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August 21, 2014

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With new computer system, legislators go digital, improving public access

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AP Photo/Nevada Appeal, Kevin Clifford

Nevada Sen. Dennis Nolan, R-Las Vegas, yawns during a session in the Senate chambers at the Legislature in Carson City on June 2, 2009.

There will be less paper shuffling at the 2013 Legislature.

And lawmakers will be staring longer at their computer screens.

The technology of the Legislature has been improved and new features added to allow access to more information both to the lawmakers and to the general public.

Legislators will be able to pull up videos of past meetings. They will be capable of exchanging information in using the upgraded existing legislative NELLIS system. And they can refresh their memories and the notes they made about a bill being discussed.

The public will have access to information on the state's budget for the first time through the legislative website. Mobile devices including iPad, iPhone, Android phones and tablets will allow citizens to view live floor and committee meetings.

"It makes improvements to public on live hearings on their mobile devises," says Rick Combs, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau.

Granicus Inc. was paid $79,000 upfront for installing the new system and will charge $6,100 per month during the session and $4,000 per month when the Legislature is not in session.

The Legislative Committee to Consult with the Director was briefed Thursday on the enhancements.

Several sessions ago, the bill book room, where hard copies of legislation were made available to the public, was closed.

Legislators will be able to take notes during hearings and store them in the upgraded system. There was some concern that the public might get the impression the lawmakers were not listening to their testimony and gazing at the computer.

But Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, called this a "great move" as the Legislature moves to become almost paper free. And it will save money.

Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, had some reservations. Toward the end of legislative sessions when amendments to bills are piling up and moved through quickly, she said she needs paper versions to read.

But generally the lawmakers on the committee praised the enhancements.

But they agreed both new and seasoned legislators would need training on how to use the system.

The committee set Nov. 28-30 for mandatory training of newly elective members on all aspects of the Legislature. It will be mandatory for all the newly elected to come to Carson City.

Sessions have been set for Dec. 6 and 13 for a briefing on the issues; it will be open to all lawmakers and the public.

Lawmakers will be paid $146 for each day plus receive per diem and travel reimbursement. For instance a Las Vegas lawmaker who leaves before 7 a.m. and doesn't return to that evening will receive $12 for breakfast, $18 for lunch and $36 for dinner.

A final training session will be held Jan. 14-17 to coincide with the tentative Jan. 16 State of the State address by Gov. Brian Sandoval.

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