Las Vegas Sun

November 23, 2014

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Plan for annual sessions gets final Assembly approval

CARSON CITY -- A bill to let Nevada voters decide in 2000 whether they want annual legislative sessions squeaked out of the Assembly on a 23-18 vote - just one more than the required minimum.

Similar attempts to bring lawmakers together every year have been buried in the state Senate for years. But last year AJR5, sponsored by Assemblyman Bob Price, D-North Las Vegas, passed both houses.

Now it's up for a second vote in the Legislature. The double approval process is required because it would amend the Nevada Constitution.

With the Assembly vote Thursday, AJR5 has only to pass the Senate this session before it qualifies for a public vote.

The reason for the measure's success so far stems from a 1997 agreement between the two houses: Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, agreed to support Price's AJR5 if Price rallied for Raggio's bill to limit the length of the current every-other-year sessions.

The 120-day limit was approved by voters last November.

"One of the arguments for AJR5 is that we are elected to come here and make the decisions necessary for our state. And when we're only coming every other year, a lot of the decisions are left up to state employees who are not elected to makes those decisions," Price told the Assembly.

But the bill's opponents say annual sessions are too expensive, effectively doubling the cost of lawmaking in the state.

"The public just voted for 120 days and said 'You can get the job done in less time, not more.' I just think this is inappropriate," said Assemblyman Lynn Hettrick, R-Gardnerville.

Still, supporters aren't sure the 120-day, biennial sessions are as cost-effective as previously thought.

"I don't know if we're really going to save money in this limited 120-day session. It's very important that the public have a chance to vote on this," said Assemblyman Mark Manendo, D-Las Vegas.

Also, supporters say the shortened session isn't giving lawmakers enough time be as effective as they could be.

"There is a lack of time to absorb and understand the legislation we are rapidly passing to meet this deadline," said Assemblyman Tom Collins, D-North Las Vegas.

"We are giving more power to these unelected folks," he added.

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