How Sisolak's campaign, State of the State promises fared at end of legislative session
At the conclusion of his first legislative session as the state’s first Democratic governor in two decades, Steve Sisolak accomplished most — but not all — of the goals he promised on the campaign trail and in his January “State of the State” address.
For the first time in a decade, Nevada’s minimum wage will increase; state workers will soon have the right to collectively bargain; oversight boards of legal marijuana and health care have been established; funds for teacher raises were secured, and the state is closer than ever to updating its long-criticized 52-year-old funding formula for K-12 education.
Although the governor proudly recapped his accomplishments in a meeting with reporters after the legislative session, many of Sisolak’s stated achievements come with asterisks or will take more time to flesh out; the long-heralded K-12 funding formula revamp isn’t scheduled to take effect for at least two years, and the collective bargaining bill approved by lawmakers grants the governor power to effectively override any negotiated pay raises or other changes in compensation when setting the executive budget.
Sisolak has defended those decisions as giving him needed flexibility if financial or other emergencies arise over the next two years, while acknowledging that compromise is a necessary part of governance.
“I know I don’t get everything I want,” he said in an interview after the legislative session. “I clearly understood that and (Chief of Staff) Michelle (White) showed me that yesterday, that I didn’t get everything that I wanted. But that’s okay. I got a lot of what I wanted, and it involves compromise so you get as much as you can, and a half a loaf is better than no loaf.”
At the end of Friday — the last day for Sisolak to sign or veto bills approved on the last day of the legislative session — the governor had signed a total of 636 bills, while vetoing only three measures.
A full overview of how all of Sisolak’s campaign and State of the State promises fared is available on the Sisolak Promise Tracker page. Here’s a final look at which Sisolak priorities made it through the legislative session, passed in a compromised version or did not come to fruition:
Patient Protection Commission
Promise: Said he would establish a Patient Protection Commission to “provide a framework for making advances in telehealth available to all Nevadans.”
Status: A bill creating the Patient Protection Commission, SB544, was signed into law by Sisolak on May 14. It creates an 11-member panel appointed by the governor charged with studying various health-care issues and can submit three bill draft requests per legislative session.
Drug transparency legislation
Promise: Said he wants to expand SB539, a landmark diabetes drug transparency bill passed during the 2017 session, to drugs that treat cancer, heart disease, and other conditions.
Status: On May 30, Sisolak signed into law SB262, a bill by Democratic Sen. Yvanna Cancela that would expand her diabetes drug transparency bill to also apply to asthma drugs. Sisolak also signed a bill, SB276, that requires an interim study on the cost of prescription drugs in the state.
Silver State Scripts
Promise: Said he would “leverage the purchasing power of Nevada’s public health plans to bring down pharmaceutical prices” by establishing Silver State Scripts, “a consortium of private and public health plans that will negotiate for lower drugs prices.”
Status: Approved by lawmakers on June 1, SB378 establishes the Silver State Scripts Board, a retooling of the Pharmacy and Therapeutics Committee within the Department of Health and Human Services responsible for identifying drugs to place on the preferred prescription drug list for Medicaid. The bill allows publicly funded and nonprofit health plans to use that preferred drug list as the formulary for their plan. It also carves out pharmacy benefit manager benefits from Medicaid for the state to negotiate directly.
Mental health services
Promise: Said he wants to “invest in mental health services and addiction treatment programs so that all Nevadans can get the comprehensive care they need.”
Status: Sisolak’s budget allocates about $360,000 to the Las Vegas Mobile Crisis Units, which respond to calls to assist homeless people or those struggling with mental health issues, to allow them to operate 24 hours a day. State lawmakers approved the appropriations as part of the state’s budget. Legislators also approved Sisolak’s budget request for roughly $40 million, including $8 million in general fund dollars, to add an additional seven Community-Based Behavioral Health Clinics through the two-year budget cycle.
Promise: Said the state needs “to reform Medicaid reimbursements to ensure that doctors, especially primary care physicians who treat families and seniors, can afford to continue practicing in Nevada.”
Status: A bill that would have created an actuarial study studying certain Medicaid reimbursement rates, AB116, failed to advance out of the Legislature. But lawmakers approved boosting neonatal and pediatric intensive care unit rates of about $26 million over the biennium and approved a last-minute $9.5 million appropriation to Nevada Medicaid and Check Up programs to increase the acute care per diem reimbursement rates by 2.5 percent. Lawmakers also approved raising reimbursement rates for Personal Care Services by 3.3 percent (worth $6.1 million over the two years of the budget, including $2.1 million in state dollars), and Supported Living Arrangements by 12.3 percent ($15.4 million over the budget).
‘Baby Box’ program
Promise: Said Nevada should create a “baby box” program to “provide low-cost items and educational materials to new parents, an approach that has been shown to reduce infant mortality.”
Status: Sisolak did not mention the proposal during his State of the State address or in subsequent interviews since his election. No bill creating such a pilot program was ever introduced during the legislative session.
Promise: Said he would support “community solar” projects.
Status: Sisolak signed a bill, AB465, sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe Moreno that would create an “expanded solar access program” which could include community-based solar programs. But the program has been criticized by advocates as not creating a ‘true’ community solar program in the state.
Oppose SNWA pipeline
Promise: Said he would oppose the Southern Nevada Water Authority pipeline, which would pipe rural groundwater about 250 miles to Las Vegas.
Status: Sisolak said at an IndyTalks event in January that he still opposes the pipeline. His office sponsored but ultimately pulled a bill, AB30, that would allow new and existing water users to settle conflicts through so-called Monitoring, Management and Mitigation Plan that opponents fear could be used to bolster the pipeline.
Modernize education funding formula
Promise: Said he would “modernize the 50-year-old funding formula so that it addresses the needs of students, educators, and parents.”
Status: Lawmakers passed SB543, which creates an overhauled school funding program with extra dollars following students who are learning English as a second language, living in low-income households, have special-education needs or are gifted and talented. The bill wouldn’t take effect until the 2021-2023 biennium, but it creates a funding commission tasked with running side-by-side projections of the existing funding formula compared to the new one over the next two years. It also gives the governor latitude to budget as much as he or she deems appropriate, rather than binding them to increasing funding by a specific amount. The bill has been signed by Sisolak.
Career and technical education
Promise: Said he would “support more professional technical training programs so that students have the opportunity to come out of high school career-ready.”
Status: Lawmakers approved Sisolak’s budget recommendation to an additional million dollars in each year of the biennium in funding for career and technical education to serve 2,000 additional students, bringing total funding for the program up to $25.1 million over the two-year budget. They also added an additional $1 million per year to Adult Education services, for a total of $19.3 million annually.
Reduce class sizes
Promise: Said he would “reduce classroom sizes so that every student gets the attention he or she needs to succeed.”
Status: Sisolak’s budget continues an existing class-size reduction program, but he has not proposed spending specifically to expand such initiatives. The governor also signed AB304, which requires any school district requesting a variance to the maximum student-teacher ratio to develop a “plan of action” to reduce class sizes.
Raises for teachers
Promise: Said he would “raise educator salaries so we can attract and retain the best and the brightest to teach our children.”
Status: Sisolak’s budget called for a 3 percent raise for K-12 staff in the first year of the biennium, plus 2 percent merit increases in each of the two years of the biennium. After lawmakers added additional funding to the Distributive School Account and passed SB551, there appears to be enough money to carry out the provision without enacting significant cuts.
School supply funding
Promise: Said he would propose additional funding for teacher supply reimbursement accounts, from $100 to $180 a year per teacher.
Status: Sisolak signed SB555, which raises the amount of money devoted to an account that reimburses teachers for out-of-pocket classroom expenses from $2.5 million a year to $4.5 million a year.
Ban bump stocks, silencers and assault rifles
Promise: Said in a campaign commercial, “When I’m governor, we’re going to ban assault rifles, bump stocks, silencers.”
Status: Sisolak proposed banning bump stocks in his State of the State address, but has not addressed bans on silencers or assault weapons. A bill by Democratic Assemblywoman Sandra Jaruegui, AB291, passed the Legislature and was signed by the governor June 14.. It would ban firearm modifications such as bump stocks and allow for courts to temporarily seize the firearms of a person displaying high-risk behavior. Lawmakers and Sisolak took no actions this session to ban assault weapons (seven other states and Washington D.C. have done so) or to ban silencers (eight states have done so).
Gun purchase restrictions
Promise: Said “those subjected to restraining orders should not be allowed to buy a firearm.”
Status: No bill or bill draft was introduced, although Nevada law already allows — but doesn’t mandate — courts to restrict a person’s access to firearms if they are subject to an extended order for protection against domestic violence.
Promise: Promised to create a Cannabis Compliance Board to review state and local regulations on marijuana sales and licensing
Status: Sisolak signed an executive order creating an advisory council to create the Cannabis Compliance Board on Jan. 25, charged with studying issues related to marijuana banking, public consumption lounges and state marijuana regulations within the Nevada Department of Taxation. A bill creating a Cannabis Advisory Commission and a separate compliance board, AB533, passed the Legislature and was signed by Sisolak on June 12.
Expand voting access
Promise: Said he would work with legislators to “expand early voting and to implement same-day voter registration.”
Status: Lawmakers approved Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson’s AB345 on largely party lines, which sets forth a process for same-day voter registration during elections and during the early voting period. While the bill allows county clerks to extend early voting hours if they wish, lawmakers did not end up passing any legislation extending the normal two-week early voting period. AB345 does allow county election officials to extend early voting hours after the initial set of hours have been published.
Constitutional amendment on campaign finance
Promise: Sisolak announced a series of “transparency and ethics reforms” during the primary election that included supporting a federal constitutional amendment to overturn the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Citizens United v. F.E.C. which “opened the door for dark money to flood into our elections without accountability. “
Status: A proposed application to Congress calling for a special Article V constitutional convention to address the Court’s decision Citizens United v. F.E.C (AJR5) was proposed by Democratic Assemblyman Steve Yeager, but died without ever receiving a hearing.
State worker collective bargaining
Promise: Said “I believe in collective bargaining for State employees. It will take a strong leader to bring all the players together to address any issues whether jurisdictional or otherwise, so that bill will be successfully passed.”
Status: Reiterated during State of the State that he believes state workers should be able to collectively bargain “in the years ahead.” A bill allowing for state workers to collectively bargain, SB135, passed the Legislature and was approved by the governor. While technically allowing state workers to bargain, it would give the governor authority to set the budget at levels of his or her choosing, regardless of what the unions seek on salary, retirement, health benefits or staffing levels.
No campaign payments to family members
Promise: Sisolak announced a series of “transparency and ethics reforms” during the primary election that included prohibitions on candidates paying family members or their businesses for political work.
Status: No bill addressing campaign payments to family members has been introduced.
Upgrade old campaign finance data
Promise: During the primary campaign, Sisolak released a set of “transparency and ethics reforms” that included upgrading the secretary of state’s data and searchability for old campaign finance reports filed prior to 2012.
Status: No bill was introduced that would address this issue.
Real time campaign finance reporting
Promise: During the primary campaign, Sisolak released a set of proposed “transparency and ethics reforms” that included “real-time reporting of donations larger than $1,000 two weeks prior to elections.”
Status: No bill requiring real-time campaign finance reporting was introduced.
Payday lending database
Promise: Said during a candidate forum hosted by Nevadans for the Common Good that the state needs to have “a tracking system” for high-interest, short-term loans.
Status: On May 28, Sisolak signed Democratic Sen. Yvanna Cancela’s SB201, which would require the state to create a database that would track all data on all loans with a 40 percent or higher annual percentage rate interest, including loan amounts, fees assessed on borrowers, default rates and the interest charged on loans.
State worker pay increase
Promise: Said he’s “recommending a 3 percent pay increase for our state employees.”
Status: Sisolak included 3 percent pay raises in his budget. AB542, a bill to implement the increases, has been signed by the governor.
Promise: Said the state needs to “ensure equal pay for equal work and to find a consensus on paid leave for Nevada’s workers.”
Status: State Sen. Joyce Woodhouse sponsored a bill, SB312, that would allow employees to earn up to 40 hours of paid leave per year if they work for an employer with more than 50 employees. The bill was signed by Sisolak.
End cash bail
Promise: Said in a gubernatorial primary debate that he would support ending the policy of cash bail for pretrial release.
Status: Sisolak said during the IndyTalks forum in January 2019 that cash bail is a “big problem for people.” A bill by Democratic Assemblyman Ozzie Fumo, AB325, would overhaul the state’s pretrial release system and make bail the last option available for judges, was given a waiver from legislative deadlines. That bill died, as did a similar measure from Democratic Assemblywoman Dina Neal. Lawmakers did pass SCR11, directing the Legislative Commission to study pretrial release issues during the interim.
Promise: Said “I am committed to working with the Legislature — and the business and labor communities — to raise the minimum wage in our state.” Added during an IndyTalks event in January that he believed the wage should be raised to $12 an hour.
Status: A bill by Democratic Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson, AB456, would raise the wage to a bifurcated $12 or $11 minimum — depending on if an employer offers health insurance — by 2023. It was signed by Sisolak on June 12. A proposed constitutional amendment raising the wage — AJR10 — also completed its process in the Legislature this session but needs to pass the Legislature next biennium to go to the voters.
Expand affordable housing
Promise: Promised to “assemble an affordable housing task force” and look into incentives to spur developers to pursue affordable housing projects.
Status: Sisolak’s budget called for creating $10 million in transferable tax credits for affordable housing development. A bill creating the tax credits, SB448, was signed by Sisolak on June 12.
Streamlining for small businesses
Promise: Said he would make things easier for small businesses by “streamlining complicated processes, eliminating red tape and needless regulations, and putting a Small Business Advocate in the Office of the Lieutenant Governor.”
Status: A bill creating an Office of Small Business Advocate (SB495) passed the Senate but died in the Assembly. Sisolak did sign a bill, SB497, ending the requirement that businesses with revenues under $4 million not have to file a Commerce Tax return with the state. He also signed several bills, including AB446, AB224 and AB104, that allocated or authorized additional investments or grants for certain emerging or struggling small businesses.
Fix payday lending problems
Promise: Said it’s unacceptable that Nevada has the fourth highest payday loan rates in the nation and is one of the few states with no cap on the loans. He said he wants to work with lawmakers to find a solution.
Status: Sisolak said during the IndyTalks forum on Jan. 22 that the state needs to find a compromise. A bill to cap payday loan interest rates (AB118) died in committee without a hearing.
Expand state venture capital fund
Promise: Promised to expand state’s Battle Born Venture Program, which helps “crowd-in private funding for new businesses.”
Status: Sisolak has not addressed the issue since the election. Funding for the program — which is hosted under the State Small Business Credit Initiative, a federal program — is set to remain flat at around $471,000 a year in both years of the budget, as recommended by Sisolak and unchanged by lawmakers.
Promise: Promised to “appoint experienced leaders from the private sector” to serve as economic development “ambassadors” for industries such as renewable energy, technology, manufacturing, logistics, mining and rural economic development.
Status: No “ambassadors” for the Governor’s Office of Economic Development have been appointed. Sisolak’s office said it was still looking to appoint a permanent director, and would work with the future head of the department to roll out the program in the future.
Grants for small businesses
Promise: Said he would support small businesses with incentives and grants so not only big companies benefit.
Status: Sisolak signed several bills continuing or expanding funding for programs aimed at assisting small businesses, including:
- AB446, which revises the 2013 Nevada New Markets Jobs Act (tax credits for insurance companies to invest in community development entities) by extending authorizing up to $200 million in investments, worth up to $116 million in tax credits, beginning in 2022.
- AB224, which appropriates $425,000 to the NV Grow Program, which is designed to help small businesses expand.
- AB104, which appropriates $350,000 to the Nevada Main Street Program, which provides funds for communities to update and revitalize historic commerce centers.
Promise: Said he will “work to return prevailing wage to public construction projects—as it was before the 2015 session — including, and most importantly, for our children’s schools.”
Status: Sisolak signed three bills (AB136, AB190 and SB231) submitted by lawmakers that will reverse the requirement that construction projects on public schools and colleges pay 90 percent of the prevailing wage.
Help veterans financially
Promise: Said he would help veterans gain a foothold in the Nevada economy by combating predatory lending, advancing laws that protect entrepreneurial veterans, and supporting vocational training and financial education.
Status: Sisolak’s budget calls for adding three new veterans service officers, including one in Pahrump, one in Fallon and one focused on female veterans, to help them access benefits they may be foregoing. He also signed bills allocating $500,000 for the Adopt a Vet Dental Program (AB487), waiving college registration fees for veterans awarded the Purple Heart (AB427) and authorizing the Board of Regents to waive fees for veterans enrolled in graduate STEM courses (AB429), as well as expediting teacher license processing for spouses of military members (SB100).
Increase funding for foster parents needing child care
Promise: In the State of the State, Sisolak said “for the over 2,000 foster family homes across our state, we’re going to increase funding to help foster parents cover the cost of child care.
Status: The funding was included in the governor’s budget but removed by legislative budget committees.