The effort by former state legislator Ed Goedhart to delay selection of an appointee to the vacant Nevada Assembly District 36 seat was not particularly objectionable.
In normal circumstances, a rush to make an appointment should be opposed.
But there is a difference when it comes to members of the Nevada Legislature. There is a little-known feature of their terms in office.
Unlike other officials in Nevada, and unlike state legislators in most other states, there is no transition for Assembly and Senate members to get ready for their service.
Their terms in office start not in January but the day after the November election. This year the election was on Nov. 6. If the governor had called a special session of the Nevada Legislature on Nov. 7, it would not have been holdover legislators who met.
It would have been the newly elected legislators. In fact, in 2004, the election was on Nov. 2 and the legislators went into special session eight days later to consider the impeachment of the state controller, so it CAN happen.
What does this mean?
A member of the Assembly once told me that his mailbox started filling up the same week he was elected. Some of his mail was from lobbyists, but it was also from community groups, legislative staffers, fellow new legislators, requests for help from residents of his district, and so on.
In other words, it was business mail. And the eventual appointee to the District 36 seat missed some of that material.
Then there are the political party caucuses at which Democratic and Republican legislators elect their leaders and – in the case of the party with the majority – committee assignments are made and committee chairs handed out.
The Democrats made those appointments last week, the same day that the three county commissions met to appoint a replacement for Dennis Hof. It would have been useful for residents of District 36 if their new assembly member had been able to prepare for that caucus if he chose, by making contact with party leaders and making his committee choices known.
In addition, there is a gathering in advance of the legislative session called pre-session, a sort of “How to be a legislator 101” course that is useful to new legislators like Greg Hafen II, and if his appointment had been delayed, his district’s interests could have been hurt by his missing it.
Ed Goedhart’s concerns were legitimate. Lame duck officials can often do real damage between an election and the ends of their terms. But in this case, District 36 was probably well served by not waiting on an appointment to the Hof vacancy.
Dennis Myers is an award-winning journalist who has reported on Nevada’s capital, government and politics for several decades. He has also served as Nevada’s chief deputy secretary of state.