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“Honorable”? Pfft!*


I thought a lighter aside was in order before some more “heavy” posts on Brooks and the infamous LCB “rejection” memo.

As an avid follower of legislative practice and procedure (a/k/a the boring stuff), I love the pomp, ceremony, and formality observed in the legislative process. Take for instance messages between the two Houses. In a bicameral legislature, such as Nevada’s, because most actions require the approval of both Houses, each House needs a way to communicate with the other. With the exception of ceremonial messages, such as announcing and escorting dignitaries to deliver addresses to the Legislature, most routine messages are communicated in writing.

Virtually unbroken since at least 1871 (and probably from the first legislative session, but I don’t have source material readily available online–Note to LCB Research: sure would be cool to digitize the legislative journals going back to the first legislature), each House referred to the other as  the “honorable body.” See the snippet below from the 1871 Nevada Assembly Journal.

Assemb. J., 5th Leg., Reg. Sess., at 10 (Nev. 1871).

This practice remained virtually unchanged through 2011, although some of legalese (herewith, etc.) has been dropped.

To the Honorable the Assembly:
I have the honor to inform your honorable body that the Senate on this day passed…

Assemb. J., 76th Leg., Reg. Sess., at 5957 (Nev. 2011). But now, in 2013, something is amiss, at least with Senate-originated messages.

To the Honorable the Assembly:
It is my pleasure to inform your esteemed body that the Senate on this day passed…

Assemb. Daily J., 77th Leg., Reg. Sess., at 2 (Nev. Mar. 13, 2011). The language is more modern, less stuffy, to be sure, but why cast aside 150 years of tradition? The language remains unchanged in Assembly-originated messages.

By now my readers are surely thinking, “You weren’t kidding, this is pretty boring.” Admittedly, it’s trivial and a bit pedantic. But that’s not what drew my attention to this disruption of legislative tradition. It’s the fact that the Assembly’s Chief Clerk, Susan Furlong, seems unwilling to join her Senate counterpart, Secretary of the Senate David Byerman, in this needless assault on legislative tradition.

Over the past several weeks, from Day 1 through Day 45 of this session, if you listened closely to the Chief Clerk read the messages from the Senate, she omitted the new language, “It is my pleasure to inform your esteemed body,” and instead announced the message using the traditional form, “I have the honor to inform your honorable body.” [She did it again just today.]

I’m all for modernizing legislative procedure (I’m a fan of the Senate’s practice this session of waiving reading of its journal for the duration of the session), but is elimination of the repetitive use of the word “honor[able]” really reason enough to exchange it for “esteemed” and to cast aside 150 years’ worth of tradition in the process?

*The reference I was going for with this title derives from this scene of Liar Liar.

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