Oughta be a law

The 2011 Legislature is supposed to be all about the budget, with a healthy dose of redistricting thrown in.

So why will lawmakers bother with hearings on an outdoor smoking ban at college and university campuses when smoking is already prohibited inside school buildings?

The focus in Carson City is on Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval's $400 million in proposed spending cuts and what they will mean for Nevada's schools and social services. Will lawmakers raise taxes over his promised veto? Will the governor's $5.8 billion plan help put Nevadans back to work?

It would take every one of the session's constitutionally mandated 120 days for legislators to adequately address these issues.

So why will the Legislature spend untold hours on bills limiting cell phone use and prohibiting texting by motorists when distracted driving is already a crime?

The Senate and the Assembly introduced 261 bills Monday. No session in state history has begun with such a load of legislation. Worse, about 700 more bills are in the pipeline, being drafted by legislative staff.

By the time the session ends, the fate of roughly 1,000 bills will be decided, including ones proposing mandatory tire pressure checks and changes to fishing licenses.

For heaven's sake, Nevada has survived as a state for nearly 150 years without all this sausage.

With the very identity of state government hanging in the balance -- Consolidation? Elimination? Privatization? Reinvention? -- lawmakers will be distracted on a daily basis by all manner of bills, some frivolous, some meddlesome and some downright dumb.

One bill would require a doctor's prescription for common, over-the-counter cold medicine. Seriously?

What's really offensive about the continued expansion of the Nevada Revised Statutes? A bill to create an "adjusted adult diploma" for some students who can't complete traditional high school requirements will have a far better public airing than whatever plan Democrats conceive to raise taxes. Instead, such legislation will likely be negotiated behind closed doors and kept from the voting public until the last possible day, as it was in 2009 -- remember, lawmakers have exempted themselves from the requirements of Nevada's open meeting law.

That's a travesty.

Yes, there are many important bills unrelated to direct spending that deserve the Legislature's full consideration. Among them are many proposed reforms to public education and public employee compensation.

And a least one other bill deserves passage: the proposal from Assemblyman Richard McArthur, R-Las Vegas, to drastically cut back the number of bills that can be introduced.