In his Sunday column published by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Steve Sebelius makes a valid point regarding the constitutionality of Nevada’s new Education Savings Accounts (ESAs). He wrote…
“Article 11, Section 10 of the Nevada Constitution reads, simply: ‘No public funds of any kind or character whatever, State, County or Municipal, shall be used for sectarian purpose.’ But the Education Savings Accounts would allow parents to spend state education dollars at sectarian schools, thus violating this provision.”
Sectarian, of course, means religious.
And this clause in the Nevada Constitution is commonly referred to as the “Blaine Amendment.” A number of states have Blaine Amendments. Their original purpose was to block public aid to Catholic orphanages, but are used to today to block support for all religious schools of any denomination.
The liberal, anti-religion ACLU has sued to kill the new ESA program, claiming it’s a violation of the Nevada Constitution. And a layman’s reading of the provision would seem to back that up. But there are all manner of legal arguments yet to be made, including an argument that this constitutional prohibition in the Nevada Constitution is itself unconstitutional as it relates to the U.S. Constitution.
You see, the First Amendment reads, in part, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…”
Liberals only think of that first part; the part about not establishing an official religion. But the second part about not prohibiting citizens from the free exercise of their chosen religion is every bit as operative.
As such, there have been court decisions in which it was determined that as long as school vouchers were given to the parents, and then the parents used them to pay for tuition at a private school, that was the PARENTS freely exercising their religion, not the government establishing a religion.
One can only hope that such a common sense ruling emerges from the ACLU lawsuit against the ESA’s.
Which brings me to America’s Worst Governor, Brian Sandoval.
First, it is becoming clearer every day that Sandoval is the person responsible for the evil requirement that students in private schools and home schooled students be yanked out of their current education program and forced into a public school for 100 days before they can qualify for the ESA money.
The 100-day penalty was designed to retard the number of homeschoolers and private schoolers who would take advantage of the new ESA program so that Sandoval could spend his giga-normous tax hike on pet programs such as teaching English to the children of illegal immigrants and his wife’s anti-bullying campaign.
Secondly, Sandoval is trying to have it both ways regarding the lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the ESA’s.
Last week, he issued a statement calling on Nevada Attorney General Adam Laxalt to request an expedited hearing on Duncan v. State of Nevada, the ACLU lawsuit.
“The uncertainty and legal gridlock created by this lawsuit will significantly impact student success,” Sandoval’s ghost-writer wrote in a press release. “I believe it is in the best interest of the state and our education system to avoid these costly legal battles…”
Yet Sandoval himself is arguably responsible for the ACLU lawsuit and the coming costly legal battles!
Let me explain…
Despite running for governor in 2010 on a platform that included mouthing support for school vouchers, instead of putting forward a comprehensive school voucher plan along the lines of the one introduced in 2009 by conservative then-Assemblyman Ed Goedhart – the Excellence in Education and Increased Opportunities (EIEIO) Act – Sandoval opted to do nothing more than target the Blaine Amendment itself.
At the start of the 2011 legislative session, he got the ten Republican state senators in office at the time to introduce on his behalf Senate Joint Resolution 10, a proposed constitutional amendment. Here’s the text of SJR 10…
“Proposing to amend the Nevada Constitution to establish that the payment of public funds to a person, in accordance with a plan established by the Legislature, to be used for the education of a child during kindergarten through grade 12 in a school of the person’s choice, other than a public school, shall not be deemed to be used for a sectarian purpose, notwithstanding that the person may choose a school affiliated with a sectarian institution.”
Had this amendment passed out of the Senate and been approved by the people of Nevada during the 2012 and 2014 elections, there would no longer be a voucher-killing Blaine Amendment poison pill in our Constitution and the costly legal battle with the ACLU over ESAs would have been avoided.
What? You never heard about this?
Of course not. Because SJR 10 never got a hearing, let alone a vote. And Sandoval never said squat about it. He didn’t lobby for it, he didn’t fight for, he didn’t even issue a press release for it. So, SJR died in the Senate without even a whimper, let alone a roar.
And I’ll never forget my last conversation with Sandoval.
It was at the end of that 2011 legislative session. He called to let me know he was flip-flopping on his opposition to extending the “sunsets” in order to plug a small hole in the budget caused by the state losing a court case a couple weeks earlier.
The last thing I said before hanging up was that if he was going to go back on his word on the tax hikes, he should at least insist on getting a school voucher bill in return as part of the deal. He told me he would.
He also failed to re-submit the resolution in the 2013 session.
And didn’t bother introducing it again in the 2015 session, even though his fellow Republicans had complete control of the Legislature.
And now, because this man’s word is as good as one of those Nigerian bank email scams, Nevada taxpayers have no choice but to fight a costly legal battle with the ACLU over the constitutionality of the Blaine Amendment which could possibly have already been removed if not for the empty efforts and empty promises of our empty suit governor.
But heck, at least he has a nice smile and pretty hair, right?