Legislature in special session today | NevadaAppeal.com

Legislature in special session today

Depending on your point of view, either a last minute technical glitch or political shenanigans prevented the 2007 Legislature from getting the job done last night.

Several bills – most significantly three which deal with teacher pay and public education – didn’t get processed by the 1 a.m. deadline for action. Because Nevada’s constitution says anything passed after 1 a.m. on the 120th day of session, lawmakers have asked Gov. Jim Gibbons to call a brief special session.

He is expected to set the special session for 3 p.m. today at which time lawmakers will return to their respective houses and finish the job. That, however, depends on whether the legal division has finished preparing the bills on the special session agenda. If not, lawmakers may be told to go home and come back Wednesday.

Sen. Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said he expects them to be done before the end of the day.

“It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just the mechanics,” said Raggio when the Senate finally adjourned for the night (morning) at 2:35 a.m.

While Assembly member made similar comments to the press, a number of members from both houses privately saw darker motives.

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The budget bills were out of the Legislature and headed for the governor’s office more than two hours earlier. And the education bills and several other pieces of legislation caught up in the final bargaining were all processed by the Senate and Assembly by 12:30 a.m. today – a half hour before the end. They were supposed to be immediately transmitted to the opposite house for action.

While the Assembly bills arrived in the Senate within five minutes, the Senate bills didn’t despite Speaker Barbara Buckley’s requests. Finally, with just four minutes remaining on the Senate clock, the bills were rushed down the hall.

The Assembly simply didn’t have time to pass them before the end.

An angry Buckley, D-Las Vegas, was joined in Raggio’s office by members of the governor’s staff and his own leadership team.

“All I want is the essential education bills they sat on,” she said as she entered the closed door session.

The bills in question are AB280, AB563 and AB553. AB280 created Nevada’s first “pay for performance” pilot program to tie student achievement to teacher pay – something Raggio has wanted for years.

AB563 provides up to a third of a percent raises for teachers statewide if changes made to the so-called “green buildings” tax break bill result in increased revenues to the state and school districts.

AB553 provides funding to enhance high school counseling and career advisement, creates a system to assess and monitor student progress in math and literacy, bilingual support in elementary classrooms, teacher development and other related programs.

There are several other bills caught in the mix as well.

But it is up to the governor to decide exactly what will be put on the special session agenda. The Nevada Constitution gives the governor exclusive power to call a special session and to decide what issues or pieces of legislation can be legally considered.

Special sessions can last a maximum of 15 days.

Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.

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