by MOLLY MOSER
Attending the opening day of the Nevada Legislature is similar to starting the first day at a new school: there are rules that need to be followed—recesses, meeting and greeting new people, proud family members in awe of your accomplishments, and going over what’s going to happen during the session. Additionally, there are some important and specific details to know before you make an appearance at the first day of the 77th session, so you have a better understanding of what’s going on. With the help of viewpoints from local reporters who have years of experience covering the legislature, we’ve identified four things that a person should expect when they attend the first day of the Nevada Legislature on February 4.
The ceremony begins at 11 a.m. inside the legislative building at 401 Carson Street in Carson City. Make sure to dress formally, because the lawmakers are going to bring many family members, relatives and friends, and will be taking pictures during both floor speeches. The new lawmakers of both the Senate and Assembly are going to be sworn in as well. Sean Whaley, Capitol Bureau reporter for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, said other procedures are going to be in progress – the newly formed committees will give an address to the governor stating that the legislature is ready for business.
“It’s mostly going to be lawmakers and their families, relatives and friends to be there to see them sworn in,” Whaley says. “It’s a festive day for these folks to sort of enjoy a few hours of pomp and circumstance before they really get down to business.”
Sandra Chereb, an Associated Press reporter in Carson City, said the buildings are going to be very crowded. She said lobbyists and lawmakers will be mingling around the hallways and their offices. This is a good chance for people to introduce themselves and get to know the public legislators while they’re not in floor session. There will be frequent recesses during the ceremony.
“There will be all kinds of flowers on everybody’s desk, speeches and welcoming,” Chereb says. “It’s a kickoff to the session before they get down to the real work on Tuesday.”
KNOW THE BILLS AHEAD OF TIME
It’s quite amazing the legislature is going to be discussing about 150 bills in 120 days. Even though they won’t be passing any bills on the first day, it’s good to know what they’ll be discussing ahead of time.
If you forget to bring the legislative schedules with you, or you’re unable to find them, Whaley said there are hardcopies of the session schedule; a list of bills and their descriptions as well as agendas for committee meetings will be posted outside of the Senate and Assembly buildings. Whaley said the only bill that might pass on the first day is Senate Bill Number One, which makes an appropriation to the Legislative Fund for the costs of the 77th Legislative session.
“They won’t actually take out any of the issues, they’ll refer them to committees,” Whaley says. “They read the bills by title and refer them to the different committees that they belong to.”
INTRODUCTIONS TO THE SESSIONS
Whaley said committees will be giving presentations of what they’ll be covering during sessions. He said that these presentations or notes can be retrieved on the legislative website and they post consistently to keep the public updated. Rules of within the legislature will also be discussed with the lawmakers. During a floor session, press members are not allowed to speak with the lawmakers.
Whaley said it’s possible that a debate might rise during the discussion of rules. He said sometimes lawmakers will express their concerns with a rule and they might want to change it or make it different. Whaley said that morning and afternoon committees, as well as governor affairs and judiciaries are usually on the second or third floor buildings, and they will be called to attend the floor session.
“The floor sessions won’t last very long because there’s other things to do,” Whaley says. “Neither have any bills to vote on since committees haven’t passed anything out yet.”
The session on the following day, Tuesday, February 5, the Assembly will have their first discussion regarding taxation of the state at 1 p.m. in Room 2134 of the legislative building.
EXPECT THE UNEXPECTED
Oh yes, Steven Brooks, if you don’t already know. The Reno Gazette-Journal reported that Democratic Assemblyman Steven Brooks, 40, was arrested for carrying a concealed weapon in a shoebox, and attempting to threat Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick on January 19 in Las Vegas. Chereb said Brooks attendance could draw attention on Monday.
“The big question is what’s going to happen with Steven Brooks (during the ceremony),” Chereb says.
According to the RGJ, Brooks was released from jail on a $100,000 bail and is expected to attend the ceremony. Whaley said Brooks’ story could possibly bring a twist to Nevada Media Alliance’s project, depending what happens on Monday.
“It’s kind of a very unusual situation,” Whaley says. “This hasn’t occurred in the history of legislature as we know of before.”
Whaley said the process of the legislature will start out slowly, however, 120 days will go by quickly for the lawmakers. But now that you have an idea of what the first day will be like, you’ll know some important key words, bill descriptions and how the day will basically run – it wouldn’t hurt to try to pop in a photo with one of the lawmakers, either.