Nevada Supreme Court Rules on Term Limits - 8 News NOW

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Nevada Supreme Court Rules on Term Limits

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County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury County Commissioner Bruce Woodbury
Clark County School Trustee Mary Beth Scow Clark County School Trustee Mary Beth Scow
University Regent Thalia Dondero University Regent Thalia Dondero
Clark County School Trustee Ruth Johnson Clark County School Trustee Ruth Johnson

Just one day before early voting is set to begin, the Nevada Supreme Court has decided the issue of term limits. Nearly two dozen long time elected officials can't be elected again.

The rulings are a culmination of thousands of pages of legal documents and several hearings before the full Supreme Court. But when the high court released its decisions, it sent shockwaves through local political circles.

Bruce Woodbury, the longest serving commissioner in Nevada history, must relinquish the seat he has held since 1981. Also out are University Regent Thalia Dondero and School Board Trustees Ruth Johnson and Mary Beth Scow.

Click Here to See a Full List of Who's In, Who's Out

And 13 members of the Nevada Legislature, including top leaders Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley and Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, have been allowed to run for one more term.

Woodbury says it would have been much easier for both the candidates and the voters if this issued been decided years ago. But, he says he has no regrets about his time on the County Commission.

"My main feeling is one of just gratitude to the people of this community who have given me this incredible privilege of serving them as a County Commissioner for what will be basically 28 years at the end of this year. And it has just been the greatest privilege of my life," he said.

And while Assembly Speaker Buckley is allowed to run for one final term, she says the situation does not make for a graceful exit for Woodbury and the other long-time public servants.

"I do feel bad for some of the local officeholders. Some of them have served the state with distinction and I think it was a bad way to end and it didn't have to end this way," she said.

So why are some candidates in and some out? It all has do with when their terms office officially started. Term limits were approved by voters on November 5, 1996, but did not take effect until November 27, 1996 when the vote was officially certified.

State lawmakers were not impacted because, under the Constitution, their terms began the day after the election when term limits were not yet in effect. For all other elected officials, the clock started ticking in 1996 because their terms started after term limits were in effect.

So why the difference in the start of those terms? This gets into deep Nevada history.

The framers of the Constitution wanted to make sure the state legislature could be called into special session by the governor at any time. They wanted to make sure no lawmakers who had just been voted out of office could participate, so legislative terms start the day after the election.

University Regent Thalia Dondero's bid for re-election is also over because of today's ruling. Dondero says she ran under the advice that she was eligible for another term. Now she says the only she can do is continue to support education, and move on.

"The good part for Nevada is the history -- as to what's been done, what's been tried, lets move on. That's an important part, you can't do things in the same way, you need to move ahead, need that experience, the ramifications of the decisions you've made and why you made those decisions. I'll be alright. I'll move on. I'll still work for education, I don't know where," she said.

In a statement, Secretary of State Ross Miller called the decision a victory for the people of Nevada, "It has been and remains the priority of his office to uphold the will of the people of Nevada, and this decision further reaffirms that priority."

The candidates' names have already been printed on ballots. Eyewitness News talked to the county's Registrar of Voters, who says he'll do what he can to avoid voter confusion.

"I think what will happen is signs will be put up at the polling places, informing the voters of the Supreme Court decision. But there are people who object to that," said Larry Lomax.

County officials don't have a whole lot of time. Early voting begins first thing Saturday morning for the August 12, 2008 primary. Early voting at sites all over the valley runs through August 8, 2008.

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