Lawmakers delay bill introduction deadline, still introduce dozens of proposals on criminal justice, education and elections
It was the Deadline Day that wasn’t.
Despite expectations that floor sessions on Monday — the 43rd day of the session and deadline for individual legislator bill introductions — would stretch late into the night to accommodate numerous bills, legislative leaders suspended rules and allowed the Legislative Counsel Bureau’s legal division to keep working throughout the week.
Legislative leaders attributed the delay in bill drafting to a “short-staffed” legal division, as well as difficulties associated with the mostly virtual session. It came after a weekend of work on the bills and some lawmakers withdrawing bill draft requests to lighten the load.
“We've held out hope that we would be able to get them both done today,” Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D-Las Vegas) told reporters on Monday. “But it wasn't enough. And so we're going to provide legal with the extra, I would estimate, a couple of days.”
Legislators ended up introducing 55 bills and resolutions on Monday. In 2019, lawmakers introduced 144 measures on the legislator bill introduction deadline day, and in 2017, there were 204 bills introduced on deadline day.
Another deadline — for introductions of bills sponsored by committees — looms next Monday. But legislative leaders reiterated that the challenges of holding a session during a pandemic could result in additional delays.
“It just sometimes takes them a little longer to get everything out and get it where it needs to be so we can pass good policy, and they need a little bit more time,” Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) said. ”So we're able to give it to them, and we still have plenty of bills to hear and lots of work to do.”
In spite of the lower volume, a wide swath of concepts still were introduced on Monday, including bills to eliminate the death penalty, increase the number of marijuana dispensaries allowed in the state and address Republican concerns that election procedures were too loose.
Here are highlights from bills introduced Monday:
Assemblywoman Sarah Peters introduced a bill, AB280, that requires single-stall restrooms in businesses or other buildings open to the public to be labeled as accessible to all instead of designated for a specific gender. It would apply to places built Oct. 1, 2021 and later.
“The people who this bill touches are people who right now have to overcome a social stigma to enter into a restroom that's not their specific gender,” Peters said. “And I think this is just really a human bill, recognizing that we all come from different walks of life and need different accommodations.”
Public records penalties
Assemblyman Andy Matthews introduced a bill, AB276, to stiffen penalties against agencies that unreasonably delay or deny public records or charge excessive fees for the documents. While existing law says requesters who prevail in court can recoup their costs and attorney’s fees, the bill allows them to recover double that amount.
“I think it's great to have something on the books that says that a public records request comes in, we have a need to provide the information,” Matthews said. “But I think absent stronger enforcement mechanisms and punitive measures ... we have seen a lot of non compliance.”
Republican-backed election changes
In the wake of an election where Republicans questioned the use of a machine to check voter signatures and amid accusations that the voter rolls were “unclean,” Republicans are bringing several measures forward. Democrats have generally said they reject legislation stemming from the premise that there was widespread voter fraud in the 2020 election.
AB263, introduced by Assemblywoman Alexis Hansen (R-Sparks), requires county and city clerks to periodically audit the performance of people who check signatures. The bill would also require further signature-checking in counties that use automated signature-matching machines by having them randomly selecting at least 1 in 50 ballot return envelopes processed by a machine and have employees of the clerk’s office manually review the signatures to see whether they match voter files.
The bill reflects concerns from Republicans during the 2020 election about having machines match signatures on ballots with those on file.
Another measure, AB264 from Assemblywoman Heidi Kasama (R-Las Vegas), requires county clerks to submit affidavits before each election confirming the correction of their voter registration list — and that they have canceled the registrations of those determined to be ineligible to vote. The bill calls for the secretary of state to set a deadline for submitting an affidavit of the voter roll cleanup activities and to post those affidavits online.
Criminal justice reform
A movement to reform criminal justice and policing practices — spurred in part by Black Lives Matter protests over the summer — continues through bills introduced on Monday.
Sen. James Ohrenschall (D-Las Vegas) introduced a bill, SB228, to eliminate the death penalty from Nevada law. It’s the first of two bills expected to drop on the topic; the other has been requested by the Assembly Judiciary Committee.
Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner’s (R-Reno) bill, AB268, requires police departments to create and adopt a written use of force policy that includes general guidelines for the use of deadly force, requires police to use de-escalation techniques when feasible and requires officers trained in crisis intervention to respond to incidents where a person has made suicidal statements.
The bill also would prohibit police use of force against a person who poses a danger to themselves, but does not pose an “imminent threat” of death or serious bodily harm to the police officer or another individual.
On a similar note, Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas) is sponsoring SB236, which requires law enforcement agencies to establish “early warning systems” to identify police officers that display bias indicators or other “problematic” behavior. It also would require all police officers to have at least an associate’s degree or to have completed two years of military service.
Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson (D-Las Vegas) is also sponsoring two criminal-justice-related bills introduced on Monday. One, AB282, would authorize the Nevada Supreme Court to implement implicit bias training for judges and also require such training for court employees who interact with the public.
The other, AB271, would require police agencies in Washoe and Clark counties to maintain a ratio of one first-line supervisor for every ten nonsupervisory employees. The bill would require first-line supervisors to assist in de-escalation of any “volatile situation,” provide guidance or investigate use of force for officers under their supervision.
Sen. Heidi Gansert (R-Reno) has introduced a bill, SB246, that would prohibit police from collecting surveillance data without a warrant, except in limited circumstances, such as when an electronic device is reported stolen or the surveillance is done as part of a missing person investigation. It’s not the first police surveillance bill introduced by Republican senators — Sen. Ira Hansen has a similar measure, SB213.
Republican lawmakers led by Sen. Carrie Buck (R-Las Vegas) are also backing a bill, SB242, that would create a misdemeanor penalty for “targeted residential picketing.”
Assemblywoman Natha Anderson (D-Sparks) has introduced a bill, AB262, that would prohibit the Board of Regents from charging out-of-state tuition to members of federally recognized tribes who graduated from a Nevada high school.
Anderson also is sponsoring AB265 — which provides an alternative licensing structure for school administrators — and AB261, which would require instruction on the history and contributions of various minority or marginalized populations, and prohibit the purchase of instructional materials that don’t “accurately portray the history and contributions of those groups.”
Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop (D-Las Vegas) has introduced a bill, SB230, that requires reporting on the effects of distance learning on the mental health of students and teachers. It also requires board members of school districts to be trained on social and emotional trauma.
Assemblywoman Brittney Miller (D-Las Vegas) is sponsoring a bill, AB266, that would prohibit administrators and other school support personnel from being included in the ratio of teachers to students measured by school districts.
Businesses would have incentives to hire inexperienced young workers through a bill backed by Assemblyman Jim Wheeler (R-Minden). AB272 waives the payroll taxes businesses would otherwise pay on behalf of employees if they are under 21, working in entry-level positions and are paid $1 more per hour than normally is paid for that position.
SB237 would encourage entrepreneurship in the LGBTQ community. This bill from Sen. Dallas Harris and Sen. Melanie Scheible — both Democrats from Las Vegas — would allow LGBTQ-owned businesses to be included in programs that provide extra resources for disadvantaged business enterprises. The bill also seeks to have the Cannabis Advisory Commission explore marijuana market participation by LGBTQ people.
Another bill from Harris, SB235, could increase the number of marijuana dispensaries in the state by allowing holders of a medical-only marijuana license to apply for it to be converted into a regular adult-use cannabis dispensary. The Cannabis Compliance Board could assess a fee for such a conversion.
Several consumer protection measures also emerged on Monday. Gansert’s bill SB239 expands the rights of people who were subject to hacking. While existing law requires a data collector to notify people whose information was stolen, the bill would require notification if the collection of data was reasonably believed to have been breached, even if not outright stolen.
SB248 from Dondero Loop sets restrictions on collections of medical debt, including that collection agencies must provide at least 60 days notice — and information about possible financial aid — before beginning to try collecting the debt. It also prohibits collectors from charging a fee of more than 5 percent of the amount of medical debt.