organizations support the lawmakers who are fighting a move by state Attorney General Brian Sandoval and Secretary of State Dean Heller that would force them to choose between their legislative positions and their government jobs.

Sandoval has asked the state Supreme Court to rule on his March 1 opinion that the separation of powers doctrine prevents state government employees from serving as legislators. The Legislature filed a response Tuesday.

Sandoval's opinion states local government employees can serve in the Legislature but executive-branch state employees can't. Executive-branch employees include those working for the governor or other constitutional officers, various state boards or agencies and Nevada's college and university system.

Polsenberg argues the constitution forbids only people such as the governor, secretary of state, Supreme Court justices or heads of government agencies from also serving as legislators.

In a separate brief filed by the Nevada State Education Association, attorneys contend separation of powers does not apply to school districts and local governments since they are not state agencies.