By Ryan Tarinelli
CARSON CITY — Democrats in the state Senate have revived an effort to bring annual legislative sessions to Nevada, one of the few states that hold sessions every other year.
Ten Democratic Senators have signed on in support of a resolution that would create a 90-day legislative session in years that end with an odd number and a 60-day session in even-number years.
To be approved, the measure would have to pass the Legislature this year and the 2021 Legislature before going to voters for approval. Supporters at a hearing Wednesday argued bi-annual legislative sessions are outdated and a switch to annual sessions will make the Legislature more responsive.
“Our state simply cannot adequately address rapidly changing conditions, a complex budget and policy (matters) by meeting every other year,” said Sen. Joyce Woodhouse at a hearing on the resolution Wednesday. “In the past 17 years alone, our general revenue fund has more than doubled.”
The measure says sessions held in even-number years would “prioritize legislative business” on the executive budget, but also stipulates the Legislature can pass any other bills.
Supporters also argue biennial sessions diminish the Legislature’s authority and its respect as a governing body.
Earlier this year, Clark County Fire Department Chief Greg Cassell said he wanted to bypass state lawmakers to make changes requiring events of a certain size to have fire personnel on scene and in unified command with police. A bill addressing a similar topic failed to make it out of the Legislature last session.
The Las Vegas-area fire chief said making changes at the local level is easier to do because the Legislature only meets every two years.
If Nevada had annual sessions, Sen. Pat Spearman said lawmakers could have acted more quickly on the Great Recession and blunted its devastating impacts.
“It’s a governance issue,” she said. “Right now, the state of Nevada has two and a half branches of government,” she said, mentioning voters have not decided on whether to add annual sessions since the early ‘70s.
Democrats in the Senate have a firm majority in the body. Only three Democratic Senators have not signed onto the resolution. Melanie Scheible, one of those lawmakers, declined to comment.
The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that Nevada, Texas, Montana and North Dakota are the only states that hold sessions every other year.
Opponents on Wednesday told legislators they have concerns the annual sessions will lead to a rise in the amount of legislation. One opponent said annual sessions would lead to bloated government while another person raised fears Nevada would turn into a full-time Legislature.
A similar resolution to create annual sessions narrowly passed the Senate last legislative session but did not cross the finish line in the Assembly.