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Legislators busy around the country, but not in Nevada

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Alex Gonzalez

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(Nevada News Service) There are many states legislatures dealing with important issues this year, but Nevada's isn't one of them. 

Nevada's state legislature isn't scheduled to meet until next year. 

Jeremy Gelman is an associate professor of political science at the University of Nevada, Reno. 

He said despite past attempts to get Nevada to have annual legislative sessions, proponents in the Silver State continue to support bi-annual legislative sessions because for many it translates to less government involvement and fosters what Gelman called a "citizen legislature." 

"So you asked, 'what are they doing when they're not meeting?' And the answer in Nevada is they're doing their day jobs," said Gelman. "They don't get paid enough for it to be their full-time jobs. They're school teachers, lawyers, business people, they're doctors. They're doing what they normally do and then every two years they stop doing that for a few months, go to Carson City, legislate."

Opponents of the state's part-time legislature say it gives the executive branch too much power. 

Gelman acknowledged that there are extenuating circumstances in which the governor can call lawmakers back to the capitol or extend a legislative session. 

Gelman contended there are some serious down sides to this style of governing. He said part-time legislatures are less powerful than full-time ones. 

"They accept more of governors' budgets for instance and revise them less," said Gelman. "They make more mistakes in laws when they write them very quickly near the end of their legislative term."

He contended that in a system like Nevada's, the state assembly and the state Senate likely don't vet their bills as thoroughly as they could. 

He said in full-time legislatures there is more push back which can be measured by the number of bill amendments or hearings held for a respective bill.

Gelman said when states like Nevada and Utah adopted part-time legislatures, they were sparsely populated and likely didn't have two years of policy that needed to pass. 

While Nevada has grown substantially, he said he doesn't suspect change is on the horizon.

"Part-time legislatures are unusual and is there one reason they exist?" said Gelman. "I think that is too reductionist. There might be lots of reasons."