Legislature moves closer to annual sessions

CARSON CITY — A resolution that could ultimately lead to annual sessions for the Nevada Legislature won approval Monday in the Assembly, leaving only Senate acceptance of some minor changes to the measure before lawmakers are finished with it for the 2013 session.

The vote in the Assembly was 23-18, a close vote but enough to push the measure through in its first legislative test. The Assembly’s 15 Republicans were joined by three Democrats in opposing the measure.

Senate Joint Resolution 8 now must be approved by the Legislature a second time in 2015 and then supported by voters in 2016 before it could take effect.

The resolution proposes to change the state constitution to allow limited annual sessions of 90 legislative days in odd-numbered years and 30 days in even-numbered years.

The sessions in the proposed resolution would not count weekends or other days lawmakers did not actually meet, so they would extend over more consecutive calendar days. The maximum number of consecutive calendar days would be 120 for the 90-day sessions and 45 days for the 30-day sessions.

The constitution now requires the Legislature to meet every other year for no more than 120 days.

The measure is sponsored by Sen. Tick Segerblom and Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, both D-Las Vegas.

As originally written, the bill could have led to legislative sessions being held in Las Vegas. But that section was removed after concerns were raised that it could lead to the relocation of the state capital to Las Vegas.

Segerblom said in previous hearings that that was never the intent of the language.

The resolution would also repeal a 60-day limit on pay for lawmakers now in the constitution. That repeal could lead to a pay hike for lawmakers unless they voted to change their rate of pay, which is just under $150 a day.

Lawmakers receive about $9,000 for the first 60 days of the current sessions and no pay thereafter. Eliminating the 60-day limitation in the constitution could double lawmaker pay because they would be compensated for the full 90- and 30-day sessions.

Segerblom said the pay issue will have to be addressed by lawmakers in statute.

The resolution originally proposed paying lawmakers $24,000 a year, but the pay provision was removed in a previous amendment.

In arguing for passage, Segerblom said Nevada is a big state with complex problems that no longer can afford to meet only every other year.

“We are not voting to have annual sessions,” Segerblom said. “We are voting to have the voters of Nevada decide whether we should have annual sessions.”

Contact reporter Sean Whaley at swhaley@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3900.