Legislature quiet in wake of special session | NevadaAppeal.com

Legislature quiet in wake of special session

The legislative halls were quieter than the pharaoh’s tomb Monday just eight hours after the end of the 26th special session of the Nevada Legislature.

Only the occasional legislative police officer could be found as both lawmakers and staff slept in following sine die at 2:16 a.m. of the sixth day. Many of the Las Vegas lawmakers were already headed toward the airport with hopes of getting home Monday – including Senate Majority Leader Steven Horsford, D-Las Vegas, whose daughter is having a birthday this week.

The session concluded with words of praise from leadership not only for each other during the week’s tense negotiations but for Gov. Jim Gibbons who spent many hours behind closed doors hammering out the compromise to repair what finally became an $805 million hole in the budget. Several lawmakers who have been critical of Gibbons in the past said he was engaged in the meetings and contributed significantly to the plan all factions have now signed off on.

Now agency directors are moving to begin implementing the directives issued by lawmakers and the governor, who is expected to sign the bills on his desk this week.

That plan plugs the budget hole with a combination of agency budget cuts, fund transfers, sweeps of reserve and other dedicated revenue accounts as well as fee increases even Gibbons signed off on as necessary.

Those include boosts to charges by the secretary of state, gaming control, cultural affairs, the athletic commission and state parks.

Traffic tickets and other misdemeanors will cost an added $5 because of a boost in that assessment and parks and museums admissions will rise a dollar or two effective July 1.

Other revenue raisers include undefined directives to the Department of Taxation to collect $10 million in unpaid insurance premium taxes.

The plan will hit education but not as hard as the 10 percent originally proposed. Both higher education and K-12 will suffer a 6.9 percent general fund cut. That works out to a much smaller reduction to their overall revenues since both the university system and school districts get a large share of their funding from outside the general fund.

The budget bill was accompanied by several other measures including one granting school districts much more flexibility in using state money for such things as textbooks, class size reduction and all day kindergarten. Likewise, counties received state sanction to move away from the Monday through Friday 8-5 work schedule and adopt four-day work weeks if it will save them money.

Most state agencies will also drop back to four-day work weeks with the exception of public safety functions such as the prison system and highway patrol.