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October 9, 2015

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Brooks drama bogs down bill drafting at Nevada Legislature

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Assemblyman Steven Brooks questions Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, obscured in the photo, about canceling a subcommittee meeting, which in fact wasn't scheduled, during the third day of the 2013 legislative session Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 in Carson City.

Legislative bill drafters are running behind in turning out bills, due in part because of the mounting distraction posed by the potential ouster of troubled Assemblyman Steven Brooks, D-North Las Vegas.

Legislative Counsel Bureau director Rick Combs said the backlog — 772 bills are still being drafted out of 1,193 requests — can be attributed to a variety of reasons, including a bevy of freshmen lawmakers attempting legislation for the first time as well as drafting deadlines that may have ended up delaying the work rather than hastening the pace.

But Combs acknowledged that the backlog also is due to the time staff has had to spend researching and designing an unprecedented process for determining whether to expel a lawmaker.

"Surely it's due to the fact that we've had some distractions," Combs said, referring to the Brooks saga.

A select committee has been appointed to investigate whether Brooks — who has been arrested twice and involuntarily detained for a psychiatric evaluation once since the start of the year — is fit to serve in the Legislature. Assembly leaders had hoped to deal with the problem quickly, but the process has been delayed by trying to find a special counsel and other problems.

Brooks has since filed suit with the Nevada Supreme Court to halt the proceedings and reclaim his seat. Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey, R-Reno, said Thursday morning some of his caucus' bills have been delayed because of the Brooks situation.

But Combs said the drafting backlog also is attributed to fewer pre-filed bills, a need to draft regulations after a moratorium expired, and lawmakers waiting until the last minute before a deadline to provide drafters with needed details.

Combs said they are 54 bills behind where they were two years ago and 13 bills ahead of where they were four years ago.

"I think we're OK, I really do," Combs said.

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