Voters decide powers of Nevada's Legislature in statewide question

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Updated: 10/30/2012 5:24 pm

RENO, Nev. ( & KRNV)- There is only one statewide question on the ballot this year and it has to do with the power Nevada's Legislature. Voters were asked a similar question in 2006 but that was rejected.

If passed by voters the statewide question would allow the Nevada Legislature to call itself into a special session.  In order to do so, two-thirds of both the Assembly and the Senate would have to sign a petition.  The special session could only last 20 days.

Former Democratic Assemblyman Harry Mortenson sponsored the bill in 2009.  He served 14 years before terming out.  He says ultimately the system works, but there is a flaw. "Unfortunately we have a glitch in our law, it says only the Governor can call the Legislature into special session," said Mortenson.

Currently the  Legislature has 120 days to pass a budget, consider taxes and change or come up with new laws.  If something happens in-between, only the Governor can call lawmakers back.

Mortenson points to the state of Illinois where the Legislature can call a special session.  Illinois lawmakers called a special session to impeach their Governor after misconduct was discovered.  "If we had a rougue Governor we could not do that," said Mortenson.

The bill narrowly passed out of the Legislature in 2011, all Republican lawmakers voted against it.  Republican Senator James Settelmeyer said if it were only about getting rid of a bad Governor, Republicans would have backed it. "It would be a way for the Legislature to call itself into session for the purpose of raising taxes at their descretion." said Settelmeyer.

In the explanation under the 2006 ballot question it says "Nevadans may be subject to the passage of an increasing number of laws and taxes if the Legislature can call itself into special session."  In the 2012 explanation and the word taxes has been removed.  "If it passes the Legislature will have ability to raise taxes yet they did not want it in the explanation," said Settelmeyer.

Democratic lawmakers contend that it requires two-thirds vote in both houses to pass and would only happen if there was an issue that garnered bipartisan support.

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