Despite a building-wide internet outage that took the Legislature’s website down for most of the day, lawmakers took few breaks on Monday, which was the deadline for introducing committee-sponsored bills.
Legislation introduced so far deals with the massive effort to reorganize the Clark County School District, taxes on recreational marijuana, tougher regulations on companies such as Uber and Lyft and Gov. Brian Sandoval’s legislative priorities including Educational Savings Accounts and substance abuse prevention. But it’s often hard to tell who is backing the legislation since committee-sponsored bills don’t have to mention legislators’ names on them.
(For background on which organizations are trying to curry favor with the lawmakers, The Nevada Independent put together a roundup of campaign donations received by committee chairs.)
Here’s a summary of some of the more interesting measures introduced on Monday:
Bills backed by the governor
Several priorities mapped out by Gov. Brian Sandoval in his January State of the State Address finally emerged in legislative form late Monday night.
One of the bills, SB508, imposes a 10 percent retail tax on recreational marijuana and directs the funds to the state’s main public education account, the Distributive School Account. Sandoval proposed the tax in January to funnel $70 million toward education.
The Senate also introduced SB506, the anticipated second Education Savings Account bill. The bill is identical to SB359, introduced last week by Republican Sen. Scott Hammond. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford said Friday would not give Hammond’s bill a hearing, though he said he would reserve judgment on the governor’s bill.
A third bill, AB474, is the governor’s promised “Controlled Substances Abuse Prevention Act,” an omnibus bill that includes tracking drug overdoses in the state, increasing controlled substance abuse training for certain health care professionals and giving certain occupational licensing boards access to a prescription drug monitoring database to investigate fraudulent, illegal or authorized prescribing practices, among other measures.
A fourth bill, AB472, creates the Juvenile Justice Oversight Commission, which will administer a technical assistance grant from the Council of State Governments Justice Center to undertake a comprehensive review of the Nevada’s juvenile justice system. The legislation also requires the juvenile court to conduct a risk assessment and mental health screening before deciding a case involving a child who is considered delinquent and makes changes to parole for children.
More Uber & Lyft regulations
Nevada legislators have introduced several ride-sharing bills that include some of the requests made by a union representing Las Vegas taxi drivers in a letter to lawmakers uncovered last week.
SB485, introduced by the Senate Committee on Commerce, Labor and Energy which is chaired by Democratic Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, would implement regulatory hurdles for drivers and passengers of ride-hailing companies, including 15-minute minimum wait period before a driver can pick a passenger who requested a ride. It would also expressly give drivers the right to collectively bargain with ride-hailing companies.
The bill also requires drivers to prove they’ve passed an alcohol and drug test, regular driving and medical examinations and to submit to a fingerprint check by the Federal Bureau of Investigation. It would require ride-sharing companies to publicly file all of their rates with the state, require that fares be priced fairly and require state regulators to set a maximum amount that can be charged during “surge pricing” or times of high demand.
SB479, also introduced by Senate Commerce and Labor, would require so-called transportation network companies such as Uber and Lyft to ensure their drivers have a valid state business license before picking up passengers.
It would also require the companies to make their records, systems and software available for inspection by state regulators upon request to investigate complaints, and would require transportation network companies deliver a list of their drivers’ names to the authority that would be posted online. The bill would also require that drivers for ride-sharing companies have a state-issued decal on their vehicle.
Clark County School District reorganization
Lawmakers introduced a bill, AB469, that would put regulations on the Clark County School District’s ongoing reorganization into statute — a move that’s expected to nullify a lawsuit that the district’s trustees filed against the state.
Republican Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, who’s backing the bill along with the three other highest-ranking members of the Legislature, said it doesn’t change any of those regulations but codifies them. It also adds that the school organizational teams that will decide budgets for individual schools are immune from civil liability.
The reorganization, authorized in 2015, gives individual schools more autonomy over their spending but has encountered legal resistance.
Energy Choice Initiative Planning
The Legislative Committee on Energy will spend the 2017-2018 interim studying any issues that arise out of the Energy Choice Initiative, a proposed constitutional amendment that would open Nevada’s monopolistic energy markets to competition.
The committee — through AB452 — is supposed to review the work of the Governor’s Committee on Energy Choice, which Gov. Brian Sandoval created in February.
While the ballot measure would allow the state until mid-2023 to open the markets, the move is highly complex, and preparations are expected to take years.
Delay of Achievement School District
Democratic Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson is backing a bill, AB432, that would delay the implementation of the Achievement School District, which would convert a handful of persistently underperforming traditional public schools into charter schools.
Similarly, Democratic Sen. Mo Denis introduced SB430 on Monday, which largely copies legislation introduced on the Assembly that would repeal sections of law creating the Achievement School District.
Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson said Thompson and Assemblywoman Dina Neal, who’s sponsoring an Achievement School District repeal, are in discussions on the best way to proceed with their respective bills. Neither has been scheduled for hearing, but Frierson didn’t rule out the possibility that both would be considered.
Annual legislative sessions
The Legislature could be meeting every year instead of every other year if SJR11 passed. The proposed constitutional amendment calls for lawmakers to meet for 90 days in odd-numbered years and 30 days in even-numbered years.
It also reworks lawmaker pay, proposing that they get paychecks at regular intervals and get reimbursed for the actual expenses they incur during regular and special sessions. Right now, the Nevada Constitution calls for lawmakers to be paid for the first 60 days of a regular, 120-day session, and allows reimbursements for postage, newspapers and stationery.
The measure, an iteration of which comes up during many legislative sessions, would have to pass the Legislature this session and the next session, then get approval from the voters.
Preserving the Foreclosure Mediation Program
A program that helps borrowers negotiate with their lenders to try and save their home is set to expire, but SB490 would keep it alive. The bill, backed by the Senate Judiciary Committee, moves the program out from the jurisdiction of the Nevada Supreme Court and hands it to the Department of Business and Industry’s Housing Division.
It also removes a prospective expiration date of June 30, 2017.
Lawmakers last session opted to phase out the program, saying it was bringing diminishing returns now that the state has recovered from the depths of the housing crisis.
The Judiciary Committee is chaired by Democratic Sen. Tick Segerblom.
Financing college construction
One Nevada legislator is proposing an alternative way to fund major college construction projects.
Democratic Sen. Joyce Woodhouse introduced SB496, which would allow the state’s Board of Regents to issue $58.7 million in revenue bonds to construct an engineering building at the University of Nevada, Reno and $22 million in bonds to build a fitness complex at Truckee Meadows Community College.
It also extends $36 million in bonding capacity to the College of Southern Nevada for construction of student unions at the Charleston, Henderson and North Las Vegas campuses.
Consent-based national monument designation
Nevada lawmakers want more of a say when the federal government designates a national monument within its borders.
The Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee is backing SJR15, which urges Congress to change the Antiquities Act of 1906 and require any future monument designations first get approval from Nevada’s congressional delegation. The committee is chaired by Democratic Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro.
The resolution notes that President Barack Obama unilaterally created Gold Butte National Monument last year out of 300,000 acres in Nevada, and says such one-sided declarations can have unintended consequences for the state.
Property tax fixes
The Senate introduced two different measures, sponsored by the Senate Committee on Revenue and Economic Development, that seek to address the state’s property tax formula. The committee is chaired by Democratic Sen. Julia Ratti.
One of the measures, SB489, directs the Legislative Commission to appoint a committee to conduct an interim study on property taxes.
The other, SJR14, proposes to amend the Nevada Constitution to make it so that for the first year after property is sold or transferred it is ineligible for any adjustments based on the age of improvements to the property or any abatement or exemption created by the Legislature.
It would also require the Legislature to enact a “Senior and Disabled Taxpayers Act” that would assist residents 62 years or older or disabled by refunding taxes imposed on their primary residences.
As a constitutional amendment, the measure would need to be passed by the Legislature in 2017 and 2019 before going to a vote of the people in 2020.
Prisoner mental health and residential confinement for parole grantees
The state will be required to establish a house arrest program for offenders who have been granted parole but aren’t yet eligible for release on parole, and would have to pay for certain mental health care for prisoners, if AB421, sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman James Ohrenschall, becomes law.
Prisoners eligible for the program include those who have been granted parole, do not have a consecutive sentence to serve, are not under another jurisdiction’s order to be detained and are not yet eligible for release on parole.
The legislation also requires the state Division of Public and Behavioral Health to provide mental health care to prisoners in Clark County and says the division must pay for the care. Currently, that health care would be paid for by the prisoner’s insurance, the prisoner themselves or by the county if the prisoner is unable to pay.
Supporting more wildlife conservation spending
Nevada lawmakers want to express their support for putting $1.3 billion in existing revenue each year into conserving and managing wildlife. The money would come from energy and mineral resource development that happens on federal lands.
The recommendation to put the money into wildlife conservation came from the 26-member Blue Ribbon Panel on Sustaining America’s Diverse Fish and Wildlife Resources. The bill, SJR13, notes that the state would probably be required to match some of the funding the federal government puts up toward conservation. The bill was sponsored by the Senate Committee on Natural Resources, chaired by Democratic Sen. Yvanna Cancela.
Excluding juveniles from certain penalties for lewdness
Open or gross lewdness or any open and indecent or obscene exposure is currently a gross misdemeanor for the first offenses and a category D felony for any subsequent offenses under Nevada law. For acts committed in front of a minor or vulnerable person, the penalty is an automatic category D felony.
SB473, introduced by the Senate Judiciary Committee, would exempt minors from that provision, specifying that the increased penalties for committing the offense in front of a minor or vulnerable person does not apply to those under the age of 18. The committee is chaired by Democratic Sen. Tick Segerblom.
Permanent absentee ballots for disabled people
Under current Nevada law, registered voters who have a physical condition that inhibits their ability to travel to a polling place or mark a ballot using a voting device can request absentee ballots from the county or city clerk for each election.
If approved, SB447 would allow an eligible disabled voter to request absentee ballots for all elections in which they are eligible to vote. The measure was brought forward by the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections Committee, chaired by Democratic Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro.
Business license fees based on property size
SB463, introduced by the Senate Government Affairs Committee, adds extra restrictions on business license fees that local governments can impose. The committee is chaired by Democratic Sen. David Parks.
The legislation bars local governments from imposing or increasing a business license fee that is calculated on the size of the property on which the business is located unless the local government makes a finding at a public hearing that calculating the fee based on size is necessary for the local government to provide services to the property.
Nevada Ready 21 Technology Program
SB467, sponsored by the Senate Committee on Education, would create the Nevada Ready 21 Technology Program, which aims to provide students and teachers with 24-hour access to their own personal, portable wireless device to improve student outcomes through digital teaching and learning technologies. The committee is chaired by Democratic Sen. Mo Denis.
The legislation outlines how the Commission on Educational Technology would administer the program and administer grants to schools and districts. Grantees must provide annual reports to the commission about how the program is being implemented.
The goal of the program is to improve student engagement in classwork, improve the attendance and graduation rate of students and reduce the number of behavioral incidents in the classroom.
Incentives for new teachers and educators at underperforming schools
The state would designate $5 million in incentives to hire new teachers, or recruit them to underperforming or low-income, Title I schools.
Lawmakers introduced AB434, sponsored by a few Democratic lawmakers, on Monday. It puts $2.5 million toward bonuses in each of those two categories.
Inmates on the internet
Prisoners are allowed to use telephones for communicating with their children in certain circumstances, but AB420 would allow them to use such devices in even more situations. The bill was sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman James Ohrenschall.
The bill allows use of a phone, cellphone or computer for more visits and correspondence, accessing educational resources, searching for a job or performing job task, if prison officials approve.
The Senate last week introduced a similar bill, SB306, that allows videoconference visitation. The issue came up in an earlier budget hearing, when prisons officials indicated that inmates housed at a private prison out of state could Skype their relatives. Democratic lawmakers said they hoped to bring that to Nevada’s state prisons.
Statewide non-emergency report hotline
Nevada residents can obtain general information about public health, welfare and social services by dialing the digits 2-1-1, but lawmakers want to add a new system that would be able to accept reports of non-emergency situations in the state.
AB437, sponsored by the Assembly Committee on Government Affairs, would require each state agency to participate in the system unless it’s authorized to withdraw, and would allow local governments to participate if they pay a fee. The committee is chaired by Democratic Assemblyman Edgar Flores.
A plan for the system would have to be in place by May 1, 2018, and the state’s information technology division would have to strike a deal for designing, developing and implementing the system by June 30, 2019.
Expanding veterans courts
Veterans who enter Nevada’s district court system may be eligible for a treatment program rather than a prison sentence through the state’s veterans court program. AB426, sponsored by several Democratic lawmakers, would allow for the programs to expand to justice court and municipal courts that deal with defendants earlier on in their cases or handle people facing lower-level charges or citations.
Veterans court programs are available to veterans or active-duty military personnel who appear to suffer from mental illness, alcohol or drug abuse or post-traumatic stress disorder that may be related to their military service or their readjustment to civilian life. Under the bill, courts that don’t have a veterans court program could send eligible clients to a district court’s program.
Designating “Sarah Winnemucca Day”
Lawmakers want a special day to recognize native Nevadan and Paiute Nation princess Sarah Winnemucca. AB435, sponsored by the Assembly Committee on Government Affairs, would designate Oct. 16 in her honor, marking the day she died in 1891. The committee is chaired by Democratic Assemblyman Edgar Flores.
According to the bill, Winnemucca learned to communicate in five languages before she turned 14 and “spent much of her life negotiating between two conflicting cultures with the aim of promoting understanding and improving life for the Paiute people.”
She also served as translator for the U.S. Army, pleading her case to President Rutherford B. Hayes and educated people across several states about the conditions in Indian reservations.