Committee deadline hits Friday the 13th

For a number of legislators and advocates, Friday the 13th could be bad.

That's the deadline by which all bills must be voted out of committee in the house where they originated. Any bills still in committee at the close of business are dead unless they have an exemption.

The only real exception to the rule is for bills with a fiscal impact on the state budget. Those measures are referred to the money committees.

But leadership in both the Senate and Assembly seemed confident legislation with merit will be voted out and to the floor for further action by the deadline.

"I think we're in pretty good shape," said Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas.

She pointed out Assembly Commerce and Labor met until 11:30 p.m. Thursday and has been hearing 10 or more bills a day for the past week.

Commerce Chairman John Oceguera, D-Henderson, said the workload will be "crazy."

"We'll have eight to 10 bills a day all week," he said. "We'll probably have 18 to 20 bills in work session Friday."

Buckley said that workload is taking its toll on lawmakers and staff.

"We're working really hard to make sure we catch unintended consequences," she said. "But anything significant, we'll prioritize to get it out."

Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, said committees at the north end of the building are also under a heavy load.

"The chairmen have told me they're going to have longer meetings but will be able to do it," he said. "Every bill isn't going to be passed out."

Assembly Judiciary Chairman Bernie Anderson, D-Sparks, said his committee had 104 bills referred to it this session but that they have heard all but seven. He said he expects to process about 36 bills still in committee this final week.

His Senate counterpart Mark Amodei, R-Carson City, said that committee is in good shape.

"But we've got some significant issues left that will require some thought," he said.

He cited bills to create a penalty for criminal action which injures or kills a fetus, eminent domain, sex offender bills, and major changes to Nevada's court system including creation of an intermediate appellate court.

Amodei said the crunch points up the need for more legislative staff.

"We have to do what we do in 120 days, and we need resources in that 120 days so that this stuff can be turned around," he said.

Sen. Warren Hardy, who leads Government Affairs, said he was concerned by the number of bills his committee received but that they're down to about 18 bills.

"Whether we'll appropriately deliberate on them is another story, but we'll get through them," he said.

The ways to save legislation which still needs work Friday is to re-refer it to Ways and Means or Senate Finance.

Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, chairman of Ways and Means, said he expects to get a number of bills by Friday.

"Some of the bills have great merit but, because we put this deadline in place, they'll die.

Under the rules, only bills with fiscal impact are supposed to go to the money committees. But once in Ways and Means or Senate Finance, the bill is alive even if staff analysts determine there isn't actually any fiscal impact.

Raggio made it clear he doesn't allow re-referrals to finance for just any bill: "They won't go to finance unless there's good reason."

Anderson said this week, the focus is completely on the committees.

"The following week, attention turns to the floor," he said noting that the next deadline - passage from the house of origin - is only two weeks farther down the line.

Committees he said, will shift their focus to bills already passed by the other house. And that includes the ongoing attempts by lawmakers who couldn't get their bill out of the first house to insert that language into bills arriving from the other house. "And now the mischief begins," he said.

The deadlines were created after voters approved a constitutional amendment limiting the session to 120 days and voiding any legislation passed after that. To continue beyond that point requires that the governor call lawmakers into a special session.

The Legislature has only finished its business once since the amendment took effect - the first session under those rules in 1997. They needed a special session to finish the job in all four sessions since then and observers are already predicting a special session will be needed this time as well.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.

Future deadlines

Friday - committee action in the house of origin

April 24 - passage by the house of origin

May 4 - money committees begin resolving budget differences

May 18 - committee passage by the second house

May 25 - passage by the second house


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