Nevada voters to decide in 2020 whether to give legislature more control over state’s higher education boards

On March 21, the Nevada State Senate gave final approval to a measure to remove the constitutional status of the Board of Regents, which governs Nevada’s state universities. The amendment—Assembly Joint Resolution 5 (AJR 5)— was previously approved in both chambers during the 2017 legislative session and by the state Assembly on March 11, 2019. Therefore, the Senate’s vote certified the measure to appear on the November 2020 ballot.
By making the Board of Regents a statutory institution instead of a constitutional one, the measure would allow the state legislature to review and change the governing organization of state universities. The measure would also put the State of Nevada—rather than the Board of Regents—in charge of investing federal land grants and require the state legislature to make laws providing for the “reasonable protection of individual academic freedom” for students, employees, and contractors of state universities to encourage the promotion “of intellectual, literary, scientific, mining, mechanical, agricultural, ethical and other educational improvements.”
AJR 5 was approved unanimously in the state Senate, and it was approved by a vote of 36-5 in the state Assembly. All five dissenters were Republicans, while seven Republicans voted in favor of it. The amendment received unanimous support from Democrats.
In Nevada, constitutional amendments referred by the state legislature must be approved by a simple majority vote in each chamber of the legislature during two consecutive legislative sessions with an election for state legislators in between. The legislature approved six constitutional amendments during the 2017-2018 session that need approval during this legislative session to go on the ballot in 2020.
This amendment was the second statewide measure certified for the Nevada 2020 ballot. The first was a citizen-initiated constitutional amendment to enact renewable energy requirements that was approved in 2018 but needs approval from voters in 2020 to be enacted.
From 1996 through 2018, Nevada voters decided 79 statewide ballot measures, with an average of seven per even-year election. On average, two citizen-initiated measures appeared on the ballot during even-year elections. Voters approved 59 percent (47 of 79) and rejected 41 percent (32 of 79) of the ballot measures since 1996. The approval rate for legislatively-referred measures was about 52 percent, while the approval rate for citizen-initiated measures was about 72 percent.
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