Live updates: Nevada Legislature’s second house passage deadline

Sean Golonka
Sean Golonka
Tabitha Mueller
Tabitha Mueller
Jacob Solis
Jacob Solis
The Assembly during a floor session inside the Legislature in Carson City on Tuesday, May 16, 2023. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

With only a week and a half until sine die, the constitutionally mandated end of the 120-day legislative session, lawmakers voted hundreds of bills out of their second house over the past week, sending them to Gov. Joe Lombardo’s desk as the end of session nears.

Though many contentious and high-profile bills — including a stadium public financing deal for the Oakland A’s (the bill for which was introduced Friday night) and a proposed multibillion-dollar film tax credit program — have received exemptions from normal legislative deadlines, the vast majority of bills have been left dead or are on their way to Lombardo after Friday’s second house passage deadline.

Those bills alive after Friday include Democratic priorities not supported by Republicans at risk of being vetoed by the governor, as well as many more that passed with bipartisan support and are expected to receive Lombardo’s signature.

Ahead of the penultimate deadline, lawmakers voted out dozens of bills that had not received exemptions, which are generally granted to bills with a financial impact on the state and special measures, such as Lombardo’s five policy bills.

That included votes on more than 300 bills from Monday through Friday.

The push forward also comes against a backdrop of sweltering tensions between Democratic leadership and Lombardo, who have exchanged threats over the path forward on the state budget. Lombardo said he would not sign the major budget bills if his priorities were not passed, while Democratic leaders said they would not be able to act on several high-profile bills without approval of a state budget.

Republican lawmakers have also taken a stance against the five budget implementation bills, voting against four of them earlier this week. But as of Friday night, four of those bills (all but the Capital Improvement Program, which still awaits a vote in the Senate and requires a two-thirds majority to pass), are on their way to Lombardo’s desk, and he must act on them by late next week.

Read below for highlights on bills that passed out of floor sessions throughout the past week ahead of the deadline.

FRIDAY (as of 11:05 pm)

School discipline bill granted waiver, kept alive

AB285, a Democrat-backed effort to overhaul the state’s school discipline laws, received a waiver late Friday and will remain alive despite not receiving a vote ahead of the deadline.  

The measure, sponsored by Assemblywoman Angie Taylor (D-Reno), is one of two bills, alongside the Lombardo-backed AB330, that would substantially repeal much of the state’s 2019 restorative justice school discipline law. 

Though that 2019 measure was aimed at addressing the school to prison pipeline, especially for minority students, it has since come under a wave of criticism, especially from teachers and administrators, for limiting the ability of educators to remove disruptive, sometimes violent students from the classroom or punish such students with suspensions or expulsions. 

Legislative Democrats sought to kill AB330 and offer the governor’s office a chance to amend its provisions into Taylor’s AB285. But before the second house committee deadline last Friday, Lombardo’s office not only announced that his bill had been granted a waiver, but also threatened to veto AB285 without “substantial changes.” 

Proposal to raise cap on medical malpractice damages passed out of first house

The Assembly voted 24-17 Friday night to pass AB404, a bill exempt from legislative deadlines that proposes to significantly raise the cap on so-called pain and suffering damages in medical malpractice lawsuits.

As originally proposed, the measure would have increased the state’s $350,000 cap on medical malpractice damages to $2.5 million. However, in the wake of opposition from doctors and hospitals, the bill was amended to instead establish a bifurcated cap of $2 million for actions involving hospitals and $550,000 for other lawsuits involving providers such as doctors.

Assemblyman P.K. O’Neill (R-Carson City) said he thought the bill needed more work as it now passes to the Senate for consideration, despite the work put into the bill by both supporters and opponents. The bill is the latest iteration of a long-standing fight between the state’s politically powerful trial lawyers, who for years have pushed for increasing the damages cap, and Nevada doctors, who have argued that a higher cap would cause doctors to leave the state, exacerbating a shortage of health care providers. 

Three Assembly Democrats — Reuben D’Silva (D-Las Vegas), Duy Nguyen (D-Las Vegas) and  Clara Thomas (D-North Las Vegas) — joined Republicans in opposition.

The measure now heads to the Senate.

Senate passes bill to prohibit school districts from limiting transgender student access

The Senate voted 12-8 to pass AB423, a bill that would prohibit school boards from adopting policies that limit students’ access to school facilities or activities based on their race, religious creed, color, national origin, disability, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, ancestry, familial status or sex. A school board that violates the prohibition could face fines of up to $5,000 for each day that the policy is in effect.

That provision was added into the bill earlier in the week by Sen. Fabian Doñate (D-Las Vegas) in response to the Douglas County School District considering a policy to limit transgender student access to locker rooms, bathrooms and sports teams that correspond to their gender identity. 

Multiple Democratic senators spoke in support of the bill Friday night, arguing it would help protect children in schools. 

Sen. Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) described the bill as “exceptionally controversial” and asked for the Senate to remove the recent amendment.

Alongside the amendment, the bill would prohibit a school board from taking action on a meeting agenda item past 11:59 p.m. on the day of the meeting. Sen. Skip Daly (D-Sparks) was the lone Democrat to vote against the bill.

The bill now goes back to the Assembly, where members will have the opportunity to concur with Doñate’s amendment before the bill would go to the governor’s office.

Temporary addresses for people experiencing homelessness

Members of the Assembly unanimously passed SB317 on Friday. 

The bill authorizes homeless services providers to allow an unsheltered person — as long as that person is a Nevada resident — to use the provider’s address as a “temporary mailing address.”

In May, the measure passed out of the Senate in a unanimous vote.

Bill of rights for people with disabilities advances

A measure to establish a bill of rights for people with disabilities, SB315, passed out of the Assembly on Friday in a 31-9 vote.

As proposed, the bill would establish a bill of rights for people with disabilities and people 65 years or older receiving Medicaid services. It would also establish a similar bill of rights for students with disabilities in Nevada’s K-12 education system.

The measure, which passed out of the Senate on a 17-4 vote in April. 

Funding boost for Opportunity Scholarships introduced; Dem support still unlikely

A late-night, last-minute introduction of bills in the Senate Friday included SB508, an appropriations bill that would authorize up to $25 million per year for Opportunity Scholarships, or $50 million per biennium. The bill appeared to come as a procedural move, as legislative bill drafters finally processed a request for the bill from the Governor’s Finance Office. 

It loosely mirrors a proposal from Lombardo’s omnibus education bill AB400, which sought to tie the size of the Opportunity Scholarship program to a percentage of the State Education Fund. That percentage would have started at 0.5 percent next biennium, effectively boosting money available for Opportunity Scholarships to roughly $50 million. That percentage would have increased to a maximum of 5 percent by 2032, or roughly $500 million. 

Opportunity Scholarships have become the centerpiece of Gov. Joe Lombardo’s school choice agenda, and as a consequence, one of the most fractious disputes between Lombardo and legislative Democrats. 

The program — funded currently by roughly $13 million in tax credits to businesses who fund the scholarships through donations — provides non-academic scholarships that subsidize the tuition costs of private schools, including private religious schools, for a limited number of low- and middle-income students. 

Republicans have championed the program as an extension of school choice policy that would not require any direct state funding, and as a result, not pull from dollars allocated for public K-12 schools. But Democrats have characterized the programs as “vouchers,” and sharply criticized Opportunity Scholarships because the bulk of them are directed toward religious private schools. 

Lombardo has sought to publicly pressure Democrats to take up the issue, including holding a roundtable in Las Vegas to tout his plan, and using a political nonprofit to run digital ads targeting vulnerable Democratic legislators. More recently, he has also threatened to veto the state budget over Democratic reluctance to advance his priorities, including school choice. 

But Democrats have routinely balked at the proposal over the last month, including suggesting repeatedly that leaving funding flat — and not zeroing out the program altogether — was their compromise position.  

That includes a press conference on Thursday, where Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager (D-Las Vegas) said that any discussion on increasing Opportunity Scholarships was a “discussion for another session.” 

GPS tracker bill clears Senate

Members of the Senate unanimously passed AB356, a bill that would make it a crime to attach a GPS tracking device to an individual’s vehicle without their consent.

The measure, sponsored by Assemblywoman Jill Dickman (R-Sparks), comes in response to politicians in Northern Nevada reporting GPS trackers placed on their vehicles without their knowledge or consent.

In April, the Assembly passed the measure in a unanimous vote.

Medicare drug pricing bill moves forward

Members of the Senate voted along party lines to pass a drug pricing bill on Friday aiming to ensure the state piggybacks off of future Medicare-negotiated prescription drug prices tied to the Inflation Reduction Act once the federal insurance program for people 65 and older sets those prices.

The bill, AB250, passed out of the Assembly on a similar party-line vote in April and if signed by the governor, would go into effect in 2026, aligning with the timeline of the Inflation Reduction Act.

Proposal to remove constitutional ban on state lotteries advances to 2025 session

The Senate voted 12-8 Friday to pass AJR5, a proposed constitutional amendment that would remove a prohibition on state lotteries — a move that sends the amendment to the 2025 legislative session for consideration, where if passed again, it would go to the 2026 general election ballot for voter approval.

Democratic Sens. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas) and Dina Neal (D-North Las Vegas) joined most Republicans in opposition to the measure, while Sen. Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) was the lone Senate Republican to vote in favor of the resolution. 

The resolution received a similar 26-15 vote in the Assembly, with just one Republican in support (Assemblyman Bert Gurr (R-Elko)) and two Democrats opposed (Assembly members Shondra Summers-Armstrong (D-North Las Vegas) and David Orentlicher (D-Las Vegas)).

Sen. Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno), who voted against the measure, said she believed it would undermine the “largest economic driver in our state,” referring to the gaming industry, which has strongly opposed the push to establish a state lottery.

2024 ballot will have question to remove offensive language from state constitution 

In a unanimous vote, members of the Senate passed AJR1, a resolution aiming to amend the Nevada Constitution by removing and replacing language surrounding the following terms: insane, blind, deaf and dumb.

The vote followed a unanimous passage out of the Assembly in March. Originally proposed and passed out of the Legislature in 2021, the resolution will go before voters in the 2024 election.

Senate passes Southern Nevada Water Authority omnibus conservation bill

In a 17-3 vote, the Senate approved the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s conservation bill, AB220. Sens. Dina Neal (D-North Las Vegas), Robin Titus (R-Wellington) and Lisa Krasner (R-Reno) voted against the bill.

The legislation aims to give the water authority more tools to conserve its Colorado River apportionment, which accounts for about 90 percent of Las Vegas’ water supply. For the past two decades, the Colorado River has faced significant challenges amid overuse, an issue amplified by climate change, which is making the Southwest hotter and more arid.

AB220, sponsored by Assemblyman Howard Watts (D-Las Vegas), builds on Southern Nevada’s aggressive approach to municipal conservation, encouraging residents to convert water-thirsty grass to desert landscaping. The legislation would authorize the water utility to limit excessive water use from residences during severe Colorado River shortages, which was clarified in an amendment adopted Friday to refer to when the federal government has cut the state’s Colorado River water allocation to 270,000 acre-feet or less. 

The legislation would also create a voluntary, compensated program to help residents transition from septic tanks and connect to the municipal sewage system, bolstering the water authority’s ability to recycle and reuse indoor water. AB220 also gives the state more authority to oversee groundwater pumping in the Las Vegas Valley.

SNAP for menstrual products

Members of the Assembly voted unanimously (41-0) Friday to pass SB161, a measure sponsored by Sen. Melanie Scheible (D-Las Vegas) that would require the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) or Women, Infants and Children (WIC) to provide menstrual products to enrollees in those programs as long as federal funds are available.

The bill passed out of the Senate in April with unanimous support.

Licensing street vendors

The Assembly nearly unanimously approved SB92, a bill legalizing street vendors — save a single no vote from Assemblyman Richard McArthur (R-Las Vegas). 

The bill has received support from vendors, who have sought recognition as small businesses and an end to harassment, and opposition from some local governments. Ahead of Friday’s vote, the measure was also amended to include a requirement for cities or counties to publish a map of where street vendors would be allowed. 

Last month, SB92 passed through the Senate 20-1.

FRIDAY (as of 4:24 pm)

Paid family leave required to qualify for tax abatements

The Assembly voted 26-14 along party lines Friday (Assembly members C.H. Miller (D-North Las Vegas) and Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod (D-Las Vegas) were absent) to pass SB429, a bill that would require companies with at least 50 employees to provide their employees paid family and medical leave in order to qualify for tax abatements.

Company policy would have to allow for employees who have been with the business for at least one year to be eligible for at least 12 weeks of paid leave at a rate of at least 55 percent of their regular wages.

The bill passed out of the Senate 17-4 last month, with four Republicans joining Democrats in support of the measure.

Greater penalties for reckless driving
The Assembly voted 40-0 (with two Democratic lawmakers absent) on Friday to pass SB322, a bill that would increase the maximum penalty from six to 10 years for reckless driving in school zones or for speeding more than 50 miles per hour over the limit. The bill’s sponsors have pitched the measure, also known as “Rex’s Law,” as a response to the death of 13-year-old ​​Rex Patchett, who was hit and killed in a reckless driving incident in Henderson in March 2022.

FRIDAY (as of 12:15 pm)

Senate advances two more budget bills, capital improvement bill remains in limbo

Two of the three remaining budget bills received their second house vote Friday morning, as AB520 (the Appropriations Act) and AB522 (the state worker pay bill) cleared the Senate on party line 13-7 votes. One Republican, Sen. Scott Hammond (R-Las Vegas), was absent from the vote. 

The Senate did not hold a vote Friday morning on AB521 (the Capital Improvement Program), which unlike the other four major budget bills requires a two-thirds majority vote to pass because it renews a statewide property tax used to fund capital projects. Democrats hold 13 of 21 seats in the Senate, one short of a two-thirds supermajority, and Republicans voted against the bill when it passed through the Senate Finance Committee. The bill passed out of the Assembly 28-14 along party lines earlier this week, with Republicans opposed.

Still, Friday’s votes send two more budget measures to the governor’s desk, joining SB503 (the K-12 funding bill) and SB504 (the Authorizations Act). All but one of those measures (SB504, which primarily authorizes spending of federal funds) has received uniform opposition from Republicans, among repeated threats from Gov. Joe Lombardo that he will veto the budget bills unless legislative Democrats advance his major policy bills (bills that have otherwise stalled in committee). 

He’ll have until June 1 to sign or veto the first of the budget bills passed yesterday and until June 2 to respond to the budget bills passed Friday.

Requiring ballots be counted by machine

Three Senate Republicans — Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno), Carrie Buck (R-Henderson) and Pete Goicoechea (R-Eureka) — joined Democrats in support of AB242 on Friday, a bill that would require all ballots be counted by mechanical voting system. It passed Friday in a 16-4 vote, with Sen. Scott Hammond (R-Las Vegas) absent.

An original version of the bill would have banned the use of paper ballots for in-person voting, a move meant to preserve voting access for voters with disabilities who wish to cast their ballots in person and a response to efforts last year by Nye County to transition away from the use of electronic voting systems.

Though Republicans vehemently opposed the initial proposal, Seevers Gansert said she was able to support the bill after working with the secretary of state’s office to ensure paper ballots remain accessible for in-person voting.

Changing summary eviction process

Members of the Senate voted along party lines (13-7) to pass AB340 Friday, which aims to shift the burden of the initial summary eviction process to the landlord rather than the tenant, mirroring other civil procedures. As amended, the bill would not apply those changes to tenants of commercial properties. Sen. Scott Hammond (R-Las Vegas) was absent for the vote.

The bill also passed out of the Assembly on a 28-14 party-line vote. 

It is unclear whether Lombardo will sign the measure.

Patient Protection Commission bill goes to governor, despite threat of veto

Members of the state Senate voted along party lines (13-7) with Republicans in opposition (and Sen. Scott Hammond (R-Las Vegas) absent), to send a bill to Gov. Joe Lombardo’s desk that the governor had previously indicated he would veto.

The measure, AB11, seeks to clarify state law by prohibiting a hospital or psychiatric hospital from employing a full-time physician for the purpose of practicing medicine. Many doctors practice as independent contractors. The law would not apply to community hospitals or academic institutions.

In April, members of the Assembly voted 26-16 to pass the measure with Assemblywomen Shea Backus (D-Las Vegas) and Shannon Bilbray-Axelrod (D-Las Vegas) joining Republicans in opposition. The bill was sponsored by the state’s Patient Protection Commission, which was created during the 2019 legislative session.


Closing loopholes in sundown siren law

Members of the Assembly passed SB391 on a 41-1 vote with Assemblyman Ken Gray (R-Dayton) as the lone opposition. The measure aims to close loopholes in a law prohibiting “sundown sirens,” which were historically used by small towns to warn people of color to leave town by a specific time or risk bodily harm.

The measure would ensure towns only use sirens for emergencies and comes in response to the city of Minden continuing to sound a siren, even though lawmakers passed a prohibition of sundown sirens during the 2021 legislative session. 

The bill passed out of the Senate with a vote of 17-4 and now awaits approval from the governor.


Medical aid in dying advances to governor’s desk for first time ever

A measure seeking to legalize life-ending medication for terminally ill patients with less than six months to live passed out of the Assembly on Wednesday in a 23-19 vote, with five Democrats joining Republicans in opposition.

SB239, sponsored by Sen. Edgar Flores (D-Las Vegas), cleared the Senate on April 19 in a narrow 11-10 vote, and now heads to Gov. Joe Lombardo’s desk. 

2023 marks the fifth legislative session where Nevada lawmakers debated a measure to legalize life-ending medication for terminally ill patients. Recent polling conducted by Susquehanna Polling & Research and sponsored by a pro-medical-aid-in-dying organization indicates 82 percent of Nevada voters support legalizing the option.

Advocates celebrated the bill’s passage in a press release emailed Wednesday.

“Gov. Lombardo, I am asking you to sign this bill, as it puts much-needed peace in the hearts of patients,” said Hanna Olivas, who is 49 and has a rare form of blood cancer. “We urge you to sign this bill as we fight for our lives.”

Lombardo has not indicated whether he will approve the measure.

Temporary rent control for seniors

The Senate voted 12-8 along party lines with all Republicans opposed on Tuesday to pass AB298, a bill sponsored by Assemblywoman Sandra Jauregui (D-Las Vegas) that would temporarily cap rents for tenants who are older than 62 or who rely on Social Security benefits. The bill previously passed out of the Assembly with some Republican lawmakers in support in a 36-6 vote last month.

Though Democratic legislative leaders have not supported statewide, blanket rent control policies, they have argued in favor of capping rents for vulnerable populations.

Protecting out-of-state abortion seekers

Members of the Assembly on Monday voted along party lines (27-14) with Republicans in opposition, to pass SB131, a bill sponsored by Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) that would 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 measure now heads to the governor’s desk.

The legislation is likely to be the first significant test of Gov. Joe Lombardo’s stance on abortion, which shifted throughout the election cycle. Most recently, Lombardo signaled he would support the measure, telling KNPR he would sign it as long as it was a “clean bill” that focused only on preventing state agencies from cooperating with other states looking to prosecute someone for receiving reproductive care in Nevada.

Preventative STI services

Under Nevada law, minors can consent without parental permission to receive treatment and examination services for sexually transmitted infections (STI). 

On Wednesday, members of the Assembly voted on party lines with only Democratic support (28-14) to pass SB172, a measure sponsored by Sen. Dallas Harris (D-Las Vegas) that would expand the ability for minors to consent without parental permission to receive preventative STI services.

The bill passed out of the Senate in April on a 14-7 vote, with Sen. Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno) joining Democrats in support. It now heads to the governor’s desk.

Election bills advance along party lines

Several election-related measures advanced along party lines on Tuesday and Wednesday with Republicans in opposition, including SB133, a bill from Sen. Skip Daly (D-Sparks) that would criminalize the act of submitting a false slate of presidential electors. It comes as a response to the scheme that saw six Nevada Republicans falsely pledge the state’s electoral votes in 2020 to former President Donald Trump, despite him losing the popular vote in Nevada. 

Anyone found guilty of doing so would face four to 10 years imprisonment and would be barred from holding public office in the state.

Other election-related bills passed along party lines included SB404, which would allow counties to begin counting early vote ballots as soon as the first day of early voting, rather than Election Day, and AB394, which would restrict election officials from counting ballots more than once except when required during a recount or audit — a response to Nye County officials last year counting votes by using machines and by hand.

The two measures now await approval by Lombardo, though the governor has not signaled if he will sign off on them.

Education bills net bipartisan support

AB282, a measure that would require school districts to provide monthly subsidies for long-term substitute teachers to purchase health care, cleared a final vote in the Senate with bipartisan support on Tuesday. That included votes in favor not only from 12 Democrats (minus Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas), who was absent after the birth of her son), but also four Republicans: Senate Minority Leader Heidi Seevers Gansert (R-Reno), Sen. Pete Goicoechea (R-Eureka), Sen. Ira Hansen (R-Sparks) and Sen. Scott Hammond (R-Las Vegas). 

Separately, SB292, which would make new principals at-will employees, meaning they can be fired for any reason without warning, for the first three years of employment and reinstate at-will status if certain performance metrics fall for an extended period of time, saw some resistance from Assembly Democrats in a 39-3 vote on Wednesday. 

Those three ‘nays’ included Assemblywomen Shondra Summers Armstrong (D-North Las Vegas), Natha Anderson (D-Reno) and Clara Thomas (D-North Las Vegas). 

It comes after the bill cleared the Senate unanimously, and after an Assembly committee moved to soften the language of the bill by replacing the “immediate dismissal” of principals with the non-renewal of principal contracts by local school boards. 

Train safety bill clears Senate on party lines

AB456, a bill that would limit the length of trains running through Nevada to 7,500 feet, came down to a party line 13-8 vote with Republicans in opposition in the Senate on Wednesday without any additional amendments. It passed after the bill was briefly gutted out of committee in the Assembly, before having the key provisions — the limit on train length — restored ahead of a floor vote. 

The move comes as train safety advocates, especially rail worker unions, have pushed for improved safety standards that could avoid or reduce the likelihood of a serious derailment, such as the one that spilled deadly chemicals in East Palestine, Ohio in February. It has been opposed by rail companies — especially Union Pacific — which have argued the bill may be unconstitutional by potentially violating the Commerce Clause. 

Bill proponents have generally downplayed potential legal challenges, arguing that the key 1940s-era Supreme Court ruling cited by rail companies would be superseded by a major federal rail safety law passed by Congress in the 1970s. 

Bill to shrink Board of Regents heads to governor

The Senate voted 13-7 on Tuesday to approve AB118, a bill sponsored by Assemblyman Howard Watts (D-Las Vegas) that would reduce the number of members of the Board of Regents governing higher education from 13 to nine, as well as dropping the length of regents’ terms from six years to four. 

The measure is the latest in a long line of legislation proposed in the last half decade submitted against the backdrop of increasing friction between lawmakers — long skeptical that the higher education system is sufficiently transparent and accountable — and the regents. But regents, and some Republicans, have raised concerns that the move would reduce representation on the board in rural areas and Northern Nevada. 

The vote was nearly along party lines save for one Republican defector — Sen. Scott Hammond (R-Las Vegas) — who broke with his party and voted in favor. His vote mirrors similar defections in the Assembly, where only two Republicans — Assemblywoman Heidi Kasama (R-Las Vegas) and Assemblyman Toby Yurek (R-Las Vegas) — voted in favor. 


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