Annual sessions are again proposed for Legislature
March 20, 2009
CARSON CITY ” An Assembly panel was urged Thursday to support the latest of many attempts to replace Nevada’s every-other-year legislative sessions with annual sessions.
“The reality is it’s time for Nevada to join 45 other states and have annual sessions,” Assemblyman Richard Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, told the Elections, Procedures, Ethics and Constitutional Amendments Committee.
Every-other-year sessions worked for Nevada when it was sparsely populated, but with a current population of 3.5 million and the state’s economic problems “we need a way to come back and look at the budget every year,” Segerblom added.
AJR6 would amend the Nevada Constitution to keep existing 120-day legislative sessions in odd-numbered years and add a 60-day session in even years. Segerblom said the even-year session would deal primarily with the budget but wouldn’t be restricted to that subject.
Segerblom was backed by former Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, who said that with a biennial session the Legislature really lacks the equal standing with the executive branch that it’s supposed to have.
Perkins said executive-branch government agencies don’t always follow the lawmakers’ directives, knowing the legislators are going to be out of session for long periods and can’t maintain good oversight.
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Assemblyman James Settelmeyer, R-Minden, questioned whether it might be better to have sessions of no more than 60 days every year. He was supported by Janine Hansen of the Independent American Party, who noted neighboring Utah has short annual sessions.
Assemblyman Ty Cobb, R-Reno, said that with annual sessions fewer people might be able to take time away from jobs to serve in the Legislature. But Segerblom questioned whether another 60 days in even years “is going to wipe anyone out.”
AJR6 also would provide that lawmakers be paid for every day of regular sessions in which they serve. The current language in the constitution limits their pay to just the first 60 days of session ” the original limit on the length of session. When the 120-day limit was installed in 1997, the language limiting pay for lawmakers wasn’t changed.
To change the constitution, the proposal must be approved in the 2009 and 2011 sessions and then win approval from Nevada voters in the 2012 general election.
Every-other-year sessions have been the rule in Nevada since 1867, except for 1960 after voters approved annual sessions. Soon after, biennial sessions were voted back in. Attempts to return to annual sessions have been made many times since then, usually originating in the Assembly and then being shelved in the Senate.
Assemblyman Harry Mortenson, D-Las Vegas, the committee chairman, also urged his panel to support his AJR5, which would allow lawmakers to call themselves into special sessions. Currently, only the governor can call a special session.