Legislature has an eerie vibe right now
April 20, 2013
There's a weird vibe in the halls of the Nevada Legislature, a kind of eerie stillness, like when the birds stop chirping and the wind dies to a deafening hush just before a huge storm.
OK, maybe it's not that dramatic.
But with a little more than six weeks to go in the 2013 session, one thing is for sure: There's a lot more to come and the stakes are high as most of the big issues — budgets and taxes — have yet to evolve.
Here's five things to know about the upcoming agenda as the 12th week of the session begins Monday:
Nevada lawmakers face the second big deadline of the 2013 session Tuesday. That's when most bills have to clear the chamber in which they were introduced or die.
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Sure, some may enjoy a miraculous resurrection as a late-session amendment tucked into another bill in the dead of night. But for the most part, if they don't pass by midnight Tuesday, they are doomed.
Both the Senate and Assembly have been forewarned to expect long floor sessions early in the week to process the crush of bills awaiting floor votes.
Senate Joint Resolution 13, which would pave the way for same-sex marriage in Nevada, will come for vote either Monday or Tuesday in the Senate.
The measure was amended Friday on an 11-10 party-line vote to include a provision specifying that clergy and religious organizations would not have to compromise their own doctrines if the constitutional amendment is enacted. Nevada voters in 2002 ratified the Protection of Marriage Act, defining marriage as between one man and one woman. SJR13 not only would repeal that law, but would explicitly legalize gay marriage.
Because it's a constitutional amendment, it would need to pass the 2013 and 2015 Legislatures before going to voters in 2016 for final approval.
NEW KID IN CLASS
Tyrone Thompson arrived in Carson City last week to get a lay of the land and learn the ropes of lawmaking.
With the session more than half over and about to accelerate to a frenzied pace, he'll need to be a quick study.
On Wednesday, Thompson will be sworn in and take his seat in the Assembly representing District 17 in North Las Vegas.
He was appointed last week by the Clark County Commission to replace Steven Brooks, who in March became the first legislator ever expelled from the Nevada Legislature following a series of bizarre and disturbing public events that involved police.
Brooks is jailed in California facing charges stemming from his arrest there hours after his expulsion.
He also was indicted this week in Southern Nevada on a weapons charge stemming from an arrest in January.
Thompson, 55, is a regional initiatives coordinator for the Southern Nevada Regional Planning Coalition and previously worked with state and county welfare and social services agencies.
He describes himself as a "passionate public servant" and says one of his top legislative priorities will be education.
SHOW ME THE MONEY
The independent Economic Forum, an appointed panel of folks with business and fiscal prowess, doesn't meet until May 1. That's when it will make final predictions on how much tax revenues Nevada will rake in over the next two years — and how much state government has to spend.
The forum makes projections on Nevada's biggest tax sources. But on Thursday a technical advisory panel meets to analyze and predict trends in smaller revenues streams, such as liquor, tobacco and live-entertainment taxes. Those will be included in the forum's final revenue forecast.
One of the biggest bills yet to drop this session is a proposed alternative ballot measure to compete against a 2 percent margins tax measure that will go to voters in 2014.
But that nugget could drop soon.
Sen. Michael Roberson, the Republican minority leader, said he expects his bill targeting increased taxes on the mining industry to be introduced in the next week or so. Roberson and a handful of other Senate Republicans announced early in the session their intent to try to persuade voters to tax mining instead of businesses.
The state teachers' union gathered more than 150,000 signatures last year to send the business tax proposal to the Legislature. But legislators took no action on it, automatically sending it to next year's general election ballot.
Senate Republicans call it a job-killing tax and say mining companies should pay more instead.