On May 13, the Nevada Supreme Court unanimously held in Leg. of the State of Nev. v. Settelmeyer that legislators violated the Nevada Constitution in 2019, by raising state revenue without the required supermajority vote in both houses of the legislature. The Nevada Constitution requires supermajority votes to pass any bill that “creates, generates, or increases public revenue in any form, including but not limited to taxes, fees, assessments and rates or changes in the computation bases for taxes, fees, assessments and rates.” See Art. 4, Sect 18(2). According to the court, the Legislature did in fact raise revenue, and, therefore, a supermajority of legislator support was in fact required. Lacking the proper constitutional authority, the revenue-raising legislation was unconstitutional. The state must now refund any money unlawfully collected.
Whatever one thinks of the merits of decision, it did one very important thing: it reminded (or should have reminded) all Nevadans that they have important state constitutional rights separate from and in addition to any federal constitutional rights Nevadans may hold dear. Sadly, few Nevadans probably know or (worse) care about many substantive and procedural protections the Nevada Constitution gives them. The Nevada Constitution is a treasure trove of rights Nevadans would be wise to embrace. But for too many Nevadans, the concept of “constitutional rights” likely begins and ends with the lines the U.S. Constitution draws.
The U.S. Constitution is not the only source of constitutional security or tradition. In fact, when it comes to American constitutionalism–especially written constitutionalism–the U.S. Constitution was rather late to the party. Even before the Founders at the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention sent their work product to the people for ratification, many individual states had their own written constitutions. If anything, the federal founders were (literal and figurative) copycats. Many of the ideas that ultimately found