Nevada Legislature

Nevada State Senate Majority Leader, Nicole Cannizzaro presides over the Senate on the second day of the 31st Special Session of the Nevada Legislature in Carson City, Nev., on Thursday, July 9, 2020. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent via AP, Pool)

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nine Nevada legislators who also work in state and local government jobs are violating a provision of the state constitution separating powers, a conservative think tank argued in a lawsuit filed Thursday.

The lawsuit, which names Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson among the nine lawmakers, says that it's a conflict of interest for the lawmakers to also hold government jobs.

“Allowing those tasked with carrying out and enforcing the laws to also write the law totally and completely undermines the concept of a representative government and is a clear violation of the Nevada Constitution,” Robert Fellner, the think tank's Vice President, said in a statement. He added that few people would support rules liming their own power, “which is precisely why the power to write the law must be kept separate from those tasked with enforcing the law.”

The Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau, the legislature's attorneys, did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment.

Cannizzaro, a Democrat, is a Chief Deputy District Attorney in the Clark County District Attorney's Office. Frierson, also a Democrat, is an Assistant Public Defender in the Clark County Public Defender's Office.

Cannizzaro on Thursday did not answer a question about the lawsuit's claims but told the Associated Press that the lawsuit was “a distraction" from the emergency legislative session taking place in Carson City.

Before the lawsuit, Frierson was asked Wednesday by the AP in an unrelated interview how his day job as a public defender might factor into legislative action.

“We all have different careers that are impacted differently by all of the different policy changes, but that’s not what we’re here for," he said. "We aren’t elected by our employer, we’re elected by our constituents to reflect our community.

Frierson said he bases his decisions and priorities "on what I see and experience through being a citizen just like the rest of you all.”

Other lawmakers named in the lawsuit are Democratic Assemblywoman Kasina Douglass-Boone, a social worker for the Clark County School District; Republican Sen. Heidi Seevers Gansert, the executive director of external relations at the University of Nevada, Reno; Republican Assemblyman Glen Leavitt, who works for the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada; Democratic Assemblywoman Brittney Miller, a Clark County School District teacher; Democratic Sen. James Ohrenschall, a deputy public defender in Clark County; Democratic Sen. Melanie Scheible, a Deputy Clark County District Attorney; and Democratic Assemblywoman Selena Torres, a Clark County School District teacher.

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Associated Press writer Sam Metz in Carson City contributed to this report.

Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

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