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Chapter Seven The Nevada Executive Introduction In general, the executive power can be defined as one that enforces and implements the laws passed by the legislature as interpreted by the courts. The area now known as Nevada has been governed by an executive throughout its recorded history. During the period of Spanish colonialism the area was governed by a provincial governor. After the Mexicans overthrew their Spanish conquerors, what is now Nevada was governed by the Mexican governor of the Province of Alta California (headquartered in Monterey).From the time of the Compromise of 1850 until Nevada became a separate territory in 1861, the northern 90 percent was under the formal authority of the Utah territorial governor, while the southern 10 percent was controlled by the governor of the vast New MexicoTerritory . James W. Nye served as the only territorial governor of Nevada Territory from its inception in 1861 until statehood was granted in 1864. Since 1864, when Republican Henry G. Blasdel was elected the state’s first governor, Nevada’s chief executive has continued to be its governor. As in all other states,the governor may be considered the“chief”executive,but in Nevada he or she is not the only member of the executive branch to be elected by the voters. Nevada has what is called a “plural executive.” Under this system, voters elect six executive-branch officers: the governor, lieutenant governor, attorney general, secretary of state, treasurer, and controller. Under the 1864 constitution the surveyor general and the superintendent of public instruction were also elected executive officers; the former was eliminated entirely and the latter was made an appointive office through constitutional amendments approved by the voters in 1954 and 1956, respectively. In some states, these five other executive branch officers are appointed by the governor and are responsible solely to him or her.The framers of the Nevada constitution , although on good relations with territorial Governor Nye, were generally distrustful of concentrating too much power in the hands of any single officer or branch.The incorporation of a plural executive in the constitution was,therefore ,a purposeful effort on their part to diffuse the executive power among the six officers.Because these five other officers are all elected by the voters,they owe their allegiance to them and not the governor;the governor cannot command them to do anything, nor can he or she remove them.This provides for a system of multiple 82 constitutional checks upon the executive branch:the governor is prevented from absolutely controlling the entire executive branch,the other five executive officers are held accountable to the voters and not to the governor, and executive power is made less dangerous by its diffusion into the hands of six officers instead of one. Eligibility, Election, and Removal All six elected members of the executive branch must meet the same eligibility requirements for office.They must be at least twenty-five years of age, qualified electors (see chapter 6), and residents of the state for the previous two years. Each serves a term of four years, and all are chosen at the same general election; that is, their terms are not staggered like those in the state senate. The failed 1863 constitution had included a term of only two years for the governor. For reasons not indicated in the published debates, the framers of the 1864 constitution increased it to four years. Under the original 1864 constitution , all six officers could serve an unlimited number of four-year terms. However , in 1970 the voters approved a constitutional amendment, similar to the Twenty-secondAmendment to the U.S.Constitution,limiting the governor,but not the other five officers, to no more than two full terms and up to two years of his or her predecessor’s unexpired term.Even before passage of the 1970 amendment , however, no governor had ever been elected to a third term and none of the three who had attempted to do so (Lewis R. Bradley, Charles H. Russell, and Grant Sawyer) were successful. At the end of his term in January 1999, Governor Bob Miller became the longest-serving governor in Nevada history, having served two full terms and the last two years of Governor Richard Bryan’s term, which came vacant upon Bryan’s move to the U.S. Senate in January 1989. As noted in chapter 4, in 1996 Nevada’s voters once more amended the state constitution, this time to impose term limits on all other state...


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