Legislature expects few problems in final days amid Woodhouse departure

CARSON CITY — Control of the state Senate was up a tossup Saturday after Democratic Sen. Joyce Woodhouse flew home to southern Nevada to be with her husband who is gravely ill.

With just days remaining in the 2013 session, Woodhouse’s departure Friday night left the upper chamber in 10-10 partisan split. It’s unknown when she’ll return.

Under Senate rules, Republican Lt. Gov. Brian Krolicki can only cast a tie-breaking vote on procedural matters, not final passage of a bill.

But it was unclear how those rules square with the Nevada Constitution and whether it would even come into play as lawmakers scramble to adjourn by midnight Monday.

The constitution says the lieutenant governor shall be president of the Senate, “but shall only have a casting vote therein.”

Lawyers for the Legislature said the lieutenant governor has authority to break ties on final bill votes and that there is precedent to do so.

Krolicki said he’d “vote with my heart and my conscience” if called upon to execute the duty.

Republican and Democratic leadership, however, said most remaining issues to be voted upon have been worked out and they don’t expect any tie-vote drama or partisan shenanigans.

Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, said the few remaining days will be “business as usual.”

“I think we’ll be fine,” he said. “We have a lot of concern for Joyce and her husband and we’re praying for them and we’ll continue to do our job just as we have all session.”

Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis agreed.

He said most of the big budget issues have been resolved and noted many bills in the Senate have passed with overwhelming bipartisan support.

“I think we’ll all work together,” Denis said. “The thing is we’ve worked together all session long.”

Work continued Saturday on finalizing budget bills.

On Saturday, the Senate Finance and Assembly Ways and Means committees approved an employee pay bill that restores state workers’ pay by 2.5 percent and retains six furlough days for each year of the upcoming biennium. It also reinstates merit and longevity pay beginning July 1, 2014.

Still to be introduced is the bill funding public schools. Under state law, the Legislature must approve the Distributive School Account funding before any other spending authorization bill — even if just by minutes, which is usually the case.

Sen. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks and chairwoman of the Senate Finance Committee, said last-minute details implementing smaller kindergarten class sizes were being drafted into the legislation.

That bill likely would be introduced Sunday.

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