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Gov. Steve Sisolak signs bills alongside Nevada Department of Education staff, State Superintendent Jhone Ebert, and Sen. Marilyn Dondero Loop in Carson City on June 12, 2019. Photo courtesy Nevada Governor's Office.

Fulfilling some of his major campaign promises, Gov. Steve Sisolak has signed into law bills implementing progressive priorities including a minimum wage hike, mandatory paid sick leave and collective bargaining for state employees.

At a signing ceremony on Wednesday afternoon, Sisolak was flanked by green-shirted AFSCME union members who whooped and cheered as he gave his approval to the unionization bill — a scene that underscored the shift in direction now that a Democrat is governor for the first time in two decades.

He also signed a payroll tax rate extension bill that directs money to teacher raises but could face a legal challenge, and a measure that allows county commissions to raise their sales tax to fund education, services for the homeless or union-affiliated hospitality workforce programs.

Among the measures Sisolak signed:

  • SB135, which enacts collective bargaining for state employees. Amid concerns that union demands could overstretch the state budget, a late-session amendment to the bill gave the governor, not the unions, final say on all money-related requests including salary, health benefits, retirement and staffing levels.
    Sisolak acknowledged the bill’s limitations in remarks before signing the bill.
    “This bill is not the end, but it is a critical first step,” he said. “I look forward to continuing to work with stakeholders and legislators in the interim toward greater empowerment for our hardworking state employees in the years to come.”
    Harry Schiffman, president of AFSCME Local 4041, said in a statement that the signing marked a “historic day for state employees and all Nevadans, as collective bargaining rights will mean a voice on the job to make meaningful changes in our workplaces and communities.”
  • AB456, which gradually raises the minimum wage each of the next five years. Workers will begin to see changes on July 1, 2020, when the wage floor will move up by 75 cents to $9 an hour if the employer does not offer health insurance and $8 if they do. It will max out in mid-2024, when the minimum wage will be $12 if the employer doesn’t offer insurance and $11 if they do. “We all know that the current minimum wage is insufficient to support a working family, let alone empower them to reach the middle class,” Sisolak said. “With this bill, hundreds of thousands of working Nevadans will see a difference in their paycheck.”
  • SB312, which requires employers with at least 50 employees to allow workers to earn sick leave for each hour on the job. The minimum amount of leave for a person working 40 hours a week and 52 weeks a year is about 40 hours of sick time. 
    Almost half a million workers in Nevada can’t take paid time away from work to recover when they are sick or a parent or child is sick,” Sisolak said. “These workers often have to risk their jobs or lose a month’s worth of groceries when they or a family member gets sick.”
  • SB448, which allows up to $10 million in transferable tax credits each year to companies seeking to develop affordable housing projects. The credits could be used against payroll, excise, insurance premium or gaming tax burdens. The bill is expected to spur development of 600 to 800 housing units a year priced at rates affordable to people making 60 percent of the area median income or less.
  • SB166, which adds teeth to laws against employment-based discrimination. It sets up a tiered system of penalties for employers found to have multiple instances of pay discrimination within a five-year period, with fines starting at $5,000 and escalating to $15,000. It also protects job applicants from discrimination, and prohibits them from setting occupational requirements that are based on gender differences.
  • AB533, creating a five-person Cannabis Compliance Board modeled after the Nevada Gaming Control Board. The board will assume most of the law enforcement, regulation and compliance duties that are currently under the purview of the Nevada Department of Taxation. Members, who are paid and part-time, must not have a financial interest in the marijuana industry, but will receive advice from an advisory board that can include members of the industry.
  • AB309, which authorizes counties to enact a sales tax increase to fund education programs aside from core K-12 instruction (including truancy reduction, preschool, teacher bonuses, and adult education), initiatives to reduce homelessness, and union-affiliated training programs for the hospitality industry. It also allows school districts flexibility to use certain restricted “categorical” grants from the state — largely directed to professional development programs — to support general operating expenses.
  • SB551, which extends the existing Modified Business Tax (MBT or payroll tax) rate permanently instead of letting it go down as scheduled. The bill was approved on party lines and could face a legal challenge because it was approved by a simple majority in the Senate; Republicans argue that it requires a two-thirds vote constitutionally required of tax increases. The bill dedicates most of the estimated $98 million in revenue to teacher raises, with other money going to school safety initiatives and the Opportunity Scholarship private school scholarship program. It also eliminates the Education Savings Account program, a voucher-style program that would have allowed public education funds to flow into accounts and directed to private school tuition or other qualifying educational expenses. The program, created in 2015, has never disbursed funds but was still on the books.

SB545, which sends proceeds from a 10 percent excise tax on marijuana sales into the Distributive School Account, the state’s main education account, rather than to the Rainy Day Fund as reserves. The tax is projected to bring in $120 million over the biennium. Last-minute political maneuvering in the 2017 session led to the tax money flowing to the reserve account, although lawmakers backfilled the education account with money from the general fund so schools did not see their funding levels reduced as a result of the money diversion.

 

Fulfilling some of his major campaign promises, Gov. Steve Sisolak has signed into law a half-dozen bills implementing progressive priorities including a minimum wage hike, mandatory paid sick leave and collective bargaining for state employees.

At a signing ceremony on Wednesday afternoon, Sisolak was flanked by AFSCME and other union leaders — a scene that underscored the shift in direction now that a Democrat is governor for the first time in two decades.

Among the bills Sisolak signed:

  • SB135, which enacts collective bargaining for state employees. Amid concerns that union demands could overstretch the state budget, a late-session amendment to the bill gave the governor, not the unions, final say on all money-related requests including salary, health benefits, retirement and staffing levels. Union officials have described the measure as a first step.
  • AB456, which gradually raises the minimum wage each of the next five years. Workers will begin to see changes on July 1, 2020, when the wage floor will move up by 75 cents to $9 an hour if the employer does not offer health insurance and $8 if they do. It will max out in mid-2024, when the minimum wage will be $12 if the employer doesn’t offer insurance and $11 if they do.
  • SB312, which requires employers with at least 50 employees to allow workers to earn sick leave for each hour on the job. The minimum amount of leave for a person working 40 hours a week and 52 weeks a year is about 40 hours of sick time.
  • SB448, which allows up to $10 million in transferable tax credits each year to companies seeking to develop affordable housing projects. The credits could be used against payroll, excise, insurance premium or gaming tax burdens. The bill is expected to spur development of 600 to 800 housing units a year priced at rates affordable to people making 60 percent of the area median income or less.
  • SB166, which adds teeth to laws against employment-based discrimination. It sets up a tiered system of penalties for employers found to have multiple instances of pay discrimination within a five-year period, with fines starting at $5,000 and escalating to $15,000. It also protects job applicants from discrimination, and prohibits them from setting occupational requirements that are based on gender differences.
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