Legislature opens, closes special session | NevadaAppeal.com

Legislature opens, closes special session

Cathleen Allison/Nevada Appeal Nevada Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, shows the wear and tear of the week in the final hour of the Legislative Special Session, on Tuesday night at the Legislature in Carson City. Conklin, a member of the Assembly leadership team, said he worked until 4 a.m. and returned at 8 a.m. Tuesday to help wrap up an 11-item agenda following the lawmakers' failure to get their work done in the regular 120-day session. Lawmakers adjourned Tuesday night after completing those agenda items.

Depending on your point of view, either a last-minute technical glitch or political shenanigans prevented the 2007 Legislature from getting the job done late Monday night.

Several bills – most significantly three that deal with innovative education programs including “pay for performance” – didn’t get processed by the 1 a.m. deadline. Because Nevada’s constitution says anything passed after 1 a.m. after the 120th day of session is void, Gov. Jim Gibbons had to call a brief special session for them to complete their business.

The 23rd special session of the Nevada Legislature convened shortly after 5 p.m. Tuesday with an agenda of 11 measures that failed to make it through the 2007 regular session.

Senate Majority Leader Bill Raggio, R-Reno, and Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, worked out that agenda with the governor Monday night and in meetings at the governor’s mansion Tuesday.

The big bills are those dealing with education. AB1 provides incentives for teachers to serve in at-risk schools and AB2 sets up a variety of programs in public schools for special education, gifted and talented, services for disruptive students and other such programs. AB3 creates a performance pay system for teachers.

Those three bills were what Buckley referred to as key parts of the compromise agreement that was supposed to end the session at 1 a.m.

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That didn’t happen but there were conflicting ideas why.

“It’s nobody’s fault. It’s just the mechanics,” said Raggio when the Senate finally adjourned at 2:35 a.m.w

While Assembly members made similar comments to the press, a number of members from both houses privately saw darker motives.

And Assemblywoman Sheila Leslie, D-Reno, said it was a maneuver by Raggio to get a couple of bills through including a water conservation study in Washoe County.

The budget bills were out of the Legislature and headed for the governor’s office more than two hours earlier. And the education bills and several other pieces of legislation caught up in the final bargaining were all processed by the Senate and Assembly by 12:30 a.m. – a half hour before the deadline. They were supposed to be immediately transmitted to the opposite house for action.

While the Assembly bills arrived in the Senate within five minutes, the Senate bills didn’t despite Speaker Barbara Buckley’s requests.

Finally, with just four minutes remaining on the Senate clock, the bills were rushed down the hall.

The Assembly simply didn’t have time to pass them before 1 a.m.

“All I want is the essential education bills they sat on,” Buckley said as she entered a closed door meeting with Raggio.

Raggio denied holding the bills until it was too late to pass them, charging instead that Buckley held some of his bills.

When the negotiations were completed, Gov. Gibbons put a total of 11 bills on the special session agenda: The 10 agreed to by Raggio and Buckley and one of his own.

The bill requested by Gibbons would give White Pine County access to up to $6 million in potential savings from prison reforms to help pay for health and safety repairs at its courthouse.

While that issue drew objections from Ways and Means Chairman Morse Arberry, D-Las Vegas, and Leslie who want that cash to go to rehabilitation programs for inmates, they agreed not to block the bill since it’s up to the Interim Finance Committee on which they serve to decide which programs get the money.

In the end, the agreements held and both Senate and Assembly processed all 11 bills as promised.

Final adjournment of the 23rd special session in Nevada history came shortly before 9 p.m. Tuesday.

• Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at gdornan@nevadaappeal.com or 687-8750.

Bills on the special session agenda:

• AB1 provides improved reporting of budget requests submitted by school districts. It also creates a grant fund for incentives for licensed education personnel and requires school boards to establish incentive pay programs for teachers and principals. It also grandfathers in the added retirement credit for teachers in at-risk schools who are already claiming that credit.

• AB2 appropriates funding for gifted and talented programs, alternative programs for disruptive students, pilot programs for English language learners, after school programs in at-risk schools, literacy programs, programs for deaf students and other similar programs.

• AB3 establishes a pilot program providing performance pay for successful teachers, requiring school districts to help create those programs and providing $5 million each year of the biennium to pay those bonuses.

• AB4 makes a technical correction to a bill adding judges in Clark and Washoe counties to accommodate caseload growth.

• AB5 appropriates $5 million to the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources to develop and implement stream habitat restoration efforts in the Reno area and downstream along the Truckee River.

• SB1 allows issuance of license plates to motor vehicle museums for $12 a year without charging fees for those registrations and plates. Only Reno’s Harrah’s Auto Museum qualifies at this point.

• SB2 creates the Committee on Co-occurring disorders to study, review and make recommendations on issues relating to people with both mental health and substance abuse disorders.

• SB3 extends the grant for restoration and preservation of the outside of the Lear Theater in Reno so the money isn’t returned to the state treasury July 1.

• SB4 requires the legislative committees on Education and Health Care to study issues related to health care during the interim and transfers $250,000 to Opportunity Village in Las Vegas for vocational training, social recreations and employment services for the disabled.

• SB5 provides children of parents who are on active duty an exemption from residency requirements to receive the Millennium Scholarship and requires recipients to sign an affidavit declaring they are legally residents of the U.S.

• SB6 allows White Pine County to apply for up to $6 million from the Interim Finance Committee to help with health and safety modifications to the Ely Courthouse.