Nevada State Government
THE NEVADA STATE CONSTITUTION
The Constitution of the State of Nevada, the state's governing charter, was framed in July 1864 and ratified in September of that year. It has been amended 130 times. The charter's fundamentals are based on the California constitution of 1849. Historians note that 34 of 39 delegates to the Nevada constitutional convention arrived in Nevada by way of California.
The completed Nevada constitution was telegraphed to Washington, D.C. With more than 16,000 words, this telegram required 12 hours and a fee of about $4,300 to send and was the longest message sent up to that time by the new technology of the telegraph.
Nevada voters have access to initiative and popular referendum.
In 2014, the Nevada constitution will be 150 years old. As its sesquicentennial approaches, some in the state are calling for a re-examination of the document. While the charter has been amended many times, it has never been thoroughly overhauled. Some observers believe the legislature is significantly weaker than the governorship because legislators only meet every other year and cannot meet at other times unless called by the governor.
Constitutional critics also point out that Nevada's founders didn't foresee the pervasive impact on the state of the gambling industry and as a result there is no legislative confirmation process for gubernatorial appointments to key commissions such as the Nevada Gaming Control Board and the Nevada Gaming Commission.
Nevadans elect six statewide officers: governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state (who keeps many records and oversees elections), treasurer (the state's banker), controller (who administers the state's accounting and debt collection programs), and attorney general (chief legal officer for the state).
Four-year terms apply to all of these offices. All elected state and local officials in Nevada except judges are term limited. All offices are limited to no more than two terms in office except for lieutenant governor.
The governor and lieutenant governor must meet the same eligibility requirements: a minimum age of 25, residency in the state for the previous two years, and membership in the ranks of qualified electors. Any state elector is eligible for secretary of state, treasurer, attorney general, and controller.
The governor is chief executive of the state. He or she is charged with seeing that its laws are faithfully executed, is granted substantial appointive and budget-making powers, and serves as commander-in-chief of the state's military forces. Unlike many governors, Nevada's chief executive does not have sole pardoning powers, instead serving on a nine-member board. The Nevada governor does not have the line-item veto, one of the few state chief executives to lack this tool.
The lieutenant governor is elected separately from the governor. He or she serves as president of the senate, voting in the case of a tie but having few other formal responsibilities in that body. A 1996 constitutional amendment grants lieutenant governors the right to serve three four-year terms.
The Nevada Legislature is a bicameral body consisting of 21 senators and 42 members of the state assembly. The legislature meets every other year for 120 days starting in February. Senators are elected to four-year terms with limits of three terms in a lifetime; assembly members are elected to two-year terms with limits of six terms a lifetime. In order to be elected to the legislature a person must be at least 21 years old, a U.S. citizen, a Nevada resident for one year, and a qualified voter in the relevant district.
Nevada legislators are part-time "citizen" lawmakers spending the rough equivalent of half-time at governance. Their staffs are relatively small and their compensation is quite modest. The 20-month "interim period" between legislative sessions is important in Nevada politics, with meetings of the Interim Finance Committee a key aspect of this period. One key power center in the legislature is the Legislative Commission, consisting of 12 legislators, six from each chamber. Another key body is the Legislative Counsel Bureau, the director of which is appointed by the Legislative Commission.
The lieutenant governor is president of the Senate, voting in the case of a tie but having few other formal responsibilities in that body. A key leadership post is the president pro tempore, elected by the majority party. Very significant senate power is found in the office of majority leader; committee assignments and committee chairs stem from this office. The key leadership post in the assembly is the assembly speakership, elected by the majority party.
The Nevada legislature is known for its technological sophistication; it's one of the most digitally advanced such bodies in the country.
The Nevada judiciary consists of a supreme court, district courts, municipal courts, and justice courts. Judges are chosen in nonpartisan elections and are not term limited; a constitutional initiative that would have allowed judicial term limits was rejected 70 percent to 30 percent in 1996. In 2010 voters will be asked to decide whether or not to overhaul the state judiciary by instituting a modified merit selection plan for judgeships and by creating an intermediate appellate court (a court of appeals).
The seven justices of the Nevada Supreme Court handle all appeals from district courts, a caseload of 2,000 decisions annually, one of the highest such loads among the state supreme courts. The court also has administrative responsibilities. Justices are chosen statewide to six-year terms. The post of chief justice rotates according to seniority; the chief justice serves a two-year term. Qualifications include a minimum age of 25, two years residency in the state, being licensed and admitted to the bar in Nevada, 15 years as a licensed attorney (at least two years in Nevada), and being a qualified elector.
District court is the state's general jurisdiction court, hearing a wide variety of legal disputes including criminal, civil, family, and juvenile matters resolved through trials, mediation, or arbitration. The judges also hear appeals of municipal court and justice court cases. The state's 64 district court judges are chosen from nine districts to six-year terms. Qualifications are a minimum age of 25, two years residency in the state, district residency, a license to practice law in Nevada, 10 years as a licensed attorney (at least two years in Nevada), and being a qualified elector.
These limited-jurisdiction courts, 17 in number and including 30 judges, handle minor matters that occur within the city limits of incorporated municipalities, typically traffic violations and misdemeanors. Qualifications include residence in the municipality, being licensed and admitted to practice law in the state, being a qualified elector, and not having retired from, or been removed from, another judicial office.
These limited-jurisdiction courts are located in townships; 45 such courts call upon the services of 60 justices of the peace. These courts handle misdemeanors, traffic matters, small claims, evictions, and small civil matters. Qualifications to serve as judge are being a township resident, possessing a high school diploma or equivalent, and not having retired from, or been removed from, another judicial office. In townships of 100,000 or more, the candidate must be licensed and admitted to practice law in the state.
Nevada counties do not have home rule, and municipalities have very limited home rule. Officials in many local governmental entities would very much like to move toward home rule. A dozen of Nevada's 19 cities have city charters, but these documents can be changed only by the legislature and not by local residents. Nevada's 16 counties are administered by boards of commissioners. The state's cities have either mayor/council or council/manager forms of government. A rather unusual feature of Nevada governance is that the state has a few full-service communities that are not incorporated, such as Incline Village in the High Sierra. In addition, Nevada has special districts that focus on specific government services.
Nevada State Flag
Nevada State Seal
|Author: World Trade Press|