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Legislators balk at Gibbons’ order to adjourn by Sunday

CARSON CITY — Gov. Jim Gibbons set up a showdown with legislators Wednesday when he ordered them to adjourn their special session by 11:59 p.m. Sunday or he will disband it himself.

Trouble is, Legislative Counsel Brenda Erdoes said earlier, governors have the sole authority under the state constitution to call the Legislature into special session, but they cannot tell legislators when to adjourn.

Gibbons amended his proclamation that called the Legislature into special session to include the adjournment date — and to request legislators review the eight-point education reform plan he announced earlier in the month.

Under this plan, the state would end mandatory requirements for class-size reduction and full-day kindergarten, collective bargaining rights for school workers would be suspended, and the state Board of Education would be disbanded.

Gibbons also wants to offer state support to students who attend private schools and to require the state superintendent of public instruction to report to him.

In his amended special session proclamation, Gibbons also asked legislators to change a law that prevents the state from qualifying for a $175 million Race to the Top federal education grant and to revise a law that blocks the state water engineer from considering water rights applications that the Southern Nevada Water Authority needs to pump water from rural Nevada to Las Vegas.

Nevada cannot file for the grant now because of a 2003 law that prevents teachers from being evaluated on how their students fare on standardized tests.

Gibbons had been expected all along to request legislators review these items. But the controversy will be over him telling legislators when to go home.

"He has the authority to call us in but not tell us when we are going to end," said Assemblyman John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas. "The goal would be to get done prior to that date, but our legal counsel tells us we absolutely have the ability to say when we will adjourn."

Erdoes said earlier this week that the governor, under the constitution, can set an adjournment date only when the Assembly and Senate disagree on when they want to adjourn.

But Daniel Burns, Gibbons’ communications director, said a 2001 attorney general’s opinion states that governors can decide the adjournment date of special sessions.

The two sections of the constitution dealing with special sessions state:

"Sec: 9. Special sessions of Legislature; business at special session. The Governor may on extraordinary occasions, convene the Legislature by Proclamation and shall state to both houses when organized, the purpose for which they have been convened, and the Legislature shall transact no legislative business, except that for which they were specially convened, or such other legislative business as the Governor may call to the attention of the Legislature while in Session.

"Sec: 11. Adjournment of legislature by governor. In case of a disagreement between the two Houses with respect to the time of adjournment, the Governor shall have power to adjourn the Legislature to such time as he may think proper; Provided, it be not beyond the time fixed for the meeting of the next Legislature."

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Ed Vogel at evogel@reviewjournal.com or 775-687-3901.

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