Special sessions: Solution in search of a problem
No surprise here that legislators want to give themselves the authority to call their own special sessions. They want to ask voters to grant them that authority, and we think voters should give them a resounding “no” next year.
Assembly Joint Resolution 13 argues that most other state legislatures have the ability to initiate their own special sessions and set the agendas for them. So what? Most other legislatures meet every year, but that hasn’t seemed to improve the quality of their service.
The more substantial argument is for separation of the powers of government, because the Nevada constitution allows only the governor to call a special session and set the agenda.
AJR13 sets up some safeguards, requiring a two-thirds majority of each house of the Legislature to sign a petition requesting a special session for specific purposes. It would limit such sessions to 20 days.
This is a solution without a problem. We’re not aware of any governor refusing to call a special session when asked by the Legislature. We doubt any governor would refuse such a petition from two-thirds of the Assembly and Senate, but it could happen.
Where some see too much authority in the hands of the governor, we see an important check and balance. Voters already have limited regular sessions to 120 days, and this would simply be an end-run around their wishes.
The Assembly voted 42-0 for AJR13, which bothers us only because the resolution says it has “no fiscal impact.” We would hope somebody in the Assembly recognizes the fact that special sessions cost taxpayers an average of $30,000 to $40,000 a day, or somewhere in the neighborhood of $700,000 for a 20-day session.
The potential cost, however, didn’t seem to be of any concern. That’s as good a reason as any for voters to hold legislators to the 120-day limit, because they can’t seem to limit themselves.