(Steve Sebelius) – Here’s an idea: You know how we ended up with a two-thirds supermajority requirement to raise taxes in the Legislature? Because Jim Gibbons wanted to defeat then-Gov. Bob Miller in 1994, and circulated a petition to amend the constitution. Gibbons figured — incorrectly, as it turns out — that the popularity of the anti-tax measure would translated into votes for him. (Give Gibbons some credit; in 1996, he ran for, and was elected to, Congress, when his anti-tax measure had its constitutionally required second appearance on the ballot.)
Gibbons did the same thing in 2004 and 2006, when he circulated his Education First initiative. After the 2003 Legislature left the education budget until last, in the hopes of using schools to force reluctant lawmakers to raise taxes, Gibbons circulated another constitution-amending initiative that requires the Legislature to fund the education budget first, before the rest of state government. It hasn’t really made a difference in Legislative operations, but it was on the ballot in 2006 when Gibbons got elected governor.
And it’s not just Gibbons. Former Assemblywoman Sharron Angle was circulating a property-tax limitation measure at the same time she was running for Congress. Both failed.
Comes now Assemblyman Chad Christensen, planning to circulate a little initiative of his own, to adopt Arizona-style immigration laws in Nevada. Christensen admits he might not be able to get all 97,002 signatures by the June deadline to place his measure on the November ballot, but says the law could appear on the 2012 ballot if it doesn’t make it this year. He says he’s doing it because Gibbons refused to call a special session to address immigration reform, and — sadly — Christensen will not be serving when the 2011 Legislature convenes.
Of course, adopting the Arizona law would be a tremendously bad idea. (How bad? Consider this: Gibbons is against it.) But that’s not really the point here, is it? The point is to give a boost to Christensen’s candidacy, using what the assemblyman obviously thinks is the popularity of the immigration law as a boost. There are many people in Nevada who have never heard of Chad Christensen, but everybody has heard about — and has an opinion on — immigration.
So here’s my idea: Pass a law that says no person running for office may simultaneously propose an initiative to create, amend or repeal any portion of the Nevada Revised Statutes or the Nevada Constitution. Yes, such a law would be at odds with the First Amendment, it would tread on political speech and it would be an onerous and obviously unconstitutional burden on would-be officeholders. But when you consider that somebody’s stupid legislative proposal — crafted only to help them politically — could actually become law, well, the trade-off starts to look better.
In fact, my Stop the Insanity Act might make a dandy basis for a run for office! Hey, when’s the filing deadline again?