170 bills clear legislative hurdles on deadline day
Lawmakers worked late into the night Friday to get 170 bills passed out of their second house by the midnight deadline.
Bills that survived included measures to extend the payroll tax rate instead of letting it reduce, move municipal elections to even years and raise the minimum age for marriage.
But several bills died, including a major water rights measure, and some were heavily amended, including a bill that previously required police publicly report more about how many immigrants they turn over to ICE.
Here’s a look at the highlights from Friday:
BILLS THAT LIVED
AB538: Modified Business Tax rate extension
One day after it was first heard, a bill that would nix a scheduled decrease in the state’s modified business, or payroll, tax rate and generate about $100 million over the next two years passed out of the Assembly on party lines, 27-12, on Friday. Democrats, who have a two-thirds majority in the Assembly but are one vote shy in the Senate, are advancing the bill even though there are questions about whether they can enact the tax without two-thirds support.
The proposal is considered key to Gov. Steve Sisolak’s budget, though recent cuts to the budget may make the MBT money less necessary.
Republicans have raised concerns generally that a scheduled decrease in the payroll tax rate was specifically built into a 2015 tax package in the event that certain taxes overperformed and that removing it goes against the original intent of that bill.
“In 2015 when the Commerce Tax was passed I rose in opposition to it because I feared what we’re about to do was going to actually happen,” Republican Assemblyman Chris Edwards said on the floor. “By taking away this trigger I think we are betraying the trust that people put, especially the business community, when they supported this tax in 2015.”
SB475: Reduced role of test scores in teacher evaluations
This bill, which passed the Assembly 35-4, would reduce the role that student academic growth plays in teacher evaluations. Instead of accounting for 40 percent of a teacher’s rating, it would account for 15 percent.
It also requires administrators who evaluate teachers to account for instances when a teacher’s class exceeds the recommended student-teacher ratio. And the bill calls for an outside study on the efficacy of the state’s teacher evaluation system.
Four Republicans voted against the measure.
AB50: Municipal elections in even-numbered years
Elections in Ely, Fallon, Boulder City, Caliente, Henderson, Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Yerington will now be aligned with normally scheduled elections in even-numbered years, under a bill approved on an 18-3 vote in the Senate.
AB50, which is backed by the secretary of state’s office, requires those jurisdictions begin holding their municipal elections in even-numbered years starting in 2022, and includes provisions for those elected in 2017 or 2019 to stay in office for another year in order to align with the bill.
AB376: Local law enforcement and federal immigration reporting
After adopting an amendment that gutted most of Democratic Assemblywoman Selena Torres’s AB376, members of the Senate still voted on party-lines to approve the bill.
Initially, the measure would have required local law enforcement agencies to report how many undocumented people were transferred to the custody of a federal immigration agency after being detained by a local agency and for what crimes those people were initially arrested for.
But a last-minute amendment adopted Friday by senators ahead of the vote removed nearly all language from the bill, and now only requires local law enforcement officials to disclose the reasons behind their questioning if they ask a prisoner about their immigration status.
SB544: Patient Protection Commission
On a unanimous vote, members of the Senate approved a bill creating a statewide Patient Protection Commission, an entity championed by Gov. Steve Sisolak and charged with conducting a thorough review of the Nevada’s overall health-care system.
The bill creates an 11-member commission composed of industry representatives and patient advocates appointed by the governor, charged with conducting a holistic review of health care issues in the state including prescription drug costs and health care access. It’ll be tasked with submitting twice-a-year reports and recommendations, and will be allowed to issue two bill draft requests in legislative sessions.
AB421: Construction defect lawsuit changes
Members of the Senate voted unanimously to approve this bill making a host of changes to the state’s laws on construction defect litigation, after several Republican senators credited Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro for finding compromise on a bill that passed on party-lines out of the Assembly.
The bill extends from six to 10 years after home construction in which a defect lawsuit related to construction can be brought, and for an indefinite amount of time if the defect was intentional or fraudulently concealed. It also adds limited circumstances in which a common-interest community can file a construction defect lawsuit.
Republican Sen. Ira Hansen, who as an assemblyman championed a bill in 2015 that severely limited construction defect lawsuits, credited Cannizzaro for working behind the scenes to reach a compromise on the bill that was palatable for all sides.
“It could have been frankly a disaster for the entire construction industry, for contractors like myself,” he said. “It’s still a dramatic improvement from where it once was.
Hansen initially announced he would vote against the bill, but changed his vote on the floor to make it a unanimous vote.
AB139: Banning child marriage
A last-minute amendment lowering the minimum age for marriage to 17 — with parental consent and District Court approval — survived Friday’s deadline and was approved by the Senate on a 15-4 vote.
The bill, sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Shannon Bilbrary-Axelrod, removes language making the minimum age to marry 18 and instead allows minors over the age of 17 to marry, as long as a court finds “clear and convincing evidence” that both individuals trying to marry have high-school degrees and live in the state, and it requires the court to consider the age difference, the emotional and intellectual maturity of the minor and the need to marry before the minor turns 18.
AB81: Department of Indigent Defense Services
Lawmakers voted 27-12 on party lines to pass this bill. The measure creates a Department of Indigent Defense Services to replace the Nevada Right to Counsel Commission, which is set to expire this summer. The bill creates an accompanying board to oversee an executive director and will help establish minimum standards for indigent defense services, such as guidelines on how many cases individual attorneys should handle.
It would also exercise oversight over county public defender offices.
The bill includes a $15 million appropriation.
SB538: Office for New Americans
Assembly members voted 29-10 to pass SB538, with Republican Assembly members Jill Tolles and Tom Roberts joining Democrats in support.
The bill enshrines one of Gov. Steve Sisolak’s top legislative priorities — creating a statewide office devoted to providing information and services to immigrants.
The bill, which is funded by nearly $400,000 in Sisolak’s budget over the next two years, creates the office that is charged with advising other state entities and agencies on how certain policies affect immigrants, as well as setting up a website with information on how immigrants can obtain occupational licenses.
SB94: Family planning
The Assembly unanimously passed this bill, sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Julia Ratti, that clarifies that state dollars allocated toward family planning services can be used to pay for services offered by community health nurses, who are the main family planning providers in rural Nevada. The bill also prohibits the state or any entity that receives a family planning grant from the state from discriminating against any provider of family planning services in any manner.
The bill cleared the Senate unanimously last month.
SB410: Faraday tax credits need to be approved by the Interim Finance Committee
The Assembly voted to unanimously approve SB410, sponsored by Republican state Sen. Ben Kieckhefer, which would add an additional step for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development to approve $38 million in initial transferable tax credits and $7.6 million in recurring transferable tax credits for any company or business that spends at least $1 billion on capital expenditures or construction on a business in the state of Nevada by requiring approval of the Interim Finance Committee before the tax credits can be issued. The bill had initially proposed getting rid of the tax credits entirely.
The tax credits were approved during a special session of the Legislature in 2015 to draw electric car manufacturer Faraday Future to the state. The company later decided not to open a factory in Nevada amid ongoing financial issues.
AB140: Child custody protection
Members of the Senate voted to approve a bill that prohibits courts from discriminating against persons who are legally blind, deaf or have a physical disability in child welfare, protection or other similar proceedings.
The bill was approved unanimously by the Senate after adoption of a late amendment clarifying that a court cannot discriminate against a person in child custody or protection matters if they have a medical marijuana card.
SB430: Expands ability to use medical marijuana
Assembly members voted 31-8 to pass SB430, which would add certain medical conditions to the list of conditions under which a patient is allowed to obtain a medical marijuana card. Medical conditions in the bill include anxiety disorders, autism spectrum disorders, an autoimmune disease, anorexia, opioid dependence or addiction, a neuropathic condition or any condition related to the human immunodeficiency virus. The bill also lowers the threshold from “severe nausea” to just “nausea.”
Although Nevada allows all adults to buy marijuana, proponents say it’s important to expand the medical eligibility to show producers that there’s a market for medical products and because the cards allow patients — who tend to consume more than recreational customers — exemptions from certain taxes.
Republican Assemblywoman Robin Titus was among those opposing the bill, saying she thinks it’s an attempt to avoid taxes.
SB452: Changes to absentee ballots
The Assembly voted on party lines, 27-12, to approve a measure that moves up certain deadlines for third-party groups that distribute absentee ballot request forms.
Under the bill, third-party groups would be required to provide notification at least 28 days in advance, rather than the 14 days currently required, to the county or city clerk of their intent to distribute forms to request an absentee ballot and the first date on which those forms will be distributed. The bill also prohibits such groups from mailing forms to registered voters any later than 35 days before the election.
The bill passed the Senate 16-5 last month, with Republican Sens. Ben Kieckhefer, Keith Pickard and Heidi Gansert joining Democrats in support.
The Assembly voted unanimously to approve SB481, which would place additional restrictions on association health plans and short-term limited duration plans. They also unanimously approved SB482, which directs the state to apply for a federal innovation waiver to allow it to explore other options to stabilize Nevada’s individual health insurance market.
SB252: Residential confinement for older offenders
All Assembly members except Republican Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner voted to advance this bill to allow for the early release of elderly prisoners under certain circumstances.
The bill would allow the director of the state prison system to assign any offender over the age of 65 who is incarcerated for crimes that are not violent, sexual, a DUI or vehicular homicide and who have served either at least eight consecutive years in the custody of the Department of Corrections or at least half of his or her sentence be released to residential confinement, whichever occurs earlier. It passed the Senate on a 19-2 vote last month.
SB447: Implementing Question 4
The Assembly voted unanimously to approve SB447, which enacts a ballot measure approved by voters in 2018 exempting certain durable medical equipment, oxygen delivery equipment and mobility enhancing equipment from the state’s sales tax. The bill also cleared the Senate unanimously earlier this month.
AB125: Cash bail reform
Assembly members voted along party lines to approve a bill significantly overhauling the use of cash bail in pretrial release.
Sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Dina Neal, AB125 would create a “rebuttable presumption” in law that individuals arrested for certain crimes should be released without any conditions, and sets forth guidelines for judges to consider conditions for pretrial release, with cash bail as the last available option. It also attempts to standardize bail proceedings by requiring courts hold custody release hearings within 48 hours to determine an individual’s pretrial release.
SB48: Diesel fuel taxes
The Assembly voted 29-10 to approve a bill that would allow all counties in the state to impose a 5 cent tax per gallon of diesel fuel. Currently, only Clark and Washoe County are allowed to impose special diesel fuel taxes. This bill would allow all other counties to impose the 5 cent tax if two-thirds of the county commission or a majority of voters approved.
Counties would be able to use the money to repair roads or for highway truck parking. The measure was backed by a coalition of rural counties, including Carson City, Lyon, Storey and Douglas.
Republican Assemblymen Al Kramer and Chris Edwards joined Democrats in supporting the legislation. The bill passed the Senate 17-4 last month.
AB132: Prohibits denial of employment over marijuana
Most private businesses would no longer be able to deny employment to a prospective employee if he or she tests positive for marijuana during an initial screening under a bill voted out of the Senate on Friday.
The bill, AB132, was approved on a party-line 12-8 vote and would largely prohibit employers from denying employment based on testing positive for marijuana, except for firefighters, emergency medical technicians, drivers or any position that could “adversely affect the safety of others.” The bill does not apply to employees under a collective bargaining agreement or any position funded by a federal grant, and employers are still allowed to prohibit employees from using marijuana as a condition of employment.
The bill passed out of the Assembly on a 33-8 vote on April 23.
AB301: Reporting of deaths in county jails
Senators voted unanimously to approve this bill by Democratic Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson requiring more reporting on deaths in county jails.
The bill requires sheriffs to report each death in a county jail to a county commission, submit reports and give biannual presentation to the commission on aggregate data of deaths in county or city operated jails during a public meeting.
The bill was also amended in the Senate to remove a population cap on a law requiring the Clark County sheriff to arrange for the coordination of mental health care for prisoners both behind bars and once they are released from prison. The bill applies that provision to all counties in the state, regardless of population.
AB393: Protections for government workers during shutdowns
Members of the Senate voted unanimously to approve a bill by Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson that institutes numerous protections for tribal, federal and state workers in the event of a government shutdown.
The bill would prohibit any foreclosure on property owned by a federal, state or tribal worker during a shutdown and until 90 days after a shutdown ends. It would further require any court hearing a civil case related to a foreclosure to determine whether the worker’s ability to pay on a mortgage loan was materially affected by the shutdown, but allows a landlord to petition a court for an alternative resolution.
The measure also would prohibit summary evictions or automobile repossession of a government worker during a shutdown and makes rental agreements with such workers unenforceable during the length of a shutdown. Instead, the bill puts rent payments essentially on hold until 30 days after the end of the shutdown, at which point the government worker only has to make one normally scheduled rent payment that covers the entire shutdown period. The bill passed unanimously out of the Assembly on April 23.
AB400: Prohibit tax incentive double-dipping
Senators voted unanimously to approve a bill by Democratic Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson that puts limits on the ability of businesses to receive tax abatements from the state’s Local School Support Tax (which is based on sales tax).
The bill, as amended in the Senate, prohibits expanding businesses from applying for abatements from the school support tax, while still allowing them to apply for abatements related to property, payroll or other taxes. It also prohibits companies from changing their names to “double dip” and receive incentives more than once. The bill passed the Assembly on a 35-6 vote on April 23.
SB197: Banning the sale of cosmetics tested on animals
Democratic state Sen. Melanie Scheible’s bill banning the sale and import of any cosmetic item or product tested on an animal was approved by the Assembly 31-8 shortly before midnight on Friday.
The proposal would prohibit the sale or import of any cosmetic item that was tested on an animal on or after Jan. 1, 2020, but wouldn’t apply to products tested on animals prior to that date. It also would have created several other exemptions for testing required to comply with federal, state or foreign regulatory requirements. Manufacturers who violate the provisions would be liable for a civil penalty of $2,500 for the first violation, $5,000 for subsequent violations, and punitive damages of no more than $10,000.
It passed the Senate 14-7 last month.
BILLS IN LIMBO
AB539: Office of the county counsel
This bill, backed by Clark County, would allow counties to create an Office of the County Counsel that would assume many of the non-criminal duties typically assigned to the district attorney. That includes reviewing contracts that come before the board of commissioners and drafting ordinances and amendments.
Democratic Assemblyman Edgar Flores, chairman of the Government Affairs Committee, said the bill reflects the fact that elected district attorneys and their clients don’t always agree. District attorneys oppose the bill.
The measure was granted a waiver and therefore is exempt from legislative deadlines.
BILLS THAT DIED
SB398: Payment in lieu of affordable housing
Sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Julia Ratti, this bill would have allowed county commissioners or city council members to accept a payment in lieu of meeting an affordable housing requirement imposed by a municipality. It also would have specified that such payments must be accounted for separately and used only for the development or redevelopment of affordable housing.
The bill, however, failed to move from the chief clerk’s desk by Friday evening. Ratti said she had “no idea” why the bill did not come up for a vote and wasn’t sure if the concept would advance further, either through amendments or other last-minute legislative maneuverings.
“We’ll all find out at midnight,” she said late Thursday.
SB127: Increasing the number of Clark County Commissioners
Democratic state Sen. David Parks’s bill to increase the number of Clark County Commission members from seven to nine by the 2022 election did not move from the chief clerk’s desk by the end of the day on Friday.
The costs of paying for staff and new county commissioners was anticipated to cost more than $3.8 million to implement over the next two fiscal years, according to a fiscal note submitted by Clark County. The proposal passed the Senate unanimously in March.
AB30: Water bill
At the last minute, Gov. Steve Sisolak’s office decided to pull a controversial water bill opponents argued would bolster the Las Vegas pipeline. Instead, the Department of Conservation and Natural Resources, which had backed the bill, plans to instead convene a working group to discuss the policy at the center of the bill before the next session.
The bill failed to be removed from the secretary’s desk by the end of the day on Friday.
AB113: Taxation of firearms
A bill that aimed to fix a tax issue vexing licensed firearms dealers facilitating out-of-state gun sales failed to advance in the Senate Friday, after Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro said the measure did not have the votes to advance.
Sponsored by Republican Assemblywoman Robin Titus, AB113 would have clarified state law to consider out-of-state gun sales facilitated through a federally licensed firearms dealers did not count against them for sales or other tax purposes.
Although the bill passed out of the Assembly on a unanimous vote, Cannizzaro said there weren’t enough votes in the Senate Democratic Caucus to move the bill forward.