Amendment to pay lawmakers for days worked passes Senate

A constitutional amendment that would remove the 60-day cutoff for legislators' pay passed the Nevada Senate 18-3 Tuesday.

Senate Majority Leader bill Raggio, R-Reno, said there have been numerous attempts to address the problem of paying lawmakers over the years, without success.

They currently receive $135 per day -- but only for the first 60 days of the legislative session.

He said when the limit was put in the state constitution, the framers of statehood probably never imagined the Legislature would last more than 60 days.

"They wanted make sure legislators didn't stay in session just to collect salary," he said.

Raggio said the Finance Committee didn't want to raise legislative pay but thought it would be appropriate if lawmakers were paid for the days they actually work.

That, under a constitutional change approved five years ago, is a maximum of 120 days.

"This is an attempt to prudently and appropriately address the situation," he said.

Senate Joint Resolution11 would change the state constitution to provide that lawmakers receive their salary for each day they work.

It would also lift what Raggio called the "archaic" provision limiting expenses for lawmakers to $60 for office supplies, stamps, envelopes and other materials. Instead, he said, they would be paid a reasonable amount for the postage and other materials needed to keep in touch with their constituents.

Sen. Joe Neal, D-North Las Vegas, commended the proposal, saying a significant number of good lawmakers decided not to seek re-election because they lose so much money. He said he had a job -- at the Nevada Test Site -- which granted him leave to serve as a lawmaker, but that it cost him up to $20,000 each session in lost wages.

He said SJR11 would at least compensate lawmakers for the time they serve.

SJR11 was opposed only by Las Vegas Democrats Dina Titus, Valerie Wiener and Terry Care.

Before it can become law, SJR11 must pass both houses of the Legislature this session and again in 2005 and then be approved by a majority of voters at the following general election.


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