Seat of power

Is an effort underway in the Legislature to make Las Vegas the state capital?

There are two bills that would allow sessions to be held away from Carson City making their way across legislators’ desks. A joint resolution in the Senate is calling for a constitutional change that would allow all or part of a regular or special session to be held outside of Carson City. An Assembly resolution calls for a 60-day session to be held in even-numbered years in Las Vegas.

Under current state laws, the Legislature can be held only in Carson City. The latest proposals, if eventually approved by a vote of the public, would allow for other cities to host Legislative sessions.

While the Senate joint resolution, SJR 9, is direct in that it is aimed mostly at allowing sessions to be held outside of Carson City, the Assembly joint resolution, AJR 7, disguises the Las Vegas move by calling for a 60-day session to be held on even-numbered years as support for the current 120-day session on odd-numbered years. But tucked away in the bill’s language is the recommendation that the shortened session be conducted in Las Vegas.

“This is something that’s not to be taken lightly,” says Assemblywoman Chris Guinchigliani (D-Las Vegas). “The Assembly has passed such proposals before, only to see them die in the Senate. Public opinion has consistently supported annual sessions in this state, but we’ve never had the opportunity to put it on the ballot.”

Although past attempts have been made to hold Legislative sessions outside of Carson City, there has never been as much support from southern lawmakers as there is now. The increased appetite is partly because of the ever-increasing number of seats being allocated to southern Nevada.

The question of moving the seat of government to Las Vegas has been on the minds of lawmakers and many businessmen for the past several years, but few have ever made as bold a move as this current one.

Although several state and federal departments already have major staff allotments in Las Vegas and the trend in the past five years is to seek two staff members there for every one allocated to either Reno or Carson City, the big question is whether Las Vegas really wants to be the seat of political power.

Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman says he has no preference as to where the seat of government should be in Nevada. “Traditionally, a state capital is away from the most populous areas; however, I can see advantages in eventually moving power to Las Vegas, given the exceptional growth here.”

Goodman says such a major decision should not made at the legislative level, but by the people of Nevada.

If the current session passes the bill into law this session, it will be at least another five years before any of the proposed changes become law. Since it would require a change to the constitution, the proposed changes would have to go to a statewide vote on the 2004 ballot. If passed, a second vote would be required on the 2006 ballot before the 2007 Legislature can enact any changes.