Final hour frenzy produces sackful of legislative sludge

The 2001 Nevada Legislature's final hour, it is generally agreed, was not its finest hour.

Now, at least, we know its actions were legal. The state's Supreme Court ruled on Tuesday the post-midnight votes of the Legislature on three bills were acceptable under the court's interpretation of "standard time."

We could quibble with the ruling, because one argument seems to make as much sense as the other. A majority of the court decided "standard time" referred to the difference between Pacific standard time and Pacific daylight time, while a minority cited the 120-day limit on the session and said the extra hour amounted to a 121-day session.

But there's not much point in splitting hairs. More important issues were at stake in that final hour than clock-watching:

- The frenzy, as the regular session drew to a close, that led to lobbyists running roughshod over the Legislature's rules of order.

- The sackful of sausage-factory legislation that came out of those final hours, with little or no debate among legislators, let alone an opportunity for the public to have some influence.

- One of those pieces of legislation approved by the Supreme Court on Tuesday, allowed major corporations in Nevada, such as mines and casinos, to flee the restrictions of electrical regulation without doing the same for the average consumer.

Despite those problems, the court's ruling is important for two reasons. A bill to collect taxes on rental-car fees and another to raise a variety of fees imposed by county governments, such as marriage licenses, were significant measures. They now have a clean legal status, thanks to the court.

Should we be concerned the court has given the Legislature an extra hour on the 120-day clock? Not really.

The concern remains how legislators conduct their business in the 2,880 hours leading up that one.


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