From criminal justice reform to a new Cannabis Compliance Board, new laws take effect in Nevada on July 1

Laws implementing a wide range of criminal justice reforms, establishing a state board responsible for regulating marijuana and creating a payday loan database finally take effect Wednesday, more than a year after the 2019 legislative session ended.

Another bill, which will raise the minimum wage to $12 by 2024, technically took effect on July 1, 2019, though the first wage increase kicks in on Wednesday.

Other bills that take effect Wednesday aim to reduce workplace violence in hospitals and psychiatric hospitals, establish new provisions regarding the regulation and labeling of hemp products and raise the GPA requirement for the Millennium Scholarship.

Here’s a rundown of some of those laws and more.

AB456: Minimum wage bill

The minimum wage in Nevada is now, starting Wednesday, $8 for employees who are offered health benefits by their work and $9 for those who aren’t. The change comes as part of a new law that will raise the minimum wage to $12 an hour by 2024.

The legislation passed last year on party lines in the Assembly and near-party lines in the Senate, with Republican state Sen. Keith Pickard joining Democrats in support.

Nevada’s minimum wage law was last changed in 2011. The federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour has not changed since 2009.

Another pending measure, the proposed constitutional amendment AJR10, proposes raising the state’s minimum wage to $12 an hour but without the tiered structure based on whether the employer offers health insurance. That proposal passed during the 2019 legislative session but must pass the Legislature again in 2021 before heading to a vote of the people in 2022.

AB236: Major criminal justice reform bill

A new, omnibus criminal justice reform law, which enshrined some of the more than two dozen recommendations developed by the Nevada Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice to reduce the state’s prison population, kicks in Wednesday. 

The new law — laid out in the 157-page bill — lowers various criminal penalties, increases diversion programs and makes several other tweaks to the state’s criminal justice code. In its original form, proponents argued that the bill could save the state $640 million over a decade, although compromises reached during the legislative session were expected to reduce that savings somewhat.

The law was spearheaded by Democratic Assemblyman Steve Yeager, though a coalition of national conservative and Republican-leaning groups sent a letter to GOP lawmakers near the end of the legislative session urging them to back the bill. The bill passed on party lines in the Assembly, with all Republicans opposed, but found more conservative support in the Senate, where it passed 19-2, with only Republican state Sens. Ira Hansen and Joe Hardy in opposition.

AB533: Cannabis Compliance Board

This new law transfers most of the responsibilities of marijuana regulation starting Wednesday to a new, five-person Cannabis Compliance Board, modeled off of the Gaming Control Board. The board will now be responsible for the law enforcement, regulation and compliance duties that previously fell under the Department of Taxation. 

Members of the board are not allowed to have a financial interest in the marijuana industry but can consult with an advisory board that can include industry members. The board is expected to approve regulations later this month that enshrine changes how the board will regulate marijuana differently than the tax agency, including increasing penalties for certain violations and simplifying the license renewal process.

SB201: Payday lending database

Starting Wednesday, a new law requiring the state to establish a database of payday and other high-interest loans kicks into effect. The new law, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Yvanna Cancela, requires the state Commissioner of Financial Institutions to develop, implement and maintain a database of all deferred deposit loans, title loans and high-interest loans in the state. All licensees that make such loans are now required to report and update certain information about those loans under the new law.

The law additionally prohibits anyone who runs a deferred deposit or high-interest loan company from making such loans from making a loan that, in combination with any other outstanding loan held by the customer, would exceed 25 percent of his or her expected gross monthly income. Payday loan and other high-interest loan companies will be required to consult the new database in order to ensure that the loans they are making comply with that new limitation.

However, the measure won’t actually take effect on Wednesday. A scheduled meeting in April to take in public comment and pass regulations implementing the bill was canceled because of technical difficulties, and has been rescheduled to July 8.

AB348: Preventing workplace violence in hospitals, psychiatric hospitals

This new law requires hospitals and psychiatric hospitals to develop and maintain plans to prevent and respond to workplace violence. Under the new law, medical facilities were required to establish a committee on workplace safety to develop their plans, which are required to include training for employees on preventing workplace violence and procedures for responding to workplace violence.

Under the new law, hospitals and psychiatric hospitals are required to document and report to the Division of Industrial Relations and the Department of Business and Industry certain incidents of workplace violence. The law also authorizes the Division of Public and Behavioral Health to take disciplinary action against a medical facility for retaliating against an employee for reporting workplace violence or for seeking the assistance of a public safety agency in response to a workplace violence incident.

AB338: Defensive driving courses for 16- and 17-year-olds 

Starting Wednesday, 16- and 17-year-olds will be able to complete an approved hands-on defensive driving course in lieu of having to complete 50 hours of supervised driving experience to obtain a driver’s license. The Department of Motor Vehicles is responsible for designating approved defensive driving courses.

AB534: New state plan for victims of crime

This new law, sponsored by the Assembly Judiciary Committee, requires the Department of Health and Human Services to develop a state plan for services for victims of crime to better ensure that agencies that provide compensation and services to victims of crime coordinate their efforts and use the same data. It also requires the department to develop a survey to study the effectiveness of different methods of compensating victims of crime. 

In the new state plan, the department is required to establish eligibility requirements to receive compensation from the state Fund for Compensation of Victims of Crime and provide administrative hearings to address appeals. Previously, the Fund for the Compensation of Victims of Crime was handled by the Department of Administration and the State Board of Examiners.

The new law additionally requires physicians and certain other medical professionals to report to their licensing boards when they renew their licenses whether they have received training in the treatment of mental and emotional trauma and designate whether they are willing to respond in the event of an emergency or disaster anywhere in the state. Licensing boards will now be required to report that information to the government entity responding to an emergency or disaster.

SB203: Individualized family service, education plans for children who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired

Most of this new law, which was sponsored by state Sen. Pat Spearman, has already gone into effect, though a final provision kicks in Wednesday.

One portion of this new law, which went into effect in June 2019, required the State Board of Education to issue criteria by regulation to be used to assess the development of language and literacy skills in kids who are less than six years old and are deaf, hard of hearing, blind or visually impaired.

Starting Wednesday, the teams responsible for developing individualized family service plans or individualized education plans for those kids will be required to use those new criteria to evaluate the child’s development and determine whether their plans need to be modified. The law also requires the teams to explain in their plan if the child isn’t making adequate progress, why he or she isn’t making progress and recommendations to assist the child’s development of language and literacy skills.

SB209: Testing and labeling of hemp products

One part of this new law regulating hemp, sponsored by state Sen. Dallas Harris, takes effect Wednesday. The new law authorizes the Department of Health and Human Services to adopt regulations relating to the testing and labeling of hemp products and other products containing CBD intended for human consumption. 

The law then bars people from selling products made using industrial hemp and intended for human consumption unless the product satisfies the testing and labeling requirements put forward by the department.

SB245: Tort damages against a government entity

This bill raises the limitation on the amount of damages that can be awarded against a governmental entity, its officers or employees in a tort action from $100,000 to $150,000, starting Wednesday. (Damages under tort law can be recovered for physical, psychological and emotional injury.) On July 1, 2022, it will increase to $200,000.

SB298: Renewable energy tax abatements

This new law creates accounting requirements for renewable energy companies that receive tax abatements. Under the new law, renewable energy companies are required to keep certain records related to employees and submit an annual payroll report to the Office of Energy and the board of county commissioners from the county in which they operate.

The law also mandates that wages do not include the amount of health insurance, pensions or other benefits for purposes of determining eligibility for a partial tax abatement.

The bill was sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Chris Brooks.

SB403: Data security for students

This new law, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Mo Denis, makes a number of changes to the regulation of internet websites, online services and mobile applications that operate in a school setting. Collectively, those companies are known as “school service providers.”

For one, the law requires public schools to post certain information about school service providers on their websites before students use them, including a description of the laws governing school service providers, a list of school service providers, confirmation of the school service provider’s data security plan and other information related to student data security. Schools are required to communicate where that information can be found at the beginning of the school year.

The new law also bars school service providers from engaging in targeted advertising if the advertising is based upon information that it gathers from use of the service. However, the law does allow school service providers to use personally identifiable information from students to perform certain research when required or authorized by federal or state law. Providers can also use aggregated, de-identified information they collect to develop and improve their products.

The new law also requires providers to inform the school or school district it contracts with if there is a breach of data security and then requires schools to inform students and their parents. The law also extends some of its new provisions to private schools. 

SB453: New GPA requirement for Millennium Scholarship

A new law changing the requirements to qualify for the Millennium Scholarship Program kicks in today. Previously, students were required to keep a 2.60 GPA during each semester of their first year and a 2.75 GPA during each subsequent semester. Now, students will be required to keep a 2.75 GPA each semester they are enrolled in the program.

Michelle Rindels and Riley Snyder contributed to this report.