Legislature off to a snail's pace

A combination of factors - capped off by the time legislative lawyers had to spend on issues surrounding Kathy Augustine's impeachment - combined to produce one of the slowest starts the Nevada Legislature has had in a decade.

The total number of bills introduced so far is more than 100 less than at this point in the 2003 Legislature and lawmakers throughout the building say they just haven't gotten their bill drafts yet.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said the problem is all the other things that have taken the counsel bureau's legal staff away from the task of drafting legislation, especially the Augustine impeachment which diverted legal staff in November while hundreds of bill requests were being filed.

"They spent most of a month on that instead of drafting bills," he said.

Friday was the 26th day of the 2005 Legislature and a total of 335 pieces of legislation have been introduced - 172 in the Assembly and 163 in the Senate. On the same day of the session two years ago, 444 bills had been introduced - 109 more than this year.

Raggio and Minority Leader Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, said the impeachment isn't the only delay. She said legislative counsel Brenda Erdoes and her senior staff are spending a lot of time reviewing and determining which of the numerous property tax proposals are constitutional and which are not.

Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, said not only freshmen but members of leadership are waiting for bill drafts.

"We just don't have anything to introduce yet."

They all emphasized that it's not the legal division's fault - it's simply the delays and the workload.

Lorne Malkiewich, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said the problem turns into a bottleneck around Erdoes and her top assistants who must review the drafts before they go out to legislators and committees to make sure they do exactly what was intended.

He said those tax bills have to go through not only legal but the fiscal division to determine what they would actually do to state and local revenues.

"I've asked leadership to please limit the number of requests," he said. "We cannot run 20 different scenarios. We need to be looking at a few scenarios and I think leadership understands that."

But Malkiewich said the work will get done and on time.

"We will draft every bill and deliver it to the legislator or committee that gets it and before the deadline," he said.

As of one week ago, that was a total of 1,341 bills and resolutions.

Titus said she is worried that, "all these bills will hit at once" right before the deadlines.

The last day for individual lawmakers to introduce legislation is March 21. The last day for committee introductions is March 29.

Malkiewich said the real crunch will happen in the week before April 15, the deadline for committees to act on legislation originating in their house.

After that, he said, the session should be on track again.

n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at

gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.


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