Saturday, June 4, 2011 | 1:55 a.m.
CARSON CITY — The focus of the 2011 Legislature has been on money, or the lack of it.
Other issues, however have made news: use of cellphones while driving, smoking in taverns, homeowner associations and the protection of transgender people.
The state intends to reduce the rate of interest it pays businesses on the overcollection or illegal collection of taxes from 6 percent to 3 percent. But interest charged by the state on late payments will be lowered from 1 percent to 0.75 percent.
In its final days, the Legislature is putting finishing touches on many bills that would affect average Nevadans. But some might not survive before the Legislature adjourns Monday.
“They won’t be able to drive with their cellphones,” said Senate Minority Leader Mike McGinness, R-Fallon. “That hits home the most.”
The bill bans motorists from texting or talking while holding a cellphone. It goes into effect in January, when that infraction will become a misdemeanor. In the meantime, law enforcement officers can issue warnings.
Not resolved is the debate over altering the anti-smoking law so food can be served in taverns where smoking is allowed.
Legislation was passed to prohibit discrimination against transgender people in housing, employment and public accommodations. “This is very important to a certain segment of our society,” said Sen. Dave Parks, D-Las Vegas. He estimated the transgender population in Nevada at as many as 25,000.
Parks shared an email from a Las Vegas resident who said the laws will help people lead normal lives.
Legislation was also passed to allow gambling in hotel rooms. Lee Amaitis, president of Cantor Gaming in Las Vegas, said surveys have shown the No. 1 location where customers want to use mobile gaming devices is in their rooms.
“Considering the current world of on-demand technology, this was not a surprise,” he said.
Members of homeowner associations gained additional rights such as permission to inspect association books being given notice of board of directors meetings.
A tussle continues over whether interest should be capped on homeowners who are late paying fees.
Lawmakers are working on a bill to help restore wildlife habitats. Fees of $3 on hunting, trapping and fishing licenses would increase to $5 for residents and $10 for nonresidents. Gov. Brian Sandoval is against increasing fees.
Budget decisions will trickle down to classrooms, such as increasing their numbers of students. In Clark County, there will be fewer specialists including facilitators in special education, English as a second language, computer strategy and literary courses.
Joyce Haldeman, associate superintendent of the Clark County School District, said specialties may be reduced 25 percent and foreign language courses may be eliminated in some schools.
Session 2011 bills may also affect the future.
One measure would allow fees to be charged for new privately financed roads. The bill is aimed at allowing private funding to be collected to build a bypass around Boulder City that supporters say could result in 14,000 jobs.
CORRECTION: This story had incorrectly attributed a comment to state Sen. Elizabeth Halseth. | (June 4, 2011)