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Legislative service agencies were created to free legislators from dependence upon the executive branch of state government and lobbyists for information and assistance. With service agencies, a legislator is not dependent upon a lobbyist or a governor to draft a bill, research data, or provide information about other states with similar problems. The more professional and expert the service agency staff, the less legislators need to depend on sources of support that may be biased.
Many states, including Nevada, use the basic legislative council pattern providing for a body composed of legislators from each house and from each party empowered to function during the interim between sessions. Powers and responsibilities vary among the states, but basically councils carry out functions assigned by the full legislatures. These functions range from simple administrative duties to extensive power of legislative oversight, policy research, and emergency appropriations.
Although many states maintain separate staff for each house in addition to partisan staff, the Legislative Counsel Bureau is a nonpartisan centralized agency serving both houses and members of all political parties.
In March of 1945, the Nevada Legislature recognized a need for more information and assistance in order to deal with increasingly complex tasks as described in the preamble to the bill creating the Legislative Counsel Bureau:
At each biennial session of the legislature, that body is confronted by requests for legislation expanding and changing the functions of and increasing the appropriations of numerous offices, departments, institutions, and agencies of the state government; and . . . not withstanding the information provided by the messages and budgets of the governor and the reports of public officers, it is impossible for the legislature or its committees to secure sufficient information to act advisedly on such requests in the time limited for its sessions.
The 1945 law establishing the bureau charged it with assisting the Legislature to find facts concerning government, proposed legislation, and various other public matters.
During the next several years, the duties of the bureau and its staff were modified and expanded. In 1963, the Nevada Legislature reorganized the Legislative Counsel Bureau, giving it structure and responsibilities similar to those it has today. One part of this change was the incorporation of the Statute Revision Commission into the Legislative Counsel Bureau as the Legal Division. The Statute Revision Commission was originally created by the Supreme Court in 1951 and became involved in bill drafting as an adjunct to its statute revision work. The 1963 legislation also added a Fiscal and Auditing Division and a Research Division.
The staff services of the Legislative Counsel Bureau are furnished throughout the year for any legislator. Legal advice, fiscal information, and background research are furnished upon request. Services of a more extensive nature are executed when the Legislature so orders by means of a law or resolution. Between sessions, such projects may be requested through the Legislative Commission.
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