Legislature final day live updates: Major amendments to obscure bills as time runs out
As the Legislature approaches adjournment sine die, the constitutionally mandated end to the 120-day session, the once slow trickle of the legislative session has been turbocharged into a raging river — with bills moving rapidly through hearings, committee votes, floor votes, amendments and transmittal to the governor’s desk.
In addition to voting on bills, lawmakers are still concurring on amendments and lobbyists are anxiously awaiting the governor’s final stamp of approval (or veto). The final day is notorious for conference committees — a committee of Assembly and Senate lawmakers convened to reconcile differences between houses if one chamber does not concur on an amendment adopted by the other.
Under the Nevada Constitution, the governor has five days (not including the day of a bill’s delivery to his office or Sundays) to sign or veto a piece of legislation. For bills delivered with fewer than five days remaining in the session or delivered after the Legislature adjourns sine die, the governor has 10 days (not including Sundays) to act on the bill.
Throughout the final day of the legislative session, The Nevada Independent will provide updates here on what’s taking place at the Legislature. For the latest on what bills Lombardo has vetoed, click here.
Conference committee spree brings major amendments to handful of bills
In a late night scramble to resolve differences over amendments, lawmakers moved quickly between their respective chambers, a second floor committee room and a table in the Legislature’s foyer that’s typically a home base for grousing lobbyists.
Surrounded by dozens of lobbyists, reporters and legislators, conference committees — groups of three senators and three Assembly members — convened Monday evening to tackle disputes stemming from one house’s decision to not concur in an amendment adopted by the other house. That resulted in some minor changes to some of the 10 bills discussed in conference committees Monday, while lawmakers completely overhauled others.
Lawmakers gutted and entirely replaced the language of SB60, a bill that would have allowed anyone to request an online ballot typically only accessible to overseas and military voters. Sen. Skip Daly (D-Sparks) said the new version of the bill would require reporting similar to what is mandated for candidates for state offices, but for the inaugural committees of constitutional officers, such as the governor.
The bill comes in response to reporting from The Nevada Independent finding that Lombardo created a nonprofit organization called “Nevada Inaugural Committee” to run events and fundraise for his inaugural balls rather than register a political action committee (PAC). Nonprofits are not required to disclose their donors, but PACs are — both can accept unlimited donations.
Former Govs. Brian Sandoval and Steve Sisolak had registered their inaugural committees as PACs.
The nonprofit has moved from organizing black tie galas to operating as an attack arm of Lombardo’s political operation under the name Service First Fund. The group has run digital ads targeting Democratic lawmakers.
In another conference committee, lawmakers modified SB180, a bill altering the function and operation of groundwater boards. During that meeting, lawmakers amended language from another bill, AB97, into SB180.
AB97 was vetoed Sunday by Lombardo, with the governor raising an issue in his veto message with three words — “or use of” — in a ban on the use of certain environmentally harmful refrigerants in building cooling systems, essentially requiring building with such systems to fund costly replacements, in addition to banning the use of the chemicals in new systems.
The veto also created the unusual scenario of a Republican governor rejecting a bill not only passed unanimously by both houses, but also sponsored by a Republican lawmaker, Assemblywoman Melissa Hardy (R-Henderson).
During another conference committee, lawmakers from both chambers concurred on an amendment adopted in the Assembly to SB104, a bill addressing traffic offenses. As amended, the bill no longer requires a person who committed a civil infraction to post a bond equal to $50 or the amount of the monetary penalty.
And in a minor change to a bill aiming to establish fentanyl trafficking levels in criminal statute, SB35, lawmakers added language so the provisions apply not only to fentanyl, but also fentanyl derivatives.
— Sean Golonka, Jacob Solis and Tabitha Mueller, 9:56 p.m.
Legislature unanimously approves bill for Gaming Control Board’s tech upgrade
Both legislative houses on Monday unanimously approved SB490, which allows the Gaming Control Board to finish replacing its decades-old information technology system that oversees all aspects of the state agency.
The board initially thought it needed almost $3.6 million from the state to finish the project when it submitted its bill draft request last year, but Chairman Kirk Hendrick realized in January the agency was roughly $10 million off from its estimate to complete the migration away from computer software created in the 1980s to a modern operating system.
An amendment to SB490 was approved last week by the Senate Finance Committee that would give the board $8 million this year and set aside another $5.5 million that the agency could request through the Legislature’s Interim Finance Committee to finish the project once specific parameters are met.
“You have to get off of a 40-year-old computer system or bad things could happen,” Hendrick said last month. “The system is used for running all the board functions. Every single division uses pieces of this system. It's way past its retirement age.”
— Howard Stutz, 9:52 p.m.
Senate committee guts, advances Lombardo government modernization bill
The Senate Government Affairs Committee voted in a behind the bar meeting to significantly amend and pass out SB431, a government modernization bill from Gov. Joe Lombardo’s office, in a move that effectively guts a number of the governor’s proposals.
However, the deal to move the bill — which has been stuck in a committee since an initial hearing in late April — marks the third such major last-minute amendment lawmakers have added to one of Lombardo’s priority bills, following moves in the last few days to advance heavily amended versions of Lombardo’s education omnibus bill (AB400) and criminal justice bill (SB412).
The amendment — which was not yet available online, but summarized during the meeting — removes a sweeping proposal by Lombardo’s office to reorganize and rename the Department of Employment, Training and Rehabilitation (DETR) as the new Department of Workforce, as well as the proposed creation of a gubernatorial cabinet (a proposal that would also have been axed under an earlier proposed amendment from Lombardo’s office).
It also removes an attempt to limit the power of the Interim Finance Committee, a group of lawmakers charged with approving financial decisions in between legislative sessions, and axes a proposed “Nevada Way” fund, housed within the Rainy Day Fund, that would have directed money toward certain public private partnerships.
Still remaining is the creation of a new office governing the state’s many boards and commissions, the removal of a cap on state worker salaries at 95 percent of the governor’s salary and an increase on a statutory cap on the state’s Rainy Day Fund.
However, the new amendment only raises that cap from 20 percent of the state’s general fund to 26 percent — below the 30 percent sought under Lombardo’s original bill.
— Jacob Solis
Contraception language added to bill requiring public benefits cover menstrual products
Lawmakers drastically amended SB161, a bipartisan health care measure sponsored by Sen. Melanie Scheible (D-Las Vegas) that stipulates certain public benefits programs, including the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women Infants and Children (WIC), must cover menstrual products as long as federal funds are available.
As proposed, the bill passed unanimously out of the Senate and Assembly.
The 60-page amendment, added in a conference committee meant to reconcile disagreements between the Assembly and Senate, aims to fix language surrounding a 2017 law that authorizes the dispensing of a 12-month supply of contraceptives, requires insurers to cover family planning services and authorizes the state Department of Health and Human Services to enter into a contract with pharmacy benefits managers to manage, direct and coordinate payments and rebates for prescriptions.
Parts of the amendment appear to address implementation issues with two bills passed through the Legislature in 2017 that allowed women to access up to 12 months of contraception and prevented cost hikes on birth control.
Under current law, if someone trying out a new type of birth control decides to change it within the first three months, they would not be able to receive a 12-month supply of a different type of contraceptive. The amendment seeks to change this and allow them to receive a 12-month supply.
Another portion of the amendment addresses a problem where if someone who is insured changes insurance, they would need to start their birth control over again and receive a three-month supply before being allowed the full year’s supply. The amendment would allow someone to continue receiving their preferred contraception and receive a full year’s supply immediately.
Part of the amended legislation includes a provision that pharmacists would be able to be paid the same as an OB-GYN when performing certain services usually provided by an OB-GYN. During the 2021 legislative session, lawmakers passed a bill that allows women to receive birth control through a pharmacist, bypassing a doctor’s visit.
Under the amendment accepted by the conference committee, insurers would be required to “cover certain contraceptive services when provided by a pharmacist to the same extent as if the services were provided by another provider of health care.”
The amendment also includes a clause authorizing the Board of Massage Therapy to adopt the Interstate Massage Compact, creating a multistate license.
For the amendment to be approved, lawmakers in each chamber will need to pass the measure as amended via a voice vote before it could move forward to the governor’s desk.
— Tabitha Mueller
Senate unanimously passes bill for paid family leave for state employees
Senators on Monday unanimously passed AB376, which would provide state employees with eight weeks of paid family leave. It follows a unanimous Assembly vote on May 26.
The bill was brought forward by the Assembly Committee on Government Affairs in collaboration with the office of Democratic Treasurer Zach Conine. It would give employees — currently allotted up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave under federal law — the opportunity to receive 50 percent of their regular salary for eight of those 12 weeks.
Employees would also be required to use sick leave (paying 100 percent of their salary) until they have no more than 40 hours remaining before the family leave would kick in.
An amendment to the bill, proposed by the treasurer’s office, changed the language to include unclassified, as well as classified, state employees — a move that extended the paid family leave to employees appointed by the governor, nonclerical staff in certain government offices, and student workers at public institutions.
Hoping to help the state recruit and retain employees by expanding benefits, Conine told members of the Senate Committee on Legislative Operations and Elections on May 30 he hopes AB376 will be “one step, in what we hope is many, toward increasing these opportunities.”
— Noel Sims, 4:34 p.m.
Despite disagreement on cause, Senate approves bill to address canceled prison visits
After a 16-5 vote by the Senate in favor of an amended AB452, and final approval from the Assembly, a bill to impose regulations on visitation rights for prisoners is headed to the governor’s desk.
The bill would require Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC) Director James Dzurenda to implement policies specifying the reasons a visitation may be canceled, procedures for notifying inmates and visitors of a cancellation and a process for appeals. It would also establish the Office of the Ombudsperson for Offenders to monitor compliance with those and other regulations.
The ombudsperson, appointed by the Board of Prison Commissioners (which is chaired by the governor), would be responsible for investigating grievances of abuse, neglect, conditions of confinement and violations of state or NDOC policy. The ombudsperson would also be able to recommend new policies to the board related to systemic issues identified in investigations.
On the Senate floor, Sen. Jeff Stone (R-Henderson) expressed his opposition to the bill, saying that most visitations were canceled because of lack of staffing in Nevada prisons.
“Hiring an expensive ombudsman will not solve this problem,” he said just before the Senate’s vote. Stone advocated using the funds in the bill to increase prison guard salaries instead.
— Noel Sims, 4:32 p.m.
Following deal, medical malpractice bill moves to governor
Members of the Senate voted 16-5 to pass a heavily lobbied bill (AB404) raising the cap on noneconomic damages for medical malpractice lawsuits from $350,000 to $750,000.
The bill was amended Friday after trial lawyers and health care providers reached a deal agreeing to raise the caps by $80,000 every year for five years beginning Jan. 1, 2024. Under the deal, after the cap reaches $750,000 in 2028, it would increase by a flat rate of 2.1 percent a year — rather than increasing at the annual rate of inflation.
Sens. Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno), Jeff Stone (R-Henderson) and Pete Goicoechea (R-Eureka) joined Democrats in support of the measure. The bill returned to the Assembly and received a concurring vote to approve the new changes. The bill now heads to the governor’s desk.
Update (4:08 p.m.): The Assembly concurred in the amendment, sending the bill to the governor’s desk.
— Tabitha Mueller
Lombardo crime bill makes first significant movement on final day of session
As last-minute negotiations proceed between Democratic legislative leaders and Gov. Joe Lombardo, lawmakers are moving forward with the governor’s omnibus crime bill (SB412) through a 65-page amendment introduced and presented Monday afternoon.
Until then, the bill had not received a hearing.
The amendment was not immediately available online, but Sen. Melanie Scheible (D-Las Vegas), who chairs the Senate Judiciary Committee, presented the high-level details of the amendment Monday afternoon during a behind the bar hearing of the bill, which was held on the side stairs of the Senate floor and not held in a committee room nor streamed publicly as other legislative meetings typically are. The committee passed the bill out as amended.
Scheible said the amendment came from discussions with the governor’s office, herself and Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas).
The amendment does five main things, Scheible said:
- “Prohibit somebody from getting an early discharge from probation if they've been convicted of home invasion.”
- “Creates an enhancement, a Category B felony, if you are convicted of a drug crime … with a firearm.” (Similar language had been in Cannizzaro’s SB367 but was amended out.)
- “Changes the definition of strangulation in the context of domestic violence” to match that with “the chokehold language from our police brutality statute,” defining it as “intentionally impeding the flow of air or flow of blood to the brain.”
- “Provide a $500,000 appropriation to the Department of Public Safety to invest into machines that can test the quantity of fentanyl and fentanyl mixture.” Nevada’s crime labs are unable to determine how much of specific drugs, such as fentanyl, are contained within a drug mixture.
- “Clarify our trespass statute or misdemeanor trespass statute to indicate that when somebody's trespassed from a private property, that warning remains in effect for two years.”
— Sean Golonka, 2:53 p.m.
Senate approves bill to fund free school breakfast, lunch
The Senate passed a bill that will allocate $43 million in state funding to provide free breakfast and lunch for students for the 2024-25 school year. The bill was approved in a 16-5 vote, with Democrats and three Republican senators in support, and had earlier passed out of the Assembly on a party-line 28-14 vote with Republicans in opposition.
Nevada students had received free school meals since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic through waivers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but those waivers expired at the end of June 2022. Last year, the state Interim Finance Committee approved spending $75 million in federal COVID-19 relief funds to continue providing free meals for the 2022-23 school year.
Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui (D-Las Vegas) said there are still enough COVID relief funds to continue the program into the upcoming 2023-24 school year, and her bill, AB319, would appropriate $43 million to the State Department of Agriculture to cover the cost of free breakfast and lunch at district schools and charter schools for the 2024-25 school year.
— Rocio Hernandez, 2:50 p.m.
Higher ed bargaining, sexual misconduct bills clear Senate
A pair of higher education bills passed through the Senate on Monday, and will soon head to the governor. That includes AB224, a bill that would include higher education employees under a 2019 collective bargaining law for state employees, and AB245, a cleanup bill that expands a 2021 effort aimed at addressing sexual misconduct at college campuses.
AB224, sponsored by Assemblywoman Sarah Peters (D-Reno) and backed by the Nevada Faculty Alliance (NFA), is the third consecutive attempt by higher education faculty to open up their collective bargaining status, something currently constrained by the Board of Regents’ code. Passed Saturday in a bipartisan 31-11 vote in the Assembly, the Senate passage Monday on a party-line 13-8 vote (with Republicans opposed) is the furthest the measure has made it through the legislative process.
Still, whether Gov. Joe Lombardo signs the bill remains unclear. Lombardo has already vetoed one collective bargaining-related measure in SB251, a bill that would have expanded the scope of such agreements for K-12 support staff.
AB245, sponsored by Assemblywoman Selena Torres (D-Las Vegas), would tweak a 2021 measure establishing a higher education task force on sexual violence and misconduct, renaming it to address the broader category of “power-based violence” and requiring colleges and school districts to enter into agreements with third-party groups dedicated to assisting victims of sexual violence.
That language was scaled back in the final version — passed unanimously in both the Assembly and Senate — to remove language creating a legislatively appointed commission that would have replaced the NSHE task force, as well as softening an attempt to force the regents to conduct a campus sexual misconduct climate survey.
— Jacob Solis, 1:50 p.m.
Last-minute amendment proposes $29 million for services for unhoused people
Nevada lawmakers are proposing allocating a sizable $29 million of additional funding supporting services for unhoused people through an amendment unveiled in the final hours of the legislative session.
If the amendment to SB400 is adopted, it would appropriate $17 million from the general fund to the Department of Health and Human Services, in part to allocate to the Advisory Committee for a Flexible Continuum of Care program (an state-sponsored assistance plan for those at risk for homelessness) and satisfy requirements to match federal grants to fund services for the unhoused within the state.
In addition, $1 million would be allocated to local governments in Northern Nevada and $1 million would be designated for rural local governments. $10 million would be allocated for Las Vegas, broken down to $9 million in the upcoming fiscal year and $1 million next fiscal year.
SB400 would also require a city with a population of 150,000 or more but fewer than 500,000 — which would include cities such as Henderson, North Las Vegas and Reno — transmit not less than $2 million to the Department of Health and Human Services each fiscal year for allocation to the advisory committee to fund programs that address homelessness in that city.
This bill comes just days after a separate, last-minute bill allocating $100 million to establish a matching fund for supportive services passed out of the Assembly on a near-unanimous vote Sunday night.
Boosting resources for unhoused people has been a hot topic this session, with lawmakers considering bills such as SB68 — which would earmark funds from the real property transfer tax into a Critical Needs fund to provide supportive housing, but hasn’t been voted on or discussed since April — and AB310 — which will allocate $32 million to a supportive housing grant program and passed the Senate on Monday.
— Carly Sauvageau, 12:55 p.m.
Senate passes state-funded health care bill for undocumented pregnant women
Sen. Fabian Doñate’s (D-Las Vegas) bill SB419, which originally aimed to expand Medicaid coverage to all undocumented people in Nevada, is being scaled back even further to only provide state-funded health care coverage to pregnant people who don’t qualify for Medicaid because of their immigration status.
SB419, also known as the Nevada Health Opportunities, Planning, and Expansion (HOPE) Act, was passed out of the Senate with a 15-6 vote on the last day of session. Republican Sens. Scott Hammond (R-Las Vegas) and Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno) joined Democrats in support. The bill now goes on to the Assembly.
The measure initially intended to expand Medicaid to all income-eligible Nevadans regardless of immigration status, potentially adding tens of thousands of people to the state’s state’s Medicaid rolls.
Last month, the bill was amended to taper the coverage to children under 17 and for prenatal and postpartum care.
The newest version of the bill covers prenatal care, labor and delivery for a narrow group of undocumented pregnant people not eligible for coverage now. It also brings back tax incentives that were originally part of the bill but were removed by a previous amendment.
The tax incentives for “small and medium-sized medical and biotechnology companies” aim to create public-private partnerships for research, workforce development and capital investment in health care and biotechnology.
The HOPE Act would also appropriate $1.7 million over the next biennium from the general fund to the Division of Health Care Financing and Policy to provide the prenatal, labor and delivery coverage under the Children’s Health Insurance Program. That program, also known as CHIP, provides low-cost health coverage to people not eligible for Medicaid.
— Jannelle Calderón, 12:20 p.m.
Ad campaign launched urging Lombardo to sign contraception legislation
A nascent political advocacy group called Americans for Contraception is launching a political pressure campaign urging Gov. Joe Lombardo to sign legislation aimed at protecting access to contraception.
The bill, AB383, is sponsored by Assemblywoman Selena Torres (D-Las Vegas) and would
generally prohibit a governmental entity from enacting any limitation or requirement that singles out contraception, or substantially burdens access to contraceptives or the ability of a health care provider to provide contraceptives. Torres has said the bill comes from a concern that conservative lawmakers may try to put limits on birth control methods such as IUDs or Plan B, also known as the morning after pill.
Members of the Assembly passed AB383 on a party-line 28-14 vote last week, with Democrats in support. As of Monday morning, it awaits a final vote in the Senate.
The group is launching a $200,000 digital and TV ad buy on Monday that urges viewers to call Lombardo’s office and “tell him to make history and sign” the legislation. It’s also releasing a digital-only, hockey-themed spot in support of the legislation, ahead of the Vegas Golden Knights’ Stanley Cup finals game on Monday, and says it has collected more than 4,000 signatures urging the governor to sign the legislation.
Americans for Contraception is a national advocacy group that ran ads targeting GOP members of Congress ahead of the 2022 election over their opposition to federal legislation enshrining protections for contraceptive access. The group’s website says it plans to “lay the foundations to stop federal and state-led attacks from banning contraception in 2023 and 2024.”
— Riley Snyder, 12:15 p.m.
The pre-Day 120 state of play
As a backdrop to the Legislature’s public meetings and votes, Gov. Joe Lombardo and Democratic leaders have been in negotiations over the state budget and the governor’s legislative agenda, including school choice and government modernization — a process that has held up progress on other high-profile bills, including public funding for a stadium deal for the Oakland A’s and proposed multibillion-dollar expansion of film tax credits.
As of Sunday, the governor had signed three of five major bills used to fund the state government. But he vetoed the Appropriations Act Thursday, a sweeping government funding bill that includes more than $7 billion in appropriations from the general fund, up more than $1 billion from the previous budget period. The final budget bill, the Capital Improvement Program, requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass and awaits a vote out of the Senate.
Here are some of the major bills still up in the air amid ongoing negotiations:
- The A’s stadium: Wherefore art thou, Oakland A’s? Much has been made of SB509’s $380 million in public money to build a new stadium for the baseball team, a project that could be a boon for adjacent Strip properties. But a nonzero number of lawmakers (and outside economists) have balked at the A’s projections for attendance and economic impact. One of several budget-related hostages, the A’s stadium bill has yet to move beyond an initial hearing.
- Film tax credits: While multiple high-profile Hollywood actors have made the trip to Carson City to lobby for a proposal to expand Nevada’s film industry, the measure (SB496) has not yet received a vote in the Senate, with multiple outstanding proposed amendments. Lombardo’s Chief of Staff Ben Kieckhefer said last week the bill contains “general fund liabilities unlike anything we've looked at previously” — a reference to the proposed $190 million in annual film tax credits.
- Medical malpractice caps: After two decades of attempts by the trial lawyers to change the state’s cap on noneconomic medical malpractice damages, health care providers and trial lawyers reached a deal Friday to raise the state’s cap from $350,000 to $750,000. The bill, AB404, passed out of the Senate Finance Committee Friday and awaits a vote in the Senate. Once passed, it will need to return to the Assembly for a concurrence on the amendment before going to the governor’s desk.
- Energy: In the session’s final days, Assemblyman Howard Watts (D-Las Vegas) introduced a bill (AB524) to reform NV Energy’s long-term energy resource planning process and encourage development of in-state generating resources. Despite opposition from NV Energy — the state’s largest electric utility — the bill has moved forward quickly, passing unanimously out of the Assembly with an amendment providing slightly stronger language about building out more renewable energy projects owned by the utility, a message that falls short of what NV Energy sought from lawmakers, including a proposal to increase the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard.
- Homelessness Fund: A surprise bill introduced just days before the Legislature is scheduled to adjourn is looking to establish a wide-ranging homelessness assistance and prevention fund to build out supportive services in Southern Nevada through a project that could leverage as much as $200 million from the state, gaming industry and other partners. The venture is a joint effort from Gov. Joe Lombardo, Democratic leadership and the gaming industry. The funding mechanism comes in the form of AB528, which passed out of the Assembly with a unanimous vote Sunday and now heads to the Senate.
- Opportunity Scholarships: Can Lombardo get school choice past a Democratic Legislature? That question may be one of the last keys to unlocking a budget deal that averts a special session, as Lombardo has jockeyed for at least $50 million (and under an original proposal, up to $500 million by 2032) for the tax-credit funded program that provides annual scholarships for private school tuition for students under certain income thresholds.
- That’s a substantial increase from the roughly $13 million funding the program now — and the line from which Democrats have said repeatedly they will not budge. Originally part of Lombardo’s AB400, enhanced Opportunity Scholarship funding was removed as part of a deal to move the bill to the Assembly floor last week (and now, as part of a deal that saw the Assembly vote unanimously to advance AB400 late Sunday with another amendment on charter school provisions). Another bill, SB508, could theoretically appropriate that money, but it has not received a hearing in the Senate Finance Committee.
- New Appropriations Act: After Lombardo’s veto of the original Appropriations Act, lawmakers have introduced a new version of the bill (SB511) containing the same language. It is a tentpole of the state budget, providing for a majority of appropriations from the state’s general fund and leaving lawmakers an option to send another budget bill to Lombardo’s desk that could advance without the need for a two-thirds veto override.
- Capital Improvement Program: Another budget bill is still on the rocks — AB521. This measure known as the Capital Improvement Program requires a two-thirds vote because it re-implements a statewide property tax used to fund capital projects. Passing the bill would require at least one Senate Republican to vote ‘yea’ — which has left the measure in the limbo of the secretary’s desk since mid-May, as Republicans can move in a bloc to block this part of the budget. If a deal is made to move the Appropriations Act, it will likely involve moving CIP, too.
— Jacob Solis, Sean Golonka and Tabitha Mueller
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