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August 1, 2014

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We need to modernize’: Senate OKs annual legislative sessions — and possibly in Las Vegas

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

The capitol dome and Legislative Building are seen on the second day of the 2013 legislative session Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2013 in Carson City.

By a party line vote, the Senate Tuesday voted to allow the Legislature to meet in Las Vegas, permit the pay to be raised by 50 percent and to have annual sessions.

The proposed constitutional amendment was approved 11-10 with Democrats outvoting the Republicans. The resolution goes to the Assembly and if passed this session would have to be approved by the 2015 session and then ratified by voters.

“We’re not moving it to Las Vegas,” said Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, the sponsor of SJR8. He said the intent was to permit the lawmakers to convene a week or two in Las Vegas to allow 75 percent of the population see the Legislature in action.

Nevada’s Constitution now requires the Legislature to hold its session at the seat of government, which is Carson City. If a majority of both houses agreed, all or part of the session could be held outside of Carson City.

Sen. Barbara Cegavske, R-Las Vegas, argued there were no accommodations in Las Vegas for the 63 lawmakers to meet. “This is the capital and this is where we should be voting,” she said.

The Legislature can hold its committee meetings in Las Vegas but no votes can be taken. And many of the committee meetings in the current session are teleconferenced to Las Vegas.

The bill would permit annual sessions limited to 90 legislative days or a total of 120 days in all. The annual session in the even number years would be for 30 legislative days in session and a limit of 45 consecutive calendar days.

Segerblom said the state is becoming big and the issues are too large and important for the lawmakers to convene every other year. “We need to modernize,” he said.

The Legislature is now paid $146 for each of the first 60 days of the 120-day biennial session. This resolution would permit them to be paid for 90 days in the regular sessions.

Segerblom said this measure doesn’t raise the pay of lawmakers, which would be set at a session after voter approval. Lawmakers now receive the same pay for a 20-day annual session. But they would be paid for 30 days under the proposed constitutional amendment in a special session.

The resolution eliminates the $60 limit per session for postage, newspapers and stationery for a lawmaker. It would permit future lawmakers to set that amount.

Segerblom stressed that the voters would have to approve the proposed changes.

Sen. James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, objected to the section allowing the pay to be raised by lawmakers. “It’s wrong for the employee (the Legislature) to tell the employer (the voters) to change the compensation,” he said.

Voters previously approved a constitutional amendment allowing the lawmakers by a two-thirds vote to call themselves into a special session. Previously only the governor could convene a special session.

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