2019 Nevada Legislature opens Feb. 4 in Carson City

Speaker Jason Frierson is among Nevada Democrats leading the push for a minimum wage increase.

Speaker Jason Frierson is among Nevada Democrats leading the push for a minimum wage increase.

CARSON CITY, Nev. — The 80th regular session of the Nevada Legislature opens for business Monday, Feb. 4, with pomp and ceremony as new members of the Senate and all members of the Assembly are sworn in.

The Assembly convenes first, starting at 11 a.m., followed by the Senate at noon.

Both chambers will be crowded with family members and guests who will all be introduced.

There are 15 new members in the Assembly. There are seven new members in the Senate but five of them are former Assembly members.

Most notably, this is the first time in Nevada history and the first time in the nation's history a state legislature has had a majority of women members. Twenty-three of the 42 Assembly seats are held by women along with nine of the 21 Senate seats.

Together, women hold 32 of the 63 elected legislative positions.

After the ceremonies and oaths of office, both chambers will get down to work.

According to the Legislative website, there are 114 bills ready to be introduced in the Assembly and 127 pre-filed bills in the Senate. Those will all be referred to the various standing committees which could, presumably, begin holding hearings on them Tuesday, day two of the 120-day legislative session.

But one bill, Senate Bill 1, will be declared an emergency measure, passed by both houses and delivered to Gov. Steve Sisolak on day one. SB1 contains the $10 million initial appropriation that will pay for the operation of the 2019 Legislature.

With a 120-day constitutional limit on how long the regular session can last, lawmakers have no choice but to hit the ground running.

The Assembly Judiciary Committee chaired by Steve Yeager, D-Las Vegas, is doing just that and has scheduled hearings on bills every day starting on Tuesday.

But most of the other committees, both Senate and Assembly, are starting with organizational meetings primarily for new members.

With the deadline in mind, joint subcommittee hearings of the Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees — the “money committees” — begin Friday of week one. While no agendas are posted yet for those sessions, they typically start with a review of the governor's office and governor's mansion budgets.

In the last analysis, much of every legislative session centers on money — how to spend the available cash and how and where to get more for special needs.

The Economic Forum sets the total amount of General Fund cash available to lawmakers. For the coming biennium that's $8.84 billion and, unlike the federal government, the Nevada Constitution mandates a balanced budget.

Those pre-filed bills for introduction on day one are just the start since more than 970 pieces of legislation have been requested by lawmakers. The legal division has been working since early fall to write all those measures so they can be introduced and debated.

Many are new versions of measures that have been brought in the past. As usual, a large number of them say simply they deal with education or elections, two subjects that often dominate the bill draft lists.

Some others are expected to be controversial — such as the proposal that would give state workers collective bargaining rights. No fiscal note has yet been developed to give lawmakers and the public any idea what that might cost.

Another that should draw a lot of attention is Sen. Joe Hardy's bill to ban all legal brothels in Nevada, especially in light of the overwhelming rejection of a brothel ban by Lyon County voters in November.

Democrats will run the show since they have a super-majority (two-thirds) in the Assembly and a 13-9 majority in the Senate.

But Republicans have some leverage in the Senate since 13 is one short of a two-thirds super-majority needed to pass tax and appropriations bills.

Through the next 120 days until June 3 — the final day of the regular session — lawmakers will be supported by more than 300 staff and informed, lobbied, cajoled and occasionally harassed by more than 800 registered lobbyists as well as state agency directors and spokesmen.


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