Lawmakers from across the state have gathered together their selves, their belongings and their paperwork and have headed to Carson City to find new homes, a new daily routine and their mission for 2003 -- at least the next 120 days or so of it.
Monday will mark the first day of the 2003 Legislature, where 63 men and women from across the state will meet and greet, testify and debate, quibble, wrangle and sometimes haggle over what they think is best for Nevadans.
It's an ugly process some have described as akin to making sausage. Unlike some sausage, though, Nevadans should know what is going into the mix.
Nearly all of the lawmaking process is done in public -- even the debates that sometimes occur over the plank at the Old Globe. Though these are not recorded, they are at least in public.
With a quest to drum up a billion dollars, these five dozen or so Nevadans have an unenviable task before them. They will be bombarded by lobbyists from special interest groups who would rather see someone else's business or bad habit fund the nearly $1 billion needed to balance the budget.
Some of the lawmakers, at least the 17 "freshmen," are just off the campaign trail. For many they will be away from friends and family. It will matter to them that Nevadans care enough to pay attention.
Those who are too busy or can't be bothered with the sausage process should shut up about tax increases or new laws they may happen to disagree with. If you voted to hand over the responsibility of democracy to your leaders and stopped caring about it, then you too can shut up about the things you disagree with.
Living in a free society mandates us to make sacrifices of time and energy. To fire off a letter, e-mail or phone call to our legislators if we agree or disagree, but to play a part of the process.
When the bill comes up to make using the center lane as a holding lane for jumping out on the highway, voice your opinion. When the bill hits the floor on the death penalty, so should those who oppose or support it. Favor a special license plate to support wildlife? I'm not sure if we're talking deer and rabbits here or bunny ranches and lap dancers, but either way voice an opinion.
Anyone who has ever had to make a big decision appreciates the opinions of others, even if we don't agree with them. Listening to others, a trait lawmakers should excel at, helps us understand the reasons behind and solidify our opinions. So they make the same decision; at least they didn't make it in a vacuum.
Inserted into Monday's edition was a guide to the 2003 Legislature. It is intended to be a resource. Inside you can find addresses, birth dates, e-mail addresses on all 63 legislators -- well, a couple tried to withhold their birthdays, but we ferreted them out. There are also tips for lobbying, an explanation of how a bill becomes a law, photos from the 2001 session -- the Legislature meets every two years in Nevada.
If you didn't save your guide shame on you. If you did, put it someplace you can find it when you read a story in the paper and you agree with what they've done. Opinions work both ways.
Remember the lawmakers we have entrusted with our future are Nevadans too and will have to abide by the same laws they pass for the rest of us. We should participate, watch a hearing, track a bill -- show them we care.
Kelli Du Fresne is features editor for the Nevada Appeal.