THE NEVADA STATE ASSEMBLY
The Nevada Constitution creates three separate branches of government: Legislative, Executive, and Judicial. The legislative authority for the state is vested in the Senate and the Assembly . . . we call these two bodies the houses . . . which together are designated as “The Legislature of the State of Nevada.” One of the primary functions of the Legislative Branch is to protect the rights and freedoms of the people, and legislatures throughout the country do this by enacting laws and laying down the groundwork for carrying out those laws.
The Nevada Legislature is one of only four state legislatures in the nation that meets biennially. Regular legislative sessions begin on the first Monday in February in odd numbered years and are limited in length to 120 calendar days by the Nevada Constitution. Up until the 2012 General Election, only the Governor had the authority to call the Legislature into a special session and set the agenda for the session. This changed with the passage by voters of a ballot measure to allow the Legislature to call itself into special session upon the signing of a petition by two-thirds of the members of each house.
Nevada has a citizen legislature, which means most legislators have full-time occupations outside the Legislature. They have families to support, too, so they give up a lot of their personal time to serve our state, and their families do, too. Assembly members are elected every two years by the voters in their districts, so they don’t get much of a break between legislative sessions . . . they’re either serving or running for office. State senators are elected every four years.
So what are the qualifications for serving in the Assembly? You must be a qualified elector, at least 21 years old, and a Nevada resident for at least one year prior to the election; you must also live within the district for which you’re running. As of the 2011 apportionment, each of Nevada’s 42 Assembly members represented about 64,300 residents.
Did you ever wonder why the Legislature only meets for 120 days in odd-numbered years? Or why sessions of the Legislature are held in Carson City when most Nevadans live in southern Nevada? These are requirements in the Nevada Constitution. There are other constitutional provisions that affect the Legislature. For example:
Each house has the power to establish its own rules and select its own officers. That’s one reason why you’ll notice some differences between the Assembly and the Senate, and that’s how the framers of our constitution intended the Nevada Legislature to function.
And Nevada is one of only a few states to limit the number of years that a person can serve in the Legislature—we call this term limits—so state legislators can’t serve more than 12 years in each house, for a combined lifetime total of 24 years.
And another constitutional provision: Legislators are only paid for the first 60 days of session, so a session employee actually makes more than a legislator.