Updating the Nevada Policy Tracker: A guide to key issues in the 2023 legislative session
For the first time since the 2017 session, a Legislature led by a Democratic majority is working alongside a Republican governor to set policy for Nevadans. The Nevada Independent is tracking key pieces of legislation and policy debates on this page.
Read further below for a summary of the most interesting storylines in the Legislature this year, and how discussions are playing out across different policy areas after the latest mid-session deadlines.
Several K-12 education measures made it out of their first house late April, including two major bills on school safety — one of which was brought forth by Gov. Joe Lombardo.
Those two bills, AB285 and AB330, would roll back some provisions in AB168, a so-called restorative justice bill from 2019, including making it easier for school officials to suspend or expel students who are at least 6 years old, which is lower than the age limit of 11 that was established in the previous bill. The bills were supported by the two major teachers unions — the Clark County Education Association and the Nevada State Education Association.
The Assembly also approved AB175, which would add four, nonvoting appointed members to the Clark County School Board, AB73, which would allow students to wear regalia of religious or cultural significance to graduation ceremonies, and AB282, which would require school districts provide certain long-term substitute teachers a subsidy for health care costs.
Meanwhile, the Senate passed SB292, which would make K-12 principals at-will employees who can be dismissed for any reason early in their tenure, and SB340, which would require school districts and charter schools to offer summer school for the next two years as well as transportation and meals for participating students.
In addition, other bills, such as SB158, which would require cameras in certain classrooms with students with special needs, and AB357, which would provide sexual education to students unless their parent or guardian proactively opts them out, received exemptions from deadlines and were referred to other committees.
Another bill from Lombardo, AB400, is making its way through the Legislature. The bill is packed with measures related to promises the governor made on the campaign trail, including efforts to expand school choice, grow Nevada’s teacher pipeline, address early childhood literacy and focus on school accountability.
— Rocio Hernandez
During the 2019 and 2021 legislative sessions, Democratic lawmakers and Democratic Gov. Steve Sisolak ushered through major criminal justice reforms, including reduced sentences for low-level crimes, increased access to diversion programs that offer alternatives to jail time and decriminalization of traffic tickets, as well as policing reforms, such as banning chokeholds.
Though Gov. Joe Lombardo criticized Sisolak’s criminal justice policies as “soft on crime,” Democratic majorities in the Legislature will likely prevent Lombardo from entirely rolling back the recent reforms.
But recent crime trends — including rising numbers of fentanyl deaths and catalytic converter thefts — have proven to be grounds for Democratic lawmakers to reverse recent trends in sentencing by seeking more severe penalties targeted at specific crimes.
Proposals aimed at limiting fentanyl trafficking, in part by increasing felony penalties for drug possession, have drawn backlash from advocates concerned about the negative effects of overcriminalization. Though Democrat-backed bills targeting fentanyl have set the threshold for prosecuting trafficking at 4 grams, Lombardo has pushed for increased criminalization of possession of any amount of the drug.
A trio of gun control bills have also emerged as a flashpoint this session, with Democrats backing proposals to increase restrictions on firearm access — including prohibiting guns near election sites and increasing the legal age to purchase semi-automatic rifles and shotguns from 18 to 21 years old. Even as Republican lawmakers have rallied in opposition against those ideas, Lombardo has thus far declined to weigh in.
Criminal justice reform advocates also celebrated the first committee passage of SB416, a wide-ranging prison financial reform measure aimed at bringing down costs imposed on inmates and their families. Though the bill had no amendments, lawmakers and advocates noted that the language could change depending on the financial support available for the measure.
Other discussions of criminal justice policy have covered sexual and domestic violence. Lawmakers have introduced several bills meant to strengthen protections for children targeted by sex trafficking, including a measure that would target school employees sexting with or luring students that passed out of the Senate unanimously in April.
Lombardo is also seeking raises for state public safety employees — above what he is proposing for other state employees — as public safety agencies, including the Department of Corrections, face high staffing vacancies and significantly lower pay than their local counterparts.
— Sean Golonka
Yet again, health care is shaping up to be an important — and contentious — topic for legislators.
Conversations surrounding abortion rights swirled as Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) unveiled SB131, a measure seeking to codify former Gov. Steve Sisolak’s executive order protecting out-of-state abortion seekers in Nevada and those providing reproductive care, regardless of other state policies.
The legislation passed out of the Senate 15-6, with Sens. Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno) and Carrie Buck (R-Henderson) joining Democrats in support. The measure awaits a hearing in the Assembly. It will likely be the first significant test of Lombardo’s stance on abortion, which shifted throughout the election cycle. So far, Lombardo has signaled he would sign the measure as long as it remains a “clean bill.”
Senators also voted along party lines (13-8) to pass SJR7, which would enshrine abortion protections in the Nevada Constitution, where they would be more difficult to repeal than they are now. The measure now heads to the Assembly, and if passed out of the Legislature, it must return to lawmakers in 2025 before it goes before voters during the 2026 general election.
Perhaps the most significant health care problem facing the Legislature is the state’s provider shortage. Estimates hold that Nevada would need more than 4,000 new registered nurses to meet the national RN-to-population average and that roughly two out of every three Nevadans live in an area with a shortage of primary health care providers.
Lawmakers considered AB108, a bill that would have allowed Nevada to join the multistate Nurse Licensure Compact. Though health care industry leaders lauded the bill for attempting to address the state’s nursing shortage, labor unions said it would undercut the state’s existing workforce and condemned it for not addressing what they said were the actual problems contributing to the shortage. The bill did not advance out of its first committee.
Democrats have also indicated they remain focused on health care affordability. AB250, proposed by Assemblywoman Venicia Considine (D-Las Vegas), would make it so the Medicare-negotiated price of a prescription drug would be the set price of that drug for the rest of the state, regardless of a Nevadan’s insurance. The measure passed out of the Assembly (27-15) with Assemblywoman Bea Duran (D-Las Vegas) joining Republicans in opposition. The bill awaits a hearing in the Senate.
Lawmakers also voted to pass legislation out of their first houses that would legalize medical aid in dying in a narrow 11-10 vote and grant those with a terminal illness greater access to experimental therapies in a bipartisan 33-9 vote.
During the 2021 legislative session, Cannizzaro spearheaded an effort to create a state-run public health insurance option, making Nevada the second state in the country, after Washington, to enact such a law. But its successful implementation could face hurdles from Gov. Joe Lombardo, who called it “bullshit” on the campaign trail.
There is bipartisan support for improving Nevada’s worst-in-the nation ranking for mental health.
In his proposed budget, Lombardo laid out plans for Medicaid reimbursement rate increases for physicians, dentists and nursing homes, services to people with disabilities and certified behavioral health centers.
— Tabitha Mueller
Lawmakers this session are again faced with decisions on how to balance tenants’ rights and protections with landlords’ freedoms.
Assemblywoman Shondra Summers-Armstrong (D-Las Vegas) is seeking to amend Nevada’s unique rapid summary eviction process with AB340, a bill that would require a landlord to make the first filing in a summary eviction case. The bill passed the Assembly in a 28-14 vote.
As advocates urged lawmakers to revisit tenant protections that didn’t pass last session, Sen. Fabian Doñate (D-Las Vegas) is sponsoring SB78, which would require landlords to disclose fees and prevent them from turning over tenant debt to collections or a credit reporting agency “unless the landlord obtains a judgment against the tenant for any such amount.”
SB78 was amended before passing the Senate in a 14-7 vote to say landlords may charge multiple application fees for a dwelling only if prior applications for the unit had been denied.
People with a criminal conviction or arrest record could be protected from being denied housing if SB143 passes. It specifies that landlords could conduct a background check and deny a tenant who has a violent or sexual offense on their record, but otherwise could not reject an application based on a conviction record if the prospective tenant had served their sentence, been acquitted or exonerated.
The bill passed its first committee, but now awaits action from a money committee.
Although Gov. Lombardo pledged to not raise taxes, lawmakers are considering SB68, which proposes more funding for supportive housing across the state by raising the real property transfer tax by 20 cents statewide. Though SB68 drew an hour of testimony in support, Nevada REALTORS testified in opposition, saying the bill would hurt first-time homebuyers. The Senate Revenue and Economic Development Committee voted to amend and advance the bill without recommendation, and it now awaits action from a budget committee.
Lawmakers had considered adopting a Homeless Persons’ Bill of Rights into state law via SB142. Initially a bill that gave an unhoused person the right to “use and move freely in or on public places" — a statement that contradicts some county laws — sponsor Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas) proposed scaling it back to guarantee rights that matched those of all other Nevadans. The bill died in committee without a vote.
Sen. James Ohrenschall’s (D-Las Vegas) bill to prevent local government from prohibiting homeless people from accepting food and sleeping outdoors, SB155, was gutted with an amendment that allows someone charged with a misdemeanor homelessness offense to be placed in diversionary court programs and not be subject to certain fines. It passed the Senate in a 13-8 vote.
— Carly Sauvageau
Water is emerging as a top issue in the legislative session, with numerous proposals trying to address the Colorado River crisis and the overuse of groundwater from aquifers across Nevada.
The Southern Nevada Water Authority is pushing legislation, AB220, to reduce water lost to septic systems and give the agency power to curb excessive water use when federal officials declare a shortage. The bill would also help regulate groundwater in the Las Vegas Valley. The legislation passed the Assembly with two Democrats joining Republicans in opposition.
Other bills seek to address issues in groundwater basins where there are more rights to use water than there is water to go around. In response to a Supreme Court ruling last summer, SB113 clarifies statutory language to require that groundwater management plans receive support from priority water rights users. The measure passed out of the Senate unanimously. Another bill, SB176, would create a program to retire water rights.
Water users have also been negotiating guidance to better reflect the scientific knowledge that groundwater pumping can reduce the amount of water that flows through streams (currently, groundwater and surface water are managed separately). AB387, as amended, requires state officials to consider the “best available science” in making decisions about water. It passed out of the Assembly on a party-line vote, with Democrats advancing the proposal to the Senate.
Lawmakers are also weighing several pieces of legislation dealing with climate change and the energy transition, including provisions curbing emissions from buildings and creating incentives for electric vehicles. Another bill aims to lay out a planning process for natural gas infrastructure through the Public Utilities Commission of Nevada — a major flashpoint in the last session.
Three bill drafts are centered around environmental justice — addressing the disproportionate harms that pollution has on underrepresented communities. AJR3, a proposed amendment to the Nevada Constitution, would enshrine a right to clean air and water, but it did not receive a vote on the Assembly floor. Another bill, SB427, addresses protections for workers in extreme heat and facing poor air quality from wildfire smoke. It passed the Assembly on a party-line vote.
— Daniel Rothberg
After promising no tax increases on the campaign trail, Gov. Joe Lombardo is seeking several tax reductions, including proposals to temporarily suspend the state’s gas tax — a 23-cent-per-gallon levy on all motor fuel that drivers pay when fueling up at gas stations — and to raise the threshold at which the Commerce Tax kicks in from $4 million in gross business revenue a year to $6 million.
Bills to enact those ideas have not been introduced as of April 28, but could still emerge through legislation from the Governor’s Finance Office, which does not have to adhere to typical legislative rules limiting bill introductions past a late March deadline.
Democrats have said they hope to ensure major oil companies do not respond to the one-year tax holiday by increasing profits and preventing the tax savings from being passed to motorists at the pump. They have also introduced a counter proposal in the form of SB403, a bill that would allocate $250 million to the DMV for providing discounts on the governmental services tax — a minimum $16 fee paid alongside a vehicle registration fee.
Attempts to impose new taxes are unlikely to pass out of the Legislature or receive approval from Lombardo as the state’s tax revenues have ballooned by upward of 20 percent in the past two years. Since Nevada’s economy began its rebound from the COVID-19 pandemic, surging inflation and consumer spending have contributed to a massive $1.9 billion surplus and a more than $2 billion increase in the state general fund budget.
The surge in revenue also has triggered an automatic reduction to the Modified Business Tax rate, which applies to wages businesses pay workers. The reduction, required by state law, cuts the payroll tax rate from 1.378 percent to 1.17 percent for general businesses. Pro-business groups have supported the reduction and change to the Commerce Tax as ways to lower the cost of doing business.
Lawmakers are also considering potential changes to property tax rates, with a particular focus on how those changes could affect housing affordability. In March, lawmakers heard a bill that would raise real property transfer taxes to boost the supply of supportive housing for people with disabilities or mental illness, but the measure has drawn opposition from the politically powerful Nevada REALTORS. Another bill, SB430, which has been granted an exemption from deadlines, would authorize partial property tax refunds to those 66 and older.
This session has also seen a slew of bills aimed at tweaking tax exemptions, including a bill (AB448) from Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) intended to close a loophole that has allowed major real estate transactions on the Las Vegas Strip to avoid paying the Real Property Transfer Tax.
Amid concerns from some Democratic lawmakers about the long-term stability of the state’s tax streams — which is heavily reliant on the sales tax — Sen. Dina Neal (D-North Las Vegas) is seeking a bill (SB396) to modernize the tax base by defining certain digital goods for taxation purposes.
— Sean Golonka
Gov. Joe Lombardo wants to roll back the sweeping changes Democratic lawmakers and former Gov. Steve Sisolak made to the state’s election processes over the past four years. Lombardo hopes to end universal mail-in voting, move up the deadline to submit ballots and require people to show identification to vote.
A bill from the governor's office making those changes (SB405) has not received a hearing as of April 28, but is exempt from legislative deadlines. Other Republican-backed bills — including proposals to require voter ID and move up the deadline for receiving mail ballots — did not advance past a mid-April deadline for bills to be voted out of their first committee. Democratic leaders in the Legislature have said they will not accept changes that limit access to voting.
After Nevada was panned nationally for its slow rollout of complete election results in 2020 and 2022, Lombardo and Republican lawmakers want to set earlier deadlines for voters to submit mail ballots. They want to ensure mail ballots are received by Election Day — existing law just requires ballots to be postmarked by Election Day — to ensure counting is completed sooner. Democrats are unlikely to accept Lombardo’s proposal, arguing in favor of allowing voters to have as much time as possible to submit their ballot.
Advocacy groups are also seeking to expand access by ensuring election materials are available in more languages — with a priority on making ballots available in Chinese in Clark County, where the number of Chinese speakers who have limited English proficiency falls just short of a federal threshold to require election materials in their language.
Newly elected Democratic Secretary of State Cisco Aguilar is also seeking a bill (SB406) to increase protections for election workers who have faced a rising level of threats and hostility since the 2020 election. Legislation originally requested by former Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske seeks to establish a standard procedure manual for local election workers.
Lombardo and Democratic leaders could also clash over the governor’s proposal to establish an independent, nonpartisan commission to oversee redistricting. Democrats controlled the process in 2021 and picked up additional legislative seats in the following election while maintaining their hold over three of Nevada’s four congressional districts.
A previous attempt to establish an independent redistricting commission through a ballot question faced opposition from a progressive-linked group. Assemblyman Gregory Hafen (R-Pahrump) introduced a resolution this session to amend the constitution to establish such a commission. That measure has not received a hearing, but is exempt from legislative deadlines.
— Sean Golonka
After the Oakland A’s announced in mid-April that they reached an agreement to buy land in Las Vegas for a new baseball stadium and relocation to Nevada, the new focal point of economic talks this session is a potential $500 million public financing package to help support construction of the stadium.
As of late April, the details of the package had not been made public, and no legislation had been introduced.
In the early weeks of the session, Tesla’s planned multibillion-dollar expansion of its Nevada Gigafactory had been central to economic development discussions, with some Democratic lawmakers sparring with the governor’s office over a 2014 law that allowed Tesla to once again secure hundreds of millions of dollars in tax abatements.
Sen. Dina Neal (D-North Las Vegas) brought forward a bill (SB394) that would repeal the Governor’s Office of Economic Development’s ability to approve any tax abatement valued at more than $500,000, instead granting lawmakers greater power over large scale tax abatements such as those approved for Tesla. The bill passed out of the Senate in a 14-7 vote.
But that bill is unlikely to be supported by Gov. Joe Lombardo, who has expressed support for the existing abatement process and has pushed to accelerate the process of economic growth, declaring in his State of the State address that “Nevada should be the most entrepreneurial-friendly state in the nation.”
His plan centers on streamlining regulations and reducing burdens on businesses operating in the state — including an executive order that called for a pause on new regulations and cuts to existing regulations across all state agencies. Lombardo’s proposed budget includes more funding for workforce training, and he is seeking the creation of the Office of Workforce to align workforce development efforts happening in multiple state agencies, public schools and higher education entities.
Debates are also likely to surface over tax credits, including proposed changes to film tax credits in a yet-to-be-introduced bill that has been tied to a potential push to make Las Vegas a “Hollywood 2.0” and increased tax credits for those who donate to certain educational and workforce programs.
Amid a shift in Nevada’s workforce since the start of the pandemic — more early retirements and a decline in the labor force participation rate — businesses are seeking more favorable conditions to attract workers, including greater availability of child care and affordable housing.
Look for businesses to continue to weigh in on discussions on health care and housing to affect Nevada’s pursuit of more workers and workforce development pipeline. A proposal from the treasurer’s office that is supported by the governor’s office would allocate funds to the State Infrastructure Bank to support the development of “workforce housing,” which could be used by major companies with large employee populations in the state. Another bill would require certain businesses to provide paid family leave to qualify for tax abatements.
— Sean Golonka
Democratic lawmakers are backing SB232, which would require Nevada’s Medicaid program to cover postpartum care services for 12 months following the end of pregnancy. It passed out of a policy committee and awaits review from a budget committee.
Diapers might be cheaper under SB428, which would remove the sales tax on diapers if voters approve. The policy passed out a policy committee and has moved to budget committee consideration.
Sen. Scott Hammond (R-Las Vegas) introduced SB137, which would require Nevada Medicaid to cover donor breast milk for certain babies, including premature babies, but it died without a committee vote after one hearing.
Democratic Treasurer Zach Conine wants to create a “Baby Bonds” program for children whose birth was covered by Medicaid in an effort to lift them out of poverty. Each year, under Conine’s AB28, a group of eligible children would begin with an investment portfolio of $3,200 each and accrue dollars over time with state investments until age 18.
The measure passed out of the Committee on Government Affairs and has moved to a budget committee.
AB168, sponsored by Assemblywoman Claire Thomas (D-North Las Vegas), would establish a Fetal and Infant Mortality Review Program to study the deaths of infants younger than 1 with data on demographics, geographical locations and causes of death. It passed a policy committee and awaits budget committee review.
Thomas is also sponsoring the bill, AB113, that would create a new office focused on pre-K programs, which are daily classes for children 3 to 5 years old. The measure passed a policy committee and awaits budget committee review.
Children in child welfare or juvenile justice settings statewide could be screened for commercial sexual exploitation under AB183. The policy unanimously passed the Assembly.
Meanwhile, SB89, which would have specified that people who commit a sex trafficking crime face the same penalties if the crime is committed against a child or against an undercover officer, died without a hearing.
SB408, which would have raised the age a child could be transferred from juvenile court and incarceration to adult criminal proceedings to 16 years old, did not pass, even after an amendment lowered the age back to 14 years old.
— Naoka Foreman
The sale and regulation of legal cannabis in Nevada could change under several proposals under consideration in the legislative session.
The Nevada Cannabis Association is backing SB195 to end “time and effort billing,” in which the Cannabis Compliance Board (CCB) charges businesses hourly rates of up to $111 for state worker tasks such as reviewing security footage and conducting inspections. The bill, which awaits review from a money committee, would also cap noncompliance fees at $20,000 per violation.
AB253 from Assemblyman C.H. Miller (D-North Las Vegas) would create a “mobile cannabis concierge license” so small vendors could sell cannabis at events. A similar policy failed last session, but AB253 is moving forward in the process with heavy amendments, including authorizing the license for events 18 and up with a minimum of 750 people and requiring the CCB to include social equity applicants. It awaits a money committee’s review.
Nevada Cannabis Association and Sierra Cannabis Coalition is seeking legislation on behalf of cultivation licensees that would change the structure of cannabis wholesale taxes. Using California’s system as a model, AB430 aims to lower taxes for cannabis companies, and it awaits action from a budget committee.
Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas) is sponsoring a bill, SB277, to increase daily purchase limits of THC products from 1 ounce to 2 1/2 ounces, reinstate cannabis agent card eligibility for people with past cannabis convictions and deem medical cannabis dispensaries to be adult-use facilities.
The bill, which is up for consideration by a money committee, also requires the Cannabis Advisory Commission to study the potential effects of removing cannabis from the Schedule I drug list and report back by March 1, 2024.
The CCB is seeking a number of changes to the state’s marijuana laws, including allowing cannabis dispensaries to move to a new location outside their current jurisdiction in certain circumstances. SB31, a bill that included the policy, died without a committee hearing or vote.
Other bills that died included AB170, sponsored by Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno (D-North Las Vegas), that would have removed cannabis pens from the felony drug list, and AB240 from Assemblyman P.K. O’Neill (R-Carson City), which would have reduced the number of marijuana plants allowed for home cultivators from 12 to eight per household and from six to four per person.
After legalizing cannabis, lawmakers and industry professionals thought illicit cannabis sales would simply dwindle away, and when that did not happen, they brought on a slew of bills seeking help from law enforcement and whistleblowers to get a handle on unregulated cannabis markets. Many of the policies have died in the legislative process.
That includes AB413, which would have created a whistleblower program and an online portal on the CCB website where information about illegal operations could be shared. Under AB413, whistleblowers would have been granted between 15 to 30 percent of the civil penalty if recovered. The bill was heard in the Assembly Judiciary Committee but died without receiving a committee vote.
— Naoka Foreman
Cities are moving to change their charters and county commissioners are seeking more power over pay this session.
But SB184, which would create two additional wards in North Las Vegas, bringing the total to six, and seek an annual diversity audit of managerial positions, passed the Senate in a 13-8 vote. That came after the city testified in opposition to the idea and Gov. Joe Lombardo vowed to veto the measure.
Bill sponsor Sen. Pat Spearman (D-North Las Vegas) said the bill would increase transparency and diversity. However, North Las Vegas Mayor Pamela Goynes-Brown — who defeated Spearman in the city’s mayoral race last fall — testified in opposition, saying she would rather not spend an estimated $1.2 million within the first year of the bill’s implementation on politicians.
The Senate voted 16-5 to advance SB20, a bill that creates a pathway for county commissioners to appoint members to fill a vacancy — a power that is currently reserved for the governor. Such a process would need to happen in an open meeting, and the new member would also need to meet the qualifications for the office and be of the same political party as their predecessor.
Senators unanimously voted to pass SB22, which would alter a requirement that local governments post legal notices in a regularly circulating print newspaper to allow for publication on the paper’s website.
Lawmakers have advanced SB41, a bill requiring agencies receiving the funds for child welfare to describe the agency’s goals for the biennium then report whether the goals were met and require lawmakers to study child welfare funding and the decreases in Medicaid reimbursements, and suggest solutions. It awaits review by a money committee.
SB21, which passed the Senate unanimously, would update the population thresholds for counties to either combine or disburse county department responsibilities, and AB47, which passed the Assembly unanimously, would allow counties to establish off-highway vehicle trail networks near highways.
— Carly Sauvageau
AJR5, an effort to amend the Nevada Constitution to allow for a state lottery found support from Culinary Workers Local 226 and state labor unions, making it through a 26-15 vote of the Assembly in mid-April. Proponents of the legislation proposed by Assemblyman Cameron “C.H.” Miller (D-North Las Vegas) said tax revenue from lottery ticket sales should be directed toward youth mental health programs.
But the effort still has a ways to go, given opposition to the bill by Nevada’s casino industry. Even if AJR5 is approved this session, the measure would have to gain legislative approval in 2025 before Nevada voters could weigh in on changing the 159-year-old constitutional ban on lotteries.
The other measure that put gaming and labor on opposite sides was SB441. The bill would repeal SB4, which was approved at the height of the pandemic during the 2020 special legislative session. That measure imposed requirements to clean hotel rooms on a daily basis.
Nevada’s major hotel-casino operators said daily room cleaning won’t disappear if SB441 passes. They just want the language stricken from state law. Culinary representatives said daily room cleaning was “still a good policy” and was standard practice in Las Vegas before the pandemic.
The bill passed the Senate in an 18-3 vote.
— Howard Stutz
This session, Indigenous leaders are hoping to facilitate more engagement between lawmakers and tribal communities.
SB94 would require each state agency to employ a tribal liaison who reports directly to the office of the head of the state agency. The bill passed out of its first committee, but is awaiting consideration of its fiscal effect in a finance committee.
Advocates are also pushing for AB73, a bill passed out of the Assembly that awaits a hearing in the Senate. It would establish the right of public school students to wear traditional tribal regalia or other recognized objects of cultural or religious significance at school graduation ceremonies.
Advocates are also calling for additional funding to construct a new Owyhee Combined School on the Duck Valley Shoshone-Paiute Indian Reservation, because the current building sits adjacent to toxic hydrocarbon plumes under the town. Assemblywoman Alexis Hansen (R-Sparks) is proposing a measure, AB273, that would allocate funds for a new school, but its fate remains unclear given the more than $65 million in spending the bill proposes.
There’s also a push for better records on missing and murdered Indigenous people in the form of AB125, sponsored by Assemblywoman Shea Backus (D-Las Vegas). The bill would require local law enforcement agencies to accept reports of adults who are missing under suspicious circumstances from a Native American reservation or colony, and enter that information into national databases. The bill passed out of its first committee in April but awaits a hearing in a budget committee.
Members of Nevada tribes could also soon have free annual access to state parks and recreational areas under AB84, a bill proposed by Assemblyman Howard Watts (D-Las Vegas) that now awaits a hearing in a budget committee.
During the 2021 legislative session, Assemblywoman Natha Anderson (D-Sparks) sponsored a bill offering tuition waivers for Native American students. This session, she’s bringing forward AB150, which awaits a hearing in a finance committee and would fund as well as expand the tuition waiver for Native Americans to cover summer and winter semesters and people who are newer to the state.
— Tabitha Mueller
As states across the country advance anti-LGBTQ legislation, including banning gender-affirming care for transgender minors and adults and making it illegal to perform in drag in public spaces, Nevada lawmakers are looking to move in the opposite direction.
One way is through SB163, a law proposed by Sen. Melanie Scheible (D-Las Vegas) that would require health insurance companies to cover treatment of conditions relating to gender dysphoria that had previously been exempted and classified as “cosmetic.” The bill passed out of its first committee and now awaits a hearing in a budget committee because it contains an unfunded mandate.
Scheible is also bringing forward SB153, a bill to require gender-affirming health care and housing for transgender prisoners in the custody of the Nevada Department of Corrections. The measure passed through the Senate (15-5) and now awaits a hearing in the Assembly.
This session, the Legislature welcomes its first-ever LGBTQ caucus chaired by Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas) who said in a press release that the caucus’ goal is to “send the message to LGBTQ+ Nevadans that you are welcome, safe, and represented here.”
Harris is sponsoring SB172, a bill that would allow a minor to consent to receive services that would prevent a sexually transmitted disease, including access to contraception, without parental notification. The measure passed out of the Senate with a 14-7 vote and now awaits a hearing in the Assembly.
Other bills addressing LGBTQ+ communities that are moving forward include a measure to protect providers and out-of-state residents seeking gender-affirming treatments in Nevada and a measure to make name changes on a marriage certificate easier.
— Tabitha Mueller
As 1 in 4 Nevada workers is an immigrant, policies affecting immigrant communities can have broad impact. Several immigration-related proposals survived recent key legislative deadlines, but some died and will see no further action.
State Sen. Fabian Doñate’s (D-Las Vegas) ambitious bill SB419, which aimed to include undocumented Nevadans in the government-funded Medicaid insurance program, moved forward despite opposition from Senate Republicans who criticized the bill for the costs and demand it would present to the state and health care system.
But the bill was scaled back to remove full coverage. Instead, it would establish a state-funded coverage program similar to Medicaid for people ages 26 or younger who are ineligible for Medicaid because of their immigration status and expand Medicaid coverage “to the extent permissible” for all individuals residing in Nevada who qualify for the federal Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program.
SB419 has been granted an exemption and was referred to a money committee.
Doñate is also sponsoring SB92, which would establish regulations at the state level for sidewalk vendors, including requiring certain licenses and permits, without the need for a state-issued ID or driver’s license.
An amendment would allow county commissioners to restrict or prohibit sidewalk vendors from operating within a set distance of a food establishment, a child care facility, election polling place and other sites.
The bill passed the Senate with a 20-1 vote and moved on to the Assembly.
Assemblyman Reuben D’Silva (D-Las Vegas) is sponsoring AB226, which would allow DACA recipients to qualify for in-state tuition after living in the state for 12 months. The bill was amended to clarify that the Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) won’t deny in-state tuition in the event a student’s temporary immigrant status or deferred action is repealed.
AB226 was exempted from the deadline and referred to a money committee because NSHE was unable to determine the cost nor the number of students who would be affected.
One of the bills that died is AB30, which would have removed U.S. citizenship as a requirement to become a peace officer as long as the person is “legally authorized to work in the U.S.” The measure was requested by the City of North Las Vegas. In Nevada law, peace officers can be police officers, security guards and court bailiffs.
Gov. Joe Lombardo told the Las Vegas Review-Journal in January that he would not support the bill.
— Jannelle Calderon
Nevada lawmakers are looking to protect the rights of people with disabilities within state law.
Sponsored by Sen. Melanie Scheible (D-Las Vegas), SB315 would establish a ‘bill of rights’ for people with disabilities and people who are 65 years or older receiving Medicaid-covered waiver services. It would also establish a bill of rights for students with disabilities in Nevada’s K-12 education system. Proponents have said the measure would ensure people with disabilities have a say in navigating their lives.
The measure passed out of the Senate (17-4) in April and now awaits a hearing in the Assembly.
A bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Tracy Brown May (D-Las Vegas), AB259, would phase out “subminimum wage” — the practice of paying disabled employees less than the minimum wage and sometimes as little as three to four cents an hour. During the 2019 legislative session, a similar measure died without a vote.
But as the state’s minimum wage increases, proponents say allowing for subminimum wages is unfair and takes advantage of people with disabilities, and this measure is long overdue. The measure passed out of its first committee but is estimated to cost more than $4 million every two years for benefits counseling. It awaits a hearing in a budget committee.
Another bill, AB422, sponsored by Assemblywoman Michelle Gorelow (D-Las Vegas), would require the Aging and Disability Services Division to create a pilot program to serve children diagnosed with a fetal alcohol spectrum disorder. The bill received an exemption from legislative deadlines and awaits a hearing in a budget committee, though a fiscal note attached to the measure indicated it had no cost.
Other measures include a bill mandating every polling location contain at least two voting booths for elderly or disabled voters, which passed out of the Assembly, and a bill requiring the Department of Health and Human Services to establish a program for dementia care specialists in the state, which awaits a hearing in a budget committee.
— Naoka Foreman
The Nevada System of Higher Education (NSHE) remains on track to receive its largest budget boost since 2019 — though the specifics of those increases remain in flux. Gov. Joe Lombardo’s proposed budget aims to restore roughly $75 million in operating funds cut in 2021, as well as devoting $20 million toward boosting graduate student stipends and $5 million to fund a study of the system’s decade-old funding formula.
But Democratic lawmakers have also sought to create their own formula study commission in SB347, a bill that originally sought to radically overhaul higher education governance before it was gutted in committee. The measure has since been exempted from deadlines and sent to the Senate Finance Committee.
Separately, individual institutions have also sought additional state resources for major capital projects, including $5 million in planning funds for a new campus for the College of Southern Nevada, $90 million to fund the planning and construction of a new life sciences building at UNR, and $18.4 million toward new science and fine arts buildings at UNLV.
Lawmakers are also set to inject millions more dollars for teaching and medical education pipelines, including roughly $36 million for nursing programs, in a bipartisan bill, SB375, sponsored by all four legislative leaders.
Faculty groups are again working to secure collective bargaining rights with AB224, a move they have argued would allow outside arbitration of disputes. However, NSHE has tacked a $3 million fiscal note to the bill, which they have also argued violates the constitutional status of the Board of Regents.
Different student groups could also see a raft of new tuition and fee waivers. That includes the expansion of a fee waiver for Native American students, another expansion of fee waivers for homeless students, and in-state tuition waivers for children of Purple Heart recipients and for DACA recipients. Students have also backed AB212, a bill that would ease access to official transcripts for students with outstanding debt to their institutions — all measures that have been passed out of their first house or exempted from legislative deadlines.
Democratic lawmakers have also sought to revamp a sweeping campus sexual misconduct bill from 2021 with AB245, a measure that would replace an existing NSHE task force with a new commission staffed by legislative appointees. It awaits consideration in a money committee, as does SB273, a measure key to renaming Nevada State College to Nevada State University.
Lawmakers are also considering two measures that could radically alter the Board of Regents. The first, 2021’s SJR7, would remove the regents from the constitution if passed through this legislative session and a vote of the people in 2024. The second, AB118, would drop the number of regents from 13 to nine and reduce the length of their terms from six years to four. Each has passed through its respective first house with bipartisan support.
— Jacob Solis
Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle agree: State workers are not being paid enough.
That’s why a proposal from Gov. Joe Lombardo to deliver $500 quarterly bonuses to those workers moved quickly through both houses earlier this session, allowing Lombardo to sign a bill (AB268) in April that allocated roughly $25 million to pay two of those quarterly bonuses to about 25,000 state employees.
But even with bipartisan support for another Lombardo proposal — giving state workers cost-of-living raises of 8 to 10 percent and 4 percent over the next two years — Democratic and Republican lawmakers have split over some of the finer points of boosting state employee compensation.
The dichotomy was evident in a party-line vote in early April on a Democrat-backed Senate bill (SB440) that seeks to grant state workers an additional 2 percent cost-of-living adjustment in the final quarter of this fiscal year (April through June) and allocate funding for awards the Nevada Police Union and AFSCME won last year through arbitration.
Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) has called for investing in state workers while pointing to the state’s obligation to pay for what those unions bargained for. But Senate Minority Leader Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno) has taken issue with the discrepancy in pay between union and nonunion workers and cautioned against spending too much, pointing to past financial crises, including the Great Recession and COVID-19 pandemic, that later led to furloughs.
Outside of employee pay — a constant factor in budget discussions, as lawmakers tie low state government pay to high vacancy rates across many agencies — the Legislature is considering other proposals to boost working conditions in state government, including a bill to provide paid family leave, building upon federal law requiring unpaid family leave.
— Sean Golonka