A move to allow the Nevada Legislature to call its own special sessions is little more than a means to sidestep the 120-day limit approved by voters for the 1999 session.
Currently under the state's constitution, only the governor may call a special session of the Legislature. This apparently chafes lawmakers who think it violates the separation of the executive and legislative branches of government and gives the governor too much authority.
This argument might stand up if it didn't overlook the mandate given by the people of the state of Nevada to the Legislature to wrap up its business in 120 days every other year.
What urgency compels legislators to finish their work on time if two-thirds may simply sign a petition to extend the deadline?
We have only to look back at the free-for-all that characterized the final days of the 2001 regular session to be reminded the discipline needed to conclude the people's business can break down quickly. The 2003 session moved along at a more businesslike pace, yet also required special sessions to approve a tax package.
A key reason voters set the 120-day limit is to force lawmakers to focus on priorities.
The introduction this week of more than 400 bills in the Senate and Assembly tells us a lot of winnowing needs to be done. If many of those bills never get heard before June 6 , well, try them again in two years. Nevada hardly needs 400 more laws.
It's too easy to imagine this scenario: Legislators agree property taxes are a key issue, but too complicated to solve with all the others. So they adopt a temporary freeze on taxes and sign a petition saying a long-term solution will be the sole item taken up at a special session.
If the special-sessions resolution, AJR13, is approved by the Legislature, it would go to a vote of the people in 2006. We'll remind you then that this is lawmakers' attempt to go through the back door to kill the 120-day limit.