CARSON CITY, Nev. — Nevada lawmakers may be burning the midnight oil as they face their first big deadline — along with furloughs, road trips and a possible historic Assembly sideshow when the seventh week of the Legislature kicks off Monday.
Here are five highlights of the legislative agenda for the upcoming week:
Monday is the deadline for individual lawmakers to get bills formally introduced and in the legislative hopper. So far 594 bills, not including resolutions, have been introduced in the Legislature — 308 in the Assembly and 286 in the Senate. But a logjam of bill draft requests has bill writers working long hours and lawmakers hoping their legislation is ready come Monday. Both chambers have been warned to expect a long, grueling day. “If your bill isn’t introduced ... it dies,” Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, warned members last week. She said at least two floor sessions are planned that day to handle the crush of introductions. “You will spend Monday evening with me,” she said.
Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, issued a similar warning to senators: “Keep your schedule cleared to midnight.”
Legislators won’t have much time to catch their breath. The next deadline — for committee bill introductions — comes a week later.
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee are taking a marijuana road trip. The committee, chaired by Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, and some venturous reporters, will fly to Phoenix on Friday to visit a medical marijuana dispensary and get a firsthand look at how the operation is run.
Nevada voters passed a constitutional amendment in 2000 legalizing marijuana for medical use. The Legislature then adopted a law implementing it, but there is no legal way for medical patients to obtain pot unless they grow it themselves, which the law allows. Segerblom plans to push legislation this year creating a system to regulate medical marijuana dispensaries, and he says the trip is intended to give lawmakers an idea how Arizona laws are working. Not that the Grand Canyon State has a long track record in that regard. Voters there approved medical marijuana in 2010, and dispensaries just recently got up and running.
Even the Legislature is subject to cost-cutting furloughs. For that reason, members of the Senate staff will be taking days off. Half the Senate staff will take off Thursday, the other half on Friday. That means no committee hearings or floor sessions, though some Senate Finance Committee members will be meeting with Assembly Ways and Means counterparts both days. All Senate staff will take another four hours of furlough the following week as well, giving them a head start on the Easter holiday weekend.
It happens eventually every legislative session, when committee hearings slop over into weekends, robbing lawmakers, legislative staff, lobbyists, reporters, and anyone who watches the process closely of a day off after a hectic week in the state capital. And so it shall be next Saturday, when the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees hold a joint hearing to continue discussion on K-12 education and one of the largest general fund budgets in Nevada, the Distributive School Account.
To be sure, the March 23 hearing may be the first Saturday legislative meeting of the 2013 session, but it won’t be the last.
The Nevada Assembly could decide by weeks’ end whether their troubled colleague, Steven Brooks, is fit to serve in the Legislature.
Since January, Brooks has been arrested twice, hospitalized for a mental evaluation, denied a gun purchase, kicked out of his Democratic caucus, put on leave from his legislative duties, fired from his day job with the city of Las Vegas and banished from the Legislature Building.
This week, a bipartisan select committee empaneled to review Brooks’ bizarre conduct of late could hold a hearing and recommend what action, including possible expulsion, should be taken against the North Las Vegas Democrat who was re-elected to a second term in November.
Assembly Majority Leader William Horne, D-Las Vegas, is chairman of the committee. He said he hopes to bring a recommendation to the full Assembly for a vote by Friday. No Nevada lawmaker has ever been expelled, something that requires a two-thirds vote.