Casualties of deadline day include proposals to allow physician-assisted death, require appointed judges
Bills that would have allowed terminally ill patients to obtain drugs to end their lives, prevented immigration holds without probable cause and provided for appointed rather than elected judges met their end on Tuesday.
But far more pieces of legislation will live to see another day, with the Senate and Assembly voting on deadline day to forward more than 150 bills onto the other house for consideration. Those include measures that would expand voting rights for people with convictions, ban bump stocks that make regular firearms mimic the speed of automatic guns and move all municipal elections to even-numbered years when turnout is generally higher.
Other notable bills that will move forward would make it a misdemeanor to negligently store firearms within the reach of children, substantially overhaul recall elections and expand tenant rights.
Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson said 91 percent of bills passed in the Assembly were bipartisan and 64 percent were unanimous. He also said the Assembly processing more than 100 bills and finishing its work a few hours before midnight on deadline day was an example of the Legislature not copying the partisan gridlock of Washington, D.C.
He pushed back on suggestions that Democrats are tempering their agenda to preserve their majority and protect members that could be vulnerable to Republican challengers.
"Nothing's going to change in the next two years that in all likelihood will impact our ability to have the same impact, but we have to be responsible with our position here and I have members that have a 0.5 percent registration advantage and those that have over 30 percent registration advantage and I am shepherding all of them," he told reporters in a press conference on Wednesday. "And I have a responsibility with the minority caucus to make sure that they can go back home and talk about what they got going as well. No one gets everything."
Republican Assembly Leader Jim Wheeler said he hasn't had much interaction with Democratic leadership thus far, but said he's talked with Frierson and hopes that "core" team meetings between leaders in the two parties will begin soon, possibly next week. He said his assessment of the trajectory of the session so far is that it's "fairly liberal."
"We're seeing a lot of the California stuff," he told reporters on Wednesday. "So let's see what happens and what actually gets through and what is political posturing because some people just play to their base with bills, and we've all done it, and those bills just don't make it through."
Lawmakers will have several more weeks to pass bills out of their second committee before the next deadline of May 17. But attention will likely shift next week to the projections of the Economic Forum, which will let legislators know how much revenue the state can expect over the next two years.
For a full list of what bills lived and died, check out The Nevada Independent’s bill tracker. Some of the highlights:
SB165: Physician aid-in-dying
A bill that would have allowed terminally ill patients to take drugs to end their lives as prescribed by their doctors failed to advance out of the Senate on Tuesday. According to a source with knowledge of conversations surrounding the legislation, Republican state Sen. Pete Goicoechea, who backed a similar bill last session that passed 11-10, was a last-minute “no.” Another “no” vote would've come from Democratic state Sen. Marcia Washington who was appointed last month to fill the seat of former state Sen. Kelvin Atkinson, who had supported the proposal in 2017.
Had it passed, patients diagnosed with an incurable condition that would have resulted in death within six months would have been allowed to self-administer a controlled substance as prescribed by a physician to end his or her life.
Supporters acknowledged the bill’s end in a statement Tuesday evening. Ashley Cardenas, the policy and programs director for Compassion and Choices, said her organization was “deeply disappointed” by the bill’s failure to advance but said that they are confident that the policy proposal would “soon prevail.”
“Courageous people living with terminal illnesses have testified and urged lawmakers to pass the bill so they could have the option of medical aid in dying if and when no other treatment provides relief for their unbearable suffering,” Cardenas said. “Hundreds more have visited their legislators, submitted testimony and made their voices heard in support of medical aid in dying.”
Democratic bill sponsor David Parks had expressed some uncertainty on Monday whether there were enough votes for the bill to advance. Democratic Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro said Tuesday evening that she personally supported the bill, but didn’t want to bring it up for a vote once it became apparent that the votes to pass it weren’t there.
“I don’t think that the chamber was ready to vote that out at this point,” she said. “For those who are truly terminally ill, and if you’ve ever been through a really terrible illness with someone, I think you’d see a lot of value in the legislation, but we just didn’t get there today.”
Cannizzaro said she didn’t anticipate the concept being revived in another bill before the end of the legislative session.
AB281: Immigration holds
A bill that would have prevented law enforcement agencies from putting an immigration hold on a person in a jail, unless there’s probable cause that the person committed a crime, has died in the Assembly.
Democratic Assemblyman Edgar Flores, the bill sponsor, said the measure got caught up in a false narrative. Republican opponents had launched a social media campaign in recent days arguing it would create a “sanctuary state.”
“While something can be good policy, I think everybody needs to be comfortable with the idea that the bill could be used to create a fake narrative,” he said.
Asked if he had a role in ensuring the bill died, Republican leader Wheeler said Wednesday "I'm not going to talk about that."
Flores said he’s going to continue working on the concept until the end of session. Law enforcement agencies say they are already adhering to the tenets of the bill, but Flores had hoped to codify the practice.
“Unfortunately we have to kind of take people’s word for it. That’s my biggest concern,” he said.
On Wednesday, Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson said the bill would not have made substantial changes. Asked whether the measure's potential impact on the outcome of the 2020 election was a consideration in letting it die, he said political ramifications are always a risk but members should not be legislating based on the next election.
"I think that AB281 reflected a practice in Clark County and it wasn't changing anything with respect to the largest law enforcement agency in the state," Frierson said. "I think that there were some messages about 281 that were not accurate that caused a stir, but I think we have an obligation to focus on policies that actually impact people's lives and make adjustments in our state law."
Assembly Majority Floor Leader Teresa Benitez-Thompson pointed to the passage of a bills sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Selena Torres that would allow occupational licenses for people regardless of their immigration status, and another that would require law enforcement report more data about who local jails are transferring to the custody of ICE and why they were in jail in the first place.
"We're not letting up at all. We're just saying, let's get a handle on what's accurate," Benitez-Thompson said. "Let's make sure that we know what's going on and what the practices are from county to county, so that's data we're going to be collecting."
SB438: Conviction by confession
Also failing to advance Tuesday was SB438, a bill that would allow confessions for certain crimes to be enough to sustain a conviction without other evidence.
The bill would have made a confession enough to sustain a conviction in cases of driving under the influence, domestic violence, some sex crimes and elder abuse. It also would have required a court to assess what other evidence was available and the circumstances of the confession before convicting the person.
But the bill was placed on the secretary’s desk — a type of legislative limbo — last Friday and was never taken off. Cannizzaro, who presented the bill, said she was disappointed that it failed to advance but hinted it may come up in future sessions.
“I think there is some value in that piece of legislation, and we did try to narrowly tailor it so it would only apply to certain circumstances as indicated in the bill, and I’m hopeful we’ll continue to work on that issue as I think there’s some value there,” she said.
AJR9: Appointed judges, not elected
In a last-minute move, a proposed constitutional amendment that would have required judges to be appointed rather than elected was sent to its death on the chief clerk’s desk without a vote. The measure was passed out of committee earlier this month with a proposed amendment but without a recommendation that the full Assembly pass it.
Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, in a brief interview after the Assembly floor session, wouldn’t say more than that there “wasn’t the support” for the legislation.
“At my spot, I asked for a headcount,” Frierson said. “There wasn't the support.”
At a press conference on Wednesday, Assembly leaders offered more details about the discussions caucus members had before leaders decided not to bring the measure up for a vote.
"The conversation was really rich and ... it was varied, and there was no one member that really shared the same concerns," Benitez-Thompson said. "Everyone kind of had different thoughts on it and everyone was coming at it from a different angle."
Frierson said a similar measure proposing a new way of selecting judges, known as the "Modified Missouri Plan," was put before Nevada voters in 1988 and rejected.
"This was a measure that was drafted by members of the appellate court about a different way that might be more palatable," Frierson said. "But there wasn't support."
SB192: Requirements for health insurance and minimum wage
Members of the Senate voted unanimously to approve this bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Pat Spearman, which increases the requirements for employers who pay a lower minimum wage after offering health insurance to their employees.
The bill requires employers to offer at least one health benefit plan, as opposed to a health insurance plan, that includes coverage of services such as hospitalization, maternity and newborn care, prescription drugs and other health care services typically required to be covered under the Affordable Care Act.
AB431: Expanded voting rights for people with convictions
Lawmakers voted 32-9 for AB431, which maintains the right to vote for someone who was convicted but did not go to prison and immediately restores the right to vote for someone who has been released from prison.
All Republicans voted against the bill except Assembly members Al Kramer, Lisa Krasner and Jill Tolles.
Tolles said in a speech that she had previously opposed the bill, but had spent the last few weeks researching the history of voter disenfranchisement and racism in the post-Civil War era.
“Today we pride ourselves on helping those reintegrate into society and with them, we celebrate their successes,” she said. “We tell them we are ready for them to work, pay taxes and return to society, but we prevent them from participating in what is the foundation for any civil society — the right to participate in a free and fair democratic election.”
She said on the centennial of women earning the right to vote, she had also reflected on how the right to vote has affected her life, and urged her colleagues to support the measure in pursuit “of a more perfect union.”
AB400: Sales tax abatements for economic development
Lawmakers voted 35-6 for AB400, which prevents the state from abating the local school support portion of the sales tax in any incentive package it offers businesses going forward. The bill would still allow abatements of the modified business tax, property tax and the remaining portion of the sales tax.
Democratic Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson said some of the hardest decisions she’s had to make as a lawmaker have been voting on deals that divert money from schools.
“I feel compelled that it is time for us to rethink an end to that practice,” she said.
Republican Assemblywoman Melissa Hardy, however, called the move “a dramatic step backward for our state.” She said businesses aren’t just taking incentives from the state in a zero-sum game, but are offering jobs and otherwise enriching the state in return.
“We should be growing and supporting businesses, not sending messages that we no longer support them,” she said. “Now is not the time to take away the toolsets that will help us weather the next economic downturn.”
AB291: Banning bump stocks
Lawmakers voted 28-13 for this bill, which prevents devices such as bump stocks that make regular firearms mimic the speed of automatic guns. It also preserves the state’s supremacy on many issues regarding gun regulation, but allows county commissioners to enact ordinances that are more strict than state law.
“I would urge you, for the 58 people who lost their lives on Oct. 1 2017, to support Assembly Bill 291,” said Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui, who survived the mass shooting and sponsored the bill.
Republicans and Democrat Skip Daly opposed the measure. GOP Assemblyman Tom Roberts said he supported the bump stock element, but not the so-called pre-emption clause.
“I fear that the Legislature giving up pre-emption to counties could leave us with a checkerboard of laws throughout the state that could put at risk individuals traveling inter-county that may not be aware of stark differences in the law between counties,” he said, noting that Nevada counties have vastly different perspectives on gun rights issues.
AB166: The crime of advancing prostitution
Lawmakers voted 39-2 to advance AB166, which creates the crime of advancing prostitution and is aimed at curbing businesses such as massage parlors that operate as fronts for prostitution.
One of the two bill opponents was Democratic Assemblywoman Selena Torres.
“I’m concerned that the piece of legislation further criminalizes prostitution and it’s already criminalized in Nevada,” Torres said after the vote. “If we’re going to target prostitution, we also need to target the needs and [help] these sex workers.”
AB153: Storing firearms in reach of children
Democratic Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo’s proposal to make it a misdemeanor to “negligently” store or leave a firearm at a location if there is a “substantial risk” a child can access it passed the Assembly 32-9. Republican Assembly members Glen Leavitt, Tom Roberts and Jill Tolles joined Democrats in supporting the legislation.
“I believe a misdemeanor is an appropriate response to negligence that could result in the deaths of innocent children,” Tolles said in a speech on the Assembly floor.
Among the opponents was Republican Assemblyman John Ellison, who said gun owners recognize they have the responsibility to safely store weapons, but also need quick access to the guns at times.
“Protection of our children from any violence is our top priority,” he said, but the bill “has the potential to create confusion among gun owners and law enforcement.”
AB132: Employing people who test positive for marijuana
This bill prevents employers — with certain exceptions — from denying a job to an applicant on the grounds that they tested positive for marijuana. It still allows the employer to condition employment on the person not using recreational marijuana while carrying out the job.
AB132 passed in a 33-8 vote, with most Republicans opposed.
AB50: Municipal elections during even years
Members of the Assembly voted 36-5 to forward a proposal onto the Senate that would call for all municipal elections to be held in the fall of even-numbered years. The bill would effectively end off-year elections for some cities, including Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson. The bill aims to address the low voter turnout of municipal elections held in odd-numbered years.
Republican Assembly members Chris Edwards, John Ellison, Alexis Hansen, Robin Titus, and Jim Wheeler opposed the legislation.
SB256: Rights for tenants
In one of the closest votes of the deadline day, senators voted 11-10 to advance a bill by Democratic Sen. Yvanna Cancela instating new rights and protections for renters. Democrats Nicole Cannizzaro and Marilyn Dondero Loop joined Republicans in opposing the bill.
The bill would allow tenants to request a final inspection of their dwelling within 21 days of moving out, and to receive a statement of any deficiencies. It also requires landlords give tenants who have been evicted or locked out a “reasonable opportunity” within five days to gather personal items.
Cancela also noted the bill would exclude late fees from the definition of rent, which she said would be an important step toward ensuring landlords are unable to assess arbitrary late fees as a way to kick tenants out of their dwelling.
“Today, because late fees are calculated as part of rent, landlords are able to use late fees to jack up rent prices, and the only recourse a tenant has is to be put into an eviction process,” she said. “So more often than not, late fees are stacked up and used to evict tenants.”
Republicans, who opposed the bill en masse, raised concerns that the bill would be overly burdensome toward landlords and give non paying tenants the ability to avoid eviction for even longer. Republican Senate Leader James Settelmeyer said he was concerned the expedited court processes and deadlines in the bill would make renting more difficult.
“I look at this bill overall, and I believe it will have the effect of raising rent, raising deposits,” he said. “It’s going to make things more unaffordable for those individuals who are trying to rent.”
Cannizzaro said she voted against the bill because of similar concerns with how the bill affected landlords, but said she was supportive of many concepts in the legislation.
“I just don’t know if I was ready to be in full support of the bill, but it’s obviously going to go to the Assembly and I’m hopeful it will be a good piece of legislation at the end of the day,” she said.
SB448: Affordable housing tax credits
Members of the Senate voted unanimously to approve SB448, which creates a pilot program allocating $10 million annually for four years toward transferable tax credits for affordable housing.
The bill sets forth a procedure for developers to apply for the affordable housing tax credits, and allows the Housing Division — the state entity charged with managing the program — to allocate more than $10 million a year to ensure “maximum development” of affordable housing, as long as it decreases by an equal amount the amount of tax credits available the following year.
SB450: Major overhauls to recall elections
In a split vote, members of the Senate voted 16-5 to approve a bill adding substantial new barriers and restrictions on recall elections — just days after the Nevada Supreme Court put the final nail in the coffin on the politically motivated 2017 effort to recall two Democratic state senators.
The bill requires any individual or group backing a recall to first require upfront payment for the expected cost of signature verification and eliminates random sampling for local offices in favor of a full signature verification (statewide recalls retain a 25 percent random sampling for verification). It also allows any individual who signed a recall petition to remove their name from the list at any point prior to full verification of signatures, and creates a felony charge for knowingly or negligently obtaining false signatures on recall petitions.
Democratic Sen. James Ohrenschall directly cited the recent recall efforts against Democratic Sens. Joyce Woodhouse and Nicole Cannizzaro, saying the bill would go a long way toward curbing “abuses” possible under current law.
“There’s nothing in SB450 that abridges people’s constitutional rights under Article 2, Section 9 (of the Nevada Constitution),” he said. “What Senate Bill 450 does is prevent abuse of the process, protects our taxpayers, and makes sure if a recall is going to go forward it’s going to be legitimate.”
But several Republican senators, including Settelmeyer, said aspects of the bill went too far towards making it difficult to qualify a recall election.
“I just look at this as a bridge too far,” he said. “A little bit too aggressive in trying to curb the aspects of a recall. I feel like there are aspects I agree with, but I believe the bill goes too far.”
The bill was supported by all 13 Democratic senators and Republican Senators Heidi Gansert, Keith Pickard and Ben Kieckhefer.
SB474: Increasing required driving time for teenage drivers
In a party-line 13-8 vote, members of the Senate also approved a bill that increases the amount of driving time required before teenage drivers under 18 can obtain a license.
The bill increases required driving hours for 16 and 17 year olds from 50 to 75 hours of supervised driving time prior to obtaining a driver’s license, with at least 15 of the hours during darkness. The bill wouldn’t apply to any teenagers between 16 and 17 before the effective date of the bill, which is October 1, 2019.
AB317: Shifting trauma center designation to the state
The Assembly voted 37-4 to advance a proposal that would shift the responsibility of deciding whether to add an additional trauma center from the local level to the state. The legislation also calls for every off campus facility that a hospital operates to have a unique national provider identifier number.
Republican Assemblymen Chris Edwards, John Ellison, Gregory Hafen and Jim Wheeler voted against the bill.
AB443: Removal of the expiration of More Cops
The 2005 More Cops tax, which allows for an extra sales tax amount devoted to hiring more police officers, is one step closer to being made permanent by having its expiration date removed by the Legislature. The Assembly voted 33-8 to forward the measure onto the Senate on Tuesday.
A handful of Republicans — including Assembly members John Ellison, Alexis Hansen, Al Kramer, Robin Titus, and Jim Wheeler — opposed the bill as did Democratic Assemblywomen Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod, Maggie Carlton and Connie Munk. In a brief speech on the floor, Carlton noted that she has opposed the tax since its inception more than a decade ago when she was serving in the state Senate and that she was continuing to do so with this vote.
“My concern is basically that it is not distributed and shared fairly,” Carlton said, noting that it does not flow to the Nevada Highway Patrol. “It strictly goes to the officers. It does not go to the support staff or any of the other folks that work within the agency.”
AB469: Surprise emergency room billing fix
Republican Assemblywoman Robin Titus summed up the surprise emergency room billing legislation, which aims to protect patients who wind up in an emergency room outside of their health insurance company’s network through no fault of their own, on the Assembly floor this way: “Nobody likes this bill, which makes it a great bill.”
The legislation, which passed the Assembly 38-3, is the result of months of work between health insurance companies, hospitals and providers on how to take the patient out the middle of surprise emergency room bills. The bill holds the patient harmless by requiring that they are only responsible to pay the copay, coinsurance or deductible that they would have been required to pay to an in-network provider.
The legislation then lays out a process for how insurance companies reimburse out-of-network hospitals and other providers.
Only three Republican Assembly members — Jim Wheeler, John Ellison and Chris Edwards — voted against the bill.
Frierson highlighted it as one of the major accomplishments so far in the legislative session.
"Surprise billing has been something we've been working on for over a decade. And we finally got insurers and providers and patient advocates together and we are moving a bill," he said on Wednesday. "I think that's a significant piece of legislation."
Updated at 10:50 a.m. on April 24, 2019 to add comments from Democratic leadership press conference. Updated at 12:30 p.m. to add comments from Assembly Republican leader Jim Wheeler.
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