Newspaper column: Just say no to annual legislative sessions

Democrats in Carson City are beating this dead donkey again.

Ten of the 13 state Senate Democrats are pushing for annual legislative sessions instead of sessions every other year. Senate Joint Resolution 5 would amend the state Constitution, which currently calls for 120-calendar-day sessions in odd-numbered years, by establishing 90-legislative-day sessions in odd-numbered years and 60-legislative-day sessions in even numbered years. Similar measures failed in 2013, 2015 and 2017.

The measure would have to pass this session and again in 2021 before going to the voters in 2022. The voters nixed a similar measure in 1970 with 66.2 percent voting against annual sessions.

Currently lawmakers are only paid their $150-a-day salaries for the first 60 days of each session, though they receive per diem expenses for the entire session, which works out to about 96 working days. If SJR5 were to pass, they would receive salaries for 150 days instead of 60 days, essentially a 150 percent pay increase.

A fiscal note prepared by the Legislative Counsel Bureau estimates the change would raise the cost of legislative sessions from the current $20 million every two years to $33.3 million.

“Despite our tradition of biennial sessions it is time for a change. While this tradition made sense during periods when our population was much lower and our finances less complex, it no longer addresses the needs of a rapidly growing state with a multibillion-dollar budget operating in a global market,” state Sen. Joyce Woodhouse of Henderson said during a recent hearing on the resolution. “Our state simply cannot adequately address rapidly changing conditions, a complex budget and policy matters by meeting every other year. In the past 17 years alone, our general revenue fund has more than doubled. At the same time our responsibilities as legislatures have increased significantly.”

Imagine how much the revenue — taken from the pockets of hardworking Nevadans — would have grown if the voters had approved annual sessions half a century ago.

At the hearing state Sen. Heidi Gansert of Reno expressed concerns that annual sessions would make it more difficult for anyone but the well-off to serve. “How do we maintain a citizen Legislature where we have folks who come from all walks of life?” she asked. “This would still be part-time but you would have to take off every year, and so that would be a concern. Who would have employers who would allow them to do that or would this force in some cases only the more affluent to be able to afford to serve?”

Janine Hansen, state president of Nevada Families for Freedom, pointed out that under SJR5 the 60- and 90-legislative-day sessions could last for months if lawmakers meet only a couple of days a week. She pointed out that Utah, with a similar population as Nevada, has its lawmakers meet annually but for only 45 days each year, less than Nevada’s current 120-day sessions.

Hansen suggested the better way to allow lawmakers to handle the work load is to cut the number bills that may be introduced in half.

The National Conference of State Legislatures reports that in the early 1960s only 19 state legislatures met annually, while the rest met biennially. By the mid-1970s, the number of states meeting annually had jumped from 19 to 41. Today only Nevada, Montana, North Dakota and Texas still met biennially. Texas’ population is considerably larger than Nevada’s.

While Nevada does not have full-blown legislative sessions every year it does have standing committees of lawmakers who meet when not in session and are able to make funding and regulatory changes. The governor also has the power to call special legislative sessions, such as the ones called in recent years to dole out billions in tax breaks to electric car makers Telsa and Faraday Future. Just what we need more of, right?

NCLS points out in a list of arguments against annual sessions posted on its website that annual sessions inevitably lead to a spiraling of legislative costs — for the lawmakers as well as the staffers who must be brought together twice as often. Also, biennial sessions allow lawmakers to work with and associate with their constituents. Another argument is that there are enough laws already limiting people’s liberty.

Lawmakers should dump this expensive and counterproductive measure now.

A version of this column appeared this week in many of the Battle Born Media newspapers — The Ely Times, the Mesquite Local News, the Mineral County Independent-News, the Eureka Sentinel and the Lincoln County Record — and the Elko Daily Free Press.

Legislative building in Carson City. (AP pix)

22 comments on “Newspaper column: Just say no to annual legislative sessions

  1. Anonymous says:

    There is not a single good reason for sending the people whose job it is to represent the state, home while the state remains in existence.

    I mean how dumb is it, while the world we live in is ever changing, with the resulting ever changing needs to respond in order to ensure what it is the legislature is there to ensure, to just send those folks home for half of the year.

    Its seriously nuts and its also probably one of the reasons why this state is so backwards in so many ways and so behind so many other states.

  2. Steve says:

    For some people, there is truly nothing more and bigger government cannot fix.

    Thankfully those people are a totally batshit crazy minority.

  3. Rincon says:

    A true statement, although it doesn’t apply to Anonymous. Here is another, equally true statement.

    For some people, there is truly nothing that less and smaller government cannot fix.

    Thankfully, those people are a totally batshit crazy minority.

  4. Steve says:

    We agree then.
    The government is just right the size it currently is.

  5. Rincon says:

    Yeah, pretty much, except for health care. Spending more on defense than the next 10 nations combined also seems to be a bit of overkill, if you’ll pardon the expression, and I would like to see better enforcement against white collar and E – crime. Although I don’t greatly desire government expansion into socialized health care, the so called socialized medicine in other countries appears to be both cheaper and more effective than what is provided by our pseudocapitalistic cartel. Many of us feel that we’ve already given Conservatives 50 years or more to improve it. They have responded by defending the status quo, so they’ve lost all credibility.

    Most other problems can be addressed without enlarging government greatly.


  6. Anonymous says:

    “Spending more on defense than the next 10 nations combined also seems to be a bit of overkill”
    We can stop that as soon as they pick up the slack and defend themselves.

    Once that barrier is cleared, then the limits are boundless!

    Just don’t add to the size, scope and reach of government.

  7. Bill says:

    Full time legislatures have not worked so well in other jurisdictions. I can’t think of one off the top of my head although some benighted souls seem to want to replicate our neighbor to the west. Full time legislatures have a tendency to legislate full time, incrementally growing their power, control and expense. That is not a good thing if you are one of the power elite of government. Not so good it you are just a citizen who wants limited control over their rights and properties.

  8. Bill says:

    Sorry. Meant to say, it is a good thing if you are a member of the power elite.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Nevada is so well governed it ranks near the bottom practically every category most people would try to place high in, and at the top in others no one wants to be in.

    In the meantime, the states that have recognized that governance is a full time job are pretty much all higher at the good things, and all lower at the bad ones.

    I suspect this will change soon enough since Nevada seems well on our way to becoming more and more like California each year and less and less like….Wyoming?

    Thank Christ.

  10. Bill says:

    What are the “good things” and the “bad things”. Instead of making these sweeping generalities, give us your list of the “good” and the “bad”. By the way, Wyoming is a pretty nice place except it snows a lot and the wind blows too much. I particularly like riding the Rockies on horseback. The people are damn terrific also.

  11. Steve says:

    Sigh, no, Nevada is not becoming more like California.
    For that matter California isn’t really like California.
    Go outside the population centers and it all gets much more like Wyoming. The people, the fresh air, the recreation and wide open spaces where guns, ranching and hunting are a way of life.
    Perhaps all this “good” government should be specifically applied to the population centers and leave the rural areas alone.
    Of course, remembering the population centers totally rely on the rural areas for all their food.


  12. Rincon says:

    Next time you put money in the bank, pick up a prescription, buy insurance, eat a meal, or even exercise for the health benefits, you might want to remember that although we are all occasionally the victims of government regulation, we are far more commonly the beneficiaries.

  13. Anonymous says:

    Quinine pills.
    Used to cost about 3 cents each.
    They are good for relieving the pain of gout.
    They were totally over the counter, easy to get. Even easier to pay for.
    Then along came the “regulators” in the form of companies who wanted to make the pills more profitable.
    They “convinced” (directed) the FDA to make quinine pills a controlled drug and perform testing to evaluate the “safety” of this readily available and completely harmless pill form of quinine.
    After that, only one formulation made by one company was allowed for sale, at about buck or so, price fluctuates, per pill. Now, years later, there are more sources for the pills but they will never be 3 cents each, ever again.
    Pretty good, government created, sky rocket, monopolistic profit factory, eh?

    Hope they keep their hands off aspirin.


  14. Steve says:

    Well 3#1T!! Who ever thought this feature a good idea should work in government!

  15. Steve says:

    BRW, it was AD Hopkins who lod me about this bit of entertaining quinine lore.
    And, if your feet suddenly start hurting, have a gin and tonic!

  16. Rincon says:

    Quinine is still available, but the Mayo Clinic does not recommend it for treating gout, and I would tend to trust their judgement. Interestingly, they recommend several very inexpensive drugs. They also issue cautions:

    “Contact your doctor right away if you have any changes to your heart rhythm. You might feel dizzy or faint, or you might have a fast, pounding, or uneven heartbeat. Make sure your doctor knows if you or anyone in your family has ever had a heart rhythm problem such as QT prolongation.

    Quinine may cause hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). If your blood sugar gets too low, you may feel weak, drowsy, confused, anxious, or very hungry. You may also sweat, shake, or have blurred vision, a fast heartbeat, or a headache that will not go away. Tell your doctor right away if you have any of these symptoms.

    This medicine may cause serious allergic reactions, including anaphylaxis. Anaphylaxis can be life-threatening and requires immediate medical attention. Call your doctor right away if you have a rash, itching, hoarseness, lightheadedness, dizziness, or fainting, trouble breathing, trouble swallowing, or any swelling of your hands, face, or mouth after you take this medicine.

    Quinine may cause blurred vision or a change in color vision. Make sure you know how you react to this medicine before you drive, use machines, or do anything else that could be dangerous if you are not able to see well. If these reactions are especially bothersome, check with your doctor.

    Under side effects:

    More common
    stomach cramps or pain
    Less common
    behavior change, similar to drunkenness
    black, tarry stools
    blood in the urine or stools
    blurred vision or change in vision
    cold sweats
    convulsions (seizures) or coma
    cool pale skin
    cough or hoarseness
    difficulty concentrating
    excessive hunger
    fast heartbeat
    fever or chills
    lower back or side pain
    painful or difficult urination
    pinpoint red spots on the skin
    restless sleep
    slurred speech
    sore throat
    unusual bleeding or bruising
    unusual tiredness or weakness
    Difficulty breathing or swallowing
    disturbed color perception
    double vision
    increased sweating
    muscle aches
    night blindness
    reddening of the skin, especially around ears
    ringing or buzzing in the ears
    swelling of the eyes, face, or inside of the nose”,

    Sounds to me like the FDA is doing its job.

  17. Anonymous says:

    24 people died from overdosing quinine pills.

    Now, if one of those people is a close relative, then you would be right to say that. But 24 deaths in comparison to daily life in this world is not even a dot on the radar.
    The doctors involved were the people who should have been watching and they are not.

    The FDA is a puppet of the pharmacy industry.

  18. Steve says:

    Arrgh. I did it again.

  19. Bill says:

    Governments can do good. Alas, many do far more harm. If you are a student of history you realize that a lot of deaths have occurred as a result of government actions. Government is probably right up there as a cause of death alongside pestilence and religion. Government, like all things, should only be taken in moderation. Kind of like quinine, I suppose.

  20. Rincon says:

    Firstly, your “facts” appear to be incorrect. Among people with leg cramps, those taking quinine had deaths occur , “at a rate of 4.2 deaths per 100 person-years in the quinine group and 3.2 deaths per 100 person-years in the unexposed group”. And, “This study adds FURTHER (emphasis mine) support to the link between quinine use and excess all-cause mortality, which presumably is related to quinine’s known adverse effects (e.g., thrombocytopenia, cardiac arrhythmias).”

    Sounds like a whole lot more than 24! But even if your number of 24 is correct in some way, I still have to question your logic. Am I correct to infer that you think that if something doesn’t actually kill you, then it should not be regulated? If so, then things like financial fraud and shoplifting should be “deregulated”, right?

    It is true, Bill, that government, like private enterprise, is a two edged sword. We all agree that they both need limits and a reasonable degree of freedom to perform their work. The specifics are the sticky bits, but then, that’s where the fun begins!

  21. Steve says:

    Time to sue Schweppes.

    The 24 cases were what prompted the FDA to create a monopoly quinine market.

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