EDITORIAL: Fealty to state constitution — when it’s convenient
Las Vegas Review-Journal
December 3, 2019
Last month, state officials announced that Assemblywoman Heidi Swank, a Las Vegas Democrat, would leave the Legislature to become the first administrator of Nevada’s new Division of Outdoor Recreation, created by lawmakers in 2019 to promote economic growth through activities such as camping, hunting, boating, hiking and the like.
“Nevada has so many amazing outdoor opportunities and a variety of agencies and organizations doing work in this arena,” Ms. Swank said upon accepting the offer. “I look forward to bringing all these entities together to further Nevada’s outdoor recreation economy and get more Nevadans outdoors.”
But Ms. Swank’s tenure in the position — which paid up to $96,000 a year, not including benefits — ended before it began. Seems someone forgot that Article 4, Section 8 of the state constitution prohibits lawmakers from sliding into “any civil office of profit under this state which shall have been created” during their term in Carson City. Days after the announcement, a legislative lawyer informed Ms. Swank that her appointment was probably illegal. She stepped aside.
“I can’t blame anyone in this,” she told The Nevada Independent. “It was a bit of bad luck.”
We’ll leave for another day whether Nevada needs a new bureaucracy to appease conservationists and other outdoor special-interest groups. The purpose of the Article 4 constitutional prohibition is sound and intended to prevent lawmakers from creating cushy taxpayer-funded sinecures for their own benefit. But while attorneys at the Legislative Counsel Bureau are rediscovering obscure passages of the constitution, did they perchance stumble upon Article 3, Section 1 of that very same document?
“The powers of the government of the state of Nevada shall be divided into three separate departments, the legislative, the executive and the judicial,” it reads in plain English, “and no persons charged with the exercise of powers properly belonging to one of these departments shall exercise any functions appertaining to either of the others.”