By Cathy Bussewitz — Associated Press Writer
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevadans are wasting no time in sending ideas to state lawmakers, who convened their 2009 session on Monday — and already have about 1,200 suggestions on taxing prostitution, creating a state lottery and other steps to help erase a revenue shortfall.
The impetus for the suggestions came from Assembly Speaker Barbara Buckley, D-Las Vegas, who included a link on the lawmakers' Web site so that people could submit ideas.
"We're facing such serious challenges, and I think as a state we need to develop solutions together that make sense," Buckley said. "The suggestions have been great. I mean everything from a lottery to 'Let's change this one line in the statute, because you have two classes of businesses being treated differently.'"
The ideas have been pouring in since last June. Taxing prostitution, now illegal in Las Vegas and Reno but allowed in many rural areas, and creating a state lottery were mentioned, although the hottest topics have been Gov. Jim Gibbons' proposed 6 percent cuts for state employees and teachers and reductions in various public employee benefits.
As the suggestions roll in, legislative staffers are reading and compiling them and producing a report every two weeks on the lawmakers' Web site that is available to all. The report doesn't name those who made the suggestions.
One writer suggested a state income tax to pay for education, saying that the burden shouldn't fall just on property owners and that renters should have to pay school taxes too.
Another suggested that the state should set up a toll-free number to report unregistered vehicles, arguing that the revenue from registration fees could bring millions of dollars into the state treasury.
Others spoke out against the state's overall tax structure.
"The antiquated tax structure of the state of Nevada must be changed," said one person. "We can no longer allow gaming, mining and large corporations to have a free ride."
One writer suggested alternatives to a 6 percent pay reduction for state workers, such as reducing purchases of new furniture and computers. Several suggested the option of a 4-day, 10-hours-a-day workweek for government workers, and closing nonessential offices on Fridays to save money on utility bills.
"The suggestions have been great, and our revenue and taxation committee are going to take some of them up," Buckley said.
The new Web site feature is one of several ways Nevadans can weigh in on the decisions made by lawmakers. The Legislative Building is open to the public, so that anyone affected by proposals can attend meetings and speak up.
There's also a legislative hot line that constituents can call to find out meeting schedules. Many hearings are also 'streamed,' or broadcast live, on the Web site of the Legislature.
"It's a great way for the public to get involved," said Assembly majority floor leader John Oceguera, D-Las Vegas. "We saw some good ideas that we didn't know about."
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