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Indy Tracker: Keeping an eye on major legislation and bills every week

Nevada lawmakers held marathon floor sessions this week as they tried to beat a major deadline, but the real focus has turned to a handful of key, controversial bills under negotiation between the Legislature and the governor as the session draws to a close.

Outside of Twitter addicts and people paid to follow the proceedings, keeping up with major pieces of legislation and where certain bills are in the process can be challenging, especially given that lawmakers exempt themselves from the state’s Open Meeting Law, meaning agendas and schedules can be changed at a moment’s notice.

NELIS, the Legislature’s online database of bills, exhibits and committee meetings, is an incredibly handy resource but it can be expensive to sign up for notifications on more than a handful of bills.

That’s why The Nevada Independent has launched a free bill tracker, to keep readers updated on important pieces of legislation and where they are in the legislative process on a week-to-week basis.

Below are roughly 90 bills we’ve decided to highlight, linking to our past coverage and including a brief synopsis where certain bills or resolutions are in the lawmaking process. All information is current as of Friday, May 26.

While we plan to continually update this tracker with bills and updates as legislation moves through the process, feel free to email us at [email protected] or [email protected] if there’s a bill you’d like to see included in the tracker.

Week 5/22 - 5/26

  • Lawmakers passed a groundbreaking piece of legislation requiring more transparency in how companies set the price of insulin. Democratic Sen. Yvanna Cancela’s much-lobbied bill, SB265, swept quickly through the Assembly in spite of efforts to stop it. Republican Sen. Michael Roberson is making his own attempt at drug pricing legislation with SB539, which targets the middlemen in the pharmaceutical industry and got a hearing on Friday.
  • Two major pieces of renewable energy legislation advanced out of the Assembly this week. AB405, which would restore more favorable net metering rates for rooftop solar customers coupled with a number of consumer protections, passed out of the Assembly on a 38-2 vote on Tuesday and was heard in a Senate committee just a day later. AB206, which would raise minimum renewable energy production standards to 50 percent by 2030, received a much closer 30-12 Assembly vote on Wednesday. It was heard Friday in a Senate committee, where the powerful Nevada Resort Association presented a substantial amendment removing the proposed renewable energy hikes.
  • Gov. Brian Sandoval showed he’s not afraid to wield his veto pen. On Thursday, he rejected seven bills sent to him by the Democrat-controlled Legislature, including two labor-backed  measures that would roll back legislation passed in 2015. He also turned down bills relaxing insurance requirements for Uber and Lyft, allowing older offenders to be released on house arrest and easing penalties for drug possession.
  • Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson made good on his April promise and introduced an emergency measure creating a payday loan database on Thursday. Other emergency measures came from Senate Minority Leader Michael Roberson, who introduced two bills on Friday addressing lifetime supervision of sex offenders and a version of the Equal Rights Amendment in the state constitution.

Week 5/15 - 5/19

  • Lawmakers held a joint hearing to question Republican Attorney General Adam Laxalt and A.G. Burnett, the Nevada Gaming Control Board Chairman who secretly recorded their 2016 conversation about intervening in a contentious lawsuit involving Laxalt campaign donor Sheldon Adelson. They also reviewed a bill that would give the gaming regulatory agency its own legal counsel, with Democratic supporters saying Laxalt has breached trust and can’t effectively serve as the board’s lawyer.
  • A bill requiring certain employers to offer paid sick leave to workers is finally moving forward after attracting a party-line vote in the Senate. A new version, which passed the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee on Friday, requires employees to stay at their job for one year before they’re eligible for the benefit and caps the total number of hours workers can accrue to 80 hours.
  • Education advocates and lawmakers are rallying behind a bill that implements a “weighted funding formula,” where $1,200 extra dollars per child would go to tens of thousands of low-performing students who aren’t already part of the Zoom Schools of Victory Schools programs. The bill, which passed the Senate Education Committee in a 6-1 vote on Thursday, has been scaled back from an original form that would have cost about $1.1 billion. Lawmakers are expected to put at least $72 million to the “weights.”
  • Nevada lawmakers took the first steps toward approving a bill that would raise the state’s renewable energy production standards to 50 percent by 2030 on Wednesday. Assembly Democrats and two Republicans voted to move an amended version of AB206 out of committee, including an amendment designed to give more weight to energy storage and new geothermal production. NV Energy, which has remained neutral on the bill, submitted a handful of suggested tweaks to lawmakers late Tuesday.

Week 5/8 - 5/12

  • Spurred by a recently released affidavit detailing Attorney General Adam Laxalt’s attempts to persuade the state’s top gaming regulator to intervene in a civil suit involving casino billionaire Sheldon Adelson, Democratic Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton plans to introduce a bill allowing the state’s Gaming Control Board to retain its own legal counsel outside the attorney general’s office. Few details on the bill are available, but Carlton said she wanted to ensure that the state gaming regulators are comfortable with their legal representation.
  • After a months-long public battle over the future of rooftop solar, state lawmakers took the first steps on Friday toward moving a compromise measure creating a tiered “net metering” rate for rooftop solar customers. Solar companies are lining up in support of the measure, which would create a tiered structure of reimbursement rates for excess energy sold back to the grid by rooftop solar customers.
  • Republican senators on Tuesday called for full hearings into the recently revealed complaints of sexual harassment by Democratic state Sen. Mark Manendo. Democratic leadership launched an independent investigation into the claims last week, but Republican senators said that the allegations against Manendo need to be considered out in the open.

Week 5/1 - 5/5

  • The Economic Forum predicted on Monday that the state would bring in $140 million more in tax revenue than originally planned over the next three years. Gov. Brian Sandoval said that much of that money should go to the weighted funding formula, which would allocate dollars to students based on a multiplier to base per-pupil funding. The proposal appears to have support from members of both parties and both houses as well as the Clark County Education Association and the Nevada State Education Association.
  • A major pharmaceutical bill, SB265, got its first committee vote on Wednesday after being stripped of a possibly unconstitutional provision designed to regulate the prices of insulin and other diabetes drugs. Republican senators have expressed their desire to see pharmacy benefit managers, middlemen in the drug pricing process, amended into the portion of the bill mandating transparency from pharmaceutical manufacturers over the costs of manufacturing their drugs, though an amendment has yet to be brought forward.
  • The Senate Education Committee heard AB188 this week, which would lower the 15 credit requirement to qualify for the need-based Silver State Opportunity Grant to 12. Democratic Assemblywoman Olivia Diaz originally proposed reducing the credit hour requirement to 9, but the bill was amended after initial pushback from assemblymembers. The bill faced little controversy at the Thursday hearing, though it passed on a party-line vote out of the Assembly last week.

Week 4/24 - 4/28

  • The first 48 hours of this week were dominated by lengthy floor sessions and hundreds of bill votes. Over that time, senators approved just over a quarter of the 250 plus bills approved so far this session, and Assembly members approving more than half of all the bills they’ve passed so far this session. For a fuller breakdown of what passed and the handful of bills that didn’t make it, check out our comprehensive coverage here.
  • Democratic Sen. Yvanna Cancela is amending her major pharmaceutical bill to make minor tweaks and create an appeals process for the reimbursements required by the legislation in the event that certain diabetes drugs increase by more than a prescribed amount per year. A copy of the amendment obtained by The Nevada Independent on Friday spelled out the details of those changes.
  • Several lawmakers took a break from committee hearings and floor session on Wednesday to take part in the first meeting of the state’s commission on energy choice. Over the course of more than three hours, the 25-member commission began tackling some of the tough questions that could arise if voters in 2018 approve a ballot measure that breaking up NV Energy’s monopoly and require legislators to shape a retail energy market.

Week 4/17 - 4/21

  • The Senate and Assembly passed more than 130 bills this week, the vast majority of them approved in unanimous votes by the bipartisan bodies. Several of the more contentious votes, all of which occurred in the Senate, split Republicans and Democrats on party lines over issues from the definition of financial planners to establishing a Domestic Workers’ Bill of Rights. Click here for recaps of what happened on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday.
  • Republican Sen. Dean Heller and Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto and Rep. Dina Titus rounded up the congressional delegation visits to the Legislature this week. All three lawmakers touched on what they were doing to oppose revisiting Yucca Mountain as a nuclear waste repository, talked about immigration reform and President Donald Trump’s budget, including proposed cuts to the Southern Nevada Public Lands Management Act, or SNPLMA. Heller also hosted a town hall in Reno on Monday morning, while Cortez Masto was slated to hold a similar event Saturday afternoon.
  • Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson says he plans to use one of his ten emergency leadership bills to revive an ambitious payday loan overhaul that didn’t survive past the first committee deadline last week. The Democrat said he’s still working to determine which parts of AB222 he wants to bring back, but said many of the provisions, including a cap on interest rates for short-term loans, were on the table.

Week of 4/10 - 4/14

  • Democratic Reps. Jacky Rosen and Ruben Kihuen addressed the Legislature this week, praising Democrats for pushing a host of different measures this session from the Equal Rights amendment to renewable energy. They talked about their plans to oppose Yucca Mountain and fight a repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The Nevada Independent had a chance to sit down with both members of congress. Watch their interviews here.
  • Hundreds of bills met their ends on Friday with the deadline for first committee passage. The Nevada Independent rounded up the fate of dozens of bills that lived and died.

Week of 4/3 - 4/7

  • Legislators packed their schedules this week ahead of the upcoming committee deadline next Friday, April 14. Several committee hearings ran late into the night, as chairs tried to squeeze in discussions on as many bills as possible on topics ranging from delaying the implementation or or repealing the so-called Achievement School District to how recreational marijuana should be taxed. Still, this week was just an inkling of what’s to come.
  • In spite of some opposition from Republicans, Nevada senators on Tuesday approved measures adding protections for LGBT persons and banning gay conversion therapy on Tuesday. Senators voted 18-2 to approve AB99, which requires employees at foster homes, child care facilities, mental health facilities and other state level agencies that deal with children to receive training related to working with the gender identity of children. By a slightly narrower margin, senators approved SB201 — banning conversion therapy for children under the age of 18 on a 15-5 vote.
  • Senate Democrats reiterated their support for the Affordable Care Act on Monday. The Senate voted 12-9 on party lines to approve SJR8, which requests Congress not to repeal the federal health care law. Republicans revived their ACA repeal bill this week after House Speaker Paul Ryan canceled a vote on repeal legislation last month. Several Democratic lawmakers have introduced legislation this session to codify some of the provisions of the ACA in state law.
  • The Senate unanimously passed a bill, SB117, to create a separate line at polling places for voters with disabilities. The legislation also requires that officers at a polling place allow a voter with a disability or someone who is not physically able to wait in line to move to the front of line of voters to vote.

Week of 3/27 - 3/31

  • Legislators burned the midnight oil again on Monday, racing against the clock to introduce more than 100 committee bills that included major restrictions against ride-sharing companies and several of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s priorities, including a marijuana retail tax and the controversial Education Savings Account program.
  • One of the last-minute measures introduced on Monday codifying regulations put in place for the reorganization of the Clark County School District looks destined for quick passage despite oppositions from the district’s Board of Trustees. AB469, which is sponsored by all four legislative leaders, was heard late Wednesday in a joint Education Committee hearing and is designed to thwart a recently refiled lawsuit by the district trustees against the Nevada Department of Education and State Board of Education over the reorganization.
  • Two measures that attracted considerable interest and controversy were spiked this week by Democratic leadership. SB223, introduced by Democratic Sen. Yvanna Cancela and designed to bar local law enforcement from asking about a person’s immigration status was declared dead on Monday, in part due to police opposition and what Cancela called a process that “became inundated with misinformation and politicized with fear.” And less that 48 hours after it was introduced, Democratic Sen. Kelvin Atkinson announced on Twitter that SB485, which would have enacted severe restrictions on ride-sharing companies including a mandatory 15-minute wait time between ordering a ride and pickup, wouldn’t receive a hearing.
  • One of the most contentious hearings of the session was held on Wednesday over a measure that would place tougher regulations on pharmaceutical companies and impose price controls on drugs used to treat diabetes. In a lengthy hearing that stretched until after 8 p.m., members of the Senate Health and Human Services Committee heard from a variety of testimony on SB265 including pharmaceutical industry representatives and a group backed by the Culinary Workers Union Local 226.

Week 3/20 - 3/24

After a marathon round of bill introductions Monday, the rest of the week was packed with hearings and a couple of high-profile votes. Here’s a look at some of the highlights:

  • The week kicked off with several rounds of bill introductions on Monday that stretched late into the night as lawmakers got their individual bills in before the deadline. Lawmakers introduced more than 190 bills into both the Assembly and the Senate, including opt-out sex ed, Medicaid for all and more immigration-related legislation.
  • Nevada became the first state since Indiana to ratify the Equal Rights Amendment on March 22, after state senators voted to concur with a minor amendment. The state Assembly voted 28-14 to approve the ERA, with Assemblywoman Jill Tolles the only Republican to cross party lines and support the measure.
  • Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval vetoed IP1 on Tuesday, his first veto of the session. The initiative petition, which was approved by the Legislature on party line votes, would require automatic voter registration for those applying or renewing a driver’s license at the DMV. The measure will now head to the 2018 ballot where voters will have a chance to enact the initiative into law.

Week of 3/13 - 3/17

This week saw the first policy bills of the session signed by the governor, votes starting to make their way out of committee and more bill introductions. Here are some of the highlights from the week:

  • Republican Rep. Mark Amodei was the first member of Nevada’s congressional delegation to appear before a joint session of the 2017 Legislature. In a brief speech, he touched on the proposed repeal and replace of the Affordable Care Act, saying that his vote will ultimately be based on the impact to Nevada and whether it is overall the right thing to do. “Quite frankly it looks right now that Nancy Pelosi was much more efficient” on the health care bill process, Amodei said.
  • Gov. Brian Sandoval signed the first three policy bills of the session related to veterans’ services at a ceremony on Wednesday. The bills expand in-state tuition benefits to certain veterans and military members (AB24), expand Nevada’s Veteran Services Commission (SB58) and protect items military families leave at veterans memorials and cemeteries (SB70).
  • The Senate passed IP1, an initiative petition requiring automatic voter registration at the DMV, on Monday. It was enrolled and sent on Thursday to the governor, who has five days (Sunday excepted) to veto the legislation. If he decides to do so, it will head to a vote of the people in 2018. He has not indicated how he intends to act on the legislation, though his office did say in a statement Monday that the governor “does have concerns with requiring individuals to ‘opt out’ of compulsory voter registration and the unintended consequence of possibly registering individuals who are otherwise ineligible to vote.”
  • In a marathon work session, the Senate Judiciary Committee passed seven different bills on a number of topics from banning carrying guns in libraries to the restoration of civil rights (like voting rights) for ex-felons. The latter bill, SB125 brought forward by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, passed the committee 5-2, with Republican Sen. Becky Harris joining Democrats in voting for the bill. The no guns in libraries bill passed on a 4-3 party line vote.

Week of 3/6 - 3/10

Another typical early session week at the Legislature, with most major pieces of legislation still either waiting to be introduced or awaiting a committee hearing. Still, several major votes and high-drama moments happened throughout the week. Here’s a look at some of them:

  • Much to the chagrin of Democratic legislators, Attorney General Adam Laxalt was a no-show at a budget hearing on Wednesday. Committee members grilled Laxalt’s staff over the fact that some attorneys in the office have not taken the Nevada bar exam and suggested that Laxalt’s lack of attendance at the hearing was disrespectful.
  • Two years after the U.S. Supreme Court struck down same sex marriage bans in Obergefell v. Hodges, the Nevada Assembly voted on March 9 to approve the first steps in amending Nevada’s constitution to recognize all marriage regardless of gender. AJR2 was approved in the Assembly on a 27 to 14 vote, with all Republicans outside Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner opposing the measure. Like all other constitutional amendments, it would need to be approved in subsequent sessions before going to the voters for final approval in 2020.
  • The Assembly voted 26-15 on party lines to approve AB99, which would require foster homes and other child care agencies to respect children’s gender identity.
  • The Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections has given its stamp of approval to IP1, an initiative petition that would require automatic voter registration at the DMV. It passed on a 3-2 party line vote, with Republican Senators Heidi Gansert and James Settelmeyer voting “nay.” The Legislature must approve the bill by Friday, March 17, otherwise it will go to a vote of the people in 2018. The governor still has an opportunity to veto the bill after that date.

Week of 2/27 - 3/3:

With most of the major pieces of legislation planned this session still making their way through the pipeline, lawmakers took few votes this week.

  • Members of the Nevada Senate voted 13-8 on March 1 to approve SJR2, which would ratify the Equal Rights Amendment in Nevada.
  • After a hearing on March 1, members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee voted two days later to approve AB145, which would extend the statute of limitations on civil cases involving victims who were sexually abused as children. The bill was amended to take effect on passage.
  • Members of the Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections voted along mostly party lines on March 2 to approve AJR2, which would belatedly codify same-sex marriage rights in Nevada’s constitution.
  • Two of Nevada’s six-member congressional delegation notified lawmakers of when they plan to visit and speak to the body this week. Republican Rep. Mark Amodei is scheduled to speak on March 13, and Democratic Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto is scheduled to visit Carson City on April 20.

Update March 4, 3:03 p.m. - The description of SB102 has been changed to better reflect what the bill seeks to do.

Disclosure: NV Energy has donated to The Nevada Independent. You can see a full list of donors here.
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