Legislature open for business

Photos by Jim Grant/ Nevada Appeal

Photos by Jim Grant/ Nevada Appeal

The 77th session of the Nevada Legislature opened for business Monday with the usual pomp and circumstance but little of the drama members were afraid might occur around the swearing in of Assemblyman Steven Brooks, D-North Las Vegas.

Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick D-North Las Vegas, called for bipartisan commitment to "move the state forward by working for the common good." She served notice in a brief address that she is "not afraid to do things just a little bit different."

Kirkpatrick, who has received praise from the Republican members for her willingness to work across the aisle, called for leadership "that looks past the legislative cycle and past the 30-second sound bites."

She urged all members to put party aside and end the bickering and pettiness.

"Nevadans don't care, they just want solutions," she said.

She said education can no longer absorb added cuts.

"We can no longer cut, no longer afford to ask our patents and teachers to do more with less," she said.

While she praised Gov. Brian Sandoval for adding money to K-12 education for expanded all-day kindergarten, she said lawmakers need to do more, that all-day kindergarten needs to be expanded to all Nevada children.

"We're long overdue in making a serious investment in our schools to make up for lost ground," she said.

She also called for reform of Nevada's tax structure saying that "can give businesses the tools they need."

Much of the attention in the Assembly centered on Brooks, who has been involved in several instances of bizarre behavior in the past couple of weeks - starting with alleged threats to Kirkpatrick. But Brooks has agreed to a medical leave to address his physical and psychological issues - details of which still were being worked out Monday afternoon.

In the Senate, the tone also was conciliatory and cooperative as Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, urged members to "be different from Washington, D.C."

"Nevadans have made it clear that they expect statesmen in Carson City not politicians," he said.

Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, gave an emotional tribute to his father who died last June.

"I can never fill his shoes but I can live my life in a way that will honor him and my mother for the great sacrifice that they made for me," Denis said. "They taught me to always strive to make things better and work for the common good of all."

As majority leader, he promised to serve not only the slim Democratic majority (they hold the Senate by 11-10) "but also my colleagues across the aisle."

He said his goals for the session are to create jobs, improve schools and "make sure we have a fair revenue structure that meets the needs of modern day Nevada and that doesn't unduly burden the middle class families."

Both houses finished the day by introducing the pre-filed bills and referring them to committee so that those bodies can get to work immediately. Hearings on a number of bills are scheduled today in both houses.

In the Assembly, 82 pre-filed bills were introduced. In the Senate, the total was 88 including Senate Bill 1, the measure that funds operation of the Legislature. That measure appropriates $15 million to the Legislative Fund for that purpose.

After its approval by both houses as an emergency measure and the governor's signature, Sergeants at Arms at both ends of the building were able to hand lawmakers their first daily paychecks.

Among the Senate bills are a measure to enact voter photo identification, revisions to state gambling laws concerning internet gambling, and making black bear a protected species just two years after the state's first authorized hunt.

Some other bills introduced in the Assembly deal with renewable energy tax abatements, relaxing overtime rules for certain computer programmers; and various laws dealing with criminal penalties for crimes against the elderly and selling drugs to minors.

•-The Associated Press contributed to this report.


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