Republican Assembly members Leavitt, Black eye open state Senate seat

With state Sen. Joe Hardy (R-Boulder City) termed out, two Republican Assembly members are eyeing his seat, with one of them already openly campaigning.

At a Fourth of July parade in Boulder City on Sunday, Assemblyman Glen Leavitt (R-Boulder City) broadcast his intention to run for the open seat with a banner attached to a pickup truck and handshakes with parade attendees. First-term Assemblywoman Annie Black (R-Mesquite) indicated in an interview that she is considering running for the seat as well.

Leavitt, first elected in 2018, told The Nevada Independent in a brief interview on Tuesday that he decided to run for the state Senate seat after Hardy approached him and asked if he would be willing to do so.

“A lot of the constituents in the district have said that they would prefer to have me there and continue to serve that district, the same way that I’ve been serving as an assemblyman,” Leavitt said. “So it was a kind of a natural organic progression, it wasn’t something that I pre-planned, but when it came about I was willing to accept that challenge and opportunity.”

Hardy confirmed that he had spoken with Leavitt and had endorsed him some time ago.

“I feel like [Leavitt] is capable, and not only capable but experienced too,” Hardy told The Nevada Independent. “I look forward to watching someone else in the campaign.”

Black said she is thinking about running for the same seat, but is waiting to see how redistricting later this year affects district lines. 

The COVID-19 pandemic caused delays in 2020 Census operations, meaning lawmakers were unable to complete the redistricting process during the 2021 session and thus will need to draw new congressional and legislative district boundaries during a yet-to-be-announced special legislative session sometime this fall.

Should the district boundaries fall along similar lines, Black said that she would “most likely” run.

Assemblywoman Annie Black standing with her right hand raised
Assemblywoman Annie Black on the first day of the 81st session of the Legislature in Carson City on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Both Leavitt and Black represent Assembly districts that are nestled within Hardy’s Senate District 12, which encompasses Boulder City, Mesquite and rural portions of Clark County that border Lake Mead, Arizona and California.

A Nevada Independent analysis of bill passages during the 2021 legislative session shows that Leavitt was among the Assembly Republicans who passed the least amount of bills (one out of 10) and Black passed none of her proposed pieces of legislation (zero out of six).

Republicans hold a double-digit active voter registration advantage over Democrats in the district. Hardy won his last re-election race in 2018 by more than 23 percentage points over Democrat Craig Jordahl.

Leavitt and Black are not the only two Republican Assembly members looking to move to the Senate. Assemblymembers Jim Wheeler (R-Minden) and Robin Titus (R-Wellington) have also confirmed plans to run for the seat of termed-out state Sen. James Settelmeyer (R-Minden). 

Despite potential changes that could come in the redistricting process, Leavitt said he is planning to campaign for the seat and will continue to advocate for small businesses and economic growth.

“My messaging platform will stay consistent with how it’s what it’s always been,” Leavitt said. “There’s no big platform message at this moment, just to continue to serve.”

This story was updated on Wednesday, June 7, 2021 at 2:48 p.m. to include comments from Sen. Joe Hardy.

Analysis: Which legislators had the most (and fewest) bills passed in the 2021 session?

Democrats controlled both houses of the Legislature during the 2021 session, and hundreds of high-profile Democratic measures sailed through the Assembly and Senate while a vast majority of Republican-backed measures failed to make much headway in the legislative process.

Out of 605 bills introduced and sponsored by a lawmaker this session, Democratic legislators had 63 percent of their bills and resolutions pass out of the Legislature, compared to just 18 percent for Republicans. Those in the majority party were able to pass priority measures, including bills establishing the “Right to Return,” a public health insurance option and permanent expanded mail voting, while many priorities for Republicans, such as a voter ID law, were killed without so much as a hearing.

Which lawmakers had the most success passing their bills? Which lawmakers were least successful? How did Assembly members fare compared to senators?

The Nevada Independent analyzed all bills and resolutions that were both introduced and primarily sponsored by a lawmaker and examined which of those bills passed out of the Legislature and which ones died. Of those 605 bills, 267 (44 percent) were approved by members of the Assembly and Senate, while the remaining 338 (56 percent) were left in the graveyard of the legislative session.

Those 605 measures make up only a portion of the 1,035 bills and resolutions introduced during the session — others were sponsored by committees, constitutional officers such as the secretary of state or governor, or helped implement the state budget. The 2021 session also saw fewer measures introduced than previous sessions, as the 2019 and 2017 sessions each saw closer to 1,200 bills and resolutions introduced.

State law limits the number of bills that can be introduced by any individual lawmaker — incumbent senators and Assembly members can request 20 and 10 bill draft requests, respectively, while newly-elected legislators are limited to six bills in the Assembly and 12 in the Senate. Legislative leadership for both the majority and minority parties are also allowed to introduce additional bills beyond the normal limits.

The analysis revealed that Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui (D-Las Vegas) and Sen. Chris Brooks (D-Las Vegas) led their caucuses with the highest rate of bill passage, while Assembly members Jill Tolles (R-Reno) and P.K. O'Neill (R-Carson City) were the only Republicans who had more than half of their bills passed out of the Legislature. Eight Republican legislators ended the session with zero bills passed.

A previous analysis of votes during the 2021 session revealed that most bills passed with bipartisan support, as more than half of all votes included no opposition. But that trend was largely driven by Democrats in the majority passing their priorities while not advancing nearly as many Republican bills, with 175 more Democrat-backed measures passing out of the Legislature than measures introduced by Republicans.

The guide below explores the results of our analysis, examining the successes and failures of both parties and of individual lawmakers this session.

We’ve double-checked our work to make sure we’ve counted every vote and hearing, but if you spot something off or think a bill was missed or improperly noted, feel free to email sgolonka@thenvindy.com.

How did Democrat-sponsored legislation fare? Did any Republican lawmakers find success?

Though hundreds of the more than 1,000 bills and resolutions introduced during the session were sponsored by Democrat-controlled committees, there were only 350 measures specifically sponsored and introduced by a lawmaker from the majority party.

Many were headline-grabbing progressive bills that drew staunch Republican opposition, including expanding permanent mail-in voting (AB321) and setting up Nevada to become one of the first states to have a public health insurance option starting in 2026 (SB420).

Of the 350 bills from Democratic lawmakers, 221 (63.1 percent) passed out of both houses. However, Assembly Democrats fared slightly better than their Senate counterparts, with 65 percent of their bills passing compared with 60 percent for those in the Senate Democratic Caucus.

Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro on the fourth day of the 81st session of the Legislature in Carson City on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

The success rate of bills introduced by Republican lawmakers was dismal in comparison.

Members of the Assembly Republican caucus had 27 of their 126 introduced measures (21 percent) pass out of both houses, while Senate Republicans had 19 of their 129 (15 percent) pass out of the Legislature. The majority of Republican-backed measures were not even given a chance by the majority party, as 56 percent of 255 bills and resolutions introduced by Republican legislators never received an initial committee hearing.

Failed Republican-backed bills included an effort to create a bipartisan redistricting commission (SB462), a measure requiring voters to provide proof of identity (SB225) and a bill that aimed to limit the number of legislative actions allowed per session (AB98).

Among the 46 Republican-sponsored measures that passed out of the Legislature were a variety of health care-related bills, including legislation from Sen. Joe Hardy (R-Boulder City) that appropriated state funds to the Nevada Health Service Corps for encouraging certain medical and dental practitioners to practice in underserved areas (SB233). Lawmakers also approved a measure from Assembly Minority Leader Robin Titus (R-Wellington) authorizing the Board of Regents to waive fees for family members of National Guard members who reenlist (AB156).

Senate Minority Leader James A. Settelmeyer, left, and Senator Joe Hardy on the fourth day of the 81st session of the Legislature in Carson City on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

While Republicans fared far worse, Democratic lawmakers still had more than a third of their bills fall victim to the legislative process.

Some bills were overwhelmed by backlash, such as SB452, a bill that aimed to grant casino resorts greater authority to ban firearms on their premises but was opposed by a broad coalition of Republicans, gun right advocates and criminal justice reform organizations and failed to advance out of the Assembly. 

Other bills were watered down or axed after lawmakers deemed there was not enough time to consider the effects of a measure. Such was the case for AB161, a bill that started as a ban on the state’s “summary eviction” process, then was amended into a legislative study on the process but still never received a floor vote. Some measures fell just shy of the support they needed, including AB387, an attempt to license midwives that fell one vote shy of a two-thirds majority in the Senate on the final day of the session.

Which lawmakers were most prolific? Which lawmakers introduced the fewest bills?

Although Democratic lawmakers significantly outpaced Republican lawmakers in getting their bills passed out of both houses of the Legislature, the number of bills introduced by each legislator remained similar between the two parties.

On average, lawmakers from the majority party introduced 9.2 measures during the 2021 session, compared to 10.2 for lawmakers in the minority party. 

Those who led their parties in introductions were typically house leaders or more experienced lawmakers.

In the Assembly, Speaker Jason Frierson (D-Las Vegas) topped the rest of his party with 18 bills introduced and sponsored, while Minority Floor Leader Titus had the most bills introduced and sponsored of anyone in the Assembly Republican caucus with 14.

Assembly Minority Leader Robin Titus speaks to Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson inside the Legislature on Monday, March 15, 2021 in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Minority Leader James Settelmeyer (R-Minden) introduced and sponsored 25 bills, which was the most of any legislator during the session.

Four other Senators also stood above the pack: Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas) led Democrats with 23 introductions, while Sen. Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas) and two Republican senators, Hardy and Keith Pickard (R-Henderson), rounded out the top with 20 bills each.

Assemblywoman Tracy Brown-May (D-Las Vegas), who was appointed by the Clark County Commission on Feb. 2, 2021 to fill the seat of Democratic former Assemblyman Alex Assefa, who resigned amid an investigation into whether he met residency requirements, was the only lawmaker who did not introduce a single piece of legislation this session.

The others at the bottom of the list — Assembly members Elaine Marzola (D-Henderson), Maggie Carlton (D-Las Vegas) and Richard McArthur (R-Las Vegas), and Sens. Fabian Doñate (D-Las Vegas) and Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) — introduced three bills each. Doñate was appointed to fill the seat of former Sen. Yvanna Cancela (D-Las Vegas), and introduced three of her bill draft requests submitted prior to the start of the session.

Which legislators had the most success with their bills?

Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui (D-Las Vegas) had more success getting her bills passed than any Nevada lawmaker during the 2021 session, as all eight bills that she introduced and sponsored passed out of both houses of the Legislature.

Jauregui had one bill that was passed only with the support of her own party members in both houses. AB286, which bans so-called “ghost guns” and other firearm assembly kits that don’t come equipped with serial numbers, passed through the Assembly and Senate along party lines. 

Other bills Jauregui introduced included measures focused on the environment and residential properties, as well as AB123, which increases fees on special Vegas Golden Knights license plates to help give more funds to charities.

Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui arrives on the first day of the 81st session of the Legislature in Carson City on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Five other Assembly Democrats, all based out of Southern Nevada, had at least 80 percent of their measures pass out of both houses, including Assembly Speaker Frierson. Frierson, who saw 15 of his 18 sponsored measures pass, introduced several high-profile Democratic measures, including a pair of big election bills: AB126, which moves the state to a presidential primary system instead of a caucus-based system, and AB321, which permanently expands mail-in voting. 

Other bills introduced by the Assembly leader that passed out of the Legislature included a measure requiring a three-day grace period before landlords can charge late fees for overdue rent (AB308) and a bill allowing college athletes to profit off of their name and likeness (AB254). Frierson was also the primary sponsor of AB484, which authorizes the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) to use $54 million in federal funds to modernize the state’s outdated unemployment insurance system.

Frierson had only three bills that did not pass out of the Legislature, including a controversial measure that would have allowed for the Washoe and Clark County school boards to be partially appointed (AB255).

Other lawmakers to have at least 80 percent of their measures pass out of both houses were Assembly members Venicia Considine (D-Las Vegas), Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas), Daniele Monroe-Moreno (D-North Las Vegas) and Howard Watts (D-Las Vegas).

Considine had five of her six introduced measures pass both houses with significant bipartisan support, including a measure that replaces the gendered language for crimes of sexual assault with gender-neutral language (AB214). 

Yeager saw eight of ten introduced bills pass, including AB341, which authorizes the licensing of cannabis consumption lounges, though he also presented several other, sometimes controversial, measures as chair of the Assembly Judiciary Committee. He presented AB400, a bill that removes “per se” limits on non-felony DUIs involving marijuana and that passed along party lines out of the Assembly. And he presented AB395, the death penalty bill that was scrapped by Democratic lawmakers in the Senate.

Though Monroe-Moreno had four of her five introduced bills pass out of both houses, including a measure that reduces the criminal penalties for minors found in possession of alcohol or small amounts of marijuana (AB158), she was also the sponsor of one of the few measures to fail to advance out of the Legislature because it failed to achieve a needed two-thirds majority. Her bill AB387, which would have established a midwifery licensure board, fell one vote shy of the two-thirds majority in the Senate.

Watts, a second-term assemblyman, sparked a variety of partisan disagreements throughout the session, as six of his ten introduced bills passed out of the Assembly with zero Republican support (Watts had eight bills pass out of both chambers). Those measures ranged broadly from a pair of environment-focused measures to a bill that bans offensive or racially discriminatory language and imagery, names, logos or mascots in Nevada schools (AB88).

In the Senate, only three legislators had more than two-thirds of their introduced measures pass out of both houses: Chris Brooks (D-Las Vegas), Roberta Lange (D-Las Vegas) and Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas).

Sen. Chris Brooks on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Brooks was the most successful of the bunch, getting five of his six introduced bills passed, including SB448, an omnibus energy bill expanding the state’s transmission infrastructure that was passed out of the Assembly on the final day of the session. With a larger number of introductions (13), Lange had twice as many bills passed as Brooks (10), covering a wide range of topics from health care to employment to a bill permanently authorizing curbside pickup at dispensaries (SB168).

The majority leader also succeeded in passing a higher percentage of her bills than most of her Senate colleagues, as 12 different Cannizzaro-sponsored bills made their way to the governor’s office. Those measures were met with varying degrees of bipartisan support, as a bill requiring data brokers to allow consumers to make requests to not sell their information passed with no opposition (SB260), while a bill barring the suspension of driver’s licenses for the nonpayment of fees received mixed support from Republicans in both chambers (SB219). Another bill, SB420, which enacts a state-managed public health insurance option, passed along party lines in both the Senate and Assembly.

A few Assembly Republicans stood above the pack, as Assembly members Jill Tolles (R-Reno), P.K. O’Neill (R-Carson City), Lisa Krasner (R-Reno) and Tom Roberts (R-Las Vegas) were the only members of their party to have at least half of their bills pass out of both houses.

Tolles, who was more likely to side with Democrats on close votes during the session than any other Republican lawmaker, found the most success of the group, as four of the six bills she introduced and sponsored were sent to the governor. Those bills that passed were met with broad bipartisan support, such as AB374 — that measure, which establishes a statewide working group in the attorney general’s office aimed at preventing and reducing substance use, passed unanimously out of both houses. The third-term legislator did introduce some bills that were killed by Democrats, such as AB248, which sought to allow "partisan observers" to watch over elections at polling places.

Assemblywoman Jill Tolles on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Four of O’Neill’s seven bills were sent to the governor. One allows the Stewart Indian School Cultural Center and Museum to designate certain buildings and grounds of the former boarding school for Native children for special events and authorizes the sale and consumption of alcoholic beverages at such events (AB270). O’Neill was the only Republican present at a bill signing event for Native-focused legislation, after many of those bills passed with bipartisan support.

Half of Krasner and Roberts’ bills passed out of the Legislature, with each lawmaker introducing and sponsoring eight measures during the session.   

Nearly all four of Krasner’s bills that made it out of both chambers attracted unanimous votes, including AB143, which creates a statewide human trafficking task force and a plan for resources and services delivered to victims. Another well-received bill, AB251, seals juvenile criminal records automatically at age 18 and allows offenders to petition the court for the expungement or destruction of their juvenile records for misdemeanors. Both AB143 and AB251 have been signed by the governor.

Roberts, who was among the Republicans most likely to cross party lines and vote contrary to the majority of his caucus, had several bills sent to the governor with strong bipartisan support, including AB319, which establishes a pilot program for high school students to take dual credit courses at the College of Southern Nevada. Another of his four successful bills was AB326, which is aimed at curbing the illicit cannabis market.

Success for Republican senators in passing bills was more rare.

Sen. Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) had one bill sent to the governor and two bills killed without a hearing, giving him a higher percentage of bills passed (33 percent) than any other member of his caucus. Hansen’s one successful measure, SB112, aligns Nevada law with federal law regarding the administration of certain products for livestock. One of Hansen’s failed bills included an attempt to prohibit police officers from using surveillance devices without a warrant, unless there were pressing circumstances that presented danger to someone’s safety (SB213).

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer (R-Reno) was the second most successful member of his caucus in terms of getting bills passed, as three of the 14 measures (21 percent) he introduced passed out of both houses, including a measure establishing an esports advisory committee within the Gaming Control Board (SB165). But many of the measures introduced by Kieckhefer still failed, including a resolution to create an independent redistricting commission to conduct the reapportionment of districts (SJR9).

Only three other members of the Senate Republican caucus, including Minority Leader Settelmeyer, Hardy and Pete Goicoechea (R-Eureka), had at least 20 percent of their introduced measures pass fully out of the Legislature.

Which legislators had the least success with their bills?

Despite Democrats controlling both legislative chambers, a handful of Democratic lawmakers still had less than half of their sponsored measures sent off to the governor’s office.

In the Assembly, five members of the Democratic caucus failed to have 50 percent of their bills advance out of both houses, including Assemblywoman Michelle Gorelow (D-Las Vegas), who rounded out the bottom of the list as just one of her eight introduced bills passing out of the Legislature. Though that one successful bill — AB189, which establishes presumptive eligibility for pregnant women for Medicaid — garnered bipartisan support, many of Gorelow’s introduced measures failed to even receive an initial committee vote. Those failed bills included multiple more health care-focused measures, including an effort to require certain health plans to cover fertility preservation services (AB274).

The others in the caucus to have more than half of their bills fail were Assembly members Bea Duran (D-Las Vegas), David Orentlicher (D-Las Vegas), Edgar Flores (D-Las Vegas) and Cecelia Gonzalez (D-Las Vegas), who each had between 33 and 43 percent of their bills passed.

Duran found mixed success with her bills, getting three of her seven introduced measures passed, including a bill that requires all public middle schools, junior high schools and high schools to offer free menstrual products in bathrooms (AB224), but seeing four others fail, including one requiring public schools implement a survey about sexual misconduct (AB353).

One of Orentlicher’s five bills was among a small group that failed to advance at a mid-May deadline for second committee passage. The measure, AB243, would have required courts to consider whether a defendant is younger than 21 when deciding a sentence and failed to clear the deadline after previously passing out of the Assembly along party lines. Orentlicher introduced five bills, but only two passed out of both chambers.

While Flores introduced several measures that received broad unanimous support throughout the session, such as a measure that established a new, simpler Miranda warning for children (AB132), he also proposed several controversial measures that failed to advance out of the Assembly. One of those bills, AB351, would have allowed terminally ill patients to self-administer life-ending medication, and another, AB131, would have required all uniformed police officers to wear body cameras when interacting with the public. Only four of Flores’s ten introduced bills passed out of both legislative chambers.

Assemblymen Edgar Flores, center, and Glen Leavitt, left, speak inside the Legislature on Tuesday, March 9, 2021 in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Gonzalez, a freshman, had four of her six introduced bills die at different times over the course of the session. Two of her bills died without ever being heard. Another bill she introduced (AB151) was never voted on by the Assembly because a Cannizzaro-sponsored bill took almost the same approach in barring the suspension of driver’s licenses for the nonpayment of fees. 

Gonzalez even had one piece of legislation, AB201, fail in its second house. That bill, which would have required more tracking and reporting on use of criminal informants, failed to advance out of a Senate committee after passing out of the Assembly along party lines.

Sen. James Ohrenschall (D-Las Vegas) was the only member of his caucus to have more than half of his bills fail. Though seven of his sponsored measures passed out of the Legislature, eleven other bills and resolutions from Ohrenschall failed to advance. Those bills often focused on the criminal justice system, including a measure that aimed to eliminate the death penalty for people who are convicted of first degree murder (SB228), though some stretched beyond that scope, such as an attempt to make Nevada the first state with an opt-out organ donation system (SB134) that failed to be voted out of committee.

Across the Senate and Assembly, eight Republican lawmakers had zero bills pass out of the Legislature. Those eight were Assembly members Alexis Hansen (R-Sparks), Annie Black (R-Mesquite), Andy Matthews (R-Las Vegas), Jill Dickman (R-Sparks), Jim Wheeler (R-Minden) and Richard McArthur (R-Las Vegas) and Sens. Carrie Buck (R-Henderson) and Pickard.

All eight of those Republicans were also among the least likely in their party to break from the majority of their caucus and vote with Democrats on legislation.

State Senator Keith Pickard on the fourth day of the 81st session of the Legislature in Carson City on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Those eight legislators introduced 70 measures combined, of which 58 died without ever receiving a committee hearing. Pickard was particularly unsuccessful, as he introduced 20 bills, and only one received a committee hearing before failing to advance past the first committee passage deadline in early April. The Henderson-based senator was previously derided by Democratic lawmakers, after backing out of a deal with Senate Democrats centered on a mining tax during one of the 2020 special sessions.

When were bills heard and when did they pass?

Throughout the session, lawmakers often waited until the latest possible days to complete the work needed for certain legislative deadlines.

In the week leading up to the first major deadline — bills and resolutions without an exemption were required to have passed out of their first committee by April 9 — lawmakers voted 336 bills out of committee. In the roughly nine weeks prior to that, only 236 bills were passed out of their first committee.

The other deadlines of the legislative session followed a similar pattern.

In the week leading up to and the week including the first house passage deadline (April 20), 340 bills received a vote in their first house, while just 71 bills were voted out of their first house in the 10 previous weeks.

The busiest week of the session was the week ending May 21, which included the second house passage deadline (May 20). During that week, 337 bills and resolutions were voted out of their second house, while a couple hundred more measures were acted on in some other way, including committee hearings, committee votes and first house votes.

The final shortened weekend of the session, stretching from May 29 through May 31, was also chock-full of legislative action, as lawmakers passed more than 150 bills out of their second house during those three final days.

Analysis: Which lawmakers were least likely to toe the party line?

From permanent expanded mail voting to the state public health option, the 2021 legislative session saw no shortage of headline-grabbing partisan disagreements — but a look at actual vote totals reveals that the vast majority of bills were passed with at least some bipartisan buy-in.

Out of nearly 1,200 votes on bills and resolutions during the 120-day session, 625 (53 percent) were passed with no lawmakers in opposition, and a small minority of 52 votes (4 percent) included just one “nay” vote. Meanwhile, roughly 100 votes (8 percent) happened strictly along party lines. 

But there was a fourth, significant group of votes: on more than 150 votes, a minority of Republican lawmakers broke with their caucus and voted with Democrats, helping to pass bills ranging from marijuana DUI reform to expanded environmental protections.

So which Republicans were the most likely to side with Democrats?

The Nevada Independent analyzed and tallied every bill that received a recorded vote in at least one house where less than half of Republican caucus members supported the measure — a tally that includes 49 votes in the Senate and 104 in the Assembly. The analysis included any bill that received four or fewer votes from the nine-member Senate Republican Caucus and any bill that received seven or fewer votes from the 16-member Assembly Republican Caucus.

Instead of looking more broadly at all votes taken during the legislative session, focusing the analysis on the roughly 150 votes where less than half of Republican caucus members voted in favor of a particular bill offers a better view of which individual Republican lawmakers were most likely to cross party lines. 

Because Democrats control both the Assembly and state Senate, no Republican-sponsored bills with even a whiff of partisanship made it to a full floor vote, though a handful of Democratic lawmakers proved willing to buck their party on a smaller number of votes.

The analysis reveals that Sens. Ben Kieckhefer (R-Reno) and Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno) were the most likely to break with their caucus and vote with Democrats in the state Senate. On the Assembly side, Jill Tolles (R-Reno), Tom Roberts (R-Las Vegas) and Melissa Hardy (R-Henderson) most often broke with the rest of their caucus and sided with Democrats.

The guide below aims to take a look at what kinds of issues were at play when Republicans chose to break with the majority of their caucus on a particular issue — including high-profile votes on a new mining tax and a Democrat-backed effort to change Nevada to a presidential primary state.

We’ve double-checked our work to make sure we’ve counted every vote, but if you spot something off or think a vote wasn’t counted, feel free to email sgolonka@thenvindy.com.

SENATE

Ben Kieckhefer: 36

Heidi Seevers Gansert: 33

Kieckhefer and Seevers Gansert voted with Democrats and against the majority of the Republican caucus 30 times, including eight times as the only two Republicans joining Democrats in support of a measure. Kieckhefer is termed out after the 2021 session and cannot run for re-election, and Seevers Gansert will not face voters until 2024 after winning her re-election race last year.

Both lawmakers broke party lines to join all Democrats in favor of AB115, allowing multiple parents to adopt a child, and AB181, a bill aimed at improving mental health parity and reporting on cases of attempted suicide.

Kieckhefer and Seevers Gansert were also among four Republican senators who voted with Democrats in favor of AB495, a bill that creates a new excise tax on the gross revenues of gold and silver companies, estimated to bring in an extra $150 million to $170 million a biennium for education. As the measure passed in the waning days of the session, Kieckhefer said the benefits of the bill outweighed the drawbacks, and Seevers Gansert pointed to the enhanced education funding as reason for voting in favor. The bill required a two-thirds majority to pass, as it created a new tax.

Seevers Gansert and Kieckhefer rarely broke from each other when crossing party lines to vote with Democrats. In one instance, Seevers Gansert was the lone Republican who sided with Democrats on SB237, a bill aimed at giving more support to LGBTQ-owned businesses, while no other Republicans did so. Kieckhefer had no such votes.

State Senators Ben Kieckhefer and Heidi Seevers Gansert during the first day of the 81st session of the Legislature in Carson City on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Pete Goicoechea: 20

Goicoechea joined Democrats as the lone Republican in support of AB148, which revises the application requirements for obtaining a permit to engage in an exploration project or mining operation.

He joined Kieckhefer and Seevers Gansert as the only members of their caucus to vote in support of AB126, which eliminates Nevada’s presidential caucus and replaces it with a primary election, and also aims to make the state first in the presidential primary calendar — ahead of New Hampshire and Iowa.

Goicoechea also broke from the majority of the Republican caucus to vote with Democrats in support of a few environment-related measures, including AB146, which expands efforts to mitigate water pollution, and AB71, which makes rare plant and animal locations confidential. The Eureka Republican is in his final term of office after winning re-election in 2020, and cannot run again in 2024.

Joe Hardy: 17

Hardy, who is termed out after this session, voted as the lone Republican in support of bills in the Senate more often than any other member of his caucus.

The Boulder City-based lawmaker joined Democrats as the only Republican in favor of SB61, which creates the Nevada Committee of Vendors Who Are Blind, as well as three other Democrat-sponsored bills — including a measure backed by Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D-Las Vegas), AB308, which requires a three-day grace period before landlords can charge late fees for overdue rent.

Hardy was one of three Republicans in the Senate who voted in favor of AB400, which removes “per se” limits on the amount of marijuana metabolite that can be in a person’s blood to trigger a DUI, though the limits remain when someone is facing a felony charge. He was also one of two Republicans in the caucus to back another marijuana-related bill, SB122, which requires occupational training for employees of cannabis establishments.

State Senator Joe Hardy on the fourth day of the 81st session of the Legislature in Carson City on Thursday, Feb. 4, 2021. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Scott Hammond: 14

The northwest Las Vegas Valley lawmaker was one of four Republican senators who voted in support of a new tax on the mining industry. Hammond previously said he would vote in support of the bill, AB495, “for all of our state’s students.”

Hammond also joined Democrats in voting in favor of AB296, which allows victims of ‘doxing’ to bring a civil action to recover damages, and SB450, which allows school districts to use excess revenue from existing tax rates to fund “pay as you go” capital improvement projects, such as remodels and needed facility upgrades.

Keith Pickard: 6

Along with Kieckhefer, Seevers Gansert and Hammond, Pickard voted in favor of the new excise tax on the mining industry through AB495, also citing increased education funding as reason for his support.

Pickard was also one of three Republican senators who voted in favor of removing “per se” limits on non-felony DUIs involving marijuana (AB400), and the Henderson-based legislator joined Kieckhefer and Seevers Gansert in voting in favor of raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21, in line with federal law (AB59).

Ira Hansen: 5

Hansen was one of two Republican senators (along with Hardy) to record votes as the sole GOP member siding with Democrats on multiple votes.

Hansen was the only Republican who voted in favor of protecting the Spring Valley population of Rocky Mountain junipers, known as “swamp cedars” (AB171). Prior to the vote, Hansen had angered some Native advocates when he rebutted the historical accuracy of testimony shared by tribal leaders and elders.

He also was also the only member of his caucus to support SB349, which would have allowed unpackaged produce to be sold in farmers markets, but the legislation failed to advance in the Assembly.

Carrie Buck: 3

The freshman legislator rarely broke from the majority of the Republican caucus, only doing so to support an extension on school use of excess revenue for facility upgrades (SB450), cage-free eggs (AB399) and a clarification on registration requirements for lobbyists (AB110).

James Settelmeyer: 2

The Senate minority leader broke from the majority of his party less than any other Republican senator, only joining Democrats in support of two measures.

Settelmeyer joined Hardy and Pickard in support of removing “per se” limits on non-felony DUIs involving marijuana (AB400) and voted with Kieckhefer, Pickard and Seevers Gansert in support of a measure revising the issuance of orders for protection against high-risk behavior (SB6).

ASSEMBLY

Jill Tolles: 92

Tom Roberts: 90

Among Assembly Republicans, Tolles and Roberts were the most likely to cross party lines and vote contrary to the majority of their caucus.

Out of the 104 votes in which a minority of the 16 Republican Assembly members joined Democrats in support, Tolles and Roberts voted together with Democrats 85 times, though only six of those votes featured no other Republicans in support.

Tolles and Roberts were the only two Republicans in the Assembly to vote in favor of the new mining tax (AB495) — giving the bill enough Republican votes to overcome the required two-thirds majority needed for a tax increase. Prior to the vote, both lawmakers spoke with The Nevada Independent about their rationale for the votes, stressing that they had gained concessions in exchange for their support and had an opportunity to improve education funding.

They were additionally the only members of their party to support other education-related measures, including an expansion of the core subjects contained within social studies in K-12 education (AB19) and a Democrat-sponsored bill to create the Task Force on Sexual Misconduct at Institutions of Higher Education (SB347).

Tolles and Roberts supported a wide range of Democrat-backed legislation, including measures focused on the economy, state government and criminal justice. The duo voted in support of a ban on race-based discrimination against certain hairstyles (SB327), a Frierson-backed effort to establish the Office of Small Business Advocacy (AB184) and a measure that doubles the fee on marriage licenses from $25 to $50 to better support sexual violence and domestic violence victim services in all counties (SB177).

Tolles has a history of voting more moderately than others in the Assembly Republican Caucus, and she was the only caucus member to join Democrats in support of legislation on multiple occasions. She was the only Assembly Republican to vote in favor of AB47, which gives the attorney general greater powers over mergers within the health care industry, and for AB382, an effort to license student loan servicers (that failed to receive a two-thirds majority). 

Though he was not joined by Tolles, Roberts (who has said he plans to run for Clark County sheriff in 2022) voted with several other Republicans in favor of bills authorizing the licensing of cannabis consumption lounges (AB341) and a resolution to remove the Board of Regents’ constitutional protection (SJR7).

Assemblywoman Jill Tolles on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Melissa Hardy: 82

The Henderson-based assemblywoman was the lone member of the Republican caucus who voted in favor of AB85, which authorizes the State Quarantine Officer to declare any weed to be noxious by regulation.

Hardy also backed a wide range of Democrat-backed efforts, including a variety of bills sponsored by Frierson including a bill that eliminates Nevada’s presidential caucus and replaces it with a primary election (AB126).

In dissenting from the majority of the Assembly Republican Caucus, Hardy voted the same as both Tolles and Roberts 46 times, including when all three — along with Assemblyman Glen Leavitt (R-Boulder City) — joined Democrats in support of AB486, which is meant to ensure more tenants are connected with rental assistance as eviction protections expire.

Glen Leavitt: 55

Though Leavitt sided with Democrats more frequently than most other Assembly Republicans, he rarely did so without support from several other caucus members. There was only one instance in which Leavitt joined Democrats without at least three other Republicans in support of the measure.

In that case, just two other Republicans joined Leavitt and Assembly Democrats in favor of a bill allowing the State Board of Cosmetology to license a new group of people designated as “advanced estheticians” (SB291).

Additionally, Leavitt was among a minority group of seven Republicans who supported a pair of education measures from Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop (D-Las Vegas), including SB173, also referred to as the “Back on Track Act,” which calls on districts to create learning loss prevention plans and set up summer school programs, and SB151, which is aimed at improving teacher-to-student ratios.

Heidi Kasama: 52

The freshman assemblywoman from Las Vegas was the only Republican in either house who voted in support of a Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation-backed measure, SB75, that makes technical changes to the regular unemployment system, such as allowing more flexibility on when claimants are eligible for benefit extensions. Other Republicans voiced concerns that the bill did not go far enough in addressing issues with the system. 

Along with Hardy, Leavitt and Tolles, Kasama also voted with Democrats to pass AB356, which prohibits water-intensive decorative turf within medians, along roads and in business parks in Clark County.

Kasama and Hardy were also the only Republicans who voted in favor of banning the declawing of cats, though the measure, AB209, failed to advance through the Senate.

From left, Assemblywomen Cecelia González, Heidi Kasama and Melissa Hardy on the final day of the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Lisa Krasner: 36

Krasner voted with a minority of her Republican colleagues on mostly Democrat-supported measures on three dozen occasions, including joining Tolles and Roberts in support of measures protecting swamp cedars in Spring Valley, AB171 and AJR4.

The Reno-based lawmaker also joined Tolles, Roberts, Hardy, Leavitt and Kasama in supporting SB448, an omnibus energy bill expanding the state’s transmission infrastructure that was passed out of the Assembly on the final day of the session.

Gregory Hafen: 30

The second-term legislator representing portions of Clark, Lincoln and Nye counties was one of only three Assembly Republicans who voted in favor of massively increasing fines for violating certain regulations from the Public Utilities Commission (SB18).

Hafen was also part of a limited group of Republicans who supported a change to the Live Entertainment Tax to exclude events held on behalf of a governmental entity (SB367) and a ban on race-based discrimination against certain hairstyles (SB327).

Alexis Hansen: 18

When Assemblywoman Alexis Hansen broke from her party majority and sided with Democrats, the Sparks-based lawmaker supported a wide range of measures, covering topics from health care to criminal justice to state government. Although she rarely joined fewer than four other party members in her dissent from the caucus, she was one of only two Republicans in the Assembly who voted to pass SB77, which exempts certain environmental impact reviews and discussions from the state’s open meeting law.

Robin Titus: 5

The minority floor leader rarely voted against the majority of her caucus, but Titus did join Democrats and several of her Republican colleagues in support of five bills, including a bill requiring state Medicaid plan coverage for doula services (AB256) and an appropriation of $5.4 million for upgrades to the Gaming Control Board’s IT systems (SB413).

Assembly members Robin Titus, Danielle Monroe Moreno and Steve Yeager return to the Assembly chamber after letting the Senate know they have adjourned sine die on the final day of the 81st session, Monday, May 31, 2021, in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Annie Black: 3

Though she was absent or not voting for more than 100 votes after being censured by other members of the Assembly for violating COVID-19 protocols, Black was one of the least likely to side with Democrats on a bill. She was, however, one of four Republicans in the Assembly who voted in favor of authorizing the licensing of cannabis consumption lounges (AB341).

The Nevada Legislative Freedom Caucus

At the beginning of the session, six Republican Assembly members announced the formation of the Nevada Legislative Freedom Caucus, a coalition of state legislators dedicated to the values of constitutional conservatism. Those six lawmakers — Jill Dickman, John Ellison, Andy Matthews, Richard McArthur, P.K. O’Neill and Jim Wheeler — rarely sided with Democrats.

P.K. O’Neill: 19

One member of the Freedom Caucus sided with Democrats significantly more often than any other, as O’Neill was one of just four Assembly Republicans who supported a measure requiring employers to allow people to use sick leave to care for ill family members (AB190).

The Carson City-based assemblyman also backed several Democrat-sponsored bills, including SB166, which clarifies that a crime does not need to be committed by someone with different characteristics than the victim to be considered a hate crime, and SB177, which doubles the fee on marriage licenses from $25 to $50 to better support sexual violence and domestic violence victim services in all the counties.

Jim Wheeler: 6

Jill Dickman: 6

Andy Matthews: 5

John Ellison: 3

Richard McArthur: 3

Almost every member of the Freedom Caucus was among the list of Republicans least likely to side with Democrats, though some threw support behind a few high-profile measures.

Dickman and Matthews were among four Assembly Republicans who voted in favor of authorizing the licensing of cannabis consumption lounges (AB341). McArthur supported a bill aimed at increasing the availability of peer support counseling for emergency response employees (AB96). Wheeler voted to pass a measure that increases fees on special Vegas Golden Knights license plates to help give more funds to charities (AB123).

Which Republicans broke up unanimous votes?

While votes throughout the legislative session were dominated by unanimous vote counts and instances of mixed support and opposition from Republicans, nearly 5 percent of all votes included just one lawmaker in opposition.

In the Senate, Hansen stood above the pack, providing the only “nay” vote 15 times out of 26 such votes in that chamber. Hansen was the lone opponent in the Senate against measures authorizing curbside pickup at dispensaries (SB168), banning race-based discrimination against certain hairstyles (SB327), decriminalizing traffic tickets (AB116) and requiring employees within the juvenile justice system to complete implicit bias training (SB108).

State Senator Ira Hansen inside the Legislature on Friday, May 14, 2021. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

The other Senate Republicans who provided the only vote against a bill were Buck, who did so six times, Pickard, who did so twice, and Kieckhefer, who did so once. Buck was the only member of the caucus to not support a bill authorizing the sealing of someone’s criminal record after an unconditional pardon (AB219), and Pickard was the only Senate Republican to vote against an appropriation of $25 million for the UNLV Medical School (SB434). 

In the Assembly, there were 26 votes that included a single “nay” vote. Ellison led the Republican caucus with 10, including votes against bills requiring the Board of Regents to waive tuition and fees for Native students attending Nevada public colleges and universities (AB262), prohibiting law enforcement agencies from having arrest or ticket quotas (AB186) and expanding the continuing education courses that law enforcement officers are required to take to include crisis intervention (AB304).

Other Assembly Republicans who stood alone in their opposition included Black, who provided the only “nay” vote on a bill five times, and McArthur, who did so twice. Hafen and Kasama were each the lone Assembly opponent to a bill once.

Which Democrats dissented from their party?

While disagreement among Republicans was far more common in the Democrat-controlled Legislature, a few Democrats in both houses were more likely to depart from the caucus consensus than their colleagues from the same party.

Sen. Dina Neal (D-North Las Vegas) was more likely to vote differently from the rest of the Senate Democrats than any other member of her party. Neal was the lone opposition vote to AB435, which expands a Commerce Tax exemption to include trade shows, and SB150, which requires local governments to authorize tiny houses in certain zoning districts. She previously expressed concerns that tiny homes might depreciate housing values or exacerbate zoning disparities.

Neal also dissented from the Senate Democratic Caucus to vote with her Republican colleagues at least three times, including voting against a bill that would have granted casino resorts greater authority to ban firearms on their premises (SB452).

Sen. Dina Neal (D-North Las Vegas) speaks with Assembly members Howard Watts (D-Las Vegas) and Rochelle Nguyen on the first day of the 81st session of the Legislature in Carson City on Monday, Feb. 1, 2021. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Sens. Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas) and Mo Denis (D-Las Vegas) each disagreed with their fellow caucus members at least once. Spearman was the only Democrat who voted against a bill raising the minimum age to buy tobacco products from 18 to 21 (AB59), and Denis was the lone member of his party to not support an effort to license midwives (AB387). With Denis voting no, the bill fell one vote shy of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass.

In the Assembly, Brittney Miller (D-Las Vegas) was among the Democrats most likely to dissent from the majority position of the caucus. Miller was the lone opponent to a bill during two votes, including voting against SB172, which requires school districts and charter schools to develop programs for dual credits. Miller also joined a majority of Assembly Republicans in opposing a bill that prohibits homeowner associations from circumventing local ordinances when determining when construction can start in residential areas (AB249).

Assembly Ways and Means Committee Chair Maggie Carlton (D-Las Vegas) was the only Assembly member to oppose AB258, which clarifies existing law by requiring the trustees of the Clark County Library District to appoint an executive director, and AB477, which abolishes the DMV’s Revolving Account for the Assistance of the Department. She also joined the majority of the Assembly Republican Caucus in voting against SB190, which allows women to receive birth control through a pharmacy without a doctor’s visit.

Assembly Majority Floor Leader Teresa Benitez-Thompson (D-Reno) additionally dissented from her caucus on more than one occasion, as she provided the lone “nay” vote to AB435, which expands a Commerce Tax exemption to include trade shows. She was also joined by Assemblywoman Selena Torres (D-Las Vegas) in voting with a majority of Assembly Republicans against SB287, which formally recognizes UNLV and the Desert Research Institute (DRI) as land-grant institutions alongside UNR.

Gun free zones in casinos, increasing justice court fees and licensing midwives among many casualties of legislative session

Lawmakers ended the 81st session of the Legislature on Monday night passing dozens of high-profile measures but many others, including an effort to license midwives and a bill allowing casinos to prohibit firearms, failed to advance.

Out of roughly 1,000 bills and resolutions introduced during the 120-day legislative session, more than 400 measures failed to pass through the Senate and Assembly and make it to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s desk. Many bills were left for dead at deadlines for committee or house passage, but some — including an effort to increase justice court filing fees — were in limbo until minutes before the clock struck midnight on Monday.

Other major bills that failed to advance included a measure aimed at transitioning Nevada residents away from natural gas use, several affordable housing bills and a bill that would have abolished the death penalty.

Here’s a look at some of the bills that died at the end of the session:

SB452: Prohibiting guns on casino properties

In the waning weeks of the session, Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) revived discarded portions of the session’s other major gun bill in the form of MGM Resorts-backed AB452, which aimed to grant casino resorts greater authority to ban firearms on their premises.

When Cannizzaro presented the bill, which would have required non-restricted gaming license holders (defined as more than 15 slot machines on property) to opt in to the provisions and would have prohibited individuals from bringing firearms onto casino property with certain exemptions, she described the measure as a way for lawmakers to further protect workers on the Las Vegas Strip.

Supporters said that the bill would largely mirror prohibitions on firearm possession at schools and libraries, but opponents — a broad coalition of Republicans, gun right advocates and criminal justice reform organizations — argued it would create uncertainty for gun owners and have a disparate racial impact.

The measure narrowly passed through the Senate in a 11-10 vote on Wednesday, but failed to receive a vote in the Assembly before sine die. During the joint committee hearing on the bill, many Assembly Democrats questioned its merits and expressed concerns about how the measure would affect minority communities.

“We are going to have situations where Black folks and brown folks are going to be the ones who are going to be not asked to leave, but who are going to be the ones that the police are called on,” said Assemblywoman Shondra Summers-Armstrong (D-Las Vegas) during the hearing.

AB387: Midwifery licensure board 

Nevada is the only state in the west that does not license midwives, but a proposed Board of Licensed Certified Professional Midwives nearly became a reality this session after falling just one vote short of a needed two-thirds majority late Monday evening.

During the last day of the legislative session, the Senate voted 13-8 on Democratic Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno’s AB387, with Sens. Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno) and Ben Kieckhefer (R-Reno) joining most Democrat senators in support. Sen. Mo Denis (D-Las Vegas) joined the Republican senators against the measure, ensuring the bill fell short of the needed two-thirds majority (because the bill required fees for licensure). 

The Assembly had previously passed the bill and its amendments with a 28-14 vote on May 28.  

The board would have been responsible for establishing an optional licensure process for practicing midwives and also would have set training and education requirements. 

An emotional hearing in the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor took place in April, in which several mothers shared their experiences with midwives and desire to have birth freedom while also having certain regulations and protections in place for all parties. 

Opposition to the measure was just as passionate, with opponents arguing that the board would overly restrict birthing options and punish midwives who may not want to be licensed or who have learned through apprenticeships rather than in a formal environment. 

SB437: Increased fees for justice court actions

An effort to double administrative fees for actions within the state’s justice courts fell two votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to pass on the last day of the session.

SB437, which would have increased the fee from $1 to $2 on the commencement of any action in a justice court for which a fee is required, in order to help fund the work of the state demographer within the Department of Taxation, passed through the Senate in mid-May on a 14-7 vote, but only after Sens. Kieckhefer and Pete Goicoechea (R-Eureka) switched from nay to yea votes.

Members of the Assembly then voted 26-16 along party lines on the measure, falling two votes short of the 28 votes needed to pass with a two-thirds majority. Republicans opposed to the bill, which was sponsored by the Senate Finance Committee, expressed confusion and concerns that it would tax the wrong people by imposing funds on litigants within the justice courts to fund the state demographer within the executive branch.

AB161: Study on summary evictions

A severely watered-down measure that would have created a legislative committee to study the state’s “summary eviction” process during the interim was left dead at the end of the session after failing to receive a vote in the Assembly.

The initial version of AB161, sponsored by Assemblywoman Selena Torres (D-Las Vegas), would have completely banned the “summary eviction” process, which involves possession of a rental unit and requires a tenant to either pay rent, vacate the property or respond to a notice through the courts within seven days. But the language in the bill was replaced with a study after lawmakers expressed concerns that there was not enough time to consider the consequences of upending the existing system in the midst of the eviction moratorium and amid staunch opposition from real estate groups.

The amended version of the bill, which received support from a slew of progressive groups, was passed out of its first committee in early April but never saw further action from lawmakers.

SB187: Limits on solitary confinement 

Sen. Pat Spearman’s (D-North Las Vegas) bill to limit the use of solitary confinement in Nevada prisons to 30 days never made it to an initial floor vote. 

SB187 also would have required regulations to limit solitary confinement to use only as a last resort. It also called for frequent mental health evaluations and giving inmates at least two hours of out-of-cell time daily, visitation and phone access.  

The Department of Corrections submitted a fiscal note stating that the measure would cost the department more than $40 million dollars for the biennium in order to modify policy at its seven major institutions and provide additional mental health support. 

“Even if they are guilty, they are still human beings, and we should treat them as such,” Spearman said of inmates during the bill’s hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on March 12. “If rehabilitation is the goal, then solitary confinement impinges upon that goal.” 

SB139: Prohibiting insurance companies from denying treatment for gender dysphoria

A bill that would have prohibited insurers from denying treatment for gender dysphoria – the psychological distress that results from an incongruence between sex assigned at birth and gender identity – did not survive after passing out of the first committee. 

Sen. Melanie Scheible’s (D-Las Vegas) SB139 aimed to require insurance companies, including Medicaid, to cover medically necessary treatment and surgeries for transgender Nevadans. 

The bill was meant to address instances of insurance companies denying coverage for treatment such as hormone replacement therapy and surgeries, despite existing laws and policies prohibiting the denial, exclusion or limitation of medically necessary health care services based on gender identity or expression. 

Advocates said that access to treatment should be considered medically necessary because without it, the mental health of people who have gender dysphoria suffers greatly. 

“When insurers fail to cover medically necessary care, people suffer anxiety, depression, social ostracism, and a higher risk of suicide,” transgender rights advocate Brooke Maylath said during the bill’s only hearing on March 12. “SB139 is designed to send a clear message to the greater healthcare community – discrimination is not acceptable in Nevada."

Although it received a deadline waiver, the measure did not advance after being referred to the Senate Committee on Finance on April 16. The state Public Employees' Benefits Program (PEBP) had submitted a fiscal note for $1 million for the biennium to extend the coverage for treatments. 

SB235: Additional marijuana licenses for unsuccessful applicants

A bill that became a lightning rod for marijuana industry criticism over a proposed amendment aimed at spurring the creation of scores of new dispensaries failed to make it to the legislative finish line.

The measure from Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas), SB235, and a proposed amendment would have offered an alternative path to licensure for marijuana dispensary applicants who were unsuccessful in a 2018 licensing round. In that round, 61 dispensary licenses were issued to just 17 companies even though 127 potential businesses applied.

Those who lost out on the coveted permits pursued a massive lawsuit that ended with a judge saying there were flaws in the state’s process, but that the law did not permit her to order additional licenses as relief. An amendment to Harris’ bill that would have given unsuccessful candidates a path forward was forcefully criticized by the Nevada Dispensary Association, a statewide dispensary trade association whose representatives argued that it would threaten the strength and integrity of the industry.

Opponents also argued that the market could not support a large number of new stores without hurting existing ones; supporters countered with a competing analysis positing that the state could absorb nearly 1,300 new dispensaries.

The Cannabis Compliance Board submitted a fiscal note on the bill saying it would gain at least $610,000 over the biennium as a result of the increase in license renewal fees, and that it would cost an estimated $150,000 to complete a market study to determine demand for the issuance of additional cannabis licenses. 

The bill passed out of a Senate committee, was referred to the Senate Finance committee on April 20, and saw no further action before the end of session.

AB382: Regulating student loan servicers

A sweeping piece of student loan legislation that would have established new regulations on loan servicers in Nevada and would have granted more rights to borrowers was left for dead just a few days before the end of the session after falling one vote short of the two-thirds majority it needed to pass.

The bill was primarily aimed at enacting broad consumer protections through a borrowers’ bill of rights, as well as the licensing and regulation of servicers by the state’s Commissioner of Financial Institutions. 

Assemblywoman Jill Tolles (R-Reno) joined all Democratic Assembly members in voting in favor of the measure; however, some Republican lawmakers expressed concerns about the licensing fees that servicers would be required to pay. Student loan servicers Sallie Mae and Discover also opposed the bill, arguing that it could lead to greater costs for borrowers.

Bill sponsor Assemblyman Howard Watts (D-Las Vegas) said he adopted an amendment before putting the bill up for a vote that was aimed at addressing the concerns brought up by opponents.

“But some of the student lender interests decided to dig in on it. And unfortunately, again, all members of the minority caucus decided to side with them except for Assemblywoman Tolles,” Watts said, “in my opinion, picking those interests over borrowers that are in our state.”

SB462: Republican-backed effort to change redistricting commission

With the state set to handle the redistricting process in a likely special session sometime later this year, Senate Minority Leader James Settelmeyer (R-Minden) introduced an emergency measure, SB462, just two days before the end of the session that would have given Democrats and Republicans equal power in creating a redistricting commission.

That bill received zero action in the Democratic-controlled Legislature. Instead, members of both the Senate and Assembly adopted SCR13, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Cannizzaro and Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D-Las Vegas), creating an interim reapportionment and redistricting committee composed of four Democrats and two Republicans.

Increasing awareness of mental health services

As the COVID-19 pandemic resulted in heightened mental health issues across the country, lawmakers in Nevada took steps to increase access to behavioral health care, typically through federal relief funds — but a pair of bills aimed at increasing awareness of mental health support services failed to advance out of the Legislature before the end of the session.

AB167, sponsored by Assemblyman Glen Leavitt (R-Boulder City), would have required K-12 schools and colleges to put information relating to mental health resources on student ID cards, including the phone number and text messaging option for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. After passing out of the Assembly on a 41-1 vote in late April, the bill did not receive a committee vote in the Senate.

AB315, which passed out of the Assembly unanimously a few days before the end of the session, would have required law enforcement agencies and fire departments to provide officers and firefighters with information about mental health awareness, prevention, mitigation and treatment, and provide two hours of mental health counseling within three months of retirement. The measure, sponsored by Assemblyman P.K. O’Neill (R-Carson City), passed out of a Senate committee on Sunday, but failed to receive a vote on the Senate floor during the final day of the session.

Deadline Day: Banning ‘ghost guns,’ prohibiting cat declawing and bail reform all advance

At times with little debate, state lawmakers worked late into the night on Tuesday to pass more than 140 bills out of their house of origin prior to the Legislature’s second major bill passage deadline.

Lawmakers voted out measures including a tenant’s rights bill limiting application fees, a bill requiring eggs sold in Nevada be cage-free and a measure lowering penalties for youth caught possessing marijuana.

They also approved a contentious measure banning so-called “ghost guns,” after the bill was amended to remove sections giving businesses more rights to prohibit firearms on their property.

In total, lawmakers by Tuesday evening had approved 143 bills and resolutions, including 57 in the Senate and 86 in the Assembly. Legislators worked quickly — only one measure in the Assembly received any debate from lawmakers prior to a vote.

But Tuesday’s deadline is just one of many upcoming hurdles —  lawmakers will only have a few short weeks before the next major deadline to pass bills out of their second committee comes on May 14. 

However, a bill not passing by Tuesday doesn’t necessarily mean it has entered the legislative graveyard — dozens of bills have been granted exemptions from legislative deadlines, either because they have a fiscal effect on the state budget or because they were granted a waiver from those deadlines from legislative leadership.

That includes major election-related bills moving Nevada to an expanded mail-voting system and a measure aimed at moving the state up the presidential primary calendar — both of which were granted exemptions from legislative deadlines and moved to a budget committee on Monday.

Legislators were also busy on Monday, approving more than 40 bills including measures aimed at improving access to birth control, sealing records of evictions that happened during the COVID-19 pandemic, creating a statewide human trafficking victim support plan and shoring up the state’s battered unemployment insurance system. 

Here’s a look at major policies that passed out of floor sessions on Monday and Tuesday.

TUESDAY

Banning ‘ghost guns’

Despite a significant amendment removing language giving casino resorts and other major businesses more legal weight to prohibit firearm possession on their property, members of the Assembly still cast a party-line 26-16 vote to approve Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui’s AB286.

The bill  — which had drawn strong opposition from pro-gun groups including the National Rifle Association — now makes it illegal for a person to possess or sell any unfinished frame or reiever of a firearm, or any fireram not imprinted with a serial number. It’s intended to cut down on so-called “ghost guns,” which gun safety advocates say are used by criminals to obtain weapons that they otherwise wouldn’t be allowed to purchase.

Those arguments didn’t fly with Assembly Republicans, including Assemblyman Jim Wheeler (R-Minden), who said the bill didn’t have any protections for current gun kit owners and would turn them into criminals overnight.

“This bill is nothing but the camel’s nose under the tent, except this time, it's up to the neck,” he said. “This bill is another bite of the apple, and that apple is your Second Amendment rights being taken away, bite by bite.”

Jauregui said removing the portion of the bill empowering businesses to ban guns on premise was not ideal, but the bill’s focus was ghost guns and it was vital to pass the bill by deadline.

“We're still committed to working with stakeholders and my colleagues, because this discussion isn't over,” Jauregui told reporters Tuesday evening. “We have a big responsibility to the thousands and thousands of employees who work on the Strip every single day. They're entitled to a safe workplace.”

The bill now heads to the Senate, but it could coincide with recently announced plans by the Biden administration to also take action to limit the proliferation of so-called “ghost guns.”

Housing protections

Along a party line vote with Republicans in opposition, the Senate passed SB254, a bill that establishes fair housing procedures and strengthens anti-discrimination laws.

Sponsored by Sen. Dina Neal (D-Las Vegas), the bill would authorize the Nevada Housing Division to investigate housing discrimination and prohibit landlords from looking at arrest records of potential tenants.

The measure also prevents landlords from denying applicants because they rely on public assistance or have a disability.

“It is time that Nevada moves into the space where we actually stand behind our words of ‘second chances for citizens’ who have either served their time or who have not been further criminalized within the system and are not currently in jail,” Neal said. “Housing is a fundamental part of our lives.”

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer (R-Reno) said that though he appreciates the intent of the legislation, the bill’s requirement that the attorney general prosecute on behalf of individuals who experience discrimination goes too far.

“It’s just inappropriate and not the right role for the attorney general in the state of Nevada," Kieckhefer said.

Tenant protections

Senators voted on party lines, with Republicans opposed, for a bill that expands tenant protections, including barring landlords from taking an application fee from more than one prospective tenant at a time. SB218 is sponsored by Sen. Julia Ratti (D-Sparks).

It also limits landlords to fees allowed by statute or that are “actual and reasonable,” requires fees be disclosed on the first page of the lease agreement and may not increase fees without 45 days advance notice for rent paid monthly.

Restorative justice before expulsion

Senators voted 16-5 to approve SB354, which prohibits schools from expelling a student without first providing them with an action plan based on restorative justice. The bill defines restorative justice as “nonpunitive intervention and support” meant to improve the student’s behavior and remedy any harm they caused.

It calls for a statewide framework of restorative justice that could include training for school staff on psychology, trauma and chronic stress. The bill also requires the state to recognize in its accountability system schools that reduce their rates of suspension and expulsion.

Five Republicans opposed the bill.

Transparency on food delivery fees

Senators unanimously approved SB320, which requires services such as DoorDash and Uber Eats to clearly disclose fees applied to food orders.

The measure, which is sponsored by Sen. Dina Neal (D-North Las Vegas), was tempered from its original version but still requires conspicuous disclosure of what portions of the price are for the food, taxes, delivery fees and the average commission charged to the restaurant.

It limits commissions to 20 percent plus a credit card processing fee during the COVID-19 state of emergency, unless the restaurant agrees to pay the delivery platform more for services such as marketing.

Bail reform

Members of the Senate voted 17-4 to approve SB369, which amends Nevada’s law on pretrial release by requiring that a court only impose bail or a condition of release if its found to be the “least restrictive means necessary” to protect the safety of the community and ensure the person appears in court. It changes previous law requiring defendants show “good cause” for pretrial release that was struck down by the state Supreme Court in 2019.

Republican Senate Leader James Settelmeyer (R-Minden) said he opposed removing the “good cause” requirement, saying that he was concerned it could lead to more criminals on the street. Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) said it was needed to align the state with the court’s decision and still allowed courts to impose conditions of release on someone who might prove a danger to others.

“I think that this bill strikes a balance in protecting the community and providing some additional safeguards, while at the same time recognizing the Supreme Court's decision in (the 2019) case and aligning our statutes with their constitutional findings in that case,” Cannizzaro said.

HIV laws overhaul

In a unanimous vote, members of the state Senate approved Sen. Dallas Harris’ SB275 — a comprehensive bill aimed at updating the state’s laws on human immunodeficiency virus by treating HIV in the same way as other communicable diseases.

The bill repeals a state law making it a felony for someone who has tested positive for HIV to intentionally, knowingly or willfully engage in conduct that is intended or likely to transmit the disease — putting it in line with how the state treats other diseases such as chlamydia and SARS.

Banning the declawing of cats

A measure generally prohibiting the declawing of cats, except for medically necessary purposes, passed out of the Assembly on a 28-14 vote.

Sponsored by Assemblywoman Susie Martinez (D-Las Vegas), AB209 imposes civil penalties on any person who removes or disables the claws of a cat, as well as sets disciplinary actions that the state Board of Veterinary Medical Examiners can take against a veterinarian who conducts the procedure.

All Assembly Democrats, save Brittney Miller (D-Las Vegas), voted in favor of the measure, with all Republicans. save Melissa Hardy, Heidi Kasama and Jim Wheeler, voting against it.

Allowing college athletes to profit off their likeness

A measure clearing the way for collegiate athletes to profit off their image or likeness passed out of the Assembly on a 34-8 vote.

AB254, sponsored by Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, would prohibit the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) from preventing students from using their likeness, name or image in sponsorships or for other professional services, with certain limits on what kinds of businesses that students can contract with. It also requires the Legislative Committee of Education to conduct an interim study on the issue.

Prohibiting ‘doxing’

Members of the Assembly voted unanimously to approve Rochelle Nguyen’s AB296, which creates the crime of ‘doxing’ — unauthorized sharing of personal identifying information, such as an address, with the intent to cause harm or mental anguish.

The bill as amended authorizes a person to bring a civil action against a person who “doxes” them, and allows a court to issue restraining orders against a person that disseminates that personal information.

Lawsuits over sexual exploitation

Senators voted 18-3 to pass SB203, a bill that removes the statute of limitations for victims of child sexual exploitation to bring lawsuits against the parties involved. Previously, such actions were limited by deadlines, including one provision requiring a lawsuit be initiated within 20 years of a victim turning 18. 

The bill specifies that people are liable for damages if they financially benefit from the exploitation, although a hotel or motel with more than 200 rooms is not considered to have benefited from the rental of a room used in the commission of exploitation.

The three Republicans who voted against the bill raised several concerns, including how accurately a victim would remember a very old crime and why the measure included a 200-room limit. Sponsor Marilyn Dondero Loop responded that there needed to be some sort of room limitation or there would be no bill.

Notaries charging more

AB245, a bill that would allow notaries public to charge more for document preparation services, passed in a 31-11 vote.

Assemblyman Edgar Flores (D-Las Vegas) said the bill was backed by small businesses that wanted the opportunity to make more money. It would double or triple the fees that notaries are allowed to charge for certain services, and create civil penalties for violators — a provision Flores said was meant to curb bad actors in the industry.

The industry can be open to malfeasance in part because of notaries misrepresenting themselves as authorized to process immigration documents because of the way the term “notarios” translates in Latin American countries.

Cage-free eggs

Members of the Assembly voted 27-15 to pass AB399, which requires eggs sold within the state to be housed in cage-free living arrangements by Jan. 1, 2024.

Sponsor Howard Watts (D-Las Vegas) argued during a hearing that demands for efficiency in egg production led to hens living in “pretty horrific conditions” with less square footage than a piece of letter paper. Egg industry officials who testified said consumer demand for cage-free eggs is quickly rising, and several of Nevada’s neighboring states are adopting cage-free requirements.

Assemblyman Glen Leavitt (R-Boulder City) was the lone Republican to support the measure.

Citations, rather than arrests, for minor crimes

Assembly members voted on party lines, with Republicans opposed, for AB440 — a bill that directs police to issue citations in lieu of arresting people over misdemeanors in more situations. The measure does make exceptions for when the matter is a “subsequent” offense, defined as something for which the person has been previously arrested, convicted or cited. 

Multi-parent adoption

A measure allowing multiple parents to adopt a child without removing a parent from a child’s birth certificate passed out of the Assembly on a 34-8 vote.

AB115, sponsored by Rochelle Nguyen (D-Las Vegas), would recognize the parental rights of stepparents and same-sex parents and would allow for children who are born to surrogate parents or who have divorced parents to have more than two names listed on a birth certificate.

Small business advocate

On a 31-11 vote, members of the Assembly advanced a bill that would create an Office of Small Business Advocacy under the purview of the state lieutenant governor.

The bill, AB184, was amended to put a 2023 expiration date on the office and prohibits the lieutenant governor from funding positions in the office from budgeted dollars from the state’s general fund.

MONDAY

Sealing eviction records during COVID

Assembly members cast a party-line 26-16 vote to approve AB141, a bill from Assemblyman Howard Watts (D-Las Vegas) that would require courts to automatically seal eviction case court records for any summary eviction conducted during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The original version of the bill would have also required landlords to give certain long-term tenants additional advance notice before proceeding with a no-cause eviction, but those provisions were removed in an amendment.

Unemployment bill

Senators voted 12-9 to advance SB75, a measure that makes technical changes to the regular unemployment system, such as allowing more flexibility on when claimants are eligible for benefit extensions and assuring that layoffs during the height of the pandemic recession do not count against employers in determining their unemployment tax rate.

Republicans, who want more ambitious changes such as fast-tracking a major overhaul of computer infrastructure and the merging of the regular system with the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program for gig workers and the self-employed, said the bill does not go far enough.

“It's the only bill that DETR brought, and yet it fails to address the bulk of the problems including the structural and technological deficits that have kept thousands of people from getting the benefits they paid for,” said Sen. Keith Pickard (R-Henderson). “I'm amazed that anyone thinks that this is enough.”

Pickard also spoke out against lawmakers’ decision to extend unemployment benefits to school support professionals who work from nine to eleven months a year. Those workers typically aren’t eligible for benefits because they have a reasonable expectation of their job returning after the summertime, although union representatives say a tough economic climate has hurt their summer job prospects.

But those workers will be eligible for unemployment this summer under emergency regulations adopted last week. Republicans say that even with federal funds footing 75 percent of the bill, it could cost districts millions of dollars.

“They were hired for nine months of work. This is a giveaway that I cannot support,” Pickard said.

Lowering barriers to contraception

Members of the Senate unanimously voted to approve SB190, sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas). The bill would allow women to receive birth control through a pharmacy without a doctor’s visit

Cannizzaro introduced similar legislation in 2019, but that bill never made it out of its final committee hearing. 

“Removing access barriers to birth control will lead to better health outcomes for Nevadans who need it,” Cannizzaro tweeted after the bill was voted out of the Senate. “I’m excited to move this bill on to the Assembly!”

If the bill passes, Nevada will become the 13th state to legalize pharmacist-prescribed hormonal contraceptives.

Keeping wage history private

Senators vote 17-4 to pass SB293, which prohibits an employer from seeking out a job candidate’s wage or salary history, or basing pay on a previous salary.

Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) said the measure would help tackle the gender pay gap, ensuring that if a woman’s pay was lower than her male counterparts in her last job, it would not follow her to her next job and perpetuate a disparity.

She said the measure directs employers to base pay on a worker’s experience and qualifications instead of a previous pay scale.

Four Republican senators opposed the bill.

‘Pattern and practice’ investigations of police agencies

Members of the Assembly voted unanimously to approve AB58, a bill sponsored by the attorney general’s office that authorizes the agency to conduct so-called “pattern and practice” investigations into systemic abuse or discrimination committed by law enforcement. 

During a hearing on the bill last month, Attorney General Aaron Ford said the measure was necessary because the federal U.S. Department of Justice — which was given authority to conduct such investigations in 1994 — ceased conducting them in 2017 under former U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions. 

Though the policy may change, Ford said it is important for the state to have the ability to undertake similar investigations.

Jury trials for misdemeanor domestic violence cases

Members of the Assembly voted 32-10 to approve AB42, a bill seeking to implement a Nevada Supreme Court decision requiring jury trials in misdemeanor domestic violence cases that involve the defendant losing the right to have a firearm. 

The bill, which was sponsored by the City of Henderson, attempts to square a simmering implementation issue that arose for local governments after the Nevada Supreme Court’s 2019 decision requiring jury trials for misdemeanor domestic violence cases.

Six Republican Assembly members — Annie Black, Melissa Hardy, Heidi Kasama, Lisa Krasner, Tom Roberts and Jill Tolles —  joined Democrats in supporting the bill.

Mining oversight

Members of the Assembly voted along party lines (26-16) to approve AB148, a bill by Assemblywoman Sarah Peters (D-Reno) that would prohibit the issuance of a mining operation or exploration permit to any person leading a company that has defaulted on obligations related to mining reclamation.

An amendment to the bill refined the definition of a “principal officer” of a company to a “person who has a controlling interest” in a mining company that has defaulted on obligations, and allows that person to receive a permit once past debts are paid. The measure, if approved, would go into effect in 2022.

Hairstyle discrimination

In a 20-1 vote, the Senate passed SB327, which provides protections against discrimination based on hairstyles associated with particular races.

Sponsored by Sen. Dina Neal (D-North Las Vegas), the legislation extends statutory protection to hair texture and protective styles such as braids, locs, twists and knots in the workplace and public schools.

The bill arrives as part of a nationwide movement to end hair discrimination. Nevada is one of roughly thirty states considering adopting protections for hair styles, and at least 10 states, including Washington, California and Colorado, have already passed similar legislation.

“This is something that is new to some of the folks in this chamber, but very real to others who have spent years of their lives trying to make sure that their hair is appropriate, based upon what is often someone else's standards,” said bill co-sponsor Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas).

Sen. Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) was the only senator to vote in opposition.

Paid leave for health reasons and getting vaccine

The Senate passed SB209 by a vote of 19-2 with Sen. Ben Kieckhefer (R-Reno) and Sen. Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) in opposition.

Introduced by Sen. Fabian Donate (D-Las Vegas), the bill would approve the use of state-mandated paid leave for any health reason, including receiving a COVID vaccine. It also requires the Legislative Committee on Health Care to conduct an interim study on the COVID public health crisis.

Kieckhefer said that though he supports paid leave for vaccines, the study did not seem necessary.

“I am … unabashedly pro vaccines,” Kieckhefer said. “However, I think the idea of charging the Legislative Committee on Health Care with the job of conducting an interim study on the state's COVID-19 response is a Herculean task that is most appropriate elsewhere.”

HOA debt collection

Members of the Senate voted 15-6 to pass SB186, a bill requiring collection agencies to file a report on collections related to homeowners’ associations (HOA).

The bill also prohibits collection agencies from collecting debts from a person who owes fees to an HOA if the collection agency is connected at all to that HOA, either through sharing the same owners or affiliates.

Sen. Keith Pickard (R-Henderson) spoke in opposition to the bill, citing increased burdens on HOAs. 

The bill initially required collection agencies to report on the race, ethnicity, gender identity and sexual orientation of people from whom they are collecting, but was replaced with a requirement for the homeowner’s ZIP code. Still, Pickard said that the bill’s history was problematic.

“If we wish to find true equality and treatment, it must begin with race neutral goals that put all people on an even playing field,” Pickard said. “Not simply changing the parameters of the prejudice that moves one ahead at the expense of another.”

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer (R-Reno) and Sen. Joe Hardy (R-Boulder City) joined Democrats in support of the legislation.

Hate crimes

Members of the Senate cast a party-line vote, 12-9, to pass SB166, a bill clarifying that a crime does not need to be committed by someone with different characteristics than the victim to be considered a hate crime.

Sponsored by Sen. Melanie Scheible (D-Las Vegas), the bill specifies that characteristics include, race, color, religion, national origin, physical or mental disability, sexual orientation or gender identity. It also provides that a perpetrator may be punished with an additional penalty if he or she commits a crime based solely on the characteristic of the victim, even if the victim and perpetrator share that characteristic.

Though the measure passed along party-lines, it generated no floor remarks or debate.

Savings accounts for low-income Nevadans

Low-income people could access savings accounts and matching funds that could multiply their deposits up to five fold under SB188, a bill that senators passed unanimously which creates the “Individual Development Account Program.” People living in low-income housing projects, who have enrolled in Medicaid or who are in the foster care system are eligible.

The bill calls for the state treasurer to work with a fiduciary organization that would accept grants and donations, then use them to match funds deposited by account holders, with up to $3,000 per beneficiary per year. The state would also be required to provide financial literacy training to account holders.

“This legislation will aid systems in supporting individuals to develop pathways out of poverty,” wrote Tiffany Tyler-Garner, head of the Children’s Advocacy Alliance, in a letter of support. “Additionally, it establishes statewide infrastructure for fostering financial independence.”

Ratios of students to social workers

School districts in Clark and Washoe counties would have to create plans for achieving better ratios of students to mental health professionals under SB151, which passed the Senate in an 18-3 vote. 

Each year, districts must report to the governor, lawmakers and the Nevada Board of Education their ratio of students to “specialized instructional support personnel” (such as counselors, school psychologists and social workers). The bill also requires the districts to set targets for improvement and describe strategies for recruiting and retaining those staff members.

Sen. Ben Kieckhefer (R-Reno) voted against the bill, saying that the state’s current budget proposal will reduce the amount of funding available to social workers and lead to cuts in the positions even “as their contractual obligations continue to increase.”

“Hopefully, this measure will be able to be implemented with integrity that it needs to ensure that social workers are being funded at a level that is necessary,” he said.

Statewide human trafficking plan

Members of the Assembly voted unanimously to approve AB143, a bill by Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner (R-Reno) that would require creation of a statewide coalition and plan to deliver services to victims of human trafficking.

Krasner said previously that the bill is intended to help the state qualify for federal grants that require formation of a statewide plan for human trafficking victim services. The program would be placed under the Division of Child and Family Services in the state’s Department of Health and Human Services, and includes a requirements that the state publish an online directory of services for victims of human trafficking.

This story was updated at 1:57 p.m. on Wednesday April 21, 2021 to include a quote from Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui on an amendment in the "ghost guns" bill.

Deadline Day: Death penalty abolition, physician aid-in-dying and gun control bills advance

Friday marks the do-or-die moment for hundreds of legislative proposals — bills must pass out of their first committee unless they have a special exemption.

Lawmakers began Friday by holding marathon committee meetings throughout the day on Friday, working to process backlogged bills or cut last-minute deals on controversial legislation.

Proposals that advanced Friday morning include measures repealing the state’s death penalty, allowing operation of cannabis consumption lounges and banning so-called “ghost” guns.

But Friday doesn’t mark the end of all major pending issues — legislative leaders granted special exemptions to a handful of high-profile proposals, including the three mining tax constitutional changes first passed in the 2020 special session, a measure expanding automatic voter registration beyond the DMV and a bill draft request creating “Innovation Zones.”

Lawmakers haven’t crammed all pending bills into Friday meetings. Since Monday, lawmakers have already voted out 155 bills from committees, including major election changes, criminal justice modifications, adding additional marijuana licenses and even increasing fees on marriage licenses. 

But those measures and likely hundreds already passed face another daunting deadline — the first House passage deadline on April 20, just eleven days away.

Here’s a look at major policies that passed out of legislative committees on Thursday. The Nevada Independent will update this story as additional bills are passed out of committee on Friday.

Abolishing the death penalty 

With little comment, members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee voted 9-6 on party lines to advance a bill abolishing the death penalty. All Republicans on the committee opposed the bill.

Friday’s vote pushes the death penalty abolition cause further than ever — Nancy Hart of the Nevada Coalition Against the Death Penalty said such bills have been introduced in 2001, 2003, 2017, 2019, 2021, and sometimes got a committee hearing, but never a committee vote until Friday.

AB395 would turn all existing death sentences into sentences of life in prison without parole. Another death penalty abolition bill in the Senate is more modest, abolishing capital punishment for crimes committed after the law takes effect.

Nevada is one of 24 states that still has the death penalty, although nobody has been executed in Nevada since 2006. The most recent state to end the practice is Virginia, which outlawed capital punishment last month.

“This is a tremendous step forward for sure,” Public Defender Scott Coffee, who is pushing for abolition, told The Nevada Independent. “I think the committee vote today is recognition that Nevada's death penalty is broken beyond repair. A variety of recent events has given the repeal a new sense of urgency,  proving it is not an issue which can be ignored or placed on the back burner.”

Ghost guns and businesses banning guns

In a Friday surprise, members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee voted out AB286 on a party line vote, a hotly contested firearm regulation bill that would ban so-called “ghost guns” and make it easier for businesses to prohibit guns on their property.

The bill was amended to include more specifics on what kinds of signs have to be posted for a business deciding to opt-in to the provisions of the bill, and limits the provisions related to not allowing firearms on premises only to businesses with a non restricted gaming license (casinos).

Several Republican members of the committee asked to delay the vote on the bill, saying they received the amendment only a few minutes before the committee meeting. Several Democrats on the committee indicated that they’d like to see additional changes to the bill.

Physician-aid-in-dying

AB351, a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Edgar Flores (D-Las Vegas) that would allow terminally ill patients to self-administer life-ending medication passed out of the Assembly Committee on Health and Human Services without a recommendation.

According to legislative procedure, a committee may move a bill or resolution forward in the process "without recommendation” if members were unable to reach a conclusion on what they believe the action the Assembly at large should take.

Modeled after Oregon's 1997 Death with Dignity Act, AB351 would authorize a physician to prescribe medication designed to end a patient's life in instances where a patient is at least 18 years of age, has been diagnosed with a terminal illness by at least two doctors, has been given six months or less to live, is a Nevada resident, is making an informed and voluntary decision and is not requesting medication because of coercion.

The bill revived a debate that has emerged in the last three legislative sessions and advanced 7-5 along party lines, with Republicans in opposition.

Marijuana DUIs

Members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee passed a bill that will remove from state law specific numeric quantities of marijuana metabolites in the blood that trigger a DUI. 

While the bill still allows such measurements to be taken, it cannot be the sole evidence used to prove a DUI case. Prosecutors would have to use other indicators of impairment, such as visual observations or field sobriety tests, to make their case.

Proponents of the bill say that the “per se” limits in the law reflect the lowest detectable levels of marijuana in the blood, rather than indicating impairment, and could ensnare someone who consumed cannabis days or weeks earlier but it no longer high because of the way marijuana works through the body differently than alcohol.

The bill, AB400, was amended so that “per se” limits remain in portions of the law dealing with workman’s compensation. Opponents of the bill said that removing such limits could put an employer on the hook in a claim even if an employee who was high on the job caused an accident.

Cannabis consumption lounges

Nevada residents and visitors may soon have places where they can publicly consume marijuana legally after the Assembly Judiciary Committee passed AB341. The bill authorizes cannabis consumption lounges, which are akin to bars for marijuana use.

Supporters framed the bill as a way to bring a diverse new group of entrepreneurs into Nevada’s cannabis industry, whose upper echelons skew white and male, and which has high financial barriers to entry and a strictly capped number of stores.

An amendment brings more specificity to who qualifies as a “social equity applicant” — defined as someone who has been adversely affected by the previous criminalization of cannabis — and that licensing fees can be reduced by up to 75 percent.

It also bans consumption lounges in airports and calls for the lounges to serve “single-use” servings of cannabis rather than larger amounts that would make the lounges de facto dispensaries.

Tenants’ rights bill

Landlords could face more restrictions on the fees they can charge tenants under SB218, a bill sponsored by Sen. Julia Ratti (D-Sparks) that passed the Senate Judiciary Committee on Friday.

A detailed amendment toned down several provisions from the original bill. While the measure initially prohibited landlords from charging any application fees to prospective tenants, the bill now allows landlords to charge one potential tenant or tenant group at a time — a provision aimed at preventing landlords from collecting fees from dozens of housing-hungry people who don’t have a realistic chance of landing the place.

The bill originally barred any add-on fees aside from those allowed in statute, based on testimony that some landlords tacked on microwave fees, refrigerator fees and other added expenses that were unknown to tenants until seeing they owed hundreds of dollars more than their base rent. As amended, the bill limits fees to those that are allowed under statute and those that are “actual and reasonable;” it also requires fees be listed on the first page of the lease before signing.

SB218 also limits landlords from dipping into the security deposit for cleaning if they have already charged a cleaning deposit.

Inmate account garnishment

The Nevada Department of Corrections would be limited in how much it can garnish from inmates’ personal funds under SB22, passed Friday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

The original bill only changed the priority order of where garnished funds go, but an amendment adds language addressing recent heartburn from inmates’ families that the department was diverting up to 80 percent of inmate funds in an attempt to comply with Marsy’s Law — a voter-passed victims’ bill of rights.

Inmate families testified that they sacrifice to send their loved ones money each month to buy products such as lotion and supplemental food, and argued that heavy garnishment passes the burden of restitution to families.

As amended, the bill caps garnishments at 25 percent of contributions an inmate receives, or 50 percent of wages the inmate earns directly. It also calls on prisons to provide twice-yearly statements for free about how much money is in an inmate’s account and what deductions were made.

Committee Chairwoman Melanie Scheible (D-Las Vegas) said the amendment was a compromise between the prisons and inmate advocacy groups. The committee’s attorney said the provisions of the amended bill remain in compliance with Marsy’s Law.

Requiring legislative approval for large regulations becomes study

A bill by Assemblyman Andy Matthews (R-Las Vegas) requiring state lawmakers to approve any proposed regulations with a financial impact estimated north of $10 million was passed out of the Assembly Government Affairs committee on Friday, after it was amended to become an interim study.

The amended version of AB340 would require the interim Legislative Commission to appoint a six-legislator panel aimed at studying the number of regulations that the original bill would have captured and any potential cost associated with studying the economic impact of state regulations.

Annual behavioral health check-ups for police

Members of the Assembly Government Affairs Committee also voted out AB336 on Friday, a bill by Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno (D-North Las Vegas) that requires the state’s police standards board to adopt regulations for annual behavioral health check-ins for law enforcement.

The bill was amended to change language requiring an annual behavioral “healthcare assessment” to an annual “wellness visit,” and changed the effective date of the bill to start in 2023.

Statewide grants office and matching grant funds

The Assembly Government Affairs committee voted along party lines to approve AB445, a bill making various structural changes to the state grants office and creating a new fund for matching grant programs.

The bill transfers the current Office of Grant Procurement, Coordination and Management in the Department of Administration to the governor’s office, and renames it the “Office of Federal Assistance.” It requires that the office create and maintain a state plan for maximizing federal grants and assistance, and creates a grant matching program funded by proceeds from the state’s Abandoned Property Trust Account.

Protecting wage and salary history

The Senate Commerce and Labor Committee passed out a bill sponsored by Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) that would prohibit employers from inquiring about a job applicant’s wage or salary history.

Amendments attached to SB293 included a section allowing anyone who believes they were discriminated against by an inquiry into salary history to request a right-to-sue notice and a requirement for employers to disclose salary range or wage rate to an applicant. 

The amendment also removed a provision stipulating that applicants can voluntarily disclose their wage or salary history, and employers are not prohibited from using the information to determine pay rate.

Tobacco and vapor products

Members of the Assembly Revenue committee voted unanimously to approve Republican Assemblyman Greg Hafen’s AB360, which would require any seller of tobacco or vapor products “utilize age-verification technology at the point of sale” to ensure that any buyers are over the age of 21.

The bill, which was substantially amended from its original version, wouldn’t require age verification for anyone who appears to be over the age of 40 and would impose a $100 civil penalty for violators.

Bill banning declawing cats, requiring cage-free eggs advance

Members of the Assembly Natural Resources Committee voted to advance legislation on Friday that would ban the declawing of cats, and require all eggs sold in Nevada be cage-free starting in 2024.

AB209, sponsored by Assemblywoman Susie Martinez, would generally ban the practice of surgically removing a cat’s claws, unless deemed medically necessary. An amendment to the bill removes a requirement that a licensed veterinarian who declaws a cat provide a written statement to the state veterinary board and impose civil penalties for those that fail to do so.

Members of the committee voted along party lines to approve AB399, which requires any chicken eggs sold in the state come from chickens living in cage-free housing systems, with various civil penalties for farm owners found in violation.

Land grant institutions

The Senate Education Committee passed SB287, sponsored by Sen. Dallis Harris (D-Las Vegas), which would designate UNR, UNLV and the Desert Research Institute as land grant institutions. 

The bill was amended to require that the chancellor of the Nevada System of Higher Education develop a plan to manage the resources of the state land grant institutions and the Board of Regents to approve the plan. The amendment stipulates that the plan be submitted to the Legislative Counsel Bureau and the governor by Feb. 1, 2023. 

Supporters of the bill hailed it as a way to bring more federal dollars and investment to Nevada’s universities, but opponents worry that the bill would reduce UNR’s Cooperative Extension funding, which is a partnership between federal, state and county governments.

If passed, the bill would go into effect on July 1, 2021.

Addressing sexual misconduct in higher education

Democratic Sen. Melanie Scheible’s SB347, a bill aimed at helping victims of sexual misconduct and improving reporting requirements and prevention programming in higher education institutions, also passed out of the Senate Education Committee.

As amended, the bill would authorize the Board of Regents to conduct a sexual misconduct survey every two years. It would also allow the board to require institutions to include trauma-informed, LGBTQ and gender inclusive programming surrounding sexual misconduct and provide annual reporting of sexual misconduct incidents, among other changes.

The bill passed along party lines with Republicans voting in opposition, citing concerns over lack of clarity around terms such as sexual misconduct and sexual violence and advocating for sexual misconduct prevention efforts in early education.

Before he voted to pass the bill through committee, Sen. Fabian Doñate (D-Las Vegas) said that though there are still some kinks to work out, reform is needed.

“Too many times have my friends and classmates been devastated from the treatment of student conduct officials when dealing with their sexual assault case,” he said. “I am supportive of this bill and I hope that any remaining issues [with the bill] can be solved through this process.” 

THURSDAY

Permanent expanded mail-in voting

In a contentious vote, members of the Assembly Legislative Operations and Election Committee voted Thursday to approve AB321, the bill from Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D-Las Vegas) making expanded mail-in voting similar to the 2020 election a permanent feature of Nevada elections going forward.

The measure included several proposed amendments that were previewed during the bill’s first hearing last week, including mandating a minimum number of in-person voting locations, setting deadlines on mail ballots for new voters and allowing for uninterrupted online voter registration all the way through election day.

Assemblyman Glen Leavitt (R-Boulder City) said he was appreciative that the amendment addressed some of the “concerns of constitutions,” but still planned to vote against the bill.

That irked Frierson, who said the amendment was crafted to address concerns from Republicans in the Assembly and that “until recent cycles, (it had) been customary to make concessions and make good bills better and make bills that you don't agree with less bad.”

“If someone's a no, then be a no, and don't list out things that are the problems, if those problems get addressed and it’s still a no,” he said. “I think that AB321 goes a long way in addressing both constituent concerns concerns we received via email and concerns expressed by members of this body.”

Police ticket quotas

Police agencies in Nevada generally maintain that they do not set quotas for tickets or arrests for their officers, although some people in a recent hearing on AB186 said there’s widespread suspicion that police are judged by departments on being prolific ticket-writers.

Democratic Assemblywoman Rochelle Nguyen’s (D-Las Vegas) bill banning quotas passed from the Assembly Government Affairs Committee on Tuesday. Although it still prohibits law enforcement agencies from ordering, requiring or mandating a specific number of citations or arrests, or from considering how much ticket revenue a police officer is generating in a performance revenue, the amended version of the bill now allows agencies to “suggest” a certain number of citations an officer should be making.

Proponents of the bill said police should be spending time on activities in the community that are not punitive. But law enforcement agencies cautioned that if the bill was too stringent, they may not have a way to address officers who are simply not doing their work and are slacking on the job. 

Additional marijuana licenses

Marijuana companies that did not win permits to open a dispensary in a contentious 2018 licensing round initially sought to double their licenses through Democratic Sen. Dallas Harris’ bill SB235. But groups including the Nevada Dispensary Association strongly opposed the concept, saying that the industry — which includes 81 dispensaries — would be destabilized if a proposed amendment took effect and added up to 110 new marijuana stores.

The bill that passed out of the Senate Revenue and Economic Development Committee on Tuesday no longer seeks to grant additional licenses to those who previously did not win them. Instead, it seeks to take steps such as creating a single, streamlined marijuana dispensary license rather than requiring stores to have both a recreational and medical store license.

But committee members raised the concern that creating a consolidated license for marijuana stores would halve the revenue that the state brings in from dispensary licenses. While the bill lives for another day, lawmakers said they had reservations about it and wanted to explore how to avoid a precipitous drop in revenue.

Tiger King bill

Nevadans will be banned from keeping, breeding, importing or selling a dangerous wild animal unless they fall in a certain category such as maintaining a zoo or being a veterinarian under Democratic Sen. James Ohrenschall’s SB344, which passed from the Senate Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday.

The measure, nicknamed the “Tiger King bill” after the Netflix series about tiger collector Joe Exotic, grandfathers in people who already own the animals. People could keep any exotic pets they had as of July 1, 2021. 

An amendment also clarifies that casinos and the film industry would be exempt from the bill’s provisions. Las Vegas entertainers who use live animals in their shows were some of the most prominent opponents of the bill during an earlier hearing.

Marriage licenses

A fee on marriage licenses that supports services for victims of domestic and sexual violence would increase from $25 to $50 under a bill passed Thursday by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

SB177, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Julia Ratti, seeks to shore up funding for victim services that has suffered with the decline of marriages, especially during the pandemic.

Republican Sen. Ira Hansen forcefully opposed the bill, arguing that higher fees would discourage marriage, and cited a study drawing a correlation between marriage and a lower risk of domestic abuse. And Republican Sen. James Settelmeyer asked why federal aid funds are not being used to bolster the services.

Ratti said the marriage certificate funding stream is a stable way to address the issue, rather than the one-shot help that federal funding represents. She also said that putting fees on divorce certificates was not a workable alternative because there are significantly fewer divorces than marriages, and often people don’t have enough money to get a divorce.

Top down voter registration system

Members of the Assembly Legislative Operations and Elections Committee voted to approve AB422 on Thursday, which requires the secretary of state’s office to begin implementing a top-down voter registration system. The bill was amended to push the implementation date back to 2024, and require the secretary of state’s office to provide biannual updates on the project’s progress.

Biden narrowly leads Trump, but major Nevada races too close to call after Election Day

Joe Biden maintains the slimmest of leads in Nevada over President Donald Trump, while the other major congressional, statewide and local races significantly narrowed early Wednesday morning.

Biden and Democratic congressional candidates running in the state’s two competitive House districts — Susie Lee and Steven Horsford — maintain small leads over their Republican opponents but the races remain too close to call, particularly after a late batch of results from Clark County helped Republicans candidates there catch up to their Democrat opponents.

Down the ballot, it appears unlikely that Democrats will have supermajorities in either chamber of the Legislature next year, while a well-funded ballot question to take the Board of Regents out of the state Constitution appears in danger amid strong rural opposition.

More than 1.2 million Nevadans cast a ballot in the general election, although it’s unclear what the total turnout will be as last-minute ballots mailed in or dropped off have not yet been tallied.

Here’s a look at the status of major races on the 2020 ballot after initial results on Election Night:

Presidential:

The presidential race in Nevada remained too close to call Wednesday morning with former Vice President Joe Biden leading over President Donald Trump by a narrow 0.6 percentage points, or 7,647 votes. Hillary Clinton defeated Trump by 2.4 percentage points in the Silver State four years ago.

The presidential election itself also remained up in the air as of early Wednesday morning, with key races in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, Michigan, North Carolina and Georgia still yet to be decided.

Congressional: 

In a pair of the state’s most competitive congressional races, preliminary vote tallies favored incumbent Democrats — though by narrow margins.

In the hotly contested race for Nevada’s 3rd Congressional District in suburban Clark County, incumbent Democrat Susie Lee led Republican challenger Dan Rodimer by 1.5 percentage points, or 3,233 votes.

And in neighboring District 4, incumbent Democrat Steven Horsford led his Republican challenger, former one-term Assemblyman Jim Marchant, by 2.4 points, or a margin of 6,697 votes.

Meanwhile, incumbents in Nevada’s remaining two congressional districts sailed to victory after early returns, with Democratic Rep. Dina Titus securing Las Vegas’ District 1 by a 26.6 point margin, and Republican Rep. Mark Amodei winning Northern Nevada’s District 2 by a 15.8 margin as of early Wednesday morning.

Legislature:

Democratic dreams of holding super-majorities in both the Assembly and Senate appeared on thin ice after initial results were posted late Tuesday, with no clear decision yet in many of the swing districts that will determine super-majority control.

Two Las Vegas-area state Senate districts remained too close to call early Wednesday, with Democratic Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro and Democratic candidate Kristee Watson trailing their Republican opponents — April Becker and Carrie Buck, respectively. In Reno, incumbent Republican Sen. Heidi Gansert posted a notable lead over her Democratic opponent, Wendy Jauregui-Jackins, in a seat necessary for Democrats to take to capture a two-thirds majority in the state Senate.

In the Assembly, Democrats appeared to be in danger of losing three seats — two in Southern Nevada, Districts 4 and 37, and one in Northern Nevada, District 31 — while leading narrowly in a fourth competitive seat in Assembly District 29. Republicans are likely to keep control of the fifth competitive seat, Assembly District 2, where Republican Heidi Kasama is leading by a sizable margin over Democrat Radhika Kunnel.

Democrats can only afford to lose one of the four competitive seats they currently hold in the Assembly in order to retain their supermajority.

Other less competitive races that remained too close to call early Wednesday morning include Assembly Districts 21, 35 and 41.

Candidates who have won their races include:

  • Dina Neal (D) in SD4
  • Dallas Harris (D) in SD11
  • Pete Goicoechea (R) in SD19
  • Brittney Miller (D) in AD5
  • Shondra Summers-Armstrong (D) in AD6
  • Cameron "C.H." Miller (D) in AD7
  • Jason Frierson (D) in AD8
  • Steve Yeager (D) in AD9
  • Bea Duran (D) in AD11
  • Susie Martinez (D) in AD12
  • Maggie Carlton (D) in AD14
  • Howard Watts (D) in AD15
  • Cecilia Gonzalez (D) in AD16
  • Clara Thomas (D) in AD17
  • Venicia Considine (D) in AD18
  • Glen Leavitt (R) in AD23
  • Lisa Krasner (R) in AD26
  • Teresa Benitez-Thompson (D) in AD27
  • Edgar Flores (D) in AD28
  • Natha Anderson (D) in AD30
  • Alexis Hansen (R) in AD32
  • Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod (D) in AD34
  • Jim Wheeler (R) in AD39
  • PK O’Neill (R) in AD40
  • Alexander Assefa (D) in AD42

The 11 Assembly and three Senate candidates who were the only person running in their districts are automatically assumed to have won their races.

Local Government: 

Three Democrats emerged victorious in Clark County Commission races, but one contest was too close to call after initial results.

Clark County Commissioner Michael Naft, a Democrat, retained his District A seat, snagging 52 percent of the votes in initial returns. His opponent, Republican Michael Thomas, captured 48 percent. 

Clark County Commission Chair Marilyn Kirkpatrick, a Democrat, also coasted to re-election, with 53 percent of early returns in the District B race. Her challenger, Republican Kevin Williams, garnered 44 percent of early returns. 

Democrat William McCurdy, meanwhile, handily won the District D race, replacing term-limited Commissioner Lawrence Weekly. McCurdy captured 77 percent of the early returns, while his opponent, David Washington, who’s not affiliated with a political party, only earned 23 percent. 

The District C race for Clark County Commission was neck-and-neck based on early returns. Republican Stavros Anthony received 50.8 percent of early returns, while Democrat Ross Miller grabbed 49.2 percent. The winner in this race will replace term-limited Commissioner Larry Brown.

Up north, Republican incumbent Vaughn Hartung won the District 4 race for the Washoe County Commission. Hartung grabbed 58 percent of the early returns, while his competitor, Marie Baker, snagged 42 percent. 

In the other Washoe County Commission race — for District 1 — Democrat Alexis Hill defeated Republican incumbent Marsha Berkbigler in an election upset. Hill emerged with 55 percent of the early returns, while Berkbigler received 45 percent.

Three Reno City Council members were re-elected to the board, but one race remains too close to call. Reno City Councilman Oscar Delgado won the Ward 3 race, capturing about 63 percent of the early returns. His opponent, Rudy Leon, won about 37 percent of the vote. 

Councilwoman Neoma Jardon was re-elected to represent Ward 5, winning about 54 percent of the early returns, while her opponent, Darla Fink, received about 46 percent of the vote. 

Councilman Devon Reese defeated his opponent, Eddie Lorton, to continue serving in the council’s at-large seat. Reese snagged roughly 55 percent of the early returns, while Lorton received about 45 percent.

But the Ward 1 race remains close. Reno City Councilwoman Jenny Brekhus retained a slight 104-vote lead in a closely-watched race against real estate agent J.D. Drakulich. 

Supreme Court

District Court Judge Doug Herndon defeated Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo in a race for an open Nevada Supreme Court seat, capturing about 47 percent of the early returns. Fumo received about 36 percent of the vote. “None of these Candidates” made up about 18 percent of the early returns.

Herndon was running to replace Associate Chief Justice Mark Gibbons, who announced last year that he would not run for re-election. 

Fumo, who has practiced law since 1996 and served as an adjunct professor at the UNLV Boyd School of Law, won the support of progressives. Herndon, a former deputy district attorney who has sat on the bench since 2005, received support from a PAC primarily funded by Sheldon Adelson.

Ballot Questions

The campaign for Question 1, a measure that would remove the Board of Regents of the Nevada System of Higher Education from the Nevada Constitution, remained too close to call after initial returns.

However, all four other ballot measures have prevailed. They include:

  • Question 2, which amends the Nevada Constitution to permit same-sex marriage
  • Question 3, which restructures the Board of Pardons
  • Question 4, which enshrines a voter’s bill of rights in the Nevada Constitution
  • Question 6, which raises the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standards calling for greater use of renewable energy

Identity theft victims, elected officials call for more answers on Nevada unemployment fraud

When Don Vetter opened up his mail on Friday, he was surprised to find a letter inside from the Nevada Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) indicating he was unemployed, his business had closed and a benefits claim was moving forward in his name.

As the only employee working at a public relations business that remains very much operational, Vetter believes he’s a victim of fraud that officials have said they suspect is behind more than 100,000 claims filed in Nevada so far. He wonders who has his Social Security number, and wonders if the state is having more cybersecurity issues than it’s letting on.

“I feel like I'm on the edge of possibly being majorly hacked,” he said in an interview. 

Nevada officials emphasized in a briefing last week that there’s no known data breach spurring a rash of suspected fraudulent claims. But if not that, the public — including prominent elected officials — say they are in the dark about what is.

Democratic members of the Nevada congressional delegation wrote a letter this week to Labor Secretary Eugene Scalia to ask whether the agency is aware of the extent of coordinated fraud targeting unemployment systems, what it’s doing about it at federal and state levels and whether the agency will publicly acknowledge the threat. 

Nevada Republican Assembly members also wrote to the federal agency on Wednesday asking for an investigation of what’s gone wrong at the state agency, which has cited the sensitivity of ongoing investigations as the reason for not divulging details about fraud.

“The current administration and DETR have failed to communicate to lawmakers and the public what steps, if any, they are taking to fix ongoing problems,” wrote Republican Assembly Leader Robin Titus. “We urge the [Office of the Inspector General] to take swift action to identify the problems and determine the solutions needed to get Nevada families the help they require immediately.”  

Vetter has hit roadblocks so far in his attempts to report the fraud, and the letter gave him only until Aug. 4 to contest the claim. A state website to report fraud was pulling up an error message — even after he unplugged and restarted his router — and there was nobody to answer his phone call nor a system on which to leave a voicemail message.

He’s resorted to drafting a letter to DETR that he planned to send by certified mail. If there is a breach, he just wants to know. 

“I'm going, ‘Hey, shouldn't business owners know about this? If you're having trouble, shouldn't you let us know?’” he said. “The first thing they have to do is maybe admit there's a problem.”

The extent of the problem

It’s unclear how many claims DETR has confirmed to be fraudulent, although declarations made in court offer some perspective. Employment Security Division chief Kimberly Gaa said earlier this summer that she suspected there are more than 100,000 illegitimate filings in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (gig worker) program, and she told a court-appointed special master as of early July that more than 5,000 employers and identity fraud victims had reported suspected fraud to the agency.

Hundreds of claims have been made on behalf of government employees who still have their jobs. Clark County says 155 claims were filed in the name of its workers as of Friday, while the City of Las Vegas said more than 50 have been filed so far, the City of North Las Vegas reported 74, and the City of Henderson said it had about 100 just in the month of March.

Northern Nevada jurisdictions have reported similar problems, with close to 600 among four local government employers, according to reporting from the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Republican Assemblyman Glen Leavitt, who works for the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, said his human resources department emailed him about a fraudulent claim filed on his behalf while he was at the special session earlier this month. The department advised him to notify the Social Security Administration and the IRS, and to file a police report about the incident. 

“If they could use my identity to do something like this government process that’s supposed to have safeguards and vetting … then what else could they do?” he said.

He said DETR shouldn’t rush things when millions of dollars are at stake.

“I don't think that they've done a good job of vetting. I guess to their defense, they didn't have a whole lot of time to do it, and this is kind of unprecedented,” he said. “But I'm of the opinion —  slow down. Don't speed up, slow down, make sure the process is good and clean and works good before you just jump right into it.”

Meanwhile, the agency faces major pressure from exasperated claimants who say their applications have been wrongly flagged as fraud.

Gaa said in a Facebook Live town hall with Rep. Susie Lee on Wednesday that she doesn’t want to tip off fraudsters to the techniques the agency is using to weed out legitimate claims from fraudulent ones. But she said she expects movement in the next two weeks to make clear calls on which of the more than 332,000 PUA initial claims are phony and which are eligible.

“We're hoping that is part of that next 10 to 15 days of work with the vendor in particular that we can do some decisions ... so it'll be very clear, and we clear out those that we believe are truly fraudulent,” she said.

Delegation calls for action

A letter announced Thursday and signed by the five Nevada Democrats in Congress asked Scalia for a briefing on the issue of unemployment fraud by Aug. 14. The missive characterized DETR and other state unemployment agencies’ success in paying out claims as “mixed” and attributed the surge in fraudulent claims as a significant factor in keeping them from operating more efficiently. 

“This appears to be a coordinated, intentional effort by a group of criminal actors to game the system and undermine our unemployment offices’ ability to quickly and accurately process legitimate eligible claims,” the letter said. 

The claims DETR flagged for fraud were recognized in some cases because of their high volume, IP addresses outside of Nevada and even outside of the country, and the unrealistic speed with which the applications were completed and submitted.

However the letter noted that some of those flagged claims are likely legitimate and that DETR is slowed in determining which is which by the volume of fraudulent claims. 

“In Nevada, it takes nearly 1 hour for an adjudicator to accurately process a single claim,” the letter said. “Every minute wasted responding to persistent and organized criminal attacks adds to the delay of unemployment agencies’ abilities to process legitimate claims.”

DETR’s phone lines have also been tied up by robocalls designed to burden the system, the letter continued.

In addition to a briefing, the letter asked a series of questions including whether the DOL would publicly acknowledge the threat and whether the DOL would issue guidance on what state agencies could do. 

Worried about consequences

Susan Phillip, whose small data contracting and electrical contracting businesses never shut during the pandemic, noticed problems on Friday when letters showed up indicating claims were made on behalf of her and her husband. She said when she reached someone at DETR, they indicated the payments had already gone out to the fraudsters.

Phillip has a hard time believing that there wasn’t an internal breach because the claims were filed under her company’s corporate name, not the “dba” name that shows up publicly. DETR is the only place where she files that information online; the combination of information is not submitted together when she files with the IRS or for the modified business (payroll) tax.

She’s concerned that the IRS will tax her on money she supposedly received in unemployment because of the false claims. And she fears that by the time the issue is fully resolved, perhaps months from now, she will already be on the hook for a higher state unemployment tax rate based on the fraudulent claims made against her employer account. 

“Employees all think, oh, that's the government paying money. No, we employers have paid into that account to be able to pay them when they're unemployed,” she said. 

She thinks pressure in public and on social media about unemployment claims backlogs may have spurred hasty action by DETR. 

“I understand they panicked, because people were screaming for money, but I don't think people realize how much fraud there really is in unemployment, even before this all happened,” she said. “You can't panic, you have to slow down, even if it seems like the wrong thing to do and try to make the best decision rather than an impulse decision.”

Organized Crime Targeting Unemployment to DOL by Michelle Rindels on Scribd

Legislative candidates raised $1.8 million over last three months, campaign finance reports show

The Nevada Legislature Building

It’s been more than a month since races were called in Nevada’s June primary election, but campaign finance reports showing who helped legislative candidates win their contests have only just been published.

Under a state law approved in 2019 and taking effect this election cycle, local and state candidates for elected office are required to file reports detailing their contributions and political spending every three months, similar to requirements for federal candidates. 

But unlike federal candidates, who are required to disclose their donors and political spending ahead of primary and general elections, no such requirement was made in Nevada law for statewide or legislative candidates — leaving voters and the public in the dark on the last two months of fundraising before the state’s primary election.

Reports were required to be submitted to the secretary of state’s office on Wednesday, July 15, and cover the period between April 1 and June 30.

In total, legislative candidates reported raising more than $1.8 million and spending $1.9 million during that three-month reporting period. Candidates ended the period with a combined $4.7 million in the bank, led by Democratic legislative leaders Sen. Nicole Cannizzaro ($692,000) and Speaker Jason Frierson ($442,900).

Although only one incumbent legislative candidate lost re-election in the primary (Republican Chris Edwards), the fundraising reports shine a light into the breadth and scope of political fundraising that occurred ahead of some of the state’s most hard-fought primary contents.

Campaign finance reports also provide an inside look into what races each political party thinks will be the most competitive come November, as well as a sense of how much influence certain groups, businesses or other politically powerful interests may have come the 2021 legislative session.

Democrats currently control 29 of 42 seats in the Assembly and 13 of 21 seats in the Senate. A seat flipped in the Senate would give the party a two-thirds majority in both legislative houses.

Fundraising totals reported on Wednesday are significant for another reason: it marks the last time for several weeks that lawmakers will be able to fundraise because of blackout rules around the ongoing special legislative session. State law prohibits any legislator from collecting campaign contributions during a special session and for at least 15 days afterwards — meaning many incumbents in tough races will be at a temporary disadvantage while their opponents can continue fundraising.

Here’s a look at how the fundraising battle played out in some of the state's top legislative primaries, and the state of play in competitive districts a few months before the November general election.

COMPETITIVE PRIMARIES

Senate District 7 

Former Nevada State Democratic Party Chair Roberta Lange claimed a narrow victory of 132 votes over Democratic Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel and, with no general election opponents, will take the seat, which covers parts of eastern Las Vegas and Henderson.

Lange, who was endorsed by the Nevada State Democratic Caucus, trailed far behind Spiegel in spending and fundraising in the first quarter but dominated in both areas in the second quarter, spending $136,000 and raising $66,000, $5,000 of which came from an in-kind donation of a poll from Nevada State Democrats. 

Her long list of donors included several Democratic senators, including $5,000 each from Cannizzaro's campaign and PACs connected to Mo Denis, Yvanna Cancela and Joyce Woodhouse. Other top donors included $5,000 from the Nevada Hispanic Leadership Fund and $5,000 from Citizens for Justice PAC, a PAC formed to combat the influence of big business and the insurance industry in politics.

The majority of her spending went to advertising. She also spent more than $18,000 on polling and gave $2,500 to Cannizzaro's campaign.

Lange ended the second quarter with just $2,600 in cash on hand, more than $139,000 less than Spiegel's war chest, and will join the Legislature in 2021. 

Assembly District 2

In a Republican primary saturated with candidates, former Nevada REALTORS president Heidi Kasama emerged victorious, with 47.9 percent of the vote. To represent the Southern Nevada district, Kasama will go toe-to-toe with Democrat Radhika “RPK” Kunnel, a law school student and former cancer biology professor.

During the three-month fundraising period in the second quarter, Kasama reported raising $16,385 and spending about $57,000 on expenses related to advertising, consultants and other costs. She ended the second quarter with about $63,600 in cash-on-hand, largely supported by $56,000 she gave her campaign in the first quarter.

Kasama’s top contributions included $3,000 from Republican Assemblyman Glen Leavitt’s campaign fund, $2,500 from Republican Assemblywoman Jill Tolles’s campaign, $1,000 from Assemblyman Tom Roberts’ campaign and $1,000 from the Business Leaders for Ethical Government PAC, which also contributed to Sen. Julia Ratti in 2018.

Kunnel’s contribution totals for the second quarter are much lower than the donations Kasama received. During the three-month donation period, Kunnel received $5,518 in contributions, $2,000 of which are demarcated as in-kind donations. She also received a $900 donation from former U.S. Sen. Harry Reid’s campaign fund.

The 2 percentage point Republican voter registration advantage in the district indicates Kasama could have the advantage.

Assembly District 4

Democratic Assemblywoman Connie Munk ran unopposed in the primary and is set to face former GOP Assemblyman Richard McArthur in the northwest Las Vegas Valley Assembly district’s general election. 

Munk, who eked out a narrow victory against McArthur in 2018 with a 120-vote margin out of nearly 30,000 votes cast, reported raising $18,154 during the second quarter, with about $280 in in-kind donations. 

Her largest contribution was $3,000 from the Citizens for Justice PAC (trial lawyers). She reported spending about $2,800 on mostly advertising and some office expenses, ending the second quarter with more than $87,000 cash on hand.

Fundraising for McArthur lagged behind Munk for the first two quarters. McArthur reported $700 in contributions during the second quarter, spending roughly $12,500 on expenses related to advertising and ending the second quarter with about $15,500 cash on hand.

McArthur defeated Donnie Gibson, the owner of a construction and equipment rental company, in the primary by securing 51.2 percent of votes to Gibson’s 48.9. That comes in spite of Gibson outspending him by more than $43,000 in the first quarter and almost $83,000 in the second quarter.

McArthur served three non-consecutive terms in the Assembly, including two terms between 2008 and 2012 and one term from 2016 to 2018. In a district where Democrats outnumber Republicans by less than 1 percentage point, the race between Munk and McArthur could be close.

Assembly District 19

Republican Chris Edwards was the only lawmaker to lose in a primary election this cycle, after being outraised in the most recent fundraising quarter by opponent and Mesquite City Councilwoman Annie Black.

Black, who easily defeated Edwards in the primary election with 61 percent of the vote, reported raising more than $67,700 during the three-month fundraising period, including $9,000 in personal loans, $5,000 in in-kind contributions from a graphics company and nearly $6,000 in contributions under $100. She reported spending roughly $30,700, including repayment of loans, and ended the period with about $27,900 in cash on hand.

Her top donors included several family members, the holding company of Planet 13 marijuana dispensary in Las Vegas, the Nevada REALTORS PAC and a PAC run by Las Vegas City Councilwoman Michele Fiore, a former legislative colleague of Edwards who once famously told him to “sit your ass down” on the Assembly floor.

Edwards reported raising $17,800, including sizable sums from Assembly Republicans Robin Titus, Al Kramer, Glen Leavitt and a PAC affiliated with Tom Roberts. He reported spending just over $28,300 and ended the period with $7,100 in cash on hand.

As no Democrats or other candidates filed to run in the race, Black will automatically be elected to the Legislature at the general election.

TOP 2020 GENERAL ELECTION RACES

Assembly District 29

Democratic incumbent Lesley Cohen will face Steven DeLisle, a dentist with several offices in Southern Nevada, in November. Cohen represented the Henderson Assembly district, a swing district, from 2012 to 2014 and lost her re-election bid to Stephen Silberkraus before reclaiming the seat in 2016.

Cohen leads DeLisle in fundraising and cash on hand at the end of the second quarter. Her $17,500 raised was boosted with a $5,000 contribution from Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton's campaign and donations from unions, including $1,500 from the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees union, and several PACS connected to firefighters in Nevada.

After spending $1,900 mostly on office expenses, she ended the period with more than $83,000 in available cash.

DeLisle, who took 63 percent of the vote in his Republican primary, raised $11,300 this period. His biggest donor was the conservative Keystone Corporation PAC with a $5,000 donation. He also received $1,000 from the Las Vegas Chamber of Commerce and $500 from Republican Assemblywoman Alexis Hansen, who represents part of Washoe County and several rural counties. 

DeLisle spent nearly $18,000 more than Cohen in the second quarter on a mix of advertising, consultants and office expenses. He has nearly $55,000 in available cash.

Assembly District 37

In one of the swingiest Assembly seats this election cycle, the Democratic incumbent Shea Backus is squaring off against Republican challenger Andy Matthews, former president of the conservative Nevada Policy Research Institute. 

Backus won the seat from Republican Assemblyman Jim Marchant by 135 votes in 2018, and Matthews beat out the three other Republicans in the primary election by carrying 49 percent of the vote.

During the second quarter, Matthews reported raising $39,182. His largest donations came in three $5,000 contributions — one from Assemblywoman Jill Tolles’ campaign, another from William Brady, owner of hospitality industry supplier Brady Industries, and the third from Keystone Corporation, a PAC supporting Nevada conservatives. 

Matthews spent more than $113,000 on expenses related to travel, advertising, consultants and office supplies, ending the second quarter with a cash-on-hand balance of $40,457. 

Though Matthews’ spending far outstripped that of any other candidate in the district, Backus has a higher cash-on-hand fund of $136,421 heading into the general election. During the second quarter she reported receiving $28,496 in contributions with top donations amounting to $8,000 from Citizens for Justice PAC, $2,500 from Southwest Gas and another $2,500 from the International Union of Operating Engineers, a union of heavy equipment operators.

Backus’ expenses for the second quarter amounted to $4,600, which went toward advertising and office expenses.

Senate District 5

There are three candidates on the ballot for the general election in Senate District 5, which includes portions of Henderson and southeastern Las Vegas. The district is currently represented by Democrat Joyce Woodhouse, who cannot seek re-election because of term limits.

Democratic candidate Kristee Watson led contributions in the district this period, reporting donations of $53,303, while Republican Carrie Buck reported $34,202 and Libertarian Tim Hagan reported none. All three candidates ran unopposed in their June primaries. 

Watson, the program facilitator for literacy nonprofit Spread the Word Nevada, saw major contributions from the Women’s Empowerment PAC, AFSCME, the Nevada Service Employees Union and Citizens for Justice. She also received $2,500 from the Committee to Elect Sen. Dallas Harris. 

Watson reported only $740 in spending and a cash on hand balance of just over $169,000. Buck has a lower reported cash on hand balance at $95,519, and the Republican candidate has been spending far more, reporting $12,386 during the same period, with nearly $12,000 of that going towards consulting.

Buck received a $10,000 contribution from the Keystone Corporation in April and $5,000 from the campaign of Republican Sen. Ben Kieckhefer. She has also received large donations from the PAC Nevadans for Integrity in Politics and Associated General Contractors.

Hagan has reported $0 in spending and $0 cash on hand.

Senate District 6

Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro narrowly won her first bid for office in 2016, and appears headed to another close contest against Republican attorney April Becker in one of the most important legislative races on the ballot.

Cannizzaro raised more dollars during the fundraising period than any other candidate — $114,000 — and ended June with more than $692,000 in cash on hand, with reported spending less than $8,800.

Her top donors included 13 entities giving $5,000, including many labor groups; AFL-CIO, AFSCME, Nevada Service Employees Union, and firefighter unions in North Las Vegas and Henderson. She also received $5,000 contributions from the Nevada REALTORS PAC, Eglet Adams law firm, the leadership PAC of Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto, and the Majority 2020 PAC (which is run by Cannizzaro).

Her largest reported spending was a $5,000 contribution to Democratic state Senate candidate Roberta Lange.

On the Republican side, Becker reported raising nearly $51,700 and spending close to $58,000 during the reporting period, ending with nearly $150,000 in the bank. 

Her top contributions including $10,000 from the conservative Keystone Corporation, and $5,000 each from Republican Sen. Ben Kieckhefer’s campaign and a construction company owned by former casino executive William Richardson. 

Senate District 15

Republican Sen. Heidi Gansert emerged as one of the top fundraisers of the cycle, reporting nearly $79,000 in contributions and sitting on the biggest pile of campaign cash of any legislative Republican ($271,000) in her first re-election bid for this Reno-area district. 

Her top donors included $10,000 each from the company operating the Stratosphere and a PAC operated by former Lieutenant Gov. Mark Hutchison, as well as $5,000 from Reno Assemblywoman Jill Tolles and $2,500 from her own PAC (NV First).

She reported spending just over $74,000 during the fundraising period, which primarily went to consultant and advertising expenses.

But Democrats have endorsed and rallied around Wendy Jauregui-Jackins, a county appraiser and the sister of Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, who both easily beat back a primary challenge in June and reported raising more than $72,000 (including $13,000 in in-kind contributions) during the fundraising cycle.

Her biggest donors included $10,000 from the federal Teamsters PAC, $5,000 each from AFSCME and labor-backed Nevada Republic Alliance, as well as donations from other Democratic elected officials and affiliated PACs; Joyce Woodhouse, Marilyn Dondero-Loop, Dallas Harris, Yvanna Cancela, Melanie Schieble, Attorney General Aaron Ford and even U.S. Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto’s federal leadership PAC.

Jauregui-Jackins reported only $4,500 in spending and has $117,500 in cash on hand.

Senate District 18

Republican incumbent Scott Hammond will compete against Democratic challenger Liz Becker in November in an effort to maintain his Senate District 18 seat. Hammond has held the seat, which represents the northwestern portion of Las Vegas, since 2012. 

Hammond has reported contributions of $25,000 in the second period of 2020 including $5,000 from the Keystone Corporation, and $2,000 each from District 22 Assemblyman Keith Pickard, the Nevada REALTORS PAC, Enterprise Holdings Inc PAC and Cox Communications. Hammond has reported $69,394 in spending, mostly on consulting and special event costs. He has a reported cash on hand of $23,383.

Becker, who dominated the Democratic primary with 88 percent of the vote, is a former teacher and environmental scientist who previously worked with Southern Nevada Water Authority. Becker has reported raising $23,501 during the three-month period including $5,000 from AFSCME, who also endorsed the candidate in her primary. 

Becker reported spending far lower than her opponent at $1,918.13 in the same period, with the majority going towards office expenses. While her contributions for the period were lower, Becker’s reported total cash on hand is higher than her opponents at $30,268.14.

Budget bill passes Assembly with bipartisan support with amendment allocating $50 million toward K-12 ‘alternative intensive instruction’

The Assembly approved an omnibus budget bill a second time Sunday morning, this time with an amendment allocating tens of millions of dollars in federal coronavirus relief funding toward boosting alternative education strategies during the pandemic, winning over several Republican lawmakers who opposed the proposal 15 hours earlier.

Republican lawmakers had been skeptical of the Democrats’ budget plan, which passed on party lines, 29-13, in the Assembly on Saturday night, saying that it didn’t go far enough toward restoring proposed cuts to some of the state’s K-12 education programs. With the new amendment, the budget bill, AB3, now allocates $50 million in federal CARES Act funding toward boosting alternative education programs, including distance learning.

The proposal passed 36-6, with Republican Assembly members John Hambrick, Alexis Hansen, Melissa Hardy, Glen Leavitt, Tom Roberts, Robin Titus and Jill Tolles joining Democrats in support of the proposal. The Assembly reconsidered the previous night’s vote in order to pass the measure.

Titus, who said Saturday that the legislation revealed “skewed priorities” before voting against it, thanked Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson for bringing forward the amendment on Sunday.

“I think what we see with this particular amendment is that there is indeed monies out there, which we've been saying all along, there's money,” Titus said. “Thank you for finding this money and thank you for prioritizing kids.”

But not all Republican lawmakers were won over by the amendment. Assemblyman Chris Edwards, who voted against the bill, said he wasn’t “comfortable” with the finer points of how the money would be spent.

“It's just come up today,” Edwards said. I just want to make sure that taxpayers’ dollars are spent wisely and that we do our job to make sure that happens.”

Frierson hinted at the amendment early Sunday morning, hours after the Assembly passed the budget implementation bill. The Senate was expected to take up the legislation late Saturday or early Sunday but delayed its hearing — and wrapping up the final business of the session — to wait for the amendment.

“We were distracted by a commitment to an amendment and a vote in the Senate that didn’t happen, and so it’s time for us to get back to business and get back to what the plan was before that commitment was made,” Frierson said on the floor, referring to federal coronavirus aid to states.

The $50 million dollars represents about a fifth of the more than $250 million of the state’s unallocated CARES Act dollars. Those federal dollars are restricted to costs incurred by the COVID-19 pandemic and generally restricted in use.

The amendment transfers $50 million in federal CARES Act dollars to a state budget account overseen by the state superintendent and establish a grant program for K-12 schools to create “alternative intensive instruction,” including distance learning, specifically targeting students “likely to develop the largest deficits in educational attainment as a result of the loss of in-person intensive instruction.”

Those students include:

  • Elementary school students who “exhibit a deficiency in the subject area of reading,” including those who would be affected by the Ready by Grade 3 literacy program
  • English Language Learners
  • Students eligible for free or reduced-price lunch
  • Students who score at or below the 25th percentile on testing proficiency, already set in state law
  • Students who attend a public school that is rated at or below the 10th percentile of lowest performing schools

Alternative intensive instruction may include providing internet connectivity to students and other programs to “mitigate deficits” caused by distance learning.

Both school districts and charter schools will be eligible for grants through the program, which will be awarded on a per-pupil basis. The funds would be limited to expenses incurred between March 1 and December 30.

The amendment notes that the money is not to be used to finance ongoing expenditures of the Department of Education or the grant recipients, settle disputes between school districts and unions or boost administrator or teacher salaries. Recipients of the grants will be required to account for the money separately from other funding that does into the school district or charter school.

The Clark County Education Association said in a tweet Sunday morning that the teacher’s union appreciates the amendment “to get $50m in resources for education programs for our most disadvantaged students.”

The Senate is expected to take up the budget bill sometime Saturday afternoon. Senators are slated to gavel in at 1 p.m.

Read the amendment below: