On Tuesday I emailed the office of Gov. Brian Sandoval and asked what he will do, if anything, to address a vote of the citizens of Nevada taken nearly 16 years ago, but roundly ignored ever since.
I’ve had no reply yet. Just like the voters. I wonder if I will still be waiting 16 years hence.
In 1996 the voters amended the Nevada Constitution to delete the Disclaimer Clause in the Statehood Ordinance, in which the residents of the Territory of Nevada agreed to forswear forever any claim or sovereignty over unappropriated land in the future State of Nevada, ceding all rights to the federal government. That’s why to this day the federal government controls somewhere between 83 and 92 percent of the land in Nevada.
That vote is what is known in the parlance as a petition for redress of grievances. You might have heard of that somewhere. It is the fifth right listed in the First Amendment. It was first embodied in the Magna Carta in 1215.
This issue is the topic of today’s column in the Ely Times, in which I point out that on Oct. 31, 1864, the president proclaimed:
“Now, therefore, be it known, that I, Abraham Lincoln, President of the United States, in accordance with the duty imposed upon me by the act of congress aforesaid, do hereby declare and proclaim that the said State of Nevada is admitted into the Union on an equal footing with the original states.”
Which brings us to the Equal Footing Doctrine, which holds that every new state admitted to the union does so under the same conditions as the 13 original states. None of the original states was extorted under duress to surrender sovereignty over its lands.
Sound like grounds for a grievance.
Ballot Question 4 in 1996 read simply: “Shall the Territorial Ordinance of the Nevada Constitution be amended to remove the disclaimer of the state’s interest in the unappropriated public land?” Yes or no.
Today the state Constitution still contains a footnote explaining that the amendment was “proposed and passed by the 1993 legislature; agreed to and passed by the 1995 legislature; and approved and ratified by the people at the 1996 general election, effective on the date Congress consents to amendment or a legal determination is made that such consent is not necessary.”
Congress has not consented. There has been no legal determination.
Will the governor ask the state attorney general to act? Will she?
Will any of our representatives in Washington put forward legislation to address this vote of the citizens of their state?
Don’t hold your breath.