Article  |  Volume 10

When the Governor Legislates: Post-Enactment Budget Changes and the Separation of Powers in Nevada

by Joanna M. Myers
This Note addresses two key questions. First, it addresses whether Governor Gibbons's attempt to unilaterally cut the budget violates Nevada law and the Nevada Constitution. Second, it addresses whether the Governor's continued spending of federal stimulus money pursuant to allegedly delegated authority also violates Nevada law and the presentment requirements of the Nevada Constitution. Alternatively, would a Nevada statute granting the Governor power to unilaterally increase, reduce, or withhold the budget of state agencies constitute an excessive and unconstitutional delegation of legislative power to the Governor? This Note attempts to answer this question through a multi-faceted and detailed discussion examining Nevada's current budgetary law, the historical background and text of the Nevada Constitution, doctrines of constitutional interpretation and statutory construction, and the approach taken by other state high courts and the U.S. Supreme Court in answering similar constitutional challenges. Part II begins by detailing the political controversy surrounding Governor Gibbons's unsuccessful efforts to implement cuts to the state budget without legislative approval and the most recent controversy over his spending of federal stimulus money. Part III discusses the constitutional requirements regarding the creation of laws and the apparent conflict in Nevada's existing statutes governing revisions and the setting aside of reserves. Part IV examines the historical backdrop for the drafting of the Nevada State Constitution and its importance to a meaningful interpretation of constitutional provisions. Part V addresses the potential approaches to the interpretation of state constitutional provisions and identifies the approach taken in this Note. Part VI contains a comparison of the current constitutional issue with Nevada precedent, decisions by the U.S. Supreme Court, and the outcomes of similar constitutional challenges from other state jurisdictions. Part VII presents possible alternative solutions that may be enacted to circumvent future conflicts. Part VIII concludes with some final thoughts.
10 Nev. L.J. 229 (2010)