Legislature experiencing bill backlog | RecordCourier.com

Legislature experiencing bill backlog

by Geoff Dornan
gdornan@nevadaappeal.com

Lawmakers are a full week ahead of schedule in reviewing the governor's proposed budget, according to Senate Finance Chairman Ben Kieckhefer, R-Reno.

"We're about to begin closing budgets a week ahead of our calendar," Kieckhefer told his committee on Monday following a briefing by fiscal staff on the process of closing the individual agency budgets.

That process will start March 23 instead of March 31 as listed on the 2015 session calendar.

At the same time, however, lawmakers had to approve a resolution extending the deadline for introduction of bills by individual legislators due to a backlog in the legal division, which worked through the weekend processing numerous requests by members. Many of those requests came much later than normal because they were from freshmen who couldn't request bill draft requests until they were elected in November.

Assembly Speaker John Hambrick R-Las Vegas, said that house alone had more than 90 bills to introduce and that the legal division still was working on drafting some requests.

Senate Concurrent Resolution 3 extended Monday's deadline by one day.

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The process of building the budget, however, is what ultimately drives the legislative calendar.

In order to do so, Senate Finance and the Assembly Ways and Means committees must hear presentations on the proposed two-year spending plans of some 400 different budgets in state government and decide what, if any, changes to make from the governor's recommended spending plan. Assembly Fiscal Analyst Cindy Jones said most of those initial hearings have already been held and that, now, the emphasis moves to deciding what if any changes to make in those budgets.

In addition, anything that impacts budgets including other legislation, inflation, changes in costs of internal services such as information technology, payroll and benefits and other factors that affect more than one budget must be calculated and amended in.

Then the two money committees must get together to work out any differences between the Assembly and Senate versions of each budget account.

Jones told the Ways and Means committee that once the legislators make those decisions and staff includes those changes into the budget, everything can be rolled up into the five pieces of legislation that implement the state budget.

Those are the appropriations Act, the Authorizations Act, the K-12 school funding bill, the state worker Pay Bill and the Capital Improvement Projects bill.

Under the state Constitution, those bills must "sit" for at least 24 hours after introduction before either house can act on them in order to give every member a chance to review them. Then the K-12 education bill must be passed by both houses before the other measures.

All of those steps must be completed by midnight June 1, the 120th day of the regular session.