Annual Nevada legislative sessions debated
April 5, 2003
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — A plan for annual legislative sessions for Nevada — a big change in a state where lawmakers now meet every other year — was debated Friday by an Assembly panel.
Assemblywoman Chris Giunchigliani urged the Constitutional Amendments Committee to approve AJR7, letting voters decide whether to allow for 60-day sessions in even-numbered years, along with the existing 120-day sessions in odd-numbered years.
“This is of great import, and it’s not one to be taken lightly,” Giunchigliani, D-Las Vegas, said, adding that the Assembly has passed such proposals before — only to see them die in the Senate.
“Public opinion has consistently supported annual sessions in this state,” said Giunchigliani. “We’ve never been able to have an opportunity to put it on the ballot.”
The proposed constitutional amendment also would let lawmakers meet in Las Vegas for the 60-day session, if an appropriate building is available. Now, sessions can be held only in Carson City.
The measure also would let legislators convene special sessions that could run as long as 20 days, if two-thirds of all lawmakers want such a session. The power to convene a special session is currently limited to the governor.
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To stretch out the time frame for lawmakers, Giunchigliani also said actual meeting days could be used to measure session length. That would exclude weekends or any other days that legislators take off. Now, every calendar day is counted.
The proposal also boosts the legislators’ $60 postage allowance — set more than a century ago — to $500.
Assemblyman Harry Mortenson, D-Las Vegas, the committee chairman, questioned the wisdom of putting so many issues into one ballot question, saying it might create too many reasons for people to vote “no.”
But Giunchigliani said the various elements go “hand in glove,” and it would be worse to break the proposal into several ballot questions.
Every-other-year sessions have been the rule in Nevada since 1867, except for 1960 after voters approved annual sessions. Soon after, biennial sessions were voted back in.
Since then, periodic attempts to meet every year developed. But the proposals repeatedly died in the Senate. In the 2001 session, an Assembly-approved annual sessions plan died on a 3-3 vote in the Senate Government Affairs Committee.
Besides Nevada, other states with every-other-year sessions include Arkansas, Montana, North Dakota, Oregon, Kentucky and Texas.