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Podcast: 2019 Legislative Session Recap

The exterior of the Nevada Legislature is seen on June 5, 2017 (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

With the halls of the legislative building cleared out and most lawmakers back home, The Nevada Independent’s Carson City team recaps all the action leading up to sine die in this week’s episode of the IndyMatters podcast.

Even though the Democrats had a supermajority in the Assembly, one vote less than a supermajority in the Senate and the governor’s mansion, the team summed up the party’s approach to the session as both cautious and moderate.

The final day of the 120-session was full of high drama, with Democrats bringing a school spending and tax bill up for a vote that sharply divided lawmakers on party lines. SB551 would put money back towards school safety that had been removed earlier in the budget-crafting process, as well as put money towards Opportunity Scholarships, a program that provides low- and middle-income children scholarships for private school and is a high priority for Republicans.

The crux of the dispute was in how the Democratic caucus proposed paying for the spending: by canceling a reduction in the payroll tax that is set to take effect in July.

Republicans view the maneuver as a tax increase, and believe it fits under a constitutional requirement that two-thirds of lawmakers approve any tax hike. Democrats disagree, arguing that they are not creating new revenue, just maintaining current levels that were previously scheduled to drop. The dispute came to a head during a feisty floor debate and a vote in which Democrats fell short of two-thirds; Democrats advanced the measure with a simple majority, and Republicans have hinted at a lawsuit.

So far, Gov. Steve Sisolak has vetoed two bills including AB186, which would pledge Nevada’s electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote. This would only go into effect if enough states signed onto similar measures.

The Indy team said the veto show’s Sisolak’s “Nevada First” mentality, and his concern that the bill would make Nevada less relevant on the national stage as presidential candidates would focus their attention on more populous states such as California and New York.

The other bill Sisolak vetoed was SB496, a measure that would allow for independent contractors who drive limousines to be treated the same as independent contractors who drive taxis in Clark County.

Indy reporters also recap other notable bills that may have flown under the radar, including  SB366, which would allow for “dental therapists” — a midlevel dental provider class that would be authorized to offer services more complicated than what a hygienist would perform and simpler than a full-fledged dentist. The measure got heavy pushback from dentists, who questioned it on the grounds of safety, but the bill ultimately passed with the caveat that dental therapists are only permitted to work in underserved communities in the state.

There were also major changes in the Read by Grade Three program. Lawmakers passed a bill reversing the provision that third graders who cannot read at grade level are automatically held back, while they upheld the spending for extra resources aimed at improving literacy. That bill, AB289, was sponsored by the late Democratic Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson.

And finally, reporters discuss AB450 — a bill that would change the way prisoners are counted in the 2020 Census and could have significant implications on redistricting.

Hear it all in this week’s episode of IndyMatters.

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