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Organizing the Legislature

From Chapter III of the 2011 Legislative Manual:
 
     

When the Legislature convenes in February of odd-numbered years, there are no operative rules and, in the Assembly, no presiding officer. The Secretary of State calls the Assembly to order at the beginning of a session and appoints a Temporary Chief Clerk. After call to order, the Secretary of State appoints a temporary Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections, which examines the election certificate of each member of the Assembly and recommends the seating of legislators whose certificates are in order. Once the members of the Assembly have been sworn in by a Justice of the Supreme Court, the Secretary of State customarily asks for nominations for Speaker. Since the speakership is usually predetermined in caucus, by tradition, the procedure is to nominate only one candidate, who is then elected. The Secretary of State then turns the chair over to the new Speaker, who proceeds to conduct elections for Speaker pro Tempore and Chief Clerk of the Assembly. After the Assembly is organized and standing rules are adopted, committees are appointed to inform the Senate and Governor that the Assembly is ready for business. However, these procedures may not be necessary if a special session of the Legislature has recently been held.

On the Senate side, the Lieutenant Governor presides over the chamber as President, in accordance with the provisions of the Nevada Constitution. With the exception of the election of a presiding officer (which is dispensed with in the Senate), the procedures parallel those of the Assembly. The major difference is that the Senate is not an entirely new body. Approximately one-half of the Senators are elected at each general election, the remainder serving in a holdover capacity.

In recent years, the State of the State Address by the Governor has been given to a joint gathering of the members of the Senate and Assembly prior to the start of the session. The text of the message is then officially accepted on the first day of the session. In this message to the Legislature, the Governor outlines the major problems confronting the State and proposes legislative solutions for the consideration of the houses. Under usual circumstances, the speech highlights the most important elements of the Governor’s party’s legislative program. It constitutes the “action” agenda of the session, for even if the legislative majority party is not of the same political persuasion, the Governor’s message will delineate the significant sphere of issues to be resolved.

Long before the Legislature convenes in February, the legislative process is set in motion in subtle and frequently intangible ways. Social problems enter the forum of public debate, and through the exchange of ideas among the citizenry, certain opinions and issues are given the impetus needed to find expression in the legislative arena. Contending positions on public questions are identified, and proposed solutions to problems and conflicts are advocated in the press, among the people, in the academic community, within various interest groups, and among concerned governmental agencies and officials. But whatever the source of an idea for resolving a civic issue, that idea must be translated into a concrete legislative proposal for action—a bill or resolution—before it can formally enter the legislative forum for consideration.

In Nevada, only members of the Legislature or standing committees from either house can introduce legislation. Advocates of proposed legislation must secure a legislative sponsor in order to see their ideas enacted into law. Once a sponsor is obtained, a proposal may then be drafted in the form of a bill or a resolution, whichever is appropriate to the matter under consideration. Much of the proposed legislation is initiated by the legislators themselves.

     


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Last updated 2/17/2011


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