Introducing the Nevada Policy Tracker: A guide to key issues in the 2023 legislative session
For the first time since the 2017 session, a Legislature led by a Democratic majority will be working alongside a Republican governor to set policy for Nevadans. The Nevada Independent will be tracking key pieces of legislation and policy debates on this page.
Scroll through the cards on the Nevada Policy Tracker to find out the status of important bills and what effects they could have on the lives of Nevadans, and use the drop down menu to filter the tracker by subject area. Read further below for a summary of the most interesting storylines in the Legislature this year, and how discussions are playing out across different policy areas.
As the session progresses, the tracker will be updated to reflect the ongoing policy negotiations, while this story will serve as a static view of the Nevada Policy Tracker as of Feb. 2, just days before the start of the 82nd session of the Legislature.
After saying he wanted to be known as “the education governor,” Gov. Joe Lombardo laid out ambitious goals for K-12 education in his first State of the State address.
At the top of the list is a $2 billion increase in education spending over the biennium. That would raise per-pupil spending from roughly $10,290 to $12,406. It would also fully fund so-called weights, a multiplier of the statewide base per-pupil funding that provides extra money for students learning English as a second language and those who come from low-income families.
Lombardo is pushing for a repeal of sections of a 2019 law implementing restorative justice practices in schools. He said the measure, AB168, has left school officials powerless to address violent students. The state’s two largest teachers unions — the Clark County Education Association and the Nevada State Education Association — also have called for changes to the law.
Lombardo made proposals to expand school choice. The first would authorize an additional $50 million for Opportunity Scholarships, a tax credit-funded scholarship program designed to allow students to attend private K-12 institutions. It’s issuing less than $7 million in scholarships a year.
Lombardo wants to allow families with household incomes at or below 500 percent of the federal poverty line to qualify for the scholarships, up from the existing cap of 300 percent. Under Lombardo’s plan, scholarships could go to students from households of four earning up to $150,000 a year.
He also pitched the creation of an Office of School Choice within the Nevada Department of Education.
In addition, Lombardo laid out ideas for how to increase Nevada’s teacher pipeline to address its ongoing educator shortage, including $30 million for a scholarship program for aspiring teachers.
He also has called on lawmakers to reinstate a portion of the Read by Grade 3 law that holds back students who are not proficient in reading by the third grade.
State lawmakers and government agencies have their own goals for education, too. More than 90 bills requested ahead of the legislative session (about 10 percent of the total amount) relate to education.
— Rocío Hernández
Health care is shaping up to be an important — and sometimes contentious — topic for legislators.
Before the session began, lawmakers and other entities already submitted five proposed bills addressing mental health to the Legislature and 50 proposed measures related to health care, health care costs and the state’s provider shortage.
During the 2021 legislative session, Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) spearheaded an effort to create a state-run public health insurance option, making Nevada the second state in the country, after Washington, to enact such a law.
While on the campaign trail in April, Gov. Joe Lombardo called the public option, which was an unrealized goal of Obamacare, “bullshit.” After the election, he made moves to push back a hearing on the necessary Medicaid waiver for the option.
Cannizzaro slammed Lombardo for characterizing the public option as “political theater” during his State of the State address. She said she and other Democrats remain focused on health care affordability and access, pointing to previous legislation intended to lower prescription drug prices and curb hospitals’ surprise billing practices.
There is bipartisan support for measures addressing access to mental health care in Nevada, which ranks 51st among states and the District of Columbia in mental health ratings focusing on access to care, mental health services and the prevalence of mental illnesses.
In his proposed budget, Lombardo laid out plans for Medicaid reimbursement rate increases for physicians, dentists and nursing homes, rate increases for services to people with disabilities and expanding certified behavioral health centers throughout Nevada.
Conversations surrounding abortion rights are also likely to take center stage this year, as are discussions about increasing specialized health care providers and expanding access to health care for underrepresented and minority communities.
In this legislative session, Democrats could use school choice programs aimed at providing alternative funding sources to parents as a bargaining chip to get their health care priorities past Lombardo’s veto pen.
— Tabitha Mueller
During the 2019 and 2021 legislative sessions, Democratic lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak enacted major criminal justice reforms, including reduced sentences for low-level crimes, increased access to diversion programs and decriminalization of traffic tickets, as well as policing reforms, such as banning chokeholds.
Though Gov. Joe Lombardo criticized Sisolak’s criminal justice policies as “soft on crime,” Democratic majorities in the Legislature will likely prevent Lombardo from rolling back the recent reforms entirely.
With a former sheriff now in the governor’s mansion, further reforms that increase strictures on police are likely to be sidelined this session. But recent crime trends — including rising numbers of fentanyl deaths and catalytic converter thefts — may prove to be grounds for compromise across the political aisle as law enforcement pushes to increase penalties for those crimes.
Those issues could draw significant backlash from advocates who worry about the negative effects of overcriminalization. For example, negotiations over penalties will be necessary on fentanyl legislation. Lombardo has pushed for increased criminalization of possession of any amount of the drug, while the attorney general’s office is seeking a bill focused on increasing penalties for trafficking larger quantities of the drug.
Expect other discussions of criminal justice policy to cover sexual and domestic violence, including a push to strengthen Nevada’s laws against domestic battery by strangulation and measures aimed at improving services for crime victims.
Lombardo is also seeking raises for state public safety employees — above what he is proposing for other state employees — as public safety agencies, including the Department of Corrections, face high staffing vacancies and significantly lower pay than their local counterparts.
— Sean Golonka & Tabitha Mueller
Gov. Joe Lombardo wants to roll back the sweeping changes Democratic lawmakers and former Gov. Steve Sisolak made to the state’s election processes over the past four years. Lombardo hopes to end universal mail-in voting, move up the deadline to submit ballots and require people to show identification to vote.
Democratic leaders in the Legislature have said they will not accept changes that limit access to voting, and voter advocacy groups expect to play defense during the session.
After Nevada was nationally panned for its slow rollout of complete election results in 2020 and 2022, Lombardo and Republican lawmakers want to set earlier deadlines for voters to submit mail ballots — they want to ensure mail ballots are received by Election Day; existing law just requires ballots to be postmarked by Election Day — to ensure counting is completed sooner. Democrats are unlikely to accept Lombardo’s proposal to not accept mail ballots received after the close of polls on Election Day, as they seek to maximize voting access.
Advocacy groups are also likely seeking to expand access by ensuring election materials are available in more languages.
Newly elected Democratic Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar is also seeking a bill to enhance protections for election workers who have faced a rising level of hostility and violence since the 2020 election. Legislation originally requested by former Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske seeks to establish a procedure manual for local election workers.
Lombardo and Democratic leaders could also clash over the governor’s proposal to establish an independent, nonpartisan commission to oversee redistricting. Democrats controlled the process in 2021 and picked up additional legislative seats in the following election while maintaining their hold over three of Nevada’s four congressional districts. A previous attempt to establish an independent redistricting commission through a ballot question faced opposition from a progressive-linked group.
— Sean Golonka
After promising no tax increases on the campaign trail, Gov. Joe Lombardo is seeking several tax reductions, including proposals to temporarily suspend the state’s gas tax — a 23-cent-per-gallon levy on all motor fuel that drivers pay when fueling up at gas stations — and to raise the threshold at which the Commerce Tax kicks in from $4 million in gross business revenue a year to $6 million.
Democrats have said they hope to ensure major oil companies do not respond to the one-year tax holiday by increasing profits and preventing the tax savings from being passed to motorists at the pump.
Attempts to impose new taxes are unlikely to pass out of the Legislature or receive approval from Lombardo as the state’s tax revenues have ballooned in the past two years. Since Nevada’s economy began its rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, surging inflation and consumer spending have contributed to a massive $1.9 billion surplus and a more than $2 billion increase in the state general fund budget.
The surge in revenue also has triggered an automatic reduction to the Modified Business Tax rate, which applies to wages businesses pay workers. The reduction, required by state law, cuts the rate from 1.378 percent to 1.17 percent for general businesses. Pro-business groups have supported the reduction and change to the Commerce Tax as ways to lower the cost of doing business.
Expect discussions on tax policy to center on the margins and smaller tax streams, such as bills seeking to increase the Real Property Transfer Tax or alter property tax exemptions to support housing projects. There is also a push to ensure Nevada returns to compliance with a national sales tax agreement aimed at simplifying state tax codes by ensuring remote sellers operating over the Internet comply with local tax rates based on where they are selling items.
— Sean Golonka
In his State of the State speech, Gov. Joe Lombardo identified water as possibly the state’s “greatest challenge over the next decade.” After years of continual drought, water issues are likely to be a focal point in environmental discussions at the Legislature this session.
Already, agencies, committees and lawmakers from both sides of the aisle have submitted about two dozen requests for legislation involving water. Many politicians remain focused on the Colorado River crisis, as the river is the main source of drinking water for Las Vegas. And one proposal directly addresses conservation issues in Southern Nevada.
But other proposed water legislation could have a far-reaching effect on how rivers, streams and groundwater basins are managed across Nevada. Many watersheds remain stretched thin and over-appropriated, where there are more legal rights to water than there is water to go around.
This year, at least 10 proposed bills focus on energy issues, with one requested bill potentially laying out a planning process for natural gas infrastructure — a major flashpoint in the last session. Several other bills are expected to address wildlife concerns, and two bill drafts are centered around environmental justice — addressing the disproportionate harms that pollution has on vulnerable and underrepresented communities.
Although Lombardo briefly mentioned energy policy in his State of the State speech, he did not tie his policies to a climate change strategy. Sisolak, in contrast, used the speech to highlight efforts to increase renewable energy adoption among utilities.
— Daniel Rothberg
Gov. Joe Lombardo’s State of the State address made big promises to colleges and universities, including restoring $76 million in pandemic-era operating cuts, funding deferred maintenance projects, and devoting $9 million to staffing UNLV’s School of Medicine.
That proposed budget also allotted $5 million for a study of the system’s now-10-year-old funding formula. Designed, in part, to remedy longstanding regional funding disparities between north and south, the formula has come under increasing scrutiny from community colleges that have argued it does too little to account for non-traditional students.
Graduate students may see the first substantial increase to assistantship stipends in years after more than two years of calls to action. Lombardo’s State of the State address pledged $20 million to boost stipends as the cost of living rises and to hire additional graduate assistants.
The proposed budget did not fund major higher education capital construction projects, however, and stopped short of expanding funding beyond 2019 levels.
For higher education faculty, 2023 represents another opportunity to secure collective bargaining rights from the state, rather than routing employment contracts through the Board of Regents.
It was not immediately clear if or how Nevada System of Higher Education employees are included in broader plans for state-worker pay raises because of the unique relationship between higher education governance by the regents and funding decisions made by the state.
Still, higher education leaders already have faced tough questions from lawmakers over spending following a legislative audit released last month that raised flags over some instances of “questionable” expenditures by colleges.
Lawmakers will also make a final judgment on SJR7, a 2021 resolution that, if passed, would allow voters to (again) decide whether the Board of Regents will stay in the state Constitution. It follows a near-decade-long push by lawmakers to overhaul the legal foundation of higher education governance, including a failed 2019 bill that sought to reduce the number of regents on the board to nine and create a mixed board of elected and appointed members.
— Jacob Solis
Advocates have urged the Legislature to revisit tenant protections in the upcoming session after lawmakers were unsuccessful in 2021 in reforming Nevada eviction processes that have been criticized as particularly harsh.
Regulating rental application fees and lengthening the period a tenant has to respond to a no-cause eviction from 30 to 60 days are among the proposals they want considered.
Representatives of the Nevada State Apartment Association, which opposed similar proposals last session, said they are monitoring any bills that involve landlord and tenant issues.
The Nevada Association of Realtors, which deals with the home buying side of legislation, has plans to advocate for better funding for the state’s Real Estate Division. The group also wants to work with lawmakers on legislation relating to the Real Property Transfer Tax — a tax imposed by the county recorder before the deed is given to the buyer.
"NVR’s primary goal will be to protect homeowners, especially first-time home buyers, who are least able to afford any proposed increase in such taxes,” said George McCabe, a spokesman for the group.
— Carly Sauvageau
Don’t expect major gaming legislation this session.
Nevada’s casino operators are split on whether the state should legalize online casino gaming, but it’s highly unlikely lawmakers will consider the issue because it’s not a priority of the industry nor the governor’s administration, according to gaming insiders.
In his State of the State address, Gov. Joe Lombardo referred to gaming only in passing, suggesting the Gaming Control Board’s test lab should speed the approval process for new slot machines and other equipment.
Many gaming operators worry that online casinos could keep customers away from their properties. The same logic is being used in the argument against any changes in state law that would allow remote registration for mobile sports betting. In Nevada, customers must sign up in person for a mobile wagering account at a sportsbook.
Even with in-person registration requirements, mobile sports betting accounts for 65 percent to 70 percent of all wagers on a monthly basis, according to the control board.
Nevada legalized online poker in 2013 but only one casino operator, Caesars Entertainment, operates a site, which is themed after the company’s World Series of Poker. Nevada is part of a multi-state agreement with New Jersey, Delaware and Michigan.
Although Lombardo proposed repealing the Culinary Union-backed SB4, a pandemic-focused law that imposed mandatory hotel room cleaning protocols and time-off requirements for full-time employees, any effort to do so will be met with opposition by the labor organization.
“It already has a built-in sunset when COVID rates go down,” Culinary spokeswoman Bethany Khan tweeted during Lombardo’s speech.
— Howard Stutz
The surge in unemployment during the pandemic driven by business closures in the state’s large hospitality industry spurred greater calls for increasing economic diversification. Gov. Joe Lombardo is seeking to accelerate that process, declaring in his State of the State address that “Nevada should be the most entrepreneurial-friendly state in the nation.”
His plan centers on streamlining regulations and reducing burdens on businesses operating in the state. Lombardo’s proposed budget includes more funding for workforce training, and he is seeking the creation of the Office of Workforce to align workforce development efforts happening in multiple state agencies, public schools and higher education entities.
As Lombardo seeks to continue the trend of diversification led by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development under the past two governors, debates are likely to surface over tax credits, including proposed changes to film tax credits and a potential push to make Las Vegas a “Hollywood 2.0.”
Amid a shift in Nevada’s workforce since the start of the pandemic — more early retirements and a decline in the labor force participation rate — businesses are seeking more favorable conditions to attract workers, including greater availability of child care and affordable housing.
Look for discussions on health care and housing to affect Nevada’s pursuit of more workers and workforce development pipeline. The state has struggled to attract and retain a robust health care workforce, and Lombardo has called for increasing the state’s capacity to provide mental health services. Workers may also be deterred from moving to the state because of a lack of affordable health care, and Lombardo’s budget proposes increases to Medicaid reimbursement rates that could attract and retain providers.
— Sean Golonka
The sale and regulation of cannabis in Nevada could be altered under several proposals under consideration in the legislative session.
Assemblyman Reuben D’Silva (D-Las Vegas) will carry a bill to remove the State Board of Pharmacy’s authority over cannabis. A court ruled last year against the Pharmacy Board’s classification of cannabis as a Schedule 1 prohibited substance, but the pharmacy board appealed the decision.
D’Silva is carrying the bill on behalf of the ACLU of Nevada, which brought the original case along with the Cannabis Equity and Inclusion Community (CEIC).
CEIC, a nonprofit focused on social equity and inclusion in the cannabis marketplace, is pushing for portable cannabis concierge licenses after a similar proposal stalled in the 2021 session. That bill sought an additional license for adult-use cannabis events. This time, the bill will solely seek a portable cannabis vendor license to authorize the mobile sales of cannabis products to consumers without a brick and mortar business location.
Sierra Cannabis Coalition will seek a bill on behalf of cultivation licensees that would implement a change to cannabis wholesale taxes. Using California’s system, the coalition wants to lower taxes for cultivators by removing the excise tax on wholesale transactions and replacing the revenue by moving the excise tax to cannabis retail sales. The coalition also wants to adjust the state’s fair market value of cannabis calculation by excluding vertically integrated businesses.
Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas) will carry a bill on behalf of the Chamber of Cannabis, a nonprofit focused on diversifying the cannabis marketplace, to increase daily purchase limits of THC products from 1 ounce to 2 ounces and reinstate cannabis agent card eligibility for people with past cannabis convictions.
The Cannabis Compliance Board (CCB) is seeking a number of changes to the state’s marijuana laws, including allowing cannabis dispensaries to move to a new location outside their current jurisdiction in certain circumstances. Existing law limits licensees’ moves to new locations only within their current jurisdiction.
The board is also seeking to change disciplinary processes. It would task the executive director of the CCB, rather than the board, with deciding whether disciplinary action against a licensee or registrant should follow an investigation by the attorney general.
— Naoka Foreman
Although Gov. Joe Lombardo did not mention immigration in his State of the State speech outlining his legislative priorities, expect issues affecting immigrant communities to receive attention in the upcoming session.
One of the first bills drafted for the Legislature would remove U.S. citizenship as a requirement to become a peace officer as long as the person is “legally authorized to work in the U.S.” AB30 was requested by the city of North Las Vegas. In Nevada law, peace officers can be police officers, security guards and court bailiffs.
The Las Vegas Review-Journal first reported that Lombardo said he would not support the bill, although he has not “seen the language of that.”
Another bill, SB15, would establish provisions for appointed guardianship of immigrant minors seeking lawful permanent residence in the United States who have been subject to state juvenile court because of abuse, neglect or abandonment. The bill was requested by the Nevada Supreme Court.
With Lombardo's promise to invest billions of dollars in K-12 education over the next two years, Latino legislators plan to advocate for education equity through efforts to close achievement gaps for English language learners and ensure funding for Title 1 schools that serve low-income populations.
Sen. Fabian Doñate (D-Las Vegas), along with colleagues in the Hispanic Legislative Caucus, are introducing SB92 to add protections for street food vendors and treat them more like other small businesses. The bill would establish that a board of county commissioners cannot prohibit or impose a criminal penalty on sidewalk vendors, but may require vendors to have a valid permit and business license.
Members of the Democrat-led Legislature are pushing back on Lombardo’s voter ID proposal. The Hispanic Legislative Caucus disagrees with requiring voters to show identification to vote, arguing it could discourage new citizens from participating in the process.
— Jannelle Calderón
Diapers might be cheaper and foster families paid more under separate proposals for the legislative session.
Baby’s Bounty, a local nonprofit that donates necessities for infants to families, wants to present a bill to remove the sales tax on diapers.
The change was originally included in legislation to remove the sales and use tax on tampons and sanitary pads. Lawmakers gave initial approval to the proposal in 2017. It passed a statewide vote in 2018, but the diaper tax exemption was taken out.
The foster care system wants lawmakers to raise the reimbursement rates for foster parents in Nevada, a change Gov. Joe Lombardo has also proposed in his executive budget. They are currently paid $700 a month per child by the state.
The move comes after an unusual spike in the number of infants in foster care, many of whom are placed in the system because of domestic violence, incarcerated parents or child abuse.
Assemblyman Brian Hibbetts (R-Las Vegas), a former police officer, will seek to increase penalties for people who are subsequently convicted of child abuse with substantial bodily harm offenses.
The Nevada Association of Counties also wants to change the rules governing incentives Clark and Washoe counties receive for providing child welfare services.
The bill would require the agency receiving the funds to describe goals for the biennium and report whether the goals were met. It also would also require lawmakers to study child welfare funding and decreases in Medicaid reimbursements, and suggest solutions.
The Children’s Advocacy Alliance is seeking “restorative” policies that focus on expanding daycare offerings in Nevada, reducing class sizes and creating an Office of Early Childhood Systems within the governor’s office.
Assemblywoman Claire Thomas (D-North Las Vegas) plans to carry legislation to expand access to pre-K programs.
— Naoka Foreman
Counties around the state want more local control. The Nevada Association of Counties (NACO), which represents the state’s 17 counties, wants counties to have the power to appoint their own commissioners, maintain certain small counties’ ability to determine how duties are divided among departments, and revise state law to allow legal notices to be published online rather than in a printed newspaper.
Unlike city governments, county commissioners cannot appoint members to their board when a vacancy occurs — that power is reserved for the governor. NACO wants to change that.
Another proposed policy would make minor adjustments to population thresholds that address how many officials are required in sparsely populated counties. State law says counties with 45,000 residents or fewer can spread responsibilities of one department to multiple departments or combine departments.
For example, Nye County does not have a registrar of voters, and puts the county clerk in charge of administering elections. The proposal would bump the population threshold from 45,000 to 52,000 to allow such staffing flexibility.
NACO wants to allow local governments to publish legal notices online rather than in a regularly circulating newspaper. The notices are intended to advise the public about such issues as proposed ordinances and public hearings, and state law requires a certain amount of time before a jurisdiction can act after a legal notice is published. That can delay government business because some printed newspapers circulate less frequently than they had in the past or have moved online entirely.
However, some printed newspapers may be hurt by the loss of revenue, and not all residents have access to the internet.
— Carly Sauvageau