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April 24, 2014

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Politics:

Which bills made the cut in the Nevada Legislature? Here are the biggest

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Sam Morris / Las Vegas Sun

Assemblywomen Dina Neal, left, and Teresa Benitez-Thompson talks before an Assembly meeting on the third day of the 2013 legislative session Wednesday, Feb. 6, 2013 in Carson City.

Tuesday was a big day for scores of bills in the Nevada Legislature — a day when measures died or traveled to the opposite house, where they may encounter more hostile territory for their second round of hearings.

Democrats have the majority in both the Senate and the Assembly, meaning partisan differences won’t necessarily be at play when determining the fate of legislation in the second house.

But sometimes intra-party differences can be more vitriolic than inter-party divisions and personality politics are never completely removed from the equation.

Of course, death or transfer to the second house weren’t necessarily the only two fates to befall the bills, despite Tuesday’s official “first house passage” deadline. Some measures also were plopped into the money committees, where they’ll likely sit until the legislative grand bargain that comes at the tail end of session is brokered.

Here’s a look at where key pieces of legislation stand following Tuesday’s deadline:

    • Construction defects legislation alive in one house, dead in the other

      In the Senate, where the Judiciary Committee is chaired by one of the most liberal lawmakers in the Legislature, a Republican bill to reform the law governing how homeowners can sue for faulty construction died a quick death.

      Senate Bill 161 never made it out of committee.

      In the Assembly, however, an almost identical bill — Assembly Bill 184 — that redefines what constitutes a defect and limits the attorneys' fees passed out of committee. Briefly, the measure made it to the floor.

      No floor vote occurred, however. An appropriation for a study was amended into the bill, meaning it was sent to Ways and Means.

      Legislative leaders said the bill was kept alive so it could be part of the session’s endgame — when Republicans bargain policy bills for votes on tax increases.

    • A sunset overview of the south shore of Lake Tahoe, Nev.

      Fate of Lake Tahoe’s environmental oversight heads to the Assembly

      In a party-line vote, the Senate passed Senate Bill 229, which would repeal a 2-year-old law that could force Nevada to withdraw from its compact with California to protect Lake Tahoe.

      The narrow vote — it passed on a one-vote margin — was proof of the heavy lobbying effort employed by a coalition of business interests at Lake Tahoe who want to see the bi-state compact amended to ease development restrictions.

      That lobbying effort will surely travel across the legislative hall to the Assembly. Last session, the law to withdraw from the compact split the Democratic caucus in the Assembly.

      One Democratic lawmaker, however, anticipates SB229 will find a friendly reception this year.

      But the party-line vote in the Senate — in which every Republican voted against the measure — is a reflection of Gov. Brian Sandoval’s position on the issue. And Democrats don’t have the necessary two-thirds majority to override a veto.

    • Marriage equality measure likely to find friends in the Assembly

      Following the most riveting floor debate so far this session, the Nevada Senate passed a measure to begin the process of repealing Nevada’s constitutional gay marriage ban.

      Lawmakers from both parties sought to balance religious convictions with their public policy stance. Republicans largely decided to oppose the measure, chiefly because it included a provision that would require the state to recognize same-gender marriages.

      If Senate Joint Resolution 13 passes this session, it would have to be passed again by the 2015 Legislature before being placed on the 2016 ballot for voters to decide.

      Only one Republican senator joined Democrats to pass the measure in the Senate.

      But in an indication of how Senate Joint Resolution 13 would fare in the Assembly, many lawmakers in the opposite house tweeted congratulations and messages of support to the senators who backed it.

      Also, Speaker Marilyn Kirkpatrick, D-North Las Vegas, who has significant sway over the policy that comes out of her house, is on record saying Nevada voters should be able to decide both a repeal of the ban and a provision recognizing gay marriage.

    • Bridgette Denison wipes away tears as her sister-in-law Lauren Denison testifies in a Senate Judiciary hearing at the Legislative Building in Carson City, Nev., on Thursday, March 14, 2013. The family is urging lawmakers to support a bill that would require anyone arrested for a felony to submit a DNA sample. The bill, commonly known as Brianna's Law, is named after Bridgette Denison's 19-year-old daughter who was murdered in Reno, Nev., in 2008.

      Bill on arrestee DNA collection difficult issue for Democrats

      Two years ago, a single lawmaker, Sen. Steven Horsford, killed a hard-fought bill that would have allowed Nevada law enforcement to collect DNA from those they arrest prior to a conviction.

      Horsford believed the measure could impinge on civil rights and could disproportionately affect minorities. That concern lingered this session among legislators.

      But after an amendment by Sen. Aaron Ford addressed many of those issues, the Senate unanimously passed Senate Bill 243 — named Brianna’s law after a young Reno woman, Brianna Denison, who was raped and murdered in 2008.

      Some key Democrats in the Assembly, however, said they wanted to review the amendment to ensure their concerns had been adequately addressed, and that law enforcement agencies would have the necessary funding to implement the new collection procedures.

      “It’s a serious issue, with a compelling story behind it,” said Assemblyman Jason Frierson, who chairs the Assembly Judiciary committee that will process the measure. “I’ve met with victims' families many times.”

      Frierson added he needed to “review the amendment” to ensure his concerns had been addressed.

    • Bill to close lawmaker-lobbyist revolving door heads to skeptical Senate committee

      A bill that would require former legislators to wait before returning to the Legislature as a lobbyist passed the Assembly on a 40-1 vote.

      The so-called “cooling-off” period requires a legislator to wait for one legislative session before returning to the Legislature as a lobbyist. It’s Assembly Minority Leader Pat Hickey’s way to cut down on the practice of legislators immediately becoming lobbyists after they lose an election or decide not to run for office again. In political parlance, it’s called the “revolving door.”

      The bill, Assembly Bill 77, was amended twice, giving legislators some instances in which they could lobby during the prohibited period.

      It now awaits passage in the Senate Legislative Operations and Elections committee, where it may encounter some opposition from members who have voiced concerns about disclosure requirements and other reforms that could be viewed as restrictions on legislators.

    • Follow Golden Rainbow on Twitter and you could win 365 of these!

      Comprehensive sex education heads out of Assembly on party-line vote

      A controversial sex education bill from Assemblyman David Bobzien, D-Reno, passed out of the Assembly on a 26-15 party-line vote.

      The bill would delineate further requirements for school districts’ sex education policies.

      “The current sex ed law was passed over 30 years ago,” Bobzien said. “It is outdated and inadequate to our students today.”

      The bill has garnered national attention and has tied together a number of hot-button words — sex, children, schools, Planned Parenthood, abortion, abstinence — that have sparked criticism and concern.

      Its supporters call it a common-sense update to the state’s sex education policy and a safeguard for teen health.

      Its opponents say the bill takes away local control and pushes the agenda of the reproductive health advocacy group Planned Parenthood.

      Under the measure, parents still would be able to opt out of sex ed classes for their children..

      The bill now heads to the Senate, where strong education supporters such as Sens. Debbie Smith, D-Sparks, and Joyce Woodhouse, D-Las Vegas, will likely work to shepherd the bill’s passage in the Senate. It already has four sponsors.

    • Sales tax hike for police goes to the Senate with few detractors

      The Assembly moved forward a sales tax increase for police departments in Clark County. The proposal would raise the 8.1 percent sales tax rate in Clark County to 8.25 percent.

      The 32-9 vote kicks Assembly Bill 496 to the Senate.

      The measure requires a two-thirds vote of the Clark County Commission to enact the tax.

      Gov. Brian Sandoval has said he would sign the measure, noting that voters have previously approved the sales tax increase.

      Given that the Clark County Commission has to vote to actually increase the tax, state lawmakers don’t have to take a politically risky vote on a tax increase.

      The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is facing a funding shortfall in its upcoming budget, which it says will mean hundreds fewer officers on the streets.

      “Our police force is being depleted in Southern Nevada,” said Assemblyman Lynn Stewart, R-Henderson. “Our neighborhoods need protection. Our tourists on the Strip need protection.”

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    1. We need to ban taxes increases for specific purposes. The state wold spend more money on police regardless. All that does is allow them to shift general fund dollars to unpopular areas of government spending.

    2. Politicians will always favor spending and the taxes that pay for it. Spending buys votes and power. What we need is a mechanism that creates incentives to reduce spending, not increase it. Every issue and therefore all spending is local and every issue is important to someone. If we can level the playing field so more folks feel the impact of higher taxes as opposed to only those in this group or that we may have a shot at responsible spending. Too many will support all benefits that accrue to them without impacting their bottom line.

      I try not to spend tax payers money and wish others would do the same. OPM is a concept whose time has gone regardless of whether it was ever here or not.

    3. Agree with PRG--STOP painting the budget process into corners. Eliminate sales tax kickers for specific "county" purposes. We need to adjust our priorities with economic changes--and designating specific revenue to particular programs is STUPID. We have to put life and livelihood FIRST. Sure education is important, but not more so than life itself. We need to address mental health, senior needs, training programs and downgrade handouts for the ever-needy refuse-to-work crowd. There will NEVER be enough money for everything so let's stop pretending that we can make everyone happy.

    4. Legislature doesn't have time for the needs of CITIZENS but has time for illegals???? WHEN will they get around to dealing with NO FAULT CAR INSURANCE which would reduce costs for everyone--we don't need adjusters to determine fault, slow things down with "investigations" to determine who caused the accident. Yet, they have time to facilitate driving licenses for illegals????