Did you know that over 1,000 bills and resolutions are introduced each session? That’s a lot of work for a citizen legislature that only meets for 120 days in odd-numbered years. One of the ways the Nevada Legislature has dealt with this is by establishing deadlines for reaching certain milestones, and we call this the 120-Day Calendar. For example, all bill introductions have to be completed by a certain date, and all bills except those with an exemption have to be out of the house in which they were introduced . . . we call that the house of origin . . . by a certain date.
And since there isn’t time for all the members to hear detailed testimony from witnesses on all bills, standing committees are appointed to do this work. If the Legislature is the mother of all institutions—the first named branch of government in both our state and federal constitutions and the branch closest to the people—then the committee is the heart. It is the one place where Nevadans can share their concerns directly with their elected representatives, and it’s where we see the humanity that underlies our laws.
In the Assembly, the Speaker appoints committees and designates the chair and vice chair. Each committee has jurisdiction over specific subject areas, and bills are usually referred to committee based on the topic of the bill. Committees only have the power that’s given to them by the full Assembly, so they can recommend that the body take a certain course of action on a bill . . . such as pass a bill as originally drafted . . . but the committee itself cannot pass a bill and send it to the other house.
The interim is a term we use to describe the period of time between the end of a regular legislative session and the beginning of the next regular session. With the Nevada Legislature being one of only four state legislatures in the nation that meets biennially—and with most of Nevada’s citizen legislators having full-time jobs outside the Legislature—it’s not surprising that many Nevadans mistakenly believe a legislator’s work is done when the session ends. As any veteran legislator will tell you, the job of representing their communities and neighbors is demanding work, and the challenges and opportunities we all face don’t recognize the constraints of a session calendar.
In addition to assisting constituents, most legislators serve on one or more interim committees when the Legislature is not in session. Some of these committees have been established through law, and others are created through adoption of a concurrent resolution—one that is adopted by both the Assembly and the Senate—to study a particular issue. Most interim committees are composed of legislators from both the Assembly and the Senate; some are appointed by the leaders of each house and others by the Legislative Commission. The interim committees conduct public hearings, gather information, and propose legislation and other actions to be considered by the next Legislature.