Friday marked deadline day at the Nevada Legislature, meaning any bills that did not pass out of their first committee by the stroke of midnight are dead.
Lawmakers weighed in on dozens of bills, including ones to ban bump stocks, reduce penalties for traffic offenses and take patients out of the middle of the surprise emergency room billing debate.
Some of the bills that did not receive votes are exempt from deadlines because of their potential to affect the state’s budget or because legislative leaders have waived deadlines. During the first deadline day in the 2017 session, roughly 250 bills were sent to their graves; according to an analysis by The Nevada Independent, roughly 300 bills didn’t make it past the Friday deadline.
Here’s a look at some of the highest-profile actions the Legislature took on Friday.
SB123: Elections omnibus bill
Members of the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Election voted to advance this bill, which would allow for same-day voter registration for any individual in a primary or general election, given that they provide proof of identity and residence and show up at predetermined polling places. An amendment to the bill removes language that would have authorized county election officials to extend the early voting period from the Friday before an election to the Sunday before an election.
SB450: Major changes to recall elections
A bill that would make qualifying a recall election much more difficult is moving forward after a 4-1 vote in the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections.
The legislation would eliminate the state’s current process for verifying signatures on a petition for recall — where election officials check a random sampling — and instead require county clerks to conduct a full verification of all signatures over a 20-day period. Backers of the recall effort would be responsible for paying for the full costs of signature verification, and donors would only be able to contribute $5,000 each to a special recall election effort.
The bill also extends the deadline to challenge the legal sufficiency of a recall petition from 5 days to 15 days and makes misrepresenting the content of a recall petition and negligently or knowingly obtaining a false signature a felony.
An amendment to the bill proposed during the hearing would impose additional requirements on recall elections, including requiring recall backers to submit all signatures collected during the first half of the signature-collecting phase 45 days into the 90 period. It would also allow a 25 percent sampling to verify signatures to determine the sufficiency of a petition to recall a statewide elected official.
Republican Sen. Keith Pickard joined three Democrats on the committee in voting the bill forward; fellow Republican Sen. Heidi Gansert voted against it.
AB132: Marijuana testing for employees
A heavily amended version of Democratic Assemblywoman Dina Neal’s bill to prohibit employers from denying employment to job applicants because they fail a marijuana screening test will advance and survive after it was unanimously voted out of committee.
As amended, the bill exempts its provisions for firefighters, emergency medical technicians, drivers subjected to drug screening tests under federal or state law, or any profession that could adversely affect the safety of others. It also would not apply to any position under federal law or funded by a federal grant, or for any employee working under a collective bargaining agreement in place before the bill is signed into law.
An additional amendment added to the bill on behalf of Democratic Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel would allow an employee who fails a marijuana screening test to pay out of their own pocket for a drug test to show if the drug was used in the last 24 to 48 hours, in which case they shall not be removed from their employment.
AB355: Grocery store retaining workers
A bill requiring new grocery store owner to retain previous employees advanced out of the Assembly Committee on Commerce and Labor on party-lines.
The bill, AB355, is sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Susie Martinez and would require any person who purchases a grocery store retain its current employees for at least 90 days and then offer continued employment to those grocery workers afterward. The bill does not apply if a collective bargaining agreement is in place, if the grocery store is less than 15,000 square feet in size or is in an area designated as a “food desert” by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
AB492: PTSD is considered an occupational disease
Members of the Assembly Commerce and Labor Committee have voted out a bill that would allow for post-traumatic stress disorders suffered by first responders be considered an occupational disease compensable under industrial insurance.
The bill, which is sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Teresa Benitez-Thompson, is estimated by Clark County to cost more than $12 million in claims over the next two years, including payments to first responders who worked during the mass shooting on October 1, 2017.
AB360: Traditional installment loan regulation
One of the few bills actually heard on Friday was AB360, a bill from Democratic Assemblywoman Dina Neal that would allow traditional installment lenders to operate in a section of law separate from payday lenders.
As amended, the bill would create a new section of law and requirements for financial institutions that wish to operate as an installment lender, which offers fully amortized loans, reports to credit agencies and is prohibited from bringing a civil lawsuit if an individual fails to make payments — all differences from traditional payday lenders. The bill, which is backed by installment lender Security Finance Corporation, comes amid fears that the industry currently only exists in law as an exemption to payday lending laws, and would be in a more secure position if it was established as a separate category in state law.
“It doesn’t appear in the chapter, it’s only mentioned as an exemption to the chapter,” lobbyist Marcus Conklin said. “So the thought was to put it in its own place to give it not mentioned as an exemption, but more as a legitimate product, which it is.”
But the bill was opposed by an unusual pairing — lobbyists for traditional payday lenders who said they also wanted to offer installment loans through business licensed as high-interest lenders, and Legal Aid of Southern Nevada lobbyist Bailey Bortolin who said there was “no legal reason” to move the type of loan out of the payday lending chapter.
“There’s a reason that these different types of products exist cumulatively in a chapter together, so we can both develop those products and develop cumulative protections when we make the decision to allow high interest lending,” she said.
Neal said her intent was to ensure protection for an industry that was less harmful than other types of high-interest, short-term loans, and bristled at suggestions that she was attempting to pass a bill that would harm consumers.
“I need the record to be clear, that as far as Assemblywoman Dina Neal is concerned, I am not getting my name behind a bill that is hurting consumers, or setting consumers up,” she said. “The product is already out there, the question is how should it be treated and how should it be segregated away from another product.”
Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel, who chairs the committee in which the bill was heard, confirmed that it wouldn’t come up for a vote before the deadline.
Lawmakers did not take a vote on SB287, a bill that adds more teeth to the public records law, and instead voted to re-refer it to the Senate Finance Committee to keep it alive and continue working on it.
The bill’s sponsor, Democratic Sen. David Parks, had proposed an amendment that significantly reduced the penalty for not complying with the records law, kept autopsy files confidential and laid out a list of reasons why law enforcement could declare a record confidential.
Lawmakers on the Senate Government Affairs Committee did pass SB388, a bill that gives government agencies more opportunities to keep records confidential on the basis that their release would cause embarrassment or emotional harm. Proponents said the intent is to ensure that reams of data collected through Smart City programs such as the one at the City of Las Vegas are not released, potentially revealing the identities of individual people.
While an amendment clarified the language to specify it targets the mass collection of data, critics including Republican Sen. Ben Kieckhefer said it appeared too broad.
SB351: Opportunity Scholarship extension
Members of the Senate Education Committee voted to re-refer Republican Sen. Heidi Gansert’s bill SB351 to the Senate Finance Committee, keeping it alive past the deadline.
The bill would make changes to the Opportunity Scholarship program, which uses a system of business donations and tax credits to fund scholarships for children to attend private schools.
Funding is expected to decline in the next few years, and the bill would add an additional $20 million to ensure the program does not have to eliminate participants.
SB321: Abolition of the Achievement School District
Lawmakers voted to advance this bill, which is sponsored by Democratic state Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop. It would abolish the controversial Achievement School District, which was established in 2015 to turn underperforming public schools into charter schools.
The vote took place after extensive discussion about how schools that are currently in the Achievement School District will continue under the new oversight of the State Public Charter School Authority.
SB354: Reducing the number of members of the board of regents
Members of the Senate Education Committee approved this bill, which would reduce the number of Nevada System of Higher Education regents from 13 to nine and cut their terms from six years to four.
Though the bill originally called for making four of those regents appointed, an amendment to the bill proposed by Woodhouse during the hearing would leave all nine members elected.
If the bill is approved, it would kick in only if voters approve a constitutional amendment that would remove the board of regents from the Nevada Constitution. Lawmakers voted earlier this session to send the proposed constitutional amendment, AJR5 of the 2017 session, to the 2020 ballot.
AB317: Putting trauma designations in the hands of the state
This bill, which would shift the responsibility of determining whether adding an additional trauma center is necessary from the local level to the state, passed out of the Assembly Health and Human Services Committee Friday afternoon with only Assemblyman Gregory Hafen opposed.
The legislation, sponsored by Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, comes amid a renewed discussion over whether to expand the trauma network in Southern Nevada.
The bill also calls for every off campus facility that a hospital operates to have a unique national provider identifier number. The goal, Carlton said at a hearing on the bill this week, is to help the state better track utilization of off campus hospital facilities, such as freestanding emergency departments.
AB469: Ending surprise emergency room billing
The Assembly Health and Human Services Committee voted unanimously Friday afternoon to advance a bill to hold patients harmless for out-of-network bills they receive for emergency medical treatment, a piece of compromise legislation months in the making.
At the most, patients will be responsible for paying whatever copay, coinsurance or deductible they would have been required to pay to an in-network provider.
The bill also lays out a formula for hospitals to receive payment from insurance companies when they are out of network. (If they were recently in network, the insurer has to pay 108 or 115 percent of the previously contracted rates, depending on how long they’ve been out of network; if they never had a contract or were out of network for more than two years, the two are required to go to arbitration.)
An amendment proposed to the bill before the Friday vote proposes a different system for how insurers will pay out-of-network providers, such as doctors.
AB465: Expanded “Community” Solar
Members of the Assembly Committee on Growth and Infrastructure voted unanimously to approve AB465, after approving an amendment expanding the scope of the bill beyond providing community solar” power to low-income residents.
The amendment by committee Chairwoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno removes sections of the bill that originally would have required electric utilities submit a plan for low-income solar access programs to the Public Utilities Commission. Instead, it requires such a program provide 25 percent of its capacity to low-income individuals, 25 percent to disadvantaged businesses or nonprofit organizations, and 50 percent to residential customers who cannot install solar on their premises.
The amended bill also requires the Public Utilities Commission to adopt regulations creating the program and requiring it to use a mixture of utility-scale and community solar, which typically refer to smaller-scale solar facilities in urban areas. It also requires customers enrolled in the program pay a fixed rate and all other applicable charges, but allows the PUC to waive or reduce those charges for low-income customers.
It also clarifies that any community solar program created as part of the program be connected and used as part of NV Energy’s distribution system.
AJR9: Ending judicial elections
Members of the Assembly Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections voted to move AJR9 out of committee without a recommendation, keeping the measure that would amend the state’s constitution to end the direct election of judges.
The resolution would allow appointed judges to continue serving only if its recommended by the Commission on Judicial Selection, which under the resolution would consist of a 17-member commission charged with reviewing judicial records and conduct. It would affect all District Court, Court of Appeals and Supreme Court judges.
Like other constitutional amendments, AJR9 would need to pass the 2019 and 2021 legislative sessions and then be approved by voters in 2022 to take effect.
AB282: Ward only voting
Democratic Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel’s bill to require ward-only voting in municipal elections will survive another day, after a substantial amendment deleted the entirety of the bill and replaced it to call for a 2020 ballot question on ward-only voting for Henderson residents.
The amended version of the bill would require Henderson immediately transition to ward-only voting in the next election if approved by voters.
SB438: Conviction by confession
Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee voted Friday morning to approve a bill that specifies that a confession alone could be grounds for a conviction if the defendant is being accused of driving under the influence, domestic violence or elder abuse.
An amendment proposed to the legislation and adopted by the committee says the court must consider whether there is evidence that supports the facts contained in the confession, whether there is evidence that may support the commission of a crime and whether the circumstances under which the confession was made support the assertion that it is trustworthy.
At a hearing on the legislation earlier this week, proponents used the example of a police officer applicant who confessed to sexually abusing an infant but could not be prosecuted because there is no other evidence of the crime.
The only member of the committee to oppose forwarding the legislation to the full Senate was Democratic state Sen. James Ohrenschall, who expressed some reservations about the bill. Two other Democrats, state Sens. Melanie Scheible and Dallas Harris, said they would support the bill out of committee but were still deciding how they would vote on the measure on the floor.
AB421: Construction defects
A measure lauded by trial attorneys rolling back many restrictions on construction defect litigation passed an Assembly Judiciary Committee vote just two days after a contentious committee hearing. All Republicans opposed it.
The bill would roll back many of the changes approved in 2015 by the Republican-led Legislature that put limits on litigation brought under a state law that allows homeowners to sue contractors and businesses for shoddy or dangerous residential construction practices. Since the 2015 law was passed, litigation has decreased by more than 90 percent.
If approved, the bill would extend the period of time to bring a construction defect lawsuit from 6 to 10 years, broaden the definition of a construction defect and remove certain pre-litigation requirements for homeowners. It’s strongly opposed by developers, contractors and the real estate industry, who say litigation should be a last resort for homeowners.
Lawmakers on the Assembly Judiciary Committee voted to pass AB411, which would convert the vast majority of traffic violations from a criminal misdemeanor to a civil offense, unless a more severe penalty for the offense exists in state law.
Committee Chairman Steve Yeager said the bill was still a work in progress. Among the amendments adopted Friday, the cap on fines would be $500, up from $250.
They also approved AB434, an alternate that seeks to reduce the penalties for traffic offenses. It initially downgraded them to a new classification called “petty misdemeanor,” but that has been removed; it now includes a statement of intent that the Legislature does not support incarcerating people for failing to pay a traffic ticket.
AB376: Reporting transfer of undocumented immigrants
Members of the Assembly Judiciary Committee approved this bill, sponsored by Democratic Assemblywoman Selena Torres, which calls for reports from police agencies shortly after the beginning of each year. The report must detail how many undocumented people were transferred to the custody of a federal agency after being detained by a local agency that year and why, as well as what crimes those people were initially arrested for.
An amendment calls for people who are questioned about their immigration status in jail to be informed of why they are being asked those questions.
AB291: Omnibus gun safety
The Assembly Judiciary Committee approved a bill that would ban bump stocks and end legislative preemption on firearm laws over local governments.
Proposed by Democratic Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui — herself a survivor of the mass shooting in Las Vegas in October 2017 — AB291 would ban possession and sale of firearm modification such as bump stocks that mimic an automatic weapon’s rate of fire. It also lowers blood alcohol content limit for firearm possession from 0.1 to 0.08, and removes language prohibiting local governments from passing laws affecting firearms.
An amendment scaled back some of the latitude local governments have to regulate firearms.
All Republicans, as well as Democratic Assemblyman Skip Daly, voted against the bill.
AB142: Removing statute of limitations on sexual assault
Current Nevada law specifies that there’s no statute of limitation for prosecuting a sexual assault if the victim or someone acting on that person’s behalf filed a report with law enforcement within 20 years of the alleged crime.
The Assembly Judiciary Committee approved this bill, sponsored by Republican Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner, that would also remove the statute of limitations if there’s DNA evidence that can identify a suspect.
AB81: More oversight over public defender services
This Assembly Judiciary Committee passed this bill, which would create a Board on Indigent Defense to replace the Nevada Right to Counsel Commission, which is set to expire this summer. The board will oversee an executive director and will help establish minimum standards for indigent defense services, such as guidelines on how many cases individual attorneys should handle.
It would also exercise oversight over county public defender offices.
An amendment added a $15 million appropriation to the bill.
SB214: Faculty pay raises
A bill to create a system of predictable raises for faculty at Nevada colleges — a measure aimed at helping the schools better retain professors — has died.
Senate Finance Committee Chairwoman Joyce Woodhouse had initially scheduled the measure for a vote, but did not bring it up Friday, saying stakeholders were unable to come to agreement.