By Sheila Freed
The Nevada Legislature will likely have adjourned by the time you read this, and won’t re-convene until 2017. The 2015 Session is due to end June 1st. In May, things get really intense in Carson City. The legislature has set for itself certain benchmarks which are designed to keep the legislative process moving. That is why some bills die without ever being voted on, and explains why committee chairs have so much power. A bill must pass out of committee and go to the floor of the house that submitted it by a certain deadline. If it doesn’t get out of committee by that deadline, it dies. The same thing happens on the floor of the originating house; if it doesn’t get passed by a certain date, it dies. Then the bill goes to the other house and the same kinds of deadlines apply: Out of committee, then floor passage. A committee chair can just not have hearings on a particular bill, thereby ensuring the bill goes nowhere.
This all sounds like an orderly process until you factor in the “exempt” bills. These are bills that have a financial impact, so they’re “exempt” from the usual deadlines. Since virtually everything has a money impact, it’s easy to see how all the tough issues pile up in the last few days of the session. Eleven days before the session is set to end, “budget differences” have to be settled, and the actual budget bills, that fund everything, are introduced just six days before the end. It’s not that nobody has thought about money until the very end; tax and budget proposals appear early in the session, but they are just proposals. When the tough decision making has to happen, it is often in haste and with limited information. The result can be poor policy and unintended consequence that ensure the same issues will be revisited in the next session.
So who runs the government after the session ends? The Governor of course stays in Carson City, and all the administrative agencies function. There is a group called the Interim Finance Committee, composed of members of the Senate Finance Committee and the Assembly Ways and Means Committee from the just-ended session. They convene and make financial decisions as needed until the next legislative session. There is also a Legislative Commission that meets to make needed policy decisions.
There are also other interim committees. Some are standing committees that are charged with studying a particular policy area and making recommendations for legislation during the next session. An example would be the Committee on Child Welfare and Juvenile Justice. The Legislature also appoints special committees to study and report on issues outside the purview of standing committees. Learn more about the interim at http://www.leg.state.nv.us/Interim/interim.cfm.
Lutheran-Episcopal Advocacy in Nevada also keeps going between legislative sessions. Even before the session ended, Advocate Mike Patterson was planning for the interim. LEAN wants to know what parishioners are concerned about, because we plan to continue to advocate during the interim. Interim committees hold hearings and take testimony just like regular Assembly and Senate committees, and LEAN will be there to speak for the poor and disadvantaged. Check back here for updates, and talk to your Parish Communicators.