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October 23, 2014

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In bid to keep controversial bills alive, legislators unload on committee

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Sen. Debbie Smith

When senators were unable to reach agreement on controversial bills by the deadline Friday, they passed the buck to the Senate Finance Committee on such issues as energy, gambling and transportation.

Committee Chairwoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, said it “inherited a ton of bills” shifted to the panel to keep them alive so proponents and opponents might work out compromises.

Friday was the deadline for committee passage of bills. But when there was no agreement, the bill was shifted to the Finance Committee, which allows an exemption to bills and keeps them alive.

For instance, the measure that pits big casinos against taverns in the taking of sports bets; the plan by NV Energy to close its coal fire plant in Southern Nevada and the mining tax proposal ended up in the Finance Committee.

Smith said Monday this will require a lot of night meetings to wade through these bills, starting Thursday. These bills are in addition to the committee examining Gov. Brian Sandoval’s $6 billion budget.

“It does put a significant workload on this committee,” she said. “But it does allow those working on policy to be able to hopefully clarify the issue and make a better bill.”

If the proponents and opponents can’t work out the difference, “then they will just die,” she said.

Smith, who was chairwoman of the Assembly Ways and Means Committee in the last session, said this appears to be a growing trend to put a small appropriation in the bill so it can stay alive and be handled by the budget committees.

Other bills that have been sent to the Finance Committee are tax abatements for the film industry and overhauling the state Board of Transportation to give Clark County a super majority of the members.

She said she was “overwhelmed” by the large number of bills that were shifted to the finance committee just before the deadline Friday. She noted the committee has already held three Saturday meetings.

But that puts a heavy workload on the staff, she said. So evening meetings are set starting Thursday.

There was no immediate estimate of how many bills were shifted to the Finance Committee but it already has 50 measures confronting it.

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