CARSON CITY — The 10 minutes before the Legislature adjourned at midnight Monday were something out of “The Little Rascals,” or at least a high school track meet.
During those minutes, Sen. Ruben Kihuen and Assemblyman James Healey, both D-Las Vegas, repeatedly sprinted down hallways in the Legislative Building, followed by a ragtag group of lobbyists and reporters, none of whom could match their speed.
What the two legislators and several others sought to accomplish was getting legislative lawyers to print documents they needed to sign before the Assembly and Senate could remove an amendment to Assembly Bill 496, This is the so-called “More Cops” bill that allows the Clark County Commission to increase the sales tax to 8.25 percent and use extra funds to hire or retain police officers. The tax rate now is 8.1 percent. Approval was needed by midnight, or the bill was dead.
AB496 had been sitting on the list of unapproved bills for a week. But legislators seemed oblivious to its existence until about 11:30 p.m. Monday. Then with lobbyists such as ex-Assembly Speaker Richard Perkins, the former Henderson police chief, and Metropolitan Police Department lobbyist Chuck Callaway wearing ashen faces in the Assembly gallery, the bill suddenly became the hottest topic of the session.
A committee of Healey, Kihuen and others quickly huddled in the hallway outside the Assembly chambers, frantically looking for the papers that they needed to sign off on the bill. The papers they didn’t have. So they rushed to the office of the legislative lawyers and pleaded for them to print the documents they needed.
“We’ll make it, plenty of time,” Kihuen insisted.
Sen. David Parks, D-Las Vegas, stood stoically and declared he had been through this before — and everything worked out fine.
Minutes ticked off. Everyone began looking at their watches. Four minutes more. Three minutes. The lawyers brought out the necessary papers.
Healey grabbed them and like a 100-meter champion dashed for the Assembly chambers. The bill quickly received the necessary voice vote from the entire Assembly.
Kihuen waited impatiently on the Senate floor for those documents to be rushed to him.
One secretary became the clock keeper.
One minute. Thirty seconds. 10 seconds. It’s midnight.
The session is over, declared Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki, the president of the Senate. He and a lawyer quickly examined the state law books. The Legislature must adjourn at midnight on the 120th day. Yep, it’s really over.
“We only needed one more minute,” lamented Kihuen.
There is no joy in Legislatorville. The mighty Kihuen has struck out.
But this story has a happy ending, at least for people who want cops on the streets in Clark County.
After hearing pitches by Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, R-Las Vegas, Gov. Brian Sandoval finally called a special session to deal with More Cops and four other bills. But many legislators were gone. The special session had to wait until they could be roused from their beds.
Weary legislators met for a little over an hour, and at 8:45 a.m. Tuesday, approved the More Cops bill.
Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at firstname.lastname@example.org or 775-687-3901.