With less than 3 days left in session, lawmakers rush to pass bills, governor hurries to act on them
Editor's note: This story will be updated throughout the weekend.
Amid tense negotiations and uncertainty over approving the state’s two-year, $8.1 billion general fund budget, lawmakers have kept busy processing hundreds of bills.
That included Republican lawmakers voting against five major budget implementation bills in a protest that Democrats aren’t agreeing to revive the stalled Education Savings Accounts. While four can proceed to the governor with a simple majority, a bill implementing a $346 million infrastructure plan needs Republican votes to reach the required two-thirds, and its failure in the Senate threatens to complicate the budget closing process.
And with two additional vetoes issued Saturday evening, Gov. Brian Sandoval has now vetoed 24 pieces of legislation, surpassing his totals from the 2015 and 2013 legislatives sessions.
Here’s a look at what the governor signed and what actions lawmakers took on Thursday, Friday and Saturday:
SB384: Public employee data secrecy
A measure that would have sealed certain information for retired public employees has been vetoed by Sandoval.
Democratic Sen. Julia Ratti’s SB384 would have removed from the definition of public record the number of years of service of a retired public worker, the date of their retirement, and whether the person was receiving disability or service payments.
Ratti said she brought the bill forward to help ensure that retired public employees don’t have to be concerned about identity theft, but the bill was sharply criticized by transparency advocates as overzealous.
In his veto message, Sandoval said that the bill had merit but failed to adequately balance privacy concerns with the public’s right to know.
“In short, the dilution of the public’s right to know must be accompanied by a compelling interest or district harm to personal information,” he wrote. “The proponents of this bill have not demonstrated such a compelling interest or harm.”
SB397: Higher penalties for violating equal pay
Sandoval has vetoed a bill that would have granted the state’s Equal Rights Commission more power to pursue cases of pay discrimination.
Democratic Sen. Pat Spearman’s SB397 would have created a tiered system of civil penalties for businesses that are found to violate equal pay laws multiple times, and allow back pay being awarded for at least two years from the date the complaint is filed. It also prohibits employers from discriminating against employees who ask or discuss their wages.
In his veto message, the governor said the purpose behind the bill was “good,” but that it went too far by extending too much responsibility with the state’s Equal Rights Commission and the imposition of high penalties best reserved with the courts.
“In certain cases, such relief may be called for, but the commission is not the proper venue to make those determinations,” he wrote.
The bill passed out of both houses of Legislature on party lines.
SIGNED BY GOVERNOR
AB163: Payday lending reforms
After several substantial amendments and unanimous votes out of the Assembly and Senate, a bill sponsored by Democratic Assemblyman Edgar Flores and designed to curb abuse in the high-interest lending industry was signed by Sandoval on Thursday.
AB163 would require high-interest lenders to assess whether or not a person can repay a loan before issuing it, and puts limits on the kind of “grace periods” that loan companies can extend to people with delinquent payments. It also prohibits extending title loans — which are issued with the title of a car as collateral — from anyone other than the owner of the vehicle.
Another bill that would create a high-interest loan tracking database, AB515, was passed out of committee earlier this week.
SB165: Obesity as a chronic disease
A measure sponsored by Democratic Senator Mo Denis that would define obesity as a “chronic disease” in state law and require more tracking of health metric for school children in Washoe and Clark counties was signed by Sandoval on Thursday.
SB165, which passed only a handful of Republicans and all legislative Democrats in support, requires schools in Reno and Las Vegas to take the height and weight measurements of students in grades 4, 7 and 10, and for state health officials to compile the information into a public report submitted to school superintendents and state lawmakers.
The bill takes effect in July.
SB308: Higher car insurance minimums
Minimum car insurance premiums for Nevada drivers will go up next year after Sandoval signed Republican Senator Becky Harris’s SB308 on Thursday.
The bill would increase minimum car insurance premiums in the following ways:
- Bodily injury or death of one person in a crash from $15,000 to $25,000.
- Bodily injury or death of two or more people in a crash from $30,000 to $50,000.
- Injury or destruction of property in a crash from $10,000 to $20,000.
The new minimums would would place Nevada above the national average and would be comparable to states such as Illinois, Virginia and Wyoming. About 31 percent of auto insurance policyholders in the state are at the minimum level.
SB383: Financial planning standards
In a rare move indicative of last-minute legislative horse trading, Gov. Brian Sandoval approved on Friday a measure subjecting broker-dealers and investment advisers to higher standards that passed on straight-party lines out of the Assembly and Senate.
The bill, proposed by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford, expands the definition in existing law of “financial planner” to include broker-dealers and financial advisers, and thus requiring them to follow existing rules in state law.
It would require that they have a “fiduciary duty” toward their client, meaning that they are ethically bound to act in their client’s best interest in good faith, and to disclose to their clients any gain they may receive, such as a profit or commission, if their client follows their advice.
It also subject broker-dealers and financial advisers to the liabilities of financial planners, including allowing clients to sue their planner in civil court if they violated any element of his or her fiduciary duty, was grossly negligent in advising his or her client or violated any law in the state in recommending investments.
SB253: Pregnant workers protections
A measure implementing federal law designed to protect and accommodate pregnant workers was signed by Sandoval late Friday after it passed with largely bipartisan support out of the Assembly and Senate.
Democratic Senator Nicole Cannizzaro’s SB253 would make it unlawful for employees with more than 15 employees to refuse to provide reasonable accommodations for female workers for pregnancy, childbirth or related conditions. It allows for aggrieved employees to file a complaint with the state’s Equal Rights Commission, and to file in District Court if the commission doesn’t determine wrongdoing occurred.
AB384: Ban the Box
Despite passing on strict party-lines in the Assembly and Senate, Democratic Assemblyman Tyrone Thompson’s AB384 on Saturday was signed into law by the governor.
The bill would implement the “ban the box” concept for state and local government hiring, meaning that the criminal history of a person applying for a job could be considered after a job is offered or at the final in-person interview.
SB233: Codifying contraceptive requirements from ACA into state law
A bill to codify certain preventative health and contraceptive benefits from the Affordable Care Act into state law was signed by Republican Gov. Brian Sandoval Saturday.
Federal law currently requires health insurance plans to offer certain contraceptive drugs, vaccinations, mammograms and well-woman preventative visits without any copay, coinsurance or higher deductible. SB233 places those requirements into state law, requiring all private and certain public health plans to provide the same coverage.
The bill, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Julia Ratti, also requires insurance companies to cover a 12-month supply of contraceptives at once.
The legislation received several Republican votes in the Assembly, where it passed 32-8, from Republican Assembly members Paul Anderson, John Hambrick, Keith Pickard, Robin Titus, Jill Tolles and Melissa Woodbury joined Democrats in supporting the measure. In the Senate, Republican Sen. Heidi Gansert supported the measure.
AB276: Wage transparency
A measure brought by Democratic Assemblywoman Ellen Spiegel designed to protect workers who inquire about their coworkers wages was been signed by Sandoval on Saturday.
AB276 prohibits employers, employment agencies or labor organizations from punishing an employee or member from inquiring, comparing or discussing their wages. It also places additional limits on “non complete clauses,” requiring employers meet certain restrictions before requiring workers to sign contracts limiting their employment in similar fields if they leave that employer.
The bill passed unanimously out of the Senate and on a 37-4 vote in the Assembly.
SENATE CONCEDES TO VETOES
The full Senate on Saturday reviewed a list of eight of the 21 bills the governor has vetoed, which they could override if they mustered a two-thirds vote. (The Democrats do not have veto-proof majorities in either house.)
But after reading the rejection messages one by one, Democratic Senate Majority Leader Aaron Ford moved not to reconsider any of the bills. They included:
- SB140, a Republican-sponsored bill allowing certain older offenders to be released to house arrest
- SB173, requiring traditional schools that are converted to charters as part of the Achievement School District pay prevailing wages for any construction projects
- SB196, requiring certain employers offer paid sick leave to their workers
- SB356, repealing a ban on “evergreen clauses” in collective bargaining that continue salary increases even if a new contract isn’t in place
- SB374, allowing massages using hemp-based products
- AB416, authorizing apprenticeships in the medical marijuana industry
- AB434, requiring the city attorneys in Reno and Sparks to be appointed rather than elected
- AB469, reducing the amount of a local government’s “ending fund balance” is subject to collective bargaining
BILLS THAT PASSED A HOUSE
SB391: Nevada Promise Scholarship
A bill that could make community college free in Nevada is moving forward with $3.5 million in funding.
SB391, which creates the Nevada Promise Scholarship, unanimously passed the Senate on Saturday. The scholarship aims to serve students who may not have the high grades to land the Millennium Scholarship or be taking a heavy enough courseload to score the Silver State Opportunity Grant.
An amendment raises the eligibility bar, requiring students have a 2.5 grade point average to and complete 20 hours of community service to receive the scholarship. Students who have previously received the scholarship will get first dibs on the money in the account if there’s not enough funding to go around.
The Promise Scholarship is a “last-dollar” award, meaning students receive it if Pell grants, the Millennium Scholarship and the Silver State Opportunity Grant don’t cover the full cost of tuition.
While the bill is moving forward, another financial aid bill — AB188, which would have made more students who take a lighter course load eligible for the Silver State Opportunity Grant — was vetoed by the governor on Thursday.
SB482: Rating system for hospitals
The Senate voted 13-8 on Saturday to pass a bill requiring hospitals and other medical facilities that receive a star rating from the federal government to post the most recent rating in a conspicuous place in their facility. Republican Sen. Heidi Gansert joined the Democratic caucus in supporting the measure.
The legislation would also require the state Division of Public and Behavioral Health to post a link to the star rating given out by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on its website along with a link to the Ambulatory Surgical Center Quality Reporting Program maintained by the federal government.
The bill also requires the State Board of Health to establish its own system for rating health care facilities based on certain compliance requirements. That rating would also be required to be posted online by the division and posted publicly at a health care facility.
SB553: Funds to plan a UNLV engineering building
The Senate unanimously approved on Saturday $1.75 million to start planning for an engineering building at UNLV. The school is planning to kick in the same amount.
It comes as the state proposes issuing more than $40 million in general obligation bonds for an engineering building at UNR, which will also be matched by university funds.
Supporters of the bill testified that some award-winning programs within the engineering program are housed adjacent to a 99 cents store in Las Vegas.
SB547 - Salary incentive program for teacher professional development
The Senate voted 20-1 on Saturday for a bill requiring the Clark County School District to wall off enough money in its budget to support a salary incentive program. Raises would go to employees who complete professional development or continuing education.
It would be open to all educators regardless of what school they work in, but there are added incentives for those who work in Title 1 schools.
The bill requires that the reserved money doesn’t reduce funds set aside for operating expenses and that the saving doesn’t have to being until mid-2018.
Supporters of the measure, which is sponsored by Democratic Sen. Aaron Ford and suported by the Clark County Education Association, say it will help address a teacher shortage.
The lone senator to vote no, Republican Ben Kieckhefer, said he didn’t think it would be appropriate for the Legislature to add subjects to the mandatory collective bargaining process.
AB362: Keeping sex offenders out of school jobs
Senators voted unanimously on Saturday for a bill that aims to keep people who have been found to commit a sexual offense against youth from getting another job working with children.
The bill, sponsored by Republican Assemblywoman Jill Tolles, requires applicants for a school job to disclose if they’ve been in trouble for a sexual offense, and requires the district to verify the information. It imposes penalties if people knowingly hide information about their own or someone else’s past.
Republican Sen. Heidi Gansert said the measure would protect against a phenomenon known as “passing the trash” in which sexual predators move quietly to new schools.
SB548: “Top Gun” teacher training program
Nevada hopes to launch a prestigious teacher training program with help from a $5 million anonymous donation and a $1 million contribution from the state.
The governor described the Nevada Institute on Teaching and Educator Preparation as a “Top Gun” program that would elevate the teaching profession and attract diverse talent from inside and outside of Nevada. A bill to implement the program, which is backed by the governor, Teach for America and legislative leaders from both parties, unanimously passed the Senate on Saturday.
It would be based at one of the colleges in the state, which would pitch in an additional $1 million to fund the program. State officials haven’t decided the exact model of the program and couldn’t say exactly how many participants could be enrolled.
AB472: Improving the juvenile justice system
Senators unanimously approved a bill Saturday creating the Juvenile Justice Oversight Commission, which will administer a technical assistance grant from the Council of State Governments Justice Center to conduct a comprehensive review of the state’s juvenile justice system.
The bill would also require the juvenile court to conduct a risk assessment and mental health screening before deciding a case involving a delinquent child and makes changes to parole for children.
It calls on the commission to annually review all facilities the state uses for juvenile justice, have the facilities implement an improvement plan, collect more data on the effectiveness of the system and analyze trends in that data.
The bill was championed by first lady Kathleen Sandoval and former Nevada Supreme Court Justice Nancy Saitta.
SB178: Weighted school funding formula
Senators unanimously passed a bill on Friday that will kick start a “weighted school funding formula,” which applies $1,200 extra per pupil for students who are English learners, eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, scored below the 25th percentile on certain proficiency tests and aren’t already enrolled at a Zoom School or Victory School.
The bill applies $72 million to the initiative, which should support about 30,000 students. Some groups hope they can boost that allotment and cover up to 54,000 students.
The governor has supported interventions such as Zoom and Victory schools, which
apply extra money to schools with a high density of at-risk students. But Sandoval and Democratic lawmakers have both said they want to update Nevada’s 50-year-old funding formula and move more toward “weights,” which would help students even if they aren’t in a school with many other
SB178, sponsored by Democratic Sen. Mo Denis, prescribes certain programs the money can support. They include a summer academy, a reading center and initiatives to improve the school climate.
SB451: Creates the Nevada Sentencing Commission
Senators voted unanimously on Friday for this bill brought on behalf of the Advisory Commission on the Administration of Justice. It creates the Nevada Sentencing Commission, which would make recommendations about the adoption of sentencing guidelines and then request one bill each legislative session related to matters it’s considering.
The bill includes guidelines for the commission, such as the idea that a sentence should be directly in proportion to the severity of the crime and the offender’s criminal history, that racial and socioeconomic disparities should be identified and that the state should use all resources available to reduce victimization in the first place.
Lawmakers made only small steps toward changing sentencing this session. Some pointed to the lack of a working group and extensive review — which the sentencing commission would do — as a reason they didn’t support more ambitious changes to sentencing that could reduce the prison population.
SB187: $1 million for art museums in Las Vegas and Reno
Senators approved a bill on Friday applying $1 million to build an art museum in downtown Las Vegas and add to an existing one in Reno.
The bill, which was sponsored by both Democrats and Republicans, initially called for $10 million toward the cause but was downsized.
Republican co-sponsor Sen. Ben Kieckhefer said in a floor speech that the project would bring “an entirely new level of arts and culture to downtown Las Vegas” and would be something lawmakers can be proud of leaving the session.
It’s scheduled for a hearing in the Assembly on Saturday.
BILLS THAT PASSED COMMITTEE
SB550: New technology to implement CCSD reorganization
The Senate Finance Committee on Friday approved a bill allocating $17 million for a human capital management system that would replace technology that’s 25 years old.
The district says it needs the money to successfully implement the state-mandated reorganization, in which much budget control is transferred from a central office to individual school sites.
District representatives say their existing system can’t process payroll for employees who work at numerous school sites, such as speech therapists and reading interventionists, and bill each individual school’s budget separately.
LAST MINUTE APPROPRIATIONS
With greater than expected tax revenues coming into state coffers, state lawmakers have spent the last week and a half issuing and quickly approving bills funding a number of projects and other state programs to the tune of several million dollars.
Here’s a look at the last minute spending bills rushing through the legislative process:
AB511 - $20 million to continue funding the Millennium Scholarship
SB550 - $17 million for a new human resource management system for the Clark County School District
AB519 - $8 million to the Secretary of State to issue grants to counties to purchase new voting machines
SB543 - $2 million to the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health
SB553 - $1.75 million for advance planning for an engineering building at UNLV
SB548 - $1 million to establish the Nevada Institute on Teaching and Educator Preparation, a highly selective teacher training program.
AB520 - $500,000 for a butterfly-themed playground at the Springs Preserve
SB549 - $500,000 to state library division for library collection development, bookmobile services and databases
AB552 - $300,000 to TeachNevada program at UNR, which helps students obtain certification to teach high school or middle school level math or science classes.
AB521 - $100,000 for disinterment of veterans, move to veterans cemeteries