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Panel decides to restrict Nevada lawmakers’ travel

CARSON CITY — Legislative Commission members decided Wednesday to outlaw almost all travel by legislators over the interim period between now and February 2013, when they will convene their next regular legislative session.

The 12 members named dozens of legislators to serve on interim committees over the next year and a half but stipulated there will be almost no out-of-state travel and in-state travel should be limited. All interim committees will be teleconferenced between the Legislative Building in Carson City and the Sawyer Building in Las Vegas.

Southern Nevada legislators were told to attend meetings in the Sawyer Building, rather than fly to Carson City, while Northern Nevadans must attend the Carson City meetings.

The decision comes as Nevada remains in a recession and legislators are looking for ways to limit spending.

Nonetheless, the legislators still will be paid their $146-a-day salaries for attending interim committee meetings. Total spending on salaries will be $188,774 over the next year and a half. Legislators receive an $8,777 salary during the 120-day regular sessions every other year.

Exceptions to the no-travel rule could be given to four legislators appointed to the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws. All of the organization’s meetings are out of state.

Already legislators have been picking their own pockets to attend out-of-state meetings.

Earlier his month, Assemblywoman Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, paid her expenses to attend the National Conference of State Legislatures’ annual meeting in New Orleans. Smith, who gave a speech during the conference, estimated she spent $1,000 to attend.

In the past, legislators’ airline flights and expenses to attend these conferences were paid by the state.

Also Wednesday, commissioners appointed chairmanships to key interim committees. The leaders include:

■ Assemblyman Marcus Conklin, D-Las Vegas, will head the committee that will look at new methods for funding public schools

■ Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, will lead the Committee on Education.

■ Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, D-Las Vegas, will chair a committee looking at recycling and deposits on recycled products.

State Sen. Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, will be vice chairman of both education committees. Denis is in line to become Senate majority leader in 2013 if Democrats retain a majority, while Conklin could become Assembly speaker.

The Legislative Commission consists of six senators and six Assembly members, divided equally between Republicans and Democrats. They make decisions for the entire Legislature when it is not in session.

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

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