Editor’s note: The Nevada Appeal presented the Carson City Board of Supervisors, the mayor and city manager an opportunity for a column. Mayor Robert Crowell will appear next Sunday:
Our Nevada Constitution provides the State Legislature shall meet in every odd-numbered year, and then only for 120 days. Those of us in Carson City are fortunate we are so close to the legislative process. But how much does the city get involved in the process? Who in city governance makes decisions on legislative issues? How do bills that affect Carson City become law?
Every bill starts as a bill draft request (BDR). Bill draft requests start with either a legislator or a legislative committee. Legislative rules set the number of legislative measures for senators, assemblypersons and legislative committees. Measures from the Executive Branch of government are assigned by leadership to various legislators and committees for introduction. Also, other governmental groups may request one or two bills. For example, Carson City is allocated one BDR if it chooses to use it. The Legislative Counsel Bureau’s legal division drafts a BDR into bill form for introduction by a legislator or committee.
BDRs contain a short description of the topic being addressed and who requested it. All bills are confidential due to attorney-client privilege, but you can always ask to discuss a bill with the person requesting it. The legislation only becomes public when it’s introduced. Still, it’s important to review and follow the bill draft requests that contain topics of interest.
Carson City, Douglas, Storey and Lyon counties have historically contracted with the same lobbyist as they share many common interests. A legislative coalition made up of the four counties representatives meets regularly during the session to discuss legislation that may have a common impact. The Carson City contingency to the coalition is made up of the City Manager, Finance Director and two members of the Board of Supervisors. The coalition is designed to allow the organized sharing of information between counties and to avoid taking conflicting positions on any given measure.
The contract lobbyist reviews all BDRs and legislative measures. In addition to the regular coalition meetings, the lobbyist emails bills and/or amendments that may have an impact on Carson City to the city manager, who may forward them to the relevant city department heads. Out of the 1,000 or more legislative measures, 400 or more may have an impact someone in the city government needs to know about.
When information from the lobbyist is received, feedback is needed on whether the measure should be supported or opposed. The City can also advise the lobbyist to take no position, meaning to remain neutral. If a measure is to be supported or opposed, arrangements are made to determine if we should testify on it during committee hearings.
Legislative measures the city follows may impact internal operations only or public policy. Since the Legislature doesn’t fully follow the Open Meeting Law, there are times we get short notice about a bill hearing and a decision about support/testimony must be made before it can be discussed by the Board of Supervisors in an open meeting.
The city manager may have to make the initial decision on which bills require a vote by the board and which may be handled by city staff. As the CEO of Carson City, he may testify on both policy and operational legislation. If he testifies on a bill that raises policy concerns, and the position has been determined by board vote, he lets the committee know that. If the bill has not been before the board for discussion, he also tells the committee that in his testimony. In the event the board discusses a bill after the city manager has already testified and the board takes a different position than presented by the city manager, the relevant committee is notified.
To find out if the city supports or opposes a bill, and why, you may email the City Manager Nick Marano at email@example.com. You can also reach your Assemblyman, PK O’Neill, at PK.Oneill@asm.state.nv.us or your Senator, Ben Kieckhefer, at Ben.Kieckhefer@sen.state.nv.us.
Ward 2 Supervisor Brad Bonkowski can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 283-7073