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April 18, 2014

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With legislative session half over, which bills might affect you?

Image

Steve Marcus

A view of the Nevada State Legislature building in Carson City on Monday, Feb. 11, 2013.

For most embroiled in the thick of the ongoing legislative session in the capital, Thursday was a day to celebrate.

The halfway point. Day 60. The light at the end of the 120-day tunnel is that much nearer.

(Well, we hope, anyway. Voters did happen to give lawmakers the power to call themselves into special session, so who knows.)

At the halfway point, bills are slowly winding their way through the process, with the bulk of the work still remaining in the committees assigned to give legislation a first work through.

Here’s a look at the status of this session’s top bills that could affect you:

    • Gas taxes

      The price you pay at the pump could increase under one bill the Legislature is considering.

      Clark County’s 9 cents-per-gallon gas tax would go up because the bill ties the tax to inflation.

      The Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada estimates roughly an extra 3 cents per gallon or a $16 annual increase for consumers.

      But don’t blame legislators for raising your taxes.

      The bill would give authority to the Clark County Commission to levy the so-called “index tax.”

      Elected officials and transportation experts say it’s important to tie the tax to inflation because the current value of the tax has been eroding over time, people drive more fuel-efficient cars and inflation shrinks the purchasing power of the 9 cents-per-gallon tax.

    • Property taxes

      Legislators are considering changes to the state’s arcane property tax system that would likely cause your bill to increase.

      Here’s why that’s likely:

      As a house ages, the state gives property owners a 1.5 percent discount every year until a property is 50 years old. This is called “depreciation.”

      It compounds, so every year for 50 years a property owner gets an increasing discount.

      The bill, Assembly Bill 26, would lower that rate to 1 percent for new homes and improvements to existing property, meaning the effective tax rate paid by property owners wouldn’t drop as quickly each year and homeowners would pay more.

      A fully depreciated house — that is, a house that’s more than 50 years old — could still face a higher tax bill, but not because of this bill.

      In taking up the property tax system, legislators cracked the top open on a labyrinthine system that could take some time to reform.

      “We have the most complicated tax system for property in the United States,” Carole Villardo, president of the Nevada Taxpayers Association, said at a legislative hearing in February. “When I try to explain how we derive a (property) tax bill over the phone, I can almost see somebody’s eyes glaze over.”

      Given the confusion, the bill could become a vehicle for one of many legislative studies commissioned every year.

      The measure is still sitting in the Assembly Taxation Committee.

    • Water bills

      Last summer, water bills for every business and home in the Las Vegas Valley increased. That’s because the Southern Nevada Water Authority needed to increase water rates to pay its debts.

      Local elected officials approved the rate increase plan, which spread the cost of the increase between small and larger homes and small and large businesses. Following outrage from business owners, Sen. Michael Roberson, R-Henderson, wants to change the approval process to give the state’s Public Utilities Commission of Nevada authority over rate increases.

      Another rate increase is likely coming in 2016, so the bill is important because it would change who makes the decision on who pays how much of the rate increase.

      Senate Bill 232 remains in the Senate Government Affairs committee.

    • UNLV Now mega events center rendering.

      Stadium financing

      Developers in Las Vegas are working with UNLV to build a 60,000-seat stadium.

      It has a whopper of a price tag, so there’s a bill in the Legislature that could help it get built.

      If the bill is approved, any taxes collected from the area around the stadium would be reinvested back into the area for its redevelopment during the next 20 years.

      With the stadium proposal still in flux, passage of the bill would give its chief cheerleader, Don Snyder, a new way to attract investors: Look, the state of Nevada supports this project, and it’s willing to put up money for it.

      That money would be dedicated to stadium expenses, though, and not other priorities such as schools, roads, health services and other things for which the state pays.

    • Strip club tax

      Hey, strip club goers, are you ready for a $10 areola-viewing surcharge?

      One legislator would like to apply a $10 fee for every attendee at a nude entertainment show.

      Revenue from the strip club tax would fund programs for the victims of domestic violence.

      But not all types of adult entertainment would necessarily be subject to the tax.

      For the first time, state law would define the term “nude.” As defined in the bill, nude means fully unclothed or “clothed in a manner that leaves uncovered or visible through less than fully opaque clothing any portion of the breasts below the top of the areola of the breasts, if the person is female, or any portion of the genitals or buttocks.”

      Customers might not be directly subject to the fee. A business would have to pay $10 for each customer but doesn’t have to charge a door fee.

      The bill has been assigned to the Senate Revenue and Economic Development Committee but has not yet had a hearing.

    • Tom Stephens, director of the Nevada Department of Transportation, talks about the higher speed limits in Nevada during a news conference, Dec. 8, l995, in Las Vegas. Stephens predicted that higher speed limits would have no increase in speed-related highway deaths.

      Speed

      The habitual speeder may find some relief from tickets, or at least the threat of tickets, in a bill that would raise the state’s maximum speed limit to 85 mph.

      Like any other speed limit, authorities would still decide where it’s appropriate to post an 85 mph limit.

      The bill’s sponsor, Sen. Don Gustavson, R-Sparks, said that “you won’t see this in urban areas,” and the bill is limited to raising limits on four-lane roads.

      The Senate passed the bill 15-6 this week. It now heads to the Assembly.

    • Long-hauling

      Tired of your visitor being taken on a circuitous route through Las Vegas from the airport where the ever-increasing fare meter is the most interesting site on the jaunt?

      Well, they’ve got a law for that.

      Assembly Bill 329 would crack down on the illegal practice of long-hauling by requiring the Taxicab Authority to establish flat rates from the airport to the Strip and any other location that has historically been long-hauled.

      Don’t expect AB 329 to have an easy trek through the Nevada Legislature, though.

      The taxi industry has a powerful lobbyist corp in Carson City and sharply opposes the measure.

      As of Day 60, this bill was still sitting on the Assembly Transportation Committee’s desk.

    • This Jan. 16, 2013, photo shows a Glock representative explaining features of the Glock 37 Gen 4.45-caliber pistol at the 35th annual SHOT Show in Las Vegas. As state and federal leaders debate new gun laws in response to a series of mass shootings, the Reno Gazette-Journal analyzed the prosecution of federal firearms cases under current laws. The investigation found that in the cases prosecuted in the past five years, many defendants were not charged with every law they violated, accepted plea deals that let many charges disappear and secured relatively lenient punishments compared to what they could have faced.

      Social issues

      In libertarian Nevada, social issues don’t usually take center stage at the Legislature. This year is different, after a confluence of both national events and local public opinion shifts dragged issues such as gun control and marriage equality into the spotlight.

      A raft of gun legislation is slowly making its way through the committee process. Bills heard most recently include Assemblywoman Michele Fiore’s bill to allow concealed weapons on college campuses and Assembly Majority Leader William Horne’s bill to tax ammo and firearms to fund mental health services, and close the background check loopholes.

      Little action has been taken on this year’s gun measures.

      A measure that would allow voters to repeal Nevada’s gay marriage, Senate Joint Resolution 13, remains on the chairwoman’s desk in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

      And Nevada’s lax sex ed requirements are getting a look again this session. The issue came to the fore this week with raw testimony from Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, who admitted to having an abortion at age 16.

      “I had an abortion because I didn’t have access to birth control, or even an understanding of what that meant,” Flores said. “I didn’t even understand that my worth did not come from men, or sex with men, trying to fill up a hole in me from so much pain.”

      Assembly Bill 230 remains in the Assembly Education Committee.

    • Marijuana laws

      The ill who carry medical marijuana cards may finally have a way to legally obtain the drug after this session, but that’s not all.

      If Assemblyman Joe Hogan’s measure, Assembly Bill 402, is sucessful, Nevadans over 21 could legally possess up to an ounce of marijuana for recreational use.

      The bill gets its first hearing in Assembly Judiciary today.

      Sen. Tick Segerblom, D-Las Vegas, also is working on a measure that would allow medical marijuana dispensaries to open in Nevada. Right now, the ill have no way to legally obtain the drug unless they grow it themselves.

      Senate Bill 374 remains on the Senate Judiciary Committee chairman’s desk.

    • Contributing photographer Erik Kabik's best, favorite and most memorable photographs of 2012. The 2012 Electric Daisy Carnival at Las Vegas Motor Speedway is pictured here.

      Taxes for outdoor concerts?

      Tickets for huge events such as the Electric Daisy Carnival and Burning Man may get a little more expensive with a cut going to the state.

      Since its creation a decade ago, the state’s live entertainment tax has been a cumbersome levy that’s been difficult to administer. Exemptions abound and arguments over what constitutes live entertainment are ongoing.

      Outdoor concerts and events such as Electric Daisy and Burning Man are one of the exemptions.

      Assembly Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, has vowed to clean up the live entertainment tax code with an eye toward bringing in more revenue for the state. That outdoor concert exemption is squarely on her radar screen.

      No bill has yet been introduced, but sources say a measure is near.

    • Driving privileges for immigrants

      A measure sponsored by Sen. Ruben Kihuen, D-Las Vegas, and Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, would require the state to issue driver’s privilege cards to immigrants who came to the United States illegally.

      Senate Bill 303 received broad support in its first hearing, with no one tesifying in opposition.

      The bill remains in the Senate Transportation Committee.

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    1. I have mixed feelings about aliens holding any type of license. They dont pay in to the tax system to support the DMV, roadways, or police - to legally allow them to use them seems unfair. How would that work that they get to participate in the system and also contribute? I also question if that the majority would be insured.

    2. I personally have a huge problem with rasiing gas or property taxes when LAWMAKERS/our government REPRESENTATIVES vote themselves RAISES each session.

      It has been over five years since I had any kind of raise as a teacher in this state, so when UTILITIES, fuel, insurance, and groceries go up, AND when taxes go up, yet where am I and others getting a "cost of living adjustment" as a public servant? Let's be FAIR about this!

      Those who have worked and lived in their homes over 50 years should be rewarded with less taxing. When you hit those retirement years, the last thing you need are increasing costs when you planned forever for retirement. Leave that one alone.

      Tax entertainment, go ahead, it IS a luxury. No problem. But to tax folks who are trying to live and work here in Nevada under the ever changing conditions is unfair to the many. Thanks.

      Blessings and Peace,
      Star

    3. I agree Star! Our local and state government needs to take a look at their paychecks when they're talking about budget deficits - not give themselves raises!!

    4. Wait, is that Sandy Murphy in slide 9 about the marijuana law?

    5. I like what the puppet on the right says, no, maybe I like what the puppet on the left says. Oh, wait a second, there's one guy holding both puppets! God bless 'Merica and praise Jebus.

    6. LAWMAKERS need to stop and take pause, when the discussion turns to taxing those in the middle and low working class. That segment of population no longer have savings, no longer have job options, no longer have a bright and hopeful future.

      This hard working segment of American society, and population of Nevada live very basic lives, because they cannot afford to do anything else. If it weren't for the creation of "dollar stores", these folks would be back to making their own goods,as in past decades (some of us remember the days before dollar stores-sewing your own clothes, fixing your car, passing down shoes, toys, clothing, etc.).

      There has been a movement of creating corporate cultures within non-profit governmental agencies as schools, which has led to an excess of administrators roaming the halls and going down the road to endless "trainings" and meetings, creating no better schools, if anything, driving away and alienating once dedicated workers who have been asked to "do MORE with less" year after year, while watching their home and living expenses go UP, and their paychecks and benefits go DOWN.

      Something is terribly wrong with this picture (which the LV Sun was unable to take and post above). Legislative bills need to serve the very people that end up paying to support it. If the everyday citizen has nothing to give, how do LAWMAKERS expect these bills to be effective?

      Time to make the PUC, and all public utilities accountable. Maybe some of those high up in the chain need to feel the pain with the rest of us here!

      Blessings and Peace,
      Star