Governor approves weighted school funding and Promise Scholarship, vetoes minimum wage hike, sex education bill
Gov. Brian Sandoval unleashed more than a half-dozen vetoes on Thursday, shutting down much-touted Democratic proposals to increase the minimum wage, restrict use of private prisons and expand access to sex education.
He did approve more than 70 other bills, including ones to implement a weighted school funding formula and allocate $72 million to some 30,000 needy students (SB178), and to create a “Nevada Promise Scholarship” that would effectively make community college free (SB391).
The Republican governor rejected seven bills on Thursday, raising his veto count to 33 so far from bills passed during the legislative session, which ended on Monday.
He also turned down a measure that sought to solve the sticky matter of out-of-network emergency room costs — a subject that has bedeviled lawmakers for well over a decade.
Here’s a look at the ones that didn’t find his favor:
SB106: Minimum wage increase
As promised, the governor has rejected a measure to raise the minimum wage to $11 and $12, depending on whether an employer offers health insurance.
Sandoval said the bill would result in fewer available jobs for those entering the workforce and would raise the overall cost of goods and services.
“SB106, although commendable in its attempt to extend higher wages for Nevada workers, would place a significant burden on the state’s small business employers at a time when they are emerging from a downturn that cost hundreds of thousands of jobs and closed the doors of businesses across the state,” he wrote.
He noted that Nevadans still have another pathway to a higher minimum wage down the road — SJR6, a proposed constitutional amendment that would eventually raise the wage to $14. That measure would need to be approved again by lawmakers in 2019 and then by voters in 2020.
“The voters will decide if an increase in the minimum wage is appropriate if approved again by the Legislature in 2019,” he said.
AB303: Ban on private prisons by 2022
Sandoval said no to AB303, a bill sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe Moreno that initially would have prohibited the state from using or contracting with private correctional facilities.
In its amended form, it would have allowed state prison officials to contract with private prisons until 2022 to address overcrowding.
A state budget committee approved spending $11.4 million to transfer 200 prisoners to out-of-state private prisons over the next two years, but prison officials still project they’ll be over capacity at state correctional facilities in 2019.
Sandoval wrote that the bill took away too much discretion from the prisons director and the executive branch in general, and said it could tie the hands of the state should there be continued overcrowding or a need to segregate more inmates into single cells.
“Between now and 2022, much can happen, and there is no way to predict whether private prisons may need to play a critical part in Nevada’s future prison needs,” he wrote. “It would be ill-advised to foreclose all available options now, should there be similar, or other unexpected, problems in the future.”
AB382: Controlling out-of-network emergency room costs
Sandoval has vetoed a bill that sought to curb sky-high emergency room bills but split lawmakers mostly along party lines.
AB382 would have set up a process for negotiating a lower rate when patients accidentally ends up at a hospital — or with an emergency room doctor — out of their insurance network. It would have required insurers to make hospitals a reasonable offer for the bill, and set up a process for the parties to file a complaint and go to arbitration if they couldn’t agree on a rate.
Hospitals pushed back against the bill, saying it would devastate their emergency rooms and harm their ability to attract doctors. The issue has been under discussion for more than a decade.
Sandoval acknowledged the “long-standing problem” of surprise medical bills, but said the measure was too similar to one he vetoed during the 2011 session and did little to assuage his fears that it would interfere with “network contracts,” where hospitals and insurance companies negotiate for in-network care.
“AB382 would disrupt this balance and the health care market, and force hospitals and physicians to accept below-market payment for their services,” he wrote. “This result will likely lead to doctors leaving Nevada, making the state’s critical doctor shortage even worse.”
Acknowledging the complexity of the issue, Sandoval also noted in his veto message that he was considering issuing an executive order to form a committee charged with studying the problem and making recommendations for future legislative sessions.
Lawmakers already have a backup in the wings: they approved AJR14, which would enshrine provisions aimed at reducing emergency bills into the constitution if it passes a second legislative session and a vote of the people. It’s been described as a “hammer” that would take effect if the two sides failed to negotiate in good faith over the next two years and arrive at a solution.
AB348: Sex education
Sandoval has vetoed a bill that would have allowed parents to opt-in to sex ed for their children either for the school year only or for as long as the student is involved in the school district.
The legislation also would have authorized a school district to make the opt-in form available on a website and requires the district to follow up with a parent or guardian and provide information to them if the form is not turned to the school district within two weeks.
Sandoval said some elements of the bill were well-intentioned because “relevant and appropriate sex education supports important public health policies by helping students to make informed decisions and lead healthy lives.”
But he said that proponents were trying to create a statewide policy because they were frustrated at a lack of traction changing policies on a local level, where he said the decisions should lie. And he said the proposal undermined the role of parents, who he said are the “most important” in the process.
“AB348 makes it much more likely that a busy parent may be consenting to much more than he or she expected,” he wrote. “Such an outcome is untenable in a subject matter that requires maximum levels of parental engagement and awareness.”
AB403: Legislative Commission can nullify administrative regulations
Sandoval sharply rejected a bill backed by Democratic Assemblyman Skip Daly that would increase the power of the 12-member Legislative Commission.
The panel, which carries out legislative duties in the interim, would have authority to veto regulations.
Republicans expressed concern about the measure, especially after Democrats upset the bipartisan balance of the commission when they named nonpartisan Sen. Patricia Farley as a member. She caucuses with Democrats, meaning Democrats would have an advantage on the panel.
“AB403 is a legislative overreach that attempts to upset the established balance between Nevada’s three branches of government,” Sandoval said in a strongly worded veto message that said the bill would transform the Legislative Commission “into a standing body with unchecked powers and jurisdiction that exceed constitutional limits.”
He said that was “a troubling idea” and argued the bill was “not only constitutionally doubtful, but it is also unnecessary.”
SB464: Project-Labor Agreements
Sandoval vetoed a bill that passed on party lines and would have allowed the people overseeing the planned Las Vegas Convention Center expansion to require contractors hire union labor.
SB464 would have lifted a 2015 ban on authorizing a project labor agreement — a pre-arranged contract for a public construction project guaranteeing union labor — specifically for the convention center expansion. It passed on a party-line 27-15 vote in the Assembly and on a narrow 11-10 vote in the Senate (Independent Senator Patricia Farley joined Republicans in opposition).
In his veto message, Sandoval said he couldn’t support the bill because it “would roll back a reasonable reform” from the 2015 Legislature, and noted opposition to the bill from several construction trade groups.
SB427: Minimum size of train crews
Despite calling it “laudable,” Sandoval on Thursday vetoed a measure that would have required a minimum of two crew members on any freight train moving through Nevada.
SB427 would have required several classes of freight trains to implement two-crew minimums while traveling through the state, and included several penalties for violating the new standards.
Though Sandoval said he shared concerns about rail safety, his veto message included a laundry list of questions and points of opposition to the bill. He said collective bargaining agreements already require two-person minimum crews in the state, and only a handful of other states (California and Wisconsin) require the minimum crew size.
The governor also expressed concerns that crew minimums could stem future technological advances in railroad safety.
“As new technologies emerge (including possibly autonomous railroads), it would be unwise to put Nevada in a place where it could not employ beneficial new technology because of obsolete, statutory requirements,” he wrote.
Bills signed on Thursday
The governor signed the following bills on Thursday:
Senate Bill 532 Assembly Bill 395 Senate Bill 178 Assembly Bill 434
Senate Bill 537 Assembly Bill 268 Senate Bill 187 Assembly Bill 493
Senate Bill 551 Assembly Bill 366 Senate Bill 192 Assembly Bill 498
Senate Bill 448 Assembly Bill 377 Senate Bill 249 Assembly Bill 499
Senate Bill 402 Assembly Bill 417 Senate Bill 257 Assembly Bill 500
Senate Bill 49 Assembly Bill 440 Senate Bill 300 Assembly Bill 501
Senate Bill 124 Assembly Bill 470 Senate Bill 373 Assembly Bill 502
Senate Bill 132 Assembly Bill 286 Senate Bill 377 Assembly Bill 503
Senate Bill 149 Assembly Bill 380 Senate Bill 391 Assembly Bill 504
Senate Bill 213 Assembly Bill 468 Senate Bill 444 Assembly Bill 511
Senate Bill 303 Assembly Bill 492 Senate Bill 445 Assembly Bill 512
Senate Bill 355 Assembly Bill 491 Senate Bill 543 Assembly Bill 519
Senate Bill 361 Assembly Bill 94 Senate Bill 549 Assembly Bill 520
Senate Bill 320 Assembly Bill 97 Senate Bill 550 Assembly Bill 521
Senate Bill 400 Assembly Bill 388 Senate Bill 503 Senate Bill 528
Senate Bill 126 Assembly Bill 397 Senate Bill 522 Senate Bill 529
Senate Bill 155 Assembly Bill 423 Senate Bill 527 Senate Bill 530
Senate Bill 167 Assembly Bill 497 Senate Bill 531
Feature photo: Gov. Brian Sandoval at a bill signing ceremony on June 5, 2017. Photo by David Calvert.