State to again consider annual legislative sessions

CARSON CITY — Sen. Tick Segerblom made his case for annual legislative sessions Tuesday, arguing lawmakers could do their jobs better by meeting every year rather than every other year as the state constitution mandates.

Senate Joint Resolution 8 would change the constitution to allow limited annual sessions of 90 legislative days in odd-numbered years and 30 days in even-numbered years.

Sessions now run 120 calendar days in odd-numbered years.

The sessions in the proposed resolution would not count weekends or other days lawmakers did not meet, so they would extend over more consecutive calendar days.

Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, said the proposal would keep the same 120-day sessions Nevada has now but allow for the more efficient operation of the state Legislature.

“This is long overdue,” he said. “Nevada is maturing. We have a lot of issues.”

Segerblom was joined by Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, in testifying for the resolution before the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections.

Flores said the proposal is not about government expansion but making government more efficient.

Most lawmakers have experienced a situation in which they get a bill passed and then find out it could have been made better, or that it created an unintended consequence, she said.

“You can’t do a single thing about it for two years,” Flores said.

It isn’t 1889 anymore, and lawmakers don’t ride horses to the capital, she said.

The proposal would allow the Legislature to meet outside the capital if a majority in each house agreed to do so.

Segerblom said he does not want to move the seat of government to Las Vegas, but the Legislature should be able to meet in more populous Southern Nevada on occasion.

“I think we ought to be able to hold a session there, and vote, and let the people of Southern Nevada see what we do,” he said.

SJR8 would change lawmaker compensation to $2,000 a month whether they are in session or not for an annual salary of $24,000.

Lawmakers are paid about $150 a day for the first 60 days of each regular session for a salary of $9,000 a session, and not at all for the rest of each session. They also get paid the same daily rate for attending interim committee meetings.

In addition, the measure would require some executive branch appointments made by the governor contingent on state Senate approval.

The resolution would have to be passed in this session and in 2015. Then voters would have their say in 2016. If approved, the first annual session would not occur until 2018.

Segerblom said that his proposal can be tweaked as to the number of days or salary or other elements but that the concepts should be included in any changes to the way the Legislature functions.

Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, D-North Las Vegas, a member of the committee, said lawmakers from other states consider Nevada a laughingstock because the Legislature works on a two-year cycle.

“I don’t think it’s funny,” he said.

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