Stuck clock brought new meaning to ‘legislative time’

CARSON CITY — If you’re an outsider wandering into the Legislative Building for the first time, you must learn the definition of “legislative time.”

Committee hearings, floor sessions, breaks or floor sessions hardly ever start on time.

If a committee chairman tells members to return at 1:30 p.m. after taking a 45-minute lunch — similar to what occurred during one of the pre-session budget hearings — that means take an hour-and-a-half lunch and you won’t be late.

If you are told to take a five-minute potty break, that means take as long as you want and you won’t miss anything.

Later in the session, floor sessions may be scheduled to begin at 11 a.m., but you probably won’t miss anything if you arrive at 1 p.m.

In recent weeks, however, real legislative time always has been 2:10 a.m. or p.m. Take your choice.

The ornate, four-sided clock at the Legislature Building had been stuck on that time until repairs were made Thursday.

The clock is the first thing visitors encounter when they visit, and many people check their watches against that time. First-time visitors to the Legislature last week clearly wondered what was happening with their lawmakers since they couldn’t even get the time right.

There’s only a handful of repair people in the country capable of fixing the legislative clock. The Legislature had to wait in line since the California repairman was busy the last three weeks repairing clocks in Texas.

Rotary Clubs around the state donated the clock to the Legislature in 2004. Under terms of the donation, the Carson City Rotary Club was responsible for making repairs for the first five years.

Rick Combs, director of the Legislative Counsel Bureau, said he has not received the bill yet, but he expects it to be more than $1,000. The repairman drove to Carson City from Bakersfield, Calif.

MUNFORD: Why COMPLAIN?

Assemblyman Harvey Munford wondered aloud Tuesday just before the legislative session opened why Assemblyman Steven Brooks, D-North Las Vegas, should be so upset about not being named to chair a committee. “Why should he complain?” he said.

While second-term legislator Brooks was arrested last month on allegations of threatening Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick because she did not appoint him to lead the Assembly Ways and Means Committee, Munford, 72, D-Las Vegas, never has been a chairman of any committee in his five terms as a legislator.

Six second-term Assembly members are chairing committees this session. Munford is a retired schoolteacher. In his long teaching career, he even taught state Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, who grew up in Southern Nevada.

Munford also was the first black man to graduate from Montana State University and starred on its basketball team during his college career.

Another veteran legislator, 75-year-old Joe Hogan, D-Las Vegas, also has not been appointed to chair an Assembly committee. He is serving in his fifth legislative session. Assemblyman Paul Aizley, D-Las Vegas, who is 76, also was not named a chair although he is in his third session.

What these nonchairs hold in common is age and experience.

Brooks is just 40.

CARLTON FINALLY IN A HOT SEAT

New Assembly Ways and Means Chairwoman Maggie Carlton, D-Las Vegas, introduced all committee staff members and then had legislators introduce themselves during the first meeting of her committee Tuesday. Then she spoke of how she first became a state senator in 1998, was term-limited out after 12 years, and then won election to her first of now two terms in the Assembly in 2010.

Carlton noted this session is the first time she has chaired a “money committee” or one that reviews state agency spending.

“I finally got on the money committee and there is no money in the till,” Carlton joked.

But while state government spending might not be as high as some want, the state is no pauper.

The governor’s $6.55 billion general fund budget is 5.5 percent higher than the one approved in 2009, but still more than $300 million short of the budget in 2007, just before the recession.

Counting federal funds, gas taxes and other funds kept outside the general fund, state spending in the next two years is more than $17 billion, an 11 percent increase.

Who would complain about an 11 percent pay raise these days?

RESTROOM PURSUIT

The scene outside the men’s bathroom adjacent to the Assembly chambers last Tuesday afternoon bordered on the ridiculous.

Accompanied by two legislative police officers, Assemblyman Steven Brooks, the legislator arrested last month on allegations that he threatened Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, entered the restroom. The police stood guard at the door.

A throng of at least a dozen news reporters, including those holding cameras from two TV stations, waited patiently for Brooks to emerge after doing his business. Several TV reporters held out cameras, while print media members thrust out tiny voice recorders. Moments passed, then Brooks suddenly opened the door, and said nothing.

This was gang journalism at its worst. And the only reason the Review-Journal reporter wasn’t with the gang was because he tried unsuccessfully to interview Brooks as the assemblyman walked to the restroom.

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

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