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Lawyer's Edge
by Bruce L. Woodbury, Esq.
Jolley Urga Wirth Woodbury & Standish

Voting on Initiative Petitions

In recent years in Boulder City, there have been a large number of ballot questions initiated through citizen petitions. This reflects the desire by some in our community to bypass the elected City Council and make changes in laws or policies through a direct vote of the people.

However, many others believe the initiative petition process is being overused and that new laws or amendments to existing laws should be enacted by the elected City County who can draw upon extensive staff research and give proper consideration to all of the complexities and potential consequences which must be addressed. They point out that most voter-approved initiative petitions result in legal challenges and usually leave numerous questions unanswered.

An example of a high-profile ballot question which was on the ballot through an initiative petition is Question 8, which asked the voters to make the office of City Attorney elected by the public rather than appointed by the City Council. Proponents say it will make the City Attorney accountable to the people and result in proper legal advice even when it is counter to the desires of the majority on the Council.

Opponents contended that it could result in a City Attorney who lacks the necessary expertise and professionalism and who renders legal opinions with an eye on the next election rather than on objective legal criteria. As with so many ballot initiatives, the issue of unanswered questions was also raised: What is the salary? What is the residence requirement, if any? Will the position be full-time or will a private law practice on the side be allowed? What level of expertise is required?

When we vote on an important issue like this, we are also deciding whether such issues should even be determined in this manner in the first place.

Bruce L. Woodbury is an attorney with the law firm of Jolley Urga Wirth Woodbury & Standish.  The firm has offices in Boulder City and Las Vegas. To contact Bruce, call him at 293-3674 or 699-7500, or visit his website at www.juwws.com.




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