Nevada Lawmakers Approve Anti-Gay Amendment Repeal
CARSON CITY, Nev. - Sleep-deprived Nevada lawmakers quickly passed all five bills they had to deal with in a special session called overnight by Gov. Brian Sandoval.
The Republican ordered the session before dawn Tuesday after lawmakers failed to take final action on a handful of measures in the four-month regulation session that ended just hours earlier at midnight.
Legislators passed measures dealing with class-size reduction, charter schools, tax abatements for new businesses, money for a scholarship fund and more police officers in Clark County, which includes Las Vegas.
"I think it was a fabulous session," Sandoval, looking crisp despite being up for 28 hours straight, told reporters minutes after the final votes were taken Tuesday.
He said he decided to call a special session because legislators "were very close to getting it done" and the issues left hanging were important for public safety, education and Nevada's economy.
"They just ran out of time," Sandoval said of the lawmakers.
During the night, legislators curled up in chairs and on couches to wait out the pre-dawn hours. Muffled snores wafted from the reception area of Democratic leadership offices, where three women snoozed sitting upright on a sofa while Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, sprawled out in a chair.
Legislative leaders who spent all night in the Capitol called members of their party after Sandoval signed the proclamation.
When legislators began dribbling back to chambers around 4 a.m., nerves were frayed and tempers short.
Republican Sen. Greg Brower, R-Reno, berated the Democratic majority as "a model of inefficiency and leadership." A Democratic colleague, Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, retorted that Republicans took time Monday night to honor termed-out colleagues who wouldn't be returning.
"If there's mismanagement, it was all around," he said.
Monday night marked a crazy finish to a regular session that will be remembered for the expulsion of a troubled lawmaker, historic votes on gay marriage, driving privileges for people living in the country illegally, gun control and tax reform.
In between there were fights and oratories over sports bets, election bets, dangerous dogs, state dogs, state cocktails, tax credits, tax abatements, local government, the federal government and raw milk.
But the last few hours were frenzied, leaving bills to die in the chaos that came to an end at midnight when a clerk in the Senate counted down the seconds to the deadline and declared time was up. The session began Feb. 4 and was limited to 120 days.
The first weeks dealt with the expulsion of Steven Brooks, who became the first legislator expelled in Nevada since statehood after a string of public incidents and arrests.
It was the first session since the Great Recession put Nevada's economy in a vise grip that testimony in money committees wasn't dominated by doom, gloom and finding more places in the budget to cut.
Nevada's mining industry, a frequent target when lawmakers go looking for money, was in the bulls-eye. Legislators gave final approval to a proposed constitutional amendment to lift the 5 percent cap on net proceeds of minerals, a move that would allow the Legislature to adjust the tax rate. That measure will be on the 2014 ballot for voter ratification.
Lawmakers debated taxes but failed in the end to pass tax reform.
The 2013 session also exhibited new twists on social issues.
A proposal to repeal Nevada's constitutional definition of marriage and legalize gay marriage spurred soul-searching debates late one night on the Senate floor.
"I'm black. I'm gay," declared Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, thrusting the North Las Vegas Democrat into the national spotlight. The Legislature approved a bill to abolish the Protection of Marriage Act ratified by voters in 2002 and declare that Nevada will recognize all marriages regardless of gender. If approved again by the 2015 Legislature, it will go to voters in 2016.
Tens of thousands of people will be able to drive on Nevada roadways under a bipartisan bill authorizing driver privilege cards for people in the country illegally. Sandoval, Nevada's first Hispanic governor, signed that measure surrounded by Democratic and Republican legislators and members of Nevada's growing Hispanic community.