Geoff Dornan

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May 8, 2010
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Lawmakers approve four ballot questions

Lawmakers on Friday approved language for four ballot questions including major changes to Nevada's court system.

Appointing judges

One question for voters is whether to change how judges are selected in Nevada. Currently, the state Constitution mandates that all judges be elected by the people.

The courts, championed by Senate Minority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, want to adopt what is commonly called the Missouri Plan. Under that scheme, instead of directly electing a judge, a judicial vacancy would be filled by the governor from a list of nominees selected on the basis of their qualifications.

But, in order to keep the job, the appointee would have to face voters at the next general election in what amounts to a vote of confidence. If he or she failed to get at least 55 percent of public support, that person would lose the job and another appointee would be named to fill the seat.

Raggio has said the plan would ensure that the best lawyers become judges and, since voters get to weigh in on the judge's record, wouldn't take away the public's ability to pick their judges.

Opponents argue the voters should select the judges in the first place, not the Commission on Judicial Selection and the governor.

Appellate court

The second question involving the judiciary would change Nevada's Constitution to allow lawmakers to create an intermediate appellate court between the district courts and Nevada Supreme Court. Supreme Court justices have long argued an appellate court could dispose of a significant number of challenges that should never rise to the attention of the Supreme Court.

The change wouldn't require creation of the appellate court but simply permit it if lawmakers choose.

Public lands

The third question on the list would make changes to cure what experts see as serious problems with the voter-approved People's Initiative to Stop the Taking of Our Land. That ballot question dramatically changed and restricted the process by which governments can condemn private land for public purposes. Supporters argue the original initiative is so restrictive it could cost huge amounts of taxpayer money and make it very difficult to build, maintain and upgrade such things as schools, roads, water and sewer systems.

Supporters also point out that even the original sponsors of the initiative support the changes in the new ballot question.

Tax law

Finally, the fourth question would change the voter-approved state Sales and Use Tax Act of 1955 to allow lawmakers to make certain changes without going to a vote of the people.

Lawmakers would not be allowed to change the 2 percent sales tax rate in that law or do anything that would reduce exemptions under the act. Supporters say the idea is to allow lawmakers to resolve conflicts with federal and other laws or interstate agreements for administering the sales and use tax act rather than wait as long as two years to get a minor administrative change on the ballot.

All four questions will be put before the electorate in November.

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The Record Courier Updated May 8, 2010 03:58PM Published May 8, 2010 03:57PM Copyright 2010 The Record Courier. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.